The Power Of Presence: A Love Story, by Neil T. Anderson
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Kregel Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.]
The subtitle of this book provides an important clue to its meaning in that this book is a love letter on two levels, at least. On the one level, the book is a love story between a minister who appears to be part of a particular Evangelical mindset with a heavy interest in psychology and demonology (note: admittedly, the two go together alarmingly well ) and his wife suffering through dementia and unable to take care of herself. On another level, the book is filled with mystical reflections on the love of God for mankind and the fact that, just as was in the case all those generations ago in the Garden of Eden, when God is present in our lives and seeks to have a relationship with us, we often respond in fear rather than in love. This book is about presence in the absence of feeling it necessary to do something, and about love even when it is misunderstood or not recognized at all, the sort of material that is likely to bring encouragement to Hellenistic Christian readers who are not daunted by the author’s denominational inspeak and unbiblical jargon.
In terms of its contents, this short book is an immensely straightforward one. The book has six chapters that take up less than 150 pages, after a foreword that praises the author for having left aside his active ministry to minister to his wife and an introduction that makes it clear that this is not a memoir about dementia. The six chapters, not surprisingly, all deal with the presence of God in the lives of believers, and the titles of the chapters give a clear idea of the nature of their contents: The Absence of Presence, Suffering in His Presence, Coming Into His Presence, Ministering in His Presence, Resting in His Presence, and Fully in His Presence. Each of the chapters begins with a passage from a noted Church Father: Ambrose of Milan, John Chrysostom, Tertullian, and Augustine among the six chapters, the two middle men appearing twice. The contents consist of memoir aspects from the author’s life, certain rather harsh comments about the need for believers to “renounce” sin while still somehow avoiding legalism (the author is rather vague on the ethical demands of believers), and a great deal of gnostic exploration of the importance of feelings with regards to eternal security. In the world of gnostic Christianity, after all, those who do not feel encouragement and God’s presence often do not feel as if they are saved, and this book seeks to calm and encourage such believers.
In truth, whether or not one thinks that the Church Fathers quoted in the book are remotely important or not, or whether or not one has a high degree of belief in the author’s claim to be able to cast out demons and live in the glow of God’s perceived presence, this book does at least address worthy concerns that many readers will be able to empathize with. The author, correctly, notes that we cannot live by our own strength and wisdom, because neither are sufficient for the tasks that we face, but rather must live with God’s wisdom and strength, which we should be bold enough to ask for. We cannot seek forgiveness from God without at the same time being forgiving to others, despite the difficulties that are required in this. Likewise, we should expect that a lifetime spent in honoring God and serving others should lead to an improvement in the way that we live, even if our feelings are untrustworthy guides as to God’s love for us. Even if one does not view this book as an unqualified success, it is important in voicing the concerns of someone who has had to walk in faith while caring for a dying wife while seeking to justify God’s action or inaction, is obvious presence like a heavy hand or his apparent absence, in our lives and in our world, and that act of wrestling is worth appreciating and honoring despite its flaws.
 See, for example: