Paul G. CROWLEY, SJ. The Unmoored God: Believing in a Time of Dislocation. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2017. pp. 128. $26.00 pb. ISBN: 978-1626982468. Reviewed by Daniel LLOYD, Saint Leo University, North Charleston, SC 29406.


Paul G. Crowley’s The Unmoored God argues that classic themes of theology must be reframed in order to speak to the circumstances and convictions of modern Westerners. The author’s use of the term “unmoored” reflects the work’s far more frequently used term, “dislocated.” Acknowledging early on that these terms contain a variety of nuances, the basic premise of the book can be summarized by the following line: “Dislocated humanity is met by a God who chooses a divine dislocation in the Incarnation, entering simply and intimately into our own human condition and showing the way, through suffering, toward life” (xii). Dislocation thus concerns the many ways in which people no longer find meaning and connectedness in culture and life. Crowley insists that theology must meet that experience head on, and he describes God’s own personal acts of dislocated solidarity as a necessary foundation for Christian expression. Christian theology, contends Crowley, will find limited reception if it does not recognize modern Westerners as finding themselves in a world devoid of an overt relationship with God.

Crowley directs this short volume to those who are interested in faith and presents Christian faith in light of contemporary philosophical, economic, and social crises. With clarity and persuasiveness, he contributes a powerful theological response to these concerns. To this end, Crowley divides the book up into five chapters, with an introduction attempting to provide a framework to think about dislocation and an epilogue pointing to the necessary relationship of belief and practice. Chap. 1 addresses at greater length the problems people have with the act of believing today and responds by pointing to instances in which God has shown a desire to seek out a home among those in various states of dislocation. In chap. 2, Crowley uses Jesus’ own suffering, death, and resurrection to respond to the sense in modern society that suffering provides a reason for rejecting faith. Instead, Jesus’ resurrection conquers suffering directly and in so doing offers the message that God’s love and life are humanity’s true home. Crowley takes up themes of the Son’s kenosis in chap. 3 in order to demonstrate God’s own response to the ontological crisis we experience in our separation from God. The theme of kenosis allows Crowley to articulate the ways in which God shows His love for humanity, how this love brings healing to our state of separateness from God because of sin, and how a life in the Spirit allows human beings to experience dislocation from sin. Chap. 4 looks more closely at the crucifixion as the ultimate expression of dislocation and hence God’s solidarity in suffering with the suffering of all. Crowley argues in chap. 5 that life-giving Christian discipleship must be seen as a radical acceptance of dislocation from a version of the world which cannot bring life.  

Aside from the preface’s jarring opening paragraph that will have many readers thinking this book was written exclusively for those on the liberal side of the American political spectrum, the work avoids overt partisanship and instead speaks to issues which all Christians today should necessarily confront. Crowley helpfully weaves together theology, philosophy, history, and scriptural themes to address the contemporary issues mentioned above. There are a few places in which Crowley discusses Christology that, no doubt, readers might like further clarification. For example, the work speaks about “the Incarnation as the event in which God moves outside of God’s Self…” (58). There are various ways to interpret this, and it is easy to read into such passages traditional Christology assumptions or instead forms of historical kenotic Christology. Nevertheless, two primary strengths of the book include its deep roots in traditional presumptions of theology and its trailblazing conceptions about faith and the act of believing in a modern context.

Readers will suspect that the intended audience of the book (stated on p. 4 to be those of struggling faith living in Silicon Valley) will not, in fact, be the primary audience. In order to make the connections and arguments he does, Crowley brings up, and quickly moves through, more than a few sophisticated theological topics. Unless Crowley’s circle of friends and acquaintances includes many struggling with faith while possessing a master’s degree in theology or its equivalent, it would be easy to determine that this work would mainly benefit those who are involved with ministry or teach theology. Without saying so, Crowley’s work is particularly important and necessary reading for anyone interesting in the New Evangelization. The Unmoored God will be read profitably by all those mentioned above, and its themes should be incorporated into contemporary Christian discourse.