Understanding the Spiritual

A passionate, comprehensive interpretation of Christian Scripture.
Nigerian author Lawrence-Dokpesi’s nonfiction debut work of scriptural exegesis revolves around the concept of God’s word, both as it’s made flesh in Jesus Christ and as it’s entwined in each human heart. “The WORD is put in man to renew him,” she writes, “protect him, illuminate him, redeem him, and salvage him when he is lost.” In nine chapters, Lawrence-Dokpesi examines dozens of ramifications of the “WORD,” laying out five spiritual steps by which her readers might closer attune the word of God inside their own beings with God himself. “The nature of God is written in our hearts and minds,” she assures her readers, and while we “live in two worlds simultaneously,” the physical and the spiritual, we can, by trusting completely in God, navigate our ways through “the wilderness experience in our lives.” Lawrence-Dokpesi steadfastly champions the inner element of Christian spirituality, repeating frequently that surrendering to God and trusting in Jesus Christ will allow each of the faithful to achieve the fulfillment of faith: “The good news is that God makes promises for those who are willing to trust Him. In Proverbs 11:18 God says, ‘Seeds sown in righteousness will have a sure reward.’ ” Lawrence-Dokpesi’s pet-owning readers won’t like her flat declaration that “animals do not have individual souls,” and meat-eaters will wince when she writes that the “perfect will of God is that man should eat plants and fruits as meat and not eat animals.” But even so, religious readers and especially Bible study groups will find a great deal to consider in her vigorous reading of Scripture and her extensive, detailed quotations. Her readings hew fairly closely to traditional Christian interpretation—for instance, the “concept of God is a mystery and cannot be approached empirically”—but are always guided by a gentle note of compassion, particularly in the five steps she outlines for bringing the faithful closer to God. Her rather forgiving work is bound by faith in humanity’s good qualities: “[W]e reap satisfaction and blessings when we send out thoughts and actions of goodness and general well-being to others. All that we sow returns to us again.”
A hopeful, restorative presentation of basic Christian tenets.

Pub Date: May 31, 2014

ISBN: 978-1495943133

Page Count: 264

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2014

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.


A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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