Gerard W Hughes
Category: Prayer, Poetry and Spirituality
Twenty years on, as a sequel to God of Surprises, Hughes tackles a wide array of issues ranging from Christians' response to social sin to failures within the institutional church which he sees stemming from a split spirituality. He offers spiritual direction to help create a more 'holistic' and 'holy' people, and advises policy changes within the Catholic Church aiming to make both people and institution more responsive to God. In one sense, God in All Things is Hughes' short-hand for saying that God brings good out of suffering. But on that basis he claims that everything is benevolent. The title therefore also reflects Hughes' universalism from which he sees everything and everybody of all faiths and none, both alive and dead, as having 'the Spirit of God dwell[ing] within each one', a conclusion that he — with questionable logic — draws on the basis that God made all creation.
Hughes headlines social sin like the promoting of egoism, the tendency to idolise and then smear popular personalities, the disregard for the environment, the values directing capitalism and the motives driving the War on Terrorism, and challenges a Christian spirituality which considers holiness as something apart from a holistic response to these earthly evils. Although Hughes' rightly wants to encourage Christians to live integrated lives and to heal broken people who work for justice, his theology is inconsistent with his spiritual advice and stems from an unbalanced, selective use of Scripture.
For example, Hughes see God's love characterised by an inclusiveness of everyone in His Kingdom, while omitting the purpose of Jesus' death as the means to first heal our broken relationship with God in order to avoid the consequences of exclusion that comes precisely from people rejecting God's salvation for them in Jesus. Hughes completely rejects a penal-substitution model of the atonement. Rather, he commends an acute realisation of our oneness with creation as an efficacious means for people to forgive and live at peace with their oppressors. Yet, he commends faith in Jesus.
Despite various theological problems, Hughes' spiritual direction is helpful. He impresses upon readers how God draws them to the creative, not as an end in itself, but over the 'journey' of life for the purpose of 'letting God be the God of compassion to us and through us' for His purposes. He outlines signs to help readers identify the state of their hearts before God, and explains the ethical actions/outlook that should accompany an attitude of surrender. He encourages readers to examine their motivations for undertaking their ministries, and warns them that drive cannot sustain a pilgrimage, only God's drawing can, which makes attractive even painful and sacrificial work. He instructs readers about how to reflect on their basic desires, explaining that this is God's means of shaping lives. He examines humility as the essential virtue/grace to journeying and working confidently under God. He also gives guidance to his readers about how to personally reflect, pray, imaginatively use Scripture, lead local retreats, and even learn from the official church.
This book would benefit from a tighter focus. But Hughes' methods and spiritual direction are helpful, evidently based on extensive experience pastoring and spiritually directing people. I remain ambivalent, however, about God in All Things because of Hughes' selective use of Scripture in supporting his thesis. I recommend reading Hughes — but do so critically and with your Bible open.
Claudette Fisher-Johnson, October 2004
Claudette Fisher-Johnson is a mother, housewife, graduate of London School of Theology and a former management consultant.Order from www.christianbookshops.org | Order from St Andrew's Bookshops
|Reviews Index | EU Bookshops | UK Bookshops|