A posthumous collection of essays by an author who carefully dissects human relationships with God.
The anonymous author whose essays Smith collects here grapples with difficult questions about the nature of God and existence. Simple assertions about the essays’ purposes, however, would seem inappropriate, out of sync with the spirit of the author’s inquiry. The central essay looks at a cloud of questions that surround the idea of God, approaching each from multiple perspectives. The author takes on several traditions, addressing ideas of nihilistic or hedonistic philosophy, Buddhism, Taoism, and the author’s own religion, Christianity. Among the topics the essay covers are the efficacy of prayer; the nature of truth and whether it contains a valuable concept of God; and the use of the God concept as a model for understanding reality and the utility of that model. If this subject matter sounds somewhat nebulous, it’s because the discussion occasionally is; the author was unable to finish the work before dying and so leaves many questions unanswered. However, the author clearly cares about the sticky nature of these issues, and the discourses’ many mays and coulds show tolerance of various schools of thought and seem agnostic to any grand metaphysical scheme. On more clear-cut issues, however, the author seems more comfortable making assertions: “One must nevertheless beware of false religious, or spiritual, experience.” The collection does favor discussion of specifically Christian concepts and doctrines such as the Fall, but the author is willing to cast aside formulas that don’t seem useful; for example, he writes that a literal Fall is impossible, wondering if it would “be more instructive to look at the issues again, unencumbered by a story that is so contrary to what we now understand about prehistory.” Thoughtful readers may find the essays’ measured tone a refreshing break from more strident texts on either side of the debate about the existence of God.
A collection that offers a range of insights into some of the most difficult metaphysical questions.