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Godviews: The Convictions That Drive Us and Divide Us

By Jack Haberer
Geneva. 2001. 192 pp. Pb. $19.95.
ISBN 0-664-50190-7

Reviewed by Brent Eelman of Houston, Texas

This book should be mandatory reading for all commissioners to this year's General Assembly. Jack Haberer, who is well-known as an evangelical leader in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has written a thoughtful book that challenges the reader to rethink the easy categories that we often use to describe theological differences.

Haberer does not offer a simple solution to the current theological battles that are occurring. Instead, drawing from his own experience, his rich understanding of church history and theology, he proposes five GodViews that may offer a foundation for dialogue and understanding.

A GodView is formed by many influences, ranging from psychological temperament, environment and personal religious experience. Haberer articulates five GodViews: the Confessionalist, the Devotionalist, the Ecclesiast, the Altruist and the Activist. All of these GodViews find their origin in Scripture and different ones predominate at different times and places in the history of the church. Haberer sees these different GodViews at the root of many of the church’s conflicts.

These five views are not simple categories that replace “liberal” and “conservative.” No, each of us may hold or combine two or more of these views in our personal GodView. Each has limits and each has a very special contribution to make to the entire church. Haberer also has a thoughtful critique of “binary thinking,” or the tendency to divide all differences into either/or.

The value of this book is that it offers a creative way of understanding the differences that divide us. It also offers us an insight into the mind and thinking of a compassionate, intelligent pastor. I was immediately touched by the author’s account of his trip to the Holy Land and his view of Carmel and Caesarea. Right away, I realized that this was not merely a scholar’s analysis of current issues. It is also the story of a faith journey, and how the sensitive soul of a pastor wrestles with long-held convictions and new challenges and discoveries.

The book is well-grounded theologically and biblically. Theologian and lay person alike will find this a helpful contribution. Lest anyone think that the author has a theological axe to grind, there are two wonderful forewords, one by Craig Barnes (a well-known evangelical) and the other by John Buchanan (one of the founders of the Covenant Network).

The timing of this book could not be better. Haberer does not minimize the differences nor the difficulties of our current situation, but he offers us a different way to understand others and ourselves. The book is realistic and hopeful. I hope that it becomes a study book in congregations, ministerial groups and in seminaries. Jack Haberer has given the PC(USA) a very special gift in GodViews.