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.]