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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

somethings got to give (?)

Two blogs I enjoy and read regularly have posted reviews of a popular book, 'Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality', by Donald Miller.

Last July I read BLJ through once, and though I enjoyed the read, still do not know exactly where I stand on it, and more importantly, how it will affect my ministry. I liked BLJ because it was steeped in a sort of trench reality, and it seemed like Donald Miller really stuck his neck out to show people the love of Christ. Yet, BLJ also 'seemed' to condone behavior that was un-Christian or irreverent while doing so.

I often think and struggle with, and between, an understanding of these two different sides. So, I share these two different reviews not to pit them against each other to see which side wins, but to show some examples and begin to explore if one side truly is the one to follow, or maybe hopefully, there is some bridge in between the two to learn from and travel.

If you have read BLJ, or have thoughts to share about this subject or these reviews, I would really like to hear them.

BTW I have been alongside both Denny and Chris in ministry and it is my witness that both of these men are very well educated and experienced in their theology and both love Jesus and deeply committed to God and His purposes. I highly respect them and their ministries.

Denny Burk: A blog on Biblical studies, theology, and politics.

Denny Burk BLJ review"

Chris McGregor: Although I am privileged to be an employee of Fellowship Church and a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, the following views are my own and are not necessarily shared by either of these two organizations.

Chris McGregor BLJ review

Grace and peace,


At 09 February, 2006 10:51, Blogger Chris McGregor said...


I'm glad that you picked up the book and are wrestling with some of the same questions I am.

I think that some of the differences of opinion can be traced to a) one's background and b) the audience for whom the book was written.

One's background comes into play insofar as it allows you to identify or not with miller's experiences. Because I too grew up in a culture of "soft" fundamentalism (tilted towards legalism in my experience), I resonated with the molds he was trying to break.

Secondly, I'm going out on a limb to say that the book was written more for the "already convinced" than it was written as an evangelistic tool. I would say he was trying to identify thoughts and frustrations that people like me have experienced trying to follow Jesus. It's not that he's perfect or anything; he's just the first to articulate some of the thoughts that a lot of us have felt. (for instance, I got the impression growing up that it was important to "look Christian" than to really "act Christian.")

Yeah, Miller may endorse some questionable behavior, but I think his life focus (and the focus of this book) is on the right thing: to love God and love other people. I do not endorse any of his behavior, but I do endorse keeping the "main thing the main thing," if that makes sense.

So, to conclude a really long response to your own struggles, my recommendation is to read through the "coolness" and the behavior that you don't agree with, and get the meat out of his book: let's get radical about loving God so authentically and radically that it will transform us and the lives of those around us.

Mark-thanks for your friendship and for probing my own thoughts to a deeper level.

At 10 February, 2006 09:51, Blogger Mark said...

Hey Chris thanks for commenting.

I think it is fair to say that I have a mildly defensive stance when it comes to things like the dichotomy of legalsim / grace.

I guess like you said, it comes from our background. I grew up with RCC legalism, and it led nowhere. But now as a Christ follower I see so many without any check on their behavior and it is taking them down, too.

I appreciate your friendship and the dialogue. I am learning a lot from it.

At 16 February, 2006 11:44, Blogger Ryan said...

Mark, I recently read BLJ without knowing much about Donald Miller at all. So many of my friends in Christian circles were telling me I should read it. I gave it a spin and came away with much the same reaction that you did. I also grew up in extremely fundamental churches, far more legalistic than Mr. Miller experienced I assure you, and I still have a funny taste in my mouth from BLJ. There are many parts of the book which espouse questionable theology, but the jumping off point for me is the use of the term Christian Mysticism or spiritulity and the implications that follow from that kind of theology. This kind of book plays heavily to the postmodern thinking crowd and plays very loose with the scriptures. However, if there is anything good to be taken away from it, I was challenged to be more loving to "outsiders" and more compassionate to those who don't know the love of Christ. Enjoy the conversation here, feel free to check me out at http://rksanford.blogspot.com/

At 17 February, 2006 05:21, Blogger Mark said...

thanks for your comments Ryan. I am going to check out your blog.

I agree that one of the major take aways of BLJ is to be more compassionate, especially for the lost. I am going to re-read it soon.

Have you read Velvet Elvis yet? I wonder what you would think of that book.


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