I am excited to share a review of Bob Edward’s book, A God I’d Like to Meet, especially today as Amazon has dropped it’s Kindle price to $1.99 for the week. You only have a few days to take advantage of this deal, and I HIGHLY recommend that you purchase this one! Also, check out Edwards’ amazing blogs, God is Love, and Biblical Equality for Women and Men in the Christian Faith. I first found Edwards through his blogs, and have been truly blessed by his knowledge and scholarly writing on the roots of Christian patriarchy and complementarianism (the ideology that God has ordained male-dominated authority over the Church and Christian homes).
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Let me share the “About” blurb from one of his blogs:
Bob Edwards lives with his wife and two children in Ontario, Canada. He holds degrees in Religious Education, Social Development Studies and Social Work. In 2013, he received the Delta Epsilon Chi award for intellectual achievement, Christian character and leadership ability, from the Association for Biblical Higher Education. Bob has been a Social Worker since 1996, providing psychotherapy in a variety of settings. He was the Director of Counseling Studies at a multi-denominational Bible College, teaching courses in Psychology, Sociology and Counseling. His hope is to share a vision of God’s impartial love towards women and men everywhere.
Bob is also the author of the best-selling book entitled, “Let My People Go: A Call to End the Oppression of Women in the Church, Revised and Expanded.”
“A God I’d Like to Meet” is an example of what Edwards does best: a scholarly dissection of Calvinist theology, demonstrating its roots in Plato’s philosophy, and the damaging effects that have resulted from reading the Bible from a worldly perspective.
Here is the description of the book from the dust jacket:
Throughout history, prominent theologians and church leaders have made sense of the Bible through the interpretive lenses of ancient Greek philosophy.
As a result, our traditional beliefs often portray God as an all-controlling deity that frowns on emotion and subjects women to male authority.
Throughout this book, the author explores the origins of these theological traditions, and seeks to restore a vision of God as depicted in the New Testament — a vision of God as love.
Calvinism is a prominent strain of Evangelical Christianity today, as noted in this New York Times article from January of this year. Notable Calvinists include Mark Driscoll, John Piper, and Tim Keller. Calvin’s “Institutes” was required reading in my seminary Intro to Theology class. Edwards’ insights were very eye-opening to me personally. In answer to the question, What is Calvinism? Edwards writes,
Simply put, it is an interpretive framework that tells people what to look for in the Bible, where to look, and how they should make sense of what they find. This interpretive framework consists of what Calvin referred to as “the principal matters” of “Christian philosophy” (p. 16)
A valuable aspect of Edwards’ writing is his background as a counselor. He explains many psychological processes that impact the lens through which people understand their world. In Chapter 1: Bad Religion, Bob says,
I’ve been a Social Worker and Psychotherapist for nearly twenty years now. During this time, I’ve provided individual, family and group counseling to thousands of people. Many of them have told me that they have difficulty believing in God. Most of them have experienced horrific forms of abuse: physical, sexual, psychological, emotional and spiritual. Many of them were told, at one time or another–often by well-meaning Christians–that the terrible things done to them or to their loved ones were either allowed or caused by the “Sovereign Will of God” (p. 6).
Edwards wraps up chapter one, where he has described how Christians have explained the problem of pain, with this paragraph:
We now have a picture of a God that is allegedly in control of everything, causes evil to befall humans because they (in their vileness) deserve it, or because we are expendable in the accomplishment of “the greater good.” Of his servants, this God requires the death of self, and the rejection of what it means to be human. In particular, human beings must apparently deny that they are sexual. Historically this has led male leaders in the church to project blame for their vilified sexuality onto women. This projection has led to the subjection of all women to male control. I submit that this is a portrait of a God who is controlling, abusive, unethical, unloving and sexist. Simply put, in the minds of many, this is not a God they would like to meet (p. 10).
This book is not a long, cumbersome read. I couldn’t put it down once I started, and finished the book in two hours. He explains how, in setting up “the principal matters of Christian philosophy” as an interpretive lens for the Bible, Calvin was facilitating “top-down processing,” and how “Rather than seeing new information objectively, human beings are strongly inclined to perceive and interpret the world around them in ways that confirm what they already believe” (a “psychological phenomenon known as ‘belief perseverance'”, p. 18). A very brief explanation of the lens through which Calvin made sense of the Bible is through his high opinion of St. Augustine, who made sense of the Bible through his reading of the Greek philosopher, Plato. in his 8th book of Confessions, Augustine wrote:
Simplicianus congratulated me that I had not fallen upon the writings of other philosophers, which were full of fallacies and deceit, “after the beggarly elements of this world,” whereas in the Platonists, at every turn, the pathway led to belief in God and his Word” (p. 21).
The rest of the book unpacks how this Platonic philosophy impacted St. Augustine’s and Calvin’s interpretation of Scripture, and thus how Calvinism “impacts the way some Christian leaders today understand, preach and practice Christianity” (p. 24). Specifically, how Calvinism makes God responsible for evil (chapter 3), how Calvinism confuses emotion with sin (chapter 4), and how Calvinism leads to the subjugation of women (chapter 5).
Edwards leaves off with the redeeming message that “the distorting lens of Platonic philosophy can be removed from our perception of God. When we remove this lens, I believe that we have an opportunity to see God in the way the biblical authors intended. We are able to perceive that God is love” (p. 98).
If you are an Evangelical Christian, there is a good probability that you have come across Calvinist theology at some point, if not regularly in your faith community. I emphatically encourage you to pick up this book for the low price of $1.99 and consider the implications of Edwards’ research into the roots of Calvinism.
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