MY FIRST impression of this book might seem a trivial one, but I was pleased by the quality of its production — an attractive-covered hardback, with discreet page decoration that made it a pleasure to handle and read.
Chris Webb has done a fine job of making problems in the spiritual life seem like opportunities. He writes with a positivity that I found appealing, perhaps because my own view of spiritual guidance is to emphasise the importance of putting the bar as low as possible, so that people can begin with progress, not failure. “Never let a day pass in which you haven’t spoken with God” is enough for most people to begin with, long before the dizzy heights of daily Office and Bible-study, communion, and meditation.
The “God-soaked life” of the title turns out to be a way of describing how we can link up the Jesus of the Gospels with the human beings God puts before us every day, and learn to love them, and love ourselves, with honesty. It explores stories of Jesus’s love, and suggests how we can draw insights from them, to saturate our existence with the divine presence. Some of the points made are basic, and none the worse for that. This is a book capable of standing alone as an introduction for Christians wanting to take the first step after an adult affirmation of faith, or a rediscovery of lost faith.
My only quibble with its content is the minimising of the part that God plays as judge, which Webb approaches through the rather obscure lens of the commination service in the Prayer Book (where it is subtitled a “denouncing of God’s anger and judgements against sinners”). True, Jesus never spoke of God as an angry parent needing to be placated; but the God whom Jesus shows us is not devoid of judgement, along with mercy (Mark 3.28-30).
This book, refreshingly unplatitudinous, is designed for personal or group use. Each section ends with short passages of scripture and reflection, to stimulate a good discussion. It makes me feel a bit curmudgeonly to be pointing out that “this sceptr’ed isle” comes from Shakespeare before Churchill. By the way, anyone reading this review who wants to experience the aforementioned commination service, is welcome to come to Caius College Chapel in Cambridge on Ash Wednesday morning. A bit of judgement once a year is like leaven to the dough of a God-soaked life. Discuss.
The Revd Dr Cally Hammond is the Dean of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.
God-soaked life: Discovering a Kingdom spirituality
Hodder & Stoughton £12.99
Church Times Bookshop £11.70