I was surprised how Olson seemed totally on board with the Augustine's questionable interpretation of Romans 5; that mankind is born in sin, and that he accepts the doctrine of total depravity hook line and sinker. While challenging the God helps those who help themselves Olson insisted that God's grace is a constant and unchanging source of power for the believer, and made the analogy of a water flowing through a hose. If no water is coming forth, it is not due to the lack of grace, but due to sin which puts a kink in the hose. I didn't like that in his challenge of those who think God is nice that Olson seem to glibly accept much of what I'd consider to be the evil and all too human portraits that Old Testament writers ascribe to God. If one just accepts a surface reading of much of the OT, God is not only not nice, but is down right wicked; one who shows little to absolutely no concern for the value of life, but will kill and ruin families at the drop of the hat. I appreciate how he points out that the bible doesn't give us answers for ever aspect of life, and is not best approached as a timeless authority on medicine, science, political and even some ethical issues, yet in acknowledging this reality, what is the basis for the assumption that is it completely infallible on central matters of dogma and doctrine?
I used to believe that books like this one - those written on a basic level that is accessible to nearly everyone - were a good starting place for individuals who were interested in intellectually exploring Christianity, and in a way I still do believe they are a good starting place (even if they do have their faults). When someone builds their theology on one of these books it makes for a very problematic belief system. He mainly tried to define and expound upon the differences between being a Christian and being saved, and good judgement vs. Porter: "In America the traits most associated with Christianity are homophobia, judgment, condemnation, patriotism, and a militant political agenda." I have a problem with something Orson says: "Christians are called to stand against the culture insofar as it contradicts the gospel." Here's the thing: America is not a Christian nation and it never has been - most likely, it never will be (I'm good with that). When addressing (rightly) judging a person (which he defines as good judgment), some form of discipline, he spoke about excommunication, is needed. Not all of his theology was bad and the premise of the book was good.
In his book, Questions to All Your Answers he takes head on some of the most heard phrases uttered by christians. People, according to Olson, need to know to what questions Jesus is the answer - so therefore we need to start with conversations about music, culture, goals, relationships, world problems - rather than just Jesus is the answer to your problems.
The antidote: REFLECTIVE CHRISTIANITY (the opposite of folk Christianity) Ultimately reflective Christianity involves questioning what and why you believe while continuing to believe what you are questioning.
This is a great book for any "evangelical" Christian to read, most especially if they have grown up in the church.
Church is not so much about things we see or hear about being Christians, such as Pam Anderson's "Jesus is my homeboy T-shirt" or that you should be praying for money with Joel Olsten.
Though I think reading the conclusion first would have taken some of the roughness off the earlier chapters.