TEACHING is always a two-way affair: a class also teaches
When I was telling a dramatic Bible story to a group of juniors,
an attentive child excitedly interrupted: "Am I in that story? Am I
in that story?"
I nodded, and hoped to continue, but he persisted: "Am I a goody
or a baddie? Where am I?"
He was so keen to know that I could not ignore him. I had to
stop and help him to explore where he stood in relation to the
Later, I realised that this little lad had given me the most
wonderful insight into Bible study. No longer could I wallow in
theological theories, or spend hours arguing on dates. I had to
ask: "Am I in that story? Where am I? What will I do?" I would let
the Bible read me, and not assume I was always on the side of the
If we are to know God in the most intimate sense of that word,
we need also to know ourselves. St Augustine prayed: "That I may
know me, that I may know you." Learning to Dream Again
seeks to help us in the journey of self-discovery, as well as on
our jour-ney into God, as we learn to love again, live again, think
again, read again, feel again, and dream again.
With the use of smartphones and personal computers, we are able
to accumulate knowledge as never before. Canon Samuel Wells asks:
"What is knowledge, if it is never translated into wisdom? What is
experience if it is never distilled into wisdom? What is the use of
technique or leadership, if there is no wisdom behind their
application?" He shows us how the scriptures are full of wisdom
from people who have encountered God, and this is relevant now.
Learning to Dream Again tells us that the scriptures
ought to move our whole being. If we let the scriptures read us, we
will discover that our God is a loving, accepting, and renewing
God. To do this, we have to put not only our mind into it, but also
Wells uses "gut" in a biblical way that makes it the centre of
our inner being: it is the visceral, primal realm, and is
non-verbal. This is not just about feeling, but knowing, and
knowing the inexpressible. This is the knowledge beyond words: it
concerns our deep-down relationship with our self, with others,
with the world, and with God.
The vitality of this book depends on the interplay of mind and
gut. This should be a wake-up call, and make our whole being alive.
Like pilgrimage, Bible-reading should be a moving experience. It
should open our eyes to see God at work in the now, in us, and in
Along with the mind and gut, we bring in our heart, with its
emotion and its interpersonal relationships. Without the use of
mind and gut, the heart is always in danger of descending into
sentimentality; but, in the right place, it can be most
The fourth mode that Wells brings into play is the hand, and
this stands for practical results and action. We are left asking:
"What should we do?" There are many times when the right action is
to be "lost in wonder, love, and praise", or to be left with the
pathos of knowing that there is nothing we can to do.
Wells helps us to see that God is not an object to be studied,
but a person seeking our relationship, and one to be enjoyed. When
we speak of God, we need to show that we are in the heart of God.
God knows us in the depth of our being, "warts and all", and he
still loves us.
We often separate knowing and loving, with the rider that, if
you knew me, you would not love me. But God's knowing and loving
are one, and he loves us with an everlasting love. God wants to be
allowed to dwell in us as we already dwell in him.
Yet we must never give the impression that we own God, or that
we can produce him at will. God will not be caged in a book or in a
church, and yet you can find him there.
Hope, one of Wells's main themes, is realising God's dream for
us all and the world we live in. Hope is to know that God is
accepting, loving, redeeming, restoring. This book is a call for us
all to learn to dream God's dream: let his loving, redeeming power
be given the opportunity to work, and to live God's dream.
It will mean, however, being aware of how we relate to the
world, to our neighbours, and to God, and this will often challenge
where we stand. It is a book about hope, which is rare in our
world, and I recommend that you read it and discuss it.
Canon David Adam is a former Vicar of Holy Island, and the
author of many books on the spiritual life.
Learning to Dream Again is published by Canterbury Press at
£14.99 (CT Bookshop special offer £12.99);
LEARNING TO DREAM AGAIN - SOME
Did reading the first chapter of the book change your view of St
Paul's message to the Romans?
Do you know someone like the author's aunt? How did you feel
about them before you read chapter 1, and how did you feel about
"There isn't anything in God that isn't relationship." Did you
find the author's imagery of the Trinity helpful?
What is more important in medical ethics: care or cure?
"We find it difficult to imagine a peace that isn't desperately
boring." Do you agree?
Do you think you would be strong enough to be tortured for your
Were you convinced by the author's model of a Christian view of
"Justice unravels when we lose sight of who we are in relation
to God." Which is more important: justice or forgiveness?
If handed a Bible, could you find the Minor Prophets in less
than 30 seconds?
What do you mean when you say "Thank
Do you need to learn to dream again?
IN OUR next reading-groups page, on 4 July, we will print extra
information about the next book. This is Paradise
by A. L. Kennedy. It is published by Vintage Books at
£8.99 (CT Bookshop £8.10); 978-0-099-43349-1.
About the book
It has dawned on Hannah Luckraft that her life is not
progressing terribly satisfactorily, and she feels that she has
achieved little in her nearly 40 years. Her family relationships
are strained, she is beginning to be troubled by dark thoughts, and
her spiritual balance is in tatters. She also drinks - far too
Robert, a dentist, seems to offer a version of love with which
Hannah can identify. Naturally, she falls in love with him. But she
soon has to ask herself whether their relationship is a solution to
her problems, or just another part of them.
Hannah ends up travelling between Europe and North America in
search of fulfilment and happiness - whatever that may mean. She
does not clean up her act, and only the reader can decide whether
or not she has achieved her goal by the novel's end.
Paradise is dark and witty, and gives an insightinto a
world from which we may think we are light years away - but, of
course, are not.
About the author
A. L. Kennedy is a well-established and prolific writer of books
and short stories. Paradise, published in 2004, is her
fourth novel. She has been the recipient of numerous awards, is an
Associate Professor in Creative Writing at the University of
Warwick, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. A native
of Dundee, in recent years she has expanded her oeuvre to include
stand-up comedy, and is now a regular performer at the Edinburgh
Fringe. She has also appeared regularly on television on programmes
such as Newsnight Review and its successors. She is a
Christian, and a supporter of the peace movement.
Books for the next two months:
August: Grace and Mary by Melvyn
September: Places of Enchantment by
Graham B. Usher