If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person, by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland. I first encountered the writing of Philip Gulley and James Mulholland when writing an article on universalism in an earlier blog post. The other day I re-read that post, and decided to go looking for the book. I’m tremendously grateful that I did.
In a way, this book picks up where Rob Bell’s Love Wins leaves off. Where Bell asks probing questions about the idea that God will eternally punish people in hell, Gulley and Mulholland passionately chronicle their journey to the conclusion that He will not.
The book is written in an unusual dual first-person. The two Quaker pastors combine their experiences into one whole, while continuing to use “I” to communicate the experiences, leaving the reader to guess to which of the authors any particular experience may belong. The book begins with a faith-changing experience one of the pastors had in preparing the funeral sermon of a troubled woman who died while on the very threshold of returning to her faith. In a flash of insight derived from the parable of the prodigal son, the pastor realized that God wasn’t waiting for her to cross that threshold, but had run out to meet her.
Along the way, Gulley and Mulholland come to trust their own experience of God as a supremely loving being and subordinate their understanding of scripture to that experience. This leads them inevitably to the conclusion that not all of scripture portrays God properly. A view of scripture where all scripture is equally perfect and inerrant is discarded.
Other universalist authors (such as Rob Bell to a degree) believe they can stay within the boundaries of an inerrant view of scripture and still hold to universalism. It’s an intriguing project – and If Grace Is True has a nice appendix presenting the universalist view from scripture and church history. But ultimately I think these two pastors take the more honest approach. The love of God and the love of our neighbor are the two principles by which any other principle is to be judged, and even scripture must bow to the principle of love.
I’ve quoted this before, but let me present a brief exert of this book to give you an idea of it’s heart:
I had rejected the image of a wrathful, powerful God anxious to punish the wicked in the fires of hell, but I was left with a benevolent but feeble God who had no choice but to destroy the ones he loved. Hell was another Holocaust, where once again millions would be thrown into the furnaces while God stood by powerless and defeated. When confronted with the inconsistency of an all-powerful God incapable of accomplishing his desire, I drew a careful distinction between what God wanted to do and what God was able to do. God was not free.
I defended our freedom to reject God–but denied God’s freedom to reject our rejection. Acknowledged that God can have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and compassion on whom he will have compassion, but I quickly defined the persons and situations in which God could be merciful and compassionate. My God was shackled, powerless to act.
This shackled God was not the God of Jesus.
Simply put, this is a wonderful book, for anyone who is ready for it. Universalism makes the gospel into the really good news, and alters our view of everything around us – for the better.
While all of Regina’s books have been first-rate, this latest one, “The 8 Minute Organizer”, may be the most useful one yet. Because I’m so naturally disorganized myself, I’m something of a junkie for books and systems to bring some kind of order to my world. Regina’s other books have been very helpful for that – giving me organizational tasks that I can schedule throughout the year on my way to perfect neatness. But I’ve never seemed to accomplish them all. Some projects are just a bit large and intimidating.
The genius of this book is that it has broken down organizational tasks into 8 minute sprints – units of work short enough that they don’t scare me and that I have no excuse not to incorporate into my day. Unlike previous books that grouped organizational tasks by time of year – this one is organized by the area of your home. Pick the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen or your files – and there’s a chapter full of eight-minute mini-tasks focused around that area. You can pick the room most in need of attention. Or, as Regina suggests, you can pick one that’s not quite as intimidating and build up your skills.
There are several things I especially like about Regina’s approach. First of all, she’s called the “Zen Organizer” for a reason. There’s a definite undercurrent of calm, meditative philosophy in her books. You aren’t just organizing so that you can cram more stuff into your life. You are trying to achieve a healthy balance and a strong and calm mental and physical foundation for peace and tranquility. She even has advice on diet, exercise and meditation. You’re not just bringing order to your stuff. You’re bringing order to your life.
Another thing that’s a personal preference of mine is that I don’t like to be given TOO many choices in how to approach something. Or if there are choices, I want to be pointed at a “preferred” option. If I’m given the opportunity, I can tend to get lost in choosing the perfect organizational tools and systems instead of actually organizing. Regina tends to just tell you what to do, and I like that. Sure there are choices, but she’ll often indicate her personal preference, so I can just follow the clear instructions and get right down to business.
If you’ve had trouble getting started in organizing because your life is just too chaotic, this may be a perfect book for you.
Ran across an excellent quote on the blessing way from a wonderful book by Omraam Mikhael Aivanov.
Wherever you go and whatever you do, take care to leave only luminous imprints behind you. You are walking or driving down a road: bless that road and ask that all those who pass that way may receive peace and light and be led onto the right path. Why be content to live unconsciously and record nothing but dirt and disorder? Why not try to work like the sun which ceaselessly impregnates the universe with its light and warmth, its life and generosity? Try not to let yourselves be led into chaotic, destructive, negative activities ever again; try to learn how to behave towards creation and all creatures. And everywhere and always, whatever you touch and wherever you go, remember to leave imprints of light and love so that, more and more, all human beings may vibrate in unison with the divine world.
Aïvanhov, Omraam Mikhaël (2011-04-08). The Book of Divine Magic
I have to confess that I’ve been a little annoyed with some of Leo Babauta’s posts rejecting such things as iphones in the name of minimalism. To me, the neat thing about technology is that it can help you embrace minimalism by doing more with fewer devices.
I had held off on getting a smartphone simply because I didn’t think I’d use the features enough to justify an additional $30 a month on my phone bill for a data plan. Then my daughter got a Droid Razr, and when I saw everything it could do, I was hooked, and ran out and got one within the week.
My justification was that it could do so many things. My GPS had just broken – but my phone was now a better GPS than my stand-alone GPS. The Droid was a better MP3 player than my now-obsolete MP3 player. It was a serviceable e-book reader, so I’d always have a book with me. It keeps my schedules, to-do lists and emails. It can record voice memos and even transcribe them. It’s a great camera (ok, I don’t take many pictures, but it can save the day when you need one). I have an excellent Bible reader on it, a meditation timer, and links to all my important documents. The last few weeks I’ve been saying Mass with just my Droid to serve as lectionary, scripture reader and music player. I even used it for meditation diaries and dream journals.
Funny thing, though, about those dream journals. Night after night after night, ALL I was dreaming about was setting up my new phone. Only natural, since I spend uncounted hours getting it “just right” and then scrapping it all again for another arrangement. I spent lots of additional time looking for just the right combination of apps. More still organizing my music. If the device was saving me any time, it was more than making up for it in the time I was investing in setting it up.
The other day, I switched back to a paper journal for dream and meditation journals. Even with voice transcription, it was just taking too long to put in a journal entry. My entries were getting shorter and shorter. So what if I don’t have access to my journal everywhere in the cloud? At least it has more worthwhile entries.
So… has the phone improved my life, or just made me its servant? I’m hoping that as my setup stabilizes and the novelty wears off, it will simply become a handy device that sits unobtrusively in my pocket and insures that I don’t have to carry a phone, camera, GPS, voice recorder, my latest book, my planner, my Bible, lectionary, mp3 player, etc. around with me all the time.
But I’m beginning to have a bit more respect for Babauta’s opinion that having the latest device carries its share of attachment to possessions. Fewer possessions, perhaps – but definitely more attachment.
Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell. I bought this book on Audible (Amazon’s audio book company) for several reasons. First of all, it was very high on the best-seller list in spirituality and secondly because the subject has always appealed to me. In fact I was in the middle of writing a piece on much the same subjects. I’m extremely glad I picked it up.
While I would approach the subject slightly differently than pastor Bell, this book will be appreciated by someone who wants to take a fairly conservative and orthodox view of the Bible and yet is troubled by the exclusivist teaching of some fundamentalist and evangelical branches of Christianity.
Using a good assortment of scriptures, historical notes, stories and excellent prose, Bell makes a Christian case for being at least OPEN to the ideas of a limited hell from which people can be redeemed, for eventual universal salvation, and the real presence of the kingdom of God in the here-and-now.
I’ll give a brief example of his prose. After quoting a ream of scriptures to the effect that God desires the salvation of everyone, and that God’s purpose cannot be ultimately resisted, Bell summarizes like this:
Once again, God has a purpose. A desire. A goal. And God never stops pursuing it. Jesus tells a series of parables in Luke 15 about a woman who loses a coin, a shepherd who loses a sheep, and a father who loses a son. The stories aren’t ultimately about things and people being lost; the stories are about things and people being found. The God that Jesus teaches us about doesn’t give up until everything that was lost is found. This God simply doesn’t give up. Ever.
It’s true that Bell qualifies his points quite a bit, needing to walk a bit of a fine line to stay within the conservative biblical view. Still, his questions alone have been enough to make his book extremely popular, and extremely controversial. People who find exclusivist Christianity limiting but who still love Christianity feel quite liberated that someone has finally spoken to them. And plenty of people in the exclusivist branches of Christianity seem very threatened. And that’s probably a very good sign.
I’d highly recommend the book to Christians who’d like support for a more enlightened version of the Christian tradition, and for non-believers who could use an example of Christianity that isn’t all about sending other people to hell.
The picture below links to a short video intro on the book
Usually when I post articles, I like it to be something original, but today I just want to send you to Leo Babauta’s website, Zen Habits. I’ve been a fan of Leo’s for quite some time. Leo is an extreme minimalist (as you can easily tell from the design of his site). Most of his posts involve simplifying your life. Today’s post contains his 30 life lessons – to celebrate his 38th birthday. One of the best lists I’ve seen. Here are a few favorites:
2. Possessions are worse than worthless — they’re harmful. They add no value to your life, and cost you everything. Not just the money required to buy them, but the time and money spent shopping for them, maintaining them, worrying about them, insuring them, fixing them, etc.
20. A good walk cures most problems. Want to lose weight and get fit? Walk. Want to enjoy life but spend less? Walk. Want to cure stress and clear your head? Walk. Want to meditate and live in the moment? Walk. Having trouble with a life or work problem? Walk, and your head gets clear.
27. Create. The world is full of distractions, but very few are as important as creating. In my job as a writer, there is nothing that comes close to being as crucial as creating. In my life, creating is one of the few things that has given me meaning. When it’s time to work, clear away all else and create.
34. No one knows what they’re doing as parents. We’re all faking it, and hoping we’re getting it right. Some people obsess about the details, and miss out on the fun. I just try not to mess them up too much, to show them they’re loved, to enjoy the moments I can with them, to show them life is fun, and stay out of the way of them becoming the amazing people they’re going to become. That they already are.
Go to Leo’s site for the full list.
Have a Little Faith: A True Story by Mitch Albom. I had seen this book by Mitch Albom on various best seller lists, as I had his previous book Tuesdays with Morrie, but I’d never gotten around to reading them. When the audiobook showed up in my library I figured it was time.
For some reason, I had the impression that Mitch was some sort of evangelical feel-goodauthor, possibly because I vaguely realized that he wrote The Five People You Meet in Heaven, which I enjoyed. As it happens, Mitch is Jewish and got his start as a sports writer.
This book started when he was asked by his childhood rabbi to give the rabbi’s eulogy (an event that didn’t end up happening for another eight years.) In the course of getting to know the rabbi better, Mitch found his own previously casual faith reawakened. He also became involved, during the course of these years, with an ex-drug addict Christian pastor ministering to the homeless in his native Detroit.
Over the course of getting to know both of these men better, Mitch becomes more cognizant of the role of faith and it’s ability to make the world a better place.
The book if full of witty stories (most of them courtesy of the rabbi) and compassionate moments. It frankly admits (as does the rabbi) that we simply don’t have answers to all life’s questions. The rabbi gives the best answer I’ve ever heard to the question of “why do bad things happen to good people.” To quote the rabbi, “No one knows”.
While gaining a new appreciation for his Jewish faith and the value of tradition, Mitch is also given an appreciation for the value of ALL religions and traditions. Embarrassingly, the local Catholic priest, during Mitch’s childhood, once accosted members of the synagogue for taking up too many parking spaces in front of his church with “They didn’t exterminate enough of you!” As his penance, his archbishop assigned him to walk around the church school grounds during recess arm in arm with the rabbi. They later became fast friends.
Then there was the Episcopal priest who was invited by the rabbi to speak to his synagogue to foster mutual respect and ended up trying to publicly bring the rabbi to Jesus. But in spite of such rough spots, the book in infused with a warm and tolerant respect for Christianity and other religions – particularly as it explores the life and ministry of pastor Henry in Detroit and becomes involved in helping his ministry.
Very enjoyable book and I highly recommend it.