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Comforting book at bedtime or rug from under your feet?
on 15 March 2010
I recently went to a conference (Faithworks 360) and heard Brian McLaren talk. While the talk was more concise than the book (obviously) it was just enough to give me a hunger to read more.
I can barely put it down (i'm about halfway through). I don't find reading non-fiction books easy as, with 2 young children, i often only read to go to sleep, yet i've found myself curling up with this book like a good novel. The style of writing is both massively informative and warmly informal, drawing you into a web of hope and challenge.
There are times when it can become a bit 'listy' saying similar things repetitively...but then it is a recognised preaching technique (tell them what you're going to say, say it and say it again) and as i like what he's saying it's not yet got annoying, though i can see how it could do. This same inclination to preach does gloss over huge areas of accademia, but throughout the book this is acknowledged and comprehensive notes at the back give you further scope for reading and exploration.
There's nothing in here, so far, that i haven't felt and explored myself at some time or other. They really are 10 questions i feel compelled to explore and have had niggling at the back of my mind forever...
1. What is the overarching storyline of the Bible?
2. How should the Bible be understood?
3. Is God violent?
4. Who is Jesus and why is he important?
5. What is the Good News?
6. What do we do about the church?
7. Can we find a better way to address the issue of homosexuality?
8. Can we find a better way of viewing the future?
9. How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other religions?
10. How can we translate our quest into action?
Having studied at Bible College for 3 years i know there will be many Christians who will find this book more than challenging and upsetting. For them this will not be a comforting book at bedtime. While i have been labelled both liberal and conservative, depending who i'm talking to, for searching for the reality of God in the midst of difficult questions, others have stuck to what they know and have been taught. Reassuringly, this book does not condemn people for not thinking the same as the author, it encourages continued growth "with the renewing of your mind". McLaren puts reasoned and faithbased arguments to open up the discussion and encourage more debate.
This is not anti-Bible...i've never felt from one author more of a love for the Bible and its reading that i get from reading this. He loves the Bible and just as you love a person, you don't love them in a way you think they 'should' be loved, you love them as they would wish to be loved. He reads the Bible as the Bible demands to be read, not as a legal document with one style of writing but as many styles of writing from a growing, maturing culture in relationship with God.
This is not a book of answers. It is a book of Godly questions to encourage further discussion and enrich, potentially, the global community. Therefore, it is not a history book or a social analysis of where we are today. If it were, i wouldn't have read it and i wouldn't feel stronger and more hopeful in my faith and i am closer to God for that.
I look forward to my nightly read so my trashy novels will just have to wait.