This is David Dark’s third book and the one that announces the arrival of a most important writer in twenty first century Christendom. More accessible than his earlier work, perhaps helped along by his wife, the singer Sarah Masen, jotting a note on his manuscript, “love thy reader,” Dark takes something that we have been told was absolutely wrong and makes it the absolutely most important thing. How many times have we heard that we cannot question God? Well, Dark suggests and suggests most persuasively, that takes away the most important tool of repentance and Reformation. Indeed, it is a simple extension of that latter movement which rebelled against some human Magisterium telling us what to think unquestioningly and suggested that it was the right for every man and woman to read the Bible and think for themselves before obeying what they came to think. Repentance, the argument continues, is when you perpetually question yourself as a work of the Holy Spirit bringing sanctification to your mind and heart and soul.
As always Dark is prophetically astute and you get the vibe that the human relationship that we call life and the spiritual realms that that fits into is much deeper, higher and wider than the “I prayed this prayer and am going to sit now, smug in my elite Gnostic knowledge, at the door of salvation and wait for heaven to come to me.” As a pastor of University students I have come to realise that sitting at the door of the Kingdom when the Kingdom is laid out before them to explore is not so much a laziness on my students part as a deeply rooted fear. When you are frightened into the Kingdom by not so much the excitement of knowing God as the fear of what would happen if you didn’t want to know God the fear is difficult to shift. When you are given a welcome pack on arrival that suggests this all you need to know and do and never question then fear is not only deeply rooted but flourishes. Dark reveals a deeper, higher and wider experience of faith and lets us revel and laugh and cry and rage within it.
Human beings are also given a new lease of life. The “perversion” as he describes it of dehumanising to the labels of society or even the Church is ripped out by connection, engagement and listening. Those who don’t think what we think are not enemies to be excluded but can be recourses of grace and kindness to help us question our prejudiced perceptions. This is a book about how to share truth in love and grace and hone that truth in the sharing. Allow me to indulge in just one quotation, “More humility might characterise our talk of God if we believe that the whole truth can never be entirely ours and that our attempts to nail God down are always well-intentioned human constructs at best and idols at worst.”
In doing all this, as is his favourite past time, Dark leads us into critique of what is happening on Television, in cinema, literature, art and the iPod. Of particular note this time around his take on Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129 had me rushing for the Complete Works; his review of Arcade Fire enriches every new listen of their songs; and as always with David there are now a plethora of films, novels and theology I need to amazon.com!
Working with students who annually seem slower to critique the faith they have been handed hook line and sinker, and who therefore struggle to form a world view that might make them world formative believers in their future vocations, I would love them all to have read this book before they arrive. Dark has come up with a work as essential a work as Philip Yancey’s What’s So Amazing About Grace was in the nineties.