A lucid and approachable guide to re-evaluating conventional ideas about Jesus.

Not That God


A debut book advocates refocusing on Jesus through biblically informed insights.

Smith focuses on John 11:1-12 and John 13 in order to most concisely present his ideas. This selection includes the raising from the dead of Lazarus, the backlash of Jewish leaders, and the anointing of Jesus in Bethany. Smith utilizes these stories to point out that Jesus often surprises people by defying their preconceived notions of God’s motives and actions. His thesis points to the possibility that Christians sometimes limit their understanding of God through these very same preconceptions. “What if the true God of the Bible,” he asks, “is the God we don’t believe in? What if the God of the Bible is much better?” He begins by noting that people often impose their own moral feelings on their understanding of God, which causes them to misunderstand him. “If we were God,” for instance, “we would never let someone have cancer. We would never let a child die.” The stories in the Gospel of John lead people to ponder a savior who does things they would never have expected. For instance, when Jesus is asked to come and heal his good friend Lazarus, he deliberately waits until the man has died. Later, despite being all-knowing and omnipotent, Jesus cries when he witnesses the grief of his friends. And though he is a man of ultimate peace, he knowingly sows discord and in fact acts in ways that will eventually bring about his own arrest and execution. Through Smith’s work, the reader sees a savior who waits to act, puts doubts into the minds of his followers, and causes division among people. Smith’s difficult role is to explain why, despite these realities, the believers of Jesus have reason to follow and to have faith in him. The author does so with plain prose and real-life, daily examples. Readers can expect to find a thoroughly traditional view of Jesus in a work meant to act, above all, as a self-help book for finding deeper faith.

A lucid and approachable guide to re-evaluating conventional ideas about Jesus.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5127-0668-0

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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This fictional history of a church records not just the architectural changes it underwent over the years, but the links and connections with both the congregation that built the church and the culture that spawned it. A close collaboration between Otto and Lloyd (the team behind What Color Is Camouflage?, 1996) has resulted in a story told equally through pictures and text; it depicts how central a church was to the growth of community in early pioneer days. The first church was a log cabin constructed of trees felled from the hill where it was built. Meetings, weddings, births, and deaths were marked under that roof; when the church burns down, a sturdier structure replaces it. The landscape and the culture change around the church; eventually men and women share the pews, and the sermon is in English, instead of German. With the coming of electricity, the church is closed down, and only swallows inhabit its rafters. Several decades later, it is renovated and re-opened by loving restorationists who appreciate its history. In a style remniscent of American primitives, Lloyd records important storytelling details such as the pots and baskets used to carry meals to those building the church. By capturing such particulars, from the archaic sound of people’s names to the creeping suburban sprawl, Otto and Lloyd create a record of the larger picture of transformation in the landscape. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-2554-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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An impressive monograph by two scholars well-positioned to examine the impact of religion on secular life.



Two biblical scholars combine to dig into the actions and words of the billionaire Green family, founders of the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores.

Moss (New Testament/Univ. of Notre Dame) and Baden (Hebrew Bible/Yale Divinity School), co-authors of Reconceiving Infertility: Biblical Perspectives on Procreation and Childlessness (2015), focus on the lawsuit filed by the Greens that reached the Supreme Court in 2014. The Greens, who have long been major funders of evangelical Christian initiatives, believed they possessed the right as business owners to ignore federal law requiring employers to cover the costs of contraceptives for employees. In a 5-4 decision, the justices sided with the Greens. The authors explain how the family arrived at their view of the prosperity gospel: due to their literal interpretations of the Bible and their generosity to evangelical Christian causes, God rewarded them with widespread business success. Patriarch David Green claimed that the legal battle occurred because the family could not abide abandoning religious beliefs to obey a provision of the federal government’s Affordable Care Act, signed by President Barack Obama. The authors began their deep dive into the Green empire after becoming aware of the vast sums the family was spending to inject religion into school curricula, to collect rare biblical manuscripts, and to open a massive Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., which is currently under construction. Moss and Baden portray the Green family members and their key executives as sincere evangelicals and benevolent employers. Throughout the book, however, they also show the Greens as naïve or disingenuous. To be sure, the family’s proselytizing is not neutral. Rather, they are promoting a historically inaccurate saga of the U.S. as an exclusionary Christian nation meant to marry church and state.

An impressive monograph by two scholars well-positioned to examine the impact of religion on secular life.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-691-17735-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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