Hunting Magic Eels: Recovering an Enchanted Faith in a Skeptical Age

Richard Beck
Broadleaf Books, 245 pages

Richard Beck is not only a professor of psychology at Abilene Christian University, but also a theologian who probes seriously the implications and interplay of psychology. I discovered him through his blog “Experimental Theology,” where he shares his wide-ranging interests from literature to film and cultural criticism as well as his ministry teaching the Bible to prisoners. A creative theologian and a committed Christian, he is on a quest to recover the core vitality of the Christian faith for those who have abandoned it, never considered it or are seeking how to embrace it without the harmful baggage of the church’s failures. It’s a daunting quest, but he is well-equipped to speak about the breadth and depth of Western Christianity in a way that is accessible (if not too easy).

Without acknowledging it, Beck builds upon the work of philosopher Charles Taylor’s “A Secular Age.” That book is profoundly important to understanding how we arrived at the “spiritual but not religious” era; yet it is so massive and dense that few people will read it. Beck does us a favor by exploring ways we can recover enchantment and so discover the presence of God, hidden in plain sight. He describes the longing many seek for such enchantment as “the Ache.” That’s a fine way of speaking of that deep longing for an experience with the Holy One. The “Ache” echoes the work of Walker Percy, C.S. Lewis and Denise Levertov. I can only speculate as to the reason Beck does not acknowledge these sources which are so obvious to me. Not surprisingly, given the “spiritual not religious” age, he devotes renewed attention to ancient Celtic Christianity as one avenue for disenchanted Christians/seeker/skeptics to gain some affinity with Christianity in a fresh, vital way. Beck is a serious thinker who has provided an excellent entry to those outside the boundaries. Read this book, and read his blog.

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