Spiritual Maturity: The Road to Wonderland – a book review

About the Book –

For decades, Chafer’s He That is Spiritual guided the Christian in spiritual growth, but it remains out of reach for many modern believers who struggle with the 1918 text or no longer have the general Bible knowledge that the book assumes.

Now, Spiritual Maturity: The Road to Wonderland brings those same critical lessons prefaced by quotes and illustrations from Lewis Carroll’s timeless tales. Interwoven throughout the text is Christine, a fictional character, whose life and questions mirror those of today’s reader.

We need to be sure we are walking in the direction and in the manner God would choose. And on any journey, a map-correctly understood-can be enormously helpful. Thankfully, God has provided us one. Designed for individual or classroom use.

bruce baker.jpg
About the Author –

Bruce Baker is Senior Pastor of Jenison Bible Church, Hudsonville, MI. Before he entered the ministry he served in the Navy for over 11 years. He then moved on to work at a Christian television station as an engineer. It was during this he felt the call of God to enter the ministry. He enrolled at Calvary Bible College graduating with a BS in Christian Ministries. He continued on to Calvary Theological Seminary, where he graduated with a Master’s of Divinity (Pastoral Studies) degree with highest honors. He is currently pursuing his PhD at Baptist Bible Seminary.

Before accepting the call to his current church, he was Senior Pastor of Open Door Bible Church in Belton, MO, and Adjunct Professor of Bible and Theology at Calvary Bible College.

Pastor Baker has no hobbies because his life is one pathetic cycle of trying to complete overdue projects while accepting new ones. He seldom sleeps. He has been acquitted of all charges for which he as ever been indicted.

He is the author of numerous journal and magazine articles, and a contributing author to the book Progressive Dispensationalism. Spiritual Maturity is his first full-length book. Pastor Baker and his wife, Bonnie, have been married 27 years and have three grown children. They are praying that their married children get a clue, get down to business and give them grandchildren before they die.

Sample from the book –

Of all my memories, though, it is the hours we spent in the car, with Dad as the pilot and me as the navigator, that I remember most. Before we left, Dad provided a quick education on how to read a map. I remember his instruction on the importance of knowing where we were, where we were going, and how we were going to get there. “If we keep our eye on those three things on the map,” Dad explained, “we won’t get lost.”

It felt very grown-up to be entrusted with such an important responsibility. As we clicked off the miles, I kept my finger on that maze of colored lines, solemnly announcing the next town we should see or how far it was to the next rest area.

It sounds so simple now, but knowing where we are, where we want to be, and how to get there is still essential for any journey. Yet, it is this basic information, particularly in the realm of a spiritual journey (a journey that seeks and requires spiritual truth), that sometimes seems the hardest to find. It is clear (or at least it should be to anyone who has even a casual understanding of the Bible) that God wants us to grow spiritually-but how is that accomplished? What is the goal? How do we determine how far along we are now? How do we know when we have arrived? This assumes, of course, that one can arrive (and by the way, what exactly does “arriving” mean?). Why is it that some people seem to intuitively understand God’s will when others of us seem to struggle so much?

This book isn’t intended to be our map. Only God’s inspired Word can fulfill that function. Instead, this book is meant to help us discover, by reading the map, where we are now, where God wants us to go, and how we get there.

My Review –

I wrote a couple of weeks ago that I was reading this book and enjoying it a great deal. I’ve completed the book and did enjoy it, but there was a huge bump in the road of this journey (to use Baker’s own analogy) and I hit my head on the ceiling of the car so hard, it took a bit for the swelling to go down. More on that later.

Baker is seeking to help us read the “map” of God’s Word in order to get to the destination “Spiritual Maturity.” He readily admits that we’ll never arrive until God the Father sends Christ the Son to bring us to our final rest in His presence. However, on the way there, we need help and encouragement and this is what he seeks to offer.

He does so using three means: 1) a “story” of a Christian woman whose faith has been rocked hard, and thus starts her journey of recognition and realization that she was so spiritually immature at first and has great need to grow; 2) short excerpts from Lewis Carroll’s tale, Alice in Wonderland, by which Baker sets the stage for each chapter; and 3) each chapter which seeks to help us recognize where we are, where we need to go, and how to start taking the steps necessary to make the journey toward spiritual maturity.

The story, I think, adds some touch of realism to the direct teaching mode of the various chapters. Entitled, “Living in Canaan,” the author follows a portion of the life of Christine, a believer who learns that the path to maturity can be very harsh, very grueling, yet very rewarding also. Segments of this story occur over seven different places, each showing the progress and trials of the maturing process. I found this part of the book helpful, kind of like a mini-novel in the middle of a “technical book” on Christian living.

Using some of the old line art drawing templates and snippets from Carroll’s classic, Baker introduces each chapter and seeks to make us think about life as a follower of Christ. He does not attempt to spiritualize Alice and her adventures. Thank goodness for that. Yet each piece does help you realize where he might be headed with each chapter. For instance, there is the classic dialogue between Alice and the Cheshire Cat:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to walk from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where,” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you walk,” said the Cat.

From there, Baker’s chapter helps us understand that there is a destination in our Christian life, that there is direction and purpose. We don’t just wander through this world until we get to heaven. I enjoyed these little forays a great deal.

Overall, I found this book a good read, full of good reminders of things I’ve learned in the past and need prodding on once in a while in order to stay the course. I think just about any Christian, from relatively new believer to a more experienced Christian would find this helpful. I could recommend it to anyone from my congregation with only one proviso: skip chapters 5, 6 & 7, then be careful with chapters 8 & 9. Before and after this major section, you’ll be fine. Baker is right in introducing the “Jabberwock” here, but for reasons that I strongly disagreed with.

I should have seen it coming, when a partial description of the book informs me that Baker is seeking to put Lewis Sperry Chafer’s He That Is Spiritual on a lower, more accessible shelf for Christian’s, alarms should have gone off. Chafer, and hence, Baker, takes a passage from 1 Corinthians 2.14–3.3 and makes this the cornerstone of their understanding for spiritual maturity. That’s fine, except they introduce a teaching that, I’m convinced undermines the very process they hope to enhance: “the carnal Christian.” I’ll need to post more on this through the course of the next two weeks, but suffice it for now that this is a dangerous teaching. I believe it opens the “antinomian door” for far too many “professing, but unbelieving” people of faith. That is to say, it allows for a person to say, “Yes, I’m a Christian” and then never mature, never move off “Square One” and basically live an unconverted life, yet still enter heaven.

I realize Baker is seeking to loving and graciously “push” these “carnal” people toward greater maturity. And through the beginning and remainder of his book, he does a fine job of that. However, I disagree with this teaching so much, it did make the final portion of the book a far greater chore to read than I initially thought. I usually try to exercise discernment whenever I read, but this was a “cardio workout” like I haven’t had in a while.

Again, I’m favorable to this book. It could actually have been written without chapters 5-9 and still have been coherent and very helpful. If you’d like to purchase this book, you may do so through Grace Acres Press. Just make sure you put a binder around those middle chapters and then continue on.

This book was provided for review purposes by Grace Acres Press.

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