“A Year of Biblical Womanhood” $1.99 on Kindle

Not sure how long this sale will last, but right now on Amazon you can get A Year of Biblical Womanhood for your Kindle for just $1.99. You can download it here

In other fun news, Tony Jones just named A Year of Biblical Womanhood his Theoblogy Book of the Year.

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Always ready with an answer…

Well, we’ve worked our way through Evolving in Monkey Town, just in time to mark the one year anniversary of its release. Thanks so much for your engagement and participation. Today’s excerpt comes from the final chapter, entitled “Living the Questions":

...I’m no longer ready to give an answer about everything. Sometimes I’m not ready because I feel that an answer does not do justice to the seriousness or complexity of the question. Sometimes I’m not ready to give an answer because I honestly don’t know what the best one is. Sometimes I’m not ready to give an answer because I can tell that the person asking doesn’t really want one anyway. 

Unfortunately, saying “I don’t know” has fallen out of vogue in Christian circles, and I’m still trying to get used to saying it myself. Opinionated and strong-willed, I’m always afraid that if I remain silent or show signs of ambivalence, people will assume that I can’t think for myself, that I haven’t studied an issue or thought it through. As my friends well know, I’ll tolerate a barrage of vicious insults before I’ll tolerate the mere suggestion that I might be uninformed. I would rather people think I don’t bathe enough than think I don’t read enough. 

In a way, the same has been true of the church of late. Sometimes Christians worry that if we don’t provide bullet-proof answers to all of life’s questions, people will assume that our faith is unreasonable. In reaction to very loud atheists like Richard Dawkins, we have become a bit too loud ourselves. Faith in Jesus has been recast as a position in a debate, not a way of life. 

But the truth is, I’ve found people to be much more receptive to the gospel when they know becoming a Christian doesn’t require becoming a know-it-all. Most of the people I’ve encountered are looking not for a religion to answer all their questions but for a community of faith in which they can feel safe asking them. 

When Peter first penned the words “always be ready with an answer,” he was writing to the persecuted church during the time of the emperor Nero…This was not advice for a debate team; it was advice for martyrs! Peter asked his readers to take courage, to look into the eyes of their assailants with patience and compassion, gentleness and respect. He urged them to live lives that are beyond reproach, to follow the teachings of Jesus and love their enemies to the point of death. This passage is not about fearlessly defending a set of propositions; it’s about fearlessly defending hope—a wild, bewitching, and reckless thing that cannot be systematized or proven or rationally explained. 

Peter knew that such behavior might arouse some curiosity. He knew that his fellow Christians would be subject to interrogation regarding their radical community and unconventional lives. In preparing them to give answers, Peter assumed they’d be asked questions. Our best answers in defense of Christianity have always been useless clanging cymbals unless our lives have inspired the world to ask. 

What are you not ready to give an answer about these days? What questions are you living through? 

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False fundamentals

Just a few more weeks left in our journey through Evolving in Monkey Town. Today’s excerpts come from Chapter 19, entitled “Adaptation":

It seems that a whole lot of people, both Christians and non-Christians, are under the impression that you can’t be a Christian and vote for a Democrat, you can’t be a Christian and believe in evolution, you can’t be a Christian and be gay, you can’t be a Christian and have questions about the Bible, you can’t be a Christian and be tolerant of other  religions, you can’t be a Christian and be a feminist, you can’t be a Christian and drink or smoke, you can’t be a Christian and read The New York Times, you can’t be a Christian and support gay rights, you can’t be a Christian and get depressed, you can’t be a Christian and doubt. 

I am convinced that what drives most people away from Christianity is not the cost of discipleship but rather the cost of false fundamentals. False fundamentals make it impossible for faith to adapt to change. The longer the list of requirements and contingencies and prerequisites, the more vulnerable faith becomes to shifting environments and the more likely it is to fade slowly into extinction. When the gospel gets all entangled with extras, dangerous ultimatums threaten to take it down with them. The yoke gets too heavy and we stumble beneath it…

...Once, a guy asked Jesus about his yoke, or teaching. He asked Jesus what he thought was the most important of all the Jewish laws. Jesus, who often responded to one question with another, chose this time to answer the man directly. He said, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matt. 22:37-40). 

Love. It’s that simple and that profound. It’s that easy and that hard. 

Taking the yoke of Jesus is not about signing a doctrinal statement or making an intellectual commitment to a set of propositions. It isn’t about being right or getting our facts straight. It is about loving God and loving other people. The yoke is hard because the teachings of Jesus are radical: enemy love, unconditional forgiveness, extreme generosity. The yoke is easy because it is accessible to all—the studied and the ignorant, the rich and the poor, the religious and the nonreligious. Whether we like it or not, love is available to all people everywhere to be interpreted differently, applied differently, screwed up differently, and manifested differently. Love is bigger than faith, and it’s bigger than works, for it inhabits and transcends both…

What false fundamentals have you wrestled with in your life?

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Idols of Paper and Ink

Today we continue working our way through Evolving in Monkey Town with an excerpt from Chapter 17, entitled “Sword Drills”

Sometimes I wonder who really had the most biblical support back in the 1800s, Christians who used Ephesians 6 to support the institution of slavery, or Christians who used Galatians 3 to support abolition. Both sides had perfectly legitimate verses to back up their positions, but in hindsight, only one side seems even remotely justifiable on a moral level. On the surface, the Bible would seem to condone slavery. But somehow, as a church, we managed to work our way around those passages because of a shared sense of right and wrong, some kind of community agreement. Maybe God left us with all this discontinuity and conflict within Scripture so that we would have to “pick and choose” for the right reasons. Maybe he let David talk about murdering his enemies and Jesus talk about loving his enemies because he didn’t want to spell it out for us. He wanted us to make the right decisions as we went along, together. Maybe God wants us to have these conversations because faith isn’t just about being right; it’s about being part of a community. 

For as long as I can remember, the Christian response to conflicts within Scripture has been to try and explain them away, to smooth over the rough spots and iron out the kinks. The goal is to get everyone on the same page, to come up with one consistent, coherent, and comprehensive “biblical worldview” so that we can confidently proclaim that God indeed has an opinion about everything, including politics, economics, theology, science, and sex. We think that if we can just have a perfect, seamless book that can be read objectively and without bias, we will have the ultimate weapon. There will be no need for a God who stays hidden up on Mount Sinai, and there will be no need for each other. Instead, we will have a physical representation of God on which to dwell, personal idols made of paper and ink. 

As much as I struggle with the things I don’t like about the Bible—the apparent contradictions, the competing interpretations, the troubling passages—I’m beginning to think that God allows these tensions to exist for a reason. Perhaps our love for the Bible should be measured not by how valiantly we fight to convince others of our interpretations but by how diligently we work to preserve a diversity of opinion. 

Funny how I wrote this long before my “year of biblical womanhood” made many of these questions and conflicts a daily reality! Have you struggled with the Bible? In what ways might that struggle be redemptive?  When did your Bible-shaped idol come crashing down?

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