These 4 Books Helped Me Through Theological Deconstruction
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4 Books That Helped My Faith Evolve

When God felt cold and distant, He spoke to me in the pages of these books.

4 Books That Helped My Faith Evolve

Growing up in a Christian community gave me support, connection, and much-desired answers to the burning questions I had about existence. But the pat answers that I took refuge in came with unintended consequences. As years went by I traded faith for absolutism, freedom in Christ for legalism, and honesty and vulnerability for shame and secrecy.

Slowly, and then all at once, dissonance welled up in me. I the fall of 2017 my spiritual journey took a sharp turn into a valley I never expected to enter. The ensuing months were agonizing mentally and spiritually; the process even took a toll on my physical well-being. I questioned whether God existed and wrestled with everything I believed about Him.

I could write for days on every facet of my spiritual "deconstruction", but I'll summarize by saying that it was a necessary awakening, an urgent call to release my grip on the jagged cliffs of self-reliance and walk the winding trail through meadows of uncertainty and wonder.

A few months ago I reflected on this in an article about podcasts that helped me sort out my faith. As a follow-up, I now want to share four books that were pivotal to the development and evolution of my faith.

1. "Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality" by Donald Miller

The gist: Donald Miller writes this book in layman's terms about his own spiritual journey and transformation. He candidly and honestly shares his struggle with western Christianity and how churches and Christians in America have "missed the mark" in reaching out to certain people groups

How it changed my life: I read this book several months before I began an intense period of reevaluating my faith, and Miller's thoughts and experiences set me on that journey.

Thought-provoking quote: "At the end of the day, when I am lying in bed and I know the chances of any of our theology being exactly right are a million to one, I need to know that God has things figured out, that if my math is wrong we are still going to be okay. And wonder is that feeling we get when we let go of our silly answers, our mapped out rules that we want God to follow. I don't think there is any better worship than wonder." - Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

2. "Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community" by Andrew Marin

The gist: Andrew Marin grew up in an evangelical Christian background and saw his faith challenged when three of his close friends came out to him, suddenly and unexpectedly. This book is the result of years of standing in the trenches with the LGBT+ community and wrestling with the reconciliation of his faith and his friendships. Love is an Orientation focuses on elevating the conversation among Christians and the LGBT+ community above side-taking and into a gospel-mindset.

How it changed my life: Each chapter of this book forced me to reflect on my beliefs and theology, examining the actions that stem from it. Love is an Orientation helped set me free from the unrealistic burden I felt to "play God" and make decisions about treatment of other people based on religious dogma. It set me free to love the LGBT+ community wholeheartedly without an agenda or stipulation.

Thought-provoking quote: (From the foreword by Brian McLaren): "Whatever your opinion on same-sex orientation, you have to admit that Jesus didn't say 'They'll know you are my disciples by your firm stance on divisive social issues.' No, he said we'll be known as his disciples for another reason...and that's what Andrew is pursuing in these pages." - Brian McLaren, Foreword of Love Is An Orientation

3. "What’s So Amazing About Grace?" by Philip Yancey

The gist: Yancey paints a compelling picture of God's grace showing up in the least likely of places. He emphasizes the illogical, counterintuitive type of grace only found in a merciful and loving God, who is available to all people. He encourages Christians not to treat the world as damned, but to view her through "grace-tinted lenses".

How it changed my life: Ugh. This book. I wish I kept a count of how many times I paused reading to cry for a little while, because it was a lot of times. Yancey dives beyond a safe and nebulous discussion of personal atonement and salvation and talks about an enormous, unrealistic, scandalous level of grace. uplift is the type of grace that God radiates: grace that transforms not just the religious lives of individuals who have said the sinner's prayer, but the entire world and all of humanity.

Thought-provoking quote: On Christians and politics: "Perhaps the reason politics has proved such a snare for the church is that power rarely coexists with love. People in power draw up lists of friends and enemies, then reward their friends and punish their enemies. Christians are commanded to love even their enemies." - Philip Yancey, What's so Amazing About Grace?

4. "The Cure" by John S. Lynch, Bruce McNicol, and Bill Thrall

The gist: Appropriately subtitled "What if God isn't who you think He is and neither are you[?]", this short book aims to break down religious dogma and refocus our eyes on a relationship with God, whose love for us won't change based on our actions. The Cure well articulates the good-behavior mindset and sin-avoidance tactics Christians use in an attempt to gain closeness with God. It uncovers and deconstructs shame-based beliefs and messages Christians cling to and pass on, replacing them with the truth about God's grace and mercy.

How it changed my life:The Cure was uplift pivotal in shifting my religious paradigm from performance for God to intimacy with God. Instead of elaborating, I'll uplift share more quotes... you'll get the idea.

Thought-provoking quotes: "This life in Christ is not about what I can do to make myself worthy of His acceptance, but about daily trusting what He has done to make me worthy of His acceptance."

"There are two gods: The one we see through our shame, and the One who actually is."

"What if it was less important than anything ever gets fixed than that nothing has to be hidden?" - John S. Lynch, The Cure

Boom. There they are, in all their thought-provoking, life-altering glory. Dear reader, I hope you pick up one or two of these books and ponder the thoughts within the pages. They will challenge you, uplift you, tear you down, and build you back up again. These books certainly did that for me, and my life is richer because of them.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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