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My review of “Searching For God Knows What.” June 30, 2009

This is the second Donald Miller book I’ve read, the first being “Blue Like Jazz.”  BLJ seemed more autobiographical.  Still, this work is, I think, every bit as good.  It is somewhat more dense, in that it seems to cover more theological ground per page.

This book is about the failure of formulas to properly explain or experience the Gospel of Jesus.  You won’t find a book or chapter of the Bible titled “The Four Spiritual Laws.”  You will not find the phrase “ask Jesus to come into your heart,” or “accept the Lord as your personal Savior.”  This approach to Christian spirituality is in line with what Bono calls “bumper sticker reductionism.”  I guess people like that sort of thing for the same reason many Christians prefer law to grace:  It’s easier.  Lists are easy.  Relationships are hard.

And that, in a reductionist sort of way, is, at least in part, what Donald addresses in this book.  Chapters cover such things as “A whole message to a whole human being,” “How to kill your neighbor (Lifeboat Theory),” “Morality,” “Religion,” and “Why William Shakespeare Was a Prophet.”  I really enjoyed his insights on the book of Job.

Mr. Miller believes that “Biblically, you are hard-pressed to find theological ideas divorced from their relational context.”  Jesus didn’t preach formulas.  He told stories.  He told lots of stories.  Not steps.  Not bullet points.  Stories.
We want to take three years of relational stories, (as well as human history) and boil it all down to 4 easy payments…
I mean steps.
It should be painfully obvious of the inability to do so.  But in case it isn’t, Donald Miller helps point that out.  He does so in his usual style.  A style which caused Blue Like Jazz to be rejected by publishers, until, of course, it started selling like hotcakes.  (Much the same story with “The Shack.”  Don’t these publisher types EVER learn?!?!  They must be very religious people.)

There is a chapter somewhere near the beginning, I forget which one, that seemed out of place.  It felt “phoned in.”  It was almost like someone else wrote it.  It was a bit hard to get through, and made me start to wonder if I would finish the book.  I’m glad I stuck it out, because the book did pick back up, and became a great read.

Anyway, I do highly recommend this book, but only AFTER you read Blue Like Jazz.

[You can read some excerpts on other posts on this blog, including the previous one about “Morality.”
You can order the book from the Life Walk Store link in the right column.]

 

Morality: Why I Am Better Than You June 28, 2009

(from “Searching For God Knows What” by Donald Miller)

        A great concern for those who defend a propositional gospel over a relational gospel is morality.  Some feel that if we do not emphasize morality, people will have too much fun and refuse to play by the rules the rest of us who know God have to play by.  [But] the Bible is not structured as a moral code.  It does not have all the answers on right and wrong.  A book containing a complete moral code would require all pages in all books.

         Lately, however I have been thinking of morality in less conceptual terms, less as a system of rules and regulations and more a concept very beautiful and alive.  Basically I am a simple sheep, having very little idea of what is right and wrong, and Jesus is going to pull me out of the ditches when I screw up, and protect me from spiritual enemies.

          I wonder if the idea of morality is just another ramification of the Fall.  Paul even says that the law was given to the Jews to show them they couldn’t follow the law.  Morality exists only because we are fallen, not unlike medicine exists because people get sick.  The hijacking of the concept of morality began when we reduced Scripture to formula, and a love story to theology, and finally morality to rules.  It is a very different thing to break a rule than it is to cheat on a lover.

          The moral message I have heard is often a message of bitterness and anger because our morality, our culture, is being taken over by people who disregard our ethical standards.  None of that is connected, relationally, to God at all.  Morality as a battle cry against a depraved culture is simply not a New Testament idea.  Morality as a ramification of our spiritual union and relationship with Christ, however, is.

          I was the guest on a radio show recently that was broadcast on a secular station, one of those conservative shows that paints Democrats as terrorists.  The interviewer asked what I thought about the homosexuals who were trying to take over the country.  “Which homosexuals are trying to take over the country?” I asked.  “You know,” the interviewer began, “the ones who want to take over Congress and the Senate.”  “Well,” I said, “I’ve never met those guys and I don’t know who they are.  The only homosexuals I’ve met are very kind people, some of whom have been beat up and spit on and harassed and, in fact, feel threatened by the religious right.”

Think about it.  If you watch CNN all day and see extreme Muslims in the Middle East declaring war on America because they see us as immoral, and then you read the paper the next day to find the exact same words spoken by evangelical leaders against the culture here in America, you’d be pretty scared.  I’ve never heard of a homosexual group trying to take over the world, or for that matter the House or the Senate, but I can point you to about fifty evangelical organizations who are trying to do exactly that.

          I continued, “As a Christian, I believe Jesus wants to reach out to people who are lost and, yes, immoral – immoral just like you and I are immoral; and declaring war against them and stirring up your listeners to the point of anger is only hurting what Jesus is trying to do.  This isn’t rocket science.  If you declare war on somebody, you have to either handcuff them or kill them.  But if you want them to be forgiven by Christ, you have to love them.  So go ahead and declare war in the name of a conservative agenda, but don’t do it in the name of God.  That’s what militant Muslims are doing in the Middle East, and we don’t want that here.”

          A moral message, a message of us versus them, overflowing in war rhetoric, is not the sort of communication that came out of the mouth of Jesus.  Some Christians, when considering immorality in culture, consider two issues:  abortion and gay marriage.  Moral ideas presented in the New Testament, and even from the mouth of Christ, however, involve loving our neighbors, being one in the bond of peace, loving our enemies, taking care of our own business before we judge somebody else, forgiving debts even as we have been forgiven, speaking in truth and love else we sound like clanging cymbals (turn on Fox News to hear what clanging cymbals sound like).

          Morality, in the context of a relationship with Jesus, becomes the voice of reason and calm in a loud argument, the voice of life in a world of walking dead, the voice of Christ in a sea of self-hatred.

Buy “Searching For God Knows What” at:
http://astore.amazon.com/lifewalk_store-20?node=2&page=5

 

Gee, I Guess We’ve All Got It Wrong! June 23, 2009

Filed under: Church,Religion,Social Issues — lifewalkblog @ 2:51 am
Tags: , , ,

Part One: The History

Jeremiah 18:18

Then some people   said, “Come on! Let us consider how to deal with Jeremiah!   …   Come on! Let’s bring charges against him and get rid of him!   Then we will not need to pay attention to anything he says.”

Job 15:9-10

What do you know that we don’t know?
What do you understand that we don’t understand?
The gray-haired and the aged are on our side, men far older than your father.

John 9:34

They replied,  “You were born completely in sinfulness,  and yet you presume to teach us?”   So they threw him out.

Acts 6:13, 7:54,58

(After Stephen called the religious leader “on the carpet.”)
“This man does not stop saying things against this holy place and the law.”
When they heard these things, they became furious and ground their teeth… [and] they began to stone him.

Joan of Arc

Tried by an ecclesiastical court, and burned at the stake when she was nineteen years old for asserting that she had visions from God.

The Inquisitions

The various inquisitions that started around 1184 had jurisdiction over baptized members of the Church.  Pope Innocent IV’s papal bull Ad exstirpanda of 1252,  authorized and regulated the use of torture in investigating heresy.



Part Two:  The Present

OK.  Maybe institutionalized Christianity doesn’t burn people at the stake anymore.  But it still has little tolerance for those who dare challenge it’s reign.  If anyone points out how far from Christ it’s teachings are, it still says what it’s always said:

“We don’t need to pay attention.  What do YOU understand that we don’t?   You presume to teach US?!?!  Gee, I guess we’ve all got it wrong all these centuries!” 


Well, actually, yes…you have.
Over and over again.

Religion has always hated the prophets.  That’s what Jesus said.  It’s still true today.  But any “new truth” is, of course, nothing new.  It just keeps getting buried under the oppressive thumb of religion.  Every time it’s “rediscovered,” the so-called church again cries “Heresy!”  It still sarcastically says, “Gee, I guess we’ve all gotten it wrong, and now YOU understand.”

Some of us just understand that we don’t understand it all.  I think that’s a good place to start.

 

Another Gospel June 22, 2009

Filed under: Religion — lifewalkblog @ 3:07 am

As I continue on my journey, I keep hearing warnings about following “another gospel.”  The biblical letter to the Galatians makes it quite clear that the “another gospel” it speaks of is, in fact, religious legalism.  It would be fall-down, laugh-out-loud funny, if it wasn’t so pitifully sad.  Religious legalism  seeks to control others with a verse that stands in direct opposition  to the religious system using it.  Again, sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

 

How Could I Do That? June 20, 2009

Filed under: Personal,Relating to God — lifewalkblog @ 1:51 am

A sick woman touched Jesus’ robe (Mark 5:25-34).
Some men lowered a man with palsy through the roof of a house (Luke 5: 17-26).
A Roman centurion only needed Jesus’ word to heal his servant (Luke 7:1-10).
A man born blind didn’t even know who healed his blindness (John 9).
A leper beseeched Jesus to make him clean (Matthew 8:1-4).
Peter stepped out on the turbulent sea, (Matthew 14: 28-29).

Thousands were fed with a few loaves and fishes.

None of these miracles required an existence within or observance of religious parameters, a pedigree or evidence of a righteous, perfect life, or even the smallest degree of scriptural exegesis.

No, all that was and ever would be required is one faith and one belief—one.
A belief and faith, undefined by manmade religion, that Jesus Christ, could do what he said he’d do:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17, KJV).

I know there are those who will always be wondering, skeptical of my new life in Jesus Christ. They’ll wonder how I could “do that”— just turn my back on everything I used to believe. And all I can say is that I stepped out into a brave new world with pure and complete faith, and found my Lord and my God (John 20:24-29), a very real God who knows me better than I know myself.

From “Leaving My World” by Carol Harper
http://www.ptm.org/09PT/JulAug/leavingMyWorld.pdf

[Note:  I love that last paragraph.  I can identify. – Dave.]

 

Well Balanced June 18, 2009

Filed under: Personal,Social Issues — lifewalkblog @ 12:12 pm
Tags: , , ,

Being well balanced isn’t being “on the fence” anymore than turning the other cheek is “passive.”
Both take an aggressive stand on ground not covered by the extremes.

 

More On Torture

Filed under: Social Issues — lifewalkblog @ 3:38 am

This issue recently came up on Facebook again.

To me, it’s a “lifeboat” situational ethics kind of thing.  In that way, of course the torture of one, in order to save thousands, makes perfect sense.  It’s all for the “greater good.”
It’s like negotiating with terrorists.  You can think, “If I don’t do this, it’s my fault those people die.”

No, it’s not!
It’s the fault of the people doing the killing.
Period.

We can’t be manipulated into taking responsibility for the actions of others by not meeting their demands.
In the same way, I can think that if I don’t engage in torture, I’m responsible for the deaths that could have been stopped.
Again, no, I’m not.

That’s kind of like justifying prostitution by thinking I can “witness” to people no one else can reach.
After all, if I don’t reach them, I’ll be responsible for their eternal demise.
Of course, that’s ridiculous.

Torture can be a hard issue to make decisions on, until I again return to the question, “Who would Jesus torture?”
I’m not saying what I would or wouldn’t do if my life was in danger.  I’m not saying God doesn’t “understand.”
I’m just saying it’s not compatible with the mind of Christ.

 

 
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