We are lost in a world that has largely lost its wonder. Small rectangles of sand and copper steal our attention from sunsets, changing leaves, and the very image of God that sits before us at the dinner table. The chemical composition of our food, often merely the presence or absence of some ingredient, is more interesting than its savor and preparation. The many little natural spectacles deemed near-miracles by previous generations have been explained scientifically, and are thus bore us. We are jaded and blind to the spectacular in a world filled with wonder.
This should never be, especially for the Christian, but most of us fall into the malaise of modernity that saps the glamour from the glory-saturated world around us. We succumb to the continual bombardment of media, entertainment, and fragmented attention that reduces our ability to perceive the holistic wonder of creation.
Mike Cosper’s book, Recapturing the Wonder: Transcendent Faith in a Disenchanted World points us solidly in the right direction to fix what ails prevailing culture.
The book is broken down into seven chapters with a distinct introduction and epilogue. Each of the chapters consists of a prose explanation of what the problem is with a paired pathway that provides practical steps to diffuse the damage done by our loss of wonder. Cosper identifies seven problems: (1) disenchantment; (2) religiosity; (3) excessive self-awareness; (4) busyness; (5) unwarranted feelings of scarcity; (6) lack of community; (7) unregulated lifestyles. The pathways offer solutions: (1) re-enchantment; (2) grace; (3) seeing Scripture as alive; (4) withdrawing with God; (5) practicing abundance; (6) holding feasts; (7) creating a rule of life.
The bare lists in the paragraph above do little to convey the helpfulness of Cosper’s book. He really gets the wasting sickness that is modernity and its wayward children. His suggested solutions are not novel or New Age solutions, but delves into historical practices of the church to find solutions that were and are intended to make us more human.
Analysis and Conclusion
Few, if any, will apply Cosper’s program in whole. However, even if a reader gleans one or two selected practices, the benefit is likely to be significant. Re-enchantment has the potential bring joy back into life because trees are beautiful and the sky is alive. Understanding grace renews the sense of hope and lifts the weight of guilt. Experiencing the liveliness of Scripture blesses the reader who encounters a living God. All of these are very helpful.
One of the more intriguing practical suggestions in the volume is to hold a feast. Not a potluck, as most Baptists have experienced in full, but a massive meal with few distractions, bountiful food, and a purposed focus on the goodness of the One who gave it all.
Perhaps the most powerful idea in Cosper’s arsenal is of creating a distinct pattern of life that intends to inculcate godliness and communion with God. Here Cosper relieves the medieval monastic practices of their dutiful obligation and supplants it with the original purpose of the formal structure, which was to form the character of the monks. A rule of life doesn’t earn salvation; it furthers sanctification.
Recapturing the Wonder is a book that warrants reading several times. A first pass, perhaps, to diagnose and gain a sense of the whole. A second, deeper exploration that is supposed to determine which practices will be most helpful and can be best applied in your situation. It may be helpful to digest the book slowly with a spouse or with a group of friends with the intention of implementing practices incrementally that can restore a sense of humanity.
This is an excellent book. It can be read quickly and dismissed, but it has potential for enduring value. This is the sort of book that provides just the sort of remedy our harried society needs.
Note: I was given a gratis copy of this volume by the publisher with no expectation of a positive review.