Living Close to God When You’re Not Good at It
by Gene Edwards
I’m a “Bible Study girl.” My great joy is sitting at my kitchen table with my Bible, my prayer journal and a hot cup of tea. So, right away I had a disconnect with Gene Edwards in this book. He describes himself repeatedly as a “doer” and a non-Spiritual Christian, someone who never could connect with God through Bible reading and prayer and could go all day without thinking about God once—despite seminary degrees and being in ministry. It’s little surprise then that at the end of this book I felt dissatisfied, even troubled by the confusing mishmash of arguments that he makes basically downplaying the foundation of my walk with Christ.
For starters, I question one of Edwards’ key premises—that the vast majority of Jesus’ audience were illiterate and therefore reading Scriptures can’t be a foundational part of our relationship with God. He makes these statements in the strangest ways—managing to sound cocky and prideful while making me feel “less-than” for enjoying Bible study. Edwards declares he has more degrees than a thermometer and he wears out a New Testament every few years, but then assures the reader that he has more in common with his illiterate grandfather. He then asserts that most people are illiterate laborers, as were Jesus’ followers, so a close spiritual walk cannot depend on Bible study.
But for all his education and confident assertions about Jewish culture, is what Edwards saying true? Was the majority of Jesus’ audience illiterate? It seems utterly unlikely. Jewish culture placed enormous emphasis on young boys being taught to read, study and memorize Scripture for themselves. Even fishermen like Peter and John read and wrote articulately and clearly with a Biblical education. Jesus himself, a carpenter, was educated, literate and able to read from the Torah as well as teach from it in the synagogue—-and it wasn’t like he knew how to read just because He was God in human flesh. He was taught to read just as most Jewish boys were taught to read. They committed vast portions of the Torah to memory. They were probably more literate and educated in Scriptures than today’s seminary graduates.
It irked me that a man so proud of his pursuit of knowledge, who declares he’s read pretty much anything written by Pentecostals to Catholic mystics about growing close to God, could get something so basic so wrong.
What he does come up with and present as great revelations are frustratingly basic and unimpressive. He personalizes Scripture and prays through it slowly (I’m sorry, how is this different than praying? He seems to define praying as sitting for hours asking things from God. Never mind that pretty much everyone defines prayer as being in conversation with God).
He even goes so far as to disdainfully refer to people who pray for others we encounter every day and assert that he can’t find any biblical argument for this practice. Yikes! Has he missed out on verses encouraging us to pray without ceasing, to present everything to the Lord in prayer, to pray for one another?
He creatively comes up with some physical prompts to remind him to turn to God throughout his day until it becomes second nature. This is fine, except he basically asserts he’s the only person who has ever thought of Jesus as being food, bread, and the air we breathe. Did he miss out on the massively popular song “Breathe,” continually sung by Michael W. Smith on Christian music stations and also offered up Sunday after Sunday by churches across the nation? That’s the entire point of this song!!! And besides that, I can think of numerous writers (including myself) who have discussed the physical nature of our need for Christ. It’s just not amazing or revolutionary and his discussion of this topic seemed shallow compared to others I have read.
Last year, someone at church gave me a book to read that he was totally excited about. I read it, but unfortunately had to hand it back to him and say, “The two Scriptures he bases his entire argument on are taken out of context and added to in order to say what he wants them to say.” He shrugged it off and basically said, “I guess you just didn’t understand it”—as if he were more spiritual than me for agreeing with a book that teaches extra-biblical ideas.
If I handed Gene Edwards’s book back to a devotee, I’d probably say, “I don’t think what he said was accurate and certainly not revolutionary. He continually downplays reading the Bible and prayer as the foundation of our faith, but ultimately just finds another way to describe reading your Bible and prayer.” My guess is that a fan of Edwards would shrug me off and say, “You just didn’t get it.” Maybe I didn’t. But that’s okay. Because I love studying God’s Word, and talking with God throughout my day is my everyday mode of life. I don’t need signs by my bed to remind me to turn to God and I don’t need to clear my mind of everything and spend 30 minutes reworking the words of Psalm 23 to grow close to God.
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.