Book Review – Questions for all of your Answers

Questions for all of your AnswersThe Journey from Folk Religion to Examined Faith

by Roger E. Olson

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #141161 in Books
  • Published on: 2008-03-01
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 192 pages

Book Overview:

Many evangelicals have embraced a Christianize “folk religion” characterized by glib sayings they’ve never deeply examined. Looking at ten popular Christian slogans in the light of Scripture, this book encourages us to reach for a deeper, well-grounded faith that engages the intellect as well as the heart with the Bible. –

The Chapters include:

  • It’s a Mystery, just accept it – So what do you say to an Atheist?
  • God is in Control – So why is the World Such a Mess
  • Jesus is the Answer – So what’s the question?
  • The Bible has all the Answers – So what about cloning?
  • God has a Perfect Plan for your Life – So what if you miss it.
  • God helps those who help themselves – So who needs grace?
  • Jesus is coming soon – So why are you buying life insurance?
  • All sins are equal – So is reusing a stamp as bad as murder?
  • Money isn’t bad, but only what we do with it – So why did Jesus say it’s hard for a rich man to enter heaven?

My Reaction

The book is written with the layperson in mind, but he does on occasion dive a bit deeper because he assumes that scholars will be reading the book.  There are no references to other works in this book, which I first thought was strange, but after reading for a while it made sense.

I really enjoy reading Olson as he is a gifted writer.  When I read his books it’s as if he is right there talking to me, and the same is true of this one.  The title really got a hold of me as that is how I often feel.  So many questions, and certain things that Christians say and do don’t always sit well with me.  Apparently the good ole’ Dr. felt the same way.  The book is easy reading, and I am a slow reader, but I finished it in a couple of weeks reading about 30 minutes a day.

He starts the book by saying that it is written from a pastoral heart.  He is trying to set the tone of the book, as his intention is not to criticize or to insult Christians that hold on to what he refers to as “Folk Religion & Folk Christianity”.  But rather it’s purpose is spiritual formation, including correcting bad theology.

He states that folk religion “thrives on cliche’s and slogan that fit on bumper stickers and resists their critical examination even by the litmus test of Scriptures…Above all it resists any attempt to subject these to critical scrutiny

His objective in the book is to dispel the notion that “critical thinking is antithetical to real spirituality“.  According to Olson, “…no Christian leader before the late twentieth century would say so.”  He does this by helping us understand why it is important that we as Christians learn to think and that critical examination and questioning of religious and spiritual matters are not bad.   The solution to this according to him is a recovery of Reflective Christianity.

He lays out what Reflective Christianity looks like.

  • Reflective Christianity…
    • is the opposite of folk religion
    • has the courage to say “I don’t know”
    • is mature, wise Christian spirituality
    • encourages and enables and is not afraid of facts
    • values Christian roots; it admires and respects the great sages of the Christian past
    • is catholic Christianity – not necessarily Roman Catholic, but in the sense of worshiping along the great cloud of witnesses of all the ages.
    • is reasonable Christianity
    • is humble because it knows how little we really know or understand about the great mysteries of God and the universe
    • most important of all – it is culture-shaping Christianity

He spends the reminder of the book challenging some long standing positions that Christians have held now for over 40 years.  Also keep in mind that he writes from an Arminian perspective and really challenges the the idea of God being in control.  As usual he does his best to be respectful of the Calvinist position, but he does not hide the position from which he writes.  Which by the way was one of my favorite chapters ;-).

The chapter that made me think the most was “God has a perfect plan for your life”.  Although I do not embrace a Calvinist position, I can still see strong influences in my own life from their teachings on Sovereignty.  I really had to rethink some areas here.  Olson asks “Does the bible really teach that God has a blueprint will for every individual’s life?”  Well does he?  My immediate reaction was, well I do see him calling people in the bible, such as Moses, King David, Paul the Apostle.  However he remarks that these were special cases.  He says:

It is dangerous to extrapolate from what God did with David or Isaiah or Peter or Paul to what he does with every Christian.  Apparently God does choose certain people for certain tasks and virtually forces them into action.  Look at Jonah!…Is that ordinary Christian existence?  Or is it the case only with a few people whom God especially selects for special ministries?…Let me suggest that for most Christians God never does knock them of a horse, show them bright lights, and speak to them audibly.

Overall I thourghly enjoyed the book and would highly recommend it to anyone.  This book would make a great companion to anyone teaching on Introductory Theology.  As in many ways it is agruing why theology matters.

-Robert Jimenez

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2 thoughts on “Book Review – Questions for all of your Answers

  1. This sounds like an interesting book. Like the author Olson, I’ve also had to ask difficult questions when I stared attending seminary. Most Christians don’t get the chance to ask these difficult questions so I’m glad there’s a book like this for us.

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