by Jack Haberer
Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Ky. 180 pages
REVIEWED BY JODI CRAIGLOW
When Jack Haberer stepped out of his role as editor of the Outlook, I knew that there was no way he’d be able to stray completely from the world of publishing. (Once the writing bug has bitten, the itch lasts forever.) With the release of this book, I reveled in the opportunity to see his thoughts in print once again.
But I have to tell you: This is not an easy book to read.
Engaging prose? Check. Witty self-effacement? That’s there, too. Scripture references? Abounding. Ties to contemporary culture? In spades. So, yes — on the surface, it seems like any other book about faith-based discernment. But this isn’t your garden-variety book about Christian ethics. What Haberer proposes in these pages tosses salt in the open (albeit, more often than not, self-inflicted) wounds of conservatives and progressives alike. It’s going to raise hackles and set jaws. And hopefully, it will make people think.
In an era of partisan politics and theological firebombing, Haberer invites us to consider a completely different paradigm for how to respond faithfully in the face of tough situations and difficult decisions. I’d say it’s a “new” paradigm, but it really isn’t — and that’s part of Haberer’s genius. He suggests that we 21st-century Christians have lost sight of the fact that Jesus has actually always intended us to engage our God-given insight and Spirit-led conscience when we encounter questions without easy answers. He names the tension of upholding the Bible as the inspired, authoritative Word of God while simultaneously acknowledging its deep roots in the very-much-removed-from-us-today cultures in which its words were written. He asks us to consider the possibility that faithful Christians can come to different conclusions about the same issue and still be faithful Christians.
I’m guessing that the biggest push-back Haberer will get is from folks who want to take his argument out to what they’d call its “logical conclusions.” In other words, they’ll wonder what would happen if everybody blindly followed the instructions he lays out in this short volume. But here’s the problem — they’d be missing the very point he’s trying to make. They’d be trying to re-dogmatize his pleas and plans to draw us out of black-and-white thinking. Believe me, though, I get where they’re coming from. Haberer asks us to think deeply and theologically — suspending judgment and questioning assumptions — about every decision we make. And that’s tough. Really tough. It’s going to slow us down, frustrate us, humble us and open our eyes to just how much we don’t know. But it’s also going to draw us nearer to God and one another, reawaken our passion for justice and mercy and see glimpses of ourselves as God created us to be.
So, dear reader, I invite you to keep reading. It’s not going to make sense at first. Keep reading. You’re going to want to put this book down. Keep reading. You’re going to want to throw it across the room. Keep reading. Let Haberer’s words marinate in your mind. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak through the Scriptures this books weaves together. And imagine the possibility that God might actually be calling you to the joy of a tough life without easy answers.
JODI CRAIGLOW is an adjunct professor and PhD student at Trinity International University, a ruling elder at First Presbyterian Church in Libertyville, Illinois, and a curriculum developer for the Synod of Mid-America’s Theocademy.
This is an expanded version of a review published on churchandworld.com. Used with permission.
Jack Haberer will be leading an Outlook webinar on the topics introduced in this book. Click here to learn more and register.