God, who on Earth are You?
‘Radical Christianity’ explores the Christian mystery, critiques the Church, yet offers hope for the world.
The mysterious ‘Other’ that many of us sense and that Christianity - drawing on the life of Jesus - calls God, is the starting point of this book. But, the Christian Churches are no longer conveying the wonder of the Christian mystery, the challenging nature of Jesus’ message for the world but also God’s deep, merciful love for us and the invitation into a relationship with him through prayer or through other spiritual practices including pilgrimage.
Church teaching has become tired and routine. It should be fundamentally renewed and their institutional structures reformed for today’s world. The book’s final chapters consider how Christians should engage with the seemingly intractable problems - from environmental destruction to the inhuman exploitation of many people and the obscene levels of inequality - that characterize society today. An autobiographical thread runs through the text as the author, a committed Catholic Christian, draws on experiences and vignettes from his own life. The final conclusion is one of hope; God will not abandon us or his world, though we do not know how the future will unfold.
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God, who on Earth are You? by Stephen McCarthy, Christian Alternative This book turns out to be not quite as radical as its title suggests. The author does not start “from scratch” with this question but from his own varied religious education and experience: his Roman Catholic background, work as a development economist in Africa, the Caribbean and other areas, and his early retirement. This led to a deeper interest in Ignatian spirituality and the working out of a Christian faith more in tune with the concerns of today and of the generation that is looking for meaning in life but disillusioned by the Church. He acknowledges that the book is a weaving together of these different threads in his life. The book suffers from a certain confusion as to its intended audience. Parts of it seem to be addressing people who are unfamiliar with Christianity or have been brought up with what McCarthy (and many of us) would see as inadequate perceptions of it. It offers information about Christian history and doctrine, often at quite an elementary level, and practical advice about spiritual practices. In other parts, however, the author seems to be challenging Christians to rethink some of their ideas about church life, sacraments, ecumenism etc. People who are simply asking, “God, where on earth are you?” will find much of this discussion irrelevant to their needs, while readers within the churches may find themselves wading through long explanations about things they already know. It is in the closing chapters that McCarthy comes to life as he finally expresses his own passion for economic justice and care for the planet. Different kinds of reader will find this book useful in different ways, but most readers will undoubtedly be inspired and challenged by the end of it. ~ Progressive Christianity Network, Progressive Voices 43
Before working out who God is, the reader needs to know a bit more about Stephen McCarthy. A Roman Catholic layman, who read Physics at Oxford and worked in development in Botswana, and then for the European Investment Bank for 27 years, he counts priests such as Gerard Hughes (God of Surprises), the Jesuit retreat director Michael Ivens, the controversial Catholic theologian Charles Davis, and the university chaplain Michael Hollings among the influences that he encountered along the way. Above all he is a Jesuit old boy, and his initial formation eventually led him back to the beginning and to undertake Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises on retirement. His book is subtitled Mystery and Meaning in Christianity today; and so with section asking "Who is God?", describing prayer in terms of relationship, examining the Church throuhg the lens of Jesus's teaching, and lived faith as an engagement with the world, it aspires to unravel and to explain: one man's involvement with the gospel laid bare with complete - and questioning - integrity. He has walked the walk and, in this book talks the talk. The reference to walking is not incidental. McCarthy is devotee of the Camino, the path that leads to Santiago de Compostela. Indeed since his original pilgrimage in 2006, McCarthy and his wife have set up a shelter for pilgrims on the way. He describes the pilgrimage experience in terms of encounter: again words or footsteps translated into practical action. This is a useful book to lend to a friend, to a possible enquirer, to anyone interested in knowing how faith enables one to lead a grown-up life in today's world. The blend of personal experience and theological reflection makes for an engaging read. Lavinia Byrne writer and broadcaster. ~ , Church Times 16 September 2022
Book: God, Who on Earth Are You?: Mystery and Meaning in Christianity Today Author: Stephen McCarthy Publisher: Christian Alternative, 2022 ISBN-13: 978-1789049435 ISBN-10: 1789049431 Website(s): http://www.christian-alternative.com (publisher) Language level: 5 (1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity) Recommended reading level: Adults Rating: *** 3 stars (5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED) Category: Religion Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker Disclosure: Many publishers, literary agents, and/or authors provide free copies of their books in exchange for an honest review without requiring a positive opinion. Any books donated to Home School Book Review for review purposes are in turn donated. No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review. For more information e-mail [email protected] Website: https://homeschoolbookreviewblog.wordpress.com McCarthy, Stephen. God, Who on Earth Are You?: Mystery and Meaning in Christianity Today (Published in 2022 by Christian Alternative Books, an imprint of John Hunt Publishing Ltd., No. 3 East St., Airdsford, Hampshire, 5O24 9EE UK). For some reason or another which I do not fully understand (it may be due in part to the fact that my book reviews are promoted as coming from a Biblical worldview), I have recently been asked to review several books that are strictly religious, even theological, in nature. God, Who on Earth Are You? was written by “a deeply Catholic, physics-trained economist” to present “a version of the Christian faith which reflects his vigorously progressive Catholicism.” I am not a Catholic, so I wondered if the book had anything for me. Then the author wrote, “I consider Churches that interpret the Bible literally and uncritically to have left the mainstream of the Christian tradition: they should be understood to be excluded from general references, as I cannot speak for them.” Since I would be identified with a religious body that fits this description, I wondered if I should even bother reading the book. But I did. The basic theme of the book is explained by this sentence. “The Catholic Church, as with all the Christian denominations to a greater or lesser extent, needs to transition to a new identity, a new way of being ‘Church’” (cf. Jeremiah 6:16—“Ask for the old paths, where the good way is”). The author tells how this should be done, and it is by moving the church “away from its obsession with individual morality—for example, over sexual mores—to the more pressing issues of social injustice and existential threats in the world: poverty, slavery, exploitation and persecution, huge inequalities in wealth across the world and within societies, the continued existence of nuclear weapons, and the destruction of the fragile resources of our Sister Earth—God’s beloved Creation.” Those who agree with this “progressive” (i.e. leftist) agenda will like the book, while those who have a more conservative view of Scripture will probably not like it. But I think that one would find many “evangelical” Christians at the forefront in dealing with such threats as poverty, slavery, sexual exploitation, and religious persecution. Certainly, God’s truth on any subject, issue, or problem, should be preached by His church, and those who identify as Christians should strive to do what God’s word says about it. But that is a far cry from moving “the church” away from its Scriptural teaching and work, including on individual morality, to becoming just another institution focused on social, political, economic, and environmental questions. Jesus said that He came “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10)—not to strive for social justice, promote any political ideology, achieve economic equality, or protect the environment. While there is much in this book with which I disagree, there are some observations and suggestions that I do think are worthy of our consideration, so it was not a total waste. By the way, to explain the language rating, the author quotes another writer who talks about “bull*hit jobs.” ~ homeschoolbookreviewblog, https://homeschoolbookreviewblog.wordpress.com/2022/08/01/god-who-on-earth-are-you-mystery-and-meaning-in-christianity-today/
What McCarthy does is provide us an autobiographical thread of informative conscience that allows him to not only draw on his own experiences and personally offer up some of his own vignettes within, but also manages (in amongst all the to and fro of the subject matter) to draw a conclusional promise to all that no matter what, God will never abandon us or his world; something we can all take to heart and be embraced within the warmth of, I think you will agree. FULL REVIEW: https://annecarlini.com/ex_books.php?id=355 ~ Exclusive Magazine, Review
Inspired and inspiring, "God, Who On Earth Are You?: Mystery and Meaning in Christianity Today" is exceptionally well written, thoughtful and thought-provoking -- making it unreservedly recommended reading for all members of the Christian community regardless of denominational affiliations. ~ , Midwest Book Review
This is a gem of a book, one of profound honesty in the search for the “Other”; it tracks the astonished discovery that a life given over to following the path of Christ can actually make sense. At every point it is helpfully challenging, unafraid to contemplate the difficulties of Christianity, and willing to demonstrate how Christian belief can make the world a better place. Human beings are now looking to learn how to give expression to our post-Covid thirst for hope and meaning; and this is the very book for them. ~ Nicholas King SJ, Assistant Catholic Chaplain at Oxford University, Private communication
As an Anglican medical scientist I was delighted to find myself in sympathy and agreement with most of the views of the author, a deeply Catholic, physics-trained economist. Stephen McCarthy presents a very intelligent and readable discussion of the many questions that beset and intrigue those of us who try to make coherent sense of the place of religious conviction in our present world, and how those convictions should guide our actions in the growing crises which affect us all ~ Dr John Morris, Emeritus Fellow in medicine of St Hugh’s College, Oxford , personal communication
Stephen McCarthy’s short book is timely. Most church congregations are in decline and people appear increasingly inclined to look elsewhere for meaning, and purpose, in life. I found the book perceptive and challenging. I commend it to anyone interested in living a truly fulfilled life or playing a part - however small - in making this a better world. ~ Rev’d Jackie Jones, Ordained C of E priest and Hospice Chaplain, Personal communication, with a willingness to see the endorsement published
Stephen has written an engaging book weaving together theological exploration with spiritual journeying and autobiographical reflection. His style is clear and jargon-free, and he has clearly ranged freely and widely in his reading and thinking, presenting a version of the Christian faith which reflects his vigorously progressive Catholicism. I love his emphasis on living with the mystery of God, and found his reflections on his own spiritual journey, especially the importance of pilgrimage, to resonate profoundly. This book will take its place within the genre of accessible Christian apologetic, and will play its part in engaging with those on the fringes of faith who will be attracted to a lively and attractive presentation of the Christian faith which begins with the wonder and mystery of God and his creation. In his own pilgrimage of faith and his vision of hope for humanity he is a 21st century Gerard Hughes. ~ The Venerable David Meara, Archdeacon Emeritus of London, Personal communication, but with a willingness to see the endorsement published.