- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (November 1, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199930945
- ISBN-13: 978-0199930944
- Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 0.7 x 6.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,161,464 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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You Can't Put God in a Box: Thoughtful Spirituality in a Rational Age 1st Edition
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The Amazon Book Review
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"Besecke shares pithy sayings that address the concept of Infinite God You Can't Put God in a Box offers a rallying cry for meaning makers." --Spirituality & Practice
"Kelly Besecke compellingly captures the notion of reflexive spirituality-the idea that under conditions of modernity, pluralism, and a rationally-dominated world we increasingly carry on an internal dialogue about religion-and does more. She advances the discussion, sorting out its nuances and applications. Her writing is engaging and beautifully presented, blending scholarship and narratives that give life to her analysis of reflexive spirituality." --Wade Clark Roof, J.F. Rowny Professor of Religion and Society Emeritus and Research Professor, University of California at Santa Barbara
"Readers, both within and without religious institutions, who seek to marry reason and transcendant meaning may recognize themselves in this book." --WORSHIP
About the Author
Kelly Besecke is a writer and editor in Austin, Texas. Formerly a professor of sociology at Colorado College and Kenyon College, she graduated from Carleton College and received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research has been honored with a Louisville Institute fellowship and an award from the American Sociological Association's Section on Sociology of Religion.
Top customer reviews
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I liked Kelly Besecke's writing style, and appreciated the evidence she presented of reflexive spiritual exploration as a rational response to current society and religious institutions. I found the book to be enlightening, thought-provoking, and enjoyable.
Many Theists have wanted to put God into a box- one of their own conceptions and limitations. The prohibitions against idolatry are not against wood carvings, they are against our human tendency to contain and define an idea, rather than live with the possibility that there's more to a concept than our current version of it.
This book is an intelligent, nuanced and realistic appraisal of spirituality and intelligent faith in the modern age. It steers a sensible and balanced course between the unpleasant and aggressive extremes of excessive faith and excessive lack of faith. Neither is based on firm foundations or understanding. It makes a case for celebrating our own backgrounds and understandings of the world, pushing them as far as they go, and then having the humility to reflect, "There may be more to this than I know" and "The other person might have a valid view of this as well. There might be something in what they say, and the fun will be in finding out." In contrast the mark of an extremist is always that they cannot concede that the other person might also have something useful to say.
The author writes well and she's at root making a case that fact on its own, and mere materialism are not enough. She celebrates and explores meaning making- using Joseph Campbell's ideas-the heroism of everyday life, the mystery in which we are all always participating, the rapture of feeling truly alive, the struggle for authenticity, and the achievement of becoming our true selves. She feels a sense of transcendence and sees religion as a way of bringing that transcendence into focus. Spirituality is about a sense of there being something beyond, something more at work, a depth of understanding that gets behind the proximate and material. She accepts what she learnt from her academic studies, but regrets the intellectual aridity, the pure analysis, the purely intellectual and impersonal that she was forced to use as part of her studies. She doesn't see reason stopping at analysis- useful skill though that is. There has to be room for heart and spirit in our studies as well.
She sets out on a study of religion and spirituality in many settings- some connected to a religion, and some more secularly based. She quotes one participant who sees the two commonest alternatives on offer these days- an unbelievable religion on one side and a shallow, vacant secularity on the other as being equally unsatisfactory. But what else is there?
What she is looking for is a spirituality that makes sense to her intellectually. How can she get an intellectual life that speaks to her soul? How can she find meaning in her life and in her religion?
In this quest I think she's following many earlier writer- looking with faith and understanding. She says she is looking at the intersection of "what's inspiring?" with "what makes sense?"
Her answer is reflexive spirituality- which steers a middle course between religion and pure intellectualism. She sees religion as a pointer beyond itself- a way towards a truth, but rarely the whole truth. She doesn't think that God can be contained in dogma and doctrine. Knowledge of God may start from there- but must go beyond there. Reason and emotion must go hand in hand in seeking out understanding.
She describes reflexive spirituality as originating from three main routes. The first is a reaction against the excessive reliance on technical reason in modern society. She sees modern society as being too focused on the literal meaning of things, and ignoring the deeper well of human thought and action. The second is it is a way of relating to religious tradition- keeping those parts that relate to deep roots and leaving many modern or unnecessary accretions to one side. Reflexive spiritualists want to make religion meaningful to modern ears. Finally reflexive spirituality is not a religion in itself, but a way of relating to religion- as a set of emphases seeing God as infinite, immanent, a part of everything, and as life giving. Reflexive spirituality is a path of deeper reflection on God- and what we think we know about him- with awareness of how partial our knowledge is.
I think the author has done a good job of presenting her ideas around this complex and vexed area. I think she describes well what problem she is tackling, why it matters, and how she sees us getting through it. She has written an excellent book that describes well, carefully and compassionately a way of bringing faith and reason together and of appreciating life more and of understanding its true meaning. I think many readers will benefit from the routes outlined in this book.