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What Books Can Help me Talk to My Friend about Their Questions for God?

What Books Can Help me Talk to My Friend about Their Questions for God?

In the coming months at New Life we are looking forward to stepping into a series called Questions for God. In the series, we hope to openly and honestly engage the most difficult questions people have about Christianity. For some those questions keep them on the outside looking in. For others, it causes them to wrestle with their faith.

We hope that Questions for God invites everyone into the conversation no matter where you are spiritually. It is our aim to address these questions with respect and honesty. And it is our hope that some might lean in to engage their questions in a safe environment. It is hope as well that it might serve as an opportunity for Christians to open the doors for conversations with friends and family members.

As we prepare for this series, I would commend the following books. Maybe one of these piques your interest. I would encourage you to pick it up and start reading it in the next few weeks.

 

Two Books That Engage the Broader Questions

Confronting Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin

Deep thinkers have pointed questions for Christianity. “Aren’t we better off without religion?” “How can you say there’s only one true faith?” “Doesn’t religion cause violence?” “Hasn’t science disproved Christianity?” “Isn’t Christianity homophobic?” “How could a loving God send people to hell?”

In Confronting Christianity, Rebecca McLaughlin takes those questions seriously. As a former skeptic, McLaughlin brings both empathy and clear reasoning. She does three things particularly well:

Can Lust Send Me to Hell?

Can Lust Send Me to Hell?

Our culture toys with lust.[i] We know the power of lust so well that we use it to sell hamburgers and cars and beer. I mean, seriously. Step back and consider how crazy that is. We take things that are already attractive and then add sex to them to sell them better! Burgers, sports cars, and beer! We crave these things on their own! And yet advertisers are still compelled to add an ingredient in to make them even more desirous: sex. On the flip side, you never see sex requiring anything else to sell it. Your local strip club isn’t trying to lure people in with their mouthwatering hamburgers.

Last week we considered Jesus’ difficult words about lust. Jesus takes the Old Testament standard of sexual purity of not committing adultery to a radical place: the heart. Jesus says that we are called by God to not even entertain lustful desires in our heart.

Jesus takes lust seriously. He takes lust seriously because when we lust we reveal that our heart is aimed at gratifying ourselves, not honoring God.

We tend to fear the wrong things when it comes to lust. We fear what a life of unfulfilled desires might look like. We fear the relational consequences of getting caught looking at pornography. We fear having our reputation marred.

But there are things we should really fear: the state of our soul, for starters. And of course, we should fear our Maker, God himself.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      8 Reasons Young Adults Leave Your Church (And 8 Reasons They Stay): Ben Trueblood reflects, "There simply isn’t an understanding of what the church is, how it functions in their life, and how they are meant to be function as part of it.”

2.      May She Be My Delight: Greg Morse reflects on Christ's love for the church and our call to love our wives with that same delight, "God does not tolerate his church. He does not ignore her. He does not wake up in the morning thinking he married the wrong girl. Familiarity does not dampen his passion."

3.      Behind Every Good Woman Stands a Good Man: Courtney Reissig concludes, " Our gifts both in the marketplace and in the church are not for ourselves, but for others. So when I free him to work and serve, I’m part of that work, too. And vice versa. Behind every good man, stands a good woman. And behind every good woman, a good man stands, too."

4.      Secularism is Boring: Nicholas T McDonald's long and dense post is well worth the read. He dissects the layers of problems of our secularist world, "'Irony tyrannizes us.'...Most likely, I think, today’s irony ends up saying: ‘How totally banal of you to ask what I really mean.’”...Because we are a plotless people. We’re banging our heads on the nothing wall." 

5.      Belief in Hell and Psychological Health: David Briggs Arda compiles some interesting studies on belief in hell. He shares,"The findings, some of which even surprised research team members, included: The more religious an individual was, the less likely they were to display hell anxiety. Unhealthy fears were not related to dogmatism or religious fundamentalism."

A God of Many Understandings? by Todd Miles

A God of Many Understandings? by Todd Miles

Miles begins A God of Many Understandings? with an event I remember well: “On Sunday morning, January 18, 2009, Gene Robinson, the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, stepped to a podium near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, to open the inauguration festivities for Barack Obama with an invocation and began his prayer, ‘O god of our many understandings, we pray that you will…’” (1). That simple opening to his prayer hit me like a tidal wave that day. “O god of our many understandings (?!)” At the same time I felt befuddlement, anger, and a sense that in that very phrase, Robinson had profoundly captured the essence of our modern religious sensibilities.

There have been plenty of books published over the recent years that have decried the slippage in the American church’s commitment to the exclusive claims of the gospel. But I promise you none have been written that are quite like this. The ambitious nature of Miles’s book is remarkable. The book is a biblical-theological tour de force that deals with a host of issues relating to the topic of the exclusive nature of the gospel.

The Shack by William P. Young

The Shack by William P. Young

I picked up Young's The Shack first during its meteoric rise after it was published. For whatever reason I had trouble with it and eventually set it down. The Shack was made into a movie this spring and with its resurgent popularity, I figured it was a must read as I prepared to teach a class on the Trinity.

The youngest daughter of Mack, a middle aged man with an abusive past, is abducted and murdered early in the book. As Mack wrestles with God in the midst of this tragedy, he is invited to a remote shack by the Trinity. Mack spends a day with the Trinity (the Father represented by an African American woman, the Son by an Arab man, and the Holy Spirit by an Asian woman). 

There are some really wonderful things about The Shack that make the book sparkle. It's no surprise to me that The Shack has made the impact it has in so many lives. The thing that drew me to the book-- its depiction of the Trinity--is at times well-articulated and emotionally touching.