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This was for me one of the most maddening books I’ve read in a good while. There were times I was convinced it was utterly silly and wanted to pitch it in the trash, and then I would read something that was indeed profound and I would continue on.

Donald Miller has authored Searching for God Knows What in a style that has been described as hilarious, easy going, conversational and provocative. It may be, but honestly it’s not my style of writing at all.

I found it childish, silly and simplistic in such an extreme, that as I said, at times I wondered if I could continue. An example from the beginning is where Mr. Miller contends he was attending a writer’s workshop. He cornered the speaker after a session and ended up asking her to explain to him the difference between fiction and non-fiction. I would think that a nine-year-old might know the answer.

I found many of his illustrative stories much like this, silly, and not particularly helpful. Things only get worse when he turns to biblical scholarship. He uses words like “some” scholars and “many” experts when to those who are well-trained in biblical exegesis, he clearly means “a few” and “evangelical fundamentalists.” An example is his claim that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, something that is clearly not true if you are looking at the consensus opinion. And I don’t mean “many” scholars, I mean MOST. He as well has Moses composing Job and that being the first writing of the Hebrew Testament. Neither is likely true. Job was likely an ancient legend, it was not constructed into any written form until around the 5th century BCE.

This all led me to ask the question: Just who is Miller’s intended audience? I concluded that he surely was not addressing progressive Christians, for indeed his ultimate message is one that they have come to long ago. No, his message is directed toward evangelicals, particularly fundamentalists who not only read the bible literally as the inerrant word of God, but also, seemingly contradictorily, have very conservative notions on social justice issues.

This is where Miller shines in my estimation. For he makes a very slow, careful, and 2+2=4 argument that hopefully leads to a return to a sane social justice policy on the part of such evangelicals.

Miller argues, rightly I believe, that the main theme of the bible is relational. Above all God wishes to interact with us as human beings. He created us for that purpose. Formulas, creeds, and dogmas are not what faith is about. If you meet a fundamentalist and a conversation ensues about faith, fairly quickly you will be asked: Do you believe that Jesus died for your sins? Do you believe that you are a sinner? It is only by answering these questions and perhaps others, “correctly,” that you can be defined as Christian.

Miller suggests that all this is deeply flawed. Not that the questions are not important, but rather than they miss the point. The point is that God alone, as he believes, is the only One who can validate us as humans. He is the only One whose opinion matters. We are loved because God loves us, not because our spouses, friends, or followers do.

He calls his readers to read the bible for the relationships espoused. While he may indeed believe that a real Adam and a real Eve lived in a garden called Eden, you don’t need to, to get his point. By eating of the tree, the two broke the connection with God by choice, and we as humanity have been struggling to reconnect ever since.

Miller urges that the way to reconnect is not to do so by church doctrines and recitations of patterned prayer. Again, not because these are intrinsically wrong, but because they don’t have a thing much to do with relating to God. We have lost the spirituality, if you will, of the great mystery of God by confining him to a moral agenda of anti-abortion and anti-homosexuality coupled with a bizarre notion that free enterprise economics reflect God’s kingdom.

He points to an excerpt of Al Franken’s book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, to point this out dramatically. This piece alone is worth reading the book! In it Franken refers to a comic strip which introduces us to “supply-side Jesus” who encourages his followers to acquire as much wealth as possible and cautions against giving directly to the poor since it will encourage them in their laziness. Better that trickle down stuff!

Jesus he claims is not to be understood through conservative economic theory. I agree. He challenges fundamentalists, calling them in reality theologically liberal!

The person who believes the sum of his morality involves gay marriage and abortion alone, and neglects health care and world trade and the environment and loving his neighbor and feeding the poor, is by definition, a theological liberal, because he takes what he wants from Scripture and ignores the rest.

In a word, God is relational and we live out our calling to worship by being relational as well, with God, and with Jesus and with each other, in the same loving manner as has been exampled to us by them.

If you are a progressive Christian, then, nothing new here. If you are a troubled evangelical, with a willingness to explore your faith foundations, then read this please. It might just make all the difference to you and to the rest of us as well.

**This book was provided free of charge by Booksneeze. There are no agreements as to the contents of this review.

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