What do I think of Phillip Cary’s book published by Brazos Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
This is the kind of book that should be required reading, especially for young Christians. I would be absolutely thrilled if at churches they gave a copy of this book to new Christians after they confessed and were baptized. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening. Not because ordering a lot of books could be expensive, but because most of the ideas Cary is arguing against are treated as traditional beliefs of Christianity from the beginning in the church.
For Cary, this results in Christians being anxious. “Why is my life not being like everyone else’s that I see? Why do I not hear the voice of God? Why do I not have joy? Why am I bored at the sermon? Why can’t I just let go and let God?” It is unspoken by Cary, though I suspect he would agree, that this I think is also a cause of apostasy in the church at times when the Christian life seems to fail to deliver on promises it never really made and certainly a critique atheists like to give.
So I won’t go in-depth on many of these, but they are important. First off is hearing the voice of God. We too often have our own feelings and emotions in us and the idea is we have to discern which one is the voice of God. This is not to rule out that God can speak, but it is to say it is not to be normative in the Christian life. This also ties in with the idea he has that you don’t have to know which of your intuitions are the Holy Spirit.
I remember getting ready to speak at a church one and hearing the person introducing me say “Let’s listen to what God has put on his heart.” I was inwardly thinking “Please don’t put me in that position.” You see, I don’t doubt I had a good message, but I would not say this comes directly from God through me to you. I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet. If every pastor I have heard is the voice of God speaking, God must be really confused.
This goes along with the idea of doing as you feel led. I know of churches that say to give as you feel led. Never mind that we have 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 that tell us how we are to give. Let’s throw those out for personal experiences.
The next one I want to emphasize is that you don’t have to find God’s will for your life. Somehow people got this idea that God wants you to have a specific career and marry a specific person and you have to find out what and who. (It’s usually assumed it’s God’s will for you to marry.) However, Greg Koukl as well pointed out that if you married the wrong person, then the people you were meant for have to marry someone else and the people they were went for and on and on and so by your one mistake you have screwed up God’s plan for humanity. Well done!
No. You don’t have to do this. Just find a job that is moral that you are good at and can provide and for marriage, find someone who is good for you and you are good for.
What about motivations? Now back when I was married, I remember one day a friend picked up my ex-wife for a women’s conference and I thought I would surprise her and do a deep clean of the house while she was gone. After awhile, I thought of how happy she would be to see things so clean which was great and then thought “I bet she’ll really want to show me how happy she is.” Then anxiety set in immediately. What if that’s really why I’m doing this? What if I just want the reward.
Nowadays, I think that was a ridiculous worry to have. Was it something good to do? Yes. Then do it. Now if I knew I was doing something just for the reward, I think that would be hypocrisy, but if I at least want to do good, that is all that matters, and I just pray for God to purify my motives. Odds are none of us will ever have 100% pure motives for anything. We do the best with what we have.
I’m going to skip a couple now to talk about how you don’t always have to have joy, at least the feeling of joy. One of the best gifts you can give someone at times is letting them suffer. I know in the early days of my divorce, if you had tried to downplay what I was feeling such as telling it wasn’t that bad or told me I shouldn’t be sad over it as a Christian, I would have wanted nothing to do with you. The best advice I had came from fellow sufferers who had been divorced and came alongside me. I remember especially someone saying “Today sucks, but tomorrow will suck a little bit less.”
Job is used as an example. The best gift Job’s friends gave him was silent presence. Everything was going right until they decided to speak. Then they ruined everything. The Bible says to mourn with those who mourn. Yes. It is Biblical sometimes to mourn.
One chapter that really left an impression on me is why application is the most boring part of many a sermon and too many sermons are ALL application. Consider this scenario. In the future, I meet a great girl and we go out and I want to get married and knowing my past divorce history, I tell you I’m scared I could be making the wrong decision. You want to talk to me about why you think this is a great relationship.
And your idea is to tell me about all the things that I do and all the traits I have to do that.
That just shows about me regardless of the woman. What makes sense? You tell me all about her and who she is and what she does.
In our sermons, we tell people to do things for Jesus, but we don’t usually tell them who Jesus is. Sermons are largely telling people what to do and not much about who they do it for. Instead, present Jesus as best you can as He is and count on people to have the proper response.
Finally, there’s a chapter on experiences. We live in a consumer age and too many people base what they have on their experiences. In the end, we end up needing more and more and the focus of our lives becomes not what God has revealed in Scripture, but what is going on with us and assuming all of it is the direct work of God.
This book is such a relief and it can be to so many more people.
I hope someday the church starts reading this. Sadly, they need to first to get rid of the bad ideas they’ve taken in.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)