“God is more merciful and kind then we are, this is true. God is bigger then Israel and God is bigger then Christians” (Hope Reformation, 77)
I am a huge fan of the social networking website Goodreads. You get to see what other people are reading, see reviews of books, join discussion groups about books. It is a book lovers online paradise. One of the cool things also is that you get to meet people who have written books and want reviews. I’ve gotten some interesting free books. Of course, the challenge is what do you say about a book you got for free when you were not such a huge fan?
Josh Woodward’s self-published book Hope Reformation is one such case. First, I wish I had Josh’s heart and passion. His love of Jesus and desire for others to know God come through clearly in the pages of his book. If anything, he slides into preaching at times, writing in a style that ends up a bit too informal for text. I’d love to hear him preach.
Josh’s case primarily is that everyone will be cleansed with fire. God will pursue all people and eventually win all people. Controversial? Sure. Whether you agree with Josh on that point or not, there is still a lot of good in the book. While part of me wants the Christian universal position to be true, I just do not see it in scripture. That said, I still find myself agreeing with a lot of wht Josh writes.
As I’ve dialogued with Josh online it seems that many of my disagreements come from him needing a proofreader. The book is filled with a variety of historical mistakes, easily corrected by a quick visit to Wikipedia (or preferably an even more reliable source). The book also sorely needs some footnotes to direct the reader to where Josh is getting some of his information. A few of my other initial disagreements come either from me not fully understanding his argument or him not being clear. For example, I do not think Josh is fair to the traditional view of the Trinity as he seems to think it diminishes the oneness of God. Yet Christian theology has always held to the oneness of God, holding that in tension with the threeness of the Trinity. Perhaps Josh’s task would be simpler if he argued such a position is absurd rather than portraying those who hold to the Trinity as missing that God is one.
That said, what Josh says about Jesus hints at a traditional Trinitarian position. His views of Jesus bring diversity and relationality into the identity of God.
Finally, I think Josh tends to cherry-pick at points to fit his case. He brings in Luther and Eusebius as people who questioned whether certain books belong in the Bible, then from there argues Matthew’s gospel ought to be out. It seems odd to employ such authors for this task since they both accepted Matthew. Josh does not like Matthew, but I don’t think he needs to reject Matthew to get to the main theological points he desires. Maybe he has not worked hard enough to reconcile Matthew with the rest of scripture? He would say he has and that it is not possible to reconcile it. I’ll have to continue to disagree.
Overall, I think I liked this book, at least I liked more of it then I did not. Or maybe, for all the disagreements, I found myself liking the author. It is hard to write a book, to put your thoughts out there on paper for the world to see and criticize. I have benefited from conversingwith Josh and I know some suggestions of mine have made it into the editing process for the republication of this book. So I’d say, if you’re interested, get the book and give it a read. It’ll make you think as there is lots to disagree with. And it will make you want to know more about Jesus,which is always a good thing.