I agree with what the author wrote in some chapters, but in other chapters, I disagree with him, and in many areas, I find that the author was fuzzy and vague in his writings.
In chapter 1, the author said that "all of us understand and relate to Jesus through the lens of our experiences and our culture" and as a "paradox, but to stay the same, the gospel must always be changing."
I find this to be rather confusing, and even bothering on the heretical unless the author took the trouble to explain what does he try to convey.
I beg to differ. I would rather ask, must the gospel or more accurately, the timeless truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ be always changing? Or should it be more appropriate to say that the way the gospel is presented must always be changing to fit the context of our contemporary culture?
True, as the author said, that there are a lot of "unmitigated" factors, but we should be interpreting the contemporary culture through the lens of the timeless gospel of Jesus Christ but not the other way around. Otherwise, the way we look at Scripture would be more eisegetical rather than exegetical.
Nonetheless, I also find a lot of good stuffs from this book.
In chapter 2, for example, the author talked about the secular-sacred divide. He talked about how the church has turned into a country club. As he said:
"There is Christian everything. It is possible to be driving with your friends from a Christian school on your way to see a Christian movie while you listen to Christian radio and chew on Christian mints. That car probably has a fish on the back of it too. In our culture, Christian isn’t a noun proclaiming the center of someone’s identity or spiritual life. It is an adjective convincing us that something has been sanitized and is now safe to use."
In chapter 3, the author talked about the illusion-reality gap. For example, he said,
"You were told what to become, but no one tried to understand how you became who you are. Perhaps this is why you felt guilty for all the spilled paint in your story. You are a drip artist living in a sketch art world. It isn’t that you no longer believe. It is just that you don’t have the tools to make sense of the messy picture you made."
As the result, like the author said, we would rather "deny certain realities about our lives, and we embrace illusions because they are easier than confronting something difficult."
But that is not what God wants from us. He specializes in the impossible. He "allows things to be ugly. He doesn’t work around reality—he works with it. Somehow he sees a way to redeem it and make it into something different than we imagined. And somehow he makes every painting beautiful in a unique way."
In the following chapter, the author dealt on the difficult subject of doubt. He talked about learning to embrace doubt as a friend rather than enemy in our journey of faith. As the author said,
"Perhaps doubt isn’t the enemy of faith. Perhaps it is just the enemy of religion. Maybe doubt leads us closer to reality. [This is because....] we are at our most vulnerable when we are asking questions. When we have shunned certainty and know that we don’t know, we are open to discovering God’s reality."
I am not sure how much I can agree with him. Doubt can be a good friend if there is someone else to come alongside us to show us the way. As Philip said to Ethiopian eunuch when he heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. (Acts 8:30, 31 NKJV)
In other words, I think doubt can be a good friend, but it can also drive us further into our skepticism.
Nevertheless, I like what he wrote in the following Chapter 5,
"For most people who go to church, it is usually limited to an hour-long experience on a Sunday. Outside of the church, most people understand it as a Sunday-bound activity. The hope is that this hour will change the direction of the 167 other hours experienced in a week. Given such a limited time frame, churches do the best they can to get across as much information as they can. The Bible is filled with lots of words, and churches are filled with a lot of words explaining those words. We all know that a relationship with our Creator is a mystical and transcendent experience, but very few of us would use those same words to describe the last church service we attended. More often than not, it is a lot of words. Some are applicable; a lot of them are not."
I tend to agree with him. Sometimes we want to cram as much information as possible into the minds of our church members with the hope that it will be adequate to equip them to wage wars against the trials and temptations for the remaining week in the workplace..but that is not how the Christian faith should work. The christian faith is a faith of communal living.
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