May 14, 2009
A friend of mine loaned me a book, The End of Religion, by Bruxy Cavey. Although I didn't agree with totally everything in the book, there was a lot of stuff that I thought was really worth reading and considering... and so I sent an email to some of my friends whom I thought might be interested in it, offering to send them the quotes I had copied from it.
One of my friends replied, and passed on to me, for my consideration, a "review" by someone else who had read the book ... and not only was the review very antagonistic to the book; it also seemed like the reviewer and I had read totally different books. I read it and was amazed again by Your love and grace - and this reviewer read it and proclaimed it to be "simplistic... dumbed down... significant error... contrary to the biblical message... heretical... wrong" and urged people to "Please stay away, far away from books like this." I was astonished!
And all day I can't stop thinking about how amazing Your love is... and I do want to obey You in return (the reviewer pretty much said that the book advocates a simplistic love of God without obedience to Him). One thing he wrote that really disturbed me was: "Adam and Eve committed original sin so we are separated from God and therefore need rules and a mediator in Jesus to help us live as we should... We need rules because sin is our true nature"...
But Father, when I read Your Word, I hear Jesus saying that we need Him and His sacrifice on the cross to free us from slavery to our sin nature... and that You have given us Your Spirit as well to guide and grow and help us... and that we love You because of Your love and grace toward us... and that as we live in You, abide in You, we will love You and others... and in that loving, come to true obedience - the spirit, not just the letter, of the law.
Okay, and the reviewer also wrote, "The Bible is the only way we can know Jesus and why he died on the cross." But we can also know Jesus because He came and lived among us and taught us Himself... and died and rose again - and longs to live with and in us every moment by His Spirit! Without His Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, living in us, even the Bible is (to those who do not believe) a "dead" book, "foolishness!"
As I responded to my friend who had passed on the review, maybe the reason I liked the book so much was that it backed up what I have been experiencing in my walk with God: I love to obey Him because He loves me - I no longer feel rebellious against His rules and regulations because I know that He has made them for my good, because He loves me (though this does not mean that I also accept the rules and regulations and rituals of men who may even claim to be speaking for God, if their rules are counter to the Word of God - to Jesus, the Word, the Truth!).
When I read the book, I do not see the author advocating disobeying God - in fact, when I read it I see him all in favor of obeying God because of what God has done for us and the relationship God longs to share with us. The gospel message, the power of the cross, is shared clearly.
When I say a book is worth reading, I don't mean it is "perfect" ... What I mean is that it is worth thinking about - usually because it challenges our dearly-held preconceptions, the way we "perceive" truth... It doesn't mean I agree with everything. I suppose that is why two people (the reviewer and I) could read the same book and have such totally different reactions to it... I came to it with the experience and joy of a relationship with God who loved me so much that He took the judgment against my sin upon Himself, and in doing so freed me from it's bondage, and then gave me His Spirit to guide me in His way, His life, so that I gladly obey out of love and gratefulness... while it seems (though I could be wrong, of course) that the reviewer has come to the book with a deeply held conviction that at least as long as a human being lives, even as a "Christian," the sin nature continues to control, and the only solution is to follow a carefully laid out list of rules, regulations and rituals in order to be obedient and thus please God (and, perhaps, earn or at least maintain, one's salvation)....
(My first reaction was that perhaps the reviewer, who is clearly antagonistic to anyone whom he feels is "postmodern," may not even have read the book, or had just skimmed it, looking for "evidence" of "postmodern heresy" ... but on further reflection I really do think that the "preconceptions" we bring DO color our reaction to what we read, and even our understanding of it... Looking at it again, myself, trying to see it through the eyes of a belief system that emphasizes rules, regulations, and rituals - a belief system that I myself grew up with, and am therefore overjoyed to have discovered the amazing love and grace and of God - I can see how, with a deep adherence to that system, I could have at one time reacted surprisingly similarly as the reviewer did!)
The reviewer claims that the writer of the book "wants to whittle the Bible down to a simplistic message: Love God Love Each Other and get rid of all those pesky religious rules, symbols and traditions. This dumbing down of the gospel needs to stop." The interesting thing is that in my read of this book, the author isn't trying to "get rid of all those pesky rules, regulations" etc.... In fact, he says that they can certainly have value in their place: as part of your relationship with God, and definitely as an outgrowth of it: we love and obey Him because He first loved us! - but not as the road to God, or the way to gain His favor (or the way to "stay saved") (or the way to make God and/or others love us and approve of us)! I do not read this book as a "get rid of rules" approach at all. As for "dumbing down the gospel," I found this book spends a lot of time on the incredible importance of the cross, and of the fact that following Jesus also definitely includes the cross in our own lives.
The reviewer says, "Cavey says that we need rules because we do not love each other as we should" - and yes, he does say that... but Cavey goes on to tell why we don't love each other as we should - because of sin! - and then he rejoices that God has provided for the forgiveness of our sin... and that if we accept that and are walking in relationship with God, our obedience will be greater (in quality as well as in quality, as we apply the principles behind the Biblical rules to our lives) than our "rules and regulations and rituals" (letter of the law) obedience because now we obey out of love and gratefulness (and spirit of the law), rather than simply out of fear or from being "forced to."
The reviewer also says that the author "tries to demonstrate what our relationship with God should look like, devoid of institutions and rules.... Even in the beginning God did have one rule..." Oddly enough, when I read the book, the author did discuss the rule God gave in the garden; and nowhere in the book do I find advocacy of the kind of relationship the reviewer says the writer describes. On the other hand, the author of the book does advocate carefully considering the rules, regulations, rituals, traditions that we follow, as to why we follow them, and as to whether they really are Jesus' message, and so on. And I think that is important, if we are to avoid, as Paul urged the Galatians, getting caught up again into the slavery from which Jesus delivered us!
Oddly enough (in view of what the reviewer claims about the book), I come away from reading this book wanting to OBEY God more, LOVE Him more: the two are inseparable, as the author says. The book challenges me to love and obey God even more, to share the gospel more (even if it results in persecution and people disliking me).
Father, that is how I feel. If I am wrong, please show me... but please, oh please, don't take away Your love! If I had to go back to knowing about You and about Your love, in place of knowing You and being in a love relationship with You... oh Father, I don't think I could bear it!
I want to obey You. I want to love You, honor, revere, respect, worship - yes, and also fear You with trembling ... because of Who You Are.... Love, Truth, Wisdom, the Creator, the Way, the Life, the Light ... God Almighty! Not because if I don't obey a bunch of rules and regulations I will be sure to fall, or You will come after me with a big stick, or You will reject me.
Your Word says we love Him because [even though we totally deserve judgment and punishment - yes, death!] He loved us, and died for us, forgiving us that we might gain His life!
"Gospel" is good news!
By the way, my "readings for today" confirm this love of God that results in free obedience ... the freedom Christ's sacrifice has given those who believe in Him.... Check out Exodus 12: 13,17,41 Psalm 31 Psalm 32: 1-2, 5-11 Isa 31: 1,3 Isa 31:6-7 Acts 2:38-39, 42-47 Acts 3:15-16, 19-20 1 Corinthians 14:1,3,4,6,12,26,31