Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Answer to Bad Religion Is Not No Religion

I have some problems with this book. But if I were to focus on those issues, Martin Thielen would probably say that is part of the bad religion that leads many to no religion. The Answer to Bad Religion is not No Religion is a great premise.

Martin argues that too often people opt for no religion based on the bad examples of Christians practicing their religion poorly. Rather, he argues, and I agree with him on this point, that the answer is good religion. If Christianity is true, then striving to live by its principles is a good endeavor. Being imperfect people, we will fall short of the perfect ideals of a holy God. Of course, logic tells us that just because sinners (of which I am one) do not live out the truth perfectly does not mean we should abandon the truth.

What remains would be living a lie. Not a great idea. On this, Martin nails it. What he does is to give examples of bad religion. He hits several of the usual suspects, but doesn't beat a dead horse. Then he segues to point out that choosing no religion is neither helpful nor necessary.

Then Martin goes into great detail about what good religion should look like. This is what I really liked about this book. Martin spells out a great vision of what the Church should be...and can be. He speaks with great hope about the future of the Church, offering many examples of churches and people getting it right.

If there was anything I did not like, it was the general impression that I got that disagreement was discouraged. Martin labeled himself as moderately progressive, letting me know in a general way some of the things we might disagree on. Having read this entire book, I would quickly add that I think we would agree on most of the essentials, meaning we would get along just fine in the same church. But there were issues, which I'll leave unstated here, that I believe we would disagree on that deserve to be discussed. Because truth can be sought after and because truth will dictate our actions, the living out of that truth would have big implications on how we each would live.

Our differences aside, Martin has written some good thoughts out on a great idea which deserves to be considered by all, those inside the church and those who have rejected her. I received this book for free from my good friends at Westminster John Knox Press. They didn't tell me what to say. They just asked that I say something. If you want to check it out, you can do so here or here.

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