A Review of J.D. Greear’s “Not God Enough”
I’m not really sure what brought me to J.D. Greear’s Not God Enough. It could have been that the book is being published by Zondervan, which has, in the past, published the work of progressives. It could have been the description of the book, as well — the book blub seemed to posit that this was a book for anyone who had doubts about God. God knows I’ve had a few. You can imagine my disappointment then when the book didn’t really deliver on what I thought it would. Let me be blunt: This is not a book for progressives. In fact, Greear takes aim at us progressives multiple times over the book, sniping us for wanting a God that’s edited beyond recognition so that He’s not that offensive. (Why is this a bad thing?)
No, Not God Enough is, at it’s core, a book about evangelical Christianity and how great it is. The book is so evangelical that Greear seems to take pride in offering an example where he wound up converting a Muslim woman to Christianity — though the book doesn’t say what the consequences were for that woman in changing her faith. Essentially, I think the whole point of the book is that if you don’t believe in Jesus, you will never find your way to God or Heaven. That’s so odiously offensive that I don’t know where to even begin. After all, is the belief in a Creator by indigenous communities, for instance, beyond all reproach in Greear’s worldview? (It probably is.) At the very worst, Not God Enough is culturally insensitive.
Before going any further, let me point out a few nice things that I can say about the book. Not God Enough is a title that has been well researched and thought over, despite the personal stories involving changing someone else’s faith. I was impressed by the titles in the endnotes, some of which were from secular sources. And the book is reasonably well written. I don’t agree with a great deal of it, but Greear — despite having a penchant for vanity as expressed in some of his examples — can write prose that may be convincing to some. It is the work of a well-educated man.
However, the book seems to say that we’ve made God so small in an effort to understand Him, that we don’t understand Him at all. Then, Greear points out that he doesn’t actually really know what God is thinking at any given time by allowing great suffering to happen in the world, which skirts the question that the book raises: How can you believe in a God that allowed something like the Holocaust to happen? The conclusion of the book is essentially that — since we don’t really know why God does such things — we should shuffle our feet forward to God and hope that the afterlife is a happy clappy place. At least, I think that’s the point of the book.
To be generous, after reading Not God Enough cover to cover, I’m really not sure what to think. Greear doesn’t seem to know the answers to the questions he poses with great certainty, which leaves those who are skeptical of God’s grace and love in a difficult position. The book hinges on select Bible quotes that seem to indicate that God is so infinitely bigger than us, God is really in the driver’s seat, and no matter what bad stuff happens to us, our family or the world at large, He is shaping a story that, in the end, will be filled with greatness.
Meanwhile, the book concludes by exhorting people for not being evangelical enough. We need to be out there preaching the Word at any given opportunity, or so seems to be what Greear is saying. I don’t know about you, but as a progressive, I try to not get too Jesus Freaky on people because I firmly believe that faith is a personal thing. It’s kind of like one of the guiding principles and traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous: bringing new people into the fold should be based on attraction rather than promotion. It should be that others should look to what we’ve got and want some of that on their own.
As you can tell, I had a lot of trouble with this book’s underlying message. I suppose it boils down to two things: one, I’m not a Southern Baptist as Greear is (and I know from my reading that Southern Baptists are at the centre of the culture wars) and, two, having read John Shelby Spong’s upcoming book, a lot of my views on the Christian faith have changed. So, in a sense, I think you have to take this book for what it is, and it is little more than propaganda for a certain sect of Christianity. It seems, too, that the author has lived in Las Vegas for quite some time, so his surroundings may have had a role in shaping his worldview.
What can I say? If you’re in any way progressive, as I am, you can skip this book entirely. If not, I would caution readers to read Not God Enough with a critical mind. Not everything that Greear writes should be taken as Gospel, and the fact that he has no patience for non-Christians should be a warning sign for you to not take the findings of this book too liberally. There are many ways to God, of course, and if you’ve found something that works for you, that’s great. Books like this, though, seem to reinforce the belief that certain Christians (and, by extension, non-Christians) are not Christian enough, which is a rather non-Christian way of looking at the world, if you ask me. Take everything you read in Not God Enough with a grain of salt. You’ll probably need the seasoning to make this book even feel remotely palpable.
J.D. Greear’s Not God Enough: Why Your Small God Leads to Big Problems will be published by Zondervan on February 6, 2018.
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