God is Stranger Book Review

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“Had I been so keen to know God my Father, Lord, Friend, and Savior that I had missed the Bible’s consistent teaching that God is also other, higher, stranger?” (8). It is this question that Krish Kandiah sets out to address in his book God is Stranger (IVP, 2017). He posits that in the parts of Scripture we tend to neglect may just be the stories we most need to grow a whole, robust faith.

After years of focusing on the “simpler, happier, apparently more inspirational” stories of the Bible, Kandiah finds himself in a refugee camp where he meets refugee families and listens to their stories of unimaginable suffering. As he flips through his Bible looking for Scripture to comfort and encourage them, most of the verses highlighted in its pages seem hollow in comparison to the tragedy of global displacement.

This experience inspires him to read the Bible through a different lense, and study the ways God turns up in the midst of violence and tragedy. What he finds is drastically different than he expected, and at times unsettling, but in the end provides a fuller picture of a God who can provide true comfort to those in the midst of difficult and painful situations.

Kandiah visits twelve biblical stories in which God shows up as a stranger, in ways we wouldn’t expect, in disguise, or not at all. Some of these stories may be familiar to you, like the story of Adam and Eve, Naomi and Ruth, the Nativity, or Jesus’s crucifixion. Others may be completely new, but I can guarantee that through Kandiah’s writing you will be introduced to a facet of God’s character that most Christians have not considered before. It may unsettle you. It may comfort you. It will certainly challenge you.

In the process of introducing his readers to facets of God’s character that they may have previously been completely unfamiliar with, I appreciate that Kandiah is careful to work through entire chapters of Scripture, placing his observations in context and avoiding proof-texting to make his points. While some may disagree with certain conclusions that he draws, they should not be confused by how he arrived at them.

My only critique of God is Stranger is less a critique of Kandiah’s work and more so of the space his book inhabits. God is Stranger is written for the lay person, and while solid in its treatment of the individual stories it includes, it is not a complete biblical theology. I lament the fact that the subject matter of this book is currently so unique within Christian literature. There is so much space for topics of hospitality, displacement, exile, refuge, and immigration to be explored from a theological perspective, and I hope to see even more authors and scholars rise up to fill it. Because of this observation, I would highly recommend God is Stranger, but more as a devotional read or a way to dip your toes into some of the less common themes of Scripture.

As I read this book, I cheered through some chapters, and sobbed through others. I saw in familiar passages and stories of Scripture a reflection of the brokenness in my own surroundings—in my family, community, country, and in my own soul. I was reintroduced to a God who understands the brokenness of our world and who meets us in the midst of it, not always in the ways we expect, but always in the ways we need. I met a God who is stranger, and yet in the process came to know him better.

You can find God is Stranger: Finding God in Unexpected Places on Amazon.

For more of my book reviews and recommendations, check out this list.