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The Sacredness Of Questioning Everything May 30, 2013

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The Sacredness of Questioning Everything
– David Dark


         “This book is for everyone who quietly suspects that God is
         a whole lot bigger than the church would have us believe.”
         – Jana Riess


This is a powerful read.  Just powerful.
I’m often challenged.  I’m often stretched.  This book did both, but it did something else as well.  It “convicted” me.  I don’t much care for that word in the religious sense, but I can’t think of a better way to put it.  It made me more deeply consider the ramifications of some of my actions and attitudes.  That’s pretty much always a good thing.

So, yes, this is a book about questions.  It’s a book of questions.  Mostly, it’s a book about the very act of questioning.  We know that, according to the New Testament Gospels, Jesus very frequently answered a question with a question.  He could have always given simple, straight-forward answers, but he knew that “words in tablets of stone” (the preferred method of Pharisees) was not the way to go.  He knew the question itself, was sacred.

David Dark takes us on a wonderful journey as we sacredly question things that many would consider unquestionable.

In chapter one, we dive right into the thick of it with “Questioning God.”
We start with a fictional story of “a tiny town with a tight-knit community,” as we’re introduced to a patriarch, of sorts, named “Uncle Ben.”  Everyone talks about how wonderful Uncle Ben is, but beyond their words, something is definitely off-kilter.
Of course, what we’re really questioning in this chapter is our perception of God, and how that affects everything in our lives.  We see that “any God who is nervous, defensive, or angry in the face of questions is a false god.”  “We mus resist, in word and deed, this God (Nobodaddy) who is no God at all.”

From questioning God, we move to questioning religion.  We gain information from a variety of sources, including REM, C.S. Lewis, Michael Scott, and the children of South Park.  Chapter two helps us understand that “when religion won’t tolerate questions, objections, or differences of opinion and all it can do is threaten excommunication, violence, and hellfire, it has an unfortunate habit of producing some of the most hateful people to ever walk the earth.”

Chapter three questions our offendedness.
Thomas Aquinas, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Stephen Colbert are some of the voices adding to this section.
I remember “back in the day” as they say, how we would frequently use verses from I Corinthians 8, and Romans 14 “against” each other. “You shouldn’t do that, because that offends me!”  Talk about a misuse of scripture.  Of course, we’d give a passing glance to the passages telling us NOT to be easily offended.  But the focus was on controlling the behavior of others.  “If you’re more opposed, for instance, to what we take to be ‘bad language’ and nude scenes and films about gay people than we are to people being blown up, starved to death, deprived of life-saving medicine, or tortured, our offendedness is out of whack.  We have yet to understand the nature of real perversion.”

Questioning our passions in chapter 4, there’s talk of wasting our emotions, and how our affections can become “merely theoretical.”  We look at what real perversion is, and how most of us engage in it.  There’s a nice section on “Antichrist Television Blues,” that tackles “Christian” TV, and “the bad news that sells itself as the good news of escaping the weakness of the failure of your fellow humans by believing the right things and grabbing your copy of hell insurance.”  And we get some advise on how to “discern the difference between the voice in my head and the voice of God.”

Chico Marx helps kick off “Questioning Media” in chapter 5.  The author speaks of “manufactured realities,” and how, “fundamentally, you control the media.”  Very interesting.

The sixth chapter has up questioning language.  “Words fail to do justice to the irreducible complexity of whatever it is we think we’re talking about.”  “There’s nothing that you can say that will mean the same thing once it’s repeated.”

Close on the heals of Questioning Language, is Questioning Interpretations.  “I want to break through the mind-forged manacles that render us incapable of seeing truthfully for fear we might let in the wrong information.”  If someone can’t admit that everything(?) they see, read, hear, etc. is automatically interpreted by them, there’s not much chance of having a real, fruitful conversation.  “Jesus often refused what was in his time the reigning interpretation of scripture.”

Chapter 8: Questioning History.  I’m amazed at how much our history was “sanitized” and “Americanized” when I went to school.  I’ve heard it said that history is written by the winners.  That, itself, helps explain much of the perspective in the Old Testament.  In this chapter we read about, among other things, “Crimes against humanity undertaken in the name of Christ and Manifest Destiny.”  It truly is overwhelming “to try to want to know what I don’t want to know,” rather than being “blissfully ignorant.”  This, of course, isn’t just true of Christians.  It’s true of the “Islamic, Buddhist, Native American, African or Confucian.”

As we, in chapter 9, question governments we discuss faith, violence, civil disobedience, infinite justice, self-justification, war, bloodshed, illegals, enemy combatants, and power structures.  Jesus, Leonard Cohen, Ziggy Marley, Ghandhi, Tolstoy, MLK, and U2 help us open our eyes to the realities of our “allegiance.”  I really like the quote, “Iraqi Christians… publicly pray that American Christians might consider more deeply their understanding of the body of Christ.”

Finally, we question the future.  We look at patriotism, Shakespeare, “No Country for Old Men,” Bono, and (obligatorily) the Biblical book of Revelation.
We come full-circle and again consider the one referred to early in the book as “Nobodaddy.”  “The false god who authorized and underwrites environmental devastation, antipersonnel weapons, and cutthroat economies.

“The Sacredness of Questioning Everything” is packed solid, cover to cover, with valid and, dare I say, vital information.  There’s a lot to think about here.  Not in a scratch-your-head, stare-into-space, let me figure this out kind of way that a book by, oh… say Peter Rollins has.  (A comparison like that is really an “apples to oranges” kind of thing anyway.)  David Dark’s work here is more of a “stare-into-your-own-heart” thing.  This book will help put you on a track deep into your own soul.
All aboard!

– df

Buy The Book. Click HERE.

Quotes:

– People sometimes try to make the Bible seem like a book full of easy answers, but it isn’t.  It’s a bunch of voices from the past that ask us a lot of questions.

– What the pundits call wishy-washiness, the Bible calls repentance.

– We’re mad to think we’ve got hold of truth like nobody else or that we want it more or that our relationship to the Almighty trumps everyone else’s.

– Proclaiming the kingdom of God does not include shouting down anyone who finds your proclamation unconvincing.

Buy The Book. Click HERE.

– When we think of a person primarily as a problem… we’re reducing them to the tiny sphere of our stunted attention span.  There’s always more to a person than we know.”

– Of absolute truth, none of us are knowers.  And we often aren’t especially good with the truth we do know.

– God is not made angry and insecure by an archaeological dig, a scientific discovery, an ancient manuscript, or a good film about homosexual cowboys.

– To label entire populations — or even sections of the globe — as “enemy” is bad theology, and no government that does so can claim to be operating in any mindful way “under” God.

– Your eschatology is what you’re waiting for and where you’re headed or think you’re headed. It cuts to the heart of politics, your religion, your sense of what matters.

– The word of the living God is never less than an ethical summons, a call to take care, to gather up and strengthen the life that remains, to reorder, redeem and remember.

Buy The Book. Click HERE.



 

Love Wins March 31, 2011

Love Wins
A Book About Heaven, Hell, and
the Fate of Every Person Who ever Lived
— Rob Bell

NOW IN PAPERBACK!

Love Wins

The first thing that really needs to be pointed out:
Despite all the focus on the “hell” issue, this book, as it declares of itself, explores “a fairly vast expanse of topics.” Everything from “heaven and hell to God, Jesus, joy, violence,and the good news.”  Even the “age of accountability” is discussed.  It’s one of those issues where there are a lot of differing views. People like to agree that there is one, but no one knows what it is.  Mostly because it’s not in the Bible. We’ve created it so God has a good “out.” Now He doesn’t have to send babies to hell.

As with Bell’s previous books, there is plenty of historical and cultural context of the biblical narrative. I love that kind of material. It adds so much to proper understanding. It also tears down a lot of false beliefs.

We look at, not only the original language and meaning of words, but just as importantly, how the letters and stories of scripture were received and understood by the original audience. There is, to me, simply no true understanding of scripture without getting out of (as much as possible) the American Western mind-set.

I’ve said before that with over forty-thousand “Christian” denominations(1), most of whom disagree with each other, and still claiming to “just believe the Bible,” it should be obvious we’ve missed something major in our understanding and approach to our faith.

In “Love Wins” Rob asks which “God,” which “Jesus” we believe in. Some believe in a god who has them fly planes into towers. Some believe in a god who stands behind government sanctioned torture, if that’s what it takes to ensure our “freedom.”  Some believe in a Jesus that says, “Love your enemies.”  Some believe in a Jesus that says, “Blow them away in the Name of the Lord.”
I hear lots of Christians spouting things of which the God I know would NEVER be a part.

There’s much discussion of our responsibility to each other and to the Earth we were given to care for.  We see how much of the view “end-times” theology leads to disrespect and ill-will for others and our planet.

Then there’s this:  If I’m sent to “preach the gospel.”  What happens if I have a flat tire?  Will you go to hell because I didn’t get to you in time?
Is your salvation my responsibility?  If I’m to blame, how can you be held accountable.
(Reminder:  This is a book review.  Please do not send me responses to these questions without reading the book.  Thank you.)

Much of the religious furor and un-godly hatred toward Mr. Bell revolves around his writings about hell.
His discussion and views of heaven and hell are not new to me, so this book didn’t seem at all controversial. It probably would have at one time.
Early in this part of my journey, I felt disgust for ever being a person who could have believed many of the “monster-God” things I used to believe. This book addresses that, and helps us know that all of our journey is to be seen as necessary. It’s all a part of where we are now.
I’m not Samantha or Jeannie. I can’t instantly get to Indy from Fort Wayne. The only way to make that trip is to travel the space and time between here and there. Rob helps us see that all of that journey is sacred.

One of the things “Love Wins” does is help us examine the revelation of God in Christ in comparison to our various understandings of God. Will we believe “our version” of the divine story, or that of the Father?
In this context, we take a fresh look at the biblical story of the father and his two sons (often misleadingly called the story of the prodigal son). There are some truly great insights here.

This book is written in Rob’s usual style. Some have found fault with the very way he writes. I find it one of the things I greatly enjoy. His humor is also still intact.

Since so much has already been written about “Love Wins,” I’ve tried to keep this short; at least compared with my various “chapter by chapter” reviews.
This book is about so many things. But they all boil down to what kind of God we believe in. And, as Rob points out, whatever God we believe in, that’s the God we WILL be conformed to. That can be wonderful. That can be horrific.

PLEASE, don’t miss out on this book because of all the naysayers. I hope you NEVER avoid reading something because someone “warns” you about it. That may be one of the best indications you need to read it. Even if you don’t agree with it. Maybe, “especially” if you don’t agree with it.

Bottom line. I loved this book.
And I thank God that love wins.

-df

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

——————-

What Others Say:

Millions of Christians have struggled with how to reconcile God’s love and God’s judgment: Has God created billions of people over thousands of years only to select a few to go to heaven and everyone else to suffer forever in hell? Is this acceptable to God? How is this “good news”?

Troubling questions—so troubling that many have lost their faith because of them. Others only whisper the questions to themselves, fearing or being taught that they might lose their faith and their church if they ask them out loud.

But what if these questions trouble us for good reason? What if the story of heaven and hell we have been taught is not, in fact, what the Bible teaches? What if what Jesus meant by heaven, hell, and salvation are very different from how we have come to understand them?

What if it is God who wants us to face these questions?

Author, pastor, and innovative teacher Rob Bell presents a deeply biblical vision for rediscovering a richer, grander, truer, and more spiritually satisfying way of understanding heaven, hell, God, Jesus, salvation, and repentance. The result is the discovery that the “good news” is much, much better than we ever imagined.  (Amazon Product Description)
—————–

“One of the nation’s rock-star-popular young pastors, Rob Bell, has stuck a pitchfork in how Christians talk about damnation.” (USA Today )

Buy the book. Click HERE.

—————–

Some Quotes:

There is no question that Jesus cannot handle, no discussion too volatile, no issue too dangerous.

The discussion itself is divine.  Jesus responds to almost every question he’s asked with…
a question.

When we hear that a certain person has “rejected Christ,” we should first ask, “Which Christ?”
Some Jesuses should be rejected.

Honest business, redemptive art, honorable law, sustainable living, medicine, education, making a home, tending a garden – they’re all sacred tasks to be done in partnership with God now, because they will all go on in the age to come. In heaven, on earth. A proper view of heaven leads not to escape from the world, but to full engagement with it.

The big words, the important words — “eternal life,” “treasure,” “heaven” — were all there in the conversation, but they weren’t used in the ways that many Christians use them.

“Here it is, a big beautiful fascinating world,” God says, “Do something with it!”

Jesus doesn’t tell people how to “go to heaven.”  It wasn’t what Jesus came to do.

In Jesus’s first-century Jewish world, they did not talk about a future life somewhere else.

Jesus makes no promise that in the blink of an eye we will suddenly become totally different people who have vastly different tastes, attitudes, and perspectives.

There’s a point to what the prophet interprets and understands to be God’s anger and wrath.”  It’s to teach the people, to correct them, to produce something new in them.

The God that Jesus teaches us about doesn’t give up until everything that was lost is found.

We aren’t fixed, static beings — we change and morph as life unfolds.

A discussion about how to “just get into heaven” has no place in the life of a disciple of Jesus, because it’s missing the point of it all. It’s a cheap view of the world, because it’s a cheap view of God. It’s the gospel of goats, and it is lethal.

People choose to live in their own hells all the time.

Death, then resurrection.  This is true for ecosystems, food chains, the seasons — it’s true all across the environment.  Death gives way to life.

There is exclusivity [you’re in or you’re out].  There is inclusivity [Jesus doesn’t matter anymore].
Then there is an exclusivity on the other side of inclusivity.  This kind insists that Jesus is the way, [but that not all] those coming to the Father through him will even know that they are coming exclusively through him.

We believe all sorts of things about ourselves.  What the gospel does is confront our version of our story with God’s version of our story.

Many have heard the gospel framed in terms of rescue…that Jesus rescues us from God.  We do not need to be rescued from God.  God is the rescuer.

We shape our God, and then our God shapes us.

Our beliefs matter.

Buy the book. Click HERE.

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(1) According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, there are approximately 41,000 Christian denominations and organizations in the world. This statistic takes into consideration cultural distinctions of denominations in different countries, so there is overlapping of many denominations.
Center for the Study of Global Christianity (2011)

 

 
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