I just completed Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur. This isn’t going to be so much a book review (I’ll link to two that I’ve read or skimmed over for those who would like a review of the book, or you can just go to Amazon.com and read some shorter reviews) I am more interested in sharing my thoughts that have come from the book, than discussing the literary style or how well Randall was in creating and relating the characters in his story.
As I began reading I could see people in my own life, sometimes even myself, begin represented in the thoughts and attitudes of the people – especially Jason Faircloth. Jason, through a series of events began to seriously doubt all he thought he knew about God. He as a pastor of a particular denomination that emphasized rules that were man-made. Being one who propounded these man-generated rules, he drove his daughter and wife away (I won’t give the details as you need to read the book). The point is that Jason actually thought that Christianity was the things he was teaching – the list includes things such as avoiding modern music, insisting that women only wear skirts/dresses, only using the KJV, and hair length on men. Stepping outside of Jason’s prescribed boundaries was to him, to display a heart of rebellion and compromise.
Having lost the two loves of his life he fell into disarray. He did what comes easily to any who was raised in a Pharisaical Christianity, and swung to the other side of the extreme. He began to live for pleasure, although still interested in figuring things out about God. His Christianity was merely cerebral, though. There are some in my life who feel that I am at the same juncture in my Christian life because I don’t hold to Jason’s list. I will say that I do not believe I have gone to that extreme ever. God has been gracious to me and made me keenly aware of the temptation to reject EVERYTHING I had ever been taught to believe and start over. What I did do was bring everything I believed under biblical scrutiny. I didn’t reject anything outright until I saw that it was a man-generated rule, and even then I didn’t reject it in the sense of it being sin. Rather I placed in on a level of preference that Christians can have a variety of different opinions.
There are some thought provoking passages in this novel, I’d like to share one section with you that I think asks a telling question exposing what has happened to Christianity in America (especially the south): “If Christianity is present in a country for a long time, and becomes tightly intertwined with the culture, is it possible that Christianity in that country could become more defined by the culture’s qualities than by the actual teachings of the Bible?” The book answers this in the affirmative. This is what has happened to much of what is called Christianity in America. Instead of being followers of Jesus, instead of being wisdom hunters, we have attached a set of cultural beliefs to Christianity. I grew up with a picture of what a godly Christian looks like, listens to, reads, and does. The Christian mold was clearly cast for me, and I set out to fit it. I was encouraged, more indirectly than directly, to look like a particular “man-of-God” as opposed to The God-Man. Over the years, I picked up more of a love for the rules than The Ruler. I had conflated the keeping of these extra-biblical rules with loving God. The rules began to define my relationship. The rules were so united to Christianity that if I met an individual who claimed love for Jesus but didn’t listen to my particular brand of music or dress according to the prescribed “Christian standard” than I categorized him as massively carnal or a self-deceived liar. See? Instead of one’s love for God and confession of Jesus as LORD defining Christianity, I had allowed extra-biblical rules to “discern” whether one was Christian or not.
The journey Jason embarked on is a never ending journey. A journey he hadn’t begun until getting free of the extra weight of Pharisee-ism. Here’s how Randall has Jason explain his situation: “Ever since I graduated from seminary, and even before, I’ve held to a theology that put God in a box. My beliefs have never allowed God to work outside of my narrow-minded perception of Him. It’s like this: I’ve acted as if God gave my seminary and bible college professors a neat little package of instructions about himself, a package they then passed on to me so I could pass it on to you. And I did – dogmatically, all these years. But I’m discovering that inside that little package is nothing more than pointless matters that strip god of His mystery and his bigness… it puts every possible aspect of life into one of only two categories: spotless white or sinful black. And of course I’ve always known the correct category for everything.” This “package” mentality is prominent among certain groups. Where the Bible doesn’t address an issue they somehow thing they have the mind of God on a definitive position on a cultural issue that is to be applied to all God’s children. The astounding thing is that when it came to these types of issues, not even the apostles set boundaries like today’s pastors and church leaders are attempting to set – see Romans 14.
I think a major cause of our longing for some tangible list we can carry with us is because we always opt for the easy route. As long as truth is a thing, we can know when we have grasped it. As long as we have a list of things a good Christian does and doesn’t do, then we are assured of our goodness as long as we can keep each item checked off. But truth is not a thing, truth is a Person. The pursuit of truth is the pursuit of Jesus. This is what it is to be a wisdom hunter.
I highly recommend the book. It’s a challenging read.
Two reviews of Wisdom Hunter: