“I sense a craving in our churches and youth groups for a deeper union with Christ.”Cover (p.81)

In Sex, Sushi, & Salvation Christian George has continued the informal literary tradition of On the Road and Blue Like Jazz to give us an idiosyncratic “storyized” introduction to the basic truths of the Christian worldview.

Through a disconnected series of “exotic potpourri life slices” (back cover) he guides us with wit, charm, and confessional honesty through timeless facts of life, such as man’s depravity and the ever-presence of God’s loving forgiveness.

Along the way, we learn about the endearing personality and life of the author as we are lead back to to the feet of tried-and-true guides such as the Westminster Catechism, John Wesley, and Jack Handey, (Ok, maybe not Jack Handey); we are also introduced to some lesser-known encouragement from anonymous Puritan poetry, the poetry of a depressed William Cowper, and the broken-but-hopeful lyrics of 1870’s jazz.

What is the problem, the need, the desire? “I sense a growing desire within [Generation Y] to lift up Christ and see His glory as something sacred again. A revival is breaking out among younger evangelicals who proclaim God’s heaviness and worship Him in glory.” (p.80)

As JP Moreland diagnoses in his latest book Kingdom Triangle, this yearning might be due in part to our scientistic (not scientific) materialistic worldview, wherein empirical experimentation reigns tyrannical, and we attempt to ignore the major knowledge traditions, ethics, aesthetics, philosophy, and theology. Although such scientism depends by definition upon a few select (unquestioned) philosophical and theological assumptions, in our view only thing that we count as certain is the experience of the senses filtered through experimental hypotheses. This leaves our spirits crying out for nourishment, but forced to yield reality and factuality in the uncertain hands of narrative, image, myth, and sentiment.

In spite of a desire to avoid “doctrine-resistant” emergent church solutions to this yearning, George walks a close line. As Matt observed in his review, “George seems to be attempting to take the best story-telling aspects of post-modern adherents and weaving them into a conservative theological framework that is grounded, above all, in an authentic experience of the Living God… There is some question, I think, whether Miller’s style can be baptized effectively, or whether it is itself at odds with a conservative theological position.” One sees the very dreaded theological errors such as this in George’s attempt to frame the question about the mystery of the Trinity on page 90. (George asks, “Have you ever pondered the deep mysteries of God? For instance…How can one person be three people at the same time?” p. 90) The difference between super-rational and irrational is the difference between a Celestial spirit and a frog, between the truth of the Holy Trinity and falsity of bad math, and George is unclear at points as to which category he thinks Christianity falls into.

The divine essence is one, but there are three people who share that essence or nature. The essence (and its relation to the persons) is definitely above human reason, but it is within the purview of human rationality and Christian theology to accurately state what we can and do know. And it is a grave error to suggest that the divine essence is “one person.”

There is also some question in the reader’s mind as to whether George intends his audience to be Christians or non-Christians. Donald Miller’s opus is quite clearly a book by a non-conventional Christian for non-conventional Christians. It may equally work for those who grew up Christians but have fallen away, or for those ubiquitous “spiritual but not religious” folk who have not yet not given up completely on the Christian voice for answers and guidance in the spiritual life. George’s approach, on the other hand, seems to be a book by a highly traditional Christian (an interesting and delightful, but highly convetional Christian) dressing up the lovely old faith in the fashionable garb of the narrative of a charming personality.

In spite of such observations, George uses this postmodern narrative structure as a (perhaps admirable) expirment, using it to point us “back the future” where we can rediscover our ideal Christian heritage: That golden combination of a heart-felt faith, a sharpened mind, and a living trust in the supernatural power of our Father. We must avoid “cotton-candy Christianity” (p.81) and “We must take a step back in order to take a step forward. We must go back to the Bible and the roots of our faith. We must rediscover the ancient doctrines, creeds and confessions that enrich our Christian heritage. We must listen to the hymns that history has sung for us long ago; sit under the teachings of the Council of Nicea, the Apostles Creed, and the Westminster Confession.” (p.170)

After all, if Christ did not literally, historically raise from the dead, we are of all men most to be pitied. And Christianity is not a prosperity religion, at least not without perspective to eternity. Rather, as George reminds us, “[t]he call to Christianity is the call to die.” (p. 161)

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Posted by Keith E. Buhler

One Comment

  1. George asks, “Have you ever pondered the deep mysteries of God? For instance…How can one person be three people at the same time?” p. 90

    Ugh. This reminds me of a point made by Roger Olson in his book Questions for All Your Answers: A Journey Folk Religion to Examined Faith. In the absence of the book itself, I quote the review of it by Louis Markos in the June ’08 issue of Touchstone:

    Christians are too quick to play the “mystery card,” the “appeal to paradox” acting as a cover for “anti-intellectualism” and “sheer mental laziness.”
    Too often Christians enshrine their embrace of paradox as a “sign of spirituality” while dismissing and denigrating as unspiritual the necessary and ongoing task “of making the Christian message intelligible.” Worse, the refusal to examine and justify the paradoxes of our faith gives “permission to all kinds of non-Christian belief systems to do the same with impunity.”
    In contrast, the church fathers devoted intense effort to defining and explaining the Incarnation and Trinity in such a way as to protect them from the charge of inconsistency and incoherence. Their definitions and explanations “point to a mystery beyond full comprehension,” but they appealed to mystery after their best efforts to make these doctrines intelligible.

    End quotation. It sounds like George doesn’t exert any such effort, despite his lip service to recovering the wisdom of the church fathers.

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