Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas Summary

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Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas
Discover your Soul’s Path to God

My Thoughts

Sacred Pathways is an insightful book, it opened my eyes to new ways of understanding my own and other people’s relationships with God.

Gary Thomas has a free PDF study guide available for download at this site, I recommend downloading it if you like what you read below.

My Favorite Quotes

  • The decision to be obedient is often more difficult than the action of obedience after our decision.
  • Hatred for sin can become hatred for people when an activist becomes depleted and does not spend time in prayer.
  • Use the life God has given you to create something. Healthy Christians create. It is in our nature to create. It is the nature of God to create.
  • Anxious and wordy prayers can be distracting rather than effective.
  • The Jesus prayer. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
  • Only I can give my personal love and affection to God.
  • Words of wisdom can be an act of worship.

Key Questions

Part 1: The Journey of the Soul

Chapter 1: Loving God

We should not apply the same spiritual remedy to every Christian, in the same way, a doctor should not apply the same prescription for every patient.

Spiritual Temperaments

We have them just like we have personality temperaments.
One God, many relationships.

  • Abraham: religious, building altars.
  • Moses and Elijah: activists
  • David: enthusiastic worship
  • Solomon: sacrifices
  • Ezekiel and John: loud and colorful images
  • Mordecai: caring for others
  • Mary of Bethany: contemplative sitting at Jesus’ feet.

Personality Temperaments

Carl Jung’s Personality Profiles include:

  • Extrovert or Introvert
  • Sensing or Intuitive
  • Thinking vs Feeling
  • Judging or Perceptive

9 Spiritual Temperaments (Sacred Pathways)

  1. Naturalist: loving God outdoors.
  2. Sensates: worship God with the senses.
  3. Traditionalists: rituals, symbols, sacraments, and sacrifice. Tithing, structure, church attendance.
  4. Ascetics: loving God in solitude and simplicity. Live a fundamentally internal existence.
  5. Activists: loving God through confrontation. Standing against evil and calling to repentance.
  6. Caregivers: loving God by loving others.
  7. Enthusiasts: loving God with mystery and celebration.
  8. Contemplatives: loving God through adoration. Mary of Bethany.
  9. Intellectuals: loving God with the mind.

Part 2: The 9 Sacred Pathways

Chapter 2: The Naturalist

Loving God outdoors.
Reading the Bible outdoors is very powerful.
Biblical Examples
Still waters
Green pastures
Jesus moved near the sea
Baptism in the river
Mount Sinai
Garden of Eden

Spiritual lessons of outdoors:

  1. Visualize scriptural truths
  2. See God more clearly
  3. Learn to rest

How to worship outdoors:

  1. Believe
  2. Perceive
  3. Receive

Temptations for Naturalists to be wary of:

  • Individualism
  • Spiritual delusion
  • Idolizing nature (pantheism)

Chapter 3: Sensates

Art. Rembrandt.
John in Revelation.
Silence is not the only form of reverence.

Four stages of beauty that correlate to worship:

  1. Beauty arouses humility.
  2. Beauty moves us from humility to dignity.
  3. Produces a different world view.
  4. Recognizing we must return to the real world.

Awakening the senses.
Vivid sensory experience.
Incense, beauty.

Worship God with all 5 senses.

  1. Sound
  2. Smell (incense burning in heaven, temple, etc. can remind us of specific worship experiences)
  3. Touch (hold an object to remind you of something, nail for example. Kiss an object, lay hands in prayer, etc.)
  4. Sight (a third of our cerebral cortex is dedicated to visual processing)
  5. Taste


  • Repose
  • Harmony & peace
  • Austerity
  • Warmth
  • Brilliance

Exercise of drawing pictures of what God means to you.

Temptations of Sensates:

  • Worshipping without conviction.
  • Idolizing beauty.
  • Worshiping worship.

Chapter 4: Traditionalists

Loving God through rituals and symbols.

Elements of traditionalists expressions of faith:

  1. Ritual or (liturgical pattern)
  2. Symbol (or significant image)
  3. Sacrifice

Celebrations and observances.
Easter, Good Friday, Christian calendar, dates of martyrdom, ascension day, etc.

Meditating on Scripture.
Same or similar prayer every morning.

Symbols and Colors.


  • Lent
  • Fasting
  • Offerings
  • Dedicate something to the Lord

Temptations of Traditionalists:

  • Serving God without knowing God. (Samuel)
  • Neglecting social obligations.
  • Judging others.
  • Repeating mechanically.
  • Deifying rites.

Chapter 5: Ascetics

Loving God in solitude and simplicity.
John the Baptist.
The decision to be obedient is often more difficult than the action of obedience after our decision.
Daniel, Joel.

Three Worlds of Ascetics

  • Solitude
  • Austerity
  • Strictness

Solitude evolved into duos serving God together. Jerome.
Inner detachment.
Arrive hours before others and enjoy the alone time.
Usually likes mornings alone.

Susanna Westley
They can be distracted by the senses and try to shut them out.
May seek barren wastelands, differing from naturalists.

Strict to reserve a major portion of their life for the passionate pursuit of God.
Can appear perilously close to legalism.
It has a romantic side.
Related to a contemplative life.
Deeds before words.
Develop an inner life.

Acts of Ascetics

  • Watching in the night
  • Quiet worship in the night
  • Stay up late or rise very early
  • Vigilant when others are not
  • Stillness
  • Silence
  • Needless chatter can dissipate our energy and distract our thoughts
  • Try not speaking for a set time or at least minimize chatter
  • Fasting
  • Obeying
  • Working
  • Taking retreats
  • Living simply
  • Enduring hardship. (Sickness, heat, cold, hunger)

Temptations of Ascetics:

  • Overemphasizing personal piety.
  • Seeking pain for its own sake.
  • Seeking to gain God’s favor.

Chapter 6: Activists

Loving God through confrontation.

Elijah and Moses. Habakkuk. Peter.
Open-air preaching.

Murdered an Egyptian.
Faithful obedience does not always result in immediate success.
Nervous exhaustion and fatigue are temptations.
“Me and God against the world” attitude.

Elijah and Elisha:
Confrontation with Ahab.
He thought he was the only one serving God.
Leave the results with God or we will be consumed by success and get discouraged.

An activist can think he is more concerned than God.
Questioned God.
Be careful that intercession does not become an accusation.

Spiritually nourished through the battle.
Can leave you depleted.
Be cautious to stay balanced.

Forms of Activism:

  • Writing and publishing
  • Working for social reform
  • Actively confront error and evil
  • The acute need for spiritual risk-taking

Activists have some resemblance to enthusiasts.

Prayer and Activists
Walking prayer. (Around buildings, neighborhoods, etc)

Hatred for sin can become hatred for people when an activist becomes depleted and does not spend time in prayer.

Temptations of Activists:

  • Becoming judgmental.
  • Ambition and sex. (Correlation between accomplishment and sexual temptation)
  • Elitism and resentment.
  • Preoccupation with activity and statistics.
  • Lack of emphasis on personal sanctity.

An ambitious person is usually selfish.

Chapter 7: Caregivers

Loving God by loving others.

Esther 2:7
Not just a people pleaser.
Looked after others: orphan, king, nation, the poor.

Consummate caregiver.

Good Samaritan

Patterns of Caregiving

  • Nursing the sick.
  • Sitting with the elderly.
  • Helping friends.
  • Lending money.
  • Donating time.
  • Counseling.
  • Volunteering.

Caregivers as Prophets
Being concerned about others is unnatural and provides evidence of a supernatural touch of God.

Witness to God’s existence by caring for others unselfishly.
Care out of love for God

Temptations of Caregivers

  • Judging. (Mary and Martha)
  • Serving ourselves through serving others.
  • Holding narrow definitions.
  • Neglecting those closest to us.

Chapter 8: Enthusiasts

Loving God with mystery and celebration.

Mystery of Faith

Warnings in Deuteronomy 18:10-12
Sorcery, etc.
Balance mystery and reason.


Joseph. Jacob. Solomon. Daniel. Wise men. Paul. Ananias. Peter. Cornelius.
Allow us to intercede.
Prepare us for changes.
Encouragement or rebuke.
Also, visions while awake.

Help and Safeguards
Importance of listening.
Importance of journaling dreams.
Importance of meaning.
Should receive the dream and meaning at the same time.
Importance of community.
Importance of perspective.
Sources of dreams can be suspect.
Dreams from God will not contradict Scripture.

Spiritual risk-taking fosters expectancy.

Can rebel against the mystery of unanswered prayers or the answer “No.”
Expecting God to answer all of our prayers with a “yes” is asking for the omnipotence of God.
The mystery is exhilarating and frustrating.

Acts and Forms of Celebration

  • Enthusiastic worship
  • Spending time with children
  • Being involved in creative endeavors

Enthusiastic worship
Major feasts:
Feast of tabernacles

Individual celebration
Psalms and hymns
Jesus encouraged celebration
Jesus said if the people were to be quiet the stones would cry out.

Warnings to celebrants
Order is important
Revelation 19:20 Miracles and signs can deceive as well as inspire.
Simon was chastised for seeking a supernatural gift rather than the giver.
Celebratory worship must still include reverence. (Uzza touched the ark during a celebration)

Celebration is an obligation and privilege.
Celebration leads to joy.

Spending time with children:
Recapture the joy and wonder of our faith.
Adult banter can be stifling and depressing.

Use the life God has given us to create something.
Creating can be a powerful expression of worship.
Planting a garden, building a business, writing a poem.
Participating in creating can help break an addiction.
Healthy Christians create. It is in our nature to create.
It is the nature of God to create.
Chose something you are good at or inclined for.

Enthusiasts and Bible Reading
How to recharge daily Bible study.
Three faculties of the worshiping Spirit:

  1. Feeling
  2. Imagination
  3. Reasoning mind

Use all three to study the Bible.

Temptations of Enthusiasts

  • Seeking experiences for experience’s sake.
  • Being independent.
  • Equating good feelings with good worship.

Feelings come and go. Don’t depend on them.

Chapter 9: Contemplatives

Loving God through adoration.

Building a transforming friendship with God.
Seeks to perform the first work of adoring God.
Contemplative seeks to gaze lovingly into God’s face.

Biblical portrayals:
Moses’ prophecy and description of the Tribe of Benjamin.
Resting between God’s shoulders.
The love relationship between God and His chosen people.
Psalm 63
Song of Solomon.
Deuteronomy 6:5
Compared to adultery when we stray from God.
Christianity is about intimacy with God the Father.
More than just obedience. Obedience brings us closer intimacy with God the Father.
Often misunderstood and judged by others. (Mary and Martha)
Contemplative worship is cherished and valued by God.

God’s beloved:
Active meditation and infused contemplation.
Even our willingness and strength to cooperate is a gift from God.
God must infuse us with love in order for us to love.
Empty our lives of the things that choke out love for God.
Will not be given to those who willfully remain at a distance from God.
Contemplation will be denied in proportion to how much we belong to the world.
Desire (to pursue God) is most important.
Has to do with adoration. Based on love not loss
Jesus told His disciples “I call you not servants but friends.”
Servants is a doing word, friends is a being word. A servant is something you do, a friend is something you are.

Acts of Contemplatives
The Jesus prayer. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.
Secret acts of devotion.
Dancing prayer, meaning allowing God to lead in prayer. Not just a monologue.
Centering prayer. Chose a word such as love for a period of time, maybe 10 or 20 minutes. Contemplate on the subject of the word.
Anxious and wordy prayers can be distracting rather than effective.
Prayer of the heart. (Not just the mind)
Stations of the cross
Meditative prayer.

Temptations of Contemplatives

  • Losing balance. (Neglect of people and relationships)
  • Observing the ego.
  • Forgetting virtue.
  • Addiction to spiritual experience.

Only I can give my personal love and affection to God.

Chapter 10: Intellectuals

Loving God with the mind.

Face the love of hard questions.
Meditation on difficult Scriptures.

Biblical views:

  • Eagles are a natural predator of serpents.
  • Tribe of Levi. Study and teach.
  • Solomon. He also explored the natural world, animals, plants, etc.
  • Any study that explores the natural world can shed light on God that created it and help us to know him better.
  • Words of wisdom can be an act of worship.
  • Right thinking enables the right living.

Intellectual training:

  • Bible school/seminary
  • Christian education
  • Formal theological training
  • One year degree
  • One week intensive class
  • Pick one topic to study in-depth for an entire year.
  • Discussion.
  • Audiobooks during your commute.

The disciplines:

  • Church history
  • Biblical studies
  • Systematic theology
  • Ethics
  • Apologetics

To get started, consider the following resources to study:

Church history:

Specific segments:

Biblical studies:




Developing as an Intellectual
Chose a discipline that appeals to you.

Temptations of Intellectuals

  • Loving controversy.
  • Knowing rather than doing. (Knowing is not a substitute for doing)
  • Being proud.

Part 3: Understanding Your Sacred Pathway

Chapter 11: Tending the Garden of the Soul

Planting without tending is not good.

You may want to overhaul your devotional life.

You can take the online Spiritual Pathways Assessment to see your results.

List your temperaments in order:

My temperaments with scores are:

  • Ascetic: 27
  • Intellectual: 24
  • Contemplative: 24
  • Sensate: 19
  • Naturalist: 18
  • Enthusiast: 16
  • Traditionalist: 14
  • Activist: 14
  • Caregiver: 14

My Action Steps After Reading

  • Taking the Sacred Pathways Assessment and being aware of my temperaments.
  • Added a new mental model of spiritual temperaments.
  • Being more patient and understanding of people with different spiritual temperaments from mine.

Related Book Summaries

Hope you enjoyed this and got value from my notes.
This is the 21st book read in my 2017 reading list.
Here is a list of my book summaries.

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