Archive for July, 2011

Allah – A Christian Response

Posted in Book Review with tags , , , on July 18, 2011 by seguewm

Miroslav Volf is a great communicator. He patiently parses out each argument for and against the notion that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. He never rushes through any aspect of the debate unwittingly leaving false impressions.

How could these two great religions, often at odds with one another in American communities as well as on the foreign battlefield, in our own time as well as throughout the last many centuries, actually be followers of the same deity? Is it possible for two individuals to worship the same God, yet have different notions about God? If yes, then how many differences can two people have in their beliefs about God before they are actually speaking of two different beings altogether? Is the true God only truly worshipped when our understanding of God is accurate and complete?

Volf explains the debate in it’s historical context, then in terms of two Christian values – the Trinity and God as love, and finally he challenges the reader to re-examine the way we reason. In many ways this would be a phenomenal text for any student of communication and/critical thinking – both woefully under-taught skills in our current day educational system.

Christians are called to be ministers of reconciliation in this world. Unfortunately and shamefully, more often than not, we have become agents of polarization, heightening the levels of fear, hate, and anger in our communities to the detriment of this and future generations. Volf has called Christians to task, inviting those who truly love God to the discussion table where we can re-discover the tools necessary for loving our neighbor. More, Volf asks us to rethink our own picture of God. Have we made God in our own cultural image? Do we have God in a box, a little God? Are we fighting others to retain what is merely an idol?

Is the Christian God big enough for all he reconciled to him at the cross?

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The Language of Science and Faith

Posted in Book Review with tags , , , on July 18, 2011 by seguewm

Several years ago a Christian physician friend recommended the book, The Language of God. I have a rather dated BS degree in Biology so I was anxious to learn what was new in the field of genetics. I quickly found myself deeply engrossed and delightfully intrigued by all that Francis Collins explained about the human genome. Simultaneously, I found several of my theological constructs challenged by his integration of science and faith. When I finished his book I realized that I needed to pursue this topic far more intentionally than I had up to that point in my life. So, I had little hesitancy in ordering and reading this next book, The Language of Science and Faith by Giberson and Collins. Again, no disappointments. And again, much that required me to wrestle with my current belief system.

The authors patiently lead the reader through the issues of both evolution and creationism. This is’t simply a rehashing of the old and familiar debates. Rather, erroneously held, yet still persistently frequently repeated arguments from both sides of the issue are explained, updated, and the current science is presented. Straw man arguments are exposed for what they really are. Narrowly interpreted scriptures are examined in the light of both historical and current biblical knowledge. The history of the conflict between science and faith is given a more even handed perusal. Finally, a coherent integration of 21st century science and 2 – 3 millennia old scripture is presented.

While the authors speak from their expertise, they offer their insights with the humility one should expect from both people of faith and scientific professionals. If you’ve only felt obliged to read from only one side of the argument, I encourage you to do yourself a favor and hear these two men out. If it has been a while since you’ve ventured into this discussion, this book would be a good place to refresh yourself on the topic. If you have completely avoided the debate because the proponents on both sides seemed intransigent and passionately over the top in their angrily delivered diatribes, then you will be pleasantly surprised by the eloquent, clear-headed, and evenly discussed manner of these men. Enjoy.

Breaking Up With God

Posted in Book Review on July 18, 2011 by seguewm

This was, honestly, a difficult book for me to read. The problem is not the writing, because Sarah is an awesomely gifted author. Her topic, though, pushed a lot of my buttons – and I assume they will do the same for many who read this book.

Why do we believe as we believe? How did we come to the conclusions we have about God, the Bible, and the church? Do we have a ‘reason for our particular faith’? Is ‘our’ God, ‘our’ own creation? How might we know if it is or isn’t?

As Sarah once said in an interview, she didn’t ‘lose’ God. Rather, she left God. The first usually occurs because we are mindlessly distracted. The second is a painful, yet well thought out intentional act.

This story is not about leaving church, nor even about ceasing to call oneself a Christian. It is not about setting aside religion, to be ‘spiritual’. This is, instead, a breakup with God.

A highly recommended book, but only for those who are serious and courageous seekers of truth. You will find in this book, as I have, an experienced ‘guide’ who will step you through some of the most gut wrenching¬† questions of faith a person of faith will ever confront.

Falling Upwards, by Richard Rohr

Posted in Book Review with tags , , , , on July 1, 2011 by seguewm

I confess, I am a fan of Richard Rohr. His writings and seminars reach deep into my soul, not only delivering necessary academic insight but also much needed inspiration.

This book, in particular, was a page turner from beginning to end. Rohr speaks from the second half of life to those of us who have joined him in the second half. Well, that’s not entirely true. What Richard has done is to explain the journey in such a way that those who are yet wrestling with the tasks of the first half of life, have clarity on the direction. Our Western culture is ridiculously devoid of phase of life markers, leaving individuals gasping to understand what’s going on in and around their life.

With a little Jung, Jesus, Eliot, Merton, and Ricoeur the author carefully outlines and explains the rather consistently traveled path from youth to old age – the path that can lead to spiritual maturity. Faithfully included, of course, is the awkward acknowledgement that many – the majority in fact – end life having never finished the beginning. The sad truth is that without a guide, a mentor, we flounder through life, missing the point. Worse, our own spiritual deficit robs the next generation of a wise ‘elder’. While all must traverse the tasks of the first phase of life, not all engage the second stage of life.

Why does the world around us operate as seemingly insanely as it does? Why do some otherwise wonderful older folk seem to have sold out when it comes to confronting the social ills of our time? Why do so many more seasoned pastors prefer to preach through the beatitudes than through the ten commandments? What are the differences between the community valued by the young verses that of the older, second half of life person?

This book receive a five star recommendation from me. It is the kind of book that you’ll want to re-read – often. In fact, I would unhesitatingly recommend that every pastor not only read ‘Falling Upward’, but that they add this book to their discipleship classes.

Reluctant Pilgrim, by Enuma Okoro

Posted in Book Review with tags , , , on July 1, 2011 by seguewm

The sub-title for this book is, “a moody, somewhat self-indulgent introvert’s search for spiritual community. That pretty much sums up this book. It is an easy, quick read – yet, beware, it will often make you feel ‘uneasy’ and invite you to ‘slow down’ and reflect.

It is not, as Enuma herself explains, that her life experiences have been anything out of the ordinary. Rather, what is extra-ordinary is her willingness to invite the reader deep into her no holding back account of her own personal journey. This is not her story about someone else or a fictionalized story of her own life. You may not like what she says, nor how she says it. You may not agree with the way she handled the various ups and downs of her life. You will, though, realize that – if we were really honest with ourself – we have been Enuma.

Most of us, sometimes intentionally and other times unwittingly, sanitize our own story. What if we didn’t? What if we allowed ourselves to see the raw truth about our own journey? What if we allowed others to see us ‘naked’? Would there be advantage?

Enuma’s story is about her search for true community. What does ‘community’ mean to you? What are your expectations of ‘community’? Have you found true ‘community’?

As you read through Reluctant Pilgrim you will, I hope, permit yourself to wonder about these questions, and maybe even begin your own search for an authentic spiritual ‘community’.