I have known of Dan Kimball’s work within the Emergent Church movement for over a decade, using his book, They Like Jesus but Not the Church to help flesh out some pre-evangelism projects during my days of ministry. Ever since his review of our first book, this evangelical, pastor, author, and professor has shown his support of our little project – of course, from a slightly different perspective. Always happy to encourage open conversation from both sides of the aisle, we were thrilled when Dan accepted our invitation to write the foreword for our latest book. We asked him to be honest and true to himself, to address the new book from a Christian perspective. There are rumors that Dan is in the process of writing a new book of his own – a sort of reply to our series. We’ll look forward to an interesting conversation in the future! – Horus G.
A foreword from pastor Dan Kimball
As a Christian, I love the Bible and believe it is 100% inspired by God and trustworthy. I am also a big fan of the entire Awkward Moments (Not Found In Your Average) Children’s Bible series of books and online articles. Given my role as an evangelical pastor and seminary professor, that may sound like quite a contradictory statement. However, I have held up my well-read copy of Vol. #1 from the pulpit on many occasions and used it as an example and learning tool in church as I teach. Now, please let me explain why…
Over the last two years, Horus and I have formed what may seem like an unlikely friendship – a devout Christian leader and an “apostate” author who often challenges the very core of my beliefs. However, coming from similar pasts, we have come to learn that we have friends and mentors in common, even hobbies and tastes in movies and music in common. More importantly, we have a common interest in Biblical literacy – getting people to actually open their Bibles and think critically about the words on the page and their impact in their lives, and on society. As Horus pointed out in the first book, while the Bible might be the bestselling book of all time, according to a recent Pew Research study, more than half of practicing Christians couldn’t name the four Gospels – the first four books of the New Testament. Regardless of our divergent views of faith, Horus is absolutely right – Christians have a Biblical literacy problem.
This book forces Christians to examine the Bible…
For far too long, many Christians haven’t thought too much about what they read in the Bible. Or worse (in my opinion) – they might not even read the Bible at all. Perhaps they mainly re-read the pleasant verses that bring them comfort or reflect on certain stories they first learned as young children back in Sunday school or from a sermon. Yet, they often don’t go any deeper – never opening their own Bibles and reading the whole thing, or investigating a pastor’s sermon – maybe never thinking about it again from an adult’s perspective later in life. As a result, when a book like this pulls certain stories or verses out to the forefront, it can be quite “awkward.” Understandable reactions range from confusion to even anger that no one pointed out these verses before to them. What I appreciate about this book is that it forces Christians to examine the Bible – which is something we should have been doing all along!
What is very important to understand, however, is why I am writing this foreword to begin with. As a pastor, teacher and student of the Bible, I would assert that there are responses to every one of the Awkward Moments you will find in this book. These passages have not just recently been discovered by Horus – they have always been in the Bible, and scholars throughout history have spent their lives investigating the most “awkward” stories found in scripture. When you look at the historical setting of the Bible’s origins – who wrote each of the books and the audience for whom they were originally written, it makes all the difference in how we come to understand scripture. What may even sound mythical or like a fairy tale becomes understood in the context of the original readers and each author’s intent. When you do study them, you then see more clearly why these specific passages sound so awkward at first reading. For me and for many others throughout history, it does not cause loss of belief in the Bible at all. It actually caused me to trust it even more.
Another point to make is that when you read the awkward stories in the Bible, just because something that happened is written down in the Bible doesn’t mean that God approved it. You may not have noticed certain stories in the Bible before, but what I love is that God did not remove the very awkward parts to only give us a nice sanitary Bible. In fact, it is quite the opposite – God wanted to show the grittiness and brokenness of humanity – including the good, the bad and the awkward.
This messy, ancient depiction of broken humanity is quite real and allows us to see ourselves living right in the middle of it – leading us to better understand why we need Jesus. As I mention Jesus, please make sure you are reading the full story of Jesus, not simply the awkward sounding parts of his story in isolation without full Biblical context.
One last thing to know as you read this, is that there have been many scholars of literature who knew the difference between mythical and literal literature. For example, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were devout Christians who believed in the Bible. You have scientists like Francis Collins, founder of the Human Genome Project who believes in the Bible. You have musical artists like Johnny Cash and even Alice Cooper who are believers in the Bible. They know these awkward stories, and also know that there are responses to them when you take the time to fully study them properly. I could go on and on giving responses for each illustration in this book, but – I might just save that for a book of my own in the near future.
In the meantime, I hope you are challenged and stretched while reading this book – but don’t let it stop there. Don’t only engage in a surface view of the Bible by reading the verses shown in this book and then jumping to conclusions. I urge you to dig deeper and take the time to better understand the true complexity of each book of the Bible.
I love the tension this book brings…
I love the tension this book brings, and I hope it causes many readers to become students of the Bible wanting to know more about the Jesus it reveals. Like Horus, my hope is that you will read the whole story – not just a couple verses here and there, passed on by your pastor, or even a book like this. If it takes a shockingly “awkward” illustration of Jesus depicted as a pyromaniac vine to open up John 15, so be it! At the end of the day, some of the Bible can sound quite awkward, indeed. But it is a life changing, amazing book. Please join me in opening up your favorite Bible and reading along with this challenging book – from Genesis to Revelation!
Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, CA
Master of Arts, Western Seminary
Doctor of Ministry, George Fox University
Remember: Don’t blame us, it’s in the Bible!
This foreword can be found in
Awkward Moments (Not Found In Your Average) Children’s Bible – Vol #2.