The book review post I want to bring over from my other blog at RedLetterLiving.net is one that had a profound effect on me during my three year search into current Christian organizations. In fact this book review spanned over five posts. (I haven’t decided yet whether to bring all five here or not). Phillip Gulley was one of my first encounters with the Society of Friends, otherwise know as Quakers. It would definitely spur much more reading about this group of Christians.
Here is a slightly edited version of the March 2009 post
Today I am going to talk a little about a book entitled “If God is Love – Rediscovering Grace in an Ungracious World” by Phillip Gulley and James Mulholland. I must admit up front that I am somewhat fascinated by the Quaker religion of which both of the authors are ministers. Although one of them came through Baptist and Methodists to get there. I greatly respect the position the Quakers have taken on non-violence going all the way back to the Revolutionary war. This is a very readable book on a very important topic.
There has been an ongoing debate throughout Christianity’s history on the correct balance between the all powerful and sometime vengeful God and the God of agape Love. Just what the correct balance of this is somewhat attuned to the corresponding debate between law and gospel. Both are needed but how much of each is appropriate for a well rounded Christian? I must admit that this book is full of God’s love and has little of God’s power in it. I must also admit that I lean in that direction also but not to the extent of the authors.
The following is, in my opinion, one of the most striking quotes from the book:
The theology of love begins with the assumption that all people are God’s cherished children and deserving of love. “We love because he first loved us. Those who say ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers and sisters, are liars, for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen” 1 John 4:19-20. Jesus demonstrated his love for the outcasts, those many considered unloveable. Regrettably, many Christians have been unwilling to adopt the ethic of Jesus — a theology of inclusion, acceptance, and love. We’ve been unwilling to love and accept our enemies. We haven’t even been excited about loving our neighbor.
This quote I believe sums up the Quaker stand on non-violence. They have taken quite a bit of abuse during all our wars because of this stand. Another memorable quote is as below:
God has no grandchildren. My children cannot inherit my faith. I can’t save them. Each of us is on a journey. My role as a parent is not to convert my children, but to live a life consistent with my experience of God’s radical love and trust that such a life will attract them.
I don’t know that I have ever seen such a powerful pronouncement of Christian parenting before. The old saying that parents have been spouting for eons is “don’t do what I do, do what I say”. I know I got my dose of that as a child. It didn’t work on me and probably didn’t work for most of you. Our parents, like all Christians must show the love of the Lord in their actions as well as their words. One does not work without the other. Finally the last quote I want to present is:
Share everything with your brother. Do not say, ‘It is private property.’” This isn’t the rhetoric of the Communist Manifesto or the Mother Earth Catalog. This is a line from the Didache, an early Christian document used to prepare novices for baptism. The Didache was such a respected teaching that it was nearly included in the biblical canon. This line may have been its undoing. Religion has long resisted the command to be universally concerned, especially when this concern comes with a price tag.
I understand this tendency. Whenever someone asks me to respond to a need, I have to overcome a long litany of mental excuses. I don’t know enough about the persons’ situation to give wisely. He or she might not use the money appropriately. I’m already giving to other causes. These may all be legitimate considerations, but I sense my deeper motivation — I want a rationale for keeping my money. I don’t’ like Jesus’ command to “Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you (Matthew 5:42)
I was struck by so many of these types of dialogs in the book. They definitely made me think about how I am living out my life. According to what I have read elsewhere the main reason that the Didache document as quoted above was not included was that the emperor Constantine, who oversaw the compilation of our first Bible, did not consider it supportive enough of the State so he vetoed its inclusion in the final version.
I highly recommend this book to any who is willing to struggle with these types of issues. No one ever said (or should have said) living your life by the words of Jesus Christ is easy! Indeed, it should be and is quite difficult.