Started reading this book about an anthropologist studying the members of the Vineyard movement. She’s an excellent writer. Honest, clear, thoughtful.
They were arguing, in short, about the most difficult problem that confronts anyone who believes or wants to believe in God: not whether God exists, in some abstract, in-principle, out-in-the-universe way, but how to find God in the everyday world and how to know that what you have found is God, and not someone else’s deluded fantasy or your own selfish wish. For the Christians I met, the problem at the center of their faith is identifying the divine in ordinary life and distinguishing it from madness, evil, and simple human folly.
The challenge of Christianity is being able to remap your own interior world from the way in which you learn to imagine God— and if it is hard to learn to experience yourself as truly in relationship with an invisible presence, it is harder still to experience yourself as feeling the love, tolerance, kindness, and forbearance you would feel if you truly, deeply, genuinely felt loved by the creator of the universe. Even when Christians succeed, they may grasp the moment— and then it may be gone.
Why read a book like this?
1. If you already know this world or a world like it (as I do), fish sometimes have trouble gaining perspective on the water they swim in. Hearing the voice of a clear eyed, honest outsider is enormously helpful. There is a strangeness about being a believer that is lost on us after we’ve been in long enough, or all our lives.
2. If you don’t know this world, such a voice can help you understand a bit about what looks so strange.