Review: OUT OF THE QUESTION, INTO THE MYSTERY
I first became acquainted with Leonard Sweet with one of his first collections of essays, Cup Of Coffee at the Sweet Cafe'. Each chapter was something I needed to read, needed to hear - encouraging and inspiring, probably doing much to get me digging into the Word, into the Kingdom more and more. I've read more from Sweet: the Soul Tsunami Trilogy, Dusk Into Dawn in e-book, and bits and pieces of others. But it seemed like he was re-phrasing things I'd read before; like earlier books didn't get his point across, so re-publishing with a new cover and different font might help in some regard. I don't want to sell short what he's already written, trust me. There's depth in each book, and each one is challenging to me. It just sort of felt old after a few pieces written the same way.
This book, Out Of The Question, Into The Mystery (copyright 2004, Leonard Sweet - published by Waterbrook Press), was the first "new" Len Sweet book for me since Cup Of Coffee... and it really did a number on me. In my personal life, I've been going through a journey of re-discovery, re-invention perhaps of who I am in Christ and who we are together in community in Christ. So opening a book that starts by saying we've got most of the intellectual pieces all put in place, but that somewhere along the line we missed the real relationship God is desiring with each of us individually and all of us collectively - that rings so true with me right now.
Dallas Willard, in Divine Conspiracy, has forever changed the way I'll read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. And now I can probably thank Len Sweet that I'll never look at Abraham in quite the same way, either. Sweet looks at Abraham's "calling" to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22 - while the patriarch passed the true/false portion of "will you obey God no matter what?", he might've failed the essay question that deals more with the relationship he was supposed to be growing in with God. Not to be a spoiler, but I had never noticed that God never speaks to Abraham again after this encounter - what happened to close the door on the friendship that looked so promising? Questions like that can be asked, need to be wrestled with, should be used to mess us up a bit and make us uncomfortable about our own relationship with the Divine...
And that's Sweet's biggest gift to me: making me think, making me question. As I said before, this is the first time I've had "new Sweet questions" in quite some time. I'm finding out, as life goes on, that truth is tightly entwined with relationship, and to have further study and challenge coming from this book has been a great trip.
"Biblical faith is not about living a moral life. That's religion. Biblical faith is not about living the "good life". That's capitalism. Biblical faith is about living the GodLife. An abundant life with the living God is living in a GodLife relationship. / Obedience, in the biblical sense, is not "doing what you are told". Obedience is living relationally, even "indivisibly", with the Holy One so that we honor, uphold, receive, and follow all that God is and all that God is calling us to become. Biblical obedience means living in the light of who God is as much as in submission to what God says. That's obedience in relationship.... Faith and obedience are found in listening to God, questioning God, being challenged by God, and challenging God." (pp. 59, 61)
"Thus, truth is a lived relationship, not a set of rules for living or a list of views about the divine. Truth is not certainty, nor is it doubt - both of which reject Christ, Instead, it is mystery. When we choose life, to look outside outselves, we are left with the mystery of choosing Christ. And in choosing Christ we choose that which is Real but unprovable, that which is Truth but far more than objective fact. Jesus doesn't offer us the key to living. Jesus is the key to living." (p. 69)