Book: Contrarian’s Guide to Spiritual Growth

contrarianguide.jpegThe best Christian book I read in 2008 is Larry Osborne’s “Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing God.” He takes some beliefs we’ve always held as true, and sheds a whole different light on them. He doesn’t stray from orthodoxy, only from our western paradigms and interpretations. His thoughts about how people grow are particularly fascinating (as in the chapter “The Case for Meandering”).

But my favorite chapter, “The High Place Principle,” deals with “blind spots.” He discusses how, in the Old Testament, God told the Israelites to “Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places.” God wanted to rid the land of idol worship. But king after king allowed people to continue offering sacrifices at “the high places.”

Including ultra-wise Solomon. The Bible says Solomon “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord,” but adds, “The high places, however, were not removed.”

Of King Asa, the Bible says, “Although he did not remove the high places, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord al his life.”

It was a blind spot. Idol-worship was so ingrained in that world’s culture that they didn’t see how deeply it angered God.

“We all have our own high places–areas where we simply don’t get it,” Osborne says.

Like godly southerners who owned slaves. Any American Christian today understands that slavery was wrong. But there were Christians who, like Asa, were “fully committed to the Lord,” yet saw no contradiction in owning slaves.

So I think about the blind spots of today’s Christians. We don’t have it all figured out. We don’t fully “get it” when it comes to what God wants.

  • In American culture, I’m sure materialism is a huge blind spot for most of us. Jesus told a rich man to sell everything and give it to the poor. Was he just kidding? I think Jesus was absolutely serious. 
  • How does Jesus feel about the huge complexes our megachurches erect? Does Jesus, in fact, disapprove of pouring millions of dollars into buildings? Is that a blind spot for American Christians? 
  • Are we blind to how we get sucked into popular culture? Should we, in reality, be more like the Amish–a distinct, separate people? 
  • What about the way we exalt military might? I tend to be hawkish. But is that a blind spot? Would Jesus pull a trigger in warfare? Did he approve of dropping atomic bombs? We can justify all of these things…like people justified slavery, citing chapter and verse. But how does Jesus really feel about the use of force? 
  • We talk about engaging the culture. But might Jesus, if he were here today, tell us, “Don’t watch TV and movies, and put away those cheap novels. They distract your mind from heavenly things.” 
  • I look at the health-and-wealth TV evangelists, with their fancy rings and big hair and high lifestyles. They don’t get it. They can easily justify themselves. But to me, their lifestyles are so contrary to the way of Jesus. It’s obvious to me. 

But, “A blindspot is something I honestly don’t see,” Osborne says. And I have to ask: what things do I honestly not see about myself?

Ever since reading that chapter (nearly a year at this point), I’ve pondered and looked for blind spots in my own life, and in our US Christian culture. Because I think we’re saturated with blind spots.

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