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The Sacredness of Questioning Everything Paperback – March 29, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Questions make new worlds possible, asserts author Dark (The Gospel According to America), a key premise in this thought-provoking meander of reflections on, and challenges for, living an engaged life of authentic Christianity. The well-read author draws insight and inspiration from a broad range of sources—Shakespeare, Ursula Le Guin, Johnny Cash and James Joyce—in calling into question the status quo, received history and conventional theology. Dark brings to his writing the kind of energy, offbeat enthusiasm and commitment to relevance that must make his high school English classes exciting places for inquiry and exploration. That each page yokes keen observation to practical application with wisdom and compassion inclines the reader to forgive the book's bewildering organization and abstruse section headings. Questions for further conversation at the end of each chapter will be useful for groups eager to put Dark's appeals into action. The author's passion for social justice, clarity about the sacred obligation of taking nothing at face value and confidence that unsettling questions yield rich rewards for both individuals and communities is convincing and moving. (Apr.)
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“Questions make new worlds possible,” asserts author Dark (The Gospel According to America), a key premise in this thought-provoking meander of reflections on, and challenges for, living an engaged life of authentic Christianity. The well-read author draws insight and inspiration from a broad range of sources---Shakespeare, Ursula Le Guin, Johnny Cash and James Joyce---in calling into question the status quo, received history and conventional theology. Dark brings to his writing the kind of energy, offbeat enthusiasm and commitment to relevance that must make his high school English classes exciting places for inquiry and exploration. That each page yokes keen observation to practical application with wisdom and compassion inclines the reader to forgive the book's bewildering organization and abstruse section headings. “Questions for further conversation” at the end of each chapter will be useful for groups eager to put Dark's appeals into action. The author's passion for social justice, clarity about the “sacred obligation” of taking nothing at face value and confidence that unsettling questions yield rich rewards for both individuals and communities is convincing and moving. (Apr.) -- Publisher’s Weekly
David Dark is a brilliant and respected cultural critic, and here, in this new work, he has done something that very few evangelical writers have done: he truly invites us---no, he calls us---to the holy task of thinking all manner of things through, of saying yes and no, of questioning and seeking and discerning what is most true. We need this kind of feisty, literate, and (dare I say it?) prophetic call, and we will be better---as people and as a Christian community and as a culture---if we take up this unsettling and liberating challenge. -- Byron Borger
David Dark is my favorite critic of the people’s culture of America and the Christian faith. He brings a deep sense of reverence to every book he reads, every song he hears, every movie he sees, but it is a discerning reverence---attentive to truth and Jesus wherever he comes on them. He is also a reliable lie detector. And not a dull sentence in the book. -- Eugene Peterson
Dark wanders through the landscape of theological inquiry with brilliance, taking us into uncharted valleys where questioning, confusion, doubt, and promise intermingle. This book is a call to action, a resounding yell of encouragement, to all types of Christians. -- Christopher R. Smit
This is what I need: a far-reaching Christianity that’s not just for the Shiny Happy People but for me, questioning and doubting and trying to live into the mystery. I couldn’t ask for a better fellow pilgrim than brainiac David Dark, who feels as comfortable mining The Office and The Colbert Report as he does Dostoevsky and Flannery O’Connor. This book is for everyone who quietly suspects that God is a whole lot bigger than the church would have us believe. -- Jana Riess, Author
In the Sacredness of Questioning Everything, David Dark serves up a unique blend of pop culture and high culture, generously seasoned with religious texts. The result is an immensely readable, profoundly subversive, and deeply prophetic book. -- Andrew Bacevich, Author
In The Sacredness of Questioning Everything, David Dark travels the lonesome highways of the American soul and finds signs of grace where many of us see only despair. Carry this book with you as a guide through these uncertain times. -- Charles Marsh, Author
We will never find the answers until we begin to ask the right questions. Most of us are skeptical of self-righteous folks (whether pastors or politicians) who try to force their answers into you as if truth was an enema. And if there is anything we can learn from both liberals and conservatives, it’s that you can have all the right answers and still be mean people. This is not a book of answers. Here is a book of questions---question everything … including this book. -- Shane Claiborne, Author
Brilliant and charming and insightful as always, Dark comforts both my soul and my mind with this synthesis, part memoir and part essay, of the culture around us and the culture within us. -- Phyllis Tickle, Author
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What I found ultimately disappointing was that the title is misleading. This book is not about questioning everything, in order to find what is true. It is about questioning some things within the Christian paradigm, but not questioning the paradigm itself. As someone who is wrestling with the latter, I had hoped it might offer some insight into the larger question, not whether one's understanding of some of its finer points are correct or not.
This book further freed me from obsessing over black and white definitions, blindly accepting unchallenged conventional wisdoms, and from absurd feelings of offendedness. Maybe he could have covered more church history or something along those lines, but I think that's another book entirely.
The main thing I would have changed (which may not have been possible considering Zondervan is the publisher) would be the perspective from which he writes. This book has the potential to challenge and change so many people, but since it's written from a "Christian" perspective, the audience becomes much, much smaller. There are wonderful ideas in this book, but I am nearly positive that if I suggested it to certain friends and family, they'd read the back or see the publisher and dismiss it immediately. Although the perspective he writes from does make perfect sense, there is enough in the book that has to do with the core of every person on the planet, no matter his/her religion, faith, belief, etc. for it to have a wider-ranging influence.
If you have an open mind and are willing to be challenged, check it out!
Now, what is it helpful for? Expanding one's possibilities of experience within the Christian Faith Community framework. Creating one's own parables, and a model of the Divine that is actually possible while separating or at least becoming conscious of the underlying mythology that shapes our often times limited spiritual worldview.
One story I enjoyed from the book was a discussion about eternity that started with someone saying that when they die their argument with another individual will finally be over. Dark told this person that when they wake up (i.e. resurrection), they are going to find more people to deal with. He insightfully plays this very true theological insight off Sarte's comment of hell being people and C.S. Lewis' vision of heaven being people. The best in New Testament scholars today, whether NT Wright, Michael Bird or Larry Hurtado are making this same insight from the texts...the revelation of the New Testament is that our eternal future will be one in community with other people and God.
I also enjoyed the call of this book to action. I do not expect readers to remain apathetic about their faith after reading. That's a good thing. I firmly believe that we can love God by/in loving others. The church should become more active and be what Hauerwas has called an alternative to empire's secular ideals. No disagreements here.
So why did I only give the book three stars?
To put things in context, I finished reading Alister McGrath's "The Science of God" last night and as soon as I posted my review, I started this book. It read quickly (one sitting), but offered minimal prospects for theological reflection. McGrath offered fresh insights built upon the intellectual traditions of the church, offering new avenues for both the intellect and action. I didn't get the same fresh insights from Dark.
Dark clearly writes from the Christian tradition, but seems to attack those seeking to live within, while constantly reforming its historical confessions. "Uncle Ben" concepts of God should be rejected (and have been rejected throughout the history of the church), but I fear Dark may be playing on the intended audience, implying that we must reinvent the wheel, seeking insights from all faith traditions. I agree wholeheartedly that we constantly need to deconstruct (or if you prefer, reform), while being engrossed in our great tradition to find the Spirit's future for us. The Spirit has led the church throughout its history and plunging the depths of previous theological insights will better help us to situate ourselves today, and see a clear God-led vision for our future. I'm not sure that Dark would disagree, but I think he underemphasized the history of Church in thought and action.
As such, I would suggest two books for further (or alternative) reading:
1. Ancient-Future Faith: Rethinking Evangelicalism for a Postmodern World
2. Reading Scripture With the Church Fathers
We have a great Christian tradition, offering plenty of insights for those of us following Christ on this journey in community.