Sunday, January 24, 2010

Book Review: The God Who Smokes

The God Who Smokes: Scandalous Meditations on Faith by Timothy J. Stoner was a gift from a friend I meet with on a regular basis. We usually meet at Cafe Brazil to discuss what we're reading and life in general. I liked this book much more than the last two books he loaned me, neither of which I could bring myself to finish reading. I bailed on both Empire of Illusion and The Cry of the Soul about half way through. However, I thoroughly enjoyed Stoner's book and read all of it, even the end notes.

Stoner's writes like a novelist, and mentions his poorly selling fictional work several times. Don Miller's Blue Like Jazz reinvigorated sales of his earlier overlooked work. Perhaps Stoner's multiple mentions of his novel will produce the same sort of sales boost if his non-fiction work begins selling well. I don't read much fiction, so I doubt I'll buy it.

Stoner creates a lot of word pictures and writes with emotion concluding many chapters with a Psalm-like blessing. But his book is neither a set of stand alone meditations or a coherent story with beginning, middle, and end. This didn't detract from the book in my mind because I was very interested in the consistent theme running through the chapters. It is a theme I've been struggling with myself for quite some time.

Stoner grew up a fundamentalist Baptist missionary kid in Spanish speaking countries living most of his early life outside the USA. He and his wife have raised three boys and a girl of their own here in the USA plus an adopted African child. He has both seminary and law school training, and is presently involved in orphan justice ministry. His eclectic background gives him an interesting perspective on Christian life in the USA.

The theme that binds the book is Stoner's struggle between the more traditional and fundamentalist practice of the Christian faith in which he grew up, and the modern "emergent" church which finds himself a part of today. He lives in Grand Rapids and his grown sons are involved in Rob Bell's church (Mars Hill). This doesn't keep Stoner from leveling several criticisms of Bell, all of which I agreed with. There are lots of references to Rob Bell and few to Brian McLauren while frequently quoting Peter Kreeft and C.S. Lewis. Stoner struggles with finding the balance between the modern and post-modern church. This is where I am in my own personal faith journey as well so if you're in the same boat you'll probably enjoy this book.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Dennis, I have been with you since the Y2K days, and always enjoy your posts. I read with interest your blog about Stoner, and you, stuggling with the fundamentalist practice of Christianity, and the new modern approach. I guess all of us end up with that struggle sooner or later. I have worked in 37 countries of the world, and I have finally concluded that America has corrupted much of the world with two things: Frist, with TV. It has destroyed cultures who once were very sedentary, and conservative. Second, with the modern gospel movement. Most other countries started out conservative, and ended up liberal, by listening to our so called new gospel. There is really no such thing. The old paths are still the best paths, and I believe that the old fundamental gospel, and way of life is what God intended for all of us. Thanks for all you do for Him - keep up the good work. Your brother in Christ.