Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis


An excerpt from a new review posted on Schaeffer's Ghost:
The problem is the gospel.  It's simply not there.  While it may be that Kempis believed the gospel and took it for granted that his readers did the same--which was my opinion when I first read this book back in high school.  However, the simple fact is that Christ's atoning sacrifice for our sins is completely absent from this volume.  There are vague references to grace, to appealing to God and Christ for aid, but ultimately this is a book about the things you should do--not the great thing that has already been done.  In this sense, it functions a bit like the law--it opens your eyes to see how utterly you fail to live up to the standard (in this case, your failure to imitate Christ).  Indeed, I remember vividly the conviction I felt the first time I read it.  It's great for making you feel the weight of your sin.  It just can't help you bear that burden.
Full review available here.

[The original review appeared here in its entirety, and is now available at the above blog.]


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your excellent comments on The Imitation of Christ. My chief grievance with The Imitation of Christ, is not so much what’s in it, as what’s been left out. For example, in Chapter 3 of Book 3, Kempis says, famously (or infamously, depending on your point of view), “I am Your poorest and meanest servant, a vile worm, much more poor and contemptible than I know or dare to say.” Now that’s a pretty unkind description of something that was created in God’s own image. But that is the problem in trying to compare the finite (a human being) with the infinite (God). It’s not that human beings are no good, per se. It’s just that people suffer by way of comparison, when matched up against God -- and Kempis may have drawn fewer detractors, if he’d just said so.

Alexis Neal said...

Thanks for your comment! As a big believer in the depravity of man, I didn't particularly mind that passage, but I see your point. We are made in the image of God, and that's a very good thing. I don't know that I would say we are merely finite or less than God, though--since the Fall, we are corrupted by sin and deserve God's wrath. So to the extent that Kempis is pointing out our pervasive sin nature, I would agree with him. I just wish he'd made it clear that the solution to our problem is not self-loathing or mere effort, but faith in the sacrificial and substitutionary death of Christ.

Again, thanks for the comment!