Getting beyond Jesus versus the God of the Old Testament
Transcending Mysteries: Who is God, and what Does He Want from Us?
Author: Andrew Greer & Ginny Owens
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
July 20, 1999 marked the release of Without Condition, the debut recording of Ginny Owens on Michael W. Smith’s Rocketown Records. The album contained the disarming piano ballad, “If You Want Me To,” her best known song.
The transparency in that song is evident in this collaboration between Owens and Andrew Greer, another singer/songwriter. The personal stories they tell are captivating. It enables readers to know them in a way not possible through their songs. So if you are a fan of either artist, this is worth reading. Those not familiar with their work need not wonder if they can benefit for God is the focus.
This looks at Old Testament passages to see how He reveals Himself. Is He different from what we know of Him in the New Testament? This is what these two authors take turns exploring.
This investigation reminds me of what fellow recording artist Michael Card has been doing through his writings. Greer and Owens are following in his footsteps by leading readers into Bible study, and in this case, illustrating what it looks like to be in relationship with God.
I cherish their insights. In identifying with the inferiority that Moses felt, Owens, who is blind, writes, “Blindness was a sign of brokenness. Who wants to wear brokenness as a badge for all to notice? Who wants to allow her weakness to be on display? Give me a few more years of life experience, and I am convinced that the weak, broken parts of me have the most potential to encourage and relate to others in the way the put-together me simply cannot” (82-83). This kind of insightful application is representative of what you find throughout.
It all springs from an examination of God’s character. In considering how an enemy of Judah’s King Hezekiah misrepresents God, Greer writes, “Hezekiah’s challenge is an opportunity to understand how scriptural history reiterates the notion that God does not operate tit for tat. The dictatorial, micromanaging personality often prescribed to the God of the Old Testament by generations of believers who have been scarred by legalistic pasts is simply not present in this passage. God’s sovereignty, His authority or prerogative as Creator of the cosmos, relies solely on His character. God is operating out of His innate qualities, which we are trying to carefully uncover throughout this book” (95).
Passages like this should dispel any notion that you can expect a lightweight read. I was pleasantly surprised by the accessibility and depth of the material. This is helpful for anyone wanting to know what God is like.
Especially meaningful to me as a single person were the stories shared by both authors that touch on relationships. As Owens writes, “I ended up in a relationship that would eventually bring me lots of heartache and regret. The effects would take years to work through” (27). Each author shares some of their personal failings in their ongoing journey toward wholeness. Owens readily identifies with the longing that Hannah felt. They both suffer but gain hope as Owen writes, “From the broken parts of our stories, the best songs emerge” (38). Perhaps only a musician could put it in such beautiful terms.
The challenge the authors present is not just to study the Bible but be in community. “The notion that we are designed to be in communion with each other has been reiterated over and over in my life experiences,” (33) Greer writes. He even sees this in relation to Scripture, “The support of community in valuing and understanding Scripture has been imperative to my spiritual life.… I make a frequent habit of asking friends whom I trust, as people first and as thinkers second, to discourse on a handful of cultural hot topics infiltrating the cross-section of society and church today. What is their take on what Scripture says about each topic? How do they interpret that Scripture in the day-in and day-out of their lives? How are their relationships and their lives directly affected by each topic of conversation?” (175). The objective is to “live well and connect with God even better.”
Most impressive is how others have been there for both authors at their most vulnerable moments. Owens writes, “As we eliminate false gods and re-center our worship on the Eternal, we need trusted community to walk with us, pray for us, and enlighten us with their own faith-building experiences” (169).
The format of this volume is noteworthy for its liberal use of white space and creative way of highlighting key sections and thoughts. The display of The Voice translation, the primary bible text used, makes it easy to read. It’s the first time I have seen it, though it was published in 2012. God is referred to as the “Eternal One.” Reading an unfamiliar translation helps me to see the text anew. Questions for reflection, song lyrics and quotations grace the front and back of each chapter.
This is part of the Refraction book series published by Thomas Nelson. Several other interesting-looking titles are now available at www.refractionbooks.com. The aim is to offer biblical responses to the biggest issues of our time and to respond to those who differ in transparent and respectful ways.