Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Theology of Luck by Rob Fringer and Jeff Lane

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book for the purpose of review. My integrity is not for sale. Those who know me well are aware I would relish the chance to give a bad review in exchange for a free book. If I've failed to do so, it has nothing to do with the source of the material and only with the material itself.

Theology of Luck sets out to refute the popular notion that "everything happens for a reason." Whether one has belief in God or some other organizational structure, most people simply believe there's a purpose behind everything that happens. Rob Fringer and Jeff Lane want to challenge that assumption, using theology, scripture, and practical logic to explore what it means for God to be in control, yet not controlling.

The book is well written and long overdue. There's a vast depth of conversation and discussion to be had in this realm which is largely left to academia. Theology of Luck provides a great introduction with solid analogies and real life examples, helping anyone to grasp the broader possibilities of purposeless chance in the world around us.

I've long been led in this direction personally, so there is no surprise I'm right on board with this book. If there's any critique of the subject matter, it's simply that they didn't go far enough. Perhaps inappropriate for what is really an elementary and introductory text, I'd like to see this discussion expanded beyond what God chooses to do to creation and including the type of creation God made in the first place - perhaps in a second volume.

I'm more impressed that this book comes from Nazarene Publishing House - it's a welcome resource from the denomination at a time when one of its leading scholars has been under the gun for espousing beliefs that arise directly from this topic. The future of theology comes in asking difficult questions about long-assumed explanations of belief. Theology of Luck is perfectly suited to begin that exploration - that NPH is perhaps part of the movement getting out ahead is truly good news for the Church of the Nazarene.

I'll admit I struggled understanding the manner in which the practical relevance of this book is explored in the latter chapters. They're great chapters, but I might have explained how we live in a world where God doesn't dictate every detail in a different way than the authors did here. However, I have no complaint with the material itself, which is good, strong, and useful for discussion in small groups or within families.

Ultimately this is an accessible work with the right distribution channels to really get people thinking. That, in itself, is exciting. A book like this is great news to those unsatisfied with typical answers, however, it also has the potential to scare people who aren't wrestling with faith in the same way. In either event, a quote from page 50 might serve to better explain what's addressed - after quoting Ecclesiastes 7:13-14, Fringer and Lane say:

[T]his should not be read as proof of hard determinism but, rather, as a frustrated recognition by the author that he does not have the answers and God does. Like many of the Psalms, this is a lament, a crying out to God for answers, while simultaneously placing trust in this same God. [T]his God invites wrestling. God recognizes our frustration and invites us to cry out in the midst of pain, persecution, injustice, and bad luck.

If that really gets you excited, then this is certainly the book for you.

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