When God Talks Back by T.M. Luhrmann


8 Critic Reviews

One topic she does not raise: the economics of the movement.


            How does God become and remain real for modern evangelicals? How are rational, sensible people of faith able to experience the presence of a powerful yet invisible being and sustain that belief in an environment of overwhelming skepticism? T. M. Luhrmann, an anthropologist trained in psychology and the acclaimed author of Of Two Minds, explores the extraordinary process that leads some believers to a place where God is profoundly real and his voice can be heard amid the clutter of everyday thoughts.
            While attending services and various small group meetings at her local branch of the Vineyard, an evangelical church with hundreds of congregations across the country, Luhrmann sought to understand how some members were able to communicate with God, not just through one-sided prayers but with discernable feedback. Some saw visions, while others claimed to hear the voice of God himself. For these congregants and many other Christians, God was intensely alive. After holding a series of honest, personal interviews with Vineyard members who claimed to have had isolated or ongoing supernatural experiences with God, Luhrmann hypothesized that the practice of prayer could train a person to hear God’s voice—to use one’s mind differently and focus on God’s voice until it became clear. A subsequent experiment conducted between people who were and weren’t practiced in prayer further illuminated her conclusion. For those who have trained themselves to concentrate on their inner experiences, God is experienced in the brain as an actual social relationship: his voice was identified, and that identification was trusted and regarded as real and interactive.
Astute, deeply intelligent, and sensitive, When God Talks Back is a remarkable approach to the intersection of religion, psychology, and science, and the effect it has on the daily practices of the faithful.

From the Hardcover edition.

About T.M. Luhrmann

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TANYA LUHRMANN is a psychological anthropologist and a professor in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University. She received her education from Harvard and Cambridge universities, and was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003. In 2007, she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.
Published March 27, 2012 by Vintage. 466 pages
Genres: Religion & Spirituality, History. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for When God Talks Back
All: 8 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 6


Below average
Feb 15 2012

One topic she does not raise: the economics of the movement.

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Molly Worthen on Apr 27 2012

She passes over most evangelicals’ affirmation of the Bible’s infallibility as if it were of no concern to outsiders, a tradition comparable to avoiding shellfish.

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Publishers Weekly

Below average
Feb 11 2012

While maintaining a stance both sympathetic to the evangelical position and scientifically rigorous, these different modes of writing do not always mesh well.

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WSJ online

Below average
Reviewed by Barton Swaim on Apr 02 2012

But writing a book about American evangelicals and interviewing only Vineyardites is a bit like writing a travel book about the British Isles without leaving Inverness.

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San Francisco Chronicle

Reviewed by Philip Zaleski on Apr 08 2012

At the same time, we can thank Luhrmann for describing evangelicalism as it has always been: a potent means for awakening a personal sense of the reality, power and mercy of God.

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Below average
Reviewed by Jeff Sharlet on Apr 08 2012

. . .but the one weakness of “When God Talks Back’’ is her seemingly uncritical acceptance of the terms through which they understand that crisis (of imagination).

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The New Yorker

Below average
Reviewed by Joan Acocella on Apr 02 2012

The one important fault of “When God Talks Back,” and yet the thing that makes it intriguing—makes it more than an ethnography—is its wavering attitude toward its subject.

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Religion News

Reviewed by Jana Riess on Apr 30 2012

. . .for all of the professionalism and sophistication (and surprising humor and literary elegance) of this book, it’s clear Luhrmann has a personal stake in this fight.

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Maria Behar

Maria Behar 5 Sep 2013

Added the book to want to read list