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What Is The Bible (Book Review) June 9, 2017

what
I’ve read the Bible cover to cover.
More than once.
I’ve read much of it dozens of times, and some of it hundreds of times.
I’ve studied it.  Meditated on it. Dissected it.  Taught it.  Preached it.
Made it much the focus of my life.
Eventually, to some degree, I discarded it.  Dismissed it.
I’ve considered that it may be a book to be banned.
(OK.  Not really. The book shouldn’t be banned.  But many people should be banned from owning a copy until they learn some responsibility.)

How I wish I had had the eyes to see, and the ears to hear the kinds of wisdom, insight, approach, and understanding that is represented in Rob Bell’s profound book “What Is The Bible?

 

A lot of the basic understanding here is understanding I’ve had for awhile now.  Some of this was addressed in Brian McLaren’s “A New Kind of Christianity.” But, the specific perception of various individual passages that are discussed here are really, really eye-opening.
You’ll revisit stories with which you thought you were well acquainted.
Noah and the flood.
Abraham and his son.
Jonah and the big fish.
The parable of The Good Samaritan.
The “take-away” on these stories has (at least in my tradition) almost always strayed from the real point. But, they will take on a breath of fresh air as you understand them the way the original audience would have understood them.  And we find out why Americans often miss the major themes of the Bible!

There are stories we look at and think, “How backwards and barbaric!” And a lot of it was backwards and barbaric!  But, looking closer, in the midst of this we can see actual steps forward in the evolving understanding of God.
We go through lots of passages, Old Testament and New.   We get into all the violence that causes some to pronounce “There is no God,” and others to just accept it (or even appropriate it, so to speak) and use it as a justification for their own hate.  There’s a chapter titled “What’s the Worst Question to Ask When You’re Reading the Bible?”
It’s a question that believers and atheists both ask!

One portion discusses the word and concept of “sin.”  It’s become, for many of us, a cringe-worthy word.  Here you’ll find what may be the best material on the subject I’ve ever seen.
Rob also addresses many of the standard questions he gets, like “Did Jesus have to die?” “What about all that wrath?” and (concerning Abraham) “What kind of God would ask a man to sacrifice his son?”  I LOVED the answer to that one!
The last chapter, “A Note on Growing and Changing,” has some great advise for those of us with family and friends that dont see things the way we do.  (And who doesn’t fit that catagory?!?!)

I once suggested a book to someone thinking he might enjoy the unique perspective.   He didn’t read it (which is fine) But, what he did do was “analyze” the book based solely on it’s title, and then arrogantly proclaim “Book solved!”  I remember thinking, “WTF?”

This is not a book to be solved.  This is a book to be eaten.
Chewed slowly.  Swished about like a fine wine.
Will you agree with everything in it?  Not likely.  Can you find (or make up) reasons to tear it apart?  Of course you can.
Can you be inspired, encouraged, educated and entertained?
I sure was.  There is just so much here!

I wish every atheist and fundamentalist evangelical would read this book (and, well, everyone else).
It’s been my experience that both tend to approach the Bible in the exact same way.  But, as is often the case, many who could benefit the most will shun this book as either heresy or fantasy.  Religion has a long history of calling truth heresy, and intellectuals have a long history of dismissing anything “spiritual.”
Still, for those who let it, it can be another compelling part of their journey.  With lots of “ah-ha” moments.

I suppose once you’ve read “What Is The Bible”, that you can leave the experience unchanged.
But I can’t see how.

 

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

Some Quotes:

  • It’s possible to resist the very growth and change and expanding consciousness that God desires for you by appealing to your religious convictions.  (Read the story of Peter in Acts, chapter 10!)
  • You can’t take people where they don’t want to go.
  • The deepest forces of the universe are on the side of the oppressed, the underdog, and the powerless.
  • I’ve heard people say that they read it literally.  As if that’s the best way to understand the Bible.  It’s not.  We read it literately.

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

  • [In the story of Jonah] the dude who sees himself as us is furious because of how chummy God and them have become.  He’s so furious he’d rather die than live with the tension.
  • I would often hear people say, We need to get back to how they did it in the early church.  But reading the Bible, you learn that it’s not about trying to be something you’re not.   We open our eyes to the divine invitation right here, right now in this [world].
  • When people debate faith vs. science they’ve already missed the point.  Faith is about embracing truth wherever it’s found, and that of course includes science.

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

  • To make broad dismissals of the scriptures as having nothing to say to the modern world about what it means to be human is absurd and naïve.  These are radical, progressive, open, expansive, extraordinary stories… told from the perspective of actual people living in space and time.
  • The divine is always at work.

And, a few golden oldies:
“The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.”
― Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith

“Most of the Bible is a history told by people living in lands occupied by conquering superpowers. It is a book written from the underside of power. It’s an oppression narrative. The majority of the Bible was written by a minority people living under the rule and reign of massive, mighty empires, from the Egyptian Empire to the Babylonian Empire to the Persian Empire to the Assyrian Empire to the Roman Empire.
This can make the Bible a very difficult book to understand if you are reading it as a citizen of the the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. Without careful study and reflection, and humility, it may even be possible to miss central themes of the Scriptures.”
― Rob Bell, Jesus Wants to Save Christians

“Eternal life is less about a kind of time that starts when we die, and more about a quality and vitality of life now in connection to God.
Eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts now. It’s not about a life that begins at death; it’s about experiencing the kind of life now that can endure and survive even death.”
― Rob Bell, Love Wins


Critical Praise for “What Is The Bible”

“Rob Bell is at it again. Love him or loathe him, the theological provacateur says it’s time to rethink the Bible.”  — Relevant

“With pastoral prodding, Rob Bell helps us see that scripture is a masterpiece of penetrating subtleties crafted by ancient authors with a transformative vision for humanity. Bell reminds us that the Bible is neither simple nor mundane, but worthy of our full attention.” — Peter Enns, author of The Sin of Certainty

“To my ear, Rob Bell is a preacher, a poet, and a scholar, drawing from a wide range of disciplines without ever making me feel like I’m reading a textbook. The style and format are poetic, moving, and almost breezy at times.” — Robert

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

 

Dear God (The Good Wife) October 8, 2014

good wife logo

If you watch “The Good Wife” you already know why the show and cast have won so many awards. It’s just a very well written, very well acted show.
The most recent episode “Dear God” (air date 10/05/2014), is no exception. (If you’ve not seen it, you can watch it on CBS.com or stream it via Amazon.)

There were a number of great turns by lots of guest stars (Linda Lavin, Michael Cerveris, Richard Thomas, Robert Sean Leonard and Gloria Steinem), as well as the top notch performances by the regulars including the always interesting Alan Cumming.

In this episode, there was a lot about God, religion and Christianity.
Some scenes exposed a few of the fallacies of Christianity, and some showed the good.
Pretty balanced, all in all.
I quite enjoyed “secular” lawyers employing the bad, bad practice of proof-texting the Bible in exactly the same way many Christians do. You really can spend hours spouting opposing scripture quotes at each other trying to prove your point.
It’s odd how so many people use “Well, you can make the Bible say anything” when they disagree with you, never realizing they themselves are, in that moment, doing that very thing. It’s always “someone else” who’s using it wrongly.

One of the moments I enjoyed most this outing was between our Atheist lead, Alicia Florrick (Portrayed by the amazing Julianna Margulies), and her Christian daughter, Grace (Makenzie Vega).
When Alicia asks Grace if she really believes all the stuff in the Bible, Grace responds beautifully:

“I don’t know if it’s all historically accurate, but I think it can be true in another way.
You know, like poetry; it can still be true even if it’s not accurate.
Look, if I wanted you to remember that God created everything, I’d probably tell you a story about it happening in seven days.
But that doesn’t mean it actually happened in seven days.
It just means that I wanted you to remember that God created everything.”


An intelligent response by a person of faith.
You don’t frequently see that on prime-time television.

Knowing, of course, that the opening of Genesis is, in fact, a poem helps Grace’s point sink in.
I could be wrong, but I think there’s a pretty good chance that if you look in Grace Florrick’s library, you’ll find copies of “A New Kind of Christianity,” “The Orthodox Heretic,” and most likely, “Velvet Elvis.”

 

Persecuted? June 11, 2014

Great.
I just watched a trailer for a new film about “christians” being persecuted in America.
It’s imaginatively titled “Persecuted.”
As a person of faith in Jesus, I grow weary of this self-induced paranoia.

These extremist groups keep crying “Religious Freedom,” when that’s the last thing they want!
Most right-wing fundamentalist evangelicals have made it abundantly clear that they only want freedom for THEIR religious views.
They don’t want everyone to be saying Buddhist prayers in our schools.
They don’t want people swearing on the Quran in our courts.
They don’t want homage paid to Shiva during our sporting events.
They don’t even want to acknowledge the millions of Christians who disagree with them.
So let’s call their cry for religious freedom what it is:
Bullshit!
They’re not talking about freedom. They’re talking about privilege.
Privilege for a particular segment of a particular form of a particular religion.
What they actually want is a Dark Ages system of Church/State control and forced religious compliance.
They are as far from the heart of God as were the Pharisees.
There are Christians that suffer real persecution (including torture and death) for their faith, and these prophets-of-doom extremists are an insult to those truly suffering.

Michael Bussee puts things in perspective this way:

“I hear they won’t let Christians get married. And that gay bakers won’t make them cakes. And that they have special programs that can cure them of being Christians. And that there are lots of homeless Christian kids in America because their gay parents reject them when they come out as Christian…”

Movies like this cater to the lowest common denominators of elitism, religious superiority, quasi-faith and simple fear.
They are desperate calls to rally the troops of a dwindling and hopefully soon dead cultist belief system that’s scratching and clawing for it’s final breath.

persecutedThe makers of this celluloid dung should be ashamed of themselves for feeding these fires of self-importance, delusion, and devotion to a false and dangerous view of God. A view that is in direct contradiction to the teachings of Jesus.

Sadly, this ear-tickling movie will probably do well at the box office.  We can only hope and pray that more and more people of faith will speak out against this kind on nonsense, and toss it in the garbage along with the “Left Behind” movies and the propaganda of the Westboro Baptists.
– df



long_war

 

Heroes And Monsters. January 12, 2014

heroes and monsters
Heroes And Monsters
– Josh James Riebock

Yet another book recommended to me by my daughter-in-law.

This is a memoir like no memoir I’ve ever read.  It is, as the author states, “A true story… except for the parts that aren’t.”  That’s because like “Walter Mitty,”  “Ally McBeal,” and “The Life of PI” the author expresses many of  life’s realities through fanciful renderings.  The result is a sad, funny, tragic, triumphant journey of life in the real world.

The writing exposes how we all have the potential for both good and bad.  We are simultaneously “heroes and monsters, both arsonists and architects at the corner of the damned and the divine”.
It’s also about relationships: With God, with others, and with ourselves.
(Some of the material came at a very good time for what life is throwing at my wife and I right now.)

This book is published by a “Christian” publishing house, but expresses the author’s spiritual journey in a way that I find somewhat universal.  It’s a very engaging and encouraging read without being “heavy-handed.”
If you like memoirs, I think you’ll really, really enjoy “Heroes and Monsters.”  If you’ve not been into memoirs in the past, this one is a great piece with which to start.

Read more comments and reviews by clicking HERE.

“A beautiful book…Josh tells his life story with lively prose that explores the paradox of human splendor and wretchedness while dangling hints of redemption…For Josh, the road traveled with God is twisting, bumpy, potholed…and well worth the ride.”
–Drew Dyck

A Few Quotes:

– We hold each other. Sometimes, that’s all we can do.
– For a human, discovering that their perceived reality is inaccurate sends a tremor through their soul.
– A dream is a piano without keys. Fear calls everyone a friend. But dreamers, well, fear cozies up to them the most.
Buy the book. Click HERE.

– Yes, I knew that life could be cruel to people, but I never knew it could be this cruel to me.
– Flawed people I don’t mind; it’s the perfect ones who scare me.
– For the first time in my life, my dad isn’t a hero or a monster to me. Just a man trying to find his way.
Buy the book. Click HERE.

– A friend isn’t someone who lets us be ourselves. A friend is someone who will die to keep us from becoming anyone else.
– Here in eternity, death has been exposed as the greatest hoax in history.
– All good things must come to a beginning.
Buy the book.  Click HERE.



 

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Future September 19, 2013

funny thing
A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Future…

Twists and Turns and Lessons Learned
– Michael J. Fox


Here’s a short review for a small book.

This book makes an excellent gift for the graduate in your life.  Just be sure to get a copy for yourself, as well.  It’s sort of a mini-memoir, filled with fun stories, observations, and wisdom learned in the school of life.
As one who dropped out of school to pursue an acting career, Michael received most of his education through real-world experience.  In these pages, we get some unique lessons in Economics, Comparative Literature, Physics, Political Science, and Geography.

As I was reading, every line went through my head in Mr. Fox’s voice, with his impeccable comedic timing.  I laughed out loud… a lot.  The story of when he was working simultaneously on “Family Ties,” and the first “Back To The Future” movie was one of my favorites.  Of course, there is also discussion of his diagnosis of Parkinson Disease.
This isn’t just a fun book, it’s filled with genuine insights and principles that, I believe, can enhance your life.

A relatively quick read.  Totally entertaining and informative.
Check it out.  Click HERE.


Quotes:

“I might have skipped class, but I didn’t miss any lessons.”

“Don’t worry about him,” Nana would assure them. “Michael will do more in his life than you can ever imagine.”

“If you have one foot in yesterday and one foot in tomorrow, you’re pissing all over today.”

Buy The Book. Click HERE.

“Control is illusory. No matter what university you go to, no matter what degree you hold, if your goal is to become master of your own destiny, you have more to learn.”

“As for my own truncated secondary education, my head was in the clouds as my mom would say, or if you asked my father, up my ass.”

“The act of lifting up the camera and positioning it between me and the object of my interest separates me from the experience.”

“Live and to learn.”

 

Hellbound? May 24, 2013

[NOW AVAILABLE ON NETFLIX!]

If the only way to get rid of evil is to get rid of evil people, who among us would be left?
– Kevin Miller

hellbound

This is a very educational documentary.
The New York Times calls this film “substantive and even handed.”
Whether you believe in Universalism, Annihilationism, or Eternal Punishment,
your views will be represented here.
Whether you believe in Universalism, Annihilationism, or Eternal Punishment,
your views will be challenged here.
As Nicholas Ahern said, “Preterism. Atonement. Soteriology. Gehenna. Free will. It’s all here.”

The gamut of my emotions were brought to bear.
Sometimes I wanted to stand and scream “Yes! Hallelujah! Praise God!”
Sometimes I was almost moved to tears.
Sometimes I was just really, really pissed off and wanted to smack some of the people talking.
(OK. I probably wouldn’t really smack anyone, but I sure felt like it.)

A wide (and I mean very wide) variety of individuals, both famous and not, were interviewed. Some “regular” people, and some quite scholarly. The breadth of opinion and interpretation should help give us all pause in our statements and declarations of “fact”.

Most of the positions are well-argued (or well-presented), including those with which I disagree.  There are a couple of strong exceptions.
The friendly folks of WBC are so far off the map that I truly consider them mentally ill.
Also, famous atheist Robert McKee rambles on without making a lick of sense.  Here’s a man who doesn’t believe in God or hell, but is very angry with Christians who don’t believe in conscious eternal torment.  He calls them “wussys” who are trying to make God a nice guy.  Mind you, he doesn’t believe in God, but he believes that if you DO believe in God, you must believe in an angry, mean-spirited god.  He doesn’t come off sounding like a “true” atheist, but as a spoiled little boy trying make his daddy angry.

We get to clearly see the hate and the love of various theologies, and the definite impact those beliefs have on those who hold them, as well as the impact that our beliefs have on the rest of the world.
No matter what your eschatology, or lack thereof, I highly recommend this movie.

To Purchase: Click HERE.


To Purchase: Click HERE.
Does hell exist? If so, who ends up there, and why? Featuring an eclectic group of authors, theologians, pastors, social commentators and musicians, HELLBOUND? is a provocative, feature-length documentary that looks at why we are so bound to the idea of hell and how our beliefs about hell affect the world we are creating today.

Cast: Mark Driscoll, Jonathan Phelps & Margie Phelps, William Paul Young, Brian McLaren, Hank Hanegraaff, Justin Taylor, Franky Schaeffer, Gregory Boyd, Mike Bickle, Oderus Urungus, Necrobutcher, Glen Benton, David Vincent, Ole Luger La’Fay Walsh, Ray Comfort, Kevin DeYoung, Brad Jersak, Robin Parry, Kevin Miller, Jamie Clark-Soles, Sharon Baker, Michael Hardin, David Bruce, Chad Holtz, Bob Larson, Robert McKee, Lazar Puhalo, Peter Kreeft, Jerry Walls, Ron Dart
————————-

By narrowing its range of voices to Christian leaders, thinkers and writers, Kevin Miller’s sober, stimulating documentary on the hot topic of eternal damnation necessarily limits its audience, but achieves a level of rhetorical eloquence that would theoretically appeal to open-minded viewers of any religious stripe.
– Justin Chang
Gave each view a fair hearing (including views I strongly disagree with!) Like the first time I watched “An Inconvenient Truth”, it’s left me really wishing everyone around me, both religious & non-religious, could watch it & share the experience.
– Alex
A rich, thoughtful conversation-starter about changing notions of religious damnation, Hellbound? invades notoriously touchy territory with an open mind, steady focus and civil disposition.
– Brent Simon
An engaging, accessible documentary that explores the (truly) eternal questions, “Does hell exist? If so, who ends up there, and why?”
– Kerry Lengel
[It gives] the little-served Christian market a thought-provoking alternative to smarmy features like “Fireproof.”
– Neil Genzlinger
Any admirer of good talk will be impressed by the scholasticism and pulpit-trained oratory here, as well as some choice fighting words: “Evangelicism in America is what the pharisees were to ancient Egypt.”
– Nick Pinkerton
Warning: side effects may include critical thinking and paradigm shifting.
– Paul Pinos

To Purchase: Click HERE.

From the documentary, here’s a chart with a list of Scripture references which, at face value, seem to support each of those positions.

Eschatology Chart

To Purchase: Click HERE.

Some quotes:

– By eliminating hell, these people are sucking the meaning out of life. The notion that there really is no hell is simply a wussy effort to make God a nice guy.
Robert McKee (an Atheist!)
– Without hell, there’s no need for salvation.
Hank Hanegraaff
– Belief in hell is a primary factor for being a Christian. God, right now, personally, objectively hates some of you.
Mark Driscoll

To Purchase: Click HERE.

– Nowhere in scripture is belief in hell primary to salvation.
Chad Holtz
– The irony is that you have a teacher that you follow called “Jesus,” and then essentially side with his enemies in behavior. The Pharisees and the rule-keepers and the theologically correct people were the people he battled all his life, and they wound up killing him.
Frank Schaeffer
– Our whole theological system has been boiled down to “hell avoidance.” We see that Jesus is not teaching “hell,” but un-teaching hell.
Brian McLaren

To Purchase: Click HERE.

– You never get away from the subjective element, so why not just be honest about it? The irony is that you have a teacher that you follow called “Jesus,” and then essentially side with his enemies in behavior. The Pharisees and the rule-keepers and the theologically correct people were the people he battled all his life, and they wound up killing him.`
Frank Schaeffer
– Every doctrine of hell presuposes a view about God.
Robin Parry
– By the time [in history] that we get to Jesus, Jesus essentially is seeking to remove the notion of retribution from the concept of divinity.
Michael Hardin
– Were halfway to heaven when we rise to someone else’s suffering. When we inflict suffering on other people in the name of morality, we’re three-quarters of the way to hell.
Archbishop Lazar Puhalo

To Purchase: Click HERE.

 

Star Trek Into Darkness May 20, 2013

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With this new set of films, Abrams has really made
Star Trek part of the next – Next Generation.
Action.
Adventure.
Humor.
Snappy dialog delivered by a pitch-perfect cast.
Cumberbatch is a nice addition. Still, IF there is a show-stealer, it’s Zachary Quinto.

This film will certainly stand alone, but I’m glad I heeded the advise of one reviewer to dig out the 1982 “The Wrath of Khan,” and watch it prior to seeing “Into Darkness.” It did enhance the experience.

Of course, as with the series, there’s socio-political commentary. Here we deal with the myth of redemptive violence. As those who have tried to tell us again and again (MLK, Ghandi, Jesus) “An eye for an eye” only escalates the violence. (Who the “terrorists” are can very often depend on your perspective. Some would say this applies to our leaders response to 9-11.)

Lastly, you really should see this in IMAX 3D. It’s a great movie, so you may as well enjoy it at full warp speed.
spock&kirk






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