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Book Review: When God is Silent by Barbara Brown Taylor

This blog has been silent for a while for various reasons. Maybe it’s appropriate then, that the first post for a while is about silence. This is a review that I wrote for the Methodist Recorder which was published this week:


When God Is Silent – Divine Language Beyond Words by Barbara Brown Taylor (Canterbury Press)

 Living in a world of words and constant communication, we may expect God to talk to us all the time. But what do we do when God appears to be silent?

This thought-provoking little book from Episcopal priest and teacher Barbara Brown Taylor explores that very question and takes it in new directions.

Dividing the book into three sections – Famine, Silence and Restraint – Taylor debunks the popular assumption that God is silent because we have done something wrong. Instead, she asserts that silence is PART of God’s language.

We live in a world which is now so awash with words that they start to lose their power. Today’s headlines are tomorrow’s chip papers.

In the church, people are hungry for words which lead them to God but instead, Taylor suggests, we surround ourselves with “piles of dead words” which do not nourish us. “We do all the talking because we’re afraid that God won’t – or because we’re afraid He will.”

Taylor talks about the voice of God, which in the Old Testament was so powerful that the people of Israel couldn’t cope with it. And so God spoke less, instead using prophets and leaders as mouthpieces – until his voice was heard clearly again in and around Jesus, the Living Word.

Our response? Taylor urges restraint in preaching, using simple, honest words; conquering our fear of silence in worship; and being ‘courteous’ – being respectful to those who listen if we are preaching or teaching.

This is not a long book but it is a thoughtful one which brings a new slant to the idea of God’s silence and how we engage with it. Taylor’s words are worth a read – and a listen.


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