Reviewed by: Robert S. Arendale
Date posted: 10/30/2016
Passing Through: Pilgrim Life in the Wilderness, by Jeremy Walker. Reformation Heritage Books, 2015. Paperback, 300 pages, list price $20.00. Reviewed by OP pastor Robert S. Arendale.
In his book Passing Through: Pilgrim Life in the Wilderness, Jeremy Walker clearly and biblically addresses a perennial issue in the church, namely, the relationship between the Christian and the world. As the title indicates, Walker expounds the theme of the church as a pilgrim people passing through the world.
Our identity as pilgrims, he states, determines our activity. Chapters 1 and 2 introduce the topic and lay its theological foundations. In these chapters, Walker sets forth Christ and his engagement with the world as the pattern for the Christian (John 17:14–19). He briefly describes three flawed relationships to the world that the believer should avoid: isolation, inattention, and emulation. Instead, the Christian should be a pilgrim (Ps. 119:19; 1 Chron. 29:15; 1 Peter 2:11; Phil. 3:17–4:1; Heb. 11:10, 13–16; 1 Cor. 10:1–5, 11–12).
In the remaining ten chapters, Walker tackles such matters as the environment of the pilgrimage (i.e., the world), the enemy of the pilgrim (i.e., Satan), the attitude of the pilgrim (i.e., faithfulness in the fight), and the hope of the pilgrim (i.e., the new heavens and the new earth).
There is much to commend in this work, but I will highlight two areas: clarity and balance. First, Walker is a clear and engaging writer. His thesis is well stated and well argued. Passing Through is a book from which both the seasoned pastor and the recent convert can learn much. Moreover, it is saturated with Scripture. Each chapter begins with a “Scriptural Framework” and closes with “Specific Counsels” (i.e., application). Walker’s arguments are grounded in, and flow from, biblical teaching. And citing such figures as Calvin, Henry, Plumer, Spurgeon, and Bunyan, Walker draws deeply on our rich, Reformed heritage.
Second, the author strikes a healthy balance between “holy separation” and “holy engagement.” As he puts it, “Some have forgotten that we are in the real world, while others have overemphasized our expectations in this world. Some have neglected the ‘not yet’ of our existence … others take no account of the ‘already’ of our existence” (p. 33). Such a balance is illustrated in the juxtaposition of chapter 8, “Appreciate the Beauty,” with chapter 9, “Anticipate the Destiny.” Believers are to appreciate the goodness and the beauty of God’s creation, but recognize that this world is not our final home.
There are two areas in which I was left wanting more. While Walker does touch on Christ as the “Great Pilgrim, Pioneer, and Perfecter” of our faith, I would have liked to see this theme addressed more fully. Similarly, while the role of the local church in the life of the Christian pilgrim is briefly addressed, this topic could have been broadened and expanded.
I greatly benefited from this work and would heartily recommend it to the church. It would be an excellent resource for any church’s book table.