I’ve just started reading Robert Price’s The Reason Driven Life and already I’m in love with the book. Finally, someone is willing to take on Rick Warren’s Christian marketing drivel The Purpose Driven Life. Warren’s book was required reading during our church’s Wednesday night “bible study” and after reading his 70’s era rehash of Robert Shuller’s mushy quasi-Calvinist theology, I haven’t been able to poke out my mind’s eye quite yet. Written as a thought for thought reasoned, humanistic rebuttal of Warren’s book, Price’s is worth the price of a new hardcover at the bookstore. Sometimes his reasoning is so obvious you think, “Of course, that makes perfect sense!” Reasoned Christians should embrace this with an open mind, but fundamentalists will find much to fault him for (don’t they always?) and will no doubt employ the old adage, “He must not have been a true Christian if he’s fallen away.” Usually, this is meant to silence the once faithful, but it’s really a dismissal of all argument due to lack of rebuttal. Price remedies this by offering an introduction that outlines his experiences as a fundamentalist, born-again Christian, his knowledge of fundie-speak, and his well documented sources of Christian works.
Like many of us, he was extremely gungho for the Lord and later came to realize that what fundies preach simply does not work when put under the REASON microscope and scrutinized. He knows what we are going through and helps us to reason it through. What are the implications of Warren’s assertion that God has designed the whole universe to bring YOU to this moment? What are the logical conclusions of that? He addresses the issue I’ve raised in my previous post, about the reliability of bible interpretation. He writes,
Fundamentalists, who denounce humanism and scorn the pathetic subjectivity of mere human opinions, have no other stock to trade in, and so they make the Bible into a ventriloquist dummy to speak with their own voice (page 28).
Price also dissects how we Christians struggle to stay in “the victorious Christian life” when we are given contradictory advise on how to do so. We are urged to cease striving and rest yet, “How do you cease striving and rest, carried along in a steady stream of sanctified consciousness? Well, er, one, um.. strives to rest! You are back to square one! (page 16).
Interestingly, right from the beginning, he chooses not to call himself an atheist, because he believes
…atheism…for many…is a sterile life of negativity and denial. It is a stance of the apostate…one who has turned away from a faith he once held without genuinely or deeply turning to anything else. Otherwise we would call him ‘a convert to’ rather than ‘an apostate from.’ The apostate’s life is a committed struggle of mere negativity, a campaign of continuous guerrilla war against the system of faith he once espoused and now so regrets having embraced. The apostate is still Hoffer’s ‘true believer;’ he has merely switched teams in the same game.
By contrast, the convert gets out of the game and leaves the stadium. He seeks another game that will satisfy him better. I know many apostates, people who are for this or that reason very mad at religion and want to destroy it. Ironically, they retain many of the disadvantages of being a religious zealot. They are still burdened by an urge to save the world. They still divide the human race into the good guys and the bad guys, only they have just switched whom they put in each group…but the meaning of their lives seems to me parasitic upon that which they reject…If you are free from religion, I ask my atheist friends, what are you free for?
‘Atheism,’ though I do not disclaim it, is not my description of first choice because it merely indicates what I no longer believe, not what else I have since come to believe. It says what I don’t stand for anymore. But I would rather be known for what I do stand for (pages 17-18).
From there he follows Warren’s 40 days of “Purpose” with 40 days of “Points to Ponder.” Price is not trying to destroy anyone’s faith, but simply tries to hold many of popular Christianity’s views up to the light of reason. Most Christians would not be afraid of such light. I’m not. I want to know if I’m basing my whole life on unworkable or unreasonable premises. Price embraces an enlightened faith, one which accepts the reasonable and rejects the unreasonable aspects of religion.
At the moment, I find myself teetering on the edge of this faith/reason/no faith stance. While I believe it is the likeliest possibility that a reasoned, progressive faith is the way to go, I have my doubts that faith is even the answer at all. So, since this is the last day of my vacation from work, I believe I’ll be spending it reading the rest of this book and trying to define my own journey. Happy reasoning! 🙂