A Book about a God who looks like Jesus



When I got to review André Rabe’s fantastic book Desire Found Me, it gave me new respect for the Bible. I saw scripture with new eyes.

A More Christlike God, by Brad Jersak, is doing something different.

I’m coming up against a hard deadline here so I reluctantly admit that I won’t have time to read the whole book before I write this review, but I already know what I want to say:


Even though I can’t claim to know exactly what that looks like, Brad Jersak has the heart of a pastor. If André Rabe was all about re-lighting the atonement and the Bible and saving my mind, Brad Jersak is after my heart. (Fear not, André; my heart cannot be saved without my mind).

While André blew my mind without bothering to bring up specific challenges, Brad has gone all-out with specific challenges. And when I say challenges, I really do mean challenges. I’ve found the wall I built up to keep out the monster-God under serious threat. And that’s a really good thing.

On page 16, Brad describes a talk he gave at a Christian high school where a genuine doubter and skeptic, a girl he calls “Jess,” told him she wanted to believe but she had a lot of questions. He told her to ask away.

And she went straight for the jugular. She challenged him with questions I’ve been wrestling with for a really long time.

Among others.

And Brad Jersak did something I’ve never seen any Christian leader do in that small space of time:

He said “no.” To all of it. Continue reading “A Book about a God who looks like Jesus”

The Bible Tells Me So: A Book Review

I can’t really pinpoint the first time I heard of Peter Enns.

It might’ve been when I saw his book The Evolution of Adam in my Old Testament professor’s office and thought it looked like the coolest book ever. I still haven’t managed to get hold of a copy, but I will. Oh, I will.

Or maybe it was when I watched his Azusa Pacific lecture “The Benefit of Doubt: Coming to Terms with Faith in a Postmodern Era.” It was incredible. It let me believe I could believe in God.

Maybe it was his blog. It sure wasn’t the time he accepted my friend request about ten seconds before Facebook converted his personal page into an author page because he had too many friends. (Dammit!)

When I found out our local library had a copy of his latest book (which I was so psyched about) I borrowed a copy. It was so exciting. I read it on our kindle, which allowed me to highlight things I found fascinating. And there were many things I found fascinating. I probably have about fifty highlights, and that’s only because I limited myself to things I thought were really inspiring. Like this:

Taking the Bible seriously enough to read it carefully, as many Christians can testify to, can generate more than it’s share of uh-oh moments. The Bible can become a challenge to one’s faith in God rather than the source of faith, a problem to be overcome, rather than the answer to our problems.

One thing you notice almost immediately is that Peter Enns doesn’t write like an academic. He has the knowledge of an academic, but he writes plainspeak, which is probably why Answers in Genesis absolutely hates him. He’s tagged in no less than ten articles written by Ken Ham himself – as big a threat as Bill Nye (bigger in my estimation), and mentioned in no less than 177 articles.

Bill Nye’s “Science” is no problem for the faithful, but without the theology Enns is challenging, nobody needs creationism anymore. That’s my story, anyway. Bill Nye is chopping off heads on the creationist hydra, but but Peter Enns is going straight for the heart.

But I digress.

Peter Enns goes for the jugular. He doesn’t mince words. He launches devastating attacks – not on the Bible, but on the way modern “conservative” evangelicals believe they read it – literally. He says things like this:

It’s hard to appeal to the God of the Bible to condemn genocide today when the God of the Bible commanded genocide yesterday. This is what we call a theological problem.

He starts off with violence because scriptural violence is one place where it’s easy to drive the point home. And he does. He locks all the doors Christians have often used to justify God’s meanness as recorded in the Bible. I find this line particularly spectacular:

God killing people, both Israelites and others, isn’t a last-ditch measure of an otherwise patient deity. It’s the go-to punishment for disobedience. To put a fine point on it, this God is flat-out terrifying: he comes across as a perennially hacked-off warrior-god, more Megatron than heavenly Father.

He responds to the oft-repeated justification for genocide, “God’s going to send people to hell anyway” by spending approximately two pages demolishing the modern idea of hell. And you thought Rob Bell was concise.

He responds to the moral corruption charge by pointing out that other groups were as bad as the Caananites. Eventually he tells us what he thinks: It’s propaganda. “My God is bigger than your god.” Which pretty much makes sense.

In Chapter Four, The Bible Tells Me So pushes back against the notion of “scriptural” child-rearing, the Bible as an owner’s manual for life, or even the Bible as a tool you can use to make God do what you want.

Job’s friends. They were fine people, I’m sure, and they were technically right if you’re going by the book. But God says they are wrong.

So it seems like God isn’t operating by the book. The book doesn’t limit God. There is more to God than what the book says. God is bigger than the Bible.

Peter Enns does what few Christian writers – and almost no evangelical writers – are comfortable doing: he points out contradictions in the Bible, and doens’t “fix” them. He also points out Jesus doing all sorts of fascinating gymnastics with the Bible, the likes of which I’ve only ever seen before from fundamentalists, who don’t use his hermeneutic.

I really like The Bible Tells Me So. I think it’s a fantastic book. The only problem I have with it is that I don’t think it will convince inerrantists. It might help people in the transition between inerrancy and a more robust view of scripture, but Peter Enns is more confident and slightly more dogmatic than, for example, Scot McKnight in The Blue Parakeet. Sometimes Enns rubs the Bible’s lack of inerrancy in our faces a little, which is likely to offend those who very strongly disagree.

I enjoyed it a lot, though. It’s kind of like when you read a great partisan zinger but the folks on the other side of the aisle don’t find it compelling or funny.

It’s a great book that’s well-reasoned and well-written, but it’s so readable it’s bound to make a lot of people angry.

Book Review: Cosmos Reborn, by John Crowder

I’m pretty sure that if I died and came back as somebody else, I would come back as John Crowder.

The fine folks at The Speakeasy sent me another book to review, which is fabulous, because I love books. I hope they’ll forgive me for the lateness of this post because the book took a while to read, and I kept putting it off.

When I saw this book available, I was so psyched. I can’t even tell you how excited I was about this book. I watched the trailer, I was even more excited. (Here’s the trailer.)

I got this at the same time as Living the Questions. I read LtQ first. Then I cracked Cosmos Reborn. I read the introduction. I liked John Crowder. I read the introduction, called “I am and am not a universalist.” He borrowed the quote from Robert Farrar Capon, whose work I absolutely love, and whom he quotes repeatedly throughout the book.

By page 33, John Crowder has said, “Scandal number one: The Bible is not the word of God. Yes, the Bible is fully inspired and it’s the means by which we see Jesus. But Jesus Christ – not the Bible – is the Word.” I’ve said that elsewhere myself.

To be completely honest, I spent my time in this book with about three different attitudes:

1. This book is really boring.
2. That is so wrong. I can’t believe he just said that.
3. OMYGOSH THAT’S THE MOST AMAZING THING I’VE EVER READ IN MY LIFE!!! Continue reading “Book Review: Cosmos Reborn, by John Crowder”