Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Glorious Dark by A. J. Swoboda

Swoboda has organized his thoughts around the Easter weekend of Friday, Saturday and Sunday. He says we must enter into all three, embracing the pain of Friday, the silence of Saturday, and the hope of Sunday.

He has included a number of stories, observations, and thoughts. I liked his thoughts on why God doesn't always answer our questions. Discerning God's will is like a Lewis and Clark exploration, he writes. They were able to draw the map of where they had been only after they got home. He also has a good discussion on emotions, entertainment and church.

I am not sure what I think of this book. There are times when the author shows great insight. “God is best understood by those who've experienced the death of their greatest desire.” (85-6) “Faith is working one's heart out yet leaning on grace the whole time for a miracle.” (87) There are other times when I just cannot resonate with his writing. “Everyone is addicted to something. Even God.” (54) “Jesus is pathologically loving.” (54) Speaking of Jesus, “He's got a tough gig.” (64) “In the first century, a little-known Jewish carpenter was executed for building something bigger than a shelving unit.” (121)

Swoboda frequently takes an example from current events or culture and likens God to it. For example, he tells the story of Smailovic, a Serbian cellist who played in the bombed streets of Sarajevo in 1992. “Jesus is like that...” (92) He likens God to Forest Gump in that he never stops chasing. Saying that the fictional character Roquentin reveals a great deal about the author Sartre, he writes, “Similar to Sartre is the God of the Bible...” (176) Later, “Our lives are like Melville characters.” (178)

There were illustrations he used that I just did not understand. “Faith should be an old-timey Polaroid – it should be clearer the more shaken it becomes.” (72) (I've talked with some old time Polaroid camera owners and they don't understand his illustration either.) And, “The Trinity is the world's Chewbacca.” (75)

I am not used to his writing style. Rather than a sustained exploration of a subject, the writing style seems more like stream of consciousness. His jumping from one idea to another was frequently hard for me to follow. That, and his use of more illustrations from modern culture than the Bible, makes me think this book is written for a young generation with a short attention span and a general lack of biblical knowledge. As an older person, I prefer working from the truth of the Bible out to modern culture rather than the other way around.

I recommend this book for young people who don't really have much knowledge of the Bible. Mature (older) Christians may be a bit frustrated as I was. But I give Swoboda the benefit of the doubt. I think younger Christians will like his writing style and content.

A. J. Swoboda teaches theology, biblical studies, and Christian history at George Fox Evangelical Seminary in Portland, Oregon. He started and serves as pastor of Theophilus Church in urban Portland. Find out more a http://ajswoboda.com/.

Baker Books, 230 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.
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