Infidel (Simon & Schuster, 2008)

BOOK REVIEW: [5 STARS] What can I say? I loved this book and fell in love with Ayaan Hirsi Ali! Having lived in Somalia for two years in another life, this revealing–often-shocking–and fascinating memoir on African culture and Islam touched a chord deep within. I thought I had learned Somali Muslim culture when I lived there, but the book kept showing me what I learned while working as an aid worker was only the tip of the iceberg.

The high point is definitely her struggle to overcome her religious/cultural tradition, wrest free from her family’s and her religion’s narrow expectations, and enter the modern world as a liberated and open-minded woman. She tells the story of the struggle to overcome fundamentalist Islamic thinking to forge a progressive faith and worldview. Whereas other Muslim women on similar journeys like Irshad Manji and Ani Zonnefeld landed on and now promote a reformed version of Islam, Hirsi Ali becomes an atheist, the epitome of an “infidel.”  Whatever your faith or lack-of-faith position, hers is a highly engaging and eye-opening journey. Don’t miss Infidel.

Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe Is Coming Apart (Convergent Books, 2014)

BOOK REVIEW: [5 STARS] This book was a breath of fresh air for me! Kathy Escobar goes where few have gone before in developing the concept of a step-by-step “Faith Shift” through the lens of her personal experience in the evangelical church. Okay, obviously I can relate, but Kathy makes the journey oh-so-clear when she explains the six different stages of a typical spiritual evolution, particularly coming out of conservative Christianity. Whether you’re in the midst of shifting or have come out fully, you will appreciate knowing you are not alone and will be able to identify with each step. During the “unraveling” stage, things get pretty hairy, but most people continue on to spiritual equilibrium and peace, whether they land as a progressive believer or sympathetic agnostic. Also a great book to share with your circle who may wonder what’s going on with you as a “faith shifter.” Cheers to Kathy! Read Faith Shift.

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (Harper Collins, 2007)

BOOK REVIEW: [5 STARS] If you’ve always wondered how to make sense of the Bible, Ehrman’s book is a great place to start. Having pretty much grown up believing the Bible is always literally true, I had already made a shift in that area by the time I read Ehrman. Conservatives hate this book because they are still in that literalist mindset. But Christians have no reason to fear this book. It is full of good scholarship, logic, and respect for the original writers and historical context of Scripture. Ehrman concedes the changes made to the Bible are not huge (although they do contradict doctrines like inerrancy and biblical preservation) and the historical record of Jesus is intacct and a solid foundation for faith. (Ehrman became an agnostic for other reasons). I found his discoveries strengthen my faith rather than erode it. I guess that’s because I’ve learned not to put faith in the Bible but in God. Enjoy Misquoting Jesus.

The Subversion of Christianity (Eerdman's Publishing, 1986)

BOOK REVIEW: [5 STARS] A classic and a must read for every Christian. French theologian Jacques Ellul cuts to the chase in exposing the many misguided practices and beliefs of the church throughout history. The true message of the gospel has been perverted and Ellul will help you see the original meaning with new eyes. A truly prophetic book. You will wonder where this book has been hiding!

The Bible Made Impossible (Brezos Press, 2012)

BOOK REVIEW:  [4 STARS] This was an excellent book, particularly where he exposes why the Bible, or conservative/evangelical/fundamentalist views of it (what he calls “biblicism”), has been made impossible. My only critique is that I think the section on his suggested new way to view the Bible is not as clear as it could be, which is why I give it only 4 stars. Nevertheless, overall, this is a much-needed book that explains why the traditional paradigm of the Bible simply doesn’t work, doesn’t line up with original concepts of scripture, and why the conservative church needs to rethink it. Do check it out > The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture

Deconverted by Seth Andrews

Deconverted: A Journey from Religion to Reason (Outskirts Press, 2012)

BOOK REVIEW: [4 STARS] Deconverted is Seth Andrews’ (The Thinking Atheist) transformational story; his evolution from devout, fundamentalist Christian to staunch but sympathetic atheist, full of brutally honest reflections and passionate pursuit of truth. Well written, deeply personal, and unabashedly critical of religious anti-intellectualism, I highly recommend it as a good example of common faith shifts people walk through when coming out of conservative Christianity. >>>

The Inescapable Love of God (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 2014)

BOOK REVIEW: [5 STARS] This was the first book I read that took seriously the problem with Western Christianity’s doctrine of hell and presented a sane and biblical view of Universalism. I love this book, cite it often, and am so glad Wipf and Stock published a second edition that adds more up-to-date material and dramatically improves the cover!

Thomas Talbott takes us on a journey to find the real heart of God and shows us how far off many of the Western theologians throughout history were (Augustine, Calvin, Edwards, Acquinas, and modern conservative scholars). He makes a overwhelmingly persuasive plea that traditional theology is one of fear, where each human is either pre-determined to be saved or damned (Calvinism) OR must freely choose redemption even if they are cut off from a true Christian message and have the capacity to lose their salvation (Arminianism). Both fear-based views see all humans as depraved sinners who, by default, deserve eternal torment by a retributive, exclusive God.

Talbott makes an impassioned, reasoned case that, historically and linguistically, there’s always been a third, more consistent, and solidly biblical position called the universal reconciliation of all humankind–a view that is intellectually, scripturally, and historically honest. For example, it beautifully reconciles God’s love with his judgment and explains in depth why most have misread hell and the afterlife.

This book is a breath of sweet air blowing away the stale inconsistencies of Western religious thought. Five stars.
Do check it out! >>