Reading: Blue Like Jazzposted by Little Mo | Permalink |
Ok, so my blog posted the pciture twice, I dunno why.
I will confess, after I read the first chapter of this I was expecting to hate this book. Really. A lot. When someone starts off their book by saying "I never really got on with God as father because my father wasn't so good" it is not likely to win me over. Strangely, I don't think we're at liberty to say "that idea of God doesn't work for me." I had a very nasty encounter with a shepherd once....
Anyway, I warmed up to it a lot. I think we need more books where people tell us how being a Christian "works" and doesn't work for them. And that is exactly what Miller does. There is an awesome chapter on grace, which reminds me of the lesson we all need to learn - that grace is grace, and that means you don't have to pay God back for it. There is a great chapter on being cool and the emptiness of it, which is great, because I think a lot of "cool" people will read this book. After all, I'm reading it. And a great chapter on loving people - even people we don't like and who we disagree with - we love.
However, while there was some great stuff, there was other stuff that worried me. I think this book is interesting, but there is more in it that would stop me giving it to people to read than would get me to recommend it. Let's start small and head toward the biggy -
1) He uses Gandhi as an example of Christian love. Philip Yancey does this too, and always find it very confusing. Gandhi was a Hindu. No doubt a very good person in wordly terms, but a man who followed false Gods, and said that Jesus was not divine. He is NOT therefore an example of Christianity, whatever other good things he might be. Ok, that's a little one.
2) the chapter on worship and mysticism is so skewed as to be actually misleading. A little bit, dare I say it, dangerous. Miller says that we need to learn we can never understand God, so basically says stop trying. Just experience God. "The wonder of God happens above our arithmetic and formula". Now, sorry to be a stuffy old fuddy duddy here, but isn't the Gospel about knowing God? Isn't it about truth? Yes, God cannot be fully understood, but Miller seems to say that means we should stop thinking. Just let God ignite the kingdom life within you - forget about understanding it. In fact, he equates seeking to understand "the kingdom" as "empty ritual". Which I' sure is very nice for all doctrine professors at Bible colleges. And people who seek to teach the Bible like me, and those of us who discuss predestination till 3 in the morning. That's not an attempt to map God so I can tie him down, it is an attempt to get my wonder and experience to be defined by his awesome truth. Not, as Miller suggests, to just stare into the sky and let God touch you. Mysticism without truth is emptiness. And dangerous emptiness if it leads people away from wanting to know the truth.
3) which leads on to my 3rd and biggest criticism. This book is all about the faith Miller has worked out by the way he feels. He says on a number of occasions "I know this is true because I felt it." Admittedly he has a token pop at an experientially led religion in one chapter, but the whole book rests on what he has worked out from what he experienced. There is hardly any Bible at all, if any. Now, Miller seems to have a good enough grounding and good friends who tell him truth and to obey it. But sadly, this method of "it works for me" could lead us anywhere. I think we need more books telling us how Christianity works for people, but in the end, if it's not about submitting God's word which is outside me, rather than following my own instincts, it's not Lordship.
Miller, doesn't like Christianity. He likes Christian spirituality. But a spirituality is not Christian that is not clearly guided by the truth of the Gospel outside and beyond what works for me. Which is why, ironically, this book doesn't "work for me" in the end.