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Experiencing the Future of Faith
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Donald Miller
Searching for God Knows What (Nashville:  Thomas Nelson, 2004.  239p.)

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This is a powerful, refreshing and insightful paperback book that many churches are finding provides a new look at the community that has developed around them while they were sleeping in their comfortable Modern Rationalist religious homesteads.  As they awaken to the realities around them, they are finding themselves unable to talk to their non-Christian neighbors about anything meaningful.

Hilarious Insights
This hilarious book often had me bursting out unexpectedly because of his splashes of off-hand delights as he expressed an experience or described a situation.  Miller writes out of his own experience of discovery in his own spiritual pilgrimage.  He also has a healthy ability to laugh at himself and, in this way, puts his own limitations in perspective!  This helps the reader approach deep challenges that require change in our attitudes, as we discover that there are whole areas of reality out there that we did not yet know about!  

Millions have read his delightful and refreshing book about his trek through life, Blue Like Jazz.  Here he is more reflective and presents a more analytical survey of what he sees in current society and how the message of Jesus might address it.

Changing Culture
This is one of the volumes in which Miller has addressed the changing and changed culture many churches are puzzled to see around them.  The current western American culture is not based in Christian religious traditions, has no knowledge of Christian or biblical stories or basic concepts and is oriented to a world very different from that of the traditional educated rationalist culture of abstract established doctrine.

They find the current generation asking questions about life and reality and truth that many churches find themselves unequipped to answer, largely because they have accepted a pre-packaged faith that was handed down in the cultural forms and language of the past.  The church speaks a language no one else still speaks.  Often they cannot express their faith themselves, other than in religious clichés and traditional terms.

Normal Speech
Many Modern Christians (also called Modernist, including liberal and fundamentalist ways of thinking) are unable to express their faith in common terms of speech used outside the church.  This increases the sense among the society at large that "Christianity" is irrelevant and outdated and "Christians" as uneducated and unaware.

This further blurs the distinction between Christianity as a religion or religious institution and real faith found in the teachings and life of Jesus and the New Testament writings.  Non-Christian society usually does not even know what "Christians" believe.  There is little communication going on.  Miller addresses this situation.

Beyond Materialism
The current generation is now usually referred as Postmodern, indicating they have moved past the rationalist and naturalistic assumptions of the Enlightenment foundations of the Modern worldview.  They are seeking spiritual values beyond the empirical, scientific categories that are established only through the human senses and their technological enhancements.

One thing I liked about this book by Donald Miller was that he was so intent on referring everything back to the Bible, bypassing the inherited cultural traditions that are the real basis of much of what we see in Modern Christianity.  He wants to focus on the faith of Jesus and the concepts of the New Testaments more than the developed western cultural traditions.

Multicultural Life and Times
I got this book at a small rural Methodist Church in Pennsylvania, where the church was providing these free to members and visitors.  It was good to see a rather traditional church in a very traditional Allegheny village providing this resource.  This would be a way to learn more about the larger swift-flowing American secular culture, and perhaps help these folks of faith understand differences they were observing in their work in larger urban areas and in their TV news.

I recommend this and other books by Miller.  This is one author who is wrestling to understand his society with its exciting multi-cultural challenges and opportunities, and discover how God is working in today's world just as others historically discovered God working in their life and times.

As the previous eras of western culture discovered, learned and adapted, let's do that by accepting the challenge to know and understand the cultural stream flowing around us and step out to communicate.  Miller is one strong resource for that trek.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[review] Barbarian Faith versus Safe Religion
[PDF] Christianity and Society
[review] Dialogue on Emergence
[review] Faith as Hilarious Adventure
[review] Faith Discovery Quest
[review] God's Trustworthiness in a Misbelieving World
[Review] Graduation to Reality – The Church Emerging
[Review] Jesus' Openly Secret Teachings
[review] The Other America:  Life on the Streets
[TXT] Postmodernism and the Emerging Church:  Some Thoughts
[review] The Shack:  a Realization of Relationship and Revelation
[Review] Uncovering the Hidden Kingdom

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Review first written and posted on Amazon 21 April 2009
This version finalized and posted on Thoughts and Resources 27 April 2009
Last edited 13 June 2009

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2009 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
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