It's 3:00 p.m. on a Monday afternoon.
The house is dead quiet. Exhausted family members are finding places of repose here and there around the house. Lady Bibliophile is taking the time to borrow the oh-so-in-demand laptop. All of a sudden she begins gesticulating wildly at the computer screen, and mouthing a Bible-thumping, laptop pounding sermon. At whom--or what?
An e-book. (Yes, friends and fellow bibliophiles, that's really me.)
Today's review: a 100 page e-book, Leonard Sweet's Real Church in a Social Network World, from Waterbrook Multnomah. This book was compiled from his three books What Matters Most, The Three Hardest Words, and The Gospel According to Starbucks, to advertise his new book Viral coming soon. The e-book also includes the first chapter of Viral.
The culture is changing. We live in a world obsessed with relationships and the virtual community, and a world in which people are slowly letting go of the Christian faith. While one is not the cause of the other, many are endeavoring to find ways of attracting the social networking generation back to Sunday morning services. Methods stemming from a need for "updated" worship styles to watering down the Word of God have all been tried. Leonard Sweet steps up with another answer in Real Church in a Social Network World, which at first sounds pretty appealing, but in reality is rather questionable.
Sweet starts by placing faith and belief at odds: Belief, he says, is "intellectual, defensible, and typically irrelevant." Faith is "a quest for discovery...It is the life of relating to God, to others, and to God's creation." He says that our generation is one that recognises the value of relationship over "irrelevant" theological rules, and we should take a few pointers from that.
In other words: "Belief is Plato; faith is Jesus."
Sweet is right in that belief and faith are different. I agree completely. But he says that faith is right and belief is wrong; "to admit (believe) falls far short of to commit (faith)."
God himself called us to believe (John 14:11, Acts 6:31) and if you dig deeper into the Greek, these words' meanings tie in both intellectual assent and faith. God himself in Isaiah 1:18 says "come let us reason together"when he's talking about forgiving our sin. That means "argue, dispute, rebuke". Belief and faith are inseparable, because we must have a reasonable belief in the God we place our faith in. One necessitates the other. While intellectual assent is not enough without faith, it is still a valuable step to having a grounded faith--a faith that will remain unshaken.
Sweet does have a couple of interesting and sound sections in his book: page 33, on his discussion of the cleansing rituals in the Old Testament, was both interesting and informative. And his section on God's love, on page 34, was very sound--God is Love, not just loving. His love has no "on season", and no "off season". And you cannot love and be in control at the same time. "Love is the
hardest thing in the world to get right, because when you give up control, you consent to uncertainty and unpredictable outcomes."
In the end, Sweet places the emphasis on relationship rather than belief, saying that a "faith" in Jesus Christ is more important than a "belief" in Him.
Then he goes on to claim that if we want a really good relationship with God, we should prize the "chaos" of a growing relationship. "Only chaos brings forth new ideas, new experiences, and new energies, because only chaos is open and receiving, ready for change." Chaos brings forth nothing but chaos. It takes order to create, to bring forth new ideas and new energies, because only order makes it possible. When God created the universe, He did not use a nebulous evolutionary action, but an orderly creation week, complete with orderly creation, and orderly times and seasons. And so it is in the spiritual world as well. We grow in Christ in an orderly way, not on a chaotic, random conglomeration of spiritual maturity.
Along with all of this, Sweet puts forth questions that continually divorce one half of God's character from the other: "Rules or relationship, which will you choose?" and the mistaken idea that Jesus came to get rid of the law and implement relationships instead. (Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not
come to abolish them but to fulfill them.--Matthew 5:17)
All in all, Sweet's book is such a mixture of error and truth that it's hard to discern one from the other. It's one e-book that I wouldn't recommend that you purchase, or spend your time reading. Sweet is right that relationships are important, as well as faith. But this work of his won't help you correctly understand real church in a social network world.
This e-book was given to me by Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for my honest opinion. I have given it in this review.
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Just as a fun little thing to round out the post, I had to include:
10 Reasons Why Printed Books Will Never Go Obsolete.
1. I never have to recharge them.
2. They never freeze up.
2. They will never crash and lose all their data.
4. I never have to wait ten minutes for them to turn on.
5. They never need updates
6. They last for decades when treated properly.
7. I can buy them for just a quarter at a time.
8. They never slow down because of poor bandwidth.
9. I never have to get a beta version first.
10. They've existed since the beginning of time.
I'm still looking for a good book on the church and modern technology, because I think technology is a very useful tool. If you have any good suggestions, I would love to hear about them! :)