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Winn Collier – A Burning in my Bones: The Authorised Biography of Eugene H Peterson

Authentic Hardback ISBN 978 1 78893 203 5 229 pages ​Price £19.99

It is ironic yet appropriate that this book is published by Authentic, because that is the one word that comes to mind when I think of Eugene Peterson. He has been a regular companion in my four decades of Christian ministry, during which his books have been a welcome stimulus to my thinking, spirituality and practice. 

I am not an uncritical fan of his Message version of the Bible, but have found that its quirky but fresh renderings of familiar biblical passages have opened up vistas I had not previously considered or imagined. The title of the book comes from The Message translation of Jeremiah 20:9:

“The words are fire in my belly, a burning in my bones.”

This brilliantly captures the distinctive personality and ministry of the prophet Jeremiah, and opens a window on what made Eugene Peterson such an influential figure.

Peterson was shaped by words, words that became part of him. He lived, spoke and wrote as someone who had made a vital connection with the God who speaks.

Peterson understood the importance of the “word” becoming “flesh.” Or in his own words: “moving into our neighbourhood”.

This is biography rather than hagiography. This is a story of a human being not a plaster saint. We have Peterson “warts and all!”  We learn about his ups and downs, false starts, frustrations and mis-steps.

Collier conducted numerous interviews with the subject and had access to all his papers, journals and letters. Peterson kept the letters he received and filed them with copy of his reply. The end result is a life story well told. Collier uncovers some little-known facts about Peterson, so that the reader gets a rounded picture of a man whose voice has shaped so many other Christian voices over the years.

If you are interested in the spiritual history of the past half-century, this is a great window into a fascinating life that has left such a significant footprint in the Christian world.

John Woods is a writer and Bible teacher based in West Sussex

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