Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Review of "SoyouDon'tWanttogotoChurchAnymore"

A review of the book written by Jake Colsen,
"So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore"

Does the book bring a renewal or a new type of Christianity?
Is Grace being redefined or updated to fix what is wrong? So this book is about either a discovery of new ideas, ideas which are in harmony with the original authors or a bit of both. Oh my, because ideas have consequences.

Q: Why is the desire to want people transformed, which is a very good motive, met with their answer of degrading the whole church enterprise as it relates to transformation. Here is a book that intends to imply that church systems are negative, deleterious to God and spiritual growth, and to be avoided as far as wisdom serves them.

The book is what it is, in trying to describe a little piece of truth in a fictional book that addresses issues, in a roundabout way, in having a relationship with the Lord. One would think that Paul and others were clear in their letters that knowing the Lord is about His nature being illumined in us. It is not delivered via a spiritual inner communication systems (voices telling us who god is). Does this book illumine us on who God is? The book is beneficial when it considers why people become entrenched in the institutional church system. The book also helps readers to understand that the most important relationship one can have is the one with God Himself, and if a church system interferes with that relationship in a negative way, it may be time to move on. But on who God is, I think this book mangles the way in which the Triune God and Creator works. I don't think these experienced authors are dishonest or ignorant. So what gives? Well, below is some of the assertions of truths that they convey in the book and what I have to counter them with. John, the player in the book, gives curious expressions that are decadently deceptive, to me, like the Onion website or a candid camera fake survey spoof. I felt like I was taking a Master's program course and the professor was giving me a faked contemporary Montanist book and seeing if I could decipher and spot if John and Jake were pulling my leg. I thought this character in the book must be kidding. Wasn't he joking, jesting, fomenting a little discord but he couldn't be really believing his own fables could he? Doesn't he know that there is a 1,976 year narrative of facts that can't, or shouldn't, be falsified? If he wants another Jesus then he should start a new religion. But don't negate and disparage the historical record of what Jesus' 'church' has said and done.

What is the difference between divine revelation and divine illumination?

Who is John really?

Principles this book tries to convey are from quotes from the two authors at a video interview they did:
· you will give up control when you preach this freedom
· you will not be cogs and structures in the 'institution'
· you are scared of the real thing
· the success of the 'inst' breeds the dependence on the system
· It will open up your eyes as to see thru God's eyes and not your need to control it. Who He really is
· don't have to win other peoples approval
· you may relax from all devotional work
· He found it sweet to free some people from the 'institution'
· They want you to think of Jesus as brother and the Father who brought him
· if you follow this plan, the original plan, you won't have to go thru the hoola-hoops that dependency brings
· pastors are nice guys but they build a partial structure and they want you to help sustain it
· from the bondage of religion to the liberty of a transforming life, the heart of the gospel
· you serve and try to be pleasing to the Lord but, somewhere in the course of that journey, you can't sustain it for the ache of the loneliness, and pleasing God is not enough. It doesn't work. When you read what comes out of "John's" mouth is what should be what comes out of your experience. Engage Jesus the way John describes
· this is about hand-grenades blowing up preconceived notions
· taking the hand-cuffs off which you allowed the 'system' to put on you
· the authors say that what this church was teaching, what they were saying, just didn't work for real followers.

What will be the expected responses of those who love this new bit of doctrine and wish to shun the old ways? What will they say about me?

They will say of me that I am the dog in dogmatic, the cat in caterwalling, non-emotional in not being swayed, non-intuitive in personal messages of change, unspiritual to new ideas, puts God in a box, an exegete of the text, objectivist in what meaning is, doesn't read between the lines, Colossians 3 means just one thing, context is king, John 8:32 has specific context to unlocking it's continuing and obeying - there is truth that sets free, the laws of God are still in effect, I.e. causality and non-contradiction and use of language and sense perception to name a few, ...

Excellent insights:

1) page 17-18; "He told me he often wonders if God is even real or if this whole Christianity thing is just a crock.”
“What did you tell him?”
“I tried to encourage him. I told him we couldn’t live by sight but by faith; that he’s done a lot of wonderful things for God and he’ll honor that someday. We just have to be faithful and not trust our feelings.”
“So you told him he didn’t have the right to his feelings, or his questions?”
“No, that’s not what I said.”
“Are you sure?” The question was gentle, not accusing.
Taken back, I replayed what I had said to him.
“Understand something, Jake, this life in Jesus is a real thing. It’s not a game. When people sense something’s wrong, you know what I’ve discovered? Something usually is.” “Do you think you helped him?”

2) page 44, “Jake, if you listen to anything else I say, listen to this: Don’t use our conversations to try to change others.

3) Pastors are 'nice people' but when they help build an institution then they are in conflict between building the body of believers and the needs that the institution has. Therefore the authors see an unbridgeable conflict. Whether your are a performer or an attender you will have to respond to this new shift. How do you relate to that institution? What is real discipleship?

4) "Most people live by their illusions. Never let mere appearances become your reality." "The hardest thing you'll learn in this journey is to give up the illusion of controlling your own life" Page: 59, 78

Poor insights:

1) The illusion of John being, perhaps, 2,ooo years old and posturing it in the book even if it is a book of fiction. Make it John from Mosul or John from Cincinnati. That is fiction.
I hope he is not the disciple of Jesus and the one who wrote a few of the books that came to be the new testament, because that John had a problem with faulty information being disseminated to others capriciously.

2) The book said that Jesus hoped or hopes for people. He (Jesus) is "hoping somehow they would find a way out of their self-inflicted souls to recognize who stood among them." This speaks of people being in charge of their destiny and Jesus acquiescing to his creations actions and will.

3) John speaks of Ephesus being excellent in everyway except they didn't have their first love. “I’m not talking about what you’re doing. Are you filled with the love of Jesus like you were the first day you believed in him?”
My take is this is poor theology. Shallow understanding of this passage. Love is not a feeling of your first Jesus experience in this example in Revelation. The passage seeks to remind the 'church' that it is to remember who is Sovereign. Always to the one in whom all things are in control of.

4) this is what the whole thing is about (page 19).
"This life is not some philosophical thought you can conjure up through meditation or some kind of theological abstraction to be debated. It is fullness. It is freedom. It is joy and peace no matter what happens—even if your doctor uses the ‘C’ word when he gives you the results of your MRI. This is the kind of life that he came to share with everyone who will give up trying to control their own lives and embrace his agenda."

5) The mocking regard for who John is in the beginning of the third chapter. Not believably written.
Jake is a rather dense person. Tries to examine himself but seems unskillful at self-examination (what an incisive comment, Bruce.) Prays some and gets angry because nothing happens. Are there people like him? You bet? But I'm getting the strong inclination that this is via the examples of...the family in the hallway at church...that they are embarrassed...yes, this is, maybe, a church of immature church pleasers and wussies but this is not a lampstand dowser. (page 25-26). Page 20 there is more Jake denseness. And on and on it seems.

6) If A equals an accounting and openness person to person; B=accounting and openness to God; scripture has no A but only B according to John in this book.
Answering accountability: Is this true that it is a detriment to God's place of ownership (page 40)? Or a most bogus and fraudulent answer that was given by John? Who said,
"All the accountability in Scripture is linked to God, not to other brothers and sisters. When we hold each other accountable we are really usurping God’s place." (page 40) John's conclusion in the next lines: if it isn't working perfectly groups should be jettisoned entirely; group think is anti God.

Well, below are some refutations of this silliness.

* judges are accountable to the constitution, state statute's and the people and likewise the Christian has obligations and connections to others, culturally, socially, spiritually and not to be subject only to God.
* Scripture gives us guidelines to keep from getting "way out there"; which includes accounting and connecting to, amazingly, people.
* If all moral accountings are ultimately relative to only each individuals discretion and to God which he can’t see -- if there is no objective accountability to others -- John makes it is a most solitary affair and a most deconstructionist attack on Christian basics. For this is not the history of normative doctrine.
* Stewardship concepts: When it can be observed that a whole lot of folks are going spiritually weird; you are supposed to do what?... Well, these folks found themselves unequipped to deal with the hardship and tribulation that inevitably faces every believer. They become ineffectual and disenchanted Christians. But they should look to God only.
* Some are not sunk by hardship, but by success. At the pinnacle of their ministries they get involved in sexual immorality, misappropriate funds, or simply turn into jerks and numbskulls (Jake.) But nothing should be done to stop it, only God -- John says. Reductio ad absurdum.
* boundary makers and keepers are deliberated thru others. * Concerning the ability of checking the weirdness meter; who checks it for you? You have to be visible to another person. One has to be available for disclosure of their moral habits and challenges.
* Paul said to Ephesus that we were to be subject, mutually, one to the other.
* if you have a healthy sense of vulnerability you will be aware of the need to be accountable. You are then transparent about your liabilities and limitations as a human being. Vulnerability takes courage. As well as a humbleness.
* This is a dangerous allegation to not be real to men but only to Jesus. They are espousing ‘spirituality’ as an icon of self contained power. (Though I like Johns idea and would prefer it in my own life I have come to know that it is a lie.)
* Confess your sins to each other to be healed.
* an immune system and the wisdom of a firewall are both analogies of giving an account for your life to others by virtue of God being at work in you.
* [Jake's definition on being accountable and having standards] -- “it helps people try to live better, doesn’t it?” “It looks like that,” John shook his head and let out a deep sigh. “But it doesn’t work. We’re not changed by the promises we make to God, but by the promises he makes to us." (40)
* Retreats, by the way, are not the answer or are they effective for most people in attaining any measure of freedom or a means of moral convictions lived well. These are the conclusions of what John says.

7) Does this quote make a bit of sense?
“That’s the worst part of religious thinking. It takes our best ambitions and uses them against us. People who are trying to be more godly actually become more captive to their appetites and desires. That’s exactly what happened to Eve. She just wanted to be like God, which is also exactly what God wants for us. It wasn’t what she wanted that got her in trouble, but that she relied on her own strength to get her there." I'm still thinking about this, but I think John jumped the shark and has gone into the ridiculous. It has nothing to do with just relying on God's strength. But a boundary marker not being crossed.

8) The authors here give Paul (the New Testament guy) new additional information for his portfolio in how to know God. New doctrine, so to say. Here John opens the back door to let the new ooze of freedom flow thru. John addresses the idea that their is no fallen nature to mankind now. If we trust Him we will be like Him. John makes no distinction between Paul’s pre-salvation and post-redemptive stages he writes about. He implies that Paul was anti-law (all law) and sought to tell his fledgling 'church' that ethical transcendent values have nothing to do with God and his attributes for us today.

“Paul recognized there are three roads in this life, when most of us only recognize two. We tend to think of our lives as a choice between doing bad and doing good. Paul saw two different ways we could try to do good—one makes us work hard to submit to God’s rules. That one fails every time. Even when he described himself as following all of God’s rules externally, he also called himself the worst sinner alive because of the hate and anger in his heart. Sure he could conform his outward behavior to fit the rules, but it only pushed his problems deeper. He was, you remember, out killing God’s people in God’s name.”
“Paul is talking about religion—man’s effort to appease God by his own work. If we do what he wants he will be good to us, and if we don’t then bad things will happen in our lives. On its best day, this approach will allow us to be smugly self-righteous which is a trap all its own. On its worst days it will heap guilt upon us greater than we can bear. Your ‘New Testament principles’ are just another way of living to the law. You’re still caught up in the process of trying to get God to reward you for doing good.”
“So trying to do good can be a bad thing?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“If you go about it that way, yes. But Paul saw another way to live in God’s life that was so engaging it transformed his entire life. He knew that our failures all result from the fact that we just don’t trust God to take care of us. As Paul grew to know God better, he discovered that he could trust God’s love for him. The more he grew to trust God’s love, the freer he was from those desires that consumed him. Only by trusting Jesus can anyone experience this kind of freedom and those who know him do. It is real freedom.”
“Won’t people just use that for an excuse to do whatever feels good and ignore what God wants?”
“Sure some will. Many already have. But those who really know who God is will want to be like him.”
(that, I’m afraid to say, is the bogyman Gnosticism raising it‘s fateful head again.)

9) The authors establish here that God has no standards and systems that we need to comply with. No ethics for man and no justice required by God. God gave away his justice and there is a newer and more improved God acting and transmitting His information today. The book makes Jake a naive dufous.. But stating that him doesn't make what he understands about Gods eternal attributes to be nonsense. Jake might be slow to apprehend his deeper growth potential but he still may know right from wrong and these verities never change.

“[Jake] We have to have a standard, though, so people can know what that is.” That’s when he dropped the bombshell that exploded every remaining preconception I had of this Christian life.
“Jake, when are you going to get past the mistaken notion that Christianity is about ethics?”
What? "I looked up at him and could not get one coherent thought from my brain to my mouth. If it isn’t about ethics, what is it about? I had been raised all of my life to believe that Christianity was an ethic for life that would earn me a place in God’s heart (only half true). I didn’t even know where to put this last statement, but he seemed content just to let it hang there."
Finally I found something to say. “I don’t even know how to respond to that. I’ve lived my whole life in Christ thinking this was all about ethics.”
Jake may not quite get what ethics is but John should. A strong moral compass is what you get when you are born a second time and continue in the disciplining process of Christ. Why does man always prefer to change Him from what He is into a more similar representation of what we wish Him to be?

10) The authors say everything you learned about Christian disciplines is wrong and is the opposite of what you should be doing. Sort of a 'doing-nondoing' duality. You' all have it backwards. John must be very wise. But his assertions are utterly without evidence.
“That’s where you have it backward, Jake. We don’t get his love by living up to his standards. We find his love in the most broken place of our lives. As we let him love us there and discover how to love him in return, we’ll find our lives changing in that relationship.” “How can that be?” Don’t we have to walk away from sin to know him?” “Walking toward him is walking away from sin. The better you know him the freer from it you will be. But you can’t walk away from sin, Jake. Not in your own strength! Everything he wants to do in you will get done as you learn to live in his love. “It sounds so easy when you say it, John. But learning to live that way would be the opposite of everything I’ve been taught.”

11) You guys and gals are missing it entirely John says.
“And that is why you’re missing it. You’re so caught up in a system of reward and punishment that you’re missing the simple relationship he wants to have with you.”

12) The authors new definition of sin and how to be free from it.

"Every act of sin results from your mistrust of his love and intentions for you. We sin to fill up broken places, to try to fight for what we think is best for us, or by reacting to our guilt and shame. Once you discover how much he loves you, all that changes. As you grow in trusting him, you will find yourself increasingly free from sin.”

(Is there any more the authors can say and pile on about the muddled and depressing nature of this church in Kingston.)

13) John who said that standards of ethics don't matter (Ch. 7,8,9,10) and that even practicing good can be bad. There are no ethics in Christianity therefore no truths which matter. So...why would he say this? Oops, John shouldn't be bothered with ethics as he trusted Jesus.
But he said, in page 51, “Or just tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may. It seems to me you’re not being asked to choose between Jim or Ben but between the truth and a lie.” Would you betray the truth just to hold onto a paycheck?”

If standards and ethics are not about Christianity, as John said, then why the need for an ethical decision here? John jumped the shark. Which is becoming the case about every other page.

some of my standards: you must keep yourself learning, teachable, firm on convictions, precise, accurate, integrating, virtues growing, lovely, truthful, meek (controlled strength), ...

14) More erroneous derivatives of the whole truth:

· “Scripture doesn’t use the language of need when talking about the vital connection God establishes between believers. Our dependency is in Jesus alone!" 53
· "Religion survives by telling us we need to fall in line or some horrible fate will befall us." 53
· "And that life isn’t fighting over control of the institution, but simply helping each other learn to live deeply in him."
· John says we even use things like ‘doctrinal unity’ to control people by stifling any disagreement. [Would John say that Jesus was having a bad day when he said to the Sanhedrin's leaders that they "...were not the children of Abraham." To much doctrinal judgmentalism and saber rattling for John's taste, I would assume.]

15) John talks of just loving, that is all you need. He talks of this selfish controlling institution and those church people who sustain the system. But he tells Jake that it is just fine if you are selfish but to learn from the messes you make. If you hurt people, no one is perfect. Carry on.
“Whether or not you make a mess of things really isn’t the issue, is it? Neither is being certain. You can only be responsible to do what you think is best. If you make a mistake you will see it in time and learn from it. At least you’ll learn to be more dependent on him than on this thing you call church. No one is perfect, Jake, and when you give up trying to look like you are, then you’ll be free to follow him." 54

16) The authors contend in the book that Jesus “became sin itself.” I feel like I'm harping endlessly and am quite discouraged by the waves of ‘new truths in this book. But this statement is crucial to the very nature of who God is. Can He, God, become sinful? Well, He can pay the penalty for it, He can step in and take the place of another but can He be the sin? No. No. No. God is not now or never has been sin stained, as if he were the actual doer of the deed; god sins. You could say, He "became" the punishment so we would not have to become the punished. (Is my test this professor is giving me over yet?)

17) John is failing to understand the fallacy of the false dilemma or excluded middle. Love or justice is John's seeming choice and he chooses love. That naughty old testament god is gone for good in Jesus. Nice try but John would be cast off the 'who-is-God' game show, for the answer John gives is not right. It is both. God is not one or the other but are both a part of His very being. Jesus dealt with questions like these in the 4 gospels that the questioner made it seem like there were only choices between two options. Jesus said to them, no, there was another choice they hadn't thought of or brought to the dialogue.
Another example would be the conundrum of the biblical notions of freedom or determinism. Many would say there are just these two choices. But not so fast. There are not just two but more distinctions that must be brought into play. And so on.
If I was to say that all manufacturing jobs are going to China would I be correct? No, I wouldn't.


This book wars against both, common and spiritual sense.

This book gives us a place called "The Stepford Church of Kingston" where unconscious slavish automatons go about their daily lives in a haze of constrained tyranny and hidden fascistic tendencies.

Chuck Colson said, "Human beings have an infinite capacity for self-deception." That my friend, is a real Colson.

Bruce Harkins

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