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In Search of the New Story
by Robert C. Wild

Review by Robert Worcester

Perhaps the Christian Church has always stood at the crossroad between the old and the new. These days the clashing of tectonic plates might be a better metaphor for different ways we have of interpreting our mission in the world. Progressives want to “push forward” toward the city of God while conservatives wish to “hold fast” to the solid rock of Truth. There seems to be a deepening chasm on the path of faithfulness and an urgent need to bridge the gap.

Robert Wild’s Sacred Presence is firmly grounded in its understanding of the traditions and sacred literature of the church yet it is open to that “newness every morning” that marks the passage of the Spirit. The classical perfection of the created world that God saw and declared “good!” seems to contradict the age and complexity of the world science reveals to be continually evolving from generation to generation over billions of years with an astonishing range of continuing creativity. Which story demands our loyalty? The bridge over this chasm swings dangerously.

Sacred Presence gives us a road map showing where we have come, some of the detours we have taken and some signposts for the road ahead. The new creation stories of science provide images and language that can deepen our ethical sensitivities or they can lead us into confusion (if not temptation) as the age, vastness and microscopic complexity of the world shift the ethical ground beneath our feet.

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Does the Hubble telescope deepen our appreciation for the “gifts” of God as they unfold from age to age or merely heighten the unique hubris of our species?

Sacred Presence moves readably through church history, theology and traditions as preparation for consideration of the tectonic shifts in worldview produced by science, globalization and popular culture. Beginning with the Old Testament visions of the brooding warrior God of Sinai and the precarious history of His “Chosen”, he moves to the image of Christ the neighbor, teacher and humble servant and its contrast to the “King of Kings” and the symbols of power and triumph found in the Pauline letters. Finally, the book confronts the profound mystery of nature itself and the wonderous generosity of creation described by the continuing revelation of both mystics and scientists. This book is very much in line with Sallie McFague’s “ecological reformation” and Fr. Thomas Berry’s “great work”. It brings a sense of the sacred into the new story of origins that has emerged from the last century and continues to unfold into the next.

With clear chapter summaries, appendixes and bibliography, Sacred Presence will be a natural for study groups and book clubs. One can sense in its pages the sea air and natural beauty of Salt Spring Island where its author resides. One has the feeling that someone steeped in the history and traditions of the church is following that wisdom into the “new world” revealed by the curiosity and wonder of the restless human spirit. Robert Wild is a retired Anglican priest and serves on the Board of Directors of Glenairly Centre for Earth and Spirit.

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