Returning to Eden ( A Field Guide for the Spiritual Journey)

Quoir Publishing, $19.99

Heather Hamilton

Heather Hamilton has written a book that will challenge evangelicals and encourage non-literal readers of the Bible and other Christian theology.

Hamilton was reared as an evangelical and held to that as a young adult, but when she had to confront an emotional crises as a mother and wife, she concluded that what she had been taught by her church was a “toxic theology” where “Certainty is a very potent force that’s hard to pull yourself away from, expecially7 when that need for certainty is motivated by fear.” She goes on to write that “Fear is viral.” Her book is one aimed to release those who “are still living life with clinched fists? Afraid of hell. Afraid of God. Afraid to question any of it [religion].”

The sub-title of the book is a hint to what follows because Hamilton does take us through the garden of Christianity using her book as a type of field guide to better grasp the complexities of the Bible. She writes, “Reading the Bible literally, like a news report, robs us of understanding its intrinsic depth of wisdom and saddles us with a rigid, fearful, and lifeless understanding of God.” Thus, because of her willingness to see mythology in the Bible, she is able to write about the Abraham and Isaac story, “I insist that Christ is revealed here in Isaac.” Why? Because like Jesus it is Isaac who willingly goes to his death.

Hamilton uses many thinkers and writers to explain her use of mythology. She quotes writers from the Bible, Julian of Norwich, Joseph Campbell, St. Francis of Assisi, Marianne Williamson, C. S. Lewis, and many more to support her thesis. Her book kept me busy searching Google for some of the varied people she quotes but perhaps my favorite is from Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., “Only the Divine matters,/And because the Divine Matters,/Everything matters.”

Much like St. Paul does, Hamilton warns us of our False Selves (the Old Man of St. Paul) and encourages us to look inward to our True Selves, where heaven and Christ wait for us. Hamilton offers encouragement to us and challenges us; she asks us to question and not rely on dogma and its tribalism; and she writes, “Don’t settle for fake intimacy with yourself, others, or the Divine.”

Hamilton’s book deserves to be read by non-Christians, atheists, agnostics, and every person who carries a fear of God in his or her Christianity.

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