“Many people crave certainty.
They want dogma.
They want guaranteed answers.
This book is not for them.”
– Steve Chalke
This book may not be for “them,” but it is for pretty much everyone else. So many people think they must abandon intellectual integrity in order to exercise faith. Mr. McLaren shows, once again, that the two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, good faith will make sense.
Brian, as a Christian, has a definite point of view, but he doesn’t discount other views, or disrespect those who differ. He offers insights on various avenues of thought, and the logical conclusions (as he understands them) to which those avenues will lead.
Here is a book that is intentionally made so as not to be a cover-to-cover reading experience. Brian sets up each chapter by giving a brief description of the material, and then telling us who would benefit from reading that particular chapter. Very different.
Some of the questions addressed are, “Does it really matter what I believe?” “Can I believe in Atheism?” “Why are there so many religions?” “Aren’t all religions equally true?” “What is the relationship between faith and knowledge?” and, one of my favorites, “Don’t all paths lead to the same God?”
Early on we look at the strong difference between good faith and bad faith. Here, McLaren states “I would rather have a wrong faith that is good than a right faith that is bad.” So, yes, we are discussing again the importance of how you believe vs. what you believe.
In Chapter 3 (my second favorite in the book) there is an absolutely wonderful chart of “The Four Stages of Doubt.” These can simultaneously be refereed to as “The Four Stages of Faith.” Sadly, people often get stuck in an early stage, and never move forward. The refusal to move forward gives rise to dangerous fundamentalism. This includes not only Christian fundamentalism, but also that of Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Atheists, et al. (Brian gives reasons to consider that believing there is no God is, itself, a “faith” position.)
Chapter six looks at polytheism, pantheism, dualism, good monotheism, bad monotheism, and (briefly) panentheism. We also examine the role of creation in revealing God, and how that relates to an “art gallery” experience.
In the seventh chapter, Brian “addresses a number of common objections or frustrations that people have with monotheism, regarding God’s personality, gender, subtlety, and the like.” Is God personal or impersonal? Relational or non-relational? Male or female (Beyond semantics / Maternal imagery)? There’s a nice bit that addresses the fallacy of a question like “Don’t you think the Creator of the Universe has bigger fish to fry than answering the prayers of children and old women?”
Chapter 8 (my personal favorite) is “Don’t All Paths Lead to the Same God?” I would actually suggest beginning with this chapter. Brian has clearly (as have I) made belief in Christ his faith-choice. But he does so, as I hope I also do, with true respect for those of other faith traditions.
No religion owns God or has a corner on the “truth market.” There is a simple, yet great graphic in this chapter that addresses the subject of truth.
We’ve all heard it said “It doesn’t really matter what you believe.”
The thing is, what we believe can have world-altering consequences. What we believe does matter.
If you believe your God tells you it’s OK to fly planes into towers full of people, that matters. If you believe your God tells you it’s OK to own people because of their skin color (or any other reason), that matters. If you believe your God tells you it’s OK to withhold rights from a group of people because they don’t love who you think they should love, that matters. If, on a positive note, you believe your God tells you to love and care for others, be respectful, and take care of the planet, well, that also matters.
We’re told that , concerning the beliefs we consider, “We need open windows, but good screens.”
We’re given 4 guiding principles, and four screening principles. These 8 principles are more than worth the book price. This chapter should be required reading for… well, for everyone. Really, the simple approach of this section, taken seriously, would go a l-o-n-g way in creating a more peaceful world.
There are, I think, some statements and sections that could initially appear as somewhat arrogant. But if you give Brian the benefit of the doubt in those moments, there’s a clear overall picture of a man who holds his beliefs and strong convictions with sincere humility. It’s like Rob Bell said, “You can hold something with so much conviction that you’d die for that belief, and yet, in the exact same moment say, ‘I could be wrong.'”
So, click one of the links, buy the book, pick a chapter, and dig in.
This book really is a buffet. You can nibble, fully dine, or pig-out.
Be sure to allow time to digest, and get the full benefit of the nutrients.
Of course, you can always go back for more.
Buy the book: Click Here.
[NOTE: This is one of a pair of books. The second (which I’ve not yet read) is “Finding Faith: The Search For What Is Real.”]
* We are on a level playing field; none of us lives with absolute, unassailable certainty about anything; we all live by faith.
* The finding of faith and the growing of faith… ironically can feel like losing faith.
* [We see] Jesus’ consistent refusal to do things that would force people into believing in him. Instead, he always allowed room for doubt and presented people with the opportunity to explore their questions.
* If you are born in India, you are probably going to “know” Hinduism is the true religion; if in America or Guatemala, it will probably be Christianity; if in an intellectual family in France, agnosticism or atheism; if in Iran, Islam; if in Israel, Judaism. There are exceptions, but it appears clear that the majority of people choose their beliefs based on social acceptance, peer pressure, and other factors rather than on a sober independent investigation of the objective evidence.
Buy the book: Click Here.
* If a professed belief is not sufficient to promote action, then it would better be called an opinion or an idea or concept.
* As someone who deeply respects the Bible, I think we do it a disservice by implying that it can do something that no book can do.
* Isn’t conceit – the sense of certainty that I am already so right and superior that I don’t need to learn or listen – the greatest possible barrier to faith?
* There are strong reasons for making a faith commitment to the atheist position.
* Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear. [Thomas Jefferson]
* Monotheism has apparent downsides too… crusades, holy wars, jihads, division, controversy, bigotry, confusion, contradiction, overwhelming complexity.
* We aren’t proving anything here; we are simply suggesting that if human beings have a seemingly incurable, innate, cor hunger and thirst for spiritual meaning, that that is at least evidence – though certainly not proof – that there may be a reality corresponding to the desire.
* It is wise not the close the door too fast on theism.
Buy the book: Click Here.
For a better understanding of the chart, and an overall great read,
buy “Finding Faith: A Search for What Makes Sense.” Click HERE.