“Like a succession of failed diet regimens, the much-touted techniques that are supposed to bring us closer to God ‘in our hearts’ can instead make us feel anxious, frustrated, and overwhelmed. How can we meet and know God with ongoing joy rather than experiencing the Christian life as a series of guilt-inducing disappointments?”
“Phillip Cary explains that knowing God is a gradual, long-term process that comes through the Bible experienced in Christian community, not a to-do list designed to help us live the Christian life ‘right.’ This clearly written book covers ten things Christians don't have to do to be close to God, such as hear God's voice in their hearts, find God's will for their lives, and believe their intuitions are the Holy Spirit. Cary skillfully unpacks the riches of traditional Christian spirituality, bringing the real good news to Christians of all ages.”Here are some of the chapter titles:
1. Why You Don’t Have to Hear God’s Voice in Your Heart, Or: How God Really Speaks Today.
2. Why You Don’t Have to Believe Your Intuitions are the Holy Spirit, Or: How the Spirit Shapes Our Hearts
3. Why You Don’t Have to be Sure You Have the Right Motivations, Or: How Love Seeks the Good
4. Why You Don’t Have to Keep Getting Transformed All the Time, Or: How Virtues Make a Lasting Change in Us
5. Why You Don’t Always Have to Experience Joy, Or: How God Vindicates the Afflicted
6. Why ‘Applying It to Your Life’ Is Boring, Or: How the Gospel is Beautiful
7. Why Basing Faith on Experience Leads to a Post-Christian Future, Or: How Christian Faith Needs Christian Teaching
I have read about the first 50 pages and I want to say this is a book you’re going to want to read. Cary is convinced that the Church is burdening people with unhealthy “techniques” which, while well intended, are doing more harm than good. What they are really doing is creating anxious Christians who are constantly worried about whether they're “doing it (whatever “it” may be) right.
Cary says the book got its start after he read one of his student’s papers on the topic of revelation. The student was frustrated with the concept because she said “you can never really tell if it’s the voice of God. For how do you know which voice you’re hearing is really God’s voice? And if you can’t tell if it’s God’s voice, then how can God reveal anything?” He quickly realized her concept of revelation was entirely wrong. She was anxious because she couldn’t be sure she wasn’t mistaking her voice for God’s voice. Here’s what he wrote on her paper, “I have good news for you: the voices in your heart are all your own. So you don’t have to get all anxious about figuring out which one of your voices is God. None of them is. The revelation of God comes in another way, through the word of God in the Bible, and this is something you can find outside your heart.” Now I know you’ve probably got a ton of questions (and maybe a few objections) but Cary says the two questions asked the most at this point are: “Are you saying God doesn’t speak to us today?” and “Are you saying God can’t speak in our hearts?” In reply he says . . . well, I’ll let you read the book.
It is very well written and should be on every pastor’s shelf. Maybe even more importantly it should make its way into every youth pastor’s library.
Look for it this October. It will be a paperback with 208 pages and sell for $14.99.
Phillip Cary (PhD, Yale University) is professor of philosophy and director of the philosophy program at Eastern University in Pennsylvania as well as scholar-in-residence at the Templeton Honors College. He is the author of Jonah in the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible and of three critically acclaimed books on the life and thought of St. Augustine.