In a world full of religious certainty and Religious Narcia, Rachel Held Evans’s new book, Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again is a breath of fresh air. I believe this because most fundamentalist Christians take the Bible literally and use it as a weapon to hurt others. Inspired shows us why taking the books of the Bible by focusing on the literal word can rob us of the mystery and wonder we can glean from true inspiration
Like many who grew up in the church, Rachel Held Evans loved Bible stories as a child but became disillusioned as an adult when she realized these stories were not as cozy and hunky dory as they sounded in children’s books. As she tried to reconcile the God of the Old Testament with the Jesus of the New Testament and Paul’s messages with those of Jesus along with the confusion between science and the creation stories, she began a split which led her into a deconstruction of her faith. This book is a sort of reconstruction in which she leaves out the certainty and binary thinking of fundamentalism and embraces the Bible for what it actually is—a book full of contradictions, written by people with very different perspectives–yet all inspired by God.
If the concept of a Bible which sometimes disagrees with itself scares you, this might be a fascinating, possibly life-changing book for you. Evans gives great respect to the words we call inspired of God while she explains the reasons for some contradictions and leaves room for the mystery with others. Her point is we don’t have to understand every aspect of scripture to be blessed by it.
She also explores the darker side of scripture from war and genocide to the treatment of women and the marginalized. Evans writes:
“God save me from the day when stories of violence, rape, and ethnic cleansing inspire within me anything other than revulsion. I don’t want to become a person who is unbothered by these texts, and if Jesus is who he says he is, then I don’t think he wants to be either.”
The book is beautifully written adding the author’s own brand of inspiration to the narrative. It’s divided into sections with an original story, poem and in one place a play, followed by a more in-depth theological chapter about each concept.
Evans repeatedly makes the point that God stoops to reach all people. This book doesn’t demand the Bible reconcile with itself or science. It leaves all possibilities open, which allows us to read the Bible with curiosity and greater enjoyment. One aspect the book covered that I was not as familiar with was liberation theology. I found her inclusion of various diverse voices refreshing and informing. I also like the way the author tells her personal stories along with scientific conundrums and evidence relating to the Bible.
Considering the open and free-thinking Spirit this book endorses, I wasn’t surprised to see angry and snarky comments on her twitter feed–which is ridiculous because most of those people never read the book and just want to attack anything that doesn’t fit their worldview. If they’d read it, they might realize Rachel Held Evans isn’t telling anyone what to think—she’s suggesting we stop holding on so tightly to our preconceived convictions about the Bible and allow it to breathe and tell us its stories.
For full disclosure, I didn’t agree with everything, Rachel Held Evans stated either, but that’s actually the point of this book. Even the Bible writers didn’t always agree with each other. After all, the Bible is not one book, but an entire library of books, written over millennia by multiple perspectives, so it’s not necessary for each book to agree with all the others. The one thing holding the books of the Bible in common is each book was written by a human and inspired by the Divine. This book inspires us to read the Bible because it gives us reasons to enjoy the stories and grapple with the mystery without having to agree with everyone else.
My favorite quote from the book is:
“Jesus invites us into a story bigger that is ourselves, bigger than our culture, bigger even than our imaginations, and yet we get to tell that story with the scandalous particularity of our particular moment and place in time. We are storytelling creatures because we are fashioned in the image of a story telling God. May we never neglect the gift of that. May we never lose our love for telling the tale.”
The book is now available for pre-order and will be on sale June 12.
You can view a pre-order offer here:
I received an advanced copy of this book for review purposes, and these opinions are my own.