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Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again

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 One Woman’s Journey Back to Loving the Bible If the Bible isn’t a science book or an instruction manual, then what is it? What do people mean when they say the Bible is inspired? When Rachel Held Evans found herself asking these questions, she began a quest to better understand what the Bible is and how it is meant to be read. What she discovered changed her—and it will ch  One Woman’s Journey Back to Loving the Bible If the Bible isn’t a science book or an instruction manual, then what is it? What do people mean when they say the Bible is inspired? When Rachel Held Evans found herself asking these questions, she began a quest to better understand what the Bible is and how it is meant to be read. What she discovered changed her—and it will change you too. Drawing on the best in recent scholarship and using her well-honed literary expertise, Evans examines some of our favorite Bible stories and possible interpretations, retelling them through memoir, original poetry, short stories, soliloquies, and even a short screenplay. Undaunted by the Bible’s most difficult passages, Evans wrestles through the process of doubting, imagining, and debating Scripture’s mysteries. The Bible, she discovers, is not a static work but is a living, breathing, captivating, and confounding book that is able to equip us to join God’s loving and redemptive work in the world. 


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 One Woman’s Journey Back to Loving the Bible If the Bible isn’t a science book or an instruction manual, then what is it? What do people mean when they say the Bible is inspired? When Rachel Held Evans found herself asking these questions, she began a quest to better understand what the Bible is and how it is meant to be read. What she discovered changed her—and it will ch  One Woman’s Journey Back to Loving the Bible If the Bible isn’t a science book or an instruction manual, then what is it? What do people mean when they say the Bible is inspired? When Rachel Held Evans found herself asking these questions, she began a quest to better understand what the Bible is and how it is meant to be read. What she discovered changed her—and it will change you too. Drawing on the best in recent scholarship and using her well-honed literary expertise, Evans examines some of our favorite Bible stories and possible interpretations, retelling them through memoir, original poetry, short stories, soliloquies, and even a short screenplay. Undaunted by the Bible’s most difficult passages, Evans wrestles through the process of doubting, imagining, and debating Scripture’s mysteries. The Bible, she discovers, is not a static work but is a living, breathing, captivating, and confounding book that is able to equip us to join God’s loving and redemptive work in the world. 

30 review for Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again

  1. 5 out of 5

    Stacy

    I often feel like Rachel Held Evans is telling my story but in better prose. Like Rachel, I grew up in a conservative evangelical church but eventually realized that sect doesn't match my view of the world or God. But having been taught that if you don't believe every word of the Bible is literally true, then you can't believe any of the Bible at all, it's now difficult to know how to approach it. It's so refreshing to see that there are other people who have wrestled with this and started to fi I often feel like Rachel Held Evans is telling my story but in better prose. Like Rachel, I grew up in a conservative evangelical church but eventually realized that sect doesn't match my view of the world or God. But having been taught that if you don't believe every word of the Bible is literally true, then you can't believe any of the Bible at all, it's now difficult to know how to approach it. It's so refreshing to see that there are other people who have wrestled with this and started to find some answers, even if we will always struggle. This book has inspired me to think about the Bible in new ways and do further reading and research on my own to better understand it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Pastor Matt

    I've read several of Rachel Held Evans' books. She is a talented writer but a poor biblical interpreter. She uncritically accepts "higher criticism" with liberal presuppositions as a way to "unlock an ancient text" even though this method is built on post-enlightenment fantasy and an implicit desire to accommodate the cultural whims of the day. She accepts theories such as Matthew Vines' discredited portrayal of same-sex relationships in the ancient world (which is just a summary of John Boswell I've read several of Rachel Held Evans' books. She is a talented writer but a poor biblical interpreter. She uncritically accepts "higher criticism" with liberal presuppositions as a way to "unlock an ancient text" even though this method is built on post-enlightenment fantasy and an implicit desire to accommodate the cultural whims of the day. She accepts theories such as Matthew Vines' discredited portrayal of same-sex relationships in the ancient world (which is just a summary of John Boswell's long discredited work even rejected by one of Evans' heroes, N.T. Wright). She dismisses the heart of the atonement, mocks other long held orthodox views without cogent arguments and champions every leftist cause as if it is found in Scripture (even though she does so via logical fallacies, anachronisms [especially in the area of economics] , etc.). Evans' Jesus is Bernie Sanders who happened to be nailed to cross and her scripture is a mess...except for the areas she likes and can translate into social justice causes...funny how that works out! Avoid.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kat Coffin

    What can I say about this book? I received an ARC, due to the special promotion early preorder customers received. I was one of the first 500 to provide proof. I received my copy on Ash Wednesday/Valentine's Day--and how appropriate! The timing of this remarkable book is impeccable. Not long before, I stared rereading Scripture again, to try and infuse daily Scripture into my morning routine. I read one chapter of the Old Testament and one chapter of the New. The first chapter of the Old Testame What can I say about this book? I received an ARC, due to the special promotion early preorder customers received. I was one of the first 500 to provide proof. I received my copy on Ash Wednesday/Valentine's Day--and how appropriate! The timing of this remarkable book is impeccable. Not long before, I stared rereading Scripture again, to try and infuse daily Scripture into my morning routine. I read one chapter of the Old Testament and one chapter of the New. The first chapter of the Old Testament I read was from Numbers--the Israelites utterly annihilating the Midianites and being scolded for keeping the virgin women alive. The second was from Romans--a chapter I recognized as the verses that spurred Megan Phelps-Roper to leave Christianity. Paul's "some people were created to be vessels of destruction" bit. Not a great place to start out. So thank God for this book. Thank God for a book that assured me that truth didn't have to be literal. Thank God for a book that captured the magic of Scripture and encouraged me to wrestle with the things that trouble me. Thank God for a book that doesn't explain away the genocide, that doesn't hand wave some of the more dick-ish things Paul had to say. Thank God for a book that actually helped me reconcile with Paul. Thank God for this book. RHE's research is meticulous, she takes care to include theology from people who are not white straight men, and she even gets a little creative--with everything from short stories to screenplays to poetry. In that sense, she encourages me to be a little creative with my faith too. I know mine is only the ARC and this book may go through some changes by June. But the post-Evangelical--the Exvangelicals, we might say--are in for a treat, especially if they're like me. Someone who misses the environment but not the suffocation of Evangelicalism. Someone who badly wants to love the Bible and God again, but doesn't know how to anymore.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nova

    ****Note: I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway. This in no way impacts the rating**** 2nd note: I was deeply shocked and saddened to hear of the author's passing. Please be in prayer for her family. While this book may have a high overall average rating on this site as well as others, this comes as a surprise to me. How could Christian readers find this to be a work filled with biblical truth? This woman and myself have read the exact same book and come to completely different conclus ****Note: I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway. This in no way impacts the rating**** 2nd note: I was deeply shocked and saddened to hear of the author's passing. Please be in prayer for her family. While this book may have a high overall average rating on this site as well as others, this comes as a surprise to me. How could Christian readers find this to be a work filled with biblical truth? This woman and myself have read the exact same book and come to completely different conclusions. I do not recall another time where I've come across a book by a Christian with interpretations of scripture that stray so far from their actual meanings. In the words of Erwin Lutzer, "The doctrinal apathy among many Christians in our nation is deserving of tears." Yes, tears. And I would add, extra vigilance and personal study of scripture so as not to be led astray. I noticed quite a few very easily corrected errors in the copy I received. Since this was not the final edit, I hope these things were taken care of. But also, I don't think this book should have been written, and I do not recommend it. The author makes a point of saying she recognizes and upholds the authority of scripture, but only sentences later states the opposite with what she writes about scripture. She is extremely liberal in her theology and the way she interprets Scripture. She holds on to midrashic interpretation as well. Of this, she writes, "I suspect I resonate with midrashic interpretation because it helps me recover some of the curiosity and wonder with which I approached the Bible as a child. It gives me permission to 'play' a little with the stories" (page 23). She put the emphasis on play, not me. Now, this may not seem like much, but the more I read, the more I saw that the author wasn't interpreting scripture by scripture and, yes, in keeping with her own statement that she plays with scripture, she truly does so. What's in the Bible is not open to any private interpretation, as 2 Peter 1:20 warns, but the author of Inspired was using her own private interpretations as well as "fanfiction" to do just that. In mentioning the plagues that God brought upon Egypt, the author writes: “This single event, whether historical or legendary or a bit of both, has shaped the faith of millions of people, inspiring artists and activists and world leaders for centuries. Never should it be discounted as just a story” (page 39). In writing that God's intervention to rescue the Israelites from slavery in Egypt may have been legend, she proceeds in doing the very thing she advises to never do: discounting it as a story. If one is uncertain and thinks it might be a legend then what else is it but a story? I found this appalling. She mentioned how Abraham was instructed to sacrifice Isaac (page 24) and her tone is one of offense. I see a lot of people misinterpreting this part of the Old Testament due to a lack of understanding . She seems to have very little understanding as well that this entire scene is a shadow of God's promise to send Christ as the Savior of the world, that anything we can do by our own efforts will not work. God sent His Son to die for us, and the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah was a shadow of what was to come. In one of Evans’ fanfiction stories about Hagar: “Just one person in all your sacred Scripture dared to name God, and it wasn’t a priest, prophet, warrior, or king. It was I, Hagar – foreigner, woman, slave” (page 31). This is a thing that is stated twice. While this is a fictional story from the author’s own mind, this is also not true. God is given so many names in the Bible, and not just by Hagar. Interspersed between chapters were little fictional stories about biblical characters. I really did not enjoy these and have an aversion to Christian authors doing so. As the culture deviates from the clear teachings found in Scripture, so also will people gravitate toward teachers who move little by little away from the truth found in the Bible. The author says one thing, and then...says what she really means. The Bible says that God has magnified His Word above all His name (Psalm 138:2) and that the Word of God will last forever (Isaiah 40:8). The conclusions the author came to about scripture were troubling to me. I've had time to think on this, and the seriousness has grown. Undermine scripture and you take the sword of the spirit (the Word of God) from the believer. The Bible advises: let not many of you become teachers (James 3:1). When writing books, Christian authors need to be very careful about what they're teaching. We do not abandon scripture because the culture is moving in a different direction. We love others but we tell them the truth as well. I strongly disagree with how Mrs. Evans handles scripture. I advise readers to not eat up every book they read as true, but to examine everything with care and in light of the scripture. I do not recommend this book; it's terrible. This kind of teaching is spreading into churches all over, and I want to strongly caution people to be vigilant and make sure they know what the Bible actually says.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlin Kline

    "The apostles remembered what many modern Christians tend to forget--that what makes the Gospel offensive isn't who it keeps out but who it lets in." This book, like many that deal with Biblical interpretation, is probably going to piss some people off. But I think that's why it needs to be read. If a book is making you mad, or deeply uncomfortable or exposed, then it's doing it's job; to stretch your current view of the world a little larger and deeper. There were a couple of points like that fo "The apostles remembered what many modern Christians tend to forget--that what makes the Gospel offensive isn't who it keeps out but who it lets in." This book, like many that deal with Biblical interpretation, is probably going to piss some people off. But I think that's why it needs to be read. If a book is making you mad, or deeply uncomfortable or exposed, then it's doing it's job; to stretch your current view of the world a little larger and deeper. There were a couple of points like that for me in Inspired. Like Rachel, I grew up in a very conservative home and spent my childhood and adolescence debating the Bible's reliability. We were both raised to believe that the Bible was always right, no matter the context. So it was a little jarring for me to hear Rachel tell me that, just maybe, Scripture isn't perfect all of the time--but that's okay, because it was written by imperfect people. It doesn't mean that the Bible isn't special and wonderful and dependable; it simply means we can remove it from the pedestal we have placed it on and engage with it as we are: imperfect sinners, just like the characters within. I actually find I can love the Bible more when I don't have such lofty expectations for it to tell me what to do (actually, that's how I feel about my husband after being married for three years). The Bible isn't just a history book or an instruction manual; it's a portable library of a thousand stories from differing genres. Never before have I asked, while reading a chapter, "Whose voice is this? Why does that matter?" Being able to differentiate Jewish storytelling from historical reports from practical letters means that we can appreciate the Bible for its variety while realizing that we are not the original audience. Yes, God's Word is for us, but it is not solely for us. To assume as much does this great literary and historic work a disservice; and it harms the people that we weaponize this great book against. The Bible, like any book, is an epic act of love, so if we use it as an excuse for hatred or violence, we have clearly missed the mark. I think any external writing that helps the Bible come alive has great value, and this is my favorite one so far. If you have questions about the Bible, or if you have never thought to question the Bible for fear of it letting you down, you should give Inspired a shot. I know it helped give me a healthier view of the book I have tried to love my whole life; it has given me more room to fall in love with the Word.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    Rachel Held Evans provides an engaging presentation of a progressive perspective on the Christian religion in general and the role of the Bible in particular. She frequently recounts personal experiences of growing out of a belief in the Bible as a magic answer book and evolving toward an understanding of it as a work of literature filled with stories that can be inspirational and instructive if combined with knowledge of the genre and context. The book’s narrative includes frequent quotations o Rachel Held Evans provides an engaging presentation of a progressive perspective on the Christian religion in general and the role of the Bible in particular. She frequently recounts personal experiences of growing out of a belief in the Bible as a magic answer book and evolving toward an understanding of it as a work of literature filled with stories that can be inspirational and instructive if combined with knowledge of the genre and context. The book’s narrative includes frequent quotations of numerous authors who have written similar content, but Held Evans demonstrates a gift of being able to craft a message that is warm and unthreatening. The book’s narrative follows a repeating format of citing a story from scripture, then repeating the story again in a completely different time and context, sometimes in a modern situation, sometimes from the author’s personal experiences, and sometimes in an expanded novelization of the story. The magic of the writer’s skill enables the stories to thus come alive. The author then surrounds these takes on scripture with commentary and reflections from her own life experiences. The following are quotations from the book that caught my attention. The introductory comments are mine followed by the respective quotations. The following impressed me as good advice when one hears that often repeated phrase:We should be wary, then, of grand pronouncements that begin, "The Bible says." Where? To whom? In what context? Why? (p98) Here's a good definition of wisdom:Wisdom, it seems, is situational. It isn't just about knowing what to say; it's about knowing when to say it. And it's not just about knowing what is true; it's about knowing when it's true. (p98) Here's a good description of the Bible:The truth is, the Bible isn't an answer book. It's not even a book, really. Rather, it's a diverse library of ancient texts, spanning multiple centuries, genres, and cultures, authored by a host of different authors coming from a variety of different perspectives. These texts, like others from antiquity, have undergone edits, revisions, copies, and translations through the years. No one has the originals. Before they were canonized, they circulated as disparate collections of scrolls and codices, and before that many were passed down as oral traditions. (p102) The following quotation sites Amy-Jill Levine's description of the purpose of the apocalyptic texts:"The point of apocalyptic texts is not to predict the future," explained biblical scholar Amy-Jill Levine in The Meaning of the Bible; "it is to provide comfort in the present. The Bible is not a book of teasers in which God has buried secrets only to be revealed three millennia late." Rather, she argued, apocalyptic texts "proclaim that a guiding hand controls history, and assure that justice will be done." (p124)Rachel Held Evans shares many problematic texts and manages to think and talk her way through them. But then she came to the problem of Paul: Even after I’d come to terms with the Bible’s war stories and learned to embrace the Bible’s tensions and contradictions as fitting and good, even after I’d given up on trying to force the Bible to be something it’s not and resolved to keep wrestling with the confounding force that it is, there remained one obstacle in the way of a fresh start with my once beloved Magic Book. To make peace with the Bible, I had to make peace with Paul. (p208) She goes on to explain how the problematic things that Paul had to say about women, sex, and slaves were reflections of his cultural environment, but they were not the core of his message. He’d probably been glad to back off some of the things he said if presented a context in which they would hinder the focus of his message. The apostle Paul was a smart, worldly, and broad-minded Jew who had been utterly transformed by what he saw as his singular mission in life: to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and welcome them in to Israel’s story. In pursuit of that mission Paul was determined to break down every religious ethnic, and cultural barrier that stood in the way. (p210)__________ The following is not from the book Inspired, however it is an interesting NPR segment related to the subject of evangelical Christians that I heard soon after writing the above review. Here's a LINK to Part 1 of an NPR two-part conversation with evangelical Christians in Fayetteville, N.C. about faith and politics. In Part 1 they talked about issues on their minds and impeachment. Part 2 LINK 2 is about "Race, Trump and evangelical voters."

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cydney Daniel

    2.5 stars, rounded to 3. Buckle up, friends. Quickly at the beginning here: I have so many thoughts. This is interesting read if you want to stay on top of current popular beliefs and teachings. Evans is becoming an increasingly popular progressive Christian author (note: I don’t mean liberal Christian although I believe she is. I mean her views and interpretations of scripture are largely more progressive than traditional interpretation, and we run into some issues here quite often). I would no 2.5 stars, rounded to 3. Buckle up, friends. Quickly at the beginning here: I have so many thoughts. This is interesting read if you want to stay on top of current popular beliefs and teachings. Evans is becoming an increasingly popular progressive Christian author (note: I don’t mean liberal Christian although I believe she is. I mean her views and interpretations of scripture are largely more progressive than traditional interpretation, and we run into some issues here quite often). I would not recommend this to a new Christian, and honestly, I wouldn’t personally recommend this to a Christian in the middle of the throes of doubt and questioning. Ill explain why soon. I would only recommend this to Christians who I know have a firm grasp on scripture, excellent critical thinking skills, and a strong relationship with God, and even then I would only recommend it as an educational, stay-in-the-know kind of read. Here’s the longer reason why: There are a lot of fundamental principles and definitions Evans and I disagree on, and therefore i disagree with about half of this book. Foundational principles i’d like to ask Rachel about: 1. What is the gospel, truly? How do you define it? 2. Do you believe that Jesus was fully divine as much as he was fully human? You focus so much on his humanness and get skeptical when you approach his divinity. Surprisingly, I did end up enjoying some of it and agreeing with many points she made; but unfortunately I cannot agree with the conclusions she came to because of these points. She asks a lot of questions, and then avoids answering them by changing the question (ex: do I believe in miracles? Better question, am I acting like it? Better context in the book), and every approach to the scripture really comes across as one that “makes ME feel the best about scripture.” She often explores traditional literal interpretation with exaggeration and sarcasm, which frustrates me.. we cant really come to an accurate conclusion if we’re presenting sides of the argument sarcastically. I agree that there is a lot that the evangelical community “picks and chooses” and sweeps under the rug. I also agree that it is important to come to scripture with our questions. God is not scared of our doubts, and i don’t think we are far from him when we doubt. As she says: “a lot of people think the hardest part about religious doubt is feeling isolated from God. It’s not. At least in my experience, the hardest part about doing is feeling isolated from your community.” I can definitely attest to that. There was a time in my life that I questioned much of my faith because of 2 years of turmoil and change in my family’s life. But I went to scripture and to those who could be trusted to share truth with me, and came out on the other side with confidence that Gods word is living, true, and has the answers I need. I know that God is not scared of my doubts and questions.. but I think in many ways Evans minimizes the impact of scripture by equating God-breathed word with humanness - which I can only assume means sinful? I’m not sure what she means by the humanity the Bible displays. (Humanity vs sinfulness is a very interesting topic that happened on Evans’ twitter feed the other day that sparked an interesting discussion between my husband and I. But I digress.) Context, etc. make a huge difference in scripture interpretation, as Evans repeatedly points out, but I don’t believe we can use our own feelings and emotions to accurately interpret scripture. I struggle with this myself, because what I feel is justice or injustice or love or compassion or whatever, isn’t always what God says those things are. (There’s a verse in Proverbs about God knowing justice and man not knowing it.. and there’s that C.S. Lewis quote about “where does our idea of morality come from?”) We cannot approach scripture with our own feelings and emotions, and look for the things that validate them. I feel like Evans waters down the Bible in such a way that makes it seem like we need to come to the Bible and ask what WE want to hear or know. How can i interpret this to benefit ME? Come to scripture with your grief for comfort, but don’t come to scripture with your anger for vindication. Approach scripture with humility and desire to grow and change based on what God says. She calls out a lot of ways the American church has failed— injustice toward minorities, sexism, the focus on specific sins (some of which Evans doesn’t even see as sin), the lack of confession and repentance with each other as a part of our daily walk— and these things definitely need to be discussed. However, there’s a lot of talk about “resistance” and “rebellion” right alongside the talk of “peace” and “love.” Its a little confusing isn’t it? These ultra-legalistic Christians who can’t seem to find a problem with how African Americans are treated in this country? They have fallen short the same way the rest of us have— even progressive Christians. We have ALL fallen short of the glory of God, we have ALL sinned. I totally agree that white Christians are not the traditionally oppressed in this country and have often been let off the hook, but we are called to give grace and love to them the same way we give love and grace to the oppressed minorities. Jesus loves us all the same. Stand up for the oppressed, call out the oppression, but love them all. Don’t get too prideful thinking your compassion makes you a better Christian or person.. in the eyes of God it doesn’t. Evans’ (and, I suspect, many others) view on the church makes me very sad, and it makes me very thankful for the church I belong to, where we have solid doctrine and theology... that also allows us to actually love other people, even those with vastly different lifestyles than our own. Believing that sins are sins doesn’t make my theology bad, or me any better or worse of a person; it makes the gospel that much more powerful. The gospel is not social justice, although we are called to love and serve the unloved and oppressed because of the gospel. We are not saved by our works, only by the grace of God. Toward the beginning of the book, Evans states: “To demand that the Bible meet our demands is to put ourselves and our own interests at the center of the story, which is one of the first traps we must learn to avoid if we are to engage the Bible with integrity or care.” But as we read through this book, we see a variety of her approaches to the Bible. Some are rooted in deep study, and she shares multiple interpretations from different scholars. Most of Evans’ conclusions or takeaways from scripture, however, come from putting her interests and experiences at the center of the story. If you read this book, be wary. Think critically about her answers to or avoidances of tough questions (the latter she accuses fundamentalists of doing). Realize that many times Evans interprets scripture with what makes her feel okay about scripture, because many things in the Word of God are hard to swallow. Ultimately, I am glad that I read this and I hope that some other Christians will read this (carefully and critically) as well. There are excellent takeaways from INSPIRED, but also a bunch of really worrisome theology that really won’t hold up. If you read all of this, God bless you hahah.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Amy1N

    Reading this book was like sitting down with an old friend to talk through the Bible. I came away with a fresh desire to read passages I’ve yet to read and go back and read well remembered verses with fresh eyes. This is exactly the book I needed at exactly the right time. If you’re struggling picking up the Bible every day, this book is for you. If there’s nothing you enjoy more than starting or ending the day in scriptures, this book is for you. I’m so thankful for Rachel and her ability to so Reading this book was like sitting down with an old friend to talk through the Bible. I came away with a fresh desire to read passages I’ve yet to read and go back and read well remembered verses with fresh eyes. This is exactly the book I needed at exactly the right time. If you’re struggling picking up the Bible every day, this book is for you. If there’s nothing you enjoy more than starting or ending the day in scriptures, this book is for you. I’m so thankful for Rachel and her ability to somehow write the exact words I need to read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    JR. Forasteros

    Rachel has given us a great gift... a book that invites us to rediscover the Bible as the book God gave us, not the book many of us were raised to expect. She introduces each chapter with a fiction piece - these are pretty uneven, and I'm not sure they do much for the overall effect of the book. The non-fiction is much stronger, and where the real power of the book lies. Overall, this is a great book that anyone who loves the Bible - or USED to love the Bible - will really enjoy. Rachel has given us a great gift... a book that invites us to rediscover the Bible as the book God gave us, not the book many of us were raised to expect. She introduces each chapter with a fiction piece - these are pretty uneven, and I'm not sure they do much for the overall effect of the book. The non-fiction is much stronger, and where the real power of the book lies. Overall, this is a great book that anyone who loves the Bible - or USED to love the Bible - will really enjoy.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Nelson

    I clearly remember the time--the first time, that is--when my faith began to fall apart. I was in my second semester of college as a Religion major and was enrolled in several Biblical Studies courses that spring, including one that dealt heavily with the concept of the "historical Jesus," a scholarly attempt to get behind the faith claims of the Gospels and see what definite things one could say about the real life person who lived in 1st Century Galilee. I had a much more conservative-minded a I clearly remember the time--the first time, that is--when my faith began to fall apart. I was in my second semester of college as a Religion major and was enrolled in several Biblical Studies courses that spring, including one that dealt heavily with the concept of the "historical Jesus," a scholarly attempt to get behind the faith claims of the Gospels and see what definite things one could say about the real life person who lived in 1st Century Galilee. I had a much more conservative-minded approach to scripture in those days, and largely was able to brush off most of what I'd been reading and learning. I believed not only in the truth of the Bible, but that it presented factual accounts not just about Jesus but about other characters as well: Adam and Eve, Abraham, Noah, Moses, Jonah, the Apostles, and so on. But on one fateful Tuesday evening during Bible study, it all seemed to crumble down at once. The claims of my classroom studies were causing more and more friction with the claims of the night's discussion, until finally near the end of our time together I thought to myself, "I don't know if I believe this any more." The next few months--and really, the rest of my life so far--would feature a deep and abiding wrestling not just with the Bible's contents, but with what the Bible itself was to me. Is it a closed canon handed down and divinely dictated whole cloth for eternally-relevant application, or does its origins, gradual collection, authorial diversity of experience, and occasional historical, scientific, and literary dubiousness make it something still capable of communicating truth about God, life, and faith, yet in ways more nuanced than before? This is one of the questions at the heart of Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans. Evans' journey has also been one of beginning steeped in a subculture that approached the Bible in a certain way, and when the questions and contradictions that came with her own study became too big to ignore, she began a transition to a different way of nurturing faith and discipleship and of reading the Bible. Evans recounts this journey more thoroughly in her previous works, particularly Faith Unraveled, and in fact a read through that book may serve as a helpful background to some of what she shares here. But her self-identifying as a memoirist is appropriate, as she shares personal anecdotes in nearly every chapter to help flesh out some of her own experiences that led her to revisit her view of scripture and its meaning for her now. However, her own story is far from the only element at work here. Evans pulls from a variety of trusted scholars both past and present. She was intentionally diverse in choosing the voices that helped inform her approach, pulling thoughts from thinkers such as Walter Brueggemann, William Barber, Peter Enns, Nyasha Junior, and Amy-Jill Levine, among many others, as she delves into the stories of the Bible and the stories behind the Bible. Evans' basic approach is to separate the Bible into the unique genres that make up its pages, and her natural inclination toward telling, sharing, and examining stories provide the framework and lens through which she examines them. She looks at stories of origins such as the early chapters of Genesis, stories of liberation such as Exodus and some of the prophets, stories of war such as in Joshua, stories of wisdom such as Job and the Psalms, and stories of Jesus and the early church, among others. She treats each as part of an expression of a larger narrative the people behind its pages are trying to make sense of for themselves, but also connects those stories to modern life through her own experiences and parallels to contemporary events and issues. As an additional aid to her overall presentation, each chapter is accompanied by a retelling of each scriptural portion, including first-person accounts from Hagar and the Samaritan woman at the well, a short play of Job and his friends, and the story of Peter stepping out of the boat to meet Jesus on the water cast as a Choose Your Own Adventure story. These are often cleverly done and help set the stage for the analysis to come. Evans' writing has always had a certain light touch even when exploring serious issues, and these preludes help present the scholarship to follow in accessible ways that many readers will appreciate. Evans' awareness of how difficult questions related to the Bible can be serves her very well, and many will benefit from her sensitivity, her attentiveness to scholarship, and her ability to connect it to present-day experience. Whether one is nearing their own Tuesday evening crisis of faith or just wants to make better sense of how this strange collection of stories relates to a modern understanding of faith, Inspired provides an easy on-ramp to that conversation.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Haley

    I love her. She approaches Scripture like a storyteller, and views Scripture as a collection of powerful stories that we've all been caught up with in some way - stories that can be used either to oppress or to liberate, stories that, even if divinely inspired, "have human fingerprints all over them." I feel like I can't really write an adequate review because it's intended for a specific group of people - as one of the people it's clearly intended for, I highly recommend it to others in that gr I love her. She approaches Scripture like a storyteller, and views Scripture as a collection of powerful stories that we've all been caught up with in some way - stories that can be used either to oppress or to liberate, stories that, even if divinely inspired, "have human fingerprints all over them." I feel like I can't really write an adequate review because it's intended for a specific group of people - as one of the people it's clearly intended for, I highly recommend it to others in that group - current Christians who feel suffocated by the legalism and/or bigotry of your churches, Christians now without church homes, former Christians who left because your church and faith experiences didn't ultimately line up with the message you were fed that true religion in the sight of God is taking care of widows and orphans, is love and compassion. Also an incredibly important reminder that Scripture - or the stories and letters that now make up Scripture - were subversive and transgressive in their time - disrupting national power and empire and social hierarchies. And that's a much more exciting Scripture to read about than the one that mostly seems intent on keeping women (among others) in our places and supporting politicians and policies who couldn't care less about the poor or marginalized.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kristi Brokaw

    3 1/2 Stars (if Goodreads allowed it!) First let me just say—this is a beautiful book. Whoever did the cover design gets a bunch of stars for making such a pretty book. I loved this book. There are very few things which I didn’t like and for which I did deduct stars. The things I didn’t like were the “creative retellings” in the chapter openers. They felt unnatural and awkward to me. It was obvious the author was working with unfamiliar mediums. The screenplay version of Job was my least favorite. 3 1/2 Stars (if Goodreads allowed it!) First let me just say—this is a beautiful book. Whoever did the cover design gets a bunch of stars for making such a pretty book. I loved this book. There are very few things which I didn’t like and for which I did deduct stars. The things I didn’t like were the “creative retellings” in the chapter openers. They felt unnatural and awkward to me. It was obvious the author was working with unfamiliar mediums. The screenplay version of Job was my least favorite. But these sections are short and only about half of them were truly awkward enough to take me out of the experience of reading. What I loved: everything else. I love the author’s honesty and her voice. I love how she mixes personal struggle and experience with research from other scholars. I love her obvious joy in the poetry and stories of the Bible and her angst and discomfort with the same parts I am anxious and uncomfortable with. Her take on Paul’s epistles was utterly refreshing. Her acknowledgement of the abused women in the Bible felt like a friend acknowledging my feelings—I felt relieved and loved. Rachel Held Evans has written a book that really does allow us to delight in the gift of the Bible while lamenting the ways it has been weaponized and misunderstood. I have already recommended it to several friends and would love to discuss it in a book club setting. I also want to add that I appreciate that the author took time to include multiple perspectives and elevated the voices of the marginalized. *I received an advanced copy of this book for review purposes and these opinions are my own.*

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tina

    It was comforting to hear someone say, "I get that you have questions and doubts and struggles." But it was also good to hear someone say, "Don't give up...here's a new way to love the Bible." Rachel Heald Evans never dissapoints. It was comforting to hear someone say, "I get that you have questions and doubts and struggles." But it was also good to hear someone say, "Don't give up...here's a new way to love the Bible." Rachel Heald Evans never dissapoints.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ben Wideman

    This is an incredible reflection on the purpose of the biblical narrative, written by weaving together humor, biblical study, various stylistic genres, and a lot of heart. I’m so grateful that RHE wrote this book, and that we get to read it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    D.L. Mayfield

    This is the first book I can really remember thinking I can't wait to put this in the hands of my daughter when she is 13 years old and say "read this. I hope this is how you can learn to approach your faith and the Scriptures someday." It's a stunningly accessible look at how Christians can and must start to treat their sacred texts outside of the narrow confines of biblicism. This is my favorite book of Rachel's, and I cried while listening to her read the audio herself. What a gift she was, an This is the first book I can really remember thinking I can't wait to put this in the hands of my daughter when she is 13 years old and say "read this. I hope this is how you can learn to approach your faith and the Scriptures someday." It's a stunningly accessible look at how Christians can and must start to treat their sacred texts outside of the narrow confines of biblicism. This is my favorite book of Rachel's, and I cried while listening to her read the audio herself. What a gift she was, and will remain, to us all.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    The introduction to this book hooked me and drew me in as I felt like I was reading my own story. Rachel describes her childhood and formative years in the evangelical church. All the familiar rites of passage - youth group, reading scripture, memorizing verses, leaning on the wisdom of youth leaders, and going back to the Word when times of crisis hit and questions arose - all of this was relatable. Even down to her name, Rachel, being taken from scripture. We might as well be sisters because m The introduction to this book hooked me and drew me in as I felt like I was reading my own story. Rachel describes her childhood and formative years in the evangelical church. All the familiar rites of passage - youth group, reading scripture, memorizing verses, leaning on the wisdom of youth leaders, and going back to the Word when times of crisis hit and questions arose - all of this was relatable. Even down to her name, Rachel, being taken from scripture. We might as well be sisters because my name is Leah. And then as she grew older, questions began to arise about this magical book. Were the stories in it true? Science can disprove some, which would then make them more myth then truth. Is God truly loving in the face of the punishment he's doled out to humanity over the centuries? Her blog has been a source of affirmation for me - yes, you can be a liberal, feminist believer and not to go hell, if hell exists in the way I'd always been taught. Her books have honestly splayed open her heart and its wanderings away from evangelicalism, but always back to God. And now, here is a book that will discover the Bible in new and fascinating ways, as it is in all its dirty, gritty, confusing messiness. I'm so encouraged to see Amy Jill Levine and Pete Enns on her list of influencers while writing this book. Rachel discusses our stories of origin and how some stories in the Bible were God's way of allowing peoples of ancient cultures to communicate. When we try to place our present day selves in the center of biblical stories, we are missing the original intent of the story and its purpose for communication. She goes on to explore the origins and intentional meaning behind many stories those of us who grew up in the church are familiar with. I wish I could share this book with so many of my friends, those of us who have left because the direction of the evangelical church has taken turns we no longer agree with or believe in. I think there are messages here we can all relate to that are inspiring and just might take us back to some of our spiritual roots.

  17. 4 out of 5

    David

    I never had the privilege of meeting Rachel Held Evans, but it was still incredibly sad to learn of her death this past spring. She was an honest and passionate voice that echoed what so many felt. This book, her final book, echoes that honesty and passion. In the book she shares how she grew up learning the Bible. But, as happens, over time she learned things were not as simple as she was taught. One option, which many have taken, was simply jettison faith altogether. Rachel could never do this I never had the privilege of meeting Rachel Held Evans, but it was still incredibly sad to learn of her death this past spring. She was an honest and passionate voice that echoed what so many felt. This book, her final book, echoes that honesty and passion. In the book she shares how she grew up learning the Bible. But, as happens, over time she learned things were not as simple as she was taught. One option, which many have taken, was simply jettison faith altogether. Rachel could never do this as she loved the Bible and it’s stories too much. Side note: just this morning I saw a comment in a different review saying Rachel did not have a “high view of scripture”. That’s a rather laughable thing to say and such comments reveal no familiarity with her work. But that’s the problem, isn’t it? In many Christian circles if you don’t cling to a fundamentalist, literalist and simple view of scripture then you’re deemed as not having a “high view” of it. Rachel’s whole book is wrestling with scripture as we have, not as we want it to be. Really, her passion for scripture and her honesty about it reveals a higher view of scripture than that of her critics. After all, who has a higher view, those who twist scripture into something it is not or those who wrestle with it as it is? That’s why I’m using the terms passion and honesty over and over here. Throughout the book she is honest about her struggles and questions and with the difficulties in the Bible but she is too passionate about the story and about Jesus to leave it all behind. This is a great book for anyone who has questions about scripture and has found unsatisfactory answers. Rachel is a wonderful writer. But she’s also done her homework and shows familiarity with scholars like NT Wright, Pete Enns and others throughout. Even those familiar with the stories may learn a thing or two. Near the end she talks about teaching the stories to her son, which nearly brought tears to my eyes: “I want my son to be exposed to a wide variety of stories, including, when he’s ready, strange and scary ones, not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be defeated. So I suspect that, with the Bible, we will start with the parables of Jesus and perhaps some well-behaved psalms, then move on to Adam and Eve, Jonah and the big fish, Jericho, the manger, and the cross. Sure, he’ll get the edited versions at first, just like we did, and of course he’ll pick up all sorts of strange interpretations from his friends, the culture, and theologically questionable cartoon adaptations; there’s really no avoiding that. But I hope that by teaching him first to simply love these stories as they are, to relish their strange appeal, he will remember their magic when he rediscovers them in his own way someday.” Her comments reveal the struggle many parents face as we hope to share these stories we love with our kids but know there’s so many false starts. I mean, is it inevitable that kids must go through a crisis of faith in their teens or twenties? I am starting to think it might be, as the path to a deeper faith and an understanding of what God has done in Jesus night just lay in moving beyond childish interpretations of scripture (and emphasis on the literal!) to deeper ones that recognize the Bible ultimately points away from itself and to Jesus. That’s another story. What I’m struck with is that Rachel left us with a beautiful book and while I say a prayer for her husband and kids, I also pray we can all help our kids develop both her passion and honesty.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Christina Westbrooks

    I received an ARC of this book in a giveaway. I'm not a huge fan of non-fiction,but have been pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Rachel Held Evans seems relatable and I think I would like her. The book is well written too, but their are a few things I have problems with. I wasn't a fan of the stories inspired by Bible characters. While we can always wonder what happened in the experiences that wasn't included in the Bible, I just wasn't a fan, but out of the problems I have with this book, t I received an ARC of this book in a giveaway. I'm not a huge fan of non-fiction,but have been pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Rachel Held Evans seems relatable and I think I would like her. The book is well written too, but their are a few things I have problems with. I wasn't a fan of the stories inspired by Bible characters. While we can always wonder what happened in the experiences that wasn't included in the Bible, I just wasn't a fan, but out of the problems I have with this book, that one is extremely minor. While I understand that people use creative devices in writing and that it's almost certain that they did in the Bible(Jesus was known for telling fables), it's a little bit of a stretch to say that most of the Bible could possibly be not true, but rather a literary device used to teach us a lesson. I get that some stories give people pause, but that is simply because we are not capable of looking at things through Gods lenses and and we need to understand that we don't know everything. Their are alot of things as a believer, that you have to accept as being beyond your scope of imagination. You are creeping into dangerous territory when you try to use your own reasoning to explain Gods words because the Bible simply makes you uncomfortable. Their are several times that she discusses instances where scientific theories have disproven the Bible, but many of these instances have great Bible explanations if you only search for them(J Warner Wallace's Cold Case Christianity is a great look at how to approach the Bible from a more logically minded angle).Example: she discussed how they have proved that it is physically impossible that the world was formed in 7 days and yet, the Bible doesn't give us any insight as to how long those "days" were. We have no idea if Gods idea of a day is the 24 hour cycle we use now, or if his days are 1,000 years. This is just another example where the human brain can't comprehend something, so we make up our own non biblically answer because we don't like not knowing the answer. The thing is, their are so many instances in scripture that show that this way of looking at things is wrong and it bothers me that people follow this theory(Psalm 33:4 is one). It presents a grey area, where (again) the reader is thinking about things from their perspective instead of God's and I wonder, if you simply cast aside a story as fiction because you can't reason it or it makes you uncomfortable, where do you draw the line? Is the whole Bible true? Or just the parts that you want to be true? While it's true that scriptural interpretation can sometimes differ, this isn't interpretation, it's beyond that. The shift comes when you assume that you have all the answers and the authority to deem scripture as untrue(when other parts of the Bible tell you otherwise).

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ann-Marie "Cookie M."

    I finished this book a couple of weeks ago and set aside until I had more time to give it a thoughtful review. I am unable to do that. Rachel Held Evans died May 4, 2019, after complications following a short illness. I am heartbroken. She was a young, vibrant voice for women and common sense in Christianity. She inspired me to continue on my path of weighing my beliefs and actions against the words and teachings of Jesus Christ, not what church fathers and dogma tell us we should think those wor I finished this book a couple of weeks ago and set aside until I had more time to give it a thoughtful review. I am unable to do that. Rachel Held Evans died May 4, 2019, after complications following a short illness. I am heartbroken. She was a young, vibrant voice for women and common sense in Christianity. She inspired me to continue on my path of weighing my beliefs and actions against the words and teachings of Jesus Christ, not what church fathers and dogma tell us we should think those words and teachings mean today. Please read "Inspired." God gave up brains and hearts to use together to find the right path. I I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Rest in peace, Rachel.

  20. 5 out of 5

    James

    I started this as part of an online book club which has since died out, so I went ahead and binged the rest of it on my own. It's kind of a bittersweet read considering the recent untimely death of the author, but a reminder of what her voice meant in the Christian world of ideas - something different and refreshing from the constant barrage of legalism, patriarchy, violence and bigotry. It's a reminder that stories matter, and knowing where those stories came from matters even more. I've enjoye I started this as part of an online book club which has since died out, so I went ahead and binged the rest of it on my own. It's kind of a bittersweet read considering the recent untimely death of the author, but a reminder of what her voice meant in the Christian world of ideas - something different and refreshing from the constant barrage of legalism, patriarchy, violence and bigotry. It's a reminder that stories matter, and knowing where those stories came from matters even more. I've enjoyed everything I've read by RHE but I think this is my favorite so far.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Marnie (Enchanted Bibliophile)

    “Jesus did not simply die to save us from our sins; Jesus lived to save us from our sins.” I truly enjoyed Rachel's retellings at the start of each chapter. Changing one’s point of view can so often give new light and insight to a very old story. I’ve learned that in life, the Holy Spirit can use just about anything to teach us what we need at a certain point in time, opening our eyes to things we never even considered before. “Jesus did not simply die to save us from our sins; Jesus lived to save us from our sins.” I truly enjoyed Rachel's retellings at the start of each chapter. Changing one’s point of view can so often give new light and insight to a very old story. I’ve learned that in life, the Holy Spirit can use just about anything to teach us what we need at a certain point in time, opening our eyes to things we never even considered before.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Raymond

    I first became aware of Rachel Held Evans in the last year when she was a guest on one of my favorite podcasts The Bible for Normal People. She was actually promoting this book on the episode. Fast forward to May 2019 when I found out that Rachel passed away after a brief illness. Her passing bothered me first because she was so young and left behind her husband and two young children. Second it bothered me because her voice is needed in such a time as this. Not knowing what to do I decided to b I first became aware of Rachel Held Evans in the last year when she was a guest on one of my favorite podcasts The Bible for Normal People. She was actually promoting this book on the episode. Fast forward to May 2019 when I found out that Rachel passed away after a brief illness. Her passing bothered me first because she was so young and left behind her husband and two young children. Second it bothered me because her voice is needed in such a time as this. Not knowing what to do I decided to buy this book hoping that the proceeds would go to the family especially in their time of mourning. I am comforted to know that her words will live on and will hopefully be a blessing to others as they have been to me. Inspired is Rachel's last book but was the first book of hers that I have read. I really enjoyed it and I wish I had been made aware of her and her work sooner. One of the big takeaways I took from this book is how illiterate we are when it comes to theology. She shows that Biblical context matters and when you know that context it makes you see the stories in the Bible differently than you were probably originally taught. For example the Pentateuch (the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers) were written when Israel was living in exile under the rule of Babylon. The stories in Genesis don't necessary tell a history of how the world was formed but it collects the stories that were constructed to tell about how God made them an important people and how they should return to God. I never grew up learning this and sometimes I wonder how many people my age or older, that didn't have a seminary education, know the historical context in which the books of the Bible were written. Evans unveils hidden truths and demystifies symbols in this book. For example she explains that Jesus did more than bring about salvation but he also brought about a radical way of living that was antithetical to societal norms of his time. My favorite chapter is "Resistance Stories" where she talks about the many beasts in the Bible and what they are symbols of. Guess what? They are not actually beasts but they represent something just as large and powerful. Read the book to find out more. What makes this book special is that a lot of what she reveals is in scholarly theological works but she repackages the information for a more general audience with her trademark wit, humor, and intelligence. Her book brings to life Eric Craft's quote: "Theology isn't merrily for an academic, but it is for the average person sitting in the pew". When you stop trying to force the Bible to be something it's not-static, perspicacious, certain, absolute- then you're free to revel in what it is: living, breathing, confounding, surprising, and yes even magic. My aim with this book is to recapture some of that Bible magic, but in a way that honors the text for what it is-ancient, complicated, debated, and untidy, both universally relevant and born from a specific context and culture. The Bible is a diverse library of ancient texts, spanning multiple centuries, genres, and cultures, authored by a host of different authors coming from a variety of different perspectives. Sometimes God knows the kind of deliverance you need the most is deliverance from your own comfort. -Rachel Held Evans

  23. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    I first came to Rachel Held Evans through her book "Searching for Sunday." At the time I had just finished a rough semester of Divinity school and I was burnt out in so many ways. There are not many books that I would describe as "healing" but that book was one of them. It reminded me WHY I was in Divinity school, why I was doing what I was doing - because I love God. And I love the Church and our rituals and sacraments. It renewed a part of me that greatly needed it. And so I was very excited to I first came to Rachel Held Evans through her book "Searching for Sunday." At the time I had just finished a rough semester of Divinity school and I was burnt out in so many ways. There are not many books that I would describe as "healing" but that book was one of them. It reminded me WHY I was in Divinity school, why I was doing what I was doing - because I love God. And I love the Church and our rituals and sacraments. It renewed a part of me that greatly needed it. And so I was very excited to receive an ARC of her new book, "Inspired." I knew it was about the Bible...and I knew I needed some healing there, so I went in with an open mind. So at this point in my life I am a United Methodist minister, serving a church as a head pastor for about 8 months now. And I have a lot of baggage about the Bible. I love Scripture. I love delving into the Revised Common Lectionary each week and figuring out what the Holy Spirit has to say to me and my community each week. I feel that preaching is one of my spiritual gifts and it greatly informed my call to ministry. So I love individual passages of Scripture. I love the Revised Command Lectionary. I even like all those weird and strange Bible stories that would NEVER show up in the lectionary (Rachel mentions a few in her book!)...but the Bible? This great big leather bound tome? This collection of stories and laws and letters and all that TOGETHER? That has done harm or can justify harm? That has been used and misused and people have been hit over the head with it and some people do the hitting with it...and yeah. When I think "Bible" I think BIG. HEAVY. Baggage. I'm much more comfortable with my little worship resource that just gives me the week's lectionary and some hymn suggestions rather then THE BOOK. "Inspired" helped me work through and process a lot of those feelings and fears. I'm still processing - it's a journey. But like "Searching for Sunday" helped remind me that I love Church, "Inspired' helped remind me that I love the Bible. Her play of the book of Job & Aelia's telling of listening to one of Paul's letters particular struck me. All of her re-tellings or re-creations or imaginings of Biblical stories stirred something within me. I even think she (with the Spirit!) "inspired" my upcoming project toward ordination, working with some of the Biblical texts of violence against women. Because, deep down, underneath all the baggage, I love the Bible, I do. I think (at least by next Lent!) I'm even willing to pick up the whole leather bound, big book, and sit down and read it once again for myself, and to let the magic of the story wash over me. So I don't describe many books as healing, but "Inspired" by Rachel Held Evans was definitely one.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    If you have looked at the Bible closely and found the conflicting parts hard to reconcile, Rachel Held Evans is the person you need to read. Evans has grown up with the Bible and its stories; the Bible was her default setting for all of life as a child. But, as she grew older, the brutalities of the God-led battles along with the cruelties inflicted on women and slaves and other groups began to bother Evans more and more. This is the story of Evans wrestling with God. It's clever and thoughtful If you have looked at the Bible closely and found the conflicting parts hard to reconcile, Rachel Held Evans is the person you need to read. Evans has grown up with the Bible and its stories; the Bible was her default setting for all of life as a child. But, as she grew older, the brutalities of the God-led battles along with the cruelties inflicted on women and slaves and other groups began to bother Evans more and more. This is the story of Evans wrestling with God. It's clever and thoughtful and, above all, it's true. Evans encourages us all to wrestle with God along with her. It's a worthy task.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Rachel Held Evans has been an important author for me in coming to understand liberation theology. Through her own stories of wrestling with Scripture, Evans offers insights on familiar stories that render them new. She reminds us that, above all, our interpretations should move us closer toward’s the openness and inclusiveness that is God’s love. What a wonderful read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Chris Crosby

    note: I received an Advance Copy of the book from the publisher. Short Version Review: if you have read Rachel's earlier books, you will love this. And you will be INSPIRED to reacquaint yourself with the Bible. More In-depth Review: This book is not an academic exercise in how to read the Bible. Rachel Held Evans has written a book that is deeply personal about how she learned to love the Bible all over again and why. The book is as much about how she grew up being taught certain things about w note: I received an Advance Copy of the book from the publisher. Short Version Review: if you have read Rachel's earlier books, you will love this. And you will be INSPIRED to reacquaint yourself with the Bible. More In-depth Review: This book is not an academic exercise in how to read the Bible. Rachel Held Evans has written a book that is deeply personal about how she learned to love the Bible all over again and why. The book is as much about how she grew up being taught certain things about what the Bible says, how she realized those teachings made no sense to get any longer, and how relearning the stories drew her back to a love of the content, even when she doesn't like it. If that sounds impossible, well, it's the Bible! Lots of impossible things happen in there. But, if you don't give up on it, Rachel says, you can begin to ask questions and, "These questions loosened my grip on the text and gave me permission to love the Bible for what it is, not what I want it to be. And here’s the surprising thing about that: When you stop trying to force the Bible to be something it’s not— static, perspicacious, certain, absolute— then you’re free to revel in what it is: living, breathing, confounding, surprising, and yes, perhaps even magic."(p. xx) The basic premise is that we can read the Bible best if we understand that it's a series of stories and learn why the stories are written the way they are. Rachel breaks them up into literary styles to cover the easy, the obscure, the challenging, and the downright unbelievable. When you walk through all of the chapters with her, you see the complexities, but it's easy to stay on the path. From millennia of Jewish rabbis, she learned how the stories are open to our interpretation with every reading. She learned about the power of telling the stories in between the facts in the text, and, in the time honored traditions, she wrote her own 'midrashim,' to illuminate particular dilemmas. She obviously delights in this discovery of interpretation, and these interludes are diverse and delicious. She notes, "In other words, Bible stories don’t have to mean just one thing. Despite what you may have heard from a pastor or Sunday school teacher along the way, faithful engagement with Scripture isn’t about uncovering a singular, moralistic point to every text and then sticking to it. Rather, the very nature of the biblical text invites us to consider the possibilities." (p 42) If you've read any of her other memoirs, you will find this a delightful time of catching up with a best friend. If you are new to RHE, be prepared for a super treat. You will gain a terrific understanding of how humans relate to God, how God never gives up on humans, and how stories are the life lines to human relationships. I learned a lot about RHE's upbringing in her earlier books. In this one, I learned even more about how people raised in an evangelical environment interpret what I believe to be the INSPIRED word of God, written for our learning. For example, I also grew up knowing the Bible stories, but I never, ever, worried that looking in our car's rearview mirror might turn me into a pillar of salt. And, truth be told, Rachel is not the first evangelical woman I've known to confess this fear! I feel this education was possibly most important for me, as I live in a progressive area, have mostly liberal Episcopalian friends, and study at an Episcopal seminary. In our incredibly divided nation, if I know more about how evangelicals approach scripture so very differently than I do, I hope I can be more compassionate when I run into disagreement. Rachel is very convincing on this point. She knows how to mark where her own upbringing fell far short of what she knows to be truth today. " We’re all selective. We all wrestle with how to interpret and apply the Bible to our lives. We all go to the text looking for something, and we all have a tendency to find it. So the question we have to ask ourselves is this: are we reading with the prejudice of love, with Christ as our model, or are we reading with the prejudices of judgment and power, self- interest and greed? Are we seeking to enslave or liberate, burden or set free?" She closes out the book speaking of how she and her husband are raising their son (and almost born daughter, also!). They hope to instill in their children the same love of story that they know, along with the conviction that the stories speak to us all uniquely as we experience them. And to introduce their children to the God who never gives up on any of us. The last line brought a lump to my throat: "We may wish for answers, but God rarely give us answers. Instead, God gathers us up into soft, familiar arms and says, “Let me tell you a story.” "

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joel

    This book is a strong reflection of current popular voices and thoughts concerning Christianity in general and the bible in particular. The main focus is nothing too new or groundbreaking, and mirrors what large portions of scholarship have been communicating for decades. That being said, Held Evans has a knack for delivering that same message (one which fundamentalists have tended to ignore over the decades), albeit in a warm and accessible format. . She openly parrots the work of heavy hitters This book is a strong reflection of current popular voices and thoughts concerning Christianity in general and the bible in particular. The main focus is nothing too new or groundbreaking, and mirrors what large portions of scholarship have been communicating for decades. That being said, Held Evans has a knack for delivering that same message (one which fundamentalists have tended to ignore over the decades), albeit in a warm and accessible format. . She openly parrots the work of heavy hitters such as Brueggemann, Wright, Bruce, Enns, Levine, McKnight, and more. In doing so Held Evans is able to create non-threatening spaces for discussion around understanding and meaning. She gives good space to the realisation of methodological approaches, most notably the appreciation of genre and context. Held Evans does not shy away from the difficult places of scripture and fashions some positive ways forward for those who struggle reconciling modern ideals with the ancient text. . My only gripe with the book was the section on Miracles. It was one of the weaker areas, and functions more as a reflection on personal experience rather than on the validity of miracles. She basically dichotomises them into only two camps and never considers that miracles by definition can’t simply be proven or disproven by the natural sciences - they are an event that functions opposite to the laws of nature. So, sure, this functions as a convenient way of navigating seemingly ridiculous stories, and yet it fails to take seriously numerous historical accounts from eye witnesses where weird things have happened. Having said that she does mention those in her world who do accept the miraculous, and her framing of the everyday “miraculous” is noteworthy also (miracle of birth, etc...) . Finally there are some great practical thoughts in the epilogue about how to introduce children to the bible so that they may also fall in love with it. . I would recommend this book as it is ultimately positive in nature and works towards building faith rather than distorting it. The author is wonderfully honest about her own struggles, and yet she manages to find freedom amidst the structured frames of high critical study. Her conclusion is best represented by the lengthy quote below: . “The task of theology,” wrote Mobley, “is the linking of our individual story to the biggest story we can imagine.” If the biggest story we can imagine is about God’s loving and redemptive work in the world, then our lives will be shaped by that epic. If the biggest story we can imagine is something else, like religious nationalism, or “follow your bliss,” or “he who dies with the most toys wins,” then our lives will be shaped by those narratives instead.” (218)

  28. 4 out of 5

    David Jordan

    Inspired is a terrific book for the thoughtful Christian who has struggled with the idea of the divinely inspired infallibility of scripture. Anyone who was taught to read and obey the Bible without questioning the contents, contradictions, or conflicts that arise from a literal interpretation of this sacred text will definitely appreciate the author's careful and well-reasoned, loving critique of the world's best-selling book. Rachel Held Evans' examination of the challenges we uncover when we Inspired is a terrific book for the thoughtful Christian who has struggled with the idea of the divinely inspired infallibility of scripture. Anyone who was taught to read and obey the Bible without questioning the contents, contradictions, or conflicts that arise from a literal interpretation of this sacred text will definitely appreciate the author's careful and well-reasoned, loving critique of the world's best-selling book. Rachel Held Evans' examination of the challenges we uncover when we read the Bible from a historical/critical context is a breath of fresh air for the reader who wants to wholeheartedly follow Jesus Christ and continue to love the scriptures at the same time. She addresses interpretive conundrums with scholarship, humor, and genuine love for God's Word. There is also a good bit of impressive creativity on display, as she re-interprets several familiar biblical tales with a keen eye for detail. There is also a short contemporary play based on the story of Jonah and a choose-your-own-adventure type story inspired by Peter's walk on the Sea of Galilee. Much like Rob Bell described a progressive understanding of biblical criticism that still allows for committed Christian discipleship in his book "What is the Bible?", Held guides us on a journey of discovery that shows us how to read scripture, discern its truth, and apply that truth to our lives without devolving into doctrinal and partisan conflicts over inerrancy and infallibility. I have an advanced reader copy I received from the publisher, but I'm looking forward to sharing copies of the printed book with friends who have been hurt by fundamentalist dogma and turned their backs on the possibility of ever finding anything true or useful in the pages of the Bible. What a blessing this book is to the faith community and the even wider circle of thoughtful people looking for inspiration.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Charlene Bader

    Emerging from a season of disillusionment with contemporary American Christianity, this book helped me find my footing on the journey. Seamlessly incorporating a conversant array of academic and spiritual voices, Evans clears space for her readers to encounter ancient Scripture in new, relevant ways. I tend to avoid young writers, assuming they lack the seasoning of life necessary to bring perspective to any person outside their own cultural experience. Since Rachel Evans and I had similar childh Emerging from a season of disillusionment with contemporary American Christianity, this book helped me find my footing on the journey. Seamlessly incorporating a conversant array of academic and spiritual voices, Evans clears space for her readers to encounter ancient Scripture in new, relevant ways. I tend to avoid young writers, assuming they lack the seasoning of life necessary to bring perspective to any person outside their own cultural experience. Since Rachel Evans and I had similar childhood faith experiences, transitioning from conservative Evangelicalism to liturgical traditions, I knew her book would have personal relevance for me. Surprisingly, her inclusion of numerous diverse, authoritative voices culminates in a book that’s as academic as it is relevant, and notably, not limited to the spiritual nourishment of 30-something-year-old women. Through ancient and contemporary biblical commentary, storytelling, and historical sources, Evans explores Scripture with an honest, concerned, and hopeful approach. The main takeaway I received from Inspired is the goodness of searching and the freedom to question. I was hoping for a more stark resolution, an answer book to my Bible difficulties. Instead, Evans sets the stage for her reader to wrestle with God, just as Jacob in the wilderness – to wrestle the Almighty until we are blessed.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    I received a free advance promo copy, which this review is based on. Having read and appreciated Rachel's previous books, I am familiar with her voice, and the doubt and questioning infused in her writing. I have found her honesty refreshing as someone coming from a similar religious background myself. I read this new book hoping to come away convinced the Bible was a 'good book' after all, that it could be inspiring- after coming to my own conclusions years ago that it is more hurtful than helpf I received a free advance promo copy, which this review is based on. Having read and appreciated Rachel's previous books, I am familiar with her voice, and the doubt and questioning infused in her writing. I have found her honesty refreshing as someone coming from a similar religious background myself. I read this new book hoping to come away convinced the Bible was a 'good book' after all, that it could be inspiring- after coming to my own conclusions years ago that it is more hurtful than helpful. What I am inspired by most from reading this book, is Rachels' dogged tenacity to dig and search to find some semblance of something good to hold onto in her faith and in the Bible. I was most encouraged by the concept of looking at scripture as stories of complex lives. Also, her treatment of the epistles, and the Jesus story were thought provoking. p. 106 "...treating Scripture as an owners manual, based on a few versed here and a few verses there, will leave you more lost than found." I couldn't agree more, Rachel. For myself, I remain unconvinced that I should dig out my old Bibles and try again. But I have been the littlest bit softened in my attitude toward scripture. Maybe its a start.

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