Recommended reading #5

[A Wideness in God’s Mercy / Irresistible Revolution / Submerge]

A Wideness in God’s Mercy – The Finality of Jesus Christ in a World of Religions, by Clark Pinnock

This book by a respected (albeit, quite controversial) theologian teaches some extremely provocative things about God’s mercy reaching people with no adequate Christian witness. Pinnock is committed to Jesus being the only road to the Father, yet he explores how God might go down other roads to reach his beloved. They’re rather experimental, at least in my view, about how God might be willing to ride other buses to convince people to “transfer” to the Jesus Bus! My essay called, God’s Passionate Pursuit of People  is influenced considerably by Pinnock’s thinking. I’m not nearly as “free-thinking” as him but my hope is that through his book and/or my brief paper you’ll be as provoked as I am toward more passion to bring people back home to the Father.

I highly recommend this book to those who are willing to muse about how God is working harder than we know to bring people into his friendship. I’m reading it now for the third time.

Here are some out-of-the-box things he wrote:

  • Jesus is the way to the Father. This does not mean Buddhism has nothing to offer, or that Buddhists cannot move in Christi’s direction from where they presently are. The same could be said of Islam. There is truth aplenty in it on which the sincere soul can feed. God can call people to himself from within Islam, but as a system it is not a reliable vehicle of salvation… We must not conclude that just because we kow a person to be a Buddhist or a Muslim, that his or her heart is not seeking God.
  • If all treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in Christ, the truth anyone possesses is a facet of the truth in Jesus, and the result of God’s revelation to him.
  • When we approach a man of another faith, it will be in a spirit of expectancy to find how God has been speaking to him and what new understandings of the grace and love of God we may ourselves discover in this encounter.
  • Whose knowledge of the things of God is not surrounded by oceans of ignorance?

Irresistible Revolution, by Shane Claiborne

He’s a hippie believer that’s crazy enough to live among the poor in Philadelphia

and bold enough to challenge others to do the same. Beware. I know people who, after reading this book, have abandoned previously planned career paths and other American dream futures to follow the simple way of Jesus. He certainly contributed to my coming to San Francisco and make friends with “real estate-challenged” people.

He’s highly quotable. Here are some examples of the way he thinks:

  • We decided to quit complaining about the Church we saw and set our hearts on becoming the Church we dreamed of.
  • (A quote of one of his colleagues) “I gave up Christianity in order to follow Jesus.”
  • The church is tempted by the spectacular, to do big, miraculous things so people might believe, but Jesus has called us to littleness… Many of us who find ourselves living differently from the dominant culture end up needing to “despectacularize” things a little so that the simple way is made as accessible as possible to other ordinary radicals.
  • The early Christians used to write that when they didn’t have enough food for the hungry people at their door, the entire community would fast until everyone could share a meal together.
  • Sometimes people ask me if I’m scared living in the inner city. I’m more scared of the suburbs. Jesus said we shouldn’t fear what can destroy the body, but what can destroy the soul. While the ghettos may have their share of violence and crime, the suburbs are the home of the more subtle demonic forces – numbness, complacency, comfort –and it is these that can eat away at our souls.

Sub-merge, by John Hayes

Along with Claiborne’s book, this one was key to inspiring me to live and serve the “roof-less” in San Francisco.

Hayes is a brilliant man who has chosen to serve “incarnationally,” that is live among those he’s serving rather than be a “ministry tourist” once a month. He started a ministry called, “Inner-Change,” which is the organization that my dreadlocked hippie Christian friends are part of. He’s the real deal and what he says about how Christians could be living like Jesus among the poor is hard to refute.

  • Poverty, we know about. It’s poor people we don’t know; but it’s knowing poor people that enables substantive change and authentic empowerment to take place.
  • God desires to stretch before us a vision of living well – not simply living well off.

 

  • Ministries to the homeless are plentiful, but genuine friendships with the homeless are rare. On several occasions we have forsaken our apartments, rolled up our sleeping bags and stayed out on the streets for as many as five days in a row. We eat at soup kitchens, we beg for spare change and we sleep wherever can find a place that is safe and dry. We have found that when we become the invited guests of our homeless friends our ministry becomes one of mutual hospitality and trust.
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