Skip to main content

The Luminous Dusk: Finding God in the Deep, Still Places


The Luminous Dusk: Finding God in the Deep, Still Places

"When Jack's mother threw her son's beans out the window, her intent was not to induce the adventure that followed." This is one of the best sentences in this whole, rich book. It also happens to be the first line of chapter 1, which more accurately is chapter 2, the introduction being a substantial essay itself.

And there's no mistaking that this is a book of essays, loosely connected, organized under three topics: Stillness, Word and Prayer. Dale C. Allison, Jr., like Wendell Berry or Walker Percy, is concerned that we've lost touch with the natural world, with God, with our sense of wonder.

Allison is a middle-aged, chaired professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the Presbyterian (USA) Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. His previous books include a study of Matthew, a gospel that plays prominently in a chapter-essay titled "Saints and Heroes," in which he culturally and historically explains and then bemoans our loss of heroes --- known for virtue or rightful action --- and our substitutionary homage to celebrities, known for their talent or charm.

Allison's work includes an occasional delightful personal anecdote and lots of meaty quotes from ancient and modern theological and literary works. This wide base and perspective enlivens the book. I kept turning pages, looking for more insight. And yet I admit that I felt cheated by the lack of endnotes or source documentation. I suspect that the author or publisher chose the minimalist route so the book, which sometimes gets heady, would better appeal to a "lay" reader. But the strategy seems to contradict a complaint running through the book: that we've lost connections. To history. ("Until recent times, progress was measured against the past.") To nature. ("High school students who read Chaucer no longer laugh at Chanticleer because they no longer know anything about the behavior of roosters.") To books and the printed word. (There's a whole chapter titled "The Fate of the Book.") Allison missed an opportunity to root his readers in the big, wonderful (and supposedly disappearing) world of books.

Though there is plenty of social criticism in THE LUMINOUS DUSK, it is ultimately a positive and hopeful book, drawing us to deeper spirituality and faith. It will appeal to serious readers who sense that something isn't quite right with our increasingly technological, insular and standardized world. His theology will sound liberal to fundamentalists but conservative to liberals.

Allison's final section, "Prayer," includes an interesting chapter on "physical prayer," discussing the purposes or benefits of the traditional prayer postures --- bowing heads, bending knees, folding hands, closing eyes. "The shutting out of light is a sacred instinct that should move us to deny ourselves and to undo what we have turned ourselves into."

Like this sentence, Allison's whole book is a paradoxical challenge to action and yet to stillness --- found in wonder and in faith in a God who is often found, not in the dazzling noontime sun or in the artificial lights with which we surround ourselves, but in THE LUMINOUS DUSK. 

Reviewed by Evelyn Bence on June 1, 2006

The Luminous Dusk: Finding God in the Deep, Still Places
by Dale C. Allison, Jr.

  • Publication Date: July 15, 2006
  • Genres: Christian
  • Paperback: 178 pages
  • Publisher: Eerdmans Pub Co
  • ISBN-10: 0802832180
  • ISBN-13: 9780802832184