Disciplines of the Christian Life by Eric Liddel & Historic Connections

Eric Liddell courtesy Wikimedia

Eric Liddell is known as the man portrayed in the movie Chariots of Fire . Immediately after the Olympic victory portrayed in the movie he left for the mission field… China. He died there of a brain tumor in a Japanese prison camp just before the end of World War II.

At present his book The Disciplines of the Christian Life is free on Amazon’s Kindle.

Liddell’s book is a year long program of discipleship penned and circulated before his death.

What becomes obvious – and is little mentioned – is that Liddell was heavily influenced by the Oxford Group, an interdenominational renewal movement  whose principles and outreach efforts actually provided the Christian basis for the early Alcoholics Anonymous in it’s Akron form long before there were “12 Steps”. Before Wilson’s steps, the spirituality of the little unnamed group mirrored Oxford Group approaches and practices.

For that reason Liddell’s book on discipleship provides an interesting look into how the group’s principles might be applied.

Liddell’s work is not the “last word” on discipleship in any fashion. He and the Oxford Group can easily come across as Pharisaical in fact. It’s principles while arguable true are in many cases abstracted from scripture as “timeless truths” and presented as if they have a life of their own without reference to Christ or grace. The expositions of their disciplines often seem devoid of any concept of union with Christ, though likely they would say that is included in their concept of “surrender to God”.  Later called “Moral Rearmament” it was heralded by none other than Harry Truman for their work in getting normally opposing interests to focus on “what’s right” instead of “who’s right”.  The drift from the Gospel core continued however. Indeed, it’s successor organization, Initiatives of Change has no discernible Christian message or impetus but believes itself to be following Oxford Group principles!

So while discernment is indeed called for, a simple reading will indicate for us the type(if not the exact form in all particulars) of spiritual rigor that characterized the early AA environment.