Book Review: Experiencing God

Experiencing God:  Knowing And Doing The Will Of God, by Henry & Richard Blackaby & Claude King

My roommate gave me this book because he somehow ended up with more than one copy of it, which happens from time to time with books.  This particular book offers readers a course on experiencing God, and it is meant to be taken with a small group as part of a congregation.  The authors assume that those taking the course will be married and parents, which is more than a bit irksome for those of us who are neither.  It can be said that the authors wish to deal with the subject of experiencing God through Bible study and obedience and are decidedly anti-mystical in their approach [1].  As might be imagined, I am somewhat ambivalent to the authors’ approach, not least because the authors seem to be Calvinist in their approach, caught in a tension between emphasizing God’s initiative in calling people and the way that we should be rather than do and a need to emphasize obedience to God and action conducted in faith, something the authors fail to explain as deeply as they wish.

In about three hundred pages or so the authors manage to include twelve weeks of five lessons apiece as part of a course.  Course topics include God’s will, looking to God, God’s pursuit of a “love relationship,” God’s invitation, God speaking (in two parts!), the crisis of belief, how we adjust our life to God, how we experience God through obedience, the relationship of believers and churches, how we become Kingdom people, and how we experience God in our daily lives.  Each of the units ends with some notes and plenty of questions that come from a dvd that I did not have, which was a bit irksome.  The book also has a closing section with names, titles, and descriptions of God, some simple artwork throughout, and encouragement for the people taking the course to sign an Experiencing God group covenant (!) and keep a spiritual journal as a discipline in helping them to hear God’s prompting in scripture reading, which I suppose would be akin to the practices of medieval beginning mystics, as anti-mystical as the book is in general.  Throughout the book there are also a great many times where the author references how important the book was to other people, which is a bit off-putting and definitely humblebragging at best.

All in all, my feelings about the book are mixed.  I am in favor of the authors’ approach towards obedience and seeking to study the Bible, but find their viewing themselves as examples of faith and obedience to be rather irritating, especially considering their frequent use of the NIV translation rather than the superior M-text and their frequent references to the fictive and unbiblical Trinity.  In one drawing the authors even manage to claim that the Holy Spirit is a person, protesting a bit too strongly.  This is a book that offers a great deal of encouragement to obey God, but the authors as usual are pretty unspecific about what that means.  This is a book that tries to browbeat the reader into feeling bad about their depraved nature and making them distrust their own feelings and experiences while puffing up the pride and ego of the writers, which is all kinds of unsettling.  In many areas, the authors are simply contradictory in their approaches, urging ecumenical harmony with other congregations while slamming unspecified ‘cults.’  One wonders if the authors failed to read the book to ensure a continuity of approach or if they were genuinely unaware of the tensions and contradictions inherent in this work and their feel-bad approach.

[1] In stark contrast to most of what one reads about experiencing God.  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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