Andrew Walker is one of the most remarkable scholars I have met across the years. – William J. Abraham
There are thinkers, to follow Berlin’s lead, like the fox—they cover a vast amount of terrain in their intellectual breadth. There are other thinkers, like the hedgehog—they burrow deep and narrow. Andrew Walker is both a fox and hedgehog in both his sheer breadth and pathway depths in Notes from a Wayward Son: a miscellany—we could certainly profit and mature from more wayward sons (and daughters) of Walker’s calibre.
Notes from a Wayward Son is divided into five probing and insightful chapters. Part I: “Journey into the Spirit: Pentecostalism, Charismatic, and Restorationist Christianity” is an informed and historic overview, from a sociological perspective, of various themes and strands of self-styled renewal Christianity. Walker never flinches from asking hard questions about such approaches to Christianity. The fact that Walker spent significant seasons of his life within such a Christian tribe means his burrowing reveals much that many are simply unaware of---almost 1/3 of Notes from a Wayward Son does the hedgehog deed into the complex ethos of those who claim to be journeying into the spirit (always a question, of course, about whose version of the spirit and which spirit).
Part II: “Mere Christianity and the Search for Orthodoxy” brings the curious reader into both Walker’s many years of work on C.S. Lewis, potential affinities between Lewis and Orthodoxy and a much deeper form of Christian burrowing. Obviously, Lewis and Orthodoxy goes to places the thinner version of charismatic Christianity rarely goes. The five articles about Lewis are worth many a meditative reread. There is a sense in which Walker’s commitment to “Deep Church” or “Mere Christianity” walks the truly committed beyond different types of mother church triumphalism---The fact Lewis was a catholic Anglican did not mean he held the Anglican Tradition higher than the Orthodox or Roman Catholic—a deeper sense of church unity needs to be faced into rather denominational schism of which many charismatic types specialize as well as the multiplicity of protestant denominations. Lewis points the way both to mere Christianity and a deeper understanding of the core of church unity. Walker follows such a sagacious lead and does so well and wisely.
Part III: “Orthodox Perspectives”, understandably so (given the fact that Walker is Orthodox), highlights the contribution that Orthodoxy has and can make, in a prophetic sense, to contemporary culture. There is a fine interview with Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh, an even finer reflection on homiletics and Biblical fidelity and two different directions the Orthodox have often gone in Inter-Communion (Open or Shut?). The hedgehog goes yet deeper in “Orthodox Perspectives” but the roaming fox is ever present for those attentive—synthesis and analysis dwell in a healthy tension.
Part IV: “Ecumenical Thoughts on Church and Culture” includes an insightful interview with Bishop Leslie Newbigin and some informed pointers on both harmful religions and the third schism. There is much in this section of the book that needs much pondering and application. There can be no doubt that Walker is concerned about the sheer fragmentation of the church, pop and ersatz religion and the folly of privatized forms of religion and Christianity that distort both religion and Christianity (but is very trendy in our time).
Part V: “Shorter Pieces” brings this poignant collection of essays to a worthy end. Many of the articles clearly illuminate the thinness of much modern Christianity and Walker’s legitimate questions about The Shack are to the telling and convincing point—I suspect those with any in-depth understanding of Christianity would find The Shack suggestively interesting but substantively paper thin—Walker makes it abundantly clear that the appeal of The Shack reveals much about those who uncritically genuflect to such a missive (and there are many).
Notes from a Wayward Son is a motherlode of a book and the many veins of gold therein will only emerge for those who have the discipline of mind, heart and imagination to dig deep and ever deeper. It is good to see a Christian thinker in which fox and hedgehog dwell amicably within and Andrew Walker is a such a mature person—may we all know what it means to be wayward in the way Andrew Walker has been and continues to be.