Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Book Review: Skeletons In God's Closet

Skeleton's in God's Closet
By Joshua Ryan Butler
Thomas Nelson, 2014
English, 384 pgs

How can a loving God send people to hell? Isn’t it arrogant to believe Jesus is the only way to God? What is up with holy war in the Old Testament?
Many of us fear God has some skeletons in the closet. Hell, judgment, and holy war are hot topics for the Christian faith that have a way of igniting fierce debate far and wide. These hard questions leave many wondering whether God is really good and can truly be trusted.
The Skeletons in God's Closet confronts our popular caricatures of these difficult topics with the beauty and power of the real thing. Josh Butler reveals that these subjects are consistent with, rather than contradictory to, the goodness of God. He explores Scripture to reveal the plotlines that make sense of these tough topics in light of God’s goodness. From fresh angles, Josh deals powerfully with such difficult passages as:
  • The Lake of Fire
  • Lazarus and the Rich Man
  • The Slaughter of Canaanites in the Old Testament
Ultimately, The Skeletons in God's Closet uses our toughest questions to provoke paradigm shifts in how we understand our faith as a whole. It pulls the “skeletons out of God’s closet” to reveal they were never really skeletons at all.

About the Author
Josh Butler serves as pastor of local and global outreach at Imago Dei Community, a church in the heart of Portland, Oregon. Josh oversees the church's city ministries in areas like foster care, human trafficking and homelessness; and develops international partnerships in areas like clean water, HIV-support and church planting. Josh is also a worship leader who enjoys writing music for the life of the church.


By the title alone, one could rightly wonder what sort of theological approach Butler might be taking with The Skeletons In God’s Closet. Butler serves as pastor of local and global outreach at Imago Dei Community church of Portland, Oregon. Imago Dei is located in a challenging, “post-Christian” field for ministry in famously “liberal” leaning city. The perspective that he brings is worthwhile and needed for modern outreach. For those who have been reared in the Christian faith, much of what is presented here might seem somewhat obvious. However, Butler’s intended audience is clearly those who have only a passing understanding of Christianity and the book is written to engage that audience.
Major questions answered include the perennial “doubting” favorites: how can a loving God send people to hell? Isn’t it arrogant to believe Jesus is the only way to God? The subtitle itself is clearly intended to engage – when one further titles a book with “the mercy of Hell, the surprise of judgment, the hope of Holy war,” there is obvious intention to elicit a response.
The theology presented is itself orthodox Christianity. Butler explains that he was originally caught unprepared to give an answer for some of the more difficult to understand portions of the Bible, forcing him to look deeply into the Word to understand God’s intentions. The perspective that he brings is presented in an engaging writing style. Butler doesn’t bludgeon the reader with dry theology, rather giving the perspective on God’s purposes in easy-to-read language. By confronting the caricatures of doctrinal division points and explaining the purpose of each, Butler provides biblically based sound perspective on each.
This book might at first glance seem ill suited to aiding mature believers. However, the tone and approach is extremely useful from a point of developing understanding and skill in apologetics. The questions asked are salient, widespread, and worthy of discussion. The Skeletons In God’s Closet is a useful tool for small groups, new believer discipleship, and for individual believers willing to speak to misunderstandings about the Christian faith.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of a review on this blog and a commercial bookselling site. No additional compensation has been received and I was not required to write a positive review.

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