#BookReview: Faith After Doubt by Brian McLaren

Too Much Faith, Not Enough Doubt. I’ve read McLaren for a few years and knew him to be of the more “progressive Christian” bent, so I knew what I was getting myself in for in picking up this book. But as always, he does have at least a few good points in here, making the book absolutely worthy of reading and contemplating. However, he also proof texts a fair amount, and any at all of this particular sin is enough for me to dock *any* book that utilizes the practice a star in my own personal war with the practice. (Though I *do* note that he isn’t as bad as other writers in this.) The other star removal comes from the title of this review, which is really my core criticism here. As is so often in his previous books as well as so many other authors, McLaren has good points about the need for doubt and how to live in harmony… but then insists on praising cult figures on both sides of the aisle such as Greta Thurnberg and David Grossman. In encouraging evaneglicals to doubt their beliefs, he seems rather sure of his own beliefs in the religions of science and government – seemingly more comfortable worshipping these religions than the Christ he claims. Overall, much of the discussion here truly is strong. It simply needed to be applied in far more areas than McLaren was… comfortable… in doing. Recommended.

This review of Faith After Doubt by Brian McLaren was originally written on January 17, 2021.

#BookReview: After Evangelicalism by David P. Gushee

Liberal (Maybe Even Post-Christian?) Baptist Faith And Message. The Southern Baptist Convention‘s Baptist Faith and Message is the doctrinal screed for the group, listing various points of beliefs with proof-texted “reference verses” claiming to provide “evidence” that this belief is grounded in their view of the Bible. As someone who was a Southern Baptist for the first couple decades of my life, it is a document I’m pretty familiar with. Here, Gushee effectively recreates it for the more anti-white-male crowd, arguing (correctly) against prosperity theology while openly embracing humanist and liberation theology. Ultimately, he makes enough solid points to be worthy of discussion, but due to the constant proof-texting (a flaw in many similar works, and one that in my own personal war against is an automatic one star deduction in my reviews) and near-constant near straw man level attacks against more conservative theologies is to be read with a healthy amount of skepticism. That noted, as I generally try to do with such texts, I’m trying to be a bit balanced here. A much more conservative reader will probably find much more to attack in this text, and a much more liberal reader will probably find much more to love. Overall a solid work of its type, and recommended for any interested in such discussions.

This review of After Evangelicalism by David P. Gushee was originally written on August 13, 2020.

#BookReview: One Nation Under God by Kevin Kruse

Intriguing But Incomplete. The central premise of this book is that “Under God” and “In God We Trust” were created by a cabal of corporate and religious interests opposed to the New Deal in the 1930s, and indeed the roughly 30 year period from the mid 1930s through the mid 1960s is where the bulk of the text concentrates. For example, the 30 year period from 1980 – 2010 is encompassed only in the epilogue, the 2nd shortest of the chapters of this book, and the period before the mid 1930s is barely mentioned at all. And therein lies where the book is incomplete. It should have built the case that pre-New Deal, religious references were scant in American politics. I believe that case can be made, based on my own knowledge of the history, but I’d like to see the efforts of a more trained historian on the matter. Instead, Kruse zeroes in on the New Deal opponents. But within the framework that he creates, he actually does do a solid job of showing how their efforts led to the increased religiosity of the Eisenhower Administration and from there directly to the Culture Wars as we know them now – though Kruse never uses the term “Culture Wars”. Even with my own better than average knowledge of the relevant events, I learned quite a bit here and had at least a few attitudes shifted. Highly recommended reading for anyone actually interested in the subject from any side of the issue.

This review of One Nation Under God by Kevin Kruse was originally published on October 14, 2018.