Monday, March 21, 2016

Book review: Finding God in the Ruins: How God Redeems Pain by Matt Bays

Finding God in the Ruins: How God Redeems Pain

Finding God in the Ruins: How God Redeems Pain

I love reading books about suffering because they help me grasp an idea of what life should be. They make my problems shrink to insignificant shadows and give me a bigger heart for others. I have been blessed to read (and review) several which I learned from and recommend: And It Was Beautiful, The Hardest Peace, Another Valley Another VictoryBronner, and Soaring Above the Circumstances. I expected this book to be similar but not too far into the book I sensed that the author has a very different theology than the Bible teaches. By the time I got to the following quote I was extremely alarmed! 
''God's own story was full of disorder, his past every bit messed up as mine. And when God saw how out of control things had gotten, he sent his son to clean things up.'' 
No true Christian can ever say this of God! I'm sorry, but there is no excuse for such a statement.
Early on in the book, the author kind of laughs about the fact that he went forward at his church to ''be saved'' on a dare and honestly states that he was not saved then. Unfortunately, Matt Bays never again mentions his salvation and never gives the reader any assurance that he indeed found redemption later on! In fact, he is quite honest about his sinful life growing up (following the response to the altar call at age 8 or so) and he is also honest that while he was a pastor and song leader he had major doubts. It's as if he is boasting of his doubt and confusion. What kind of Christianity would that be? Sorry, but when God saves, He saves completely. We are not made perfect, but we are regenerated and with the Holy Spirit dwells within us. Before we were dead and now we are made alive and there is no way a true believer can say such things as the following quotes from ''Finding God in the Ruins'': 
''God's own story was full of disorder, his past every bit messed up as mine. And when God saw how out of control things had gotten, he sent his son to clean things up.'' 
''Sometimes when I've said all I've need to say, God says back to me, ''I'm sorry for all you've gone through, Matthew.'' And then when I've accused him and spoken the kind of words that would make your blood run cold, he's simply said, ''Are you finished?'' This natural back-and-forth is our relationship...''

''...I wonder if God's basement is also crowded with those of us he doesn't trust- you know, the fringy sort who pretend things are good, who never trust the relationship enough to speak up and tell him the truth. Maybe God liked Job and David best because they were honest with him. Afraid? Probably. But not too afraid to tell him exactly what they thought or write songs that accused him and put him on trial. .....maybe he longs to hear our hearts speak out in pain, even if in the end we blame him. ''

''God's own story was full of disorder, his past every bit messed up as mine. And when God saw how out of control things had gotten, he sent his son to clean things up.''
Another reviewer of this book also noted the following which likewise upset me as I read the book: there are parts of his story that bother me. He was in pastoral work, leading worship, during many of the years of his doubt. He says he would lead songs for the congregation yet not believe what he was singing. He performed a wedding for his cancer ridden sister and her live-in boyfriend when the divorce from her previous husband had not been finalized. Bays says he felt they were already married in God's eyes so performed the ceremony.
Bays quotes Psalm 44, saying David calls God a liar and a cheat. There was no reference in my galley so I did some research and found the reference of Psalm 44:11-12. I cannot find any translation that is even close to what Bays says it says. Not The Message, not the NLT.

Immediately upon reading this book, I put up some quick comments and direct quotes from the book while I pondered how to write my review. 


Matt Bays, the author of ''Finding God in the Ruins'' responded to my thoughts as following:

I'm sorry you didn't like the book, Mazzou. I sincerely am. My hope is to come alongside the broken of this world - those who are hurting so deeply, so they will know they are not alone. Many people (and you may not know this yet) are so angry with God and feel they cannot express it. They have been through unspoken cruelties and walked away from their faith because they were afraid to be honest with God about their pain. Who will reach out to them? They are not responding to the sanitized and easy answers so many of our churches are providing. If you read the Psalms you will find David calling God a cheat and a liar. "You've deceived us," he says to God. Yet he WASN'T considered blasphemous...but instead called "a man after God's own heart." I do respect your opinion, and I know it's not an easy book...but if Finding God in the Ruins is blasphemous, you'd have to call the book of Psalms and the book of Job blasphemous as well. God restored a murdering, broken King David, who hurled insults his way more than once. He can (and has) restored me as well. Peace and love, and so many good things.

In response to these comments; I don't really see David hurling insults at God. Many of the Psalms begin with a desperate tone because David was human and also, as he lived before Christ, he did not have the indwelling Holy Spirit. However- David usually ends such Psalms with turning to God as His source of strength, hope and joy! And let me emphasize: David did NOT call God a ''cheat and a liar''. That may be a crazy misunderstanding from reading ''The Message''; when I find out I will update this review! In fact, David DID say the following...
Passion for your house has consumed me, and the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me. (Psalm 69:9)

As for people who are hurting- they NEED a perfect, sovereign God! If God is made human-like and if we can simply treat him like our younger brother what strength can we find in Him? We need an infallible, unchanging, eternal God WHO MAKES NO MISTAKES to serve and worship and rely on. I'm sorry if people are offended by that- there are churches which are mistaken on various things; there are people who call themselves Christians yet who aren't and therefore cause more harm than good to unbelievers; there are Christians who have not learned to love like Christ loved. But that is no excuse for these broken people. They are responsible before God and if they turn away, they simply weren't His! I can only hope that those broken people would find true Christians who can help them.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.