I have been reading a book called Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans, a story of her “journey from certainty to faith,” and I can’t put it down. I have been reading Rachel’s blog for quite some time, and resonate with much of what she writes, so when she made an appearance at Greenville College recently, I was quick to make sure my schedule allowed me to go and hear her speak. There have been so many tidbits of great insight and information that I have encountered, I thought I would share a few of my favorites with you.

  • Faith isn’t faith if you are certain. There has to be an element of doubt for faith to truly be faith.
  • Fake it ’til you make it – keep choosing to believe even when you don’t feel it and doubt is threatening to speak louder than faith.
  • We could be wrong. God may need to change our minds, so we need to make sure we hold on to our belief with an open hand rather than a tightly closed fist.
  • “This is why I try to keep an open mind about the monkeys, and it’s why I consider myself an evolutionist–not necessarily of the scientific variety but of the faith variety. Just as living organisms are said to evolve over  time, so faith evolves, on both a personal and a collective level. Spiritual evolution explains why Christianity has thrived while other ancient religions have perished. It explains why our brothers and sisters in rural Zimbabwe and those in the Greek Orthodox Church can worship the same God but in much different ways. Christianity never could have survived the ebb and flow of time, much less its own worldwide expansion, had God not created it with the innate ability to adapt to changing environments. The same versatility that allowed Paul to become all things to all people applies to the church collectively. The ability of the body of Christ to change–to grow fins when it needs to swim and wings when it needs to fly–has preserved it for over two thousand years, despite countless predictions of its imminent demise.”
  • “Evolution means letting go of our false fundamentals so that God can get into those shadowy places we’re not sure we want him to be. It means being okay with being wrong, okay with not having all the answers, okay with never being finished.”
  • “…I was taught that the Bible served as a guidebook for Christian dating and marriage, but no one ever suggested that my father had the right to sell me to the highest bidder or to take multiple wives, like Abraham. Homosexuality was preached against incessantly, but little was said of gluttony or greed. We decried the death of each aborted baby as a violation of the sanctity of human life, but shrugged off the deaths of Iraqi children as expected collateral damage in a war against evil. We celebrated archeological finds that supported the historical claims of the Bible yet discounted massive amounts of scientific evidence in support of an old earth.”
  • “…Jesus rarely framed discipleship in terms of intellectual assent to a set of propositional statements. he didn’t walk new converts down the Romans Road or ask Peter to draft a doctrinal statement before giving him the keys to the kingdom. His method of evangelism varied from person to person and generally involved a dramatic change of lifestyle rather than a simple change of mind. To Jesus, “by faith alone” did not mean “by belief alone.” To Jesus, faith was invariably linked to obedience.”
  • “Being a Christian, it seemed, isn’t about agreeing to a certain way; it is about embodying a certain way. It is about living as an incarnation of Jesus, as Jesus lived as an incarnation of God. It is about being Jesus…in tennis shoes.”
  • “Some Christians are more offended by the idea of everyone going to heaven than by the idea of everyone going to hell.”
  • “Dan always says that as soon as you think you’ve got God figured out, you can bet on the fact that you’re wrong.”
  • “‘We do know that no person can be saved except through Christ,’ [C.S. Lewis] wrote in Mere Christianity. ‘We do not know that only those who know Him can be saved by Him.'”
  • “We are not saved by information. We are saved by restored relationship with God, which might look a little different from person to person, culture to culture, time to time.”
  • “When we require that all people must say the same words or subscribe to the same creeds in order to experience God, we underestimate the scope and power of God’s activity in the world…From the first covenant with Abraham to the vision of John at Patmos, salvation has always been described in terms of a blessing for the entire world, not just and exclusive privilege for a select group of people. The “election,” first of Israel and then of the church, is not a spiritual condition but a vocational calling, a calling to serve the rest of the world, inviting others to join the kingdom of God.”
  • “All I know is that if the God of the Bible is true, he loves his creation and will do whatever it takes to restore it.”
  • “We’ve got our way of dealing fairly with our enemies, and God has his. Our way involves retaliation and punishment; his way involves forgiveness. Our way involves equal justice; his way involves disproportionate grace. our way is to make someone pay with blood; his way is to bleed. Even when Jesus hung on the cross, when God had been insulted to the highest degree imaginable, left naked, humiliated, beaten and bruised, he said, ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.'”
  • “God’s ways are higher than our ways not because he is less compassionate than we are but because he is more compassionate than we can ever imagine.”
  • “In India, I was introduced to the kingdom of heaven–not as it exists in some future state but as it exists in the here and now, where the hungry are fed with both physical and spiritual bread, where the sick are saved from both their diseases and their sins, where an illiterate widow taught me more about faith than any theologian ever could, and where children from the slums sing with God. In India, I learned that the gospel is still special. Jesus still matters and can make a difference in people’s lives. I guess that’s close enough to spiritual awakening.”
  • “I’m afraid that just as wealth and privilege can be a stumbling block on the path to the gospel, theological expertise and piety can also get in the way of the kingdom.”
  • “When we cling to our beliefs as children cling to their favorite toys, it is hard for Jesus to take us by the hand and lead us somewhere new.”
  • “Jesus drank wine with sexual deviants. He committed major social taboos. he spent a lot of time among contagious people, crazy people, uneducated people, and smelly people. His famous cousin wore camel-hair and ate locusts and honey. Those most familiar with Scripture called his views heretical, and his own family questioned his sanity. Jesus introduced new teachings not found in the Scriptures and claimed his authority came directly from God. he asked his disciples to sell all their “blessings” and follow him, when doing so could get them excommunicated from the faith or even killed. He was too liberal, too radical, and too demanding. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure that I would have followed the guy, and that really scares me sometimes.”
  • “In India, I learned that among Hindus, the goal of reincarnation is to be reborn into nobler circumstances. And in India, I learned that in the kingdom of God, the goal is to reborn into humbler ones.”
  • “‘God’s kingdom in the preaching of Jesus refers not to postmortem destiny, not to our escape from this world into another one, but God’s sovereign rule coming ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’…heaven, in the Bible, is not a future destiny but the other, hidden dimension of our ordinary life–God’s dimension, if you like. God made heaven and earth; at the last he will remake both and join them together forever.’ According to [N.T.] Wright, participants in the early church understood that the ultimate goal wasn’t to die, leave their bodies behind, and float around like ghosts in heaven forever but rather to embody, anticipate, and work toward a new kingdom.”
  • “Perhaps being a Christian isn’t about experiencing the kingdom of heaven someday but about experiencing the kingdom of heaven every day.”
  • “Sometimes when I want to put myself in [my gay and Christian friend] Adele’s shoes, I imagine an alternate universe in which Christians have chosen a different biblical condemnation upon which to fixate, such as women uncovering their heads or people getting tattoos. I imagine TV preachers claiming that 9/11 happened as a result of God’s wrath on the gossipers and the greedy, and churches raising funds to support an amendment to the constitution making remarriage illegal for people who are divorced. I imagine people carrying signs that say ‘God Hates Gluttons’ or ‘Stone Disobedient Children,’ and I think to myself, Boy, I’m glad we didn’t pick ‘lifestyle sins’ like materialism or judgmentalism to obsess about, because if we had, I’d totally be screwed.”

I am not quite finished with the book, but as you can see, it is having a profound impact on my way of thinking. I hope you won’t just read my quotes and forget about it, but that you will really think about these things, pick up the book, pick up your Bible, and search out what it means to really follow Jesus in the way that He intended.



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