O Taste and See: A Biblical Reflection on Experiencing God by Bonnie Thurston
Psalm 34 is a Davidic psalm that brings to the forefront the five senses for experiencing God. In her book, O Taste and See, author and former professor Bonnie Thurston elucidates the nature of longing after God in true knowledge. In the introduction, she writes, “The great human hunger is not first for theology ….Theology comes after satisfying the primary hunger, which is for direct experience of God.” (xv) To taste and see that the Lord is a visceral and bodily way of describing the believer’s posture toward God. In line with the opening of Calvin’s Institutes, the knowledge of God, knowing Him is foremost in the life of the believer. Bonnie’s book is a transparent commentary on Psalm 34:8 and the way God is revealed in the context of the entire psalm.
The deep reservoirs of grace and understanding our sin are evident in this book. Bonnie writes, “But the issue here is personal: admission of need manifested by a deep and volitional decision to accept from God what I can’t do for myself. Some folks turn up their noses at the Billy Graham crusades, but his old hymn of invitation, “Just as I am, without one plea,” is spot on.” (53) The scandal that the individual can pull himself up by his bootstraps is not found within the pages of Scripture. Rather, reconciliation is offered by the one who has wronged, namely the Trinitarian God. The goodness of God is manifest in his giving us all things, including creation, but also his Son (54). God the Father reaches down in the middle of his creation to offer us the one person who not only is the remedy for sin but it’s consequences; broken relationships, a division in the created order, and a heart that longingly desires to rule with pride. Lastly, Bonnie ends chapter three with a focus on God’s love. Surrendering to love is the process by which we are knocked off our rocker by the amazing work of God and his unending compassion for us.
I was gripped by Bonnie’s insistence that the Eucharist be a reminder of both the spiritual nourishment we need but also the bodily hunger we see in the world. She writes, “When it comes to physical hunger, I think God’s plan must be like that of Jesus in the Mark 6 feeding story. He says to his disciples, “You give them something to eat.” (Mk. 6:37) The loaves and fishes we have, whether they are financial or organizational or whatever, are to be used for those upon whom Jesus has compassion.” (95) God has taken the spiritual hunger upon himself in the giving of his Son. Yet, the bread and wine we partake of in the Eucharist are physical reminders of the people who need daily sustenance to continue on in life. The Lord is good even in the midst of famished stomachs, and this grace of compassion is not without warrant for the faithful believer.
One comment of criticism is due for this book, namely the quote on page 50 where Bonnie writes, “The New Testament does not tell the story of human depravity but of “how our Judge has become our Saviour.” It is true that God does not count our sins against us because our identity is in Christ. Yet, we see the NT replete with examples of the spiraling effects of human depravity in the stoning of Stephen, the table fellowship situation in Galatia, and the battlefront stance Paul reminds those in Colossae (empty philosophies). Christians are no longer due the judgment of God in an eternal sense, but we need to be on guard against the ravaging effects of sin still our own hearts and others.
O Taste and See was a very good book and better reminder of the faithfulness of our God and King.
Thanks to Paraclete Press for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.