Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Book Review: Johan van der Merve, Thinking Naughty Thoughts

This book is much more about asking questions than answering them, and that's very good.  Good answers are not possible until bad answers are demolished with good questions.  You see a lot of questions in the Bible whose purpose is to destroy answers.  Examine Jesus in the gospels.

On Psalm 110: "If David calls him Lord, then how is he his son?"
To demolish the absurd doctrine of the Pharisees that only God can forgive sins: "Which is easier, to say your sins are forgiven, or 'Rise up and walk?'"
"Have you not read what David did, when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone?"
"Or have you not read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the law and are innocent?"
"What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and pull it out?"
"What do you think, Simon?  From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons, or from strangers?"

All these questions, and many more like them, are calculated to destroy religious doctrines.  If Jesus is who Christians say he is, or even who Muslims say he is, you're looking here at how the Spirit of God works - demolishing religious doctrines with questions. 

Van der Merve attempts the same thing.  Here are some of his questions:

Do I really have to belong to a local church?
Are you choking on the cracker and the grape-juice?
Why all the fuss about leadership when Jesus hardly ever spoke about it?
Why does the pastor insist on 10% of my income when he drives a luxury car and I can hardly make it through each month?
Is delivering a sermon really the best way to communicate God's word and will in a community of faith?
Are we worshipping God or the things that draw us to worship Him?
Do you really expect me to believe that God lives there?

There is great value in questioning everything.  In fact, Haggai writes that God will shake everything so that only the unshakeable will remain.  Religious people try to preserve the unshakeable by putting things off-limits - thus betraying their unbelief in what they claim to believe.  If you believe something is unshakeable, you don't have to protect it. 

People bellow "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" or "USA! USA!" because their hearts are telling them that these things need to be shored up by unanimous shouting.  It's not surprising that God makes a point of coming along and wrecking these idolatries.  Anybody that wants God around has to get to enjoy that and even to follow God's example.  This is how people that follow God get hated and persecuted by religious people.  If that happens, Jesus says, we're blessed.

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