What this book is about:
This nonfiction explores issues that the author, Rachel Held Evans, has wrestled with in her walk of faith.
Each chapter begins with a more creative work, it could be a sonnet about the beast, a screenplay about Job or an essay by Hagar before diving more fully into the subject matter at hand – Origin Stories, Deliverance Stories, War Stories, Wisdom Stories, Resistance Stories, Gospel Stories, Fish Stories, and finally Church Stories.
Each chapter is infused with information that not only sheds more light on the Bible itself, but also challenges the reader to think and even question parts of their own faith. There are plenty of references to other authors and a substantial resource list at the back of the book, showing that Evans has really taken the time to do her homework here.
The subtitle sums up this book perfectly, I think, in “Loving the Bible Again” instead of pushing people away from the Bible, Evans works to draw people back into love of the Bible and their faith.
What I liked:
- The creative starting points – For example, the Job screenplay was a really interesting take on what can be a rather controversial book of the Bible. It helped me, as one fairly familiar with Biblical content, to look at things in a fresh light.
- The push to thinking – Evans questions the acceptance of poor treatment of humans, for example, using the Bible to condone the mistreatment of the LGBT community. No matter where one stands in their acceptance of this community, Evans reminds us that they are first and foremost humans, and challenges us to rethink how we interact.
- Grouping of Biblical texts and stories – in each of the chapters, Evans groups together similar types of stories from the Bible and explores them. For example, in War Stories, she addresses the troubling nature of apparent God-mandated genocide and offers a more historically accurate interpretation of these events.
- Tone – this is a book that could easily have a hard and accusatory tone, but Evans and her team have worked very hard to keep it rather neutral and accessible to everyone.
- The glut of intellectual information – I feel like Evans and I kind of live in the same information and intellectual arena, so this book really clicked with me.
What I didn’t like:
- A few things weren’t entirely accurate and may have been exaggerated to make a point, for example the essay from Hagar saying she was the first to name God, which isn’t true.
- Honestly, the most trouble I had with the book was the format – the ebook – and I can’t hold that against anyone, obviously. If I go through this book again, I’ll have to buy a paper copy, because I think I’ll get more out of it.
Overall thoughts and impressions:
Overall, I really like the concept and style of this book. Personally, I’m right in the middle of where she’s been and so this spoke to me in a way that a book hasn’t in a while. I’m in the midst of questioning what I believe, and how to read the Bible, and what to do with it, and how to interpret it. This helped bring some clarity to me and give me new ways to think and consider.
I also really enjoyed the more creative ventures. At first, when I heard about, that, I wasn’t sure what to think, but as I read and experienced it, I think it really worked. For anyone willing to maintain an open mind, this book can really push new boundaries and ways to think, I think even if one is as progressive as Evans. She seems to be a strange mix of progressive ideals and Biblical love. In my experience, the more progressive one becomes, the less highly they hold the Bible and she genuinely has a love and tenderness for the Bible and for faith that comes through.
This book is definitely a “read slowly” kind of book – it’s difficult to blitz through because there is SO MUCH in there. I’m excited to dig into the resources in the back and do some more reading on my own. I think I’d also like to go through it again, perhaps even with other people, to do more digging and studying of the material within.
The writing itself is solid and demonstrates the time and care put into the book by all members of the team (because let’s face it, books aren’t written alone), so I highly recommend this book to anyone of the Christian faith, whether you doubt or feel secure in your faith.
I give this book five stars.
I received a complementary e-book copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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