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86 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars blue like what?
"Blue Like Jazz" questions the very notion of what it means to be a Christian. Donald Miller writes about faith with a variety of topics on coming to faith, why to have faith, how Christ can transform, what to do with that faith and how to live a life as a Christian. Other than the last chapter of the book where Miller writes that if Ani Difranco wasn't a lesbian he would...
Published on December 1, 2005 by Joe Sherry

497 of 562 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Blue Like Jazz
I've been hearing much of late about a Christian author with a rather plain-sounding name: Don Miller. With my curiosity being sufficiently piqued, I set out to purchase and read a couple of Miller's books over the Christmas holidays, one of which was _Blue Like Jazz_.

I have to say right at the start that I like the format of the book. _Blue Like Jazz_ is an...
Published on January 25, 2006 by Amazon Customer

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86 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars blue like what?, December 1, 2005
"Blue Like Jazz" questions the very notion of what it means to be a Christian. Donald Miller writes about faith with a variety of topics on coming to faith, why to have faith, how Christ can transform, what to do with that faith and how to live a life as a Christian. Other than the last chapter of the book where Miller writes that if Ani Difranco wasn't a lesbian he would marry her, what interested me most was how Miller's perspective on being a Christian did not really come from a sense of organized Christianity as an institution. While he was a Christian and went to church and was even a youth group leader Donald Miller knew that there was something lacking. He believed in his head and he knows that Jesus was God, but he didn't truly believe in his heart. He didn't truly believe with his life. The organization of the church was telling him one thing, but it wasn't quite right for him.

There are several very interesting chapters dealing different aspects of faith that focus on Miller's time at Reed College. Reed is a college that people at his church and other believers declared was extremely immoral and that the college was voted "most likely to not believe in God". That much is true, but it was also a strong intellectual school. When Miller started attending, he met up with some Christians at the school who were essentially an "Underground" group of believers. They talked seriously of what it meant to believe and live for Christ and it was a transformative kind of living, more than just attending church on Sunday it was living as a follower on Monday and Tuesday and every other day. One of Miller's friends believed that feeding the homeless meant more than just giving some money to a homeless shelter, that it really meant to actually go out and feed the homeless, to give them food directly, to sit and talk and share a meal with them. To minister with more than just words and preaching, but by truly loving those whom society does not love. It's a sacrifice that takes a person well out of what they think their comfort zone is. It's a challenge.

The aspect of Miller's time at Reed that I found most fascinating was during the college's weekend party, drunken orgy. It is some sort of festival that most would probably see as one of the more decedent displays anywhere in America. Accepted public nudity, drunkeness, lewdness and this is the norm for that weekend. What Miller and his friends decided to do was set up a Confession Booth in the campus's common area. They expected harassment and perhaps abuse, verbal and physical. Christians are not generally accepted at Reed. But this was a different and revolutionary Confession Booth. The Christians confessed to the Pagans. Donald writes about how they would confess how they were not truly feeding the poor, how he has anger issues and lashes out verbally when he feels threatened and that in general they and many others are not good representations of Christ. And change happened after this. Their activities (feeding the poor, Bible studies for non-believers, etc) gained a measure of respect and more involvement from other students. This isn't to say that the entire school changed, because it didn't, but that a raw Christian faith can find a seed anywhere.

But this raw Christian faith is about truly living a different sort of life, that we as individuals and we as a nation cannot hope to fix the world if we don't see the world differently, that we try to heal ourselves first and that what is wrong with the world isn't the world, it is me and it is you. Saying that hunger and homelessness is a problem isn't enough if we aren't actually trying to do anything about it. If everyone gave $20 a month or whatever to various organizations within America (or worldwide), so many lives could be saved. If everyone stopped the "me first" attitude which is so prevalent and so easily glossed over, there could be radical change. But it comes first from not worrying that the other person isn't changing when we aren't changing, when I'm not changing, because if I change then I'm not worrying that someone else is being selfish...I'm working for change.

But this is a frightening idea because it is easy to be comfortable and just deal with our own issues and we all have issues. To move beyond this is a radical step. It comes from a true change and dedication inside and the daring to move beyond the fear and into the faith.

That's kind of what this whole book is about, but it is also Donald Miller writing about a non-religious but highly spiritual perspective on Christian Faith and that this is so important today. When asked by a radio host to defend Christianity, he couldn't and wouldn't because he didn't know what Christianity and any ten people would have ten different ideas of what Christianity is. But he could talk about Christ and what Christ means to him.

Reminds me of a song by Sara Groves called "Conversations" where near the end of the song where she sings about trying to tell a friend about Jesus and she closes the song with a variation of her chorus "The only thing that isn't meaningless to me is Jesus Christ and the way he set me free. This is all that I have, this is all that I am." This is the root of her belief and is the root of what Miller is trying to say.
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497 of 562 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Blue Like Jazz, January 25, 2006
I've been hearing much of late about a Christian author with a rather plain-sounding name: Don Miller. With my curiosity being sufficiently piqued, I set out to purchase and read a couple of Miller's books over the Christmas holidays, one of which was _Blue Like Jazz_.

I have to say right at the start that I like the format of the book. _Blue Like Jazz_ is an essay-style work, each chapter more or less standing on its own. Yet they all tie into the central theme of "nonreligious thoughts on Christian spirituality," as the subtitle suggests. For these reasons, the book reminds me (ever so slightly) of some of C.S. Lewis' books (e.g. _The Weight of Glory_), which carry a similar format and also deal with Christian spirituality at a grass roots level, sans copious amounts of theological jargon.

I enjoy the way Miller writes. Not only is he readable, Miller often finds the perfect image when describing an event. As one example, he says, "Cusswords are pure ecstasy when you are twelve, buzzing in the mouth like a battery on the tongue." (p. 5) Doesn't that capture the experience perfectly?! And listen to this one: "I am something of a recluse by nature. I am that cordless screwdriver that has to charge for twenty hours to earn ten minutes use." (p. 152) I love it!

For me, Miller is someone with whom I resonate. Being a single guy and living with roommates, I can relate to many of the issues Miller raises (often laced with humor), which are associated with this particular lifestyle. Many times I find myself saying, "I've been there."

Overall, I find _Blue Like Jazz_ to be a fun read, with thought-provoking turns along the way. Miller's self-deprecating manner is effective at these junctures. As the reader, I don't feel like he is sitting in judgment on me for my failures or pointing the finger.

All that said, keep in mind that I'm writing from the perspective of an evangelical Christian. There are a few problems I have encountered with _Blue Like Jazz_, which I want to point out. If you dislike negativity, please skip the rest of this review.

First of all, from the subtitle, the book is about Christian spirituality. Yet Miller never bothers to define the term in a clear way. The closest thing to a definition is found first on page 57. Miller says, "And I love this about Christian spirituality. It cannot be explained, and yet it is beautiful and true. It is something you feel, and it comes from the soul." At the end of the book, Miller says, "I think Christian spirituality is like jazz music. I think loving Jesus is something you feel. I think it is something very difficult to get on paper." (p. 239) Not only is Miller's understanding of Christian spirituality nebulous, as an evangelical Christian I think it's incorrect. Here's what I believe Christian spirituality is: "Spirituality in the New Testament sense is a means to the end of righteousness. Being spiritual means that we are exercising the spiritual graces given by God to mold us after the image of His Son. That is, the discipline of prayer, Bible study, church fellowship, witnessing and the like are not ends in themselves, but are designed to assist us in living righteously." (R.C. Sproul Sr., _God's Will and the Christian_, 1984, Tyndale, p. 20)

Secondly, Miller makes a few theological statements along the way that are cause for concern. Check out these statements: "Love, for example, is a true emotion, but it is not rational." (p. 54) "I don't believe I will ever walk away from God for intellectual reasons. Who knows anything anyway? If I walk away from Him, and please pray that I never do, I will walk away for social reasons, identity reasons, deep emotional reasons, the same reasons that any of us do anything." (p. 103) "...Christianity spirituality, a nonpolitical mysterious system that can be experienced but not explained." (p. 115) "There are many ideas within Christian spirituality that contradict the facts of reality as I understand them." (p. 201) "...Jesus didn't just love me out of principle; He didn't just love me because it was the right thing to do. Rather, there was something inside me that caused Him to love me." (p. 238)

I know what the standard response is: "Miller isn't a theologian. He's an author." That's fair enough. Notwithstanding, lacking expertise in an area doesn't grant one immunity from criticism when (s)he ventures into that area. Though Miller is not a professional theologian, he certainly makes theological statements from time to time. When he does, he should be held to the theologian's standard. If I were to write a book in which I made statements about health and fitness, I would expect to be held to the standard of those experts in the health and fitness field.

Thirdly, for someone who claims that Christian spirituality is nonpolitical (see quote above from p. 115), Miller manages to make some political statements. At one point, he says, "Can you imagine what Americans would do if they understood over half the world was living in poverty? Do you think they would change the way they live, the products they purchase, and the politicians they elect? If we believed the right things, the true things, there wouldn't be very many problems on earth?" (pp. 106-7) Ignoring the issue of whether Miller is naïve at this point, the statement clearly carries an underlying socio-political assumption.

Please note that I'm not being negative for the purpose of bashing Miller. I'm simply pointing out some concerns that I have as an evangelical Christian. Perhaps others of a similar persuasion will find these caveats helpful.
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238 of 284 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The diary of a "born again" Woody Allen, February 26, 2005
I really enjoyed this book. It is written in a conversational tone throughout, and the author is a genuinely likable guy. This book is autobiographical in that it depicts his journey through a phase of life, and his gradual awakening and acceptance of his faith within the larger context of the society he lives in, and the people with whom he interacts.

There are several high points. The first is the level of honesty. This book does not pull punches. If Donald is struggling with something, he just lays it out there. There seems to be little attempt at positioning himself in a more positive light. That is refreshing and makes for a very engaging read.

For example, he states that "every person who is awake to the functioning principles within his reality, has a moment where he stops blaming the problems in the world on group think, on humanity and authority, and starts to face himself" (Page 20). He depicts how his own world is turned upside down when he realizes that despite his moral views about helping others, he is doing next to nothing for anyone else.

He also depicts his own journey into a sort of fundamentalist control freak, and starts focusing solely on external actions. He basically becomes a complete hypocrite because he doesn't follow his own resolutions. (Page 80). He kind of lost me here though as he seems to find fault with the intent and takes a rather judgmental view on anyone who is more disciplined than he is. Which is about everyone, it would seem.

In a sense the book allows the reader to see Donald Miller in a clearer light than he sees himself. He acknowledges that many of his rather liberal friends have no substance behind what they feel; it is all just for show and to fit in with others. He describes his anti-Bush friend as "She decided what to believe based on whether other people who believed were a particular fashion that appealed to her". The irony here is that this is the same approach that Donald himself takes on nearly every decision he makes. He time and again relies on his perceived value to others and on what others around him reflect to decide who he is and what he should do. He seems to genuinely value fitting in more than his faith.

The book has some really great moments of clarity though. I was at times inspired by his willingness to be honest, and truly put himself out there selflessly for others. In the end he is the walking definition of how God uses imperfect people for good in the world. Overall, I recommend the book as you too will enjoy the journey, if you are at all introspective. While Donald hardly puts out a model life to aspire to, he is at least honest about it.
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273 of 327 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A quest for coolness, May 6, 2007
Nigel (Oregon, USA) - See all my reviews
I recently told a close family member that I had completely lost my Christian faith, after a lifetime of being a believer. He recommended "Blue Like Jazz", as a testimony from a Christian who has struggled with their faith.

Unfortunately, Donald Miller's book is not very helpful for someone like me, a person that has lost their faith because they no longer believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. Miller's collection of self-indulgent essays is long on feelings and emotion, while entirely lacking in doctrine and all but the most rudimentary apologetic for why he believes what he believes.

There are literally dozens of instances in the book of Miller proving his liberal bona fides by railing against "fundamentalists", Republicans, and just ordinary Christian folks who are so dull and unthinking as to attend a church in the suburbs. Miller takes pains to let us know that they're Christians, too, and therefore he has no choice but to love them. But at the same time, Miller and his circle of highly enlightened friends clearly think that ALL white suburban churches are dens of mediocrity.

Miller loves telling us about the wisdom he's gained from his friends, both Christians and non-Christians alike. The problem is, all of these people share the exact same liberal, bohemian world view, and seem stuck in a perpetual state of extended adolescence. In Miller's world, Christians drink beer, smoke, swear, and attend anti-Bush political demonstrations while they ponder the meaning of existence and the nature of God's love. My problem isn't necessarily that Miller's Christian friends do these things. The problem is that Miller never fails to tell us what he and his friends are drinking and smoking during every conversation they have, reminding us just how "real" they all are IN SPITE OF their shared Christian spirituality.

Miller condemns mainstream Christians for being pawns of the Republican party, simply asserting that Republics = Greed = Bad and expecting the reader will agree. Likewise, anyone who holds these views---regardless of their spirtitual beliefs---are demonstrating the love of Christ, and are therefore the best sources of wisdom in the world.

Blue Like Jazz is not without insight; it's hard to fault Miller's call to live one's faith. But for Miller at least, this faith is all about feelings and vague "can't we all just get along?" expressions of Christian love. But Christianity without doctrine is hardly any different than any one of several half-baked new age belief systems.

Ultimately, Miller comes across as a whiney Gen-Xer trying to reconcile his faith with his socio-political worldview. It's a task he doesn't quite pull off, because his brand of liberal Christianity has it's own orthodoxy that is as narrow-minded as the fundamentalists of whom he is so critical.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Take the good with the bad..., October 26, 2007
I entered into reading this book with a lot of opinions thrown to me from those who have read it. What I learned before I even opened the book is it seemed as though people either loved it or hated it. I have some really close friends who loved the book and thought it was a breath of fresh air, and I also knew some of my friends thought that it's only good was to start a fire with it.

So, because I trusted on both sides, I felt like I could come with no preconceived notions. It was like I heard each debater by themselves but couldn't make a decision until I heard them both at the same time. So, the only way to do this was to read the book. What kind of irritates me is that I landed right in the middle. I can see why people love the book, but I can also see why people hate the book. There are some great discussions in the book but some very bad views on some theology that I feel could hurt those not driven by the word of God for discernment.
Donald Miller is a writer and a poet first, you can see that from the title of the book and in the opening pages. I like poetry when I am reading a poem but find poetry to be distracting when I am trying to read a book. What Mr. Miller does in this writing, in my estimation (although I am no expert) is try and use his poetry skills too much at times as one navigates through his story of redemption. It just isn't for me, that is, his way of writing. But I can get through that, not enough for me to put it down.

The book is really Donald Miller's testimony. It is his writings of how he came to know Christ and how he has grown in Christ, for this it is hard to say, "it is good" or "it is bad." At times, Mr. Miller seems to be scattered in thought and goes from one topic to another without leading the reader to where he is going. But, it is a testimony of what Christ has done for him, and that is much to sing praises about. Miller's book also punches some evangelicals right in the face with some realities of what is going on in today's conservative circles and it sickens not only Mr. Miller, but also myself. I have to say I felt it was worth the read to get a fresh perspective of contemporary Christendom. Mr. Miller brings up a lot of good points, like feeding the homeless, caring for the homosexual and liberals, and loving people yet still telling them the truth of the Gospel. This love, Mr. Miller finds to be happening more in the "pagan" circles than inside the church of the living God and I have to agree. Mr. Miller though does not point fingers but he actually comes to the conclusion that it is HIS fault for this not happening and then asks all who read to understand that it is also their fault for this contemporary slide of hate instead of love for those outside of the body of Christ. I have to say, I like that perspective. Mr. Miller is very honest with his afflictions as a non-believer and a new-believer and I know this makes many people very uncomfortable. But for me, I enjoy when I can be honest with someone and they can be honest with me. It actually helps in prayer to know specifics of someone so that you can be praying for them. This is what Mr. Miller gives us in this novel of his life: An honest testimony of what Christ has done.

What I found to be dangerous are his thoughts on depravity and the atonement of Jesus Christ. He simply says that since he sees people doing good, then he doesn't believe that people are completely evil like some (one of them being me) say. I would have to ask Mr. Miller to trust in the Living Word instead of his eyes. I would ask him to interpret many Scriptures that would point him in the opposite direction, such as: Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9; Genesis 6:5;8:21; Romans 3:10-18; Psalm 14; Jeremiah 13:23; Psalm 58:3.

He carries this thought though and it becomes disconnected as he then states the issues of us, including himself, being evil. So his description throughout the book of Christ's atonement and death on the cross becomes one that is to make evil people good. It is a moralistic redemption. This is not the reason Jesus died for our sins, He died to make dead people alive to God. He died to bring His children to His side for God's glory not ours. One of the fruits of a Christian is definitely to do good works and so this is definitely one of the benefits, but is not the primary reason for the atonement. So, this, in my estimation, is a very large error that Mr. Miller makes.

It seems as though Mr. Miller also relies much more on his experience than the unchanging word of God. I don't know this to be true, but this is the way it comes off in my reading of his book. This can be very dangerous, especially in light of knowing our heart is desperately sick, who can discern it...Jeremiah 17:9.

Also, his last chapter on "How to Love Yourself" is a little strong in parts. I do understand that his intent is to understand that God loves us and we need to accept that. I will be careful to say that this is probably a very good chapter, in parts, for those who have had terrible parents or disastrous intamacy issues for whatever horrific reasons, that I cannot empathize with since I myself have never had these kinds of experiences. But there are times in this chapter that go too far in my estimation. The Bible tells us to "die to self" "to deny self" and for what reason? So that we can "live to Christ" and to "follow Christ." So the author would have done better, in my estimation, to balance these understandings.

My recommendation to any who are thinking of picking up this book is to be discerning. I compare it with someone telling their testimony before they are baptized. The story of conversion is wonderful to hear. But, they say those two or three things that make you wince and say, "oohhh...wouldn't have said it that way..." But, that does not ruin the testimony of Christ in their life, and I don't think the errors in this book will ruin Mr. Miller's testimony either. I would recommend it for church leaders needing to understand what errors are creaping in the church as Mr. Miller points out. For the others, if you do read it, please be sure to be discerning when Mr. Miller brings theology and his experiences into the discussion, because I find it to be lacking in many ways. But, be challenged by his words when he calls us to be more loving to those who aren't like us and to understand that the issue is US not THEM.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughts upon BLJ after my 5th reading..., July 12, 2005
Blue Like Jazz isn't the Bible. It isn't another "self-help to make God love you more" Christian book like many on the shelves today.

What it is, though, is amazingly honest. Don Miller doesn't write what people want to hear and he doesn't write what Christians even want to hear. He speaks frankly about his feelings about others, the Lord, and the world today with conviction and painful clarity.

This book is the story of his journey not only to faith in Christ, but also a story of his journey to learning about community, compassion, and service. I have read this book 5 times and still tears creep into my eyes as he shows what the Lord has revealed to him in his journey thus far.

I'm not a Democrat. I'm not from the North. I'm also not really that cool....But Don Miller doesn't demand the reader agree with him at all, he only tells us what he has learned and how to came to that point.

I highly reccomend this book to people who are skeptics of Christians. It may not be everything you want to hear, but it WILL be honest and non-hypocritical. Give it try.
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39 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable for non-Christians too, February 4, 2006
I grew up liberal, athiest, and scornful of mainstream religion, especially Christianity. Growing up in San Francisco, I didn't meet many Christians, so I didn't have a lot of chances to meet people who lived their faith in a genuine and loving way. As an adult, I have tried to read books and get to know people who might help give me a more balanced view of Christianity, and in this Donald Miller has been a huge help.

Miller is young and cool, and while he isn't as liberal as, say, Anne Lamott, he is not a fundamentalist either, and his take on life is refreshingly modern, straightforward, and open-minded. He is a person who really thinks about his religion and about what God really wants from him, and his essays offer a really powerful look at the good that Christianity can do in people's lives.

He talks in one essay about how his natural inclination is to live alone, taking care of himself and not being bothered by other people's needs overly much. Then, at the urging of his pastor, he moves in with a group of other young men from the church, because they both feel that God wants human beings to live with other people, in a community or family. Miller talks honestly and deeply about the self-centeredness he finds in himself as he grows and changes by living with others. He said, "I discovered my mind is like a radio that picks up only one station, the one that plays me: K-DON, all Don, all the time." The changes he makes in his life and his thinking patterns are simple yet inspiring to read about, because the thoughts and actions he describes are things we all struggle with again and again in our lives.

I really enjoyed Anne Lamott's Plan B, which I have heard that a lot of Christians didn't like, but I think Christians would be a lot more likely to enjoy this book because Don doesn't try to rock the political boat so much. He talks about God all the time, what God wants, what he feels God is urging him to do, but he writes so honestly and about such universal subjects that I was engaged and felt included in the discussion even as a non-Christian.

This is one of the few books about Christianity that is going into my permanent collection. His Christianity is lived in an attractive and inclusive way, and his writing style was light and fun to read, yet depthy enough that I have already reread portions of it multiple times.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Breath of Fresh Air, January 22, 2008
At 65 years old, I have always felt different about my relationship with Christ as opposed to my relationship with the 'church.' I was literally glued to this book and finished it in two days. Just because you may be disappointed in the church does not mean you are disappointed in God. When I first purchased this book I felt it was probably aimed at primarily young Christians. I sure was wrong. Read this and find out not only who you are but who Jesus is. Probably fundamentalists will not endorse this work, but for those of us that have ever doubted our faith, this is a must read.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not sure I'm buying the line, October 29, 2007
Miller is a genius. He takes us on a journey that ropes us into his world. It is compelling. It feels good. It feels the way Christians and non-Christians alike think Christianity is supposed to feel. I have to admit that I loved the book. I really did. I think Miller makes a lot of true observations, a lot of true statements. But, the most effective kind of lie is usually the one that is mostly true.

I think it is worth wondering whether this book, taken as a whole, is a lie. I don't mean that Miller is lying about his experience, or that he is purposely writing things that are untrue. I mean that the theology he represents is divorced enough from correct theology that one might be wise, at the very least, to take Miller's words with a grain of salt.

Believers who focus on their experience rather than on historical and Biblical Christianity have a tendency to think they are Revolutionaries. But, how quickly we forget that there is nothing new under the sun. We are not so enlightened as we think we are. (Keep in mind that a revolution goes in a circle!) Miller criticizes Republican Christians by saying that they focus solely on abortion and gay marriage. He says that his former church friends all had a war mentality, but that they forgot that the war is supposed to be against poverty and sickness and all kinds of worldly ills. That is false. Our war is not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities. The reason that poverty exists is because men rejected God. Jesus Himself said that the poor will always be with us. That does not excuse us from dealing with the problem as best we can. We don't love people well enough, and that is a tragedy of the highest order. But, it's a separate issue. One cannot claim that, since we don't love as well as we ought, abortion is okay and shouldn't be warred against. I doubt Miller actually believes that. But, his thoughts taken to their logical conclusion lead to that place, and I was bothered by how easily I was tempted to go there with him because it "felt good".

Whatever the case, the Bible clearly shows that Jesus was a realist and not the idealist some claim in order to bolster their agenda.

Post-modern thought has a tendency to throw the baby out with the bath water. While there are legitimate things to criticize about contemporary Republicans, it should be noted that there are very good reasons that many Evangelical Christians have embraced Conservatism and rejected Liberalism. True, the church has not always done a good job of feeding the poor, clothing the naked, and taking care of orphans and widows. But, Miller's implication is that, therefore, the "moral issues" that Christians are concerned with shouldn't be issues at all. That is a straw man argument and should be dispensed with.

Christians need better education about where we come from, otherwise we can't know where we're going and we begin to embrace whatever makes us feel good. I'm afraid that Miller's book is nothing more than a diversion.
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223 of 280 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Postmodern Take on Christianity, April 30, 2005
I can't deny that was a little apprehensive about this book before I began it, even though I had not read any detailed reviews and had little idea of the content. Just a few days before I began reading I had seem an interview with the author, Donald Miller, in "The Door Magazine" in which he had been terribly sarcastic and quite crude (judging by the number of words that had to be "blanked" out). It left me with an impression of the author that was not altogether favorable.

Despite my misgivings, I found that I enjoyed this book more than I thought I might. That is not to say it is without its problems, and without some serious problems at that. But I enjoyed the rambling, conversational tone of the book, even if it is a little difficult to follow at times. In fact, there are times where it is downright irritating as the author launches into tirades about Republicans or traditional Christianity. He subtly applauds Bill Clinton while denigrating George Bush. He sneers at traditional churches, but affirms his enjoyment of the Catholic Mass and the Greek Orthodox Church. And all the while he makes self-deprecating comments and expresses himself in words that are generally considered inappropriate for a Christian book ("kick in the butt," "pissed-off," "crap," etc).

So what did I like about the book? Blue Like Jazz is built around a sound premise - that the Christian faith continues to be relevant even in a postmodern culture. Miller writes, "I don't think any church has ever been relevant to culture, to the human struggle, unless it believed in Jesus and the power of His gospel" (page 111). I agree entirely that the church can only be relevant to the culture if it maintains the centrality of the gospel and remains unashamed of that simple message. Unfortunately that gospel message becomes somewhat blurred in this book. "[The central message of Christ] is that man sinned against God and God gave the world over to man, and that if somebody wanted to be rescued out of that, if somebody for instance finds it all very empty, that Christ will rescue them if they want..." (page 124). The Bible, however, teaches that no person wants to be rescued. God needs to begin a prior work in order to draw people to Himself. Miller, on the other hand, teaches that there is something within us that draws God to us. "I realized, after reading those Gospels, that Jesus didn't just love me out of principle; He didn't just love me because it was the right thing to do. Rather, there was something inside me that caused Him to love me" (page 238). When we acknowledge that there is something inside of us that draws God to us, we deny that it is His grace alone that saves us, for grace is, by definition, unmerited favor. There is nothing in us that makes us worthy of God. He loves us because of something inside of Himself, not inside of us.

I also enjoyed other aspects of the book. The reverse confession booth makes for great reading, as do many of Miller's other stories. Despite some poor theology, he gave me a lot to think about, especially in regards to taking theology beyond the doors of the church and really turning it into practice.

I believe, though, that the great failing of this book is the author's belief that Christianity is a feeling, and is not something that can be rationally explained or understood. Early in the book, on page 54, Miller writes that God does not make any sense. Just a few pages later he writes that Christian Spirituality is something that cannot be explained, but is something that can only be felt. "It cannot be explained, and yet it is beautiful and true. It is something you feel, and it comes from the soul" (page 57). Later he writes, "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" (page 206).

This irrational, feelings-based approach to Christianity is consistent with postmodern thought, where experience rather than an objective standard is the arbiter of truth. Miller rarely returns to the Scripture, and instead opts to explain his beliefs through the lens of his own experience. He seems to trust in experience instead of having a rational faith in a rational God who is truly sovereign. In fact, I do not recall any specific references from the Scripture - an oddity considering that the book claims to be thoughts on Christian Spirituality. But perhaps "nonreligious" thoughts preclude the use of Scripture proof-texting.

It is strange, that having come to the end of this review I am far less enthusiastic about the book than I was in reading it and in reflecting on it afterwards. While I can say that I did receive some benefit from reading it, I would be hesitant to recommend it to others. There is some value to be found, but one has to dig deep beneath layers of rambling untruth and poor theology to find them. There are many other books that contain far more treasure than this.
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Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality
Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller (Audio CD - September 30, 2007)
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