Book Review – Jesus Untangled by Keith Giles

Jesus Untangled Review

In these days of political mayhem, it seems most Christians take one of two routes: check in and report for duty as a good Christian conservative or liberal or check out and watch cat videos instead of the news. Well Keith Giles shows us a better way.
A way that involves untangling Jesus from the madness that constrains Him…and us.
A way that recenters us on the Kingdom of God.
A way that encourages us to live for what really matters.
How in the world the church got wrapped up into politics is beyond the scope of Keith’s book. But I found a couple topics he addressed to be absolutely crucial to getting untangled.
The Flat approach to the Bible – Over and over again in Christian circles I am seeing a recurring theme of challenging the way we look at the bible. Keith’s take on a flat reading/approach was central to the theme of his book as it gives pause to pop interpretations that are in vogue today. The bible (I know it is typically capitalized) is far more dynamic than we will ever be able to discover. So, a simple “this means that” view does more harm to one’s faith than good…especially in relation to entangling faith with politics. Further, as Keith observes, a flat approach sees all of the scriptures as on par with one another…equally valid and in need to adherence. This goes a long way to putting empire back into the faith. The flat approach allows us to easily adopt a nationalistic view of our faith because that’s how it looks in the old testament. Yet, the scriptures of the new testament incredibly and increasingly challenge empire and warn against it. Keith does an excellent job of sifting through this and helping the reader see the nuanced differences in the ways we approach the bible.
The Sacral Society – Here Keith follows up what he started with the approach to reading the bible. The issue of a sacral society is more often than not assumed than it is challenged. Case in point, I grew up in a church that had both an American flag and a Christian flag to the left and right of the altar. I never questioned or challenged that until at least 30 years into my faith. Keith tackles this head on in chapter eleven and handles it quite well. The whole argument of legislating morality vs. the power of the gospel is laid out quite well by Keith and it becomes clear to the reader that one must at least question the association of the two. At best, we come to realize that the way of Jesus was never meant to be the way of empire.
So, I highly recommend this book. It was incredibly insightful and would be helpful to anyone enmeshed in both faith and politics. We can only serve one master…choose carefully, and with eyes wide open.

Check out the FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/JesusUntangled/

Book Review: Patmos

book-coverPatmos walks the thin line of narrative and theological contemplation quite well.

“With storytelling reminiscent of The Shack in its bewilderment, urgency, and epiphany, legendary independent theologian (and fishing lure designer) C. Baxter Kruger weaves a contemporary parable of truth and lies, revelation and deception, sorrow and joy.”

As the story unfolds, compelling theological insight is introduced in quite persuasive ways. For instance, it is one thing to look at theological issues from a purely academic view. The brilliance of this book is that it not only breaks these issues down to a more palatable size, but it also engages the characters in such a way that the issue becomes more real and relational. In short, the manner in which the topics are brought up allows for a more objective observation of them, which in turn results in a more compelling presentation of the point of view is being suggested.

The main idea of “union with or separation from God” is revealed throughout the book along with several other themes that, in the end, create quite a fresh way to look at and read the Gospel of John. One can’t help but want to dive back into John’s writings after reading Patmos because it seems as if you know him now as a brother…and that is the genius of the book!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story! It was one of those books you don’t want to end, and then you realize that it doesn’t end, really, it can continue on in each one of us!

Highly recommended!

Links:
Book site: Patmos
Patmos at Perichoresis
C. Baxter Kruger on Facebook
C. Baxter Kruger on Twitter

#SpeakeasyPatmos

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

Book Review: Rewilding The Way by Todd Wynward

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I knew I had to read this book when it got rave reviews from three of my virtual mentors: Ched Myers, Richard Rohr, and Brian McLaren. It did not disappoint.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. So much so, that I read it twice before reviewing it!

Christianity in America is changing, and for the better. For this reason, we need a guide. This book is such a guide that can show us how to live out our faith in a more complete and active manner, not simply focusing on things such as dogmatic theology or worship, but getting us out into our community and world to seek, refocus, and wrestle with how to live our faith daily.

Written in three parts, Wynward describes our situation, gives practical examples of how to change, then outlines what to do next. Both highly practical and accessible to a general audience, the book would be great for the classroom or in a small group study.

I have to admit, chapter 4 was my favorite! The author’s take on “rewilding” The Lord’s Prayer is worth the price of the book alone. Indeed, it has become too familiar to us and has lost its edge. This rewilding of the prayer makes it truly revolutionary…it encourages us to meditate on the change Jesus sought and cuts to the heart.

The book is, in fact, all about “rewilding.” Taking a comfortable narrative and throwing it back out in a manner that challenges our relaxed perspective and causing us once again the reconsider the truth of the message.

It became quite exciting every time Wynward “rewilded” something, including The Pentateuch, or at least the naming of the first five books of the Bible. But the coup de grace was seeing The Beatitudes in a completely new light. We have to ask, just what was the point of the Beatitudes. According to the author, it was Jesus’ way of giving out a job description for those who would majorly disrupt the “business as usual” mentality. This take was both thoroughly mind blowing and encouraging at the same time!

Indeed, Todd Wynward has written a gem of a book that so many today need to read to enliven their faith to a literal world’s worth of work to attend to.

Buy this book…it will revitalize and deepen your journey.

Link-Love for Rewilding The Way: 
Todd Wynward’s website
Rewilding the Way website
Rewilding the Way on Amazon
Rewilding the Way on Goodreads
Todd on Facebook

#SpeakeasyRewildingtheWay

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

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Book Review: “The Homebrewed Christianity Guide to Jesus” by Tripp Fuller

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I was so excited to hear about Tripp Fuller’s new book! The topic of Christology has shifted from the halls of academia to individuals and small groups and as such, needs to be accessible to a wider audience.

I had hoped that this book would do so, since so much of the content on The Homebrewed Christianity web site and podcast is so helpful. Yet, for some reason, I found the book more confusing than clear, and I am guessing it had more to do with editors than Tripp’s content, because he is typically such a vibrant speaker. For Pete’s sake, the guy has been a Youth Pastor for years, so I know he can break down the incredibly profound to its essence and make it understandable.

Unfortunately, that isn’t what happened in this book. I hope the rest of the HBC series fares better!

Though, I super-highly recommend the HBC Podcast on iTunes!

Nonetheless, here is my full review on Amazon.

And more links:

Homebrewed Christianity Guide to Jesuson Amazon | B&N | BAM | IndieBound |Powells | CBD
Homebrewed Chrisitanity – the website, the family of podcasts, the phenomenon.

 

 

Book Review: “Pray Like a Gourmet” by David Brazzeal

2015-08-02 12.08.55I loved this book!

So practical, so inventive, so real.

I have never been one to follow a liturgy or method of prayer. If it is a conversation and a relationship, it should be real. Yet, so many Christians either fall back on rote prayers or ask, “How do I pray…How do you pray?”

Get them this book…seriously! Very readable and entirely ready to put into practice. I was even bummed when I finished the book…it grew on me and I loved it!

Check out my full Amazon review here!

And check out more about the author here:

David’s blog: http://davidbrazzeal.com/
David’s book site: http://praylikeagourmet.com/
Pray Like a Gourmet on Amazon
Pray Like a Gourmet on Goodreads
Pray Like a Gourmet on Facebook

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JesusThon…yeah…I’m on at 11 AM PST!!!

I’m talking Jesus, Christology, & heresy with Tripp Fuller, Mike Morrell and Speakeasy [tags optional] as we raise our glass to ‘The Homebrewed Christianity Guide to Jesus.’ This is a FIVE-HOUR #JesusThon Tuesday and yours truly will be in the mix for a quarter-hour. Tune in & subscribe to watch LIVE: http://bit.ly/1jK93Up

Book Review: “A More Christlike God” by Bradley Jersak

What is God like? A punishing judge? A doting grandfather? A deadbeat dad? A vengeful warrior?

Jersak

Jersak contends, if Christ is “the image of the invisible God, the radiance of God’s glory and exact representation of God’s likeness,” what if we conceived of God as completely Christlike—the perfect Incarnation of self-giving, radically forgiving, co-suffering love? A More Christlike God suggests that such a God would be very good news indeed—a God who Jesus “unwrathed” from dead religion, a Love that is always toward us, and a Grace that pours into this suffering world through willing, human partners.

A friend of mine and Theo–Mentor Tripp Fuller often says,

“God must be at least as nice as Jesus.”

I really think that this “Tripps” people up a lot (pun intended) because they don’t really understand how angry or mean their God is. And if they do make the connection, they are soon to be in a deep struggle with the concept on a daily basis as it relates to their everyday life and experiences. This book directly confronts some of the most pertinent and engaging questions Christians are asking today of some very established and long held theological beliefs. Those brave enough to take this journey will gain much needed insight and options necessary to continue the journey forward.

The format of the book is very user friendly. Terms are well defined throughout, and the style is fluid and conversational with questions and a prayer finishing out each chapter making this a great resource for a small group study. In fact, this would be a perfect resource for a youth or college group.

Some of the most compelling concepts Jersak brings up center around alternative ways of looking at scripture and how God is perceived by both the writers of scripture and Christians throughout the ages. Anyone asking the hard questions like, “How can a loving God allow evil to happen” seriously and without haste need to read this book. And don’t expect the same fare served up in Evangelical camps. Expect a whole new vision and a God more loving and present than ever before.

This book is beyond a welcome addition to my library and I will highly recommend it to anyone beginning to think outside the traditional theological box.

Oh, and did I mention what Richard Rohr had to say about it???

“This excellent and much-needed book confronts with both open heart and very good mind the major obstacles that we have created for people in their journey toward God! “Why didn’t people teach us this many years ago?” so many of us are saying. I am so very grateful that Brad Jersak is re-opening the door that Jesus had already opened 2000 years ago. It is so terribly sad that it was ever closed.”
– Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M. Center for Action and Contemplation

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

#SpeakeasyAMoreChristlikeGod

Links: 
Brad Jersak’s website
A More Christlike God website
A More Christlike God on Amazon
Review on The Imperfect Pastor
Review on Faith Meets World
Review on Redeeming God
Interview of Jersak by Peter Enns
Foreword by Brian Zahnd

 

 

My Response to Kevin DeYoung’s 40 Questions For Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags

On July 1st, Kevin DeYoung posted 40 Questions For Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags.

I noticed a few bloggers responding, and thought I would do the same.

These are my own answers, off the cuff, so to speak, so my answers won’t be as academic as usual. Nonetheless, they are the product of my studies and ministry over the last several years.

Here we go!OrdinanceAgainstRainbowFlagDraftedinLouisianna070713-300x198

1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated?

The last several years or so. Andrew Marin’s “Love Is An Orientation” was pivotal for me.

2. What Bible verses led you to change your mind?

No one verse did it for me. I think the burden of proof for me is that if I truly believe God loves the world and wants to see it reconciled, then my calling is to proclaim that message to all. I am not called to distinguish or separate, but “to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Therefore, love and unity trump judgment and division. God’s job is to determine who needs to repent…not me.

3. How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated?

What we are really talking about here is much more than just “sexual activity.” As such, that is not something I feel compelled to make a case for. Two people loving one another and desiring to celebrate and benefit from their relationship, well the same case for any marriage is applicable.

4. What verses would you use to show that a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church?

Christ and the church is not the end all and be all symbol of marriage, so I do not feel the need to do so.

5. Do you think Jesus would have been okay with homosexual behavior between consenting adults in a committed relationship?

Yes.

6. If so, why did he reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman?

Because he was quoting Genesis? lol…

7. When Jesus spoke against porneia what sins do you think he was forbidding?

Sins of sexual malice or evil committed upon oneself or another.

8. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful “exchange” Paul highlights in Romans 1?

He was primarily referencing the domination of the Roman Empire. Neil Elliott’s “The Arrogance of the Nations” is a good read on this.

9. Do you believe that passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8 teach that sexual immorality can keep you out of heaven?

No.

10. What sexual sins do you think they were referring to?

Sins of malice, hatred, premeditated evil and/or domination of one person over another. Clearly such things are not “kingdom” activities to be sure. One could even say they are “anti-Christ” but we’ll save that for another post!

11. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, what do you think you understand about the Bible that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther failed to grasp?

That the Bible is not a rule book to be kept. That the Bible is not to be translated from a judicial point of view. that the Bible is primarily a narrative of God and man/woman relating to one another.

12. What arguments would you use to explain to Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America that their understanding of homosexuality is biblically incorrect and your new understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned?

I would start with redefining the terms from a biblical perspective. To think that our Protestant/Evangelical/Wester views are correct would be cultural and historical snobbery. Thousands of years of removal from the culture of the Bible necessitates humility and the realization that our last 1500 years of interpretation doesn’t necessarily equate with sound theology and practice.

13. Do you think Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were motivated by personal animus and bigotry when they, for almost all of their lives, defined marriage as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman?

Not sure…ask them.

14. Do you think children do best with a mother and a father?

Not necessarily.

15. If not, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion?

I have no personal research and that would be, to use a presidential quote, “above my paygrade.”

16. If yes, does the church or the state have any role to play in promoting or privileging the arrangement that puts children with a mom and a dad?

Churches can and should function as they fell compelled to do so.

17. Does the end and purpose of marriage point to something more than an adult’s emotional and sexual fulfillment?

Again, marriage is much more than sex.

18. How would you define marriage?

I don’t know…how about two becoming one?

19. Do you think close family members should be allowed to get married?

Why??? Am I missing something here?

20. Should marriage be limited to only two people?

Interesting you should ask. Doesn’t the bible actually allow for polygamy? Ah, but to reference what I wrote in Q. 11 above, don’t worry, that wouldn’t necessarily be a sound interpretation.

21. On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married?

I have never been asked to do so. Further, California only allows two people to be married.

22. Should there be an age requirement in this country for obtaining a marriage license?

Yes. I tend to like 18, but this is up to the government. If there were no law on this, I suppose we would judge on a case by case basis. Personally, I think the legal age for marriage should be like 35!

23. Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage?

Sure, why not?

24. If not, why not?

25. Should your brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with homosexual practice be allowed to exercise their religious beliefs without fear of punishment, retribution, or coercion?

Yes.

26. Will you speak up for your fellow Christians when their jobs, their accreditation, their reputation, and their freedoms are threatened because of this issue?

Yes, but only if they aren’t blithering idiots about it.

27. Will you speak out against shaming and bullying of all kinds, whether against gays and lesbians or against Evangelicals and Catholics?

Of course.

28. Since the evangelical church has often failed to take unbiblical divorces and other sexual sins seriously, what steps will you take to ensure that gay marriages are healthy and accord with Scriptural principles?

I feel no compulsion whatsoever to have anything to do with Evangelicalism or its practices. Further, my job as a minister is not to ensure anything, but most of all any kind of control or coercion over anyone’s marriage. That is sacred between them and God if they are Christians.

29. Should gay couples in open relationships be subject to church discipline?

Maybe, maybe not. Each case would be as different as each person involved.

30. Is it a sin for LGBT persons to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage?

Depends if they want to take on the “sin” label or not. I don’t see any reason to judge those who are not among Christian circles.

31. What will open and affirming churches do to speak prophetically against divorce, fornication, pornography, and adultery wherever they are found?

Great question…I’m sure they each will figure it out on their own.

32. If “love wins,” how would you define love?

In two ways. As a civil rights expression, it means love is to be regarded as equal among all people. As a Christian issue, reflecting on the civil rights issue, it means loving one another won over judging and dividing one another.

33. What verses would you use to establish that definition?

How about all of the “love one another” passages in the NT?

34. How should obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love?

Love God and love your neighbor as yourself…

35. Do you believe it is possible to love someone and disagree with important decisions they make?

Yes.

36. If supporting gay marriage is a change for you, has anything else changed in your understanding of faith?

My faith is always changing and in flux…it is a journey, a walk, an active discipleship.

37. As an evangelical, how has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about traditional evangelical distinctives like a focus on being born again, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost?

I do not consider myself an Evangelical. As such, the distinctives listed above are not something I would say I am passionate about.

38. What open and affirming churches would you point to where people are being converted to orthodox Christianity, sinners are being warned of judgment and called to repentance, and missionaries are being sent out to plant churches among unreached peoples?

This is a trick question, right? If you mean to imply that open and affirming churches do not do these things, then perhaps they do or do not. As a progressive, I would say that “sinners are being warned of judgment and called to repentance, and missionaries are being sent out to plant churches among unreached peoples” are not the end all and be all of our faith. There is so much more…

39. Do you hope to be more committed to the church, more committed to Christ, and more committed to the Scriptures in the years ahead?

Absolutely! Just keep in mind, that isn’t something going on in most Evangelical churches these days, so…

40. When Paul at the end of Romans 1 rebukes “those who practice such things” and those who “give approval to those who practice them,” what sins do you think he has in mind?

Sins of domination, manipulation, control as referenced by the rule of Empire. These things are contrary to the rule of love as expressed by Christians as we live in the Kingdom of God.

Book Review: Desire Found Me – Quite A Compelling Read!

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“God seldom, if ever, reveals concepts about himself. He simply reveals himself. Such encounters deeply transform our concepts.” Kindle Ed., loc 37

If you have ever wondered how we learn to believe what we believe…especially in a setting such as a church or denomination this book might be for you. It answers a lot of questions regarding how tradition is passed on and why. Combining sociological perspective and theological wit, Rabe provides insight on a level I have yet to find at a popular level.

I found this book to be a bit enigmatic. I confess, I chose it mostly because I have been seeing quite a few references to Rene Girard and Mimetic Theory in my biblical studies. As such, I thought this book might provide some insight without having to attend to the primary sources. I think this is what took me so long to get through the book. I found it incredibly insightful, and yes, it did give me the Girardian basics I was looking for, but I couldn’t help but feel the writing style was either a bit disjointed or parts of the book were left unedited. Other than that, there were several chapters that are worth the price of the book alone: Paradox of Evil, History of Satan, Atonement Theories and Sacrifice, and Mimetic Atonement. These chapters, I believe, were well written and do a wonderful job of suggesting alternatives to the popular Christian thought on these topics. Overall, I would recommend the book to anyone interested in learning how to begin to apply Mimetic Theory to their understanding of the Bible or their faith and practice. Indeed, the disjointedness I experienced could well have been the fact that I was taking on a subject unfamiliar to me. That said, I sure highlighted tons of quotes that I expect to refer back to in my studies and teaching.

Disclaimer: Yes, I received a free copy of this book, but ultimately I chose to review it!

Want to see more?

Go here:

alwaysloved.net – Andre’s site
Desire Found Me – book site
Andre on Twitter
Andre on Facebook
Andre on Youtube
Andre on Google+
Desire Found Me on Amazon

#SpeakeasyDesireFoundMe

Book Review: The UNkingdom of GOD – Embracing the Subversive Power of Repentance

UKGThis was an incredible read!

I will post my review on Amazon below, but I just had to comment that one of the most exciting components of the book was how the author explained and applied the whole concept of Empire into the understanding of scripture and how Christians live among the various empires throughout time. Further, Van Steenwyk gives many practical ways to live out our faith in spite of empire, including the ones we live in now. It is rare when an author writes such a theologically profound book that is so comlpetely accessible to all in the church. For that he is to be highly commended!

My review:

I’ll admit, this book caught me by surprise. Perhaps the title threw me off, as I couldn’t quite connect with the book at face value, but as I read it, it all fell into place and I have been compelled to read, think and act differently as a result…a feat that many Christian books simply cannot pull off well.

Mark does such a good job of engaging the reader by immediately connecting us to his own story of a disconnect with practicing his Christian faith. This is something he not only calls out, but so gracefully guides the reader to meaningful, real, and valuable ways to amend one’s thoughts and practices to better fit with the way of Jesus.

Inherent in this book is a very readable and accessible explanation of the biblical theme of empire and how the scriptures counter this at every turn. Perhaps, this was most exciting to me, since so much of that material is more academic and simply doesn’t tackle the practical ramifications for Christians in the real world. As such, this book would be an incredible resource for group study for those seeking more missional ways of living among their communities.

This message is prophetic in the truest sense of the word, and it is a message Christians in the West need to hear. Many Christians are pulling away from ineffective churches. Mark reveals a new path that can be taken, a new way of seeing the Bible and Jesus that will awaken, revive and inspire the reader to look for immediate, local, and purposeful ways of living out their faith.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was challenged in many ways that I never would have imagined. Highly recommended!!!