Misfit Faith: Confessions of a Drunk Ex-Pastor by Jason J. Stellman
I usually go for a book with a good title and this one has quite an edgy and provocative title. To go along with it, the author at one time was a PCA pastor, a denomination I belong to and wanted to see what he had to say about life in ministry. This new book, Misfit Faith, is a story of someone who still wrestles with the faith and was pulled toward the Roman Catholic Church from being a church planting pastor in Seattle prior to his change. The book is a critique of those who have their theology all lined, ducks in a row, and more a conversation about how to have doubts and still believe. In the book, Jason explains the first segment of the Apostle’s Creed concerning believing in God the Father and how this changes the way we should think about faith.
In the opening chapters, Jason seeks to draw the implications of God as Father in relationship to the Calvinist system that he says minimized this idea and promoted a God as Lawgiver and Judge. He writes, “Since lawgiver-God pretty much abhors the real you, your only hope is to accept the Calvinist gospel, according to which we sinners can be “considered” righteous by trusting in Jesus and accepting his obedience as though it were our own and thereby escaping hell on judgment day.” (32) I understand Jason’s frustration with this system that speaks highly of sin and judgment but maybe not enough about the tender fatherly love God has for his children. Yet, I think this point of view is a gross misunderstanding of Reformed and Calvinist thought which emphasizes grace, the image of God in man, and how God constantly accommodates himself to humanity through various covenants and appearances. This quote is a rather truncated and misleading version of a fully robust Reformed understanding of salvation.
However, I thought Jason’s Divine Yes to Humanity is a very good antidote to the dualism many Christians fall prey to. He writes, “The first assumption is that matter and flesh are bad, which is why such things are contrasted to spiritual, heavenly things…The other implicit assumption in this suspicious posture toward “worldly” pursuits is that heaven’s aim is to necessarily thwart such things, as though divinity’s role is to crush or frustrate humanity.” (53-54) The burning of secular music, keeping away from any movie above PG, and the removal of any art depicting the human body are examples of where Christians have demeaned many good things that God has given us. Jesus’ incarnation is the yes to humanity and the very good to what God has made. Not to mention we have Jesus enjoying himself at the wedding at Cana and enjoying his time with sinners and tax collectors.
I enjoyed this book at times and at times wanted to fling it across the room. I hope that many readers will find Jason’s searching and doubting as a way to look differently at the world.
Thanks to Convergent and Blogging for Books for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.