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God in the Bath: Relaxing in the Everywhere Presence of God

The author invites us to take a fresh look at the omnipresence of God. One of the founders of the Sea of Faith Network, www.sofn.org.uk, he sets out to explore what this God-is-everywhere idea means for Christians. He aims to help readers to refresh their faith and get some new vision as to their understanding of God in their lives.

Seeing a reshaping of the Christian fait, he declares that faith, as we understand it, has got to change. Exactly what this means I am not sure since Christianity is always in a state of change anyway. Perhaps he just wants us to hurry up and get back to some basic God centred changes in the way we view our life in God and the way we live this vision. Quite right too, when you look around at the state of the world.

He explores how the secular world has kidnapped the idea of spirituality and transplanted it into the Western feel-good -factor, so successfully used by industry and the advertising world to sell their products on the basis of life-style values. So he starts us off in the bathroom and suggests we mistake the experience of spirituality by mixing it up with lavender scents, flickering candles, and bubbly baths and all the other stuff that promotes the idea we can buy calmness of the self and, thus, closeness to God in the supermarket. .This might appear so from articles in magazines and newspapers and from television shows and even from the huge amount of things we buy that hold out the promise of a better self. In reality I suspect the majority of people have a better understanding than that of what is true spiritual experience and what is not. After all, a British survey in the 1980s showed that well over sixty percent of people said they had had a life experience outside of the ordinary that they believed was of a holy and spiritual nature. Do people really confuse God’s presence with advertising messages? Isn’t God always there in our deepest self so that our consciousness is never too far from awareness of Him? In any case if the author is talking, as he appears to be, to believers then it is unlikely that they would mistake pleasurable relaxation with essential oils as a spiritual experience. In any case, God might be greatly pleased to find me in a state of physical and mental calm. After all, as many retreat houses know, saunas, massage and Jacuzzi’s help people to relax and enter into the present moment. It is this being in the present moment when anxieties, worries and the concerns of a too busy life may slip away. From that place, such a stilled mind aware only of the moment, may find the presence of God.

The author writes that Faith’s miracles are childish conjuring tricks compared to the awesome powers of the atom and the computer chip. In view of the rising up of Lazarus from the dead and making the blind see, surely he says this with tongue in cheek? For me the power given by the atom and the computer chip is an human illusion of the kind of power Christ condemned while Faith’s miracles show the power of God’s love.

In his chapter on Creation the author makes a distinction between God and the world God makes. For me this reflects false duality, because if God is everywhere and in everything and is omnipresence, then He cannot be separated from his own Creation. He is either here and in it or not. Islam would say God transcends all and Thomas Aquinas added …but is in and of all things. The author’s point that God is everywhere gets on sticky ground when he discusses Creation doctrine. Yet he reclaims solid ground and his argument with the conclusion that there is no search for God, for we are already with and in God.

This book for me was a statement of one man’s understanding of his faith and his earnest and evangelistic urge to share that understanding with others. All good stuff, but the message of this faith in the book seems to be summed up in his lines: In God our journey into life is deepened through our journey into Christ into our humanity. If he wants us to be radical Christians, then this statement of faith, profound as it may be to explore, is for me about as radical as a wet noodle. On the other hand the author is addressing Christians, particularly churchgoers and his sincerity shines through the text. He longs for their refreshment in Christ, for their renewal of faith and for them to become more aware that God is everywhere.

On this score, I felt that this book was good for those who as Anglicans or Catholics would readily call themselves Christians, but who may have drifted away from feeling the presence of God and Christ in their everyday lives. As Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection reminded us long ago: I am with God when I am cooking my little omelette. If Brother Lawrence had bathed, which in his day was unlikely, he might have written as the author did: I am with God when I am taking my bath.

When the author writes that our exploration of ourselves as persons runs parallel to our exploration of the person of god, he seems to have firmly grasped his theme and with much clarity goes on to explore god in our love, spirit, faith, earth, and death and in the bath with scented oils as well, of course. God is everywhere and indeed we Christian forget this most of the time. Dom Edmund Jones, the first Catholic priest to celebrate the Eucharist on British television, once wrote in discussing being in the presence of God -and much to the embarrassment of many of his readers back in the still shock able world of the fifties: you can pray even in the toilet. Reading this book, I am sure the author would agree.

Author: 
Stephen Mitchell
Publisher: 
Circle Books
ISBN 13: 
9781905047659
Paperback: 
112 pages