Reviews - What do customers think about Finding God in a Tangled World: Thoughts and Parables?
Beautiful snippets of thought and wonder Dec 10, 2008
"Finding God in a Tangled World" is one of my top reads for the year. I don't usually find the "proverbs" style very compelling, but this is a brilliant exception. Every snippet combines reality, humor, longing, and depth to make the reader stop and either think about something in a new way or appreciate it for new meaning. Rubenis navigates the complicated (yes, tangled!) aspects of life, love, and theology with dexterity and grace, a voice of thoughtfulness and broadened perspective. As for Subacs' drawings - yes, they are amazingly simple, and amazingly right for the thoughts in the book. Who would've thought such minimal, almost child-like line drawings could be so eloquent?
Not a devotion for faithful Lutherans Jun 27, 2008
The Rev. Juris Rubenis (b. 1961) is the pastor of Martin Luther Church in Riga, Latvia. He has a certain amount of notoriety in Latvia as a best-selling author, and these parables have sold hundreds of thousands of copies there. He was also a member of the Popular Front of Latvia (Latvijas Tautas Fronte) organization which led Latvia to independence in 1991. "Juris achieved national prominence early in his ministry. In 1986 he took an active role in Helsinki-86, the first above-ground human rights organization in Soviet Latvia, and in the following year he helped found Rebirth and Renewal, an association of Latvian Lutheran pastors calling for religious freedom in the Soviet Union." (p. viii) The introduction itself refers to the book as a collection of "pithy observations about the world." (ix) And, in fact, most pages are filled with one or two sentence reflections. This makes for easy and light reading, perfect for fifteen-minute blocks of time. There are some clever and profoundly true reflections in the book. One clever little conversation that the author creates, is in a chapter called "Jesus." Adam asked God, "What do you want to do with me?" "Turn you into Jesus," God answered. "Who is Jesus?" Adam asked. "I am Jesus," God said. "But I can't become God!" Adam exclaimed. "I can become you," God explained. (p. 29) This little imaginary conversation is typical of the material in the book. And the book does contain some truly thoughtful and concise statements. For example, "Self-knowledge brings happiness only to God." (p. 47) "A nation is a group of people who venerate the same icon." (p. 105) And, "Socialism is a foolish dream. Capitalism should not dare to exist without a dream." (p. 108) There are also a few delightful references to Latvia in the book, for example, the resort town of Lielupe and the Daugava River. But, unfortunately, there is much to criticize about the book and the author. While Pastor Rubenis may be a celebrity and an honored man in Latvia for his work on Latvian independence and religious freedom, he has come up short as a faithful teacher of Christian doctrine. The fundamental problem with the book stems from the author's belief that dogmatic truth is hidden to humans. No teaching of the Church, based on Scripture, can be declared true. At least this is the impression the translator has of the author's work. He says, "Our authors repeatedly stress the impossibility of capturing theological truths in any sort of system, even a system of church dogma crafted by the most saintly teachers in the world. God is just too big, Jesus too paradoxical." (p. x) This assessment by the translator is easily established by the author's own words; "Dogma is necessary to begin with. For paradise you need your own ideas about God." (p. 79) And again, "The world rests on the dogma, God exists; there is no other dogma." (p. 61) Pastor Rubenis is far from Christian teaching with such statements, and far from Lutheran teaching, which includes, the perspicuity of scripture, and the Holy Spirit's indwelling of the Church through Word and Sacrament. Once he has thrown objective truth overboard, he is free to speculate about the One who is the Truth to his heart's content. Rubenis denies Christ's omniscience when he puts these words in the Lord's mouth: "...I cannot say for sure what a creature should or should not know." (p. 119) This denial of omniscience is compounded by wild, unfounded speculations about Jesus; "A girl fell in love with Jesus. Her name was Mary Magdalene. ...Jesus did not quite understand her. ...They were together for a long time and developed feelings for each other. ... "Do not abandon that girl," God had told Jesus. "You should not abandon a girl who loves you." (pp. 34-35) There are plenty of other doctrinal problems with this book beyond what I have cited here. These examples are sufficient to gain a sense of the sometimes heretical, often obscure nature of the author's material. The real trouble with this book as a source of spiritual inspiration is it's detachment from truth. For the clergyman or layman who would want to use this book as devotional reading, he or she will be constantly hounded by doubt about the doctrinal nature of what the author says. There will constantly be the nagging question as one reads these "parables," - is this true? When one is constantly in doubt about the teaching in a book, it is ruined for devotional purposes. It becomes an object for analysis. This is Pastor Rubenis' failure. It may be appropriate for a philosophy professor to spark debate with his writings, but a pastor's vocation is to bring the comfort and assurance of the Gospel to his hearers and readers. This book does not do that. It is a shame. We need more modern devotional material that is intelligent and pious. And it would be nice to hear an orthodox Lutheran voice from Latvia. This book also contains drawings by the "graphic artist" Maris Subacs at the beginning of each chapter. These drawings are confirmation of the fact that most modern art is a fraud. They are nothing more than stick figure drawings that any six-year-old could produce in two minutes. I don't know if Mr. Subacs makes much money as an "graphic artist," but if he does, he is indeed an artist, but it has nothing to do with his drawings. Save the nineteen dollars this book costs, and read Johann Gerhard's Sacred Meditations.
Thoughtful, Excellent Book Oct 20, 2007
I highly suggest this book for those who are busy day-to-day, are going through any sort of troubles, or anyone who wantes to escape the daily troubles for a small time. This book is filled with parables, quotes, and stories from a little E. European country called Latvia. However, we can all relate to the stories no matter where we live around the world.