I like to read religious studies, philosophy of science and religion, biblical studies, theology, metaphysics, diversity, religious pluralism, ethics, theoretical physics, and all sorts of other things both academic and popular. Basically, I do the reading and then leave some ruud remarks to help you decide if a particular book is worth your time. It's that easy.
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Say what you will, but that’s a provocative title.
As choice as his vernacular may be, Korpman does what many Christians do not—he dares to take the Bible seriously. And by seriously, I do not mean literally. He is by no means a literalist, otherwise his counterintuitive, titular thesis would indeed make very little sense. Korpman takes the Bible seriously in that he cares enough to dig. Saying No to God, separated into two halves with a brief intermission, is tasked with digging into and deconstructing bad theologies, all the while retaining the gems found amidst the mire. A tall task, but one which the book balances mightily.
The first half of the volume lays out a framework for how to confront the divine. Korpman turns almost exclusively to the Bible to find examples of those who themselves fought with God. Familiar characters such as Moses, Jacob, Abraham, and, yes, Jesus, are all used in conjunction with their stories to ground readers in what it has looked like for individuals of courage to say no to God in the past.
The second half puts the newly constructed framework to work. It is here where Korpman attempts to empower his readers into applying the central tenet of Saying No to God, articulated in the first half of the book, into the modern church and, truthfully, world. While some of these issues, such as women’s ordination, may be more closely speaking to where his faith tradition is at present, other subjects like hell and salvation are certainly more applicable to a wide swath of readers—all of whom he encourages to say “no” to the negative aspects of such doctrine, while all the while clinging to the good.
All said, Korpman comes to much of the same conclusion that I do: God is good, we’ve simply allowed humans to tell us what God is like, and we must wrestle with the portraits of God we are given so as to find the good hidden within. As such, frankly, I have very few qualms with Korpman’s thesis and subsequent theological implications, save, perhaps, that I do disagree with his rather high view of scripture. He scrupulously combs over the canon, cover to cover, I’m sure, in part, to avoid qualms from more conservative readers. To me, it seems unnecessary. But keeping his target audience in mind, and recognizing the elegance with which he dissects each “familiar” story, I won’t complain too much.
While simply my opinion, the best part of Korpman’s work comes on the topic of doubt. In my mind, faith cannot exist in certainty. This, of course, means doubt, in being antithetical to certainty, is a key part of any faith or faith journey. Korpman, speaking to the Christian-subculture at large, articulates it this way: “It is an unavoidable truth that we inhabit a post-modern and post-certain world, and many churches desperately as such find themselves fighting the forces of skepticism and doubt. Yet, this is a losing battle. For no matter how much one tells you to believe, doubt will not magically disappear unless one is intellectually dishonest.” The intellectual dishonesty he speaks of frames the entire book, as being honest with ourselves and what we as humans know to be good and true is exactly what Korpman hopes will result in our radically saying no to God.
The real quick:
Saying No to God: A Radical Approach to Reading the Bible Faithfully.
By Matthew J. Korpman.
Quoir Publishing, 2019.
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