What are we to make of those occasional yet illuminating experiences of God's presence that occur outside both church and Scripture? We may encounter God's revelatory presence as we experience a beautiful sunset, the birth of a child, or a work of art, music, or literature. While theologians have tended to describe such experiences abstractly as mere traces or echoes, those involved often recognize such moments of transcendence as transformative.
Here senior theologian Robert Johnston explores how Christians should think theologically about God's wider revelatory presence that is mediated outside the church through creation, conscience, and culture. The book offers a robust, constructive biblical theology of general revelation, rooting its insights in the broader Trinitarian work of the Spirit. Drawing in part from the author's theological engagement with film and the arts, the book helps Christians understand personal moments of experiencing God's transcendence and accounts for revelatory experiences of those outside the believing community. It also shows how God's revelatory presence can impact our interaction with nonbelievers and those of other faiths.
Robert K. Johnston (PhD, Duke University) is professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, where he has taught for over twenty years. He is the coeditor of both the Engaging Culture and the Cultural Exegesis series and is the author or coauthor of several books, including Reel Spirituality, Reframing Theology and Film, and Finding God in the Movies.
From one of the world's leading scholars on theology and film comes something new and thought provoking: a lucid and insightful exploration of God's wider Presence. Rob Johnston offers the reader an engaging, rich, and thoughtful account of discovering the transcendent in unexpected places. Bringing together historical, biblical, and contemporary examples, this book provides a significant contribution to a wide range of discussions about discerning the divine throughout the world.
University of Edinburgh
Robert Johnston's reconsideration of general revelation moves the discussion light years beyond the sterile binaries--objective/subjective, propositional/experiential, salvific/damning, and the like--that have debilitated constructive thinking in this arena over the last hundred years. God's Wider Presence is not an anthropocentric reduction of divine activity but a pneumatological dynamic that transfigures the spaces and times within which all creatures live, move, and have their being. This is a new starting point for twenty-first-century theological reflection on important matters regarding the human experience of and encounter with God.
Fuller Theological Seminary
Johnston's book brokers important, fresh theological conversations. Grounded in the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, his argument for a more expansive understanding of revelation will get Christians of many traditions thinking and talking together in new ways: about the arts, about their cultural habits and the significance of those habits, and about their approach to other religious traditions. It deserves a wide readership.
director of the Vaughan Centre for Lifelong Learning, University of Leicester (UK)
Robert Johnston has written on the topic of general revelation before, but here he brings together all those threads he's been pulling on for years to weave a marvelously rich tapestry that opens up our understanding of how God whispers to us through nature, conscience, and culture. Who else could reference baroque art, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Ingmar Bergman, C. S. Lewis, and Star Wars in such a scholarly and readable fashion? I thoroughly enjoyed every page.
Rob Johnston has written a seminal book, one that greatly enlarges our understanding of the multiple ways in which God is present in this world. God's Wider Presence opens our eyes, brings us to places of awe, and helps us interpret encounters with Mystery. It has the power to make us aware of the hitherto unnoticed ways in which God is present in our own lives. This is a book I will give to my friends.
Fuller Theological Seminary; author of Noticing God