Saturday, June 02, 2007

Book Review: Frequently Avoided Questions

Frequently Avoided Questions: An Uncensored Dialogue on FaithHave you ever asked any of the following questions:
  • Why the Bible?
  • Do I have to go to church?
  • Do I have to sell God?
  • Can Christianity be reduced to steps or stages?
  • Does God speak outside the Bible?
  • Is forgiveness real?
  • What makes the Christian experience unique?
  • Are Christians the morality police?
  • Do good people go to hell?
  • Does the Bible contradict evolution?
  • Am I supposed to hate the world?
  • Are there gay Christians?
  • Is it wrong to take a job in a bar?
  • Where is your God?
These are tough questions that many Christians would rather avoid - and they want to avoid the answers even more! Well... two authors, Chuck Smith Jr and Matt Whitlock have decided they have to be tackled if Christianity is going to be an authentic faith in contemporary society. They have written an excellent little book entitled Frequently Avoided Questions: An Uncensored Dialogue on Faith. Matt Whitlock works with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) and has traveled the world and gotten to know people living in the thick of real life. Chuck Smith has been a pastor of a church for more than 30 years. They are from different generations and decided to team up to write this book. Each chapter in the book tackles one of the questions above. Matt shares a story from his own experience that raises the question under consideration along with a host of other related ones. Then Chuck responds with a respectful, reflective, reality-based response that tries to do justice to the biblical text. In the process, what we often take for granted about the Bible, and the alleged answers it provides, is put under a magnifying glass and we discover that some of the answers to the questions we ask are surprising and yet biblical. And there is a lot of things we think we understand that need refining or abandoning. The central theme of the book is that there are two "schools" or approaches to religion/Christianity available in our contemporary world and within Christianity itself - the "old school" and the "new school". They explain these terms in the following way:
By "old school" we do not mean liberalism, fundamentalism, or evangelicalism but rather a set of specific attitudes, beliefs, and practices--and the subcultures in which they thrive--that emerged in the modern era and were defined by modern concerns. We use "old school" to refer to a conceptual mode of what is no longer an accurate representation of the biblical God within popular culture and "new school" to refer to the ideal solution based on Scripture. Our objective is to emphasize the importance of abandoning old-school errors, which most devout Christians agree needs to be done, and live out the new school implications. (pp. 11-12)
Frequently Avoided Questions is a thoughtful, challenging, refreshing look at a range of questions that trouble people. There are some surprises in this book for everyone. Frequently Avoided Questions is a must read for those who want to think about what Christianity needs to be like if it is going to move towards authentic faith that is able to relate to the real world that we live in. I highly recommend it!

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