When I saw on another site that there was actually a Baptist monastery in Australia, and that a book, Community of the Transfiguration: The Journey of a New Monastic Community, told the story of that monastery, I was immediately intrigued. For one thing, the notion fit nicely into the broad category of “Baptist catholicity” that Steve Harmon and others have written about. For another thing, if ever a body of people needed to have solitude, contemplation, and the monastic impulse breathed into its nostrils, Baptists are it. So I got ahold of a copy of the book with a great sense of excitement and anticipation.
Excitement has now turned to disappointment and anticipation to frustration.
Community of the Transfiguration indeed tells the story of a “baptistic” monastery in Australia (you need not be Baptist to join it, though most are). Unfortunately, it is drenched in leftist buzzwords and smacks of the kind of old-line, main-line liberalism that has sent more than a few churches and denominations to their graves.
Don’t get me wrong. If you’d like to speak of the Holy Spirit as “she”, get in touch with your “psycho-spiritual” identity, be inundated with Jungian psycho-babble, hear how Albert Mohler and Jerry Falwell “mar Christianity” by opposing the gay movement, and various other such pleasantries, this is the book for you. If you’d like to hear Paul Dekar (a nice man, I’m sure) get way too preachy (was this book about the monastery or him?), and obsess over gender pronouns, and occasionally lose you in his Jungian phraseology (do I really have to own my shadow?), then this is it.
One wonders: is the Baptist catholicity programme destined to be hijacked by this kind of thinking? Perhaps so, but I hope not. All I know is, for all my talk of fundamentalist excesses and naivete, it only takes a book like this to remind me of why I remain in the Convention.