A Great Book
Prisoner of God
Some weeks ago, while browsing in our local library I noticed a book with the intriguing title “A Prisoner of God”. This proved to be a fascinating story with not a few things to learn about institutional religion and its ultimate nature.
The story is that of a brilliant young French biochemist, who gave up a highly promising career in that field to enter a monastery of the Benedictine order. His purpose was to find God and he was told that if he obeyed all the rules and observed all the rituals diligently he would finally find God.
In his own words, “The impressive monastic tradition tried and tested for centuries, could only lead to God. ‘Do all this,’ the rule said and you will arrive there…. In fact what I arrived at was mainly ‘doing all this’. But God where was He then?” And “I refused to see all the pretence that there was in our lives. A comfortable poverty, an anaemic chastity, a bulldozer of a prayer routine. To admit it, or just consider it would have been to call everything into question. ‘You will arrive.” I based my life on that promise in the Rule. … But what of God?”
He had discovered that relationship with God is not a matter of religious routines, obedience to human superiors and devoted performance. In fact these were the enemies of true intimacy with Father.
Later, when he was in
The same danger exists in current
Michel Benoit’s story continues until he was finally and quite brutally expelled from the vocation he had chosen at such cost. In the concluding part of the book he draws some conclusions. Here are a couple of observations he makes; “Jesus did not found a church (meaning an institution) and Christianity as it developed was a betrayal of Him.” (The parenthesis mine). Also, “How many years it took me to realize that the churches, all churches are power machines, that their unvoiced ambition is to win power and then cling to it at all costs.” And finally, “The Church brought me Christ, but I had to leave her in order to find the prophet of
No doubt this man’s experience was in the most rigid of religious forms and the cruelty of his ultimate rejection has coloured his views, but I felt that there were salutary lessons in his story to which we do well to give heed.
For me this book was a real page-turner, well written, transparently sincere and full of many fascinating insights. The only regretful thing was that he seemed still short of a full and satisfying discovery of Father’s heart of love.
Fruit in its season.
Two days ago I completed 87 years of life, and looking back over the road I have travelled, I see, with great thankfulness to Father, abundant streams of grace and mercy from beginning to end. I can truly join the hymn writer Frances von Alstyne in singing,
“All the way my Saviour leads me:
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my guide?
Heavenly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.
Also I have been thinking about the Scripture in Psalm 1 concerning the believer who is likened to “a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season.” The little phrase “Fruit in its season” particularly has gripped me.
For each season of our life with Jesus there is an appropriate fruit. There is one kind of fruit when we are young, full of vigour and zeal. Another kind of fruit in the season of the full maturity of manhood, when we have had experience and faith has been tested. Yet another different kind of fruit in old age when the vibrant energies of youth are no longer ours and and the years of maturity have passed. I must not envy or seek to reproduce the fruit of youth or even of my mature years, but be content with that fruit that Father chooses to produce in me which only comes with age and long experience of the pilgrim way. That thought has encouraged me. May it do likewise for you.