Book Review: Distant God

Distant God:  Why He Feels Far Away…And What We Can Do About It, by Chris Nye

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Moody Publishers.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

As a resident of the Portland area, I find it striking how many people feel called to write books and are published as Christian authors from this area given the general lack of religious faith among the population of the area at large.  Be that as it may, this book comes with an interesting concept in talking about the intimacy of mankind with God and why this often falls short of our own expectations.  It is clear from looking at this book and the people it cites [1] that the author is clearly well-read.  Whether or not the author is the most fit person to write at length about this subject is a different issue, but the subject matter is clearly worthwhile and the issue of intimacy with God is something that many believers struggle with, especially when we look at the wide gulf between the biblical ideal for intimacy with God and the terror people have of God’s presence and our own emotional longings and often incorrect views of God.

In terms of its contents, this is a short book at just under 200 pages that is divided into three parts and thirteen relatively short chapters.  The author first talks about how we measure the distance between ourselves and God in our longing to be near to God, how we determine who is being distant, how we find out where we are, and adjusting our expectations to what is proper.  After that the author spends six chapters talking about how we close the distance between ourselves and God through paired sets of principles, namely:  abiding/obeying, praying/listening, confessing/repenting, preahcing/receiving, feasting/fasting, and trusting/releasing.  The author then closes his discussion with three chapters on how we can go the distance in our Christian walk by looking at the road, the defense, and the promise.  Throughout the author includes a lot of comments about his generation and his own life and marriage and his own interest in the learning he received from Jesuits in high school even if he is no longer a Catholic.  The book has a strong ecumenical feel to it, as the author shows himself to be deeply interested in approaches from Catholics and from other ecumenically-minded professed Christians.

There are at least a couple of things that bother me about this book despite the fact that I really like its subject matter.  For one, the author appears to be very willing to use language that is unbiblical despite the fact that he shows himself to be critical of those who try to preach tradition rather than scripture.  Towards the beginning the author’s references to the fictitious Trinity, for example, are more than a little bit bothersome.  The other issue I have with this book is that it feels as if the author has not really lived enough to write this sort of book.  This is a book that seems to come from the author’s intellect, from his knowledge in reading and from the early stages of his walk with God.  One wonders if there will not be a later book, perhaps even a memoir, where the author discusses his uneven struggle with intimacy that will serve as an ironic comment to the author’s presumption to speak about it here.  Wisely, the author has a lot more to say about the theory about intimacy than about its execution and practice, given the author’s comparative inexperience.  The author may be a bit too much of a novice, but this book surely shows a firm grasp of a lot of good writing about intimacy with God and with fellow believers, enough to make it well worth reading.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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