Posted by: Alex | July 11, 2011

Introducing Blue Like Jazz

I have almost completed reading Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, time to start writing posts.  Life here at camp is extremely busy, which makes writing a bit of a difficult process, but getting done as much as I can.  My discussion of this book will likely be fairly short because this is not a very “propositional” book, its a book of stories.  I will say here, by way of introduction, that I have seldom identified so closely with a book.  Certainly I am not Don Miller and have not lived his life experiences, but I have found over and over again that the issues he raises in his stories are exactly the issues I have wrestled with over the last several years of my own spiritual journey.  In that sense, this book has not only been a very interesting read, it has also been an extremely helpful and encouraging one.

Some of the issues that we will examine in Donald Miller’s book:

  1. The potential for religion to become a source of pride and a further barrier between God and man.
  2. The struggle of humanity with its own depravity.
  3. The rationality or irrationality of Christian belief.  Reason and mysticism.
  4. The relationship of stated belief and lived action.
  5. The relevance of Christian belief for contemporary society.

Another couple of things might make it in as well.  To start off our consideration of this book, I want to throw out a possibly controversial question that Miller raises almost immediately in his book- the choice of metaphors to describe God.  Miller writes in the first chapter of the book:

Today I wonder why it is God refers to Himself as “Father” at all. This, to me, in light of the earthly representation of the role, seems a marketing mistake. Why would God want to call Himself Father when so many fathers abandon their children? (as a side note, I’m reading this book on Kindle, so no page numbers for quotes from this book, unfortunately.  I will try to always note the chapter the quote is taken from, though)

Miller writes this after recounting some of his own experience with his father, whom he only saw three times growing up.  For many in our society this is a shared experience, and the often given answer “God is the perfect father” may be empty or meaningless for those who have no experience of a father at all.  Miller’s question is one that I think might resonate with many in our society.  But it raises a more general question: how much should we cling to particular metaphors about God.  Maybe we should start with the more basic question: do we really believe that God is a father or do we recognize that description as a metaphor?  If we do recognize it as a metaphor, does it afford some special status in the Christian tradition?  Are we allowed to change this metaphor?  Are other metaphors just as good?  Could there be better ones?  Miller doesn’t delve into these questions directly in his book, he touches on them in passing as he tells his story.  But I think they are questions worth pondering, and we could probably ask the same about many of the other “metaphors” we use in describing God.  So I would ask anyone reading this blog- what do you think?

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