Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Blue Like Jazz

For those of you who have read Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this article I read recently. The link and an excerpt are below; the article is long but worth reading. What do you think?


“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’" John 8:31–32

False freedom. Miller is an insecure, self-centered man (as he freely admits in his book) who wants to be a literary success, and he is using a certain worldly technique where you let it all hang out. But he exhibits an incredible ignorance of true Christianity and conveys disappointment with a limited experience with the Christian community. He puts down evangelicals in a very ignorant way as though his warped and stereotyped view of them is all there is to the Church. There’s no awareness of the larger Body of Christ or what it means.

I sympathize with his disappointment in the kind of legalistic perfectionism that has been strong in evangelicalism because it tends to produce bondage and hypocrisy instead of true freedom. But what he offers is far from true freedom. He has turned from legalism to antinomianism. (The term means “against law.” It describes the state of rebellion against God’s laws and standards of life.) He is leading his readers from perfectionism to lawlessness—and the greatest tragedy of all is that he’s missed the Lord Jesus Christ and the Gospel, which brings true freedom from the bondage of sin and Satan.


Anonymous said...

First of all, I love how your blog lists your home as Valparaiso, Chile.

Secondly, I have mixed feelings about the article. On one hand I can relate to the author. One of my greatest disappointments with Blue Lake Jazz was the lack of hope. It seemed to me that Donald Miller was suggesting that Jesus was out there in the world and the Church was doing their best to screw up people's perception of Him. However, I agree that this takes a narrow (and Amero-centric) view of what the Church is today. The Kingdom of Heaven is forcefully advancing and with it comes a freedom that can not be experienced outside of the Church.

On the other hand, I think we can all relate to Miller's thoughts on Christianity and that is why this book is so popular. He obviously writes in reaction to the kind of experiences that he had with Christianity and I'm sure he is not the only one who has felt this way. I think Miller's reverse confession book will always stick in my mind as something so radical (in terms of humility) that it can only be of Jesus.

Maybe the greater fault is not with Miller, but with those who read the book. It is not a systematic theology and it is not Gospel truth. We need to be discerning in all that we read.

Also, the weakest part of this whole article was the part when he suggested that Miller was glorifying pot smoking. I never got that impression and it really seemed to cheapen the overall integrity of the article and make it seem like an angry reaction to the Emergent Church movement. In his own words "pendulum swings both ways"...

Joel said...

Donald Miller writes like i feel. thats why I like him. I enjoyed reading blue like jazz because it talks about how stupid most organized christianity has gotten. And thats something i can definitely relate to. Also, I think he just writes well. He's funny, and he makes some good points. overall, i think his books are just fun to read.

LynnaeEtta said...

Ben: Hey! Good to hear from you. And, yes, I just noticed the other day that the caption on my blog photo could lead people to believe I live in Valparaiso...I'm debating whether or not to change it, but I loved that photo and that time of my life, so it seems like a small injustice not to give Valpo some credit. :) Thanks for noticing.

When I first read Blue Like Jazz several years ago, I was disappointed myself, but I couldn't put my finger on it. I think what resonated with me in this article was the point about Miller's quest for a faith that feels good, which ultimately is a selfish faith, one that lets me do what I want to do. Not that faith is all uphill battles and hardship, but it's not the pursuit of happiness and my way of living. It's a radical relationship with Jesus Christ, based on the reality that without him we're entirely lost and without hope.

I have to say, I did like the confession booth - it was clever.

Regarding your point about the fault lying with the reader and not with Miller, I completely agree with you. We definitely need to be discerning in all that we read, especially in books like this one that aren't, as you said, a systematic theology or Gospel truth. The problem (in my opinion :) ) is that so many churches and individuals aren't using discernment and are treating it as Gospel truth, looking up to Miller as a Christian leader. That's where I really have a problem with it.

Joel: What about 'organized Christianity' is stupid to you? What does the Bible say about the church that you're not seeing in 'organized Christianity' today?

Joel said...

just about every church i've been to either feels stagnant or self righteous.

LynnaeEtta said...

you should come to my church again. :) not that it's perfect, because it's definitely not, but it's not stagnant and definitely not self-righteous.

Scott said...

I didn't read the article, but let me quickly comment on the quote you posted:

"Miller is an insecure, self-centered man (as he freely admits in his book) who wants to be a literary success, and he is using a certain worldly technique where you let it all hang out."

Listen to the intense judgment in the author's words. Also, note how the author separates life into world into "worldy" and "not-worldly." The author doesn't criticize "letting it all hang out" but simply labels it with the worst of all evangelical labels, "worldly." The author seems to the judgmental person that Miller writes about. Someone engaging with Miller instead of labeling him, but seek to explain what is so "worldly" about letting it all hang out.

LynnaeEtta said...

Hey Scott,

Yeah, the author of the article was pretty severe and even judgmental, not fair to Miller as an individual. It's not helpful to put people in boxes, particularly when trying to relate to them.

Behind all the severe language, the reason I posted the article was because it offered a critique of Miller's ideas, which to me can be misleading, pointing readers in the direction of a more me-centered faith. That's dangerous territory. I agree with his use of the word 'worldly' - Jesus used the distinction, at least in terms of 'don't be of this world'. Evangelicals may have overused it, particularly to defend their own brand of legalism, but that shouldn't preclude it from being used (in my ever so humble opinion ;) ).

Thanks for your comments!