The Rebirthing of God, by John Philip Newell

Christianity in the West is undergoing a “seismic collapse,” author John Philip Newell declares in The Rebirthing of God. Only “a radical reemergence of the Divine” can save it. We must “rebirth God” in the world.

The language is dramatic (and the theology of the image is dubious—more on that in a bit). However, the ways in which Newell suggests that this “re­birthing of soul-force” could happen are hardly sensational. Creation spirituality, social justice, contemplative prayer, interreligious dialogue, and nonviolence are all directions to which many voices have been urging us for decades.

The Rebirthing of God is structured as an imagined pilgrimage walk around the Isle of Iona, where Newell was formerly the warden of the abbey. Each chapter is linked with a particular place on the island’s map: the ruins of the 13th-century nunnery, open to the sky, remind us of our connection to the earth, for example; the tenth-century standing stone cross of St. Martin in front of the abbey invites us to remember the primacy of love.