Category Archives: Not A Fan

31: Coerced Obedience | Chap 14 of Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman

After a long journey we’ve finally arrived: Chapter 14 of Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman, the book’s end.  This is perhaps our most important episode on this book as it gets to heart of what we find wrong in Idleman’s “reward and punishment” approach to Christianity.

So in the place of Idleman’s view that following Jesus means obeying (i.e., “letting go” of what is keeping us from following Jesus), Gregg proposes three interrelated steps that necessarily precede and prepare for obedience (and explain why obedience may not be possible or even intelligible, depending upon someone’s current circumstances).

First comes belief: whether the notion of a divine being seems plausible for a given person.  Second is understanding: rightly conceiving of who God is and what the human / divine relationship is supposed to be.  Third is trust: having both the basic belief in the divine and a firm understanding of the specifics of who God is and what the divine / human relationship is about, obedience requires a certain degree of trust based on our past experiences that indicate that God is indeed trustworthy! Without these components it’s unrealistic to think people can blindly obey God as a lasting behavior.

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30: Swallow the Pill | Chap 13 of Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman

Gregg opens with his view that Chapter 13 from Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman is among the most important in the entire book.  This is because it connects to (and helps clarify) the book’s core message: insuring people make “the right decision” and spend eternity in heaven.  In John’s words, the chapter emphasizes the need to “get your fire insurance policy in place before it’s too late.”

So when Idleman presents scenarios to motivate readers to make “the right decision” now and not put it off, John finds this inconsistent: when you love someone you are naturally committed to them and desirous of “doing the right thing” or spending time together–you don’t “put it off.”  So John highlights the irony that Idleman wants us to force (or even guilt) ourselves into a deeper commitment to Jesus, yet the relational content of Christianity is so sparsely presented!  For John, this presentation is ultimately empty and unsustainable: while the Bible may truly present who God is, such “truth” has no “reality” because there is no relationship (and so no life) in it.

Next, Idleman characterizes adult conversion to Christianity as occurring in moments of desperation when we are willing to “surrender all” to God.  John equates this with the book’s contention that becoming a Christian means becoming “a zero.”  Gregg also disagrees: because relationship with God is based on love (as the command to love God entirely), so the desperation + surrender model was never meant to be the norm.

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28: Make Sure It Hurts | Chap 12 of Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman

In this episode John and Gregg discuss Chapter Twelve from Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman.  John observes Idleman building this chapter around the idea that we are to go wherever God wants us to go and that it won’t be comfortable or easy.  What doesn’t add up here, when contrasted with other parts of the book, is Idleman’s directive that we need to say “Yes” to God before we even know the request.  This doesn’t make sense in light of his heavy emphasis earlier in the book about Christians being very cognizant of what they are committing to when they decide to be followers.

Gregg argues that this inconsistency is born of the fact that, in laying out his message, the author is side-stepping main directives for Christians (such as loving God, self, and neighbor). And because these directives are higher priorities compared to “taking up our cross,” Gregg believes Idleman is obligated to work out his views in light of the “greatest commandment” and others scriptures (that may seemingly contradict his position) instead of focusing on one. If Idleman cannot make the directives he’s putting forth square with the whole of scripture, then his views are arguably incorrect.
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27: Life Not Death | Chap 11 of Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman

This is John and Gregg’s second discussion of chapter eleven from Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman. John observes a continued message of “try harder” and “it doesn’t count unless it’s painful,” combined with an orientation (as noted in previous episodes) that appears to lead to untenable conclusions.

Further, instead of placing his message in a cultural context of the time or reconciling it with other parts of scripture that seem to conflict with it, Idleman appears to be intent on taking a very literal directive in Luke 9:23 and applying it exactly to our lives today.  Gregg attempts to recast the message he sees Idleman drawing from Luke 9:23 as, “an invitation to orient ourselves towards our culture and society as Jesus did for the reasons that he did it.”

Seemingly absent from Idleman’s message is “WHY” Jesus sacrificed and suffered, which Gregg attributes to Jesus’ love for us and for God.  Idleman instead focuses on “WHAT” Christians should focus on–“following” Jesus and doing that he did (and particularly, experiencing pain and suffering).  To that end, John wonders what exactly the word “follow” means as it relates to God, noting that explicitly “following” another person in a human context lacks relationship and is ultimately empty.  Similarly, Idleman’s message seems to lack consideration of individuality, creativity, and personal expression.
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26: Honor and Shame | Chap 11 of Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman

This episode finds John and Gregg discussing Chapter Eleven from Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman. Gregg begins by agreeing with Idleman’s view that crucifixion was ultimately humiliating. Specifically, the importance of ‘honour and shame’ in 1st century Palestine means that crucifixion not only results in a grueling death but also completely abases and discredits the victim.

Yet where Idleman argues that we can’t really be “taking up a cross” unless we experience suffering and loss, Gregg objects.  First, the cross’ ultimate significance in terms of suffering is in how God reverses false expectations (i.e., the peoples’ political expectations for Jesus and the notion that public suffering is dishonourable) in favour of correct expectations: Jesus is actually glorified by God because, as messiahhe meets God’s expectations about / for God’s kingdom!

Second, Gregg insists that understanding how to interpret what “suffering” means today requires understanding the 1st century context (where, for example, “carrying a cross” had not only physical and psychic implications but huge social cost).  So Gregg proposes that cross-carrying means today “embracing the way of Christ,” which has two key implications.

On the one hand, it means following Christ’s (and the Bible’s) top priorities: loving God entirely, loving ourselves rightly, loving others likewise, and having the law “written upon one’s heart.”

On the other hand, it  means being aware each day that, relative to the value of the kingdom of God, the things that we think are of greatest worth (social standing and values, and even our lives) are as nothing.  The result could be hard choices that entail hardship, which may or may not include physical suffering or shame.  Suffering or shame is an outcome not something to be pursued as an end.