Whole Counsel Theology

Friday, August 04, 2006

A LONG Review of "Blue Like Jazz" by Donald Miller

Ah, Blue Like Jazz. This book has been very popular in discussions recently, partly because I think of its widespread impact on people of my generation. The moment I saw it I had reservations about it, some sort of an uncomfortable feeling you get when you are uneasy about something but don't really know why. Knowing, however, that I cannot trust my feelings, and that I didn't have a copy of the book at the time, I began to scour the internet in search of reviews of the book from people I could trust.

Another problem arose very quickly. I found about as many good reviews as I found bad. Some I found gave strong recommendations for the book, and others were positive though not quite as universal in their affirmations. Both of the people who reviewed this book in this light are people I love and respect very much.

On the other end of the spectrum, I went around the net and found this review by Tim Challies which left me with a cautious and somewhat negative impression. Furthermore, I dropped into 9marks, and read this review by a member of their staff. I referred a friend of mine to it, and his response was very negative toward the review, and in some way I can see why I think. He indicated that the reviewer over at 9marks got it wrong, not being true to what Miller was actually saying. Miller never intended to write a theology was the gist of his argument, I think (If he reads this and I'm wrong, please correct me; I couldn't find the quote).

I'll agree that Miller's intent wasn't to write some kind of Systematic Theology or something. In fact, the very subtitle of his book, "Non-religious thoughts on Christianity," conveys that entire idea. However, the reviewer over at 9marks made a point of identifying several theological implications in Millers book (though he didn't provide any quotes). Why did he do this?

I think that he did it because it was appropriate. The reason I say so is that no matter what we are saying our intentions are, when we begin to discuss the Christian life and God in any aspect, we are doing theology. When we express what we believe, even when we are telling it as part of our story (whatever it might be), we are explaining God as best as we understand Him. That being the case, Miller's theology *IS present in this book, though it is often embedded in his personal reflections and accounts of particular events.

So then, I read this book and decided to write a review of it -- a lengthy one at that. The other reviews I've read on it, both positive and negative, didn't analyze his statements directly (with a couple of exceptions). Most of the time, sweeping statements were made, summarizing what Miller had said, but didn't provide interaction with his statements on a point by point basis.

That last statement is my intention here. I must admit, I did find many things in this book that were good; however, I also found many that were not, and I think the latter outweighed the former.

I will go through the book chapter by chapter, making page references in each quote I identify. I won't do each chapter or review all of the items I made (thought this my original intent), simply it because it will take too long. I do hope that I will be able to provide a fairly accurate overview of much of the content from the chapters I do review.

With every citation I make, I will scrutinize each quote against the teaching of the Bible, often providing scripture passages and corresponding exgesis for each. This is likely be the longest post I've ever done, but I think it is necessary. Despite the good in the book, to give it a sweeping thumbs' up is, I believe, irresponsible, and I think that will come out clearly. So then, let's begin.

Chapter One -- Beginnings
My first note comes from Miller's retelling of an incident in his childhood relating to him not turning in homework:
"Where is your homework?" my teacher would ask.
"I lost it."
"You lost it yesterday. You lost it last week."
"I am terrible about losing things. I need to learn." (Always be self-deprecating.)
"What am I going to do with you, Donald?"
"I am grateful for your patience." (Always be grateful.)
"I should call your mother."
"She's deaf. Boating accident. Piranha." (Always be dramatic. Use hand gestures.)
page 5

This quote has absolutely no theological significance. :) It was merely amusing, and the truth is, we all need to laugh a little.

Chapter Two -- Problems
I believe the greatest truck of the devil is not to get us into some sort of evil but rather have us wasting time. This is why the devil tries so hard to get Christians to be religious. If he can sink a man's mind into habit, he will prevent his heart from engaging God. I was into habit. I grew up going to church, so I got used to hearing about God.
page 13

There is some good information in this quote. Simply going through the motions in some religious exercise is not true Christ-likeness. This quote can serve as a warning against such things.
"What you are really saying is that we have a sin nature, like the fundamentalist Christians say."
Tony took the pipe from his lips. "Pretty much, Don. It just explains a lot, you know."
"Actually," I told him reluctantly, "I have always agreed with the idea that we have a sin nature. I don't think it looks exactly like the fundamentalists say it does, 'cause I know so many people who do great things, but I do buy the idea that we are flawed, there there is something in us that is broken. I think it is easier to do bad things than good things. And there is something in that basic fact, some little clue to the meaning of the universe."
Page 17

I had a problem with this statement, and a big one. He says that we have a sin nature, but not like the "fundamentalists" say we do. Well, he didn't explain what that meant completely, but he did elude to it with his statement that he thinks that a lot of people do great things.
The problem here is the difference in man's way of looking at the "good" things people do over and against the way God sees it. The truth is, we are all sinners, rightly under the judgment of God because of Adam's sin. Not only that, how can he maintain the view he has in light of Scriptures that clearly indicate that NO ONE does good, such as this one, and that without faith we CANNOT please God? The Bible makes these things clear, and I've written about this on this blog before. There are serious implications from what Miller said here, and they are not good. On the other hand, this next quote was very good:
The genius of the American system is not freedom; the genius of the American system is checks and balances. Nobody gets all the power. Everybody is watching everybody else. It is as if the founding fathers knew, intrinsically, that the soul of man, unwatched, is perverse.
Page 18

Indeed, the founding fathers did know this. Many of them were Christians, with many of them coming from a biblical, Reformed perspective on man's nature, and that is a large reason why we do have our checks and balances. They saw how a system of government without such balances ended up in England, and didn't want it here.
I felt so far from me upbringing, from my narrow former self, the me who was taught the Republicans give a crap about the cause of Christ. I felt a long way from the pre-me, the pawn-Christian who was a Republican because my family was a Republican, not because I had prayed and asked God to elighten me about issues concerning the entire world rather than just America.
Page 19

...issues like what? Issues like bringing the Gospel to the nations so that they may know and worship the One True God, glorifying Jesus? Of course, this isn't the goal of either political party (sadly). However, I don't think this what Miller is referring to.

Given what else Miller talks about in this book, it would seem that he is meaning helping out the poor and taking care of the downtrodden. Apparently, the Republican party doesn't do this to his satisfaction. Of course, the Republicans and Democrats both are not perfect in this arena or any for that matter, but to make such a harsh statement and suggest that the Republicans don't care at all is unwarranted and not true. Are there some Republicans that don't? Well, probably, but I would contend that the party as a whole does not conform to Miller's negative portrayal (as I would contend that for the Democrats too). Miller over-generalizes here, and does so in a crass manner; not good.

With that said, it is good that he realized he needs to consult God in prayer for the right view of matters rather than just be a certain way because of the kind of family he was born into.


Chapter Three -- Magic

This quote bothered me a lot:
I associated much of Chrisitan doctrine with children's stories because I grew up in church. My Sunday school teachers had turned Bible narrative into children's fables. They talked about Noah and the ark because the story had animals in it. They failed to mention that thius was when God massacred all of humanity.
Page 30

Ok, granted his teachers could have done a better job explaining the narratives of the Bible, but what on earth is he trying to say with the term "massacred"? The modern definition of the word would suggest that Miller was saying that he thought God was being cruel or that He had committed an atrocity! That is pretty much tantamount to saying that God wasn't just in doing what he did. Of course, this might fits Miller's understanding of our sin nature that I referenced in a quote above. If this is not Miller's meaning here, he sure wasn't very careful to communicate the opposite. At the very least, and I say this out of concern for him and his readers, he was careless with his words.

Chapter Four -- Shifts

"Racism, not an issue?!" she questioned very sternly.
"Well, not that it's not an issue, only that it is a minor issue."
"How can you say that?" She sat back restlessly in her chair. "Don, it is an enormous problem."
I was doing a lot of backpedaling at first, but then I began to explain what I meant. "Yeah, I understand it is a terrible and painful problem, but in light of the whole picture, racism is a signal of something greater. There is a larger problem here than tension between ethnic groups."
"Unpack that statement," Laura said.
"I'm talking about self-absorption. If you think about it, the human race is pretty self-absorbed. Racism might be the symptom of a greater disease. What I mean is, as a human, I am flawed in that it is difficult for me to consider others before myself. It feels like I have to fight against this force, this current within me that, more often than not, wants to avoid serious issues and please myself, buy things for myself, feed myself, entertain myself, and all of that. All I'm saying is that if we, as a species, could fix our self-absoprtion, we could end a lot of pain in the world."
Pages 40-41

This was a very good statement. Our problem is definitely greater than any one sin, and the problem comes back to the major issue -- we are looking out for ourselves, and want to do things for ourselves, and apart from Christ, that is ultimately our goal. Without faith, we cannot please God, and we don't do anything for His glory apart from it. It takes an act of God to change that about us too; we as a species cannot change it. However, God, through His Gospel, does change people.

Next, he is recounting a story a friend of his told him, and I think it was part of her testimony. Anyway, part of it was very insightful as to how her friend, Nadine, talked about God:
"Nadine and I would sit for hours in her room," she began. "Mostly we would talk about boys or school, but always by the end of it, we talked about God. The think I loved about Nadine was that I never felt like she was selling anything. She would talk about God as if she knew Him, as if she had talked to Him on the phone that day. She was never ashamed, which is the thing with some Christians I had encountered. They felt like they had to seel God, as if He were soap or a vacuum cleaner, and it's like they really weren't listening to me; they didn't care, they just wanted me to buy their product."
Page 46


I found that VERY good and very insightful. Do we, when we share the Gospel, reduce God to a product? Do we have to force ourselves to do it?

I understand that at times, everyone has periods of dryness. I've been going through one lately, and I continue to pray and repent of my sins and attitudes in it. God is gracious and loving to me in the midst of it as well; He's never left me, and I am comforted greatly by that.

That said, however, it shouldn't be the general rule. We should desire to share Jesus because of His infinite worth out an an experience of some of that worth. have we experienced this awesome, holy, righteous, powerful God or not? Do our words we share with others, and the truths from Scripture we declare say the same thing as our lives? Oh, that we would know Jesus so well that we about couldn't help but talk about Him! Oh, that the discipline of evangelism would be just getting ourselves around lost people to talk to them rather than having to beat ourselves up all of the time just to convince ourselves we should be sharing Jesus.

Chapter Five -- Faith

"I don't either really," I told her. "But I believe in God, Laura. Theer is something inside of me that causes me to believe. And now I believe God is after you, that God wants you to believe too."
(skip a few paragraphs)
"I can't get there. I can't just say it without meaning it." She was getting very frustrated. "I can't do it. It would be like, say, trying to fall in love with somebody, or trying to convince yourself that your favorite food is pancakes. You don't decide those things, they just happen to you. If God is real, He needs to happen to me."
Page 53

This was a pretty good quote. Miller was witnessing to a friend of his, and he makes a good observation; indeed, there is something inside of him that causes him to believe -- the same "thing" that caused him to believe when he trusted Jesus. The Holy Spirit of God indeed did that, and still causes true believers to continue to believe! Thanks be to God for that, or I would never have believed, and if He didn't sustain me, I would have fallen away a long time ago.
I had no explanation for Laura. I don't think there is an explanation. My belief in Jesus did not seem rational or scientific, and yet there was nothing I coudl do to separate myself from this belief. I think Laura was looking for something rational because she believed that all things that were true were rational. But that isn't the case. Love, for example, is a true emotion, but it is not rational. What I mean is, people actually feel it. I have been in love, plenty of people have been in love, yet love cannot be proved scientifically. Neither can beauty. Light cannot be proved scientifically, and yet we all believe in light and by light see all things. There are plenty of things that are true that don't make any sense. I think one of the problems Laura was having was that she wanted God to make sense. He doesn't. He will make no more sense to me than I will make sense to an ant.
Page 54, emphasis mine

There are a few problems with this statement. Miller's topic sentence for this paragraph is at the end, and I have emphasized it. However, the analogy isn't complete. We're a lot more intelligent than an ant, but at the same time, proportionately, we'll know less about God than an ant will about us.

The reason is that the ant and I are both finite creatures. So then, since both are finite, there can be some standard of measurement between them. However, when you compare anything to God, the comparison immediately breaks apart, for He in infinite. There is no comparison, and since I am finite, God is infinitely greater than I am, while I am "XYZ" amount greater than the ant.

With that said, everything about God is not hidden, and there are certainly rational elements to faith, things we can surely understand. Who would argue that Paul knew a great deal about God compared to about anyone else who has lived since him? Inspired by God, Paul wrote a large portion of the New Testament. Surely these things (not to mention the rest of the Bible) are written for us to understand and to obey! James says as much in the first chapter of his letter. We have to understand the Word in order to obey it. Further, Paul made this powerful exclamation in his prayer for the Ephesian Christians:
Ephesians 1:16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,
18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,


At the same time, we need to strike a balance here. Even though Paul dripped with intelligence and understanding of God, an understanding far beyond mine, he said in probably his most important letter:
Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

No matter how much we know about God we'll never know it all. However, while we are in this life, we should seek to know and understand Him as much as possible, for His glory will be increased when we do; understanding more of Him will lead to greater worship. If somehow it doesn't, than we haven't truly understood more.

The whole emergent/post-modern idea that we can't have true knowledge about what the Bible says or about God is really nonsense. We can know things about God and also can know what the Bible really means. We can know these two things for one simple reason: the Bible tells us we can. In that sense, there is nothing irrational about it. :)

And with that, I think I'll end my citations.

I have found that I agree with Tim Challies in the end. I'll let him say it, as he said it in his review of the book on his site I linked to at the beginning of this post:
While I can say that I did receive some benefit from reading it, I would be hesitant to recommend it to others. There is some value to be found, but one has to dig deep beneath layers of rambling untruth and poor theology to find them. There are many other books that contain far more treasure than this.


So then, I do not think I can recommend the book. Clearly there are many good things in this book -- but there are many bad things as well. Far too much bad theology is present that is only too easy to accept since there are some good things mixed in with it. Though I am sure Miller's intention was NEVER to deceive, this book has great potential to do just that, especially in a generation and a culture that is getting increasingly biblically illiterate and less comprehending of what is truly sound doctrine.


For God's Glory!

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11 Comments:

  • here's some quick thoughts:
    i think you have done well to point out the good stuff too. i'm not as critical/analytical (and i don't mean that in a bad way) as you (or Andrew) and that's why my statements are more "sweeping" and "universal." i also have learned to glean the good from what i'm exposed to. so, sometimes i throw out the bad, focus on the good, and raviing reviews follow! be that as it may...that was a side note.

    books like BLJ are good to spur on spiritual discussion not to base a systematic theology on. Rainer talks about moving people closer to the Truth, moving the lost closer to the point of salvation. i think books like this and books like vevlet elvis do that. but at some point we move toward books like systematic theology by wayne grudem (which i just bought my wife) she loves me...what woman wouldn't love a man who buys her a 1300 page theology book and that makes him feel romantic? while some of the ideas in these books can be taken wrong, can be wrong, or can be pressed too far, i rest on the solid teaching of God's Word in light of reading those books. those books made me hungry to read the Scriptures. to that end i have a hard time giving a bad review. i also try and remember we're on a journey...even authors who put stuff in print...except Ken, he's got it all figured out. i know Miller wishes he could change so stuff in that book according to his very words on his podcast.

    you make great points dave. by the way, your reviews are way easier to swallow when you've read the book!!! ;) i think you do excellent in taking the whole book and trying to take the author's character and intent into consideration when doing a review.

    remember dave, we can find the good, use the good, be encouraged by the good, and even stregthened by the not-so-good.

    as we have opportunity, let us teach the Word of God with boldness to the glory of God, the exaltation of Christ, and to the joy, obedience and transformation of His children. nothing can stand against that.

    sola sola mi amigo

    By Anonymous Patrick, at Friday, August 04, 2006 12:35:00 PM  

  • Hey, Patrick!

    You said:
    "remember dave, we can find the good, use the good, be encouraged by the good, and even stregthened by the not-so-good. "

    I agree completely. The only danger I find is that if people don't know to take everything they read back to the Scriptures, then the bad can be quite destructive.

    I can certainly relate to the not-so-good even strengthening, in that if I hadn't seen something that I didn't think was good here and there, I would not have gone to the Bible about it and have a better understanding in that area.

    "as we have opportunity, let us teach the Word of God with boldness to the glory of God, the exaltation of Christ, and to the joy, obedience and transformation of His children. nothing can stand against that."

    Dude, I'll say AMEN to that. In fact, "Preach it!" comes to mind too, and I trust that you will. :)

    Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

    SDG,
    DBH

    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Friday, August 04, 2006 1:54:00 PM  

  • I don't want this to be "Andrew refuting all the negative points that David made about Blue Like Jazz".

    I'm glad you found good in it. I found enough to buy all 4 of his books. I've read all but "Through Painted Deserts". There are reservations that I have about Miller. He is radical but I think the worst thing that he is, as far as I can tell, is unabashed about his freedom in Christ. For some, that could be the demon meat that Paul talks about (food sacrificed to idols). For me, it feels SO right but I am still very cautious about it.

    On to your review:
    =====
    Page 17 / sin nature: CONTEXT CONTEXT CONTEXT Please understand you are looking at a man in the middle of the process of getting to know God. If I talk to you about the times in my life (in the PAST, and there many) when I got drunk, you might/should say I was wrong to do that, and you'd be correct. What I hope I wouldn't hear is that I was wrong in the present for that. Was Solomon wrong for listing his exploits in Ecclesiastes? No, we hail the book for it's conclusion!: "The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil."

    What you are saying is wrong is, to me, a glimpse at what may be a lot of people in that same place in their search today. We KNOW where the "X" is that marks the spot! It's the CROSS!!! And I get excited and happy about plugging these searchers into the object of their search! Or as Emeril would say, "HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY!" Now there's a man who needs Jesus because: Can you imagine how the potluck dinners would be transformed?

    The sin nature passage in Blue that really jumps out and grabs me by the throat is when friend Tony asks of him about the atrocities in Rwanda, "What makes you think you are incapable of the same horrific acts? You are just a man, like them." (paraphrase, BLJ isn't right in front of me). That one pulled my heart right out of my chest. It drove right to our depravity in a way that few questions will. I think Donald gets total depravity, and even though he may not be pulling a card out of the tulip deck to show it, he displays that here.
    =====
    Sounds like you are Republican, just like my comments here lead you to believe me a fan of Miller! The truth is, that much of the church would like to pressure everyone into being a Republican and would do so if they could get away with it. "Anyone who tells you different is selling something." (MOVIE REFERENCE! Free soda to the winner!) His statement here isn't an indictment of the Republican party as it is of the church for being a politically motivated organization. The Republican and Democrat parties serve their own ends. I've had my fill of both.
    =====
    Page 30-"Magic". Dude, you gotta stop exegeting Miller. The text won't stand up to it. Massacre means mass death. There is nothing wrong with leaving that as a definition. Reserve exegesis for scripture.

    If you use either definitions 3 or 4 (or 3 & 4) from the Merriam-Webster link that you provided, there is nothing malicious or cruel about it:
    3. a wholesale slaughter of animals
    4. an act of complete destruction
    Either or both work for me!

    There are far worse abuses of the English language.
    =====
    Page 54 and the ant:
    A collegue of mine once said (slightly tongue in cheek) that it is idolatry to speak of God at all. His explanation was that God is infinite in all aspects, there are no adequate words to describe him. No way to put the words together to paint a PROPER picture of our Sovreign. Once you start talking about God, your words fall short of his Glory, and you are talking about something LESS than God, therefore, idolatry. Yet there he sat, talking about God. =-)
    I think that Miller is leaning far more towards this point than what James says about knowing the things of God. EVEN WITH the Bible of Hebrews 4:12, God is so far above our understanding it is scary...and comforting.
    Maybe I am not giving Donald enough credit but, it seems like you are thinking more about Donald's words in reading them than he did in writing them. Certainly if everyone were in a room together, we'd all agree that we can know a great deal about God from His Word, but we cannot perfectly know him because we are too small, too weak, and too stupid. But you've also addressed that with Romans 11:33. Give Donald a little credit too, he's writing a book on Christian spirituality and references the Bible. Obviously he thinks we can know something about God. I think his point was that God is NOT going to make logical sense to an unbeliever, and won't make complete sense to a Christian. Understanding God is a gift of the Holy Spirit. However, I can think of at least one thing that doesn't make sense to us: Why save David Hewitt? And the really puzzling one: Why save Andrew Short? It'll hopefully make sense someday, but really...we're saved, who NEEDS an explanation? =-D

    In the end, it's a relational book:

    "This is where I was at"
    "This is what I was feeling"
    "This is what God looked like to me"

    Donald is just being real. I think he'll touch a lot of hearts the way he's touched mine just by being honest about his search.
    =====
    The racism thing, I remember hearing in a thread on depravity that racism is a symptom of the disease of sin. (DUH!) The corollary to that nearly had me driving off the road: Sin remains sin. If we get rid of racism (a noble cause!), people will yet figure out another reason to hate each other.
    =====
    Worst thing that he did in this book: He gave Driscoll the label of "Mark, the Cussing Pastor." (but that's another 50 or so blog posts!)
    =====
    You might have something with the ant argument, I gotta look at it some more. I hope you'll give the other issues raised some consideration and let me know what you think.

    "peace" =-D

    Andrew

    By Anonymous Andrew Short, at Friday, August 04, 2006 5:58:00 PM  

  • andrew...you continue to blow me away. i wish i was half as intelligent and articulate as you. when i write it sounds like a cyber-fart. good words.

    peace and love (and i'm not emergent)

    By Anonymous patrick, at Saturday, August 05, 2006 9:25:00 AM  

  • Andrew, you rock. :)

    You said:
    "I don't want this to be "Andrew refuting all the negative points that David made about Blue Like Jazz". "

    Good. I didn't take it that way. :)

    You said:
    "I'm glad you found good in it. I found enough to buy all 4 of his books. I've read all but "Through Painted Deserts". There are reservations that I have about Miller. He is radical but I think the worst thing that he is, as far as I can tell, is unabashed about his freedom in Christ. For some, that could be the demon meat that Paul talks about (food sacrificed to idols). For me, it feels SO right but I am still very cautious about it."

    Indeed, freedom in Christ! It is a precious thing! Paul would agree of course:

    Galatians 5:13a For you were called to freedom, brothers.

    We were called to freedom! However, there is a warning attached to it:

    Galatians 5:13b Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

    You are right to be very cautious! :) Anyway, that was a side note. On to the bulk of your comments on my review.

    You said:
    "Page 17 / sin nature: CONTEXT CONTEXT CONTEXT Please understand you are looking at a man in the middle of the process of getting to know God. If I talk to you about the times in my life (in the PAST, and there many) when I got drunk, you might/should say I was wrong to do that, and you'd be correct. What I hope I wouldn't hear is that I was wrong in the present for that. Was Solomon wrong for listing his exploits in Ecclesiastes? No, we hail the book for it's conclusion!: "The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.""

    Yes, context! Thank you for bringing that out. Context is ALWAYS the king of interpretation, no matter what we are looking at; thank you for the reminder! I wasn't pulling something out and trying to blast him for a statement he made removed from the fact that this is his recorded journey thoguh; I fully realized that. At the same time, when he said those things, he left it at that. In his commentary on his experiences (which he often included in much of the book) he could have said something along the lines of, "Though I didn't want to admit it, and came to learn later on, out sin nature was much more condemning than this," or something to that regard. He did not.

    Of course, this doesn't mean that he didn't think it, or that he didn't come to understand it differently later. Given what Patrick has told me about what Miller has said while he was doing the audio version of the book, he (Miller) may very well have changed his views. However, in the book, he left it like he said it.

    The point about Ecclesiastes was excellent! Yes, we hail the book for its conclusion, and praise the God of Glory for it! At the same time, I didn't see such a conclusion in BLJ for which to give thanks.

    So, even though this is Miller's journey and even though he might have changed his understanding later, he didn't say so in this book, and, since he left it as it stood in that citation, it was something I wanted to point out as a problem.

    I hope that clears things up a bit. :)

    You said:
    "What you are saying is wrong is, to me, a glimpse at what may be a lot of people in that same place in their search today. We KNOW where the "X" is that marks the spot! It's the CROSS!!! And I get excited and happy about plugging these searchers into the object of their search! Or as Emeril would say, "HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY!" Now there's a man who needs Jesus because: Can you imagine how the potluck dinners would be transformed?"

    I'm not sure I understand this part.... I can't follow the statement at the bottom after the Emeril quote. However, the issue of a search, well, it depends on how you define it. :) Clear doctrine needs to be put forth to people with the Gospel (btw, Piper's book God is the Gospel is AMAZING) so that it can be verified what they actually ARE searching for. If it is the true God, then God is of course the one causing them to search. If it is not, then we can point them to Jesus -- the cross -- and see if they want it. If they don't, then they were never really searching for God to begin with.

    I didn't want to elaborate much here... partly because I didn't understand what you said well enough to give a reasonable answer. :)

    "The sin nature passage in Blue that really jumps out and grabs me by the throat is when friend Tony asks of him about the atrocities in Rwanda, "What makes you think you are incapable of the same horrific acts? You are just a man, like them." (paraphrase, BLJ isn't right in front of me). That one pulled my heart right out of my chest. It drove right to our depravity in a way that few questions will. I think Donald gets total depravity, and even though he may not be pulling a card out of the tulip deck to show it, he displays that here."

    That part of the book I also though to be very, very good. I think I was going to include it eventually, but I got tired of this post not getting published. :)

    Does he get total depravity? Maybe, but I honestly doubt it, given some of his other statements (like the one above on page 17). Most Christians don't get it. :) I could be wrong, but I don't think there is any way to know for sure with just the information of BLJ in front of us (though I would contend that the evidence goes the other way).

    "Sounds like you are Republican, just like my comments here lead you to believe me a fan of Miller! The truth is, that much of the church would like to pressure everyone into being a Republican and would do so if they could get away with it."

    Maybe they would. I usually vote republican, but I am ready to turn my back on them should they start officially supporting evils such as abortion. My intention was not to say that you were buying into Miller wholesale, but that you expressed appreciation for some of what he said (as opposed to universal condemnations that I have seen elsewhere [read: Slice of Laodicea - I'm thinking about taking them off my blogroll]). Think of my view of the Republican party to be that. :)

    You said:
    ""Anyone who tells you different is selling something." (MOVIE REFERENCE! Free soda to the winner!) His statement here isn't an indictment of the Republican party as it is of the church for being a politically motivated organization. The Republican and Democrat parties serve their own ends. I've had my fill of both."

    Didn't get the movie reference. Yes, in many ways, both parties serve their own ends. No disagreement here. And, if the church is a politically motivated organization (many times, many churches I think are) then it is forsaking its purpose of declaring the Gospel of Christ in favor of politcal activism. This is not to say that Christians shouldn't have political opinions of course, but passion for a politcal proposition should NEVER overshadow passion for Christ, even for a moment. May God rebuke us when we DARE get close to that line.

    You said:
    "Page 30-"Magic". Dude, you gotta stop exegeting Miller. The text won't stand up to it. Massacre means mass death. There is nothing wrong with leaving that as a definition. Reserve exegesis for scripture."

    I have to disagree here, and I'll tell ya why, that is, with the exegesis comment. First of all, all it means is to pull the meaning out of something. Scriptural exegesis is of course more difficult (and more important I'd contend), but we need to do a bit of exegesis even to understand a simply conversation. You've already admonished me in this very post to do some of it with your statement regarding context. Furthermore, you give word definitions a bit down in your comments.

    In exegeting (and I am using this term and "interpreting" interchangably here, though there are some differences in the terms) Scripture, context is most important, and doing word studies is also important. Without some kind of hermeneutical (interpretive) understanding, then there is no meaning to anything. :) Miller writes in the context of a story, and he is using words a certain way. With those things in mind, we can get into what he's saying, though asking him would be better of course.

    So no, we cannot reserve "exegesis" for Scripture alone. I'm not trying to be rude or mean; just stating a fact. :) With that said, let's talk about the word "massacre."

    "If you use either definitions 3 or 4 (or 3 & 4) from the Merriam-Webster link that you provided, there is nothing malicious or cruel about it:
    3. a wholesale slaughter of animals
    4. an act of complete destruction
    Either or both work for me!

    There are far worse abuses of the English language."


    True, it could mean that. I'll concede the point in part. However, a word like "massacre" is a bit stronger than a word like "kill" or "destroy." The way we phrase things often partly determines the response we get from people. So, if I were to say "God destroyed the entire world with a world-wide flood, and everyone on the earth except for Noah and his family died," it brings a different reaction than, say, "God massacred the entire human race, destroying the world with a flood." That was my point. There were words that can be used that carry less negative connotations. As far as the denotation is concerned, you are most correct, and I'll concede that. :)

    To be sure, there ARE far worse abuses of the English language. :)

    You said:
    "Page 54 and the ant:
    A collegue of mine once said (slightly tongue in cheek) that it is idolatry to speak of God at all. His explanation was that God is infinite in all aspects, there are no adequate words to describe him. No way to put the words together to paint a PROPER picture of our Sovreign. Once you start talking about God, your words fall short of his Glory, and you are talking about something LESS than God, therefore, idolatry. Yet there he sat, talking about God. =-)"


    Yes; that is ironic indeed. :)

    You said:
    "I think that Miller is leaning far more towards this point than what James says about knowing the things of God. EVEN WITH the Bible of Hebrews 4:12, God is so far above our understanding it is scary...and comforting."

    Agreed, it is scary and comforting. It is truly wonderful! :)

    You said:
    "Maybe I am not giving Donald enough credit but, it seems like you are thinking more about Donald's words in reading them than he did in writing them. Certainly if everyone were in a room together, we'd all agree that we can know a great deal about God from His Word, but we cannot perfectly know him because we are too small, too weak, and too stupid. But you've also addressed that with Romans 11:33. Give Donald a little credit too, he's writing a book on Christian spirituality and references the Bible. Obviously he thinks we can know something about God. I think his point was that God is NOT going to make logical sense to an unbeliever, and won't make complete sense to a Christian. Understanding God is a gift of the Holy Spirit. However, I can think of at least one thing that doesn't make sense to us: Why save David Hewitt? And the really puzzling one: Why save Andrew Short? It'll hopefully make sense someday, but really...we're saved, who NEEDS an explanation? =-D"

    Maybe I did think about it a little more than he did. That being said, perhaps he (and we) should be more careful about what we write. :)

    I'm not sure if we were all in a room we'd all agree we can know a great deal about God. There are some in the post-modern camp that say we can't really know anything (though they will admit they do by their actions and lifestyle even if they deny it with their words). If Miller is in that camp (as I suspect he is) then he might well have meant what he said.

    Completely agreed on the issue of our salvation -- why on earth ARE we saved? The answer the Bible gives us of course is that God chose to love us for His glory. Why did He love us though? He wanted to, and that is truly amazing. I can't understand it completely -- and it leads me to worship! Praise be to God, He is truly awesome!

    You said:
    "In the end, it's a relational book:

    "This is where I was at"
    "This is what I was feeling"
    "This is what God looked like to me"

    Donald is just being real. I think he'll touch a lot of hearts the way he's touched mine just by being honest about his search."


    Yes, he was being real and honest, and I commend him for it. I loved that part of the book; I wish more people were that way. We can use a lot more of that in the church today -- but we also need a lot more good doctrine. ;-) I found a lot of the former, and little of the latter. Hence why I wrote the review the way I did. :)

    You said:
    "The racism thing, I remember hearing in a thread on depravity that racism is a symptom of the disease of sin. (DUH!) The corollary to that nearly had me driving off the road: Sin remains sin. If we get rid of racism (a noble cause!), people will yet figure out another reason to hate each other."

    Absolutely correct. When I read how he was talking to his friend (Miller's friend) about this, I was thrilled. Indeed, if there wasn't any racism, we'd find some other way to hate each other. People are evil; it is as simple as that.

    You said:
    "Worst thing that he did in this book: He gave Driscoll the label of "Mark, the Cussing Pastor." (but that's another 50 or so blog posts!)"

    I'd hardly say it was the worst thing he said in the book, but it did put a negative light on Mark. The very fact that Miller mentioned Driscoll probably got some people to think negatively of Driscoll... which is completely illogical, because Don also implicitly makes reference to Joshua Harris in the book too, and I don't hear anyone accusing Harris of being emergent.

    The cussing part I'm sure has helped put Mark in the Emergent camp for a lot of people. I'm not saying it is right, but I am saying that it is probably part of the reason, so I'll agree with you -- probably not the best words to describe him, even if used as a bit of humor (can you tell I'm starting to like Driscoll a bit?).

    Lastly, you said:
    "You might have something with the ant argument, I gotta look at it some more. I hope you'll give the other issues raised some consideration and let me know what you think.

    "peace" =-D"


    I'm pretty sure I do have something with the ant argument. I did give the other issues raised some consideration, and I appreciate you taking the time to post this! I hope you think my response decent.

    And yes -- peace to you as well my brother!

    For Jesus Sake,
    David B. Hewitt

    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Saturday, August 05, 2006 12:50:00 PM  

  • 1. So it seems that what you really didn't care about in the book, is his writing style?

    2. I only brought up definitions because you did. =-D

    3. There is a lot to like about Driscoll.

    4. One thing I heard Miller say in a podcast once, which you most likely haven't heard, and I would have to dig for is, "Systematic Theology is good because it gives you fences". Heck, he even describes himself as a fundamentalist, although he doesn't mean that 100% in the traditional definition because in the same breath he says that fundamentalists don't like him. He says, "Fundamentalists don't like me because I won't add anything to scripture, Liberals don't like me because I do what it says."

    =-D

    5. Still mulling over the ant.

    By Blogger Andrew Short, at Saturday, August 05, 2006 1:42:00 PM  

  • Andrew! :) On your point 1, I don't understand... I did like the conversational tone of the book, though that being said it doesn't necessarily rule out other things he said. Anyway, I'm going to stop writing about that and go on to another point. :)

    On 2, fair enough. :)

    On three, it would appear so. I liked what I saw over at Acts29 too.

    On 4, I like it. :)

    On 5, well, nothing on five since you're still mulling it. :)

    DH

    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Saturday, August 05, 2006 3:18:00 PM  

  • anyone ever heard of a coffee shop? just wondering.

    By Anonymous you know who, at Saturday, August 05, 2006 8:19:00 PM  

  • Yeah, but I don't like coffee. :)

    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Saturday, August 05, 2006 9:57:00 PM  

  • Do you drink tea?

    I love coffee. Inlaws smuggled some Kona back from Hawaii and it is GU-UU-UUUD.

    Maybe we should have a BLJ over Starbucks night???

    By Blogger Andrew Short, at Saturday, August 05, 2006 11:19:00 PM  

  • OH, you are suggesting that we actually get together and discuss it? I misunderstood. :)

    Sure, we can do that sometime. When?

    DBH

    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Sunday, August 06, 2006 2:17:00 PM  

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