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Servant God:
Testimonies & Reviews

This collection of essays is a MUST read for all who want to know the truth about God’s self-sacrificial character!Greg Boyd, PhD, Theologian, Author, Preacher Woodland Hills Church
Written by servants of God who walk daily with those who suffer the pain of illness, the heartache of broken lives, and the joys of small victories, Servant God reaches out to all of us who have waded through struggles of every sort. Pastors, Bible study teachers, small group leaders, counselors—read it and use it in ministry. The essays offer encouragement, exhortations, understanding, joy, hope, and beautiful images of the God of love.Sharon Baker, PhD, Professor of Theology and Religion, Messiah College
It is very difficult to review this book without verging on hyperbole. But I’m convinced that Servant God is this year’s most important how-to-change-the-world book, and here’s why. We have a major catastrophe on our hands. Much of our carefully, patiently, and proudly built up global church is coming apart at the seams. Just look at our own backyard where some estimate that 75% of American teenagers in Christian homes will lose their faith after high school. I’ve concluded that the root of this problem is our conventional way of reconciling an all-good, all-powerful God with the amount and unpredictability of evil in our world. If we continue to explain that a mysterious good hides behind all evil, if we continue to take the Biblical phrase, “all things work together for good” to mean that God—who does in fact work good out of evil—is somehow the author of the evil itself, we will continue to see the Christian faith blossom around the world today, only to watch it fade tomorrow.

This book tackles this problem head-on. It is a thoughtful and thorough defense of the goodness of God’s character. In twenty-nine chapters, nineteen authors take on some of the toughest theological questions related to that goodness. What makes this book so compelling is the way it posits a “Cosmic Conflict” understanding, but then helpfully and winsomely dispels many of the common objections. And the answers are well stated in that they don’t overwhelm with theological language. Collectively the authors do a stellar job of showing that the problem of evil need not be an impediment to genuine faith and rational belief. I have never seen so many difficult questions about God’s character answered so well in so little space.
Brian Lowther, Director, Roberta Winter Institute
For those who suspect that the long and looming shadow of the monster god is part of the problem, Servant God offers a way forward that is hopeful, scholarly, and most importantly, faithful to the revelation of God we find in Jesus Christ.Brian Zahnd, Lead Pastor of Word of Life Church, St. Joseph, Missouri. Author of Beauty Will Save the World, Unconditional?: The Call of Jesus to Radical Forgiveness, and What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life
I was profoundly blessed by reading this gospel-oriented, grace-filled book written by a variety of contributors, both theologians and lay people. The great controversy theme, the cosmic conflict between good and evil, is the explanatory tool used to investigate the trustworthiness of God’s character. Difficult questions about God and the kind of person he is are discussed in plain language. Can one reconcile the God of Sinai with the God of Calvary? Ultimately the conclusion is that God can be trusted and that his character is best seen in the life, death, and example of Jesus Christ. One of the many strengths of this book is that it applies this understanding of God to practical, daily life. God’s remedy to problems we face is not compulsion but revelation; it is persuasion, not force. In fact biblical justice and salvation itself is seen as healing. One leaves this book with a renewed sense of wholeness and peace. It should be on the reading list of every thoughtful soul.Lawrence T. Geraty, PhD, Harvard University, Professor of Archaeology and Old Testament Studies, President Emeritus, Executive Director, LSU Foundation, La Sierra
Servant God is enamoured with the conviction that everything changes when we realize that God is not a terrorist. Rather, God is (like) Jesus Christ: supremely loving and almost recklessly so! Just wait till you read Alden Thompson’s essay about how we should read the Old Testament to know what I mean by reckless condescension!

Reading Servant God challenges us to reconsider how we read the Bible in light of Jesus; how we live out our Christian faith especially with respect to contentious and divisive issues; how you understand certain Christian teachings especially those that impact the way we understand God’s character. In the end, the reverberating chorus through the book chimes something like this: “If what you believe does not sound, look, feel, act, or inspire like Jesus, then it probably needs rethinking and changing!”

I plan to share this book as “must reading” with everyone and anyone interested in understanding God better.

Stevan Mirkovich - Pastor, Vancouver BC
Around the time I graduated from high school I also graduated from the Catholic Church and my belief in God. Atheism became my religion of choice in my college years and money was my god. Upon graduating with a degree in engineering and getting a dream job that didn’t satisfy, I began to think there had to be more to life than what I was experiencing. So I gave church (and God) another try.

It didn’t happen overnight, but I came to believe you could accept the Empty Tomb without checking your brain at the door. After becoming a Christian I went to seminary in pursuit of a Master of Divinity degree and became more of a Calvinist than John Calvin, embracing all five points in the “infralapsarian” variety. I was convinced if you believed the Bible was inspired by God, then you had to embrace a God who predestined people to hell, ordained everything (and everything included rape and genocide), and did “all of the above” for His glory. Granted this picture of God was far from beautiful, but I honestly thought it was the only option for a Bible-believing Christian.

After becoming a pastor and entering into the pain of everyday people, I began to rethink my picture of God. Thankfully, over several years I came across authors and pastors and speakers — including The Good News Tour (championed by Brad and Dorothee Cole) — who audaciously believed that Jesus showed us exactly what God was like. This simple fact changed everything for me.

I am so grateful for Servant God as it picks up where The Good News Tour left off. As I read chapter after chapter, God literally became more and more beautiful to me. Prior to reading the book I was already convinced that “God is good…all the time” but Servant God helped answer lingering “tough questions” I had and gave insight into the heart and character of God in ways I never thought of before. I can’t wait for this book to be published as it will become one of my “Pastor’s Picks” for my congregation to read.

Dan Kopp, lead pastor of Eastside Vineyard Church in Michigan.
In recent years, the question of God’s character, with a particular focus on challenges to the idea of divine violence, has appeared in several books reflecting a wide spectrum of theological perspectives. Servant God is a welcome addition to this as-yet-small but growing number of publications.

The book’s major premise is that if one takes the incarnation seriously, then when we see Jesus we see God. And when we observe that Jesus responded to all situations with love and mercy, it follows that God is a God of love and mercy. This conclusion stands in sharp contrast to the traditional view of a wrathful God who has commanded God’s people to carry out massacres, who controls natural disasters to enact judgment and punishment, and who will punish sinners eternally in a fiery hell.

Although it has twenty-nine separate chapters written by nineteen different authors, Servant God is much more a book than a collection of essays. The chapters are the integrated fruit of a series of seven conventions from 2006-2009, which studied the question of the character of God. Participants in these conversations and writers of the chapters were “theologians, pastors, builders, teachers, computer programmers, physicians and others,” all of whom had interest in exploring further the character of God (xiii). Gregory A. Boyd, who wrote two concluding chapters on living in the story of Jesus, is the most well-known author.

The chapters are organized in five sections that follow an outline of the Bible, beginning with the accounts in the first chapters of Genesis. Following sections deal with Old Testament history and the character of God; the life of Christ and his atoning death; and Revelation and the second coming of Jesus. A final section deals with living in Christ and exhibiting the character of God today.

The book has a consistent focus on the love and mercy of God. If human beings are separated from God, it is the result of their sin and consequent choice to separate themselves from a God whom they fear. Ever since the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden, which resulted in their fear of God, God has been working to overcome the separation of people from God. As the culmination of this effort, God came in Jesus. Jesus’ mission was to reveal the true character of God, that of love and mercy. When the true character of God is seen, the writers believe, sinners can see that they need not fear God and thus reconciliation can happen between God and humanity. Throughout the book, texts about God’s punishment or God’s wrath are consistently interpreted so that punishment or wrath is what people bring on themselves through sin. The flood of Noah, for example, occurred only after those who related to God had dwindled to one righteous family, and God acted to save that family. Since the others did not trust God enough to board the ark, they were “put to sleep” to preserve the one righteous family (285). Servant God portrays the idea of a merciful God seeking reconciliation with sinful humanity throughout the Bible, down to and including the book of Revelation. There will be a last judgment, in which people’s choice for or against God will be made final, but the final judgment will reflect the merciful character of God made visible in Jesus.

The book will pose something of a puzzle to many readers. It assumes a so-called literal, six-day creation, Adam and Eve as real people with the fall as a historical event, and the flood as a historical event. Satan is portrayed as a real, supernatural being, engaged in cosmic conflict with God, which reflects the Seventh Day Adventist orientation of a majority of the book’s authors. Fundamentalists might be pleased with these interpretations, but will likely object to the book because of its rejection of substitutionary atonement, its rejection of divine violence, its treatment of last judgment, and its nonviolent interpretation of the book of Revelation. There is a chapter on the inspiration of scripture, but it will not help fundamentalists. Inspiration is not posed as the first point of the outline, with the intent of forcing acceptance of the views to follow. In Servant God, inspiration of scripture does not appear in the outline until Chapter 8, where the title says it all: “Inspiration (The Bible Says It, But That Doesn’t Settle It)” (129). In other words, even though the Bible is inspired, it still has to be interpreted. And the hermeneutical key posed throughout Servant God is not a view of inspiration but rather the story of Jesus.

If fundamentalists do not like the conclusions of this book, readers at the other end of the Christian spectrum, where I place myself, will not accept the assumptions about creation, Adam and Eve, the flood, and Satan. I accept Walter Wink’s understanding of the Powers, with Satan as the name for the accumulation of all human evil. However, as is made clear in my books The Nonviolent Atonement and The Nonviolent God, I can applaud Servant God’s very solid critique of penal substitutionary atonement, its understanding of God’s judgment, and of the character of God as merciful, loving, and nonviolent. I accept the book’s view that salvation means to cease rebelling against God and that reconciliation to God means living within the kingdom of God, which includes practicing the social activism and nonviolent resistance to evil that is made visible in the life of Jesus.

I suggest that this book points to an important conclusion that is contained in but goes beyond the intention of the authors. The fact that readers of my theological persuasion can agree with the conclusions of the book in spite of our rejection of its underlying assumptions about the mythological sections of the Bible demonstrates that the truth of Jesus is not defined by one particular methodology. The truth of Jesus comes from the story of Jesus itself. One can proceed with a literalist approach to the early chapters of Genesis if one is willing to shape the conclusions on the basis of the narrative of Jesus. Likewise, people such as myself, who make very different assumptions about the first chapters of Genesis and the nature of biblical material, and who might offer other interpretations on particular issues such as God’s violence in the flood text, can reach similar conclusions to Servant God’s on the larger question of the mercy and nonviolence of God as long as the ultimate norm of truth is the New Testament’s narrative of Jesus. This narrative can shape the assumptions of historical scholarship even as it can shape the assumptions of a so-called literal approach to the Bible. Even though Servant God’s assertion of the nonviolence of God is extremely significant for our time, it may be that this demonstration of the importance of seeing the narrative of Jesus as the norm of Christian truth has equal importance.

J. Denny Weaver, Professor Emeritus of Religion, Bluffton University, Author of The Nonviolent Atonement