God is Stranger by Krish Kandiah
Once again Krish demonstrates that wrestling with the more difficult parts of the Bible can help us come to the most profound understanding of God
God is Stranger
By Krish Kandiah
Hodder and Stoughton
Reviewer: Martin Poole
For those who have read Krish Kandiah’s earlier work – Paradoxology – this book can be seen as a progression with a similar approach to unpacking abstruse biblical texts. Krish demonstrates once more that “the wrestling with the stranger, more difficult parts of the Bible can help us come to the most profound understanding of God.”
From the outset of his writing Krish seeks to expose the gap between the nearness of God and the strangeness of God. Or in David’s case, the God who can seem present with us and then absent from us – the God who used to turn up. Christians this side of heaven will always know God as both stranger and a friend.
It is this “stranger” God with whom Krish seeks to confront us. The one who so often appears unrecognised, whether's that's to Abraham, Jacob, Gideon or the disciples on the Emmaus Road. Skilful exegesis allows us to taste the confusion that redounds in these theophanies, and in so doing recognise the uneven steps on the Christian pathway.
For instance the story of Ruth and Naomi seems to describe a God who makes no appearance, but who is there all along in the detail of the narrative. Isaiah speaks to a people comfortable in their knowledge of God - but profoundly mistaken about him.
There is an especially helpful section on the anger that rages in scripture, particularly in the imprecatory psalms of David where he is willing destruction on his enemies. While we are reminded that vengeance belongs to God, there is a place for the believer to express anger rather than bottle it.
Krish writes with many light humorous touches - did he really have a vision or “just a trick of the brain of the sort you might have when you sleep with a rock under your head?" (Jacob at Bethel); and similes - is Ezekiel a prototype of the Apple entrepreneur Steve Jobs? These do not deflect from the serious nature of the book, but help with contemporising the biblical material.
For the book certainly packs a mighty punch when this stranger God turns up in Jesus' parable of the sheep and the goats. How often do we encounter God without knowing it, or more especially, fail to meet him because of our failure to respond to the needs of the vulnerable? Here Krish draws on his own role as a foster parent where his home is open to many vulnerable and needy children.
He concludes his book by declaring “the time is right for Christians to demonstrate the truth of the gospel through the power of revolutionary hospitality."
God is Stranger not only encourages deep reflection on our relationship with God, but is an ear-splitting call for practical engagement with the homeless, hapless, helpless and lost. In other words, the stranger.
The Revd Martin Poole (Retired Baptist minister having served the churches of Tabernacle Penarth, Godalming and Eastleigh)