an intriguing title.
When this book hit the stores several
years ago, I was excited about reading it.
Knowing it was not written from a Christian
perspective, I thought it would nonetheless be written honestly
and from the heart; possibly from someone crushed by many decades
of living, and tired of being given simple answers to complex questions.
A modern book of Job, if you will.
But I must confess, I let it go, favoring
instead Finding God by Larry Crabb, Disappointment with
God by Philip Yancey, and the classic Your God Is Too Small,
by J. B. Phillips.
A couple years later, however, Conversations
with God was recommended to me by a New Age friend after we
talked about heaven and the afterlife.
I thought, "That book is still
And a little research showed its
not only still around, but it has spawned three sequels, Conversations
With God books 1,2 and 3, including a sequel to the sequels,
Meditations on Conversations with God. Also available is
a CD set of music to accompany readings and meditations of each
I journeyed to the local library to
see what was all the rage.
Our local libraries own exactly 103
copies, and you would be lucky to find Conversations With God
book 3 available on any given day, much less books 1 and 2. Impossible.
An afternoon sitting with a copy on
closed reserve quickly revealed why this book is so popular.
Conversations With God has its
finger on our culture's spiritual pulse. This book appeals to those
who have been hurt in life - by family, friends, authority figures,
"organized religion" and failures in career and relationships.
In short - all of us.
And apparently, according to author
Neale Donald Walsch, "God" is not pleased with all that
suffering, especially suffering caused by intolerance and fear.
And especially not suffering which is perceived to have been caused
by the Bible and its followers.
Though Walsch admits to having very
loving parents and wonderful childhood, he wrote this book after
49 years of his own suffering and failure in relationships and career.
Dissatisfied with life, he sat down
late one night to write an angry letter to God. Walsch claims God
answered him, and he wrote down the answers. He said that what God
told him was so surprising and unexpected, he had to share it with
Yes, he is really claiming it is from
God. Unfortunately, he gives no basis for why we should believe
him. One has to wonder - does he REALLY think God spoke to him?
Or was he simply clever enough to look at the run-away success of
James Redfields, The Celestine Prophecy, realizing
historically, if you write books about the virtues of selfishness
and autonomy, they will come. In droves.
A more accurate title than Conversations
with God would be Conversations With Any Anonymous Liberal
Arts Professor Who Teaches At The University Down The Street.
There is nothing in this book that
a good, modern liberal arts education will not give you. These ideas
have been brewing for a long time now.
But Walsch hit the jackpot by taking
it one step further - these ideas are no longer exclusive to university
professors and liberals, but are now sanctioned by "God"
himself or herself.
Why is this book being eaten up and
savored as if it were the last cheesecake on earth? Here are some
of the ideas that readers find so appealing:
God has a mistrust of authority.
If it feels good, He opines, we should do it. Truth is relative.
Each of us creates our own reality; avoidance of pain and tolerance
of all views is the highest morality.
As I read, I pictured Walschs
"God" as Adam Sandler sitting at the dinner table with
"Do you want to eat your vegetables?"
"Ok, then, lets eat ice-cream
and cake for every meal."
Critics extol Walschs God for
being more loving than the Bibles, but lets look 10
years in the future when the child is obese and has no teeth. Was
that really more loving?
Walschs God is our buddy.
He has no authority or sovereignty. He doesnt command, he
Here are some more not-so-new, but
appealing suggestions from the man (or woman) upstairs:
God tells us we are all gods ourselves
in reality. God tells us our natures are not evil and sinful,
but loving. And God is not an absolute moralist, but merely utilitarian.
Unfortunately, Walsch never tells us
why we should believe he is speaking for God. He apparently
expects his audience to accept these revelations at face value.
And this seems to be fine with his readers.
And yet, maybe they are bullied by
the most clever of post-modern tricks, one which Walsch has mastered
- In his reality, he is telling his truth, and it would be intolerant
of me to say I think he is lying. Now the critic becomes the bad
guy, not the huckster himself.
However, despite the negatives Ive
presented, I still recommend the book. Why? Because even if it can
be shown that Walshs conclusions are faulty or unsupported,
the pain hes experienced in life is real, and he brings up
some legitimate beefs. Even the Bible agrees with him at points...
Yes, living and making decisions from a position of fear not love
is a bad thing. The apostle John told us that "perfect love
casts out all fear." And yes, we should be wary of people who
use authority and truth for manipulation, including the author of
But the Bible has answers to Walsch's
dilemmas, answers which are more positive, exciting, logical and
complete than the ones Walsch is relaying to us from "God."
Here are a few responses to the way
Walsch portrays the God of the Bible:
1. "Organized religion" forces
people to live according to the rules of the power structure or
face dire consequences; critical thinking is discouraged.
Response: The Apostle Paul appealed
to the minds of his listeners. In Acts 18:19, for example it says
he "reasoned with the Jews." When he presented the gospel
Paul offered reasons to believe. In 1 Peter 3:15, every Christian
is expected to be willing and ready to answer his or her critics.
In Isaiah 40-44, God claims that unlike other God's, he is able
to offer evidence (predictive prophecy) that he is the true God.
2. The God of the Bible has no idea
how hard life is, and what is worse, he doesnt even care.
Response: The biblical God is
aware of the pain humans face in day-to-day life and has suffered
so that we can have real life.
"Since then the children share
in flesh and blood, He (Jesus) Himself likewise also partook of
the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had
the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those
who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives."
- Hebrews 2:14,15
"For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one
(Jesus) who has been tempted in every way, just as we are
- yet without sin." - Hebrews 4:15
"For God so loved the world that
he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall
not perish, but have eternal life." - John 3:16
The God of the Bible wants us to be
fulfilled, but he suggests a novel way to pursue fulfillment. Jesus
said, "For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but
whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it." - Matthew
A life of understanding in humility,
acknowledging God as creator, us as created, serving our fellow
man in the power of God because he loves every one of his creatures
- this is the way to the most fulfilling life possible.
This is a life of growth and relationships,
but that also means pain. It is quite often a hard, rough and tough
way to go. But Jesus promises it results in true fulfillment.
Walschs prescription for fulfillment
is a life of retreat and pain avoidance - a full retreat into self,
putting myself at the center of the universe at all costs, reserving
the right to judge right and wrong through my own eyes.
It may minimize pain, but it is abundant
Conversations with God is extremely
appealing to our autonomous, victim-focused culture. But it seems
to fan the flames, not put them out.
We need to consider what Jesus says
is the end result - death - and weigh these two paths carefully,
as if our very lives depended on it.