Thursday, April 28, 2022

Book Review: The Scandal of Holiness by Jessica Hooten Wilson

About the Book:

Reading Great Literature as a Spiritual Discipline

How do we become better people? Initiatives such as New Year's resolutions, vision boards, thirty-day plans, and self-help books often fail to compel us to live differently. We settle for small goals--frugal spending, less yelling at the kids, more time at the gym--but we are called to something far greater. We are created to be holy.

Award-winning author Jessica Hooten Wilson explains that learning to hear the call of holiness requires cultivating a new imagination--one rooted in the act of reading. Learning to read with eyes attuned to the saints who populate great works of literature moves us toward holiness, where God opens up a way of living that extends far beyond what we can conjure for ourselves. Literature has the power to show us what a holy life looks like, and these depictions often scandalize even as they shape our imagination. As such, careful reading becomes a sort of countercultural spiritual discipline.

The book includes devotionals, prayers, wisdom from the saints, and more to help individuals and groups cultivate a saintly imagination.

Read an excerpt from The Scandal of Holiness by Jessica Hooten Wilson on the publisher's site.

My Thoughts:

Reading The Scandal of Holiness: Renewing Your Imagination in the Company of Literary Saints by Jessica Hooten Wilson felt like revisiting my college English major days, but better. Through her examinations of literary texts, the author shows that reading and considering literature aids the believer in the calling of being a saint (see 1 Corinthians 1:2 NKJV). Although I previously read only one of the books discussed, I never felt confused because the author summarized each literary work as she conveyed her thoughts about spiritual issues. I did learn some plot spoilers.

I enjoyed each chapter in The Scandal of Holiness, but Chapter 3 (Creation Care as a Holy Calling) rated as my favorite. Chapter 8 (Ars Moriendi) impacted and challenged me the most as it addressed the concept of dying well. This topic and the points presented stuck with me. The end of each chapter included a devotional section with Scripture, book quotes, prayers of the saints, reflection questions, and suggestions for further reading.

The Scandal of Holiness by Jessica Hooten Wilson focuses mainly on modern works of literature. A few examples: Ernest Gaines’ A Lesson Before Dying, C. S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength, Georges Bernanos’ The Diary of a Country Priest. The author explained in the introduction that she incorporated works from various faith traditions (Protestants, Roman Catholics, Orthodox Church, etc.) Stories from the Catholic tradition seemed the most common, and I found them interesting. The author expounded her thoughts clearly and without antagonism for opposing opinions. Even when I disagreed with a point, I respected and considered her view, in part due to the excellent presentation.

The Scandal of Holiness by Jessica Hooten Wilson is the type of book I could read annually. I enjoyed and learned from it. My personal take-away was that reading and considering well-written literature can influence a believer’s perspective and spur him or her forward in pursuit of the calling to be a saint (1 Corinthians 1:2 NKJV). The Scandal of Holiness: Renewing Your Imagination in the Company of Literary Saints by Jessica Hooten Wilson receives five stars from me.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided a copy of this book by the author or publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you enjoyed this. Excellent and very thorough review!