How does God become and remain real for modern evangelicals? How are rational, sensible people of faith able to experience the presence of a powerful yet invisible being and sustain that belief in an environment of overwhelming skepticism? T. M. Luhrmann, an anthropologist trained in psychology and the acclaimed author of Of Two Minds, explores the extraordinary process that leads some believers to a place where God is profoundly real and his voice can be heard amid the clutter of everyday thoughts.
While attending services and various small group meetings at her local branch of the Vineyard, an evangelical church with hundreds of congregations across the country, Luhrmann sought to understand how some members were able to communicate with God, not just through one-sided prayers but with discernable feedback. Some saw visions, while others claimed to hear the voice of God himself. For these congregants and many other Christians, God was intensely alive. After holding a series of honest, personal interviews with Vineyard members who claimed to have had isolated or ongoing supernatural experiences with God, Luhrmann hypothesized that the practice of prayer could train a person to hear God’s voice—to use one’s mind differently and focus on God’s voice until it became clear. A subsequent experiment conducted between people who were and weren’t practiced in prayer further illuminated her conclusion. For those who have trained themselves to concentrate on their inner experiences, God is experienced in the brain as an actual social relationship: his voice was identified, and that identification was trusted and regarded as real and interactive.
Astute, deeply intelligent, and sensitive, When God Talks Back is a remarkable approach to the intersection of religion, psychology, and science, and the effect it has on the daily practices of the faithful.
Psychological anthropologist Luhrmann (Of Two Minds) offers an extended case study examining how believers come to have faith in an active, present God despite secular pressures in contemporary America. Drawing on extensive interviews and personal experience among Vineyard Movement members, Luhrmann focuses on the use of prayer among charismatic evangelical Christians. Her work combines personal narratives and excerpts from bestselling evangelical how-to guides with theories and data from psychology. While maintaining a stance both sympathetic to the evangelical position and scientifically rigorous, these different modes of writing do not always mesh well. For instance, the largely narrative mode gives way in the middle to an extended description of methods and data from her psychological research. In addition, Luhrmann opens and closes with a brief sketch of the history and politics of the evangelical movement, although her focus is on personal belief, not the political engagement of evangelicals. Such material partially distracts from the clear, extensive view into the prayer life and interior world of evangelicals. Luhrmann's intended audience is skeptics attempting to understand the evangelical approach to God. Her work will also appeal to believers curious about psychological research on prayer.
Customer ReviewsSee All
A lot of what Luhrmann says rings true for me as I look back on my days as an Evangelical Christian. I'm only on chapter 4 but I remember reading a lot of the books she references, and hearing in sermons many of the things she describes. The chapter on learning to "hear" gods voice and the one on god as an "imaginary friend" were especially interesting.
One complaint about the digital book itself though. For some reason the last page of each chapter is identical to the page before it, so the last page of each chapter is missing! Is there anyway you could fix this? Thanks!