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Review of “Emptiness – The Beauty and Wisdom of Absence”

February 1, 2018

Author David Auten starts this delightful short book with important context for his readers who are Jesus-followers, “…emptiness lies at the heart of Jesus — who he is and what he is about” (p. VIII – Prologue).  I imply other readers because one need not be Christian to glean encouragement or wise direction from Auten’s work…. A man wise beyond his relative youth.

You’ll quickly see that he loves to learn from his young children.  He cleverly relates the fun and fascination of childhood to his theme of empty spaces, emptying in various ways.

Emptiness draws from the wisdom of Eastern traditions as well as Jewish and Christian. Of course, in them is a heavy dose of the value of release, of even active pursuit of emptying – one’s mind, one’s ego, one’s possessiveness.  Yet the author works in quotes and examples from these wisdom traditions in such a way as to put off or alarm very few Christians, I’d imagine.  In that sense, it is a book of broad spirituality as much as one for Christians specifically, or any subset of Christians.

A perhaps-significant aside is that this feature of the book lines up well with Auten’s own diverse background and his pastoring a church in a diverse region and a diverse denomination (United Church of Christ, which happens to be my own affiliation in recent years).  So, for how the book reflects Christian faith in America today, it’s a “big tent”.  It appears Auten is comfortable with this sometimes difficult situation, particularly for a pastor who wants to nurture and help people grow.  And this book is clearly one effort in this endeavor… a valuable one.

Both the author and the back-cover reviewers describe the book as a devotional one. I don’t often read this genre. I’d call it more than a typical devotional book, however. Its chapters are short.  They are focused on specific aspects of emptying and “nothingness”.  But there is depth of thought and references to various thinkers here that put it nearly into the category of a work of scholarship. But it certainly reads easier than one, and gets one thinking (or not!).

My thanks to Cascade Books of Wipf and Stock Publishers which provided me a free copy for review.  It has not influenced my opinions of the book.




2 Comments leave one →
  1. marilyn jaye lewis permalink
    February 2, 2018 6:30 am

    Sounds like a great book. I’ll check it out! PS: Funny — I’ve chosen United Church of Christ now for several years, too!

    • February 2, 2018 1:33 pm

      Yes, a worthwhile read. I’d particularly recommend it for young adults, and probably should have mentioned that. … kind of rushed the ending.

      Cool as to you and UCC. Sometime we should put our heads together re. biblical scholarship and mainline denominations. … especially appropriate lifelong education about the relationship of biblical content and spiritual healthiness and growth.

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