Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Top Ten Authors I am Thankful for

This was originally a "Top Ten Tuesday" post I wrote in November of 2016, but I am republishing it after updating it now in 2020.
1. C. S. Lewis - I could go on and on about all the ways Lewis has influenced me for the better. I fell in love with Narnia when I was in 2nd grade and read The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe for the first time. I have written briefly about how reading the works of C. S. Lewis "baptized my imagination", to steal Lewis's own phrase. I also wrote about C. S. Lewis for 31 days in 2014. If you spend much time with me at all you will hear me quote or reference C. S. Lewis. It's just the way it is. Pictured below is Douglas Gresham, stepson of C. S. Lewis, pictured with me at the C. S. Lewis Symposium in Montreat, NC in 2019.

2. Rachel Held Evans - I always felt like Rachel was a kindred spirit. We come from very similar backgrounds and she was asking the questions out loud that I was too afraid to voice back in 2008-2012. I am still incredibly sad that she died in 2019. She died about a month before her 38th birthday and I am 37 now... I miss her active presence and voice in this world and it's just so unfair for her husband and two babies to lose their mom and his wife... But her books continue to help so many people who are walking similar roads. I loved all four of her books (Evolving in Monkey Town, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, Searching for Sunday, and Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again). I got to meet her in 2013 when she was speaking at a church in Louisville, and then again in 2018 at the Evolving Faith Conference.
Jennifer with Rachel Held Evans on October 6, 2013
Jennifer with Rachel Held Evans on October 6, 2013

3. Sarah Bessey - I think my favorite book by Sarah Bessey so far was Out of Sorts. I loved Jesus Feminist when it first came out and I loved her latest book, Miracles and Other Reasonable Things: A Story of Unlearning and Relearning God. Listening to Sarah speak or reading her words always has me saying "Yes! Amen!" And "me too!". And her love for Jesus is contagious, so reading her words helps me love Jesus more too. Oh, and her benedictions always make me weep. Here is one she wrote for August 2020. I met Sarah in person for the first time in October of 2017 when she was speaking at a church here in Louisville, then again at Evolving Faith in 2018 and 2019. She's one of those people you really wish you could be real-life friends with. I am so thankful for all the ways her words and work have encouraged me in my own evolving faith journey.

Jennifer with Sarah Bessey on October 15, 2017
Jennifer with Sarah Bessey on October 15, 2017

6. Barbara Brown Taylor - BBT's books have ministered to me deeply, meeting me where I am at the time. I have read An Altar in the World (2009) at least 4 or 5 times now and it never fails to be an encouragement to me in my faith. (We've been discussing this in my Progressive Theology Book Club over the past couple of months.) I've also read Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith (2006), Learning to Walk in the Dark (2014), and Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others (2019), which was especially good. I loved hearing her speak at Evolving Faith in 2019 and shortly after that at a local bookstore here in Louisville.
Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others
Learning to Walk in the Dark
An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith
Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith

5. Peter Enns - When I first wrote this post I just re-read The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn't Say about Human Origins for my paper on how to read/interpret Genesis 1-2. I still want to re-read Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament and The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It. I also enjoyed The Sin of Certaintywhich was published in 2016. Since then Enns has also published How the Bible Actually Works: In Which I Explain How An Ancient, Ambiguous, and Diverse Book Leads Us to Wisdom Rather Than Answers—and Why That's Great News.
Jennifer with Pete Enns and my friend, Trista at Evolving Faith 2018
Jennifer with Pete Enns and my friend, Trista at Evolving Faith 2018

6. Madeleine L'Engle - Reading her words is like a breath of fresh air. I love the Wrinkle in Time series as well as Walking on Water. And I love what I've read of her Genesis trilogy so far also. A Circle of Quiet (Crosswicks Journals #1) was quite good also.

7. Brennan Manning - I love everything I have read by Brennan. His writing exudes the grace and love of God. A few of my favorites are The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out, Abba's Child, and All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir.

8. N. T. Wright - What Saint Paul Really Said was the first book I read by Wright, way back in 2004 in Dr. Stepp's Biblical Theology class. Several years later I read Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, which was paradigm-shifting. I wrote a bit about that here. I've also read The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus's Crucifixion. Wright has written so prolifically that there are still so many books by him that I want to read, at some point...

9. Brené Brown has so much wisdom to share with us about belonging and vulnerability and getting free from shame. I need to re-read her books from time to time to keep her wisdom fresh in my mind and heart. If you have not read any of her books and you were to ask me where to start, I always recommend beginning with Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. That's one I have come back to several times already.

10. J. R. R. Tolkien - Without Tolkien's influence on Lewis, Lewis may not have become a Christian! So there's that, not to mention the masterpiece that is The Lord of the Rings!

Bonus: I had Greg Boyd on my original post, but I don't think he's actually one of my absolute top 10 favorite authors. I have been helped by reading some of his books though, such as Benefit of the DoubtIs God to Blame?, and Letters from a Skeptic. I'm not sure that I feel the need to spend much more time reading Boyd's books, but he was very helpful to me at the time when I was reading these books.

Friday, March 06, 2020

Freewriting / Write Free

You are God's Masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10)
I should write.
I want to write.
I have things to say.
I have read and studied a lot and I want to talk about those things.

But writing is work.
And blogging was over, like, a long time ago.
At least that’s what I hear.

But I need to write.
I need to write for me, and also
I hope that maybe, just maybe, something I write will be helpful or encouraging for someone else.

I want to drop keys for others, bread crumbs to follow if they so choose.
To say: “this is how I got here”
I want to shout loud for all to hear that God is even better and more loving than we ever imagined.
That this whole thing is bigger than we knew.

I want you to know that you are deeply, unconditionally loved by God.
You are God's masterpiece, after all: created in Love, held in Love, made to Love.

I want to write free.

Monday, January 06, 2020

2019 Reading Recap (The one with the charts and graphs!)

My Year in Books (2019)

I did it! I didn't think I was going to reach my goal, but I read like a maniac during the last few days of December in order to read 200 books in 2019! (I had a lot of time in the car to listen to audiobooks and a lot of other downtime when I was able to finish books in progress on kindle.

2012 was the first year I set a reading goal (52 books) and started keeping track of everything I read.
2014 was the first year I started using a spreadsheet to help me collect and analyze more data than Goodreads allows.
And then last year I discovered that had a spreadsheet with some built-in charts and graphs, beyond what I was already tracking. So I used theirs to jump off of this year, while still tweaking it a bit as I went along. Here is a link where you can get their 2020 reading log template if you so wish.

Now on to the nerd stats:

The above image is from the Goodreads infographic. Apparently, only 4 other people also read (and tracked on Goodreads) The Theology of Martin Luther by Hans-Martin Barth. Go figure? :-)

Number of books read: 203
Number of pages read: 43,268
Average Length: 213 pages

This was by far the most books I've ever read in a year. Previously, my highest number was 142 books read in 2016. 

Mode of reading:
Audiobook (106), Ebook (57), Print (38)
 - According to Audible, I listened to 371 hours of audiobooks in 2019 (Although that was before the last few days of December, so it was actually even more than that.).

Book Genres:
Fiction vs. Nonfiction is still very close to 50-50, like usual.

More specific genres I tracked:
C. S. Lewis Studies: 19
Seminary: 12
Theology: 58
Spiritual Memoir: 9
Science Fiction: 22
Fantasy: 59
General Fiction: 23
General Nonfiction: 18

Male/Female Authorship:
Female: 71
Male: 131

This continues to be difficult to balance. In 2018 I was able to get it to 55% men and 45% women, but in 2017 it was 80% men authors. This year it swung back a bit to 65% men authors and 35% women.

Books Read Per Month:
It's interesting to compare my reading trends in 2018 vs. 2019. Both years spike up in December, but I read a lot more books in January of 2019 than January of 2018. I also bottomed out in April and October of this year. 


Read vs. Re-reads:
First time read: 174
Re-read: 27
Favorite first-time reads of 2019:
See this list on goodreads
These 36 books are a pretty good mix of theology, fantasy/science-fiction, including some graphic novels, which is a pretty accurate representation of my typical reading patterns.

2018 Reading Recap and Book Stats
2017 Reading Recap and Book Stats
2016 Reading Recap and Book Stats
2015 Reading Recap

What I read in 2018 (130 books)
What I read in 2017 (83 books)
What I read in 2016 (142 books)
What I read in 2015 (120 books)
What I read in 2014 (111 books)
What I read in 2013 (100 books)
What I read in 2012 (56 books)

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

2019 Movies

Pictured above are my top 15 favorite movies that I've seen that were released in 2019. I still watched a lot of movies this year, around 94 if I remembered to log them all on, down from 135 movies last year, but I read a lot more books this year than last year, and I'm happy with that trade-off. Of those 94 movies, only 33 of them were new releases in 2019.

Favorite Movies of 2019 (definitely want to re-watch)

1. Avengers: Endgame and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker are tied for my favorite movie of 2019! I cannot choose between them!!!
3. Captain Marvel
4. Spider-Man: Far from Home
5. Little Women
6. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
7. Aladdin
8. Toy Story 4
9. Tolkien
10. Knives Out
11. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (read my review here)
12. Late Night

Good Movies of 2019 (would probably re-watch):
13. Yesterday
14. Dark Phoenix
15. Isn’t It Romantic
16. Long Shot
17. Booksmart
18. The Upside
19. The Lion King
20. Amazing Grace
21. The Hustle
22. Men in Black: International
23. Can You Keep a Secret?
24. A Dog’s Journey

Decent Movies of 2019 (might re-watch):
25. Rocketman
26. Little
27. Pokémon Detective Pikachu
28. What Men Want
29. The Perfect Date
30. Shazam!

Meh (No desire to re-watch):
31. Murder Mystery
32. The Kid Who Would Be King
33. Dumbo
34. Alita: Battle Angel
33. Overcomer

Here is this list on


2019 Movies I still want to watch: 
  • Frozen II
  • Jumanji: The Next Level
  • Charlie's Angels
  • Ford v Ferrari
  • Terminator: Dark Fate
  • Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Book Review: Still Christian: Following Jesus Out of American Evangelicalism by David P. Gushee

Still Christian: Following Jesus Out of American EvangelicalismStill Christian: Following Jesus Out of American Evangelicalism
by David P. Gushee
177 pages
Published September 15, 2017 by Westminster John Knox Press 

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Following Jesus has led many of us out of the conservative Evangelicalism we may have started in. In this book, David Gushee shares the story of how that has happened in his life.

This is a fairly quick read. I finished it in less than 24 hours. It’s a short memoir because it stays focused on a very specific topic of Evangelicalism through the lens of Gushee’s life. He does give us a brief overview of how exactly Evangelicalism in the US came to be (rebranding “fundamentalism”, coopted by the political Right, etc.).

Gushee also describes how the politically motivated played a big role in taking over the Southern Baptist Convention and THE Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. As I myself am now a member of a progressive Baptist Church in Louisville and have lived in Louisville for most of my life, this was especially interesting to read about. I’ve heard people at my church talk about being students at SBTS when “the takeover” was going on. Needless to say, they hurt a lot of people in that process, which is what bad theology and power trips tend to do.

It is important to note that while the ultra-conservatives said they were pushing back against “liberal theology”, Gushee writes, “I never met a true theological liberal faculty member the whole time I was at Southern Seminary. In biblical studies, most professors did teach a modest version of historical criticism, but it was hardly outré compared to what I ran across later in my educational pilgrimage. I found that my theology professors hardly strayed to the “left” of Karl Barth, and legends like Dale Moody were very, very Southern Baptist. No, those Southern Seminary faculty were still pious Southern Baptist folks who were simply reasonably open to the broader world of ideas and wanted their students exposed to that world. They also, of course, like most academics, feared witch hunts, purges, and attacks on their academic freedom. Already by 1984, the academic environment was becoming more conservative and less free." (Location 397)

Gushee earned his M.Div from SBTS in 1987, then his M.Phil (1990) and Ph.D. in Christian ethics from Union Theological Seminary in 1993. But he ended up back at SBTS after that because it was his only job offer. I was surprised to learn that Mohler, who had just been appointed as president of the Seminary, was only 33 at the time. He taught at SBTS from 1993-1996. By the time he left SBTS was forcing everyone out who was not willing to ascribe to their stance that women should not be allowed in ministry. So when Gushee received an offer to teach at Union University, he took it as his way out.

Gushee describes this incident at SBTS from before he left: “...a new policy came down from the administration, one that would change everything at Southern. At an epic, miserable faculty meeting, the president [Mohler] declared that those who believed that women should serve as pastors would no longer be hired, promoted, or tenured at Southern Seminary. While some details of this policy remained to be addressed, the implications were clear enough. A school that had, over the years, worked its way around to a largely egalitarian understanding of gender roles was now, by decree, overnight, a place that required faculty both to believe and to teach that Holy Scripture clearly bars women from the highest office of church leadership. Dissenting tenured faculty members might survive but probably ought to leave, untenured faculty members who held the now-erroneous belief had no future at the school, and no new faculty members would be hired who were egalitarian.

This meant the end for pretty much all female faculty members. I vividly remember one of my younger female colleagues getting up from the meeting in which the policy was announced, running from the room, and throwing up in the hall. It's not every day that you are professionally executed by public decree. It just might make you physically ill.”
(Location 748)

Still Christian will resonate with anyone who has grown weary of the marriage of Evangelicalism with right-wing politics, and those who are completely over this nonsense about women not being allowed to preach, teach, lead, minister, etc.

Honestly, even if you still consider yourself an Evangelical, you might want to read this to help you understand more about why so many of us that started out that way have been leaving in droves, and for many of us, including Gushee, that does not mean leaving Jesus behind.

Another thing I love about this book is that Gushee kept journals almost every day over the course of his life which I'm sure increases the accuracy of the stories he tells from the past. He even quotes from them throughout the book:

“This reflection from the summer after my freshman year in college foreshadows much about my later journey: Amy Grant sings, “You must put aside the reasoning that’s standing in the way.” Well, my convictions may be shaky but this one isn’t—I will never sacrifice my intellect on the altar of “being faithful.” If you [God] can’t stand up to my measly questions, then you must be an illusion. . . . Must I sacrifice my intellect for the faith? No, I will not suppress my mind, I will not give up my intellect. I will give up the faith first.” (Location 342)

I have felt the exact same way and have written similar things in journals of my own.

I also appreciate Gushee's grace for "the other side". I think he succeeds in his goal of offering a "fair rendering" of the "flawed people and institutions" he describes in this book.

In the preface, Gushee writes: "We are experiencing a moment in American life in which our cultural divides have hardened into mutual incomprehension and demonization." Then he says that he first wrote that line long before the election of Donald Trump as president, and of course, it is even truer now. "We don't know each other, we don't understand each other, we don't trust each other, and we don't like each other. All we see are each other's vices, none of each other's virtues. If this memoir from both sides of the barricades helps improve this deplorable situation, that is reason enough to write it" (Location 92)

I think the only time I noticed Gushee taking a harsher tone was in this passage (which I completely agree with) in Chapter 7:

“This is my best chance to say that I believe the resurgence of a doctrinaire Calvinism in contemporary evangelicalism is among the most odious developments of the last generation. I abhor its version of God and most of its version of Christian ethics, and I believe it could only have emerged among relatively privileged, hyper-cognitive, compassion-challenged white men, as it has. But I digress” (Location 995).

I really love what Gushee writes at the end of the book:

“I still believe in Jesus. Indeed, I believe in him more than ever. I need him more than ever. Some days the only thing I have left of my Christianity is Jesus. And that’s okay.
I still believe in the prophetic religion of Jesus and of those before him and those after him who also shared it—a religion of justice, love, and compassion, a powerful source of good in this broken world.

But I no longer believe that the church, per se, knows or follows that religion. I no longer believe that the church, per se, is generally a source of good in the world. It depends. Sometimes it is quite the opposite. When it is the opposite, the only way to be a true Christian is to oppose the church. Yet I will never leave the church. That’s because I still believe in local communities of Jesus-followers straining every effort to study, hear, and obey him. And I believe in local shepherds humbly serving those communities. I still believe in the power of the preached Word and received sacrament in a community of hungry believers. [...]

I still believe that the truest human language is tears, and the best test of human beings is how they respond to tears. I now believe what Union Seminary tried to teach me—that the most important voices for me to hear come from the margins and from those who have been silenced."
(Location 1625)

(I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.)

Still Christian Purchase Links: PaperbackKindle EditionAudible Audiobook

View all my book reviews

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Discussing Marcus Borg's "Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time" (Reclaiming Christianity Podcast)

My friend, John Weldy, and I have recorded 4 new episodes of Reclaiming Christianity. (Subscribe on iTunes.) The first one is an introductory episode as we launched the second season of the podcast. The other three are all spent discussing different parts of Marcus Borg's book, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time.

I want to say up front that I don't agree with Marcus Borg on everything. For one thing, I can't go as far as he does with who he believes Jesus was/is and the strong distinction he makes between the "pre-Easter Jesus" and the "post-Easter Christ". Borg is operating from a skepticism that follows from the Jesus Seminar's take on the historical Jesus and historical accuracy of the Gospels. But aside from that, I would say that I still find 70-80% of the book really interesting, useful, helpful, and encouraging in various ways.

I think it is good and necessary for us to realize that we can (and should!) read books where we don't agree with the author on everything and we can still get something out of them. There is value in that.

So here is a brief rundown of the four new episodes:
  • 2.0: Season 2 Intro - in this episode John and I talk about how we got from "there" to "here" (conservative evangelicalism to progressive Christianity), and why we want to do a podcast called "Reclaiming Christianity".
  • 2:1: Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time... Again (Chapter 1)
    • Childhood image of Jesus often does not evolve
    • Your image of Jesus influences your Christianity
    • The historical Jesus
    • The influence of Christian tradition on the gospels
    • The nature of God
    • Pre-Easter and post-Easter Jesus
  • 2.2: Sophia Became Flesh (Chapter 5)
    • Jesus as the Son of God
    • Sophia, the Wisdom Woman
    • Sophia as a Personification of God
    • Sophia, Created with God in the beginning
    • Jesus, child of Sophia
    • Logos
    • Breaking patriarchal imagery
    • Reading of Psalm 23 that you can find at the end of this post
  • 2.3: Jesus, Compassion, and Politics (Chapter 3) - Yes, we recorded them out of order, John had his reasons. :-)
    • Compassion is the central quality of God and Jesus
    • Compassion as a sociopolitical paradigm
    • Compassion vs. mercy
    • God as "womblike"
    • Holiness vs. compassion
    • Purity system in the time of Jesus
    • Righteousness vs. sinners
    • Be compassionate as God is compassionate
    • Final thought from the end of the book in chapter 6:
“Believe did not originally mean believing a set of doctrines or teachings; in both Greek and Latin its roots mean “to give one’s heart to”. The “heart” is the self at its deepest level. Believing, therefore, does not consist of giving one’s mental assent to something, but involves a much deeper level of one’s self.” - Marcus Borg
John and I would love to interact with you and your thoughts about this book and/or these episodes where we were talking about the book. If you have a comment or question about something or want to tell us something that really resonated with you or something you disagreed with, and why, we want to hear it and would love to include it on our next episode. You can either leave a comment here or in my Progressive Theology Book Club group on Facebook. Or even better, you can email me (JenniferNeyhart [at] gmail [dot] com) a 30-90 second audio clip if you want to have your voice literally be on the podcast. You can also do that quite easily through Facebook Messenger.

The last thing is that alternate version of Psalm 23 which I read in episode 2.2 on the Borg book:

Psalm 23
The Divine is my Shepherd
I have all I need
She makes me lie down in green meadows
Beside the still waters, She will lead.

She restores my soul,
She rights my wrongs,
She leads me in a path of good things,
And fills my heart with songs.

Even though I walk,
Through a dark and dreary land,
There is nothing that can shake me,
She has said, She won't forsake me,
I'm in Her hand.

She sets a table before me,
In the presence of my foes,
She anoints my head with oil,
And my cup overflows.

Surely, surely goodness and kindness will follow me,
All the days of my life,
And I will live in Her house,
Forever and ever.

Glory be to our Mother, and Daughter
And to the Holy of Holies,
As it was in the beginning,
Is now and ever shall be,
World without end, Amen.

(Click here to listen to this version of Psalm 23 on youtube.)

Friday, March 08, 2019

Book Review: Faith in the Shadows: Finding Christ in the Midst of Doubt by Austin Fischer

Title: Faith in the Shadows: Finding Christ in the Midst of Doubt 
Author: Austin Fischer (@austintfischer)
Paperback, 183 pages
Published September 11, 2018 by InterVarsity Press

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At just under 200 pages, Austin Fischer packs a whole lot of topics, ideas, and theology into this little book: theodicy (the problem of pain/evil), to doubt vs. certainty, the silence of God, why fundamentalism and biblical literalism doesn't work, science vs. faith and why that doesn't have to be the case (yes, including how evolution doesn't destroy Christianity); and even belief in some kind of hell vs. some kind of christian universalism.

Table of Contents
-  Foreword by Brian Zahnd
1. Graffiti: An Invitation to a Rebellion
2. Ants on a Rollercoaster: Losing a Certainty Seeking Faith
3. How to Survive a Hurricane: Doubting with Job
4. Beautiful, Terrible World: The Burden of Reality
5. Four Letter Word: (Kind of) Making Sense of Evil
6. Silence: Believing When God Isn’t Speaking
7. Death by Fundamentalism: Talking to Fish About Water
8. Science: God Doesn’t Exist
9 Stuff: Our New Religion
10. Hell: Hitler Gets Five Minutes in Heaven
11. Faith, Doubt, and Love: The Real Remedy
12. Christ or the Truth?: A Case for Faith in the Worst Case
13. Walking on Water: The Proof Is in the Living

I agree with Fischer when he says he doesn't see hidden joy or design behind the tragedies of children dying of cancer or people dying in car accidents. Like him, "I see nonsense. I don’t feel divinely comforted; I feel rage."

Fischer writes, "I tried to pray and preach myself out of the dark, but the harder I tried, the bleaker the situation became. And then finally, I stopped trying—not because God told me to but because I was so exhausted I had no choice. I stopped trying to force the light and pretend the dark wasn’t really that dark. I let myself envision the blasphemous and felt the chill of a world without God" (Loc 578).

It really struck me when Fischer pointed out that "it is often those with deep faith, firmly grounded in the love of God, who find their faith languishing in the shadows when faced with creation’s ceaseless pain: “The more a person believes, the more deeply he experiences pain over the suffering of the world” (Loc 592). Furthermore, he says, "A crisis of faith in the face of evil can be the truest expression of faith, because what we interpret as a loss of faith are often the growing pains of learning to live with a heart three sizes larger beating inside our chest. So if evil (almost) makes us lose our faith, it might be because our faith is growing strong, not growing weak" (Loc 597).

I love where Fischer talks about how the Bible does not contain one theology, but multiple theologies, that uses a diverse range of voices which "don't always harmonize perfectly".

"When we claim the Bible clearly teaches something that has been rigorously debated by the best and most faithful minds for thousands of years, we could at least have the decency to blush. A couple thousand years of mercurial biblical interpretation suggest we’re not being very honest with ourselves." (Loc 770-780)

I also appreciated his reminder that Mother Teresa also struggled with spiritual darkness and depression, as revealed in her private letters.

Chapter 7 - Death by Fundamentalism

I really loved this chapter!

"The spirit of fundamentalism is perhaps best described as a rigid mental attitude that seeks control by pursuing certainty [...] Fundamentalism mistakenly assumes it looks on the world with “a view from nowhere,” objectively staring down at reality from above."

[Read The Sin of Certainty by Peter Enns for more in depth treatment of this problem.]

Fischer then mentions Mark Noll's book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, which I still need to read. Still talking about Noll's book, Fischer says, "In a truly novel development in the history of Christian theology, many Christians began trying to read all the Bible as literally as possible, thinking that by doing so and using the objective, fact-finding method of modern science, they could work to a sure, certain faith—the whole truth and nothing but it. Reading the Bible “literally” and “scientifically,” Christians could discover truth every bit as objective as the truths being discovered in the natural sciences. And so a house of cards was built on a foundation of sand."

I remember Greg Boyd talking about that "house of cards" kind of faith also in his book, Benefit of the Doubt.

I really loved this: "After a sermon in which I mentioned the two creation stories of Genesis cannot both be read literally, I was confronted by a wellmeaning parishioner who informed me that he had been informed the Bible was the literal word of God and any belief otherwise was a slippery slope toward perdition. He was a very kind man and had only recently become a Christian, so I understood his concerns and asked him if he had read Psalms. He had. Then I asked if he thought Psalms was the word of God. He did. Then I asked him if he read all of the psalms literally—did he believe mountains pulled up their britches and skipped along like rams when God came walking by (Psalm 114)? He assured me he did not because that would be silly. “So,” I asked, “you think something can be true and the word of God and yet not literal?” A smile crept across his face and he responded, “Well—I guess I do.” And intuitively, we all do. Like many others, I read The Chronicles of Narnia when I was a child and it never occurred to me that Narnia was a real place and Aslan a real lion. I knew they were fictional. And yet I also knew those fictional tales of Narnia told the truth—the truth about good and evil and courage and sacrifice. In fact, I knew those fictional tales told deeper and truer truth than the “just the facts” information collected in my textbooks. Something does not have to be literal in order to be true. In fact, the truest things probably cannot be spoken literally." (Loc 1052)

Fischer takes to referring to this biblical literalism as "biblical flatland", which I love. (This is a reference he explains earlier about Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbott Abbott. But the idea is that strict, biblical literalism flattens out the text and actually undermines the beauty and layers of meanings available to us.

Chapter 8: Science - God Doesn't Exist
Here Fischer talks about how there is no reason Christians can't accept the scientific consensus on evolution:
"Scientists are not split over evolution. Every reputable survey you come across puts scientific support for evolution in the range of 90-99 percent, with that number tending toward the latter among scientists who actually specialize in fields that would make them experts on the issue. This is a remarkable consensus. Yes, the theory itself continues to evolve and mature, but the basic premise that terrestrial life has evolved over time from common ancestry has been confirmed over and over. And God need be in competition with evolution no more than God need be in competition with sperm or gravity." (Loc 1180)
So how does evolution supposedly conflict with Christianity? The big one has to do with coming up against that biblical literalism that was just covered in chapter 7.
"If we read the first two chapters of Genesis as a literal description of how God made the world, then evolution and Christianity are in conflict. But we should not read Genesis 1 and 2 literally! In fact, a rigidly literal reading of Genesis 1–2, resulting in the belief that God created the world ten thousand years ago (known as young-earth creationism), has only gained traction within the last hundred years. It is an overwhelmingly minority position in orthodox Christian theology, a novelty on the theological scene. As Noll states, “Despite widespread impressions to the contrary, [young-earth] creationism was not a traditional belief of nineteenth-century conservative Protestants or even of early twentieth-century fundamentalists.” This needs to be said as clearly, consistently, and charitably as possible: not only is rigid biblical literalism and young-earth creationism not essential, but it is fundamentally biblically, theologically, philosophically, historically, and scientifically mistaken. It may come from a sincere place, but it can be very dangerous. It produces bad Bible reading, bad theology, and very bad science." (Loc 1238)
[In seminary I wrote a whole paper on how we should read and interpret Genesis 1-2 based on the genre of the text. You can read that here if you wish.

TL:DR - Just go read the book for yourself. It is well worth your time!

Thanks to InterVarsity Press and Netgalley for the ARC.

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From the official blurb on Amazon and Goodreads:
"'People don't abandon faith because they have doubts. People abandon faith because they think they're not allowed to have doubts.'

Too often, our honest questions about faith are met with cold confidence and easy answers. But false certitude doesn't result in strong faith—it results in disillusionment, or worse, in a dogmatic, overweening faith unable to see itself or its object clearly. 

Even as a pastor, Austin Fischer has experienced the shadows of doubt and disillusionment. In Faith in the Shadows, he leans into perennial questions about Christianity with raw and fearless integrity. He addresses contemporary science, the problem of evil, hell, God's silence, and other issues, offering not only fresh treatments of these questions but also a fresh paradigm for thinking about doubt itself. Doubt, Fischer contends, is no reason to leave the faith. Instead, it's an invitation to a more honest faith—a faith that's not in control, but that trusts more fully in its Lord."

Faith in the Shadows Purchase Links: PaperbackKindle Edition, Audible Audiobook

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