I seldom do book reviews, but this was recommended. I cheated and started Gushee’s book with his Jesus chapter 5. I figure that if he is good on Jesus I can give him my time.
To me God has made one thing uniform and clear in His word, as well as in my own experience with Him. He will provide the way for sins atonement. No man or woman is good on their own —apart from Him. All have sinned and fallen short of His glory. Our righteousness is as filthy rags without His provision, and that provision is Jesus and only Jesus His Son.
In chapter 4, Gushee finds God to be silent. I don’t find Him to be silent. We are individually in relationship, “I will send a comforter, (the Holy Spirit) and He will lead you into all truth.”
Gushee ignores one very important truth, there is no promise made to individuals in Israel apart from their faithfulness to Him, as revealed in their motives to honor Him through the keeping of covenant and through repentance when one fails in that. David in Psalms tells us that God seeks those of a contrite heart to serve Him. Repentance is part of remaining in covenant. Sin has turned us all into enemies of others. The covenant keepers enemies hate him for that alone if for no other reason. Jesus said if they hate me they will hate you.
Gushee keeps old and New Testament believers separate in his system of theology, as do other systems of theology. He implies the other separate religions to be in covenant with God also, as evidenced in his making the church to be in the New Covenant, and leaving Israel out. The new covenant was Gods promise to Israel in Jeremiah 31, into which only a remnant from Israel became true to her Messiah. All others Jews were cut off for their unbelief.
Unfortunately Gushee has a thread (maybe a chain) of Liberalism in his understanding of Jesus in his role as the Son of God, which seems to be the calling card of the liberals no matter what else they may think of Jesus and His mission, they still want to allow other methods of salvation from other world religions, and they want to attribute them to the same God of Bible fame. Yet Jesus is emphatic, “no man comes to the Father but by Me”.
The following is Gurshees attempt at making his case:
“The fact that the church has access to God through Jesus Christ does not, in my view, invalidate the Jewish covenant with God, nor does it rule out the possibility that God has made or could make covenant with other peoples in other ways toward the same broad ends (Amos 9:7). God is free to covenant with whom God wishes (see chaps. 4–5).”
I will comment on chapter 4 in a bit, because this statement of his led me there. Gushee continues:
“The church consists of those who covenant with God through Jesus Christ. We ought to feel a sense of sacred kinship with the Jewish people—and all other people who bear a similar sense of covenant with God and share a redemptive mission in this world.”
Excerpt From: After Evangelicalism, David P. Gushee
Chapter 4 takes us into the liberal arguments or reasons for not taking the Bible to be God’s word. He states:
“For example, it is our stubborn rational capacity that makes us notice logical contradictions. If God is love, love never harms a neighbor (Rom. 13:10), and the Bible depicts God ordering the slaying of all inhabitants of entire cities, as in the early chapters of Joshua, one of these things is not like the other. They can’t all be true.”
This is another liberal intrusion into being themselves, “all knowing”. Elsewhere in the Jesus chapter as I quoted from above Gushee speaks of God’s judgment. His wrath. And of God being able to do what He wants. A truth seeker, with contrite heart, knows that there is no contradiction between God loving and holding one accountable for His truth. Even an earthly father can love and punish. Gurshee even states that the Old Testament shows Israel’s ups and downs due to abandoning covenant, and Jesus is the one who Gushee wants us to consider on Jesus or on Himself, but on other topics such as hell — maybe not. God loves His creation, but He has bound Himself to the keeping of His word. Only God can know why He has given up on a nation or a people. The U S may be nearing its own time of judgment. Israel was carried into captivity more than once at God’s choosing. We are to learn from her. And even the faithful were taken captive at those times.
Gushee goes on:
“But evangelicals are taught to pretend that there is no contradiction, because the Bible must not be questioned. It would be better simply to say that the contradiction is real and that “committing genocide in God’s name is never God’s will.”
So if God told Gushee to do a thing, he would just ignore Him? — I suppose.
I do agree with him that God speaks outside of Scripture, but in order to know if you are hearing God and not the enemy what is taught outside of scripture will align with scripture. Gushee himself is speaking outside of scripture.
Gushee’s arguments could be more in support of the Atheists than the believer. Example if God is Good why has He allowed evil? Of course there is a logical answer, but atheists use the same “contradictions” in scripture as do the liberals like Gushee. One’s purpose is to deny God, and the other to bring scriptures into question.
The first book that I wrote had a lot of questions in it, but not concerning the truth of scripture. Instead they were concerning the beliefs of the church as stated in church doctrine that contradicts scripture. The inspiration for the scriptures came from the Holy Spirit as our teacher. I’m sure there are translation errors, but we are told that they change very little the meaning In the original text. And those texts are available for study. But Gurshee is right — men create the translation problems in their different interpretations. He is one of those. Gurshee’s view of God is similar to my own of God before I was converted. I saw God as distant but detailed in His keeping of the record of my deeds. And I never heard from Him, and had no desire to read and hear scripture. I heard enough of that scary stuff in church. There was never a time that I didn’t believe that He (God) existed, but mainly as a judge — my judge.
Anyway, I’ll probably read some more of Gurshees thoughts, but these are my thoughts on where I think he comes at scripture and at God from. Basically His God is silent, and always will be until scripture comes to life as the word of God to him. Jesus is alive and He is the Word of God. He is the word that created all things, and the word who appeared to men in the Old Testament, and the word made flesh in the new. But you know all of this. If the Holy Spirit is in us as our guide, and teacher, then we need to ask for His leading in our search for truth as we walk with Him following Jesus.
I’m attaching a PDF article from a friend of mine, who leads a Messianic Jewish Synagogue. He gets to the root of what God has done by granting free will and with what He has done about it, and what He is doing in us to correct the sin occurring as a result. Click on it to get the full article. I follow it with my reply to him after reading it.
Jon, this is well stated, and I 100% agree with you (well maybe not a full 100). I attended church all of my life until I was 27 years old. I knew that I was living in sin, disobedient to God no matter how hard I tried to obey, I was still a hypocrite. I had walked the isle, I had raised my hand to be saved, but. I was Clean on the outside, but all of my righteousness was as filthy rags and it lacked the power to change me on the inside.
Then God…. And I was reading the scriptures for, at times, hours each day. I couldn’t put them down. One night while alone in our living room and while reading “The Cross and The Switchblade” an internal/booming voice spoke to me: “Jerry you have been trying to do for yourself what only I can do for you”, and at that juncture in my life something that I could not explain began inside me. I weepingly confessed to God that I was nothing and could do nothing to please Him, but I was now His to do with me as He alone desired. I could not stand, I had met The Holy God and He gave me a new heart. He has been writing on that heart ever since, for I and it belong to Him now for the last 50 years. I refuse to take back from Him His control in me and of me.
Jon, you have stated here the truth. This is what is so often missing in the gospel message of our day. But this is the truth. We cannot begin to understand Him or Love as He loves without Him working in us, and placing His word on this new heart within us.