Heaven’s Muscle by Bren Hughes
The road from faith to doubt and back again is paved with many potholes and divots. Bren Hughes, former pastor and lawyer, writes about his journey in his new book entitled Heaven’s Muscle. Feeling the overwhelming effects of legalism from his youth, Bren had to grapple with a faith that was not bound by rules and requirements but looked at grace instead.
In the beginning of the book, Bren outlines when he sees as Good Religion and Bad Religion. Bad religion is the type of system is predicated upon obligation, shame, and guilt, hierarchies, and boundaries, infighting and doctrinal allegiance. Good religion on the other hand is characterized by a spirit of love, integrity, character, and doctrinal fidelity (19-25). Bren recounts how his upbringing squashed any notion that the Spirit could be a work in a mighty way in a person’s life. Bren makes the point to admit that he was beginning to become a biblioater, someone who worshipped the book instead of the giver of the Word. He challenges readers to not worship the Book and yet he fails to mention how a high view of Scripture leads us to see God bringing salvation to the nations. Overall,
I think his main emphasis was to see the work of the Spirit and how often a narrow view of the Bible leads to infighting and bickering among Christians about secondary or tertiary matters.
The best part of the book was Bren’s clear presentation of the good news. He writes, “But in addition to bringing atonement for sin, defeating the devil, and exposing the worldly powers in his death, Christ also demonstrated the unfathomable depths of God’s love for lowly human beings. God loved us so much he was willing to empty himself in the incarnation, to live a life of lowly service, and then to die a dolorous death. Surely the only appropriate response to a gesture of such painful beauty is to fall in love with the Being who did it (118).” By combining various aspects of Christ’s atonement (Christus victor, ransom, substitution), Christ’s ministry, and his death, we get a full picture of the depths of God’s amazing love. Even more, Bren focuses our only appropriate response, to love the one who loved us first.
Bren espouses that Christ emptied himself of his divine attributes (46) in looking at Philippians 2, a view that I thought needed a bit more explanation. Also, I hoped that he could add some more parameters or concerns about prophecy and spiritual gifts, so that those struggling with these issues might have a good idea about the proper use and abuse of such practices.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and Bren’s story and hope it will be an encouragement to many.
Thanks to SpeakEasy and Beating Heart for the review copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.