Matthew Paul Turner is a product of American evangelicalism, something that turned out not to be a complete blessing. In fact, it pretty much shipwrecked his faith. Like many young men he regularly got stuck with internet pornography, simply tried harder to get himself free and like a fly stuck in a spider's web, the more he struggled the more stuck he became.
Provocative Faith: Walking away from ordinary is his journey of faith away from surface, shallow faith that is marked by legalism to a more grace filled, deeper, more real relationship with God through faith in Christ. This sort of faith, by its very nature, is provocative to others because it's marked by joy and trust. It's written with honesty, self-deprecating humour and a passion for something authentic.
At the end of several chapters there are small interviews with friends of MPT and it's these that are the hardest hitting. The conversation with the couple who struggled to conceive, the woman abused in her childhood struggling but finding the strength to forgive, the guy who lost his job and marriage because he had an affair, the pastor who has buried teenagers; all demonstrate either the shallowness of what MPT wants to leave behind or the real faith that he hopes we will discover.
However, I did have a few issues with the book. In his chapter on our longing for community MPT basically holds up the sitcom Friends as a good example of community and then describes his nearest experience to finding it. Well, that's setting most people up to fail at community. There are no old people in friends, there are no children in friends, there are no people with proper jobs and responsibilities, there is no purpose, there are no difficult people and no one new can join the group. Friends is a rubbish community.
MPT also ends up with a slightly more gospel-centred version of the American dream with chapters such as Participate in God's dream for you that propagates the myth that we are all somehow destined for greatness, all participants in heaven's version of the X-Factor. MPT says, "I believe the dreams that God has for us are just as grandiose, ridiculous and exciting...I believe each of us has a God-calling on our lives that only we can accomplish."
Sounds nice. Only for most people, that just ain't true. Unless by that he means, dependably and faithfully raising children, holding down a job, serving in church in ordinary ways, not giving up through the ups and downs of life and just being obedient in the next thing that God asks you to do given that it might be something quite small. Simply put, not all of us are called to be world-changers. All of us are called to `lead a quiet life' (1 Tim 2:2). I'm not saying you're not special or that God has no plans for you, but we can easily get confused with examples like Billy Graham. He was exceptional in the outcomes of his ministry. All of us can be faithful and upright as Billy is and was but maybe not all of us, in fact most of us, won't be exceptionally successful.
This book is OK but I'm not sure I'd be any clearer how God frees me or how to live free after reading this. I think I'd just give them something by Terry Virgo on Grace instead. It does articulate the experience of growing up in an evangelicalism infected by legalism and the resulting weakness of faith this results in, it's one I can personally identify, with but it comes up short with some of its solutions.