Item description for Questions to All Your Answers: The Journey from Folk Religion to Examined Faith by Roger E. Olson...
Overview Looking at ten popular Christian slogans in the light of Scripture, this book encourages readers to reach for a deeper, well-grounded faith that engages the intellect as well as the heart with the Bible.
Publishers Description Many Christians' faith exists as a loose collection of unexamined cliches and slogans borrowed from songs, devotional books, sermon illustrations, and even the internet. Too often this belief system (if it can be called a 'system') lacks coherence and intelligibility; it can hardly be expressed, let alone defended, to others. The problem with folk religion is that it too easily withers under the onslaughts of secularism or seemingly reasonable answers provided by cults and new religions. Christianity has a long tradition of intellectual examination of other faiths and its own beliefs. Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living; great Christian minds of all the ages have believed the unexamined faith is not worth believing. Reflective Christianity is Christian faith that has subjected itself to the rigorous questioning of Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. It is mature Christian faith that goes on believing even as it questions what it believes. The goal of this book is not to destroy anyone's faith but to build it up by placing it on a firmer foundation of critical examination. Ten popular Christian cliches are subjected to critical inquiry and interrogated to discover whether they contain truth or are in error. In most cases the conclusion is---both. The aim is not to tear down straw men but to demonstrate a path toward stronger, more mature Christian belief.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.5" Width: 5.5" Height: 0.6" Weight: 0.48 lbs.
Release Date Mar 2, 2008
Publisher Zondervan Publishing
ISBN 0310287588 ISBN13 9780310287582 UPC 025986287580
Availability 0 units.
More About Roger E. Olson
Roger E. Olson (PhD, Rice University) is professor of theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University. He is a prolific author whose volumes include The Story of Christian Theology and The Mosaic of Christian Belief. He is also coauthor of 20th-Century Theology.
Roger E. Olson currently resides in the state of Texas.
Reviews - What do customers think about Questions To All Your Answers?
Worth the Read Nov 4, 2009
Dr. Olson feels that many churches have fallen into the category of contemporary populism and have ceased to search the scriptures in an intelectual manner, which God intended us to do. Folk Religion, as he calls it, doesn't question the hard (mysterious) topics found in the Bible. Instead, these topics are simply just accepted. He goes on to explore topics like, "If God is in control, why is the world in such a mess?" or "What if you miss God's plan for your life?" This book has made me think about my faith way beyond the easy, simple gospel message. For that I'm greatful to Dr. Olson.
Not *Too* Bad Oct 8, 2009
As popular theological writing goes, this isn't bad. Olson is an evangelical who has a beef with the theologically skimpy, bumper-sticker bound theology that has dominated much of evangelical Christianity. His premise is that pat answers to hard questions are not answers at all. If they aren't properly qualified and wrestled with, they do more harm than good, and that a thinking Christian is what we are called to be. He takes on ten popular pop theology sound bites and shows their deficiencies.
This isn't a difficult task, of course. There are plenty of popular slogans in cultural Christianity which are flawed on so many levels that it's mind-numbing. But for folks not inclined to do some hard thinking about what they claim they have devoted their lives to, the sound bites sound good enough at the surface level. But with any sort of real reflection - or when faced with the agony of very real loss, very real sin, very real suffering, very real tragedy - they quickly crumble. If they are all a person's faith was built on and around, there wouldn't be much hope of that faith surviving. Olson wants to make people think harder about their beliefs. He's very keen to defend and maintain his evangelical background and self-identification - something I don't entirely understand. Perhaps he feels he's more likely to be heard in evangelical circles if he can convince them that he still is one of them.
While we are called to be thoughtful, thinking Christians, we have to be careful about this. So much of the identity of thought and thinking is bound up with secular notions, that if we question a secular assertion, we are labeled as luddites and written off. The alternative is to simply swallow popular wisdom or education as if it were equivalent with Truth, when it may very well not be. And at times in this book, it felt like Olson was siding a bit too much with reason and logic over and against faith, when that isn't always necessary. He asserts on page 21 of his introduction that reflective Christianity does not "fly in the face of of brute facts of science or mock serious philosophy and other intellectual endeavors." I agree about the mocking bit. But in terms of "brute facts", who gets to determine what a brute fact is? Is there a difference between a brute fact in a piece of bone that has been discovered in the ground, and the brute fact that it is a dinosaur bone? What about the brute fact that this piece of bone fills in the missing gap in an evolutionary line? These things may all be presented as brute facts, and yet are they necessarily so?
Reason is important, and a gift from God. But we need to be careful about what we agree is a fact, and what is an interpretation of a fact. The two are almost inseparable. We perceive and understand the world around us, but in the very act of perceiving our mind is organizing, making sense of what it sees and experiences before we're even aware of what we see and experience. It would be good to keep this in mind when assenting to whatever brute facts our acceptance is being demanded of.
I would recommend this book to any Christian. You may or may not think you perpetrate any of these easy answers, but odds are you do - whether you're aware of it or not. Although Olson's treatments are not always Biblical, they do push the reader to think beyond the surface level. What you learned in Sunday School was probably good enough for you at that time. It's not adequate if you're an adult believer living in a world that is both beautiful and dangerous - and you're called to make sense of this in some manner.
Good enough Oct 7, 2009
Insightful and thought-provoking. He tends to repeat himself to prove his point and so some parts of the book drag on. Overall it's a good read. Makes you think.
Looking for a thought provoking book on those Christian cliches? This is a great place to start! May 4, 2009
"Jesus is the answer." "Money isn't bad, but only what we do with it." "God has a perfect plan for your life." "God helps those who help themselves." These are some of the most common answers found within Evangelical Christian circles, but are this just an easy way around difficult answers or just bad theology? Rodger E. Olson is professor of theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University and does a wonderful job of taking those popular answers many people utter, usually without giving a second thought, and gives a very thought provoking examination behind the truth.
One of his greatest strengths in this book is found in his ability to take our simple answers and show how this mindset is damaging to the overall wonder of God and His great plan for our lives. In his discussion with the saying, "Jesus is the answer," Olson says:
"Most evangelicals know little (and perhaps care less!) about the great Christian doctrine of the Trinity, and in their near obsession with Jesus they forget the other two persons of the Godhead. While `Jesus is the answer!' is not entirely wrong, it lacks depth; it falls short of connecting with most people in today's secular and pagan culture who can't even understand it, and it falls short of expressing the historic Christian claim that the Trinity is the answer" (63).
It is difficult to argue against such truth, especially a world that knows little about the Godhead and its role in our lives. Olson points out that this lack of understanding and teaching is the result of "folk religion and folk Christianity" (14). He says, "Folk religion is the result of pietism gone to seed. Pietism was originally a good movement to renew and revive authentic Christianity among European and later American Protestant congregations" (14). However, since its birth this movement has "fallen into an extremely informal, individualized, anti-intellectual form of Christianity that eschews mental exercise of the faith" (14).
"Folk religion thrives on clichés and slogans that fit on bumper stickers and resists their critical examination even by the litmus test of Scripture. It revolves around cute or comforting sayings drawn from choruses, church marquees, and devotional books. It elevates to canonical status fascinating spiritual stories passed around orally or on the internet. Above all, it resists any attempt to subject these to critical scrutiny" (14).
Overall, this book is filled with some wonderful examinations of those simple answers and saying which are prevalent throughout the Evangelical world and gives its readers much to mull over. I think Classic Armenians will enjoy several chapters found within this book especially Olson's depiction of the "Canvas-And-Paints Model" on God's plan for humanity as it works quite well with classical Armenian theology. Calvinist will find much to argue over because this book does not settle much with Calvinist theology, but it makes for a wonderful read and they might find it quite informative. I enjoyed this read and found it quite thought provoking. If you are settled in tradition and your views are absolute, you should probably stay away from this one (but who knows you might learn something new), but if you enjoy looking at things in a reflective way, then this might be right up your alley.
Caution--paradigm changes ahead! Oct 24, 2008
Roger Olson opens Pandora's box by refusing to blindly accept the maxims of popular Christianity, by casting honest doubt on concepts people assume are biblical truth. In so doing he hopes we'll reconsider our presuppositions. This is just the kind of thinking we need to shake us from our anti-intellectual complacency. I doubt if anyone will buy all his conclusions, but I guarantee they will have to think critically.
Olson handles such matters as the sovereignty and will of God, the nature of sin, the Second Coming, judging others, materialism, and several other controversial matters.
I had more than a few reservations, but I don't mean this as a critique. Olsen should be applauded for making us reconsider some of our cherished beliefs. I did take issue with his thoughts on missing the will of God. I don't think he adequately dealt with the concept of calling. I'd also have liked more discussion of just how sovereign God is, and to what extent does He stand back to allow bad things to happen. If we're going to question God's involvement, I want to know what prayer does, and how much prayer is needed to make a difference. With regard to eschatology, I wish there was some mention of the theory that much of the apocalyptic literature may refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The section on money didn't seem to deal with the worldview of capitalism.
While I wasn't completely satisfied with Roger Olson's questions, I appreciated them. This is an excellent book to get Christians to reconsider matters that they've accepted without critical thinking. Paul Little once said that one doesn't have to commit "intellectual suicide" to be a Christian. While we can't possibly have all the answers, we ought to re-look at the slogans and mysteries we've accepted and see whether they're defensible.