There can be no doubt that Doug Frank, in a "A Gentler God", has faced into the darker and more disturbing aspects of the North American reformed and evangelical ethos--he did so, courageously, in his earlier to me also--few have done so in quite the same poignant and evocative manner. Frank knows, in his heart and head, bones and flesh where to say No (and why) and where to say Yes (and why) to the larger faith issues (and their distortions) that press in on us. I think, in many ways, the publishing of Brad Jersak's "A More Christlike God" should be seen as a fine and fit companion read to Frank's "A Gentler God"--time tried elder meets aspiring, incisive and probing mid-stride exegete and theologian in these two must read books. I might add that Wayne Northey's, "Chrysalis Crucible", more from a literary angle, makes for a must read trilogy--an ample published and literate prophetic counterculture of sorts. Needless to say, the Sanhedrin will not be pleased by such a challenge to their questionable yet establishment reformed agenda.
Book Review of A Gentler God: Breaking free of the Almighty in the company of the human Jesus Menangle: Albatross Books, 2010; 390 pp.
In the Introduction, author Doug Frank describes a billboard, erected doubtless by an “evangelical” Christian, that reads "TRUST JESUS!" Frank imagines another a mile further down the road, that reads, "OR ELSE!" These capture something quintessential about evangelical belief and tone, the author, an evangelical Christian himself, claims. This is reminiscent of The Four Spiritual Laws, distributed by the millions by evangelical Christians. Its opening line goes, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” But as Hans in my novel Chrysalis Crucible (2015) rejoins: “But if you don’t buy in, God hates you and has a terrible plan for your afterlife.” (p. 401)
The reviewer also was raised evangelical Christian, and concurs. I was drawn to this book by Frank after having read his 1986 publication, Less Than Conquerors: How Evangelicals Entered the Twentieth Century. (The subtitle has changed in an updated 2009 version. It reads: The Evangelical Quest for Power in the Early Twentieth Century.)
The author adduces an impeccable evangelical pedigree that enables him to declare he is an evangelical, a son of evangelicals, as Paul claimed similarly about being a Pharisee. That already foreshadows the “bone to pick” with evangelicalism as Frank says. For of all self-conscious expressions of faith, Frank in his earlier book contends that Evangelicalism is most like Pharisaism in spirit and tone. This fact causes a “twisting in my guts” in response to the highway sign, which means “In the end, it’ll be God’s way – or the highway!” (p. 18) Frank writes:
This book is an attempt to understand the source of the twisting in my guts, and to offer hope to those who share this condition with me (p. 19).
Frank is certain of many who share a similar reaction to a “God” who is enforcer of a religious tradition that is “authoritarian and punitive (p. 19).” Frank asks if this God looks like Jesus,
Does he look like the divine Spirit whom Jesus called his “Father” (p. 19)?
The author tellingly adds:
If not – and now you know my conclusion before I begin – where in the world has he come from (p. 19)?