Electric Prayer

The Liturgy of the Hours, the Mass, and other things.

June 2022 newsletter: special book edition!

Posted by universalis on 30 June 2022

This is a slightly unusual newsletter because instead of giving various bits of news about the Universalis website and apps, it is devoted to one subject. The Creed in Slow Motion, by Martin Kochanski, is published today by Hodder & Stoughton. Being by the same author as the majority of the “About Today” pages in Universalis, it isn’t entirely unconnected with the normal subjects of this newsletter. And I would like to claim that this is an important book and worthy of your notice!

Many of you will know about the book already, because there have been daily yellow or grey boxes in Universalis which you could press to hear a very brief reflection on a phrase (or even a word) of the Creed. But putting those glimpses to one side, in this newsletter I would like to give an overall picture of the whole book: what it aims to do, and how it does it.


  • The printed book is available today in the UK and Europe, from good bookshops and the usual online sources, including Amazon. In the Americas and Australasia, the printed book will come out in October.
  • The e-book is available today worldwide, in the Kindle Store, Apple Books, and other places.
  • The audiobook: people have already been writing to ask for an audiobook. There probably will be one, but it is up to the publishers to decide whether one will be produced and when it will be published.

For full details on these and other questions (sample chapters, review copies, interviews, translations and so on) please see this comprehensive post in the Creed in Slow Motion blog.

Loving with the mind

Our Lord re-worked the greatest commandment of all by adding that we must love the Lord our God with all our mind. And this (like all his sayings) turns out to be vital. The Church certainly takes it seriously. She always strives to teach. She has always said that the truths of our faith are not “true because I say so” – they are true because they are true, “true because they make sense.” For example, it is sound doctrine to say that the existence of God is not something we only know by revelation: that the existence of God can be known from his works.

We aren’t all called to be expert theologians. But we ought each, according to our capacity, be able to look at the truths of the faith as being true not because somebody tells us to believe them but because they are really true. If we aren’t expected to go as far as proving that an article of faith makes sense, we ought at least to try and imagine what kind of sense it might make. That is an act of love of which every mind is capable. Moreover, because you are unique (and were created to be unique) your “what kind of sense?” is unique as well. Nobody else can imagine it for you.

Invisible doctrines and hard doctrines

The Creed in Slow Motion is not a treatise, a heavy book solidly textured from end to end. It was written to be a book that you would want to read, not that you read because you have been told to. The chapters are short and each of them concentrates on one word or phrase in the Creed, giving you ideas to inspire you towards “what kind of sense it might make”. These ideas are not all theological. Some come directly from life. Others come from history and literature and drama, or even from mathematics or physics. This is as it should be. All sciences are an attempt to understand reality, and theology is a science as well, because God is the ultimate reality. So they are all related, and each one can illuminate the others.

A remarkable fact about the Creed is that every phrase really counts. It is there for a reason. Some doctrines seem so obvious that we glide through them in a happy dream, taking them for granted. “I believe in one God” is one of those. But slow down: what does God’s oneness really mean, and why does God have no name? (Most people don’t call their cats Cat). Thinking through these questions brings out their depth and also how radical, even outrageous our own belief is. God isn’t a pagan god in the sense of a being which interferes at random with the orderly operation of the universe: he is not in the universe, he is more than the universe, he is Being Itself. We claim that there is a personal relationship between Being Itself and us. That is an absolutely outrageous thing to claim, and only God’s love for us makes it possible for us to say it.

Other doctrines feel awkward and embarrassing and we try to shuffle past them. Take the Atonement, for example. How can an infinitely loving God send his Son to suffer for us and how can his sufferingpossibly do us any good? Many long books have been written about this, and many wise theologians have written wise explanations. They are like wise mathematicians proving recondite theorems about higher mathematics: they are not wrong, but their work is tough grass for ordinary sheep to chew. So focusing on that single word, atonement, notice that it begins with the words “at one” – and a new way of seeing the doctrine starts to appear:a new “kind of sense it might make”. This is not to disrespect the theologians, who are right, though above our heads. You could call it a new perspective, even a “sheep’s eye” perspective. To find out more, read the book!

Who is the book for?

It is a truism to say that a book like this is for everyone. So let me pick a few samples.

Dom Henry Wansbrough, the learned Editor of the Revised New Jerusalem Bible, has told me, “This is just the sort of thing that tired old monks need to rejuvenate their thinking.” At the other end of the age range, there is wide and growing interest among school chaplains, because they have to deal with young people who have just grown into having adult minds and are excited by their ability to apply those minds to everything, including their religion. I can still remember being that age, and regularly getting drunk on ideas.

And one final thing. As Christians, people see us as someone safe to ask (especially in private) about the deepest questions of belief and existence. All too often we get in a panic (or at least, I do). Afraid of saying the wrong thing, we change the subject or say something meaningless such as “I believe this because I am a Christian.” We let the people down who were looking to us for help, and we let ourselves down as well. The seed can’t sprout if the sower is too scared to sow it. If this book encourages you (and me) to rise to the challenge next time, it will have done a good job.

Thank you all for using Universalis. If you have trouble or questions, or suggestions, do write to us at universalis@universalis.com or use the Contact Us button in one of the apps.

Let us all keep one another in our prayers, as always.

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