I didn’t know what to expect when I first opened Thomas Kelly’s A Testament of Devotion. I knew the book was listed among the best in Christian spirituality but I didn’t know anything about the book.
I didn’t know that Kelly was a Quaker and that the essays within the book were taken from talks that he gave. I didn’t know how much my favorite Christian writer, Dallas Willard, was influenced by Kelly.
I also didn’t know that I would need to read it more than once to fully appreciate it. The first time I read it, I was underwhelmed and slightly disappointed in the overtly Quaker teaching. I mean, I am a Baptist, and any talk of the light within makes me think of Shirley MacLaine and “woowoo” New Age stuff. But then I read it a second time and appreciated it so much more. I began to take in some of the rich passages that were inspiring and convicting. For example, he mentions that “complete obedience” is our goal not “amazing revelations.” I particularly liked his discussion of having the “simplicity of the trusting child.” And Kelly’s explanation of the “Holy Now” was excellent.
Finally, I really appreciated his moment to moment approach to the spiritual life. Highly influenced by Brother Lawrence‘s The Practice of the Presence of God, Kelly detailed the experience of connection with God in the midst of everyday life. This is a very good point and one that gets completely ignored in Evangelical circles who never seem to take the spiritual life beyond morning BIble study and prayer.
I don’t know if I would recommend this book to a young believer but for a seasoned disciple looking for a challenge to live “the other half,” this book would be much better than 90 percent of what is coming out of Christian bookstores.
This is a fine review and echoes my experience with the book. I did know that Kelly was a Quaker, but at as a good Calvinist who doesn’t mind going outside the box, I was drawn to it because it had the Quaker feel to it. And as a Brother Lawrence fan, I was really fascinated with the book. Have you read Letters from a Modern Mystic by Frank Laubach? It’s an old book but equally fascinating.
Thanks for the comment. I am actually reading Letters.. right now. It compliments Kelly very well but has a more practical quality that I appreciate. You should join the Renovare Book Club. These two books are the first two on the schedule. https://www.renovare.org/giving/book-club