Book Review: Nearer to the Heart of God
Compiled and Edited By: Bernard Bangley
Publisher: Paraclete Press ISBN: 9781557254177
I’ve been enjoying this little gem of a book now for about five years. I thought I had written a review for it, but that must have only been my imagination. In any case, Nearer to the Heart of God has brought me such joy and provided me with challenging insights through these years; I thought a review was necessary.
Nearer to the Heart of God is a yearlong devotional reader. The book is arranged in thirteen chapters that suggest ways in which we (the reader) are able to open ourselves and draw nearer to God. These “ways” to draw nearer are not specific exercises or habits that Bangley suggests; rather, they are reminders to be attentive to God in every movement and moment of life. A brief listing of a few chapter titles reveals what I mean by attentive in every moment… Bangley invites the reader to Draw Nearer through/to: the Mystery of God, Active Living, God’s Creation, Friendship, Daily Struggles, Scripture, and Humility. These are only a sampling of chapter titles.
I appreciate the breadth and diversity of the writings gathered in this collection. There are writings dating from the first century to the eighteenth century, a span of almost eighteen hundred years! The diversity of ethnicity and culture as well as Christian tradition is equally impressive; this is truly an amazing group of writings for a single volume. Naturally, the question might arise; “What about doctrinal accuracies and positional disagreements with all this diversity of beliefs?” Bangley invites the reader to “listen” to the heart from which the writers speak. He does not fear differences or varying perspectives and asks the reader to allow each voice to speak freely.
“Even when I have disagreed with certain aspects of their ideas, I have let them speak their own minds.” Nearer to the Heart of God; Bernard Bangley (from the introduction, pg.X)
Included in the appendices is an incredibly helpful biographical index that provides a brief sketch of the original authors’ life along with page references pointing to the devotional excerpts for which they are credited. There is also a recommended additional reading section, which references a few of the primary sources from which the excerpted writings were collected. Finally, a notes section lists the Scriptures referenced from each of the devotional writings.
This is a remarkable book. Admittedly, I did not “get” nor was I “moved” by every single writing. Some writers I connected with more than others and like Bangley, I did not agree with everything I read. I don’t think universal agreement is the goal with a work of this nature. I think opening to God in ways that I may not have considered and being exposed to thinking outside my own paradigm is the more universal and unifying objective. Accordingly, I believe Nearer to the Heart of God is a must read for Christians seeking to grow deeper in their knowledge and relationship with God through Christ.
Thank you Bernard Bangley and thank you Paraclete Press for a wonderful and challenging resource.