When Donkeys Talk: A Quest to Rediscover the Mystery and Wonder of Christianity by Tyler Blanski
When Donkeys Talk is a humorous yet serious take on casting a more complete vision of what it means to be a Christian in the modern world. Part apologetic, part cultural analysis, but more importantly, this book casts aspersion on the individualism and scientism of our world and looks to a more embodied Christianity. Tyler tries to put us back in the mindset of a Medieval person wading through the waters of science, faith, and everyday living. Seeking to integrate the body and spirit, Tyler seeks to identify Christian practices, including the sacraments in a way that does not segregate the spiritual from the bodily but rather incorporates them together.
What I most enjoyed about this book was exactly the point above, namely that the earthly or bodily is not to be discarded in God’s world but is extremely important. Tyler writes, “For the ancient Jews, God was literally taking up his abode on earth, especially in the Temple. Like the tabernacle in the wilderness, the Temple was the place from which God ruled Israel. The Temple was where God established his domain, where heaven and earth overlapped and interlocked” (95). As Jesus came into the world, heaven met earth in clash of cymbals resounding in the pages of the gospels through suffering, compassion and ultimately death and resurrection. Blanski points out later that space is holy in Hebrew theology, marking the place that God dwells and makes himself known. What is helpful in this regard is the opposition to Gnostic thinking even present in our churches that places our entire hope in flying away to heaven on clouds, rather than the Lord of Glory coming to dwell with men in the new heavens and the new earth.
This might be a minor point but I thought the idea of the Holy Pilgrimage was a unique way of talking about Christianity. But even better, I think the book promotes a way of dealing with God, the Bible, and life altering issues that is both serious and amusing. In Tyler’s conversations with a church deacon, friends Olive and Britta, you get a personal glimpse into someone wearing their faith on their sleeve, struggling with issues but allowing others to join in the conversation. For this reason, I think the book is helpful in today’s culture of finding those along life’s way who can engage major issues, even pressing back on you for clarity.
The only real drawback in the book was it was at times disjointed. Tyler could have spent more time on the sacraments and in building connections between the earthiness of the Biblical story and the future. I enjoyed the book and was interested enough to read it in a few days.
Thanks to Zondervan and the BookSneeze program for the review copy of the book in exchange for review.