Saturday, July 28, 2012

Readers Weigh In on the Book

First of all, to anyone who has reviewed my book, Confessions of a Bible Thumper, I want to thank you. Whether it's a positive or negative review, I honestly appreciate people putting their time and effort into reading the whole book and sharing their honest assesment. I'm pleased that the overwhelming response is positive, but also appreciate a couple more negative reviews that have come in. The point is, people care enough to express their opinion, and that's all good. Again, thank you reviewers!

Now, with the 15-16 total reviews out there so far (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and various bloggers), I have to admit, it's fascinating to compare responses. For example, most people have said I have a respectful tone when critiquing evangelical doctrines. "When there is disagreement, the author respects the views of his friends. He doesn’t put them down, or indicate that they are in some manner less Christian than he is... Michael is critical of his conservative religious background, but his is not judgmental," says the pastor at Desert Streams. But the reviewer at Perceptible Reflections disagrees: "...the words used showed an arrogance of 'I’m right and your wrong' attitude, with a feel that if you disagree, it is because you don’t understand this higher level of thinking." Hmm... which is it?

On the craft beer theme, I can't tell you how many times people have praised the idea of anchoring half the book in a pub and using the conversations over microbrews to make theology accessible. One of my editors called it "genious." One Amazon reviewer "...found this format refreshing and brilliant." Not so, says the Parish reviewer: "He also has a bad habit of setting conversations in a bar which allows him to nerd out about his favorite microbrews, a complete waste of time for an undertaking like this, and indicates the book needed more editing." Hmm... mixed messages. That's why everyone is entitled to their opinion!

Although the Parish thought the sex and gay rights chapters are worth reading, he had pointed critiques of the Intelligent Debate chapter (where I critique creationism, defend intelligent design, and make a case for unorthodox evolution), which I fully expected. He didn't like me sourcing David Berlinski because he's not a scientist (A Ph.D in Philosophy and post-doctorate studies in Mathematics doesn't count), but with the exception of Lynn Margulis (who I give as an example of an unorthodox evolutionist), he overlooks the other scientists I cite, like Stephen J. Gould, Niles Eldridge, James Shapiro, and Michael Denton, as well as atheist/philosopher Bradley Monton.

Overall, a great collection of reviews and I look forward to more. I invite readers to offer their opinions here or write a review on one of the sites listed above. Cheers!


jrh said...

Hi Michael,

I just finished your book not too long ago so I figured I write a quick review/commentary on it. I'm also a somewhat progressive Christian who is also a microbrew enthusiast (in Colorado, which is Microbrew Mecca! Thou must maketh a Pilgrimage in thy lifetime!!!) and I found the format to be alot more interesting than I thought it would be. I am in agreement on many things and I have studied many of the same topics you write about.
For the most part, I thought you made a fairly convincing case, but there are a few things I would like to note:

- You say you are leaning more toward full Preterism, though you didn't mention a single full preterist as far as I can tell (the ones I remember you mentioning are all Partial Preterists). I'm also a bit skeptical about how compatible Full preterism is with most Universal Reconciliation ideas.

-1st Century Corinth did NOT have a massive Temple dedicated to Aphrodite with 1000 prostitutes. Idea is even used by conservatives but this comes from a quote from Strabbo and he was referring to Corinth around 400 BC prior to its Destruction in 146 AD (where that temple was destroyed). According to Strabbo there was only a small shrine left to Aphrodite (who was then called Venus and not considered as much of a hooker god). Its possible hookers had the same cultic stigma in Corinth at the time though considering the other cults that were in existance. I also think Philo Thelos (Mr. Chandler) is wrong about his chosen understanding of Song of Solomon and I find his understanding of non-cultic prostitution to be very questionable even if there is no direct sin condemnation in the Old Testament.

-I'm glad you mentioned the Cult of Cybelene in the gay chapter, but again the Aphrodite temple is irrelevant. It would also be beneficial to look into the cult of Dionysis for more cultic gay worship exasmples.

-The Intelligent Design chapter was very good in my opinion, though I thought explaining how the Genesis account actually fits with the picture as a whole could use a little more study. I'm sure your open to many possibilities rather than just dismissing it as a complete fairy tale.

-Steve may have been right about not being able to be a Christian and a Hindu at the same time even if he misunderstood your point. God hated cultic behavior and worship of other gods and most Universal Reconciliationists believe non-Christians will face some kind of "correction" after they die. If that was apart of your point, I didn't think it was pronounced enough to counter the "all roads lead to heaven" vibe most conservative Christians yell at universalism for. As Jesus said, "no one comes to the father except through me" and I'm also open to the possibility that all will come to him at some point, but it will come after the sad realization that they didn't know him in life. You may think this statement from could mean a lot of things, but taking into account the other "Christian Particularist" comments made else where in the bible and God's obvious hatred of Idolatry, I think this conclusion is in inescapable.

Overall, an excellent effort and a great introduction to the more progressive side of Christianity. I hope we can have a beer sometime if we are ever in the same area.


Michael Camp said...

Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment and your review on Amazon. I really appreciate it. Here's a couple responses for you:

1 - I did cite in the notes one full preterist J. Stuart Russell. I have read other FPs but chose not to refer to them as much as my initial pull to FP was from my own reasoning based on my personal knowledge of the NT. I haven't investigated the compatibility of UR with FP, but I don't see why it wouldn't be.

2 - Well, you may be right, that the Temple to Aphrodite was not in the first century (Rodney Stark implied it was but didn't date it and I never wrote it was in the first century). The point I make still stands if it was in 400 BC, for Paul is talking historically about idolatry, cult worship, and porniea. He may well have had the 400 BC temple in mind as he would no doubt have the shrine prostitution cited in Kings in mind when talking historically. Yes, the cult of Dionysis may be another good example.

3 - I mention Ghandi to Steve as an example of someone who knew Christ as a moderate Hindu. To my knowledge, Ghandi did not worship a conglomeration of Gods, but was cultually Hindu with a devotion to following Christ's teachings. I intimate that all will eventually come to God through Christ in the book. I also think that as in the parable of the sheep and goats, some serve Christ without realizing it.

Would love to grab a brew with you and compare notes. Do look me up if you're in Seattle.

Cheers! ~ Michael