Thursday, April 7, 2011
A Conversation with God: Book Review
Previously having been introduced to Randy Alcorn's “Heaven”, I anticipated reading “A Conversation with God” by Alton Gansky. Both books are similar in that they attempt to answer those real and honest questions that most believers have, such as “what is heaven like”? Or, “what's God's take on homosexuality or abortion”? However, Gansky's format is different in that the questions are answered individually (and personally) by God, Jesus, Paul and other Bible characters.
Overall, I think this book is good and informative. Definitely a potential book study item for a group, such as post-Alpha in that in answers those “next questions” that do come up for a new believer. The language is very understandable and relatable, but this is where I start to believe this book falls short for the slightly more mature believer. To me, the book seemed to be a “copy and paste” method of taking scriptures and rewording them. Seemed more like a question and answer format of The Message. For example, in one of the “answers”, Jesus says “Peace is a choice. You cannot control all that happens around you but you can control your response to it; you can control how it affects you. Don't worry over anything, but lay every concern on God through prayer and he will give you a peace that goes beyond your ability to understand and that peace will protect your mind and heart”. Yes, this is a rewording of Philipians 4:6-7, and I get the reason why the author has done it this way, but it seems along the lines of a elementary student who doesn't really understand what s/he is really writing about and is just trying to give an answer. This added to a sense of “choppiness” overall, in my opinion.
The other “issue” I had with this book is that in order to have a conversation with God, the author has to “speak” for God – which I wasn't entirely comfortable with. If the whole idea is that God is omniscient, how can the author speak for God? I think this situation was handled reasonably well with the chapter on Heaven, where the author repeatedly mentioned that there was a lot to discover, but now wasn't the time (and etc.) and things would be revealed in their own time, in God's time. The part where I really questioned this method was in the chapter of “Why are there two sexes?” Gansky (answering for God) says “After his creation, Adam worked in the garden of Eden. He had responsibilities and tasks. Early on, I gave him the task of naming the animals. On the surface, that may seem unusual. I am certainly capable of naming animals Myself and revealing those animals to Adam. But I had a goal in mind: I wanted him to feel alone, which was the best thing I could have done for him”. What?! It references Genesis 2:20 (the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam, no suitable helper was found”). Where in that Scripture does it imply that God WANTED Adam to feel alone? I really don't think it's appropriate for the author or anyone, to put words into God's mouth or motivations into His Plan. Its such instances like this that prevent this book from being one that I would enthusiastically recommend to others.
This is not to say that this wouldn't be an enjoyable book for the mature believer, but it's almost along the lines of being a physicist sitting in a Earth Science classroom, hearing rocks being identified as “the grey one” or “the round one”. And admittedly, I did come to a different understanding of a few passages.
Overall, this doesn't seem like a conversation per se, but more like an infomercial.