With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to GodSkye Jethani
Thomas Nelson, 2011
The Barna group recently did an extensive survey and found that the youth are leaving the church. What has previously happened is that they then come back when they get married and have children, however, that trend doesn’t seem to be happening. Nothing we didn’t previously know! But they identified several reasons why. One of which is that their experience of Christianity is shallow and another is that the churches seem overprotective.
This book may well present something of a solution for these issues.
Skye Jethani, editor of Leadership Journal, in this book makes an interesting observation: he sees all religions are based on the idea that the world is a dangerous place. Because it is a dangerous place, this leads to fear. We want to protect ourselves, so this means some sort of control. However, control leads to conflict and so more danger. This may explain why churches want to protect. All religion, Jethani claims is some sort of control based on fear.
In different ways we try and control God. This leads to four postures. In the first half of the book Jethani explains these four postures. Each of the postures contain an element of truth but are parasitic on the truth of the Gospel. But many are passing them off as gospel, which may be why the experience of Christianity for many is shallow.
The first posture is life under God. The best way to maintain control is to try and control the God who created the world. This posture looks to rituals and morality to do that. If we do the right things then God will cooperate. If we obey, God will bless.
It’s the drop the virgin in the volcano approach to religion. We adhere to the rules and rituals, but God won’t cooperate. Christianity then doesn’t seem to work.
The second posture is life over God. In this posture we don’t need to follow divine commands, rituals or morality, we don’t even need God we can get control through science, through laws and principles. The more extreme version of this posture is atheism – we can take God out of the picture. A god-version is deism, god is a clockmaker – he’s set the world up so now it runs according to laws.
For Christians who adopt this posture the principles in the Bible, rather than science, can give us control and help us find success. What happens is that we then have a relationship not with the God of the Bible but with the Bible as god.
Life from God is the third posture. This is perhaps the most popular today, it sees the issue as unmet desires and pleasures. It’s a consumerist gospel, a gospel that’s all about me. God is there to give us our needs and desires, to give us what we want.
We’ve made God into a divine butler or a divine cosmic therapist.
What happens to Christians who adopt this posture when God doesn’t meet our desires? They walk away form the shallow alternative to the gospel, mistakenly thinking that they have tried the real thing.
The fourth posture reverses this approach – rather than life from God it’s life for God. It puts mission or transformation at the centre. God doesn’t exist for us; we exist to serve God. We need to figure out what God’s purpose is for us and do more for God. The more we do for God the better we feel about ourselves.
Jethani points out have produced an activist generation – we want to end world poverty, we want to reach the lost, we want to go out on the streets to heal, we want to see people saved, we want to see culture transformed. But why are we doing it? We are driven not out of compassion but out of a search for significance.
This is a brilliant analysis of false gospels often promulgated as the Gospel. It is no longer people’s experience of Christianity is so shallow – they have been inoculated against the truth.
The second part of the book looks at the posture of the Gospel: life with God.
In all the other postures we use God to achieve some end: it may be success, wealth or it may be significance. But once we get a revelation of who Jesus is – we no longer want to use God. He isn’t the means to an end – he is the end, He’s the beginning and the end, the all and in all.
I found the first half of the book fascinating and insightful – the second less so, it’s hard to write about how we can get a revelation of God, it’s something that’s ‘caught rather than taught’. This is an important book. It may well change your view of God and the Gospel.