In this episode John and Gregg discuss Gregg’s approach to “untangling” Christianity. John sees it as a major shift in orientation, much like Wayne Jacobsen’s view, that instead of thinking of God as a being who cannot stand our sin (and so had to send his son to die on our behalf) we should see God as one who deeply loves and desires relationship with us.
Gregg instead sees it as fine tuning: Christians are typically trying to “do the right thing” and and to make the relationship with God “work,” but it’s not.. John then makes a link to the discussion from Episode 25–Truth Over Love, about how Gregg views the writing of prominent Christian authors like Kyle Idleman and John Eldredge very differently from how there books are received in North America.
For example, John questions how Not a Fan can have become a “movement” (on Facebook, NAF T-shirts & study series) and be “dedicated to the Lord” by its publishers (in the book’s Epilogue), such that many people would say, “Look at how the Lord has blessed this book: it’s so popular.” Whereas our perspective is, “Look at this book: it’s a mess and it’s misleading!”
Gregg’s main question concerning these books would be: what would these perspectives look like if truth and love were properly integrated? Because the Bible is not enough: if it were, then the Holy Spirit would be unnecessary. John’s hunch is that these writings turn on a simple, “plain text” reading of the Bible and so both lack biblical truth (due to flimsy research and exegesis) and devalue experience (particularly, the experience of God’s love).
For John, Not a Fan is not about pursuing truth but pursuing an agenda: the author’s view of Christianity. Gregg frames his emphasis on truth as being about truth-seeking. So Gregg views Eldredge and Idleman’s subject matter as deeply important: truth of ultimate concern. But Gregg also questions the writing process (the lack of research and exegesis) and so the responsibility of both the authors and the publishers: should Not a Fan have been published?
So writing books like these is, for Gregg, essentially amounts to Christian ministry: speaking out to others, from (and concerning) your relationship with God, on a frequent basis. Further, where it comes to truth-seeking, these books seem to avoid a critical component of truth: what is true for me? For Gregg it is to be deeply loved by someone who knows me and loving that one, whom I also know, in return.
So Gregg thinks these authors are in the right ball park, but they’re playing the wrong game: we must integrate love and truth, truth and love, in proper ways.