Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Book Review: Searching for Sunday
Would I recommend Rachel Held Evans' Searching for Sunday? Probably not. At least not to anyone who comes to my mind. (All the while acknowledging that reading is subjective and that what 'ministers' to one reader might offend others.)
Who isn't a good fit for Searching for Sunday? Those who hold the Bible to be the only authority, the final authority, for how one lives and what one believes. Those who believe it is the very Word of God, God's revelation of himself to us that is ever-relevant no matter the century, no matter the culture. Who is a good fit for Searching for Sunday? Those who always redefining their faith: who they are, who God is, what God says, what church is all about. Those who are perhaps looking for answers outside of the Bible.
Searching for Sunday is an angst-driven confession of almost-faith, or, faith-outgrown-and-then-redefined-according-to-her-preferences. It is one woman's story of her love-hate relationship with church. Not just with the church, but, with faith in general, with evangelical faith to be specific. It felt to me like a celebration of doubt and unbelief. Not that doubt needs to be shamed, mind you, or ignored. Plenty of the psalms, for example, reveal varying degrees of doubt. But most, if not all, then lead you past doubt to rock-solid praise. One may temporarily doubt God's goodness or his justice or his love, but, to stay doubting, to stay in a place where one holds onto doubt and celebrates it doesn't quite seem biblical. Though I'm all for being honest with God, and being honest with yourself and with others. It's the celebrating of doubt that seems out of place, if that makes sense.
It is from start to finish a personal story: her experiences, her opinions, her conclusions. One can't really "disagree" with another's experiences. One can relate or not relate, that is all. But with opinions and conclusions, one can disagree. And I did. Plenty of times. More times than I could count. I found it a frustrating and saddening read. The Bible is God's Word to us, it is his revelation of himself, his sharing who He is, and who we are, and what life is all about. The Bible is the sum of all truth, eternal, revealing a God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Who God is does not change according to our whims of who we want him to be, who we need him to be, our own definitions of right and wrong, fair and unfair. We are never to add or subtract from God's revelation of himself. When we disagree with the Bible, it isn't the Bible that needs to be changed to accommodate us!
Is the church perfect? Is any one church perfect? No, of course, not. The church is composed of sinners: sinners saved by grace and grace alone, who remain in varying degrees, for better or worse, sinners still. At the very least, capable of sin and capable of hurting others. Perhaps, at times, blind mainly to their own sins and quite open to "seeing" everyone else's sins. I think pride will always, always, always be a big issue. And pride doesn't have to be an out-in-the-open obvious issue. It can hide behind those embracing honesty and humility. It can hide behind great talent. It doesn't have to be smug and arrogant and in-your-face. I think pride is one sin that all Christians have in common with one another. So the church isn't perfect. I think if one judges the church--any church, all churches--by the Bible, that is one thing. It's another to judge the church by your own standards drawn more from culture than the Word of God. So, yes, there is room for improvement certainly, the church has "fallen short" in some ways. But I felt the book was more insulting the church than embracing it.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible