Cover

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Title page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. viii-ix

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

I WOULD LIKE TO EXPRESS my deep gratitude to all of those who played a part in making this book happen. For my colleagues who challenged me and affirmed me as, together, we did this crazy job of church planting for almost twenty years: Debbie, Russell, Chris, Kyle, Kae, Wes, and Thad. For Tony and Fortress Press who are taking a chance on an unknown...

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Foreword

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pp. xi-xii

I CAN’T REMEMBER HOW IT was that I acquired a small “World’s Greatest Christian” trophy—a Precious Moments atrocity: little girl on her knees in prayer, the ridiculous title engraved on a brass plate attached to the wooden block beneath her. But I do remember when I lost her...

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Introduction: Getting Rid of God

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pp. 1-8

“So you’re a Christian?” She said it like I had just told her I was radioactive or invisible or from the galaxy Andromeda. She explained: “I went to Mass a few times as a kid. But now I’m a Buddhist. It’s just so less judgmental. It’s a better fit for me.” “I can definitely understand the...

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1 How the Cheatin' Heart of Modernity Double-Crossed the Doctrine of Revelation

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pp. 9-20

THE THING ABOUT US is that we like information. We like it a lot—more so than probably any other culture that has ever existed on the face of the earth. This is both a blessing and a curse. Information can be a good thing. I am grateful for the right information whenever my cell...

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2 Death to the Conceptual Trinity! An Anti-Monotheistic Manifesto

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pp. 21-30

WELCOME TO OUR TRINITY chapter. This chapter will unfold like a play in three acts. Our first act will identify an error the contemporary church has fallen into, namely forcing an event of history into explanatory models (analogies) that obscure the passionate intensity of the greatest...

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3 De-Greekifying the Divine, or How to Quit Thinking about God

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pp. 31-40

Let’s begin with thinking. What are you thinking about right now? Are you thinking about God? I mean, it couldn’t hurt, right? After all, you are reading a book about theology. Is God thinking about us? At the same time? Dude! Wouldn’t that be weird? Does God have a...

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4 Jesus Has a Question for You

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pp. 41-50

WHO DO YOU SAY that I am?”1 It’s a question that Jesus of Nazareth put to his followers. And now it is a question that this writer will put to you: Who is Jesus?2 Most readers of this book will recognize that Jesus was a good guy, a really good guy. Whoever the historical Jesus was, there is ample evidence that his teachings...

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5 (Jesus Bonus Chapter) Dear God: Why Couldn't Jesus Have Been a Girl?

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pp. 51-60

SO I SENT THIS e-mail. To God. I know that sounds really corny and cliché, but I really did it, just for the heck of it. I sent it to god@gmail.com. I also tried god@canada.com (because I have a hunch that God might be Canadian). Here’s what I wrote: Dear God: Why couldn’t Jesus have...

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6 Why Your Theory of the Atonement Sucks

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pp. 61-74

HOW DOES IT ALL work? In chapter 4, we looked at the person of Christ and tried to make some sense out of the question “Who is Jesus?” As a counterpart to this question, we now examine what Jesus does. Jesus saves, but how? What does it mean that two thousand years ago, this homeles...

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7 Holy Spirit Revival, Featuring Live Snake Handling

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pp. 75-88

LOOK, LET’S BE HONEST. We’ve done an appalling job teaching about the Holy Spirit in the contemporary church. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is all fuzzy and spooky and ghosty. Or it is simply ignored. Or it is used as a question of doctrine, as a tool for attacking our opponents, rather...

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8 God and Creation: How I Got Over My Pantheist Envy

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pp. 89-98

WE NOW TURN OUR attention to what theologians call “the doctrine of creation.” You and I have somehow appeared on this planet, at this time, in this place. And though we can acknowledge that our Earth is only a tiny part of a vast cosmos, we cannot help but ask questions, the...

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9 How to Read the Bible Backward

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pp. 99-114

CONFUSING AND DIFFICULT BIBLE the find you do? Backward it reading try. That Bible? Those two testaments? They were not written from the beginning to the end. Imagine these two testaments as a twin pack of delicious Hostess Twinkies. Two cream-filled treats wrapped in sponge cake that can sometimes...

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10 The Seven Deadly Myths about Sin, or How to Sin like a Christian

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pp. 115-128

IN CASE YOU HAVEN’T noticed, there’s this little three-letter word, a highly religious word, that some pastors and theologians often avoid. It’s a word that has to do, roughly, with transgression, waywardness, distortion, missing the mark, erring, indiscretion, the shadow side. That three-letter word we so love to avoid? S-I-N. Sin. There. I...

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11 (The Hell Chapter) On Heaven, Hell, and the Last Judgment: The Second Voyage of Saint Brendan

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pp. 129-140

HAVE YOU HEARD OF Saint Brendan—the saint from County Kerry, in Ireland—and his voyage? I was doing some research on the subject of heaven, hell, and the last judgment, and I came across these writings: The Voyage of St. Brendan, otherwise known as The Navagatio. Born in 486 c.e., Brendan was intrigued by tales of the afterlife— specifically by tales...

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12 Toward an Ethics of Butt-Kickin' Grace

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pp. 141-158

I DO NOT TAKE LIGHTLY the title to this chapter. I mean it. Only grace can confront us in the right way. Only by first hearing that we are loved, madly and unconditionally, can we then hear the truth about us—including the ugly truths that we are not able to otherwise hear. In this chapter...

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13 The Church: Everything You've Always Wanted to Know about Sects but Were Afraid to Ask

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pp. 159-166

I am not going to tell you everything there is to know about the church here. In countless books on historical theology, you can look up the history of the etymology of ekklesia (Greek for “gathering”), and you can look up the Constantinopolitan Supplement to the Nicene Creed (...

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Conclusion So Much Straw: The Transience of Theology

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pp. 167-172

THOMAS AQUINAS (1226–1274) WAS one of the great theologians of all time. His epic work Summa Theologica (The sum of theological knowledge) was nine years in the making and in current translations spans over thirty-five hundred pages. Yet three months before his death, Thomas...

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Afterword

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pp. 173-179

TODAY, AS I’M THINKING about my friend Mark Stenberg and the book you’ve just read, I am reminded of our days at Bethel College, where Mark and I were roommates in 1979. The year 1979 was the time to get a Christian liberal-arts education, when it meant something. And by that I mean...