This is very unusual for me, but I’m currently reading three books at the same time.
Three authors. Three different general topics. Three points of view (at least).
Yet, the way the messages of these books compliment each other, and even overlap at times is amazing.
I’ve not finished any of them yet. Still, I can already recommend each one.
The three books are:
Brian McLaren’s “We Make The Road By Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation,”
Peter Enns’ “The Bible Tells Me So… – Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable To Read It,” and
Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power Of NOW: A Guide To Spiritual Enlightenment.”
First up, the McLaren offering. I briefly mentioned this is a previous post, “Left Behind.” My ninth McLaren book, this is a “devotional” of sorts, meant to be read at the rate of one chapter per week. It has suggested scripture readings to accompany each chapter, as well as discussion questions and ways to “activate” the principles discussed. It’s great for an individual, but it’s even better for a small group. (We have 4 guys in our discussion group.) If you don’t identify as a “Christian,” or you’re not really into reading the Bible, you may still enjoy the practical, real-world life lessons found here. In fact, Christian or not, Brian’s book will help you see the Bible in a way you may never have before. These are discussions that have the potential to change the world we live in by changing the individuals reading the book.
I’ve just finished chapter 13, which concludes the first section “Alive In The Story Of Creation.” The material just keeps getting better and better. So far, we’ve dealt with mostly Old Testament material. We’ve looked at the stories, when and why they were written, what the authors were trying to convey, and how these stories can provide meaning for us today. We see how, through time, the biblical authors express an evolving understanding of God. This explains so much as we see them move from a previous view of many gods, to a view of one “tribal” god, to the God Jesus spoke of (who was very different from what many OT writers thought!). Our group has had some really good chats, complete with some disagreements. I’m certainly the most, well, “left-leaning” of our group. We have some really different conclusions we’ve drawn, and can disagree very, very strongly sometimes. But we generally take the approach so wonderfully stated by Rob Bell:
“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.’”
Find out more about “We Make The Road…” Click HERE.
I purchased “The Bible Tells Me So” based on a recommendation by Rob Bell. Many people, usually non-Christians, think the Bible is a really, really awful book. I totally get that. But, as Peter Enns points out, the Bible isn’t the problem. People not knowing how to read the Bible: That’s a BIG problem. I love the Bible. It’s a wonderful book. But I believe with all my heart, many “christians” need their Bibles taken away.
I said that.
And I mean it!
They simply do not know how to read the book. And that one but powerful truth has been the source of untold tragedy, suffering, violence, hatred, prejudice, injustice and death. With scholarly adeptness, spiritual respect, and no small dose of humor, Mr. Enns offers a gold-mine of biblical information that is sorely needed. Again, this is a great read for anyone wishing insight and understanding for what is arguably the most famous, and most misunderstood book in all of history. If I was king of the world, I would decree that no one reads the Bible without reading “The Bible Tells Me So…” as a companion piece. Of course, the Catholic tradition already has books in their Bible that Protestants do not. So, maybe we could just stick Peter’s book right in between the Old and New Testaments. (No, I didn’t think that would fly.)
It’s clear through the parables of Jesus, but we actually see through the entire Bible that “God likes stories.” There’s a reason the Bible doesn’t lay out everything in bullet points. A story does not need to be 100% historically accurate to be “true.”
The Bible has often been wielded as an object of terror. When approached and read responsibly, the Bible is truly an awesome book!
Mr. Enns helps us to quit jumping through all the hoops, trying to make the Bible “behave.” We learn to accept the Bible on its own terms. Part of that is admitting there are blatant contradictions. And that’s fine, because we can also clearly see that each writer had their own viewpoint as well as their own agenda. One of the strong take-a-ways (which many Christians acknowledge verbally, but certainly not in practice) is that “Jesus is bigger than the Bible.” The material here is fascinating, educational and entertaining. Put this on you “Must Read” list.
Get more info on “The Bible Tells Me So.” Click HERE.
The 3rd entry here is one I’m reading due to the impact Barry McGuire said it had on him. It’s had a similar impact on many others.
I recently reviewed a book called “Notes From (Over) The Edge.” I’ve little doubt that the author of that book has read “The Power Of NOW.” A lot of information in that book could have come directly from this one.
The message/theme of this book is one I’ve been hearing many places, from many sources; Christian, Buddhist, and others. It is a message that Christ also proclaimed.
Essentially: Life is Now.”
We spend (waste) so much time reflecting on the past, or projecting into the future that we truly miss life.
It’s not just that life is now, but also that “God” is now. Any relationship I have with the Divine is now. It’s in this moment. It’s in this breath.
Eckhart Tolle helps us connect to that breath. That breath that is now. We learn to “listen” to our bodies. We are taught the benefits, and limitation of our “minds.” We become able to step outside our conscious thoughts and look at them objectively. We start “watching the thinker.” We recognize that we are not just our thoughts. There is a “true self,” an authentic self that is beyond the mind. “All the things that truly matter – beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from beyond the mind.” We can start to observe our thoughts without judgment or commentary. This higher dimension of consciousness is what the author calls “presence.”
These are also principles my wife and I were taught in our recent meditation classes. Accessing the power of now is said to be seen in the words of St. Paul, “Everything is shown up by being exposed to the light, and whatever is exposed to the light itself becomes light.”
I believe there is a “oneness” to all that is. If “all” came from one God, then all must inherently be connected to that single Divine… well, Divinity. At least part of living out our oneness with all else that is one is accessing the power of now.
I’m writing these thoughts and reviews right now from the hospital.
My wife is currently in surgery. A little over a year ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Today, we hope that will all be soon behind us, as she is having her “port” removed. (You can Google info on that, if you don’t know what it is.) She’ll be out of commission for a few weeks, and there will be pain, but it’s still a step forward.
Anyway, it’s been a rough ride at times. Though some may belittle our faith, and others may think we’ve lost it, I can’t imagine going through this without it.
Books like the ones listed here, or rather the paths to which they’ve led, have been an integral, sustaining, life-affirming part of the journey. The platitudes and somewhat blind devotion of my religious past would have been hard-pressed to sustain me through these times. I’ve often seen them fail people while the people they failed engaged in some major cognitive dissonance trying to maintain what they falsely perceived as “faith.”
I thank God for those who are able to put their thoughts and insights to paper, including the ones mentioned here. I’m thankful for my friends and associates, of various faith traditions, with whom I can have the “hard” conversations without feeling we’re in competition or trying to convert each other.
My biggest “thank-you” going out to Divinity is for my wife. We can’t choose how long we’ll be around for each other, but we have each other NOW. And whether we’re living in “this” now, or a now in some other form of eternity, the truth is Now is all we ever really have.
Quotes from all three books, intermixed, more of which will be added later:
– We are in the early stages of a new moment of emergence, pulsing with danger and promise.
– Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.
– Canaanite genocide is par of Israel’s story of the past – not a historical account of something God did.
– I believe that the Spirit of God works everywhere to bring and restore aliveness. Sometimes institutions welcomed this nonviolent spiritual movement and were strengthened by it. Sometimes they co-opted, smothered, squelched, frustrated, corrupted, or betrayed it.
– Before Christianity was a rich and powerful religion, it claimed that everyone, not just a select few, had God-given gifts to use for the common good. It exposed a system based on domination, privilege, and violence and proclaimed in it place a vision of mutual service, mutual responsibility, and peaceable neighborliness.
– Christians today have an obligation not to “follow the Bible” here. For Christians, Jesus, not the Bible, has the final word. The story of God’s people has moved on, and so must we.
– Eventually, through the biblical library, we find a beautiful new vision of God being revealed. God desires justice for all, not just for us. God is leading both us and them out of injustice and violence into a new way of reconciliation and peace.
– Jesus was living by a different interpretation of the old stories. He freed [people] from both passive, pious complacency and desperate, violent action [for] something better: faithful, peaceful action.
– God comes off as a bit touchy. When provoked, God wasn’t bashful about killing or plaguing his own people. If we read this anywhere else, we would call it genocide.
– You believe this mind-made fiction is who you are. You would rather be in pain than risk losing the familiar unhappy self.
– Sweating bullets to line up the Bible with our exhausting expectations isn’t a pious act of faith. It’s actually thinly masked far of losing control and certainty… a warning signal that deep down we do not really trust God at all.
– Shifting my thinking on the Bible did not mean I was losing my faith. In fact, I had the growing sense that God was inviting me down this path, encouraging it even.
– Enlightenment means rising above thought. You still use your thinking mind when needed, but you are free of the involuntary internal dialogue.
– My decision to go through door number three would eventually come to make me an outsider in my own community.
– I gained a Bible – and a God- I was free to converse with… disagree with.. [instead of a god] like an abusive, drunken father you don’t want to wake from his nap.