I GET IRRITATED at those occasional bad reviews I get for books I’ve written.
Especially low blows.
Like, “Miller used Google a lot to write this book.”
Yeah, that’s part of an Amazon review of my newest release: 100 Tough Questions About God and the Bible.
That particular reviewer’s real gripe is that I didn’t write a book that defends the traditional Christian answers to tough questions and that trashes the ideas coming from Christians exploring alternatives.
That’s actually where most of my criticism comes from. It comes from readers for whom I’m not writing.
Readers who have it all figured out and who want their notions stamped with approval should not bother with my books. My books will raise their blood pressure because I do the best I can to objectively report various sides of disputed topics.
But about that Google thing, I’ve been trying to help people get into the Bible for around 40 years. I draw on a lifetime of resources, most of them scholarly. I think of myself as someone who translates Bible scholars into everyday English.
For example, I was reading the latest issue of the Wesleyan Theological Journal over the weekend. One of the articles was the transcript of the Wesleyan Theological Society’s presidential address by Michael Lodahl, a theology prof at Point Loma Nazarene University. We went to seminary together.
His article was “No holiness but social holiness.”
Not especially catchy, but trust me, in conservative Nazarene circles, that would rattle some cages.
For many old-time Nazarenes, holiness comes as a second work of grace. First you get saved. Then you get “entirely sanctified” when you give your everything to God. Whatever your everything is.
But to say the only holiness is social holiness would sound to some folks as though you have to earn your holiness by doing good stuff for others.
Dr. Lohahl, who has less hair than he did in seminary, worked his article with this line:
“Holiness is what happens whenever God shows up.”
Then he defends it. Here’s just one of several defenses:
When Isaiah saw a vision of God showing up, angels announced him with “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies,” (Isaiah 6:3).
When does the Lord show up?
Jesus: “Where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them,” (Matthew 18:20).
Rabbi Halafta ben Dosa (AD 100s): “If 10 men sit together and occupy themselves with the Torah (Jewish Bible), the Divine Presence rests among them.”
That’s the rabbi’s take on Psalm 81:1, “God has taken his place in the divine council,” (Psalm 82:1).
Holiness, Dr. Lohdal says, is certainly what happens when God’s people get together in church. But he wonders if it happens in other places, too.
In synagogues, perhaps.
Maybe even in mosques.
That would irk some Christians…the idea that God takes his holiness on the road to Jews, Muslims, and others who don’t believe Jesus was more than just another prophet.
Scholars talk about stuff like this because they’re thinkers. Some Christians would call them stinkers.
What do you think?
Is there holiness outside the Jesus circle?