Some titles of books work, and some don’t. Jarrett Stevens’ new book, The Deity Formerly Known as God (Zondervan, 2006), is a title that works. I’ll post on this book twice.
The book is an upgrade of a book that influenced me deeply when I was in college, so I was immediately interested in reading it: J.B. Phillips, Your God is Too Small. I’ve given a few minutes in one of my lectures to things I learned from that reading of Phillips, and now I’ll probably supplement those comments with things I’ve picked up from Jarrett’s book.
Jarrett (who just left Willow to pastor down in Hot-lanta with Andy Stanley) writes a book that reveals bad ideas about God that hurt us and good ideas about God that can lead us to worship and love. He sees six bad views of God that have got to go, and I’m keen on hearing if you’ve ever thought about “bad ideas we have of God.” If you can add to his list, go ahead.
1. Cop around the corner. This one is from Phillips; not all of them are. It is having a “toxic fear of God.” Which leads him to some good words about legalism.
2. Sweet old man. Again a Phillips idea. He’s got a clever “Day in the Life of an Old God” chart that I’m thinking many could use in various settings: including what time God gets up and goes to bed. Irreligious, but he wants to be because thinking of God as “old” is a bad idea.
3. Cosmic slot machine. In this chp Jarrett explores something significant in his personal life: the idea that God is random in his goodness. Important idea. I liked this chp alot. “The seeming randomness of God led me to believe at a young age that you should always hedge your bets and play it safe, or you could lose it all” (48). Those who do this never get to know God.
4.Talent show God. Another good one. The central them is “MORE” — keep doing more and more and eventually God will approve of what you do, but there is no end to the more so you keep on working. “Without realizing it, we have carelessly created for ourselves a God whom we can never please” (63).
5. All you can eat buffet God. God becomes what each one of us want God to be. This smorgasboard of spirituality is so consistent with the many today who want to make a god of their own liking.
6. Your parents supersized. Everyone says this because it should be: we project onto God our parents. (Which is fine if you, like our kids, had perfect parents!) But no one has perfect parents so we have to adjust our view of God. We all have to learn to see through the fog of our parents.
Well, any additional ideas of God that have to go?
By the way, it’s a totally pomo looking book with a pomo kind of font and format. You aren’t supposed to judge a book by the cover, but everyone does — that’s why Zondervan gave it this kind of cover. Doesn’t appeal to me, but I’ll lay down a coffee that my students will like its cover and format.