As general director of China Inland Mission (later known as Overseas Missionary Fellowship), J. Oswald Sanders saw the intense spiritual need that defined people globally. He is known for his ability to address those spiritual needs through his exceptional writings, which are immense (in quantity). 27 years after his death and his older works continue to be published while newer works are being put together from his messages and individual writings.
In 2018, Moody Publishers redesigned and republished Sanders’ best-known workers, Spiritual Leadership, Spiritual Discipleship, and Spiritual Maturity. They have continued in 2019 with the release of Cultivation of Christian Character and A Spiritual Clinic. Both books have remained out of print since before Sanders’ death in 1992 until now. A Spiritual Clinic was motivated by the author’s conviction that the strains and problems faced by people are answered by the understanding and application of principles derived from Scripture. That conviction establishes the basis for this particular writing.
At 200 pages, the book is short considering the type and number of circumstances that Sanders covers. Divided into two sections, Problems of Christian Experience and Problems in Christian Service, the author has written 19 chapters that guide readers through Scripture to help them overcome areas such as suffering, despondency, tension, prayer, and leadership.
In some of Sanders’ later works, there is a legitimate concern about him leaning towards a ‘mystical’ Christianity. However, apart from a couple of minor comments, this particular book stays away from that aspect. In fact, the author does well at trying to direct believers towards a deeper relationship with God. It would have been helpful if the author had gone deeper into some of the solutions. At times they are fairly basic (such as ‘pray to God’) which takes away from the value of this book.
At times, the author’s application of Scripture is slightly suspect in relation to fidelity to biblical interpretation. This is most notable in part two when discussing areas of Christian service. In that section, the author tends to come across as one who is more inclined towards a works-based theology. I hesitate to say that he fully advocates this position, but instead, it seems that more clarification would have helped.
The most difficult aspect of this book is the author’s inability to navigate biblical paradoxes. To many, it would appear that the author is consistently contradicting himself. Instead, he is simply referring people to Scripture, but in one instance he will show a person’s responsibility while noting God’s sovereignty moments later. Granted these are major issues that scholars have argued over for centuries, but the insertion of a few clarifying details would have added value to the material being presented, making it more understandable and acceptable.
There was great value in the book and readers will certainly find the material helpful and applicable. However, I would be more inclined to recommend Side by Side by Ed Welch as one that is more complete, more readable, more practical, and more likely to strike to the core of the issues.
To learn more about this book or other books by J. Oswald Sanders, click the following titles:
A Spiritual Clinic
Cultivation of Christian Character
To learn more about Side by Side by Ed Welch, click here.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher at no cost to me for the purposes of review. However, my review was not influenced by the author, publisher, or anyone else associated with this book and is the result of my own reading of it.