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How to Be Perfect: One Church's Audacious Experiment In Living the Old Testament Book of Leviticus Hardcover – January 5, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The often baffling book of laws for Jewish priests known as Leviticus is typically dismissed by Christians as outdated legalese no longer binding on people of the New Testament. Harrell, who served as pastor of the evangelical Park Street Church in downtown Boston for 23 years, doesn™t let that get in the way of his sincere desire to understand God and the Bible in its entirety. Inspired by a secular experiment that became the successful book The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs, Harrell proposes a one-month experiment to œlive levitically. Eighteen church members join him in a quest to œbe holy because I, the Lord your God, am Holy, as the text repeatedly intones. The result is a series of reflections by Harrell and his followers—many communicating with each other via a Facebook page dedicated to the project—on keeping the Sabbath, abstaining from pork, and refraining from sexual deviancy as the Bible defines it. The resulting pastiche of responses is, for the most part, generous, compassionate, and thoughtful. This book will be appreciated not for its historical understanding of Judaism but for its attempt at living devotionally. (Jan.)
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"Thou shalt read this book. HOW TO BE PERFECT is a very interesting examination of commandments both famous and obscure. I'm honored my project helped inspire it." (AJ Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically 2010-01-00)

"I think what I love most about HOW TO BE PERFECT by Daniel M. Harrell is the outrageousness of the idea. If there's one book that Christians most ignore in the entire Bible, it's got to be Leviticus. And yet Harrell and his posse dove in to the deep end of the levitical pool, attempting to live out the 253 commandments therein for a whole month. The audaciousness of the idea is enough to be admired. But the result-this book-is even better, for it becomes a meditation on what it really means to love and follow the Lord." (Tony Jones, author of The Teaching of the Twelve: Believing and Practicing the Primitive Christianity of the Ancient Didache Community 2010-01-00)

"Knowing Daniel as a friend, I appreciate the clever way he encouraged eighteen real world, working adults to live the laws of Leviticus. Through their candid, heartfelt, provocative, and at times hilarious journeys, they helped me grasp that wonderful--and sometimes glazed-over--Old Testament book in a more endearing way. What's more, I came to grasp my own faith as a child of God on a deeper level." (Barry H. Corey, president, Biola University, California 2010-01-00)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: FaithWords; First Edition edition (January 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 044655717X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446557177
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,542,114 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Daniel hails from Minneapolis where he works and lives with his lovely wife and daughter. His interest in evolution and Christian faith has nothing to do with his interest in Leviticus. And yet he has published on both. Spent the past 25 years in Boston and is now weathering the Minnesota winters.

Daniel is Senior Minister of the Colonial Church, Edina, Minnesota. He served for 23 years as a preaching minister at Park Street Church, Boston, Massachusetts.

In addition to a career as a congregational minister, he has taught many courses on theology and psychology, has written for Christianity Today and The Christian Century, and appeared on PBS. He holds degrees from Boston College (PhD), the University of North Carolina Chapel-Hill and Gordon-Conwell Seminary.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Tiffany A. Harkleroad VINE VOICE on January 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
As Christians, we typically feel that we do not need to follow Levitical law, at least most of them, because Jesus was the fulfillment of the law. But what would happen if we tried? The idea is that the law does not lead to grace; grace leads to a desire to follow the law. So, what would a group of modern day Levites learn over a month of living Levitically?

I think this concept is extremely interesting. I know I have tended to discount a lot of what is written in Leviticus, even going so far as to call some of it ridiculous. I would imagine it difficult to follow, yet millions of Jews do it. This book reallly changed the way I viewed Levitical law, in terms of its purpose and motivation. While I am not in any hurry to give up shellfish, or stop wearing material blends, I will think differently about this particular book of scripture.

One small bit of dissatisfaction for me- the book makes multiple mentions of a Facebook group that the modern day Levites utilized, but I was not able to find it on Facebook. I am not sure if it still exists, and I wish this had been clarified more in the book; if it does exist, I wish the web address had been given, as well as addresses to any pertinent blogs and the church's web site. It would have made for interesting additional reading, and would have made for a much more personal reading experience.

Similarly, I loved hearing from the individuals in the group, and wished it comprised a bit more of the book. As it was, it started to lag a bit at the end. However, overall, I found the book to be highly interesting, and it certainly gave me much to think about. It would be a great companion text for a Bible study on Leviticus, or simply good reading for any interested Christian.

A review copy of this book was provided courtesy of the publisher.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Simon Y. Chang on February 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Christians have long grappled with the central message of Leviticus, and its applicability to modernity. How does sacrificing doves or slaughtering calves relate to who we are today and who God is? What about those endless passages of infectious skin diseases, molds, and unclean animals? And how can a loving God be so demanding that capital punishment was prescribed for what we take today as minor offenses? Daniel Harrell takes his readers (and nineteen other "Levites-for-a-month" volunteers from Park Street Church) on a journey of spiritual discovery as they seek to understand - and live out - the book of Leviticus. Harrell combines dry wit and gentle humor, along with divine grace and a heart for truth, as he chronicles these modern levites' struggles, failures, questions, and even occasional successes through the experiment. In the end, they discover a God whose holiness is rivaled only by His burning desire to lavish infinite love and grace on His people for all times: "I will put my dwelling place among you.... I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people" (Lev. 26:11-12). If you ever wonder how God's law and grace walk hand-in-hand, "How To Be Perfect" is the book for you. (DISCLAIMER: I am one of the Levites in the book.)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By bronx book nerd VINE VOICE on November 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
A.J. Jacob's book, The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible, has inspired a couple of copy cat efforts. I have reviewed one of those, The Year of Living like Jesus: My Journey of Discovering What Jesus Would Really Do, which was mostly a disappointment. This is a new cottage industry within publishing - pick a topic to focus your life around for a year, and then write about it. So far Jacob's book is the best in the religious themed books that I have read of this genre. The current book, How to be Perfect, is good but did not live up to my expectations. This work reports on a church's effort to live according to the Book of Leviticus for one month. The effort was conceived and led by the book's author, Pastor Daniel Harrell. Pastor Harrell recruited a number from his congregation to commit to living levitically for one month and the group created a Facebook page where their experiences were recorded and commented on by others.

As many Christians know, Leviticus is one of those books that contain what appear to be all kinds of odd rules and regulations, about things like cleanliness and whom one should not sleep with. There are a lot of regulations for how to conduct sacrificial rituals. One would think that to attempt to follow Leviticus literally would be folly from the get-go for two reasons: 1) a lot of the Levitical laws were supplanted by Christ's redemption; e.g.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Joshua Olds on March 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover
It was 1999 when Latin pop star Ricky Martin first crooned about living the crazy life - Living La Vida Loca. It was 2008 when a group led by pastor Daniel Harrell decided to leave their normal life for one month and do something that, at first, seems absolutely crazy - Living La Levitical Loci, in the place of Levites.

Leviticus is one of the books of the Bible not preached on in depth by most pastors. In the era of the New Covenant, most Christians are content to speed read through Leviticus and thank God for His grace--which is sort of the point. But Harrel wanted to do more than just view the Levitical rituals from a distance, he wanted to get inside them and discover a bit about why God demanded the Israelites obey such a law.

The first couple chapters detail the group's beginning and their motivations for joining the Levite-for-a-month group. Further discussion details how the group got around some of the things - such as animals sacrifices - without PETA knocking on their door. They also got reactions from Jewish friends and neighbors, some who thought it an interesting idea to watch a group of Christians attempt to follow the Law, while others saw it as dishonoring the Torah.

The group's adventures are outlined much in the way Leviticus is. The chapter entitled "Give It Up" explains how they handled sacrifices. One member gave up a computer graphics card, then his bicycle and electric keyboard, but his sacrifice consisted of putting it in storage temporarily, not actually burning them. That's just one indicator of how hard the group found it to fulfill the Levitical laws. "Bad Skin as Sin" takes a look at all the hygiene laws of Leviticus. At first, they are overwhelmed but soon start to understand the deeper meaning of cleanness of heart.
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