A debut author strives for a clearer picture of the Christian God.
Carney aims his work squarely at his fellow Christians: “This book in no way tries to prove the existence of God; it is assumed that he exists.” Rather, the author intends to help Christians “see through the clutter” and perceive their God with greater clarity and truth. His method of attempting this is to borrow principles from the gestalt conception of visualization, with the hope that his readers will “see things as complete wholes rather than seeing things as individual pieces that are added together to get the whole picture.” He uses this approach to pare what he considers pernicious, wayward views of Christianity—the “legalists” who passive aggressively embrace Christian law over Christian ethos, the “zombies” who claim to love God but don’t obey his commands, and the “runaways” who reject the religion—in favor of a broader and clearer outlook. This tactic is particularly persuasive in the enjoyable book’s strongest sections, when the author applies it to specific passages from Scripture. He cites, for example, the familiar line from the Johannine story of the woman taken in adultery (“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”), noting how often it’s quoted and referenced at church services—incompletely, in his opinion. It’s usually not accompanied by the crucial line Jesus then speaks to the woman herself: “If someone is preaching to you, and their message does not contain the message, ‘Neither do I condemn you,’ then their message is not the message of Jesus.” Throughout the lively, iconoclastic book, Carney is bracingly stern with his co-religionists. Citing statistics that show a huge drop-off in church attendance for Protestants after graduation from high school, for instance, he asks: “Could it be that they haven’t learned to love God, therefore finding church meaningless, or could it be that they aren’t in church because of you and me” who are?
Christians should find these chapters a tough but invigorating read.