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Learning to Speak God from Scratch: Why Sacred Words Are Vanishing-and How We Can Revive Them

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As America rapidly becomes a pluralistic, postmodern society, many of us struggle to talk about faith. We can no longer assume our friends understand words such as grace or gospel. Others, like lost and sin, have become so negative they are nearly conversation-enders.Jonathan Merritt knows this frustration well. After Jonathan moved from the Bible Belt to New York City, he As America rapidly becomes a pluralistic, postmodern society, many of us struggle to talk about faith. We can no longer assume our friends understand words such as grace or gospel. Others, like lost and sin, have become so negative they are nearly conversation-enders.Jonathan Merritt knows this frustration well. After Jonathan moved from the Bible Belt to New York City, he discovered that whenever conversations turned to spirituality, the words he'd used for decades didn't connect with listeners anymore. In a search for answers and understanding, Jonathan uncovered a spiritual crisis affecting tens of millions. In this groundbreaking book, one of America's premier religion writers revives ancient expressions through cultural commentary, vulnerable personal narratives, and surprising biblical insights. Both provocative and liberating, Learning to Speak God from Scratch will breathe new life into your spiritual conversations and lure you into the embrace of the God who inhabits them.


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As America rapidly becomes a pluralistic, postmodern society, many of us struggle to talk about faith. We can no longer assume our friends understand words such as grace or gospel. Others, like lost and sin, have become so negative they are nearly conversation-enders.Jonathan Merritt knows this frustration well. After Jonathan moved from the Bible Belt to New York City, he As America rapidly becomes a pluralistic, postmodern society, many of us struggle to talk about faith. We can no longer assume our friends understand words such as grace or gospel. Others, like lost and sin, have become so negative they are nearly conversation-enders.Jonathan Merritt knows this frustration well. After Jonathan moved from the Bible Belt to New York City, he discovered that whenever conversations turned to spirituality, the words he'd used for decades didn't connect with listeners anymore. In a search for answers and understanding, Jonathan uncovered a spiritual crisis affecting tens of millions. In this groundbreaking book, one of America's premier religion writers revives ancient expressions through cultural commentary, vulnerable personal narratives, and surprising biblical insights. Both provocative and liberating, Learning to Speak God from Scratch will breathe new life into your spiritual conversations and lure you into the embrace of the God who inhabits them.

30 review for Learning to Speak God from Scratch: Why Sacred Words Are Vanishing-and How We Can Revive Them

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Einstein

    Do you love language? Do you love learning about faith? This book will check both those boxes. Learning to Speak God from Scratch is for anyone interested in religious dialogue in these secular times. Though the author is a product of an Evangelical home, the issues he raises are not specific to one faith community. As a rabbi, I am always looking for ways to engage others in meaningful conversations about God and other faith topics. Jonathan Merritt provides, in his warm and engaging voice, way Do you love language? Do you love learning about faith? This book will check both those boxes. Learning to Speak God from Scratch is for anyone interested in religious dialogue in these secular times. Though the author is a product of an Evangelical home, the issues he raises are not specific to one faith community. As a rabbi, I am always looking for ways to engage others in meaningful conversations about God and other faith topics. Jonathan Merritt provides, in his warm and engaging voice, ways to encourage others (and one's self) to become comfortable with sacred language. I found the book compelling while being inviting at the same time. The only reason it took me so long to complete it is that I wanted to savour every bit of wisdom.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Cara Meredith

    I can’t get enough of Jonathan Merritt’s thoughts, mostly because I find myself on the same page with him, 1000%. If you find yourself needing to redefine certain sacred words, his book is a must-read. Loved, loved, loved it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Merritt the Younger Again Proves He Is His Father's Equal. Jonathan Merritt and I grew up in roughly similar church traditions at roughly the same time in roughly the same geographic area. His father would eventually become President of the Southern Baptist Convention, my pastor would later become President of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Growing up, while not knowing of Jonathan specifically, his father was among *the* most respected men I had ever heard. As in, there was a deacon or two in Merritt the Younger Again Proves He Is His Father's Equal. Jonathan Merritt and I grew up in roughly similar church traditions at roughly the same time in roughly the same geographic area. His father would eventually become President of the Southern Baptist Convention, my pastor would later become President of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Growing up, while not knowing of Jonathan specifically, his father was among *the* most respected men I had ever heard. As in, there was a deacon or two in my own small church, there was Charles Stanley, and there was James Merritt. I began reading Jonathan's own work a few years ago with the release of A Faith of Our Own, and both it and the next book Jesus Is Better Than You Imagined were as though Jonathan was in my own head, even while speaking - as he does here - of lessons he has learned in his own life. In this particular book, Jonathan again teaches us using lessons he has observed over the last few years of his own life and winds up touching on many issues of our day even while speaking to eternal truth. At the end of the first part of the book, when he specifically tells more conservative thinkers that they may not like all that is to follow and brings up the Hebrew concept of midrash, my fears were raised. I just read another ARC of another contemporary that grew up a couple hundred miles away from our home region but in a similar background and time who had used the concept quite a bit in her new book, and let's just say I wasn't impressed with that effort. Jonathan quickly dispelled the fears though, and actively sought to explain his own new understanding of the various sacred words we use in religious speak, particularly among Christians. He never claims authority, he just claims conversation and what he has found the words mean for him, and invites the readers to consider for themselves. Yet again, it turns out that he largely sees them exactly as I have come to - even without me realizing I had been on my own similar journey over the years. In one particularly poignant moment, he speaks to a word he used around the time of the publication of his last book and what he now thinks of it. In another, he uses Fred Rogers to explain the concept of neighbor. And in another, he exposes a revolutionary concept for thinking about a word that Christians have used far too long as a divider between the "righteous few" and the "pagan hordes". (My words in quotes there, not his.) In the end, Merritt the Younger winds up finding a truth that I had tattooed on my own skin nearly a decade ago, and he exposes it in a new, fresh way for things that I had never considered. That truth? Jesus didn't define our words so much as redefine them in revolutionary ways. Ways that still speak to us 2000 years later, if only we will consider them anew. Won't you join us in unpacking, examining, and rediscovering the ancient sacred words all over again?

  4. 5 out of 5

    McKay Hubbell

    This is the kind of book we need right now. Jonathan Merritt delivers a thought-provoking and yet incredibly practical work that any person of faith would benefit from reading. I loved the organization of the book, exploring each religious term in its own chapter. By doing this, he proves that a simple definition fails to capture what religious words really mean. Instead, he explores them with stories, illustrations, and metaphors, which bring so much color to the conversation. I absolutely love This is the kind of book we need right now. Jonathan Merritt delivers a thought-provoking and yet incredibly practical work that any person of faith would benefit from reading. I loved the organization of the book, exploring each religious term in its own chapter. By doing this, he proves that a simple definition fails to capture what religious words really mean. Instead, he explores them with stories, illustrations, and metaphors, which bring so much color to the conversation. I absolutely loved this book and I know that Jonathan’s thoughtful writing will offer readers a lifeline to reconnect to the practice of speaking God. Plus, I believe the chapters on The Fall and Sin are worth the price of the book. A great read through and through! (I was given an advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher.)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

    3.5 stars. This is a tough book to rate, partly because I highly value Jonathan Merritt's writing and observations even when I don't always agree with him theologically, and partly because I think his purpose would have been better served by stating some of his assumptions up front. For lovers of language and Jesus, this is an insightful work about the words we use to talk about faith and what they mean. It challenges believers to hone the words we use to "speak God" into more truthful and meani 3.5 stars. This is a tough book to rate, partly because I highly value Jonathan Merritt's writing and observations even when I don't always agree with him theologically, and partly because I think his purpose would have been better served by stating some of his assumptions up front. For lovers of language and Jesus, this is an insightful work about the words we use to talk about faith and what they mean. It challenges believers to hone the words we use to "speak God" into more truthful and meaningful terms that will deepen our faith conversations within our faith communities, and allow us to communicate more effectively about faith matters with people outside our communities. It's well written, it's highly engaging, and it's thought-provoking. I think it's an excellent starting point for group discussions. Merritt isn't a linguist, a Biblical scholar, or a foolproof theologian, and it shows in his occasional falterings while writing about these topics. But he is an ordinary Christian with a gift for words and a love of God, struggling to make sense of his faith in today's world while rejecting some of the extremist fallacies held by both conservative and progressive evangelical Christian camps. He is clearly a man committed to his faith against all odds, who isn't afraid to speak unpopular truths, and who wants to seek the truth. Part 1 draws on a sociolinguistic framework to examine "God talk" as a language group, specifically as an isolated linguistic community that is, in many ways, dying out in contemporary America as religion and spirituality become less commonly spoken of in the public sphere. He identifies some of the effects of this cultural shift, describes various responses from believers to this shift, and proposes a framework for Christians to examine and hone the language we use. Part 2 is a series of essays centered around various faith-related words, meditations based on the author's life experiences and his process of spiritual maturation. Many are based on his gradual exposure to Christian traditions outside his Southern Baptist upbringing. (Catholics, Lutherans, and Episcopalians will probably grin a bit at his sudden embrace of creeds, liturgy, and prayer traditions like lectio divina that his alma mater, Liberty University, dismissed as pagan and unspiritual. Welcome to the dark side, Jonathan!) Many of these are deeply thought-provoking and devotional, inspired by and grounded in the Bible. Others are more journalistic in nature, based on personal experience, interviews with contemporary writers, and drawing on modern scientific understandings of human nature. While I don't always agree with the meanings Merritt has reinterpreted for these sacred words, I do appreciate his perspective and his willingness to start the conversation by sharing his process of growth and challenging other Christians to do the same. Overall, this is a great book, but throughout, I had one major quibble, namely the way he left out a critical detail in Part 1. Merritt proposes a framework for "transforming language" so that our religious vocabulary can survive and be passed on to future generations. This framework contains three steps: 1. Start with the terms we know and accept (Merritt rightly points out that many Christians, especially from conservative Protestant backgrounds, get stuck here and never fully examine the meanings of faith-related terms) 2. Unpack these familiar terms, break down their meanings, and challenge our preconceptions about what they mean (Merritt also rightly points out that many progressive Christians get stuck at this stage and embrace a deconstructed Christianity where religious terms no longer have an authoritative meaning) 3. Rebuild these terms into more thoughtful, richer, more helpful terms I fully agree with Merritt that Christianese needs to be examined and our understanding of these terms - as signs representing our beliefs - should be clarified, but his framework leaves out one crucial point: as Christians seeking to grow closer to a living God who has revealed Himself to us through the Scriptures, we are not simply free to reinvent religious language in ways that make us comfortable. In approaching theological concepts and the words we use to describe them, our measuring stick must always be the Word of God. Language does change, and words as used in our contemporary American setting, such as "judge," "blessing," "sin," and "love" do not mean the same thing to us that they meant to ancient writers working in the languages of Greek and Hebrew. However, to be authentic seekers of the truth, our task is to uncover the intent of the Scriptures by digging into the world of the Bible, its languages, its cultures, and what these words meant to them. From there we can let these fresh understandings of religious language inform our understanding and bring new meaning to our faith and how we speak about it. Without this commitment, any attempt to "speak God from scratch" is doomed to fall prey to the idolatry of our own priorities, cultural lenses, and personal feelings. I was ready to roll my eyes and toss aside this book entirely based on Merritt's omission of this crucial aspect, especially since he repeatedly criticizes progressive Christianity for a similar lack of commitment to the authority of the Bible. But in reading further, this principle does in fact appear, albeit buried in individual essays about particular words. In Chapter 11, on disillusionment, he finally brings up "the exchange of falsehood for fact" (p. 123) and writes that we must "take a lie - about the world, about yourself, about those you love, about God - and replace it with the truth" (p. 121) The concluding chapter of this book, a "How-To Guide for Seekers and Speakers," also contains this crucial step as part of his 5-step process of reimagining words, as he recommends that exploring the meanings of words "should not be a process of ex nihilo creation but rather a process of growth or maturation. Take time to explore early meanings of the word in history, in your religious tradition, and in the sacred Scriptures. It may be helpful to search online for the etymology of the words or search a concordance to survey its usage in Scripture. Root yourself here as you explore fresh meanings." (p. 207) This really should have been clarified and emphasized up front, rather than hidden in the back of the book. Perhaps he didn't want to alienate progressive or non-religious readers by stating a commitment to the authority of Scripture too early? At any rate, the lack of clarification on this point left a shadowy question mark over much of the book. Overall, though, this book is well worth reading and discussing with some good friends over coffee.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cherie Lowe

    Finally, a thinking book for people of faith to open a dialogue about why we use the words we use when it comes to talking about what we believe. Well thought out and artfully written, Learning to Speak God from Scratch combines data driven research and memoir to trace the how and why sacred words are slipping from the lexicon or have lost their original meaning. If you are fearful about opening a conversation about God with a friend, coworker, acquaintance or neighbor, this book coaches you thr Finally, a thinking book for people of faith to open a dialogue about why we use the words we use when it comes to talking about what we believe. Well thought out and artfully written, Learning to Speak God from Scratch combines data driven research and memoir to trace the how and why sacred words are slipping from the lexicon or have lost their original meaning. If you are fearful about opening a conversation about God with a friend, coworker, acquaintance or neighbor, this book coaches you through understanding words often misused or rarely used at all. If you’re confounded and confused by words often associated with Christianity, Merritt traces their origins and original intent. If you’ve long spoken and sang words you didn’t understand, Learning to Speak God undergirds and refreshes what may not be fully understood. Humorous and touching storytelling mark every page of this book. What could be a stale or boring topic springs to life in Merritt’s hallmark style of crafting narratives. I received an advanced copy of this book. However, I ordered one for myself after reading it because I know I’ll want to revisit its concepts.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Janna Northrup

    With clear and thoughtful language, Jonathan Merritt tackles a deeply personal subject…belief in God and how we communicate about that. His premise is that our language about God has become distant, stilted and full of what feels like ticking time bombs and it is time for us to rethink hope-fully how we can reengage with authentic words about God and thus invite anyone into the conversation. What resonated with me was his discomfort with the language of evangelicalism from his childhood. (charge With clear and thoughtful language, Jonathan Merritt tackles a deeply personal subject…belief in God and how we communicate about that. His premise is that our language about God has become distant, stilted and full of what feels like ticking time bombs and it is time for us to rethink hope-fully how we can reengage with authentic words about God and thus invite anyone into the conversation. What resonated with me was his discomfort with the language of evangelicalism from his childhood. (charged words like "blessed," "mystery," "grace" and "brokenness.") Instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, he thoughtfully examines different ways to look at the language of Christianity and thus invites all of us into the conversation about a God who has withstood the test of time, who is trustworthy and about whom we don't have all the answers. I especially loved the stance he took regarding openness and bringing the language about faith under a bright light of examination finding joyfully, that God is bigger than our questions about him. Our past hurts over the language of faith that may have left us hurting and confused can withstand examination and growth until we find a "way through" leaving us with a deeper, richer view of God and not a fear-based distance. Well thought out book and I really hope many read it and the conversation begins! I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Seth

    Read this in one sitting. Easy to read through and thought the words chosen were great to explore. As Bob Dylan sings “The times, they are a-changin’” and as they change, so does the vernacular. If anything, this book should encourage those that read it how they would define Christian words when talking to non-Christians. I largely appreciated “Pain” and “Disappointment”

  9. 5 out of 5

    Debra Anderson

    Jonathan Merritt does in this book what he's been teaching us to do for years through his RNS and Atlantic writing -- to be thoughtful speakers and generous thinkers. Part I is a robust, researched look at spiritual language and it's contemporary use. This is not a one-track thesis, but a six-lane highway toward understanding language and obtaining the courage to employ it for human flourishing. He's included a profusion of endnoted citations to tempt you to load up your Amazon wish list -- whic Jonathan Merritt does in this book what he's been teaching us to do for years through his RNS and Atlantic writing -- to be thoughtful speakers and generous thinkers. Part I is a robust, researched look at spiritual language and it's contemporary use. This is not a one-track thesis, but a six-lane highway toward understanding language and obtaining the courage to employ it for human flourishing. He's included a profusion of endnoted citations to tempt you to load up your Amazon wish list -- which is a definite plus for any book I enjoy. I wished for more optimism in the chapter on the Possibilty of Revival and for more implications on transformation in chapter 5. Both of these chapters seem to end just as I was enjoying their main point. But there is plenty of other information and application in this book that I wasn't expecting. A discussion on Jewish midrash? It's in there. A fresh look at imago dei? See Chapter 3. Part II allows your brain to play a bit. Sit with each short section and see how your desire to make sense of spiritual words begins to break forth into possibility. Would I come to all the same conclusions? No. But am I grateful that someone has guided me out of rutted thinking and usage? Absolutely! Language is a tool of abundance rather than scarcity and Merritt helps us take the shackles off.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/book-r... It's been a long time since I wrote a book review and it's time to get back on the horse. I am starting with this book as I have recommended it to everyone who asks me what I am reading. Jonathan Merritt is someone for whom I have respect and jealousy in equal measure, mainly as it relates to his writing. I am sure there are subjects on which we disagree, but Learning To Speak God From Scratch: Why Sacred Words Are Vanishing and How We Can Revive Them under https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/book-r... It's been a long time since I wrote a book review and it's time to get back on the horse. I am starting with this book as I have recommended it to everyone who asks me what I am reading. Jonathan Merritt is someone for whom I have respect and jealousy in equal measure, mainly as it relates to his writing. I am sure there are subjects on which we disagree, but Learning To Speak God From Scratch: Why Sacred Words Are Vanishing and How We Can Revive Them underscores our alignment. The premise for this book comes from the author's story of relocating to Manhattan from Atlanta where he was born and raised. He recalls an experience in the subway where he was speaking with another rider. I realized this linguistic chasm en route to visit a church in Manhattan on my first Sunday in New York. Waiting on a subway platform, a woman standing next to me asked where I was headed. I explained that I was going to a "worship service." She asked for clarification, having never heard that phrase. I clarified that I was new to the city and was going to visit a church. She perked up and said she practiced the Baha'i faith. She held up her crystal amulet necklace and explained that it protected her from evil spirits. If I was spiritually curious, the woman said, she'd read my chakra and access the invisible energy fields around my body. As we talked about our respective religious practices, it became clear that neither of us understood what the other was saying. I glanced down the dark tunnel in hopes of spotting a train, but rescue wasn't in sight. Jonathan came to the realization that words he has used all of his life, words that had shaped him, in ways he probably didn't fully realize, were unknown, or worse, laden with baggage because of irresponsible misuse. What should he do? Jonathan partnered with the Barna Group to commission a study to get data on spiritual conversations around the country. The results were shocking. More than one-fifth of respondents did not have a spiritual conversation in the last year. Six in ten only had a spiritual conversation on a rare occasion. 7% of Americans say they talk about religious matters on about a once-per-week basis. But wait, here is an unexpected silver lining: Younger generations including Millennials are having more conversations about religion or spirituality than any other generation. So, what does Jonathan recommend in this climate of reduced spiritual speech juxtaposed with frequent spiritual conversation amongst younger generations? It's time to revive sacred speech. Ours is an expedition to rediscover a love for consecrated terms and discover why speaking God matters now more than ever. To express our spiritual stirrings, to articulate our transcendent experiences, to share our truest selves with friends. In these pages, I hope you learn to speak about faith with greater confidence than ever before. The world needs a revival of these sacred words. And so do we. Jonathan wrote about words you might expect such as God, prayer, creed, sin, fall, and grace along with many others you wouldn't such as pain, disappointment, mystery, neighbor, pride, lost, and pride. I appreciated the vulnerability and care he demonstrated as he shared not only about his experiences as it related to these words, but also the experiences of others. Here is one example from the chapter on Blessed. After spending a decade studying the prosperity gospel, [Kate] Bowler received horrific news: she had stage IV colon cancer. As a young mother, she struggled to understand how the prosperity gospel's understanding of God, illness, and blessings made sense of her condition. Dying from cancer and leaving behind a husband and child doesn't look like God's favor. In addition to the content of the book, I want to highlight some resources Jonathan included in the back matter including footnotes, a list of recommended book for God-speakers, and a how-to guide for seekers and speakers. You can't learn how to speak God from scratch by reading a book. Most people, including myself, learn by doing. The guide outlines a five-step process (Merritt uses the acronym SPEAK to make it easy to remember) to get us started. After moving to New York, I realized the need to play with the words I'd unconsciously been avoiding. I decided to begin living aware of the linguistic tensions I felt. I refused to place sacred terms in liquid amber, fossilizing them and accepting the status quo. I committed to keep playing with the lexicon of faith. When I stumbled across a word that I previously resisted or that I had become overly familiar with, I would stop to notice it. I would pause and ponder it. Each time I encountered a term that made me squirm and prompted confusion, I named the meaning I'd given it, confronted the meaning's shortcomings, and then reimagined how I might understand the word afresh. My takeaway from this book is not just the words that I should or should not use, but the lens through which I see the world. Jonathan is calling us toward a broader view where we see the world not only through the lens of our experience but through others as well. I am not suggesting that you change your theology, but adopt a more welcoming position toward the women and men we come into contact with and allowing that to influence the conversations you have and the words you use. I heartily recommend Learning To Speak God From Scratch, but please do with an open mind and heart. Pray for the Holy Spirit to help you understand the words you currently use, those you should consider not using, and those you can reclaim for the glory of God and the common good. In closing, please do me a favor. If you're interested in picking up a copy of Learning To Speak God From Scratch, please contact my friend Byron Borger at Hearts & Minds Books. He and his team have been selling books for more than 30 years. They will take good care of you.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dayna

    Words matter. Merritt provides us with space to remember to treat them kindly. In an age where proverbial babies are being constantly tossed with the bathwater this book is a great reminder of the treasures we have even if they’ve become tainted or tarnished. Speaking from Scratch provides countless avenues to start and continue conversations we need to be having with one another. Plus, the last chapter... worth every page leading up to it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Judy McCarver

    I love the main idea of this book. That is to say, I think we need to use sacred words more often and more often in the right context. I had some dissenting opinions about a few points. A flag is always thrown up for me when someone uses the word "mega church" to describe a church in a negative context. (Page 152) There is no offer in the text to define a mega church, so one is led to believe it is the stereotypical very large church with a pastor who makes a very large sum of money to serve him I love the main idea of this book. That is to say, I think we need to use sacred words more often and more often in the right context. I had some dissenting opinions about a few points. A flag is always thrown up for me when someone uses the word "mega church" to describe a church in a negative context. (Page 152) There is no offer in the text to define a mega church, so one is led to believe it is the stereotypical very large church with a pastor who makes a very large sum of money to serve himself. And that is what the author said. Mega church pastors are used here in the same sentence as "flashy televangelists." Not all little tiny churches are created equal. Meaning, they don't all act the same, believe the same, or serve the same. They are not all tiny churches because their faith is miniscule. The same is also true of large churches, those the author has rashly thrown into the same category, by assigning them the not-so-nice name "mega church." Not all large churches are shallow, or exist only to support "televangelist" preachers who are only pursuing their own interests. For instance later on that same page (page 152) he names a "flashy televangelist," Kenneth Copeland. My point about all mega churches not being the same at all is illustrated here. Clearly Copeland is not nearly in the same league as Godly leaders like Levi Lusko, or Craig Groeschel for instance. But when we throw that word around, "mega church" without clearly defining who and what we are referring to, the names and character of sincerely Godly men and women are thrown into the mud. I would love to "shop talk" with the author about sacred conversations. Anytime we gather around a table with friends for dinner or our families, and talk, those conversations are sacred. And so, every word spoken, every if, and, and but is also sacred. Every time I take time to have coffee with my young adult daughters and we share and disclose, laugh, and maybe cry. Those conversations are sacred. When someone shares their heart with me regarding what they are going through in their marriage or parenting, yeap, sacred... When my husband takes time to share his dreams of the future as we power through this life together, sacred. Sacred words are important. But how can we possibly know and speak anew the traditional sacred words of God, when we don't slow down and take the time necessary to have revealing and valuable conversations? Those conversations are also sacred. If we learn to love and communicate with others in healthy conversation, I think we will be more likely to find renewal in sacred words. Sacred words are not only the ones we commonly know of in the context of religion. They are any word that is "aptly spoken" (Proverbs 25:11) to one another in all the spaces and places of our lives. I love the author's heart in this book. I can tell from reading it, that heart was hurt by the church at one time. It comes through loud and clear. Yet, I am glad he didn't desert his faith or calling when that happen. I am glad he wrote this book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Adrienne

    Jonathan is stellar in his ability to bring questions, truth, and myths to the table in a way that invites rich conversation rather than polarity and excommunication. This book is beautifully written with thoughtful and thorough research, insightful interviews, and authentic personal stories to show the reader the book was written with the reader's heart in mind. As a theologian, lover of language and nuance, and one who has been studying semantics and the positive or negative impact culture can Jonathan is stellar in his ability to bring questions, truth, and myths to the table in a way that invites rich conversation rather than polarity and excommunication. This book is beautifully written with thoughtful and thorough research, insightful interviews, and authentic personal stories to show the reader the book was written with the reader's heart in mind. As a theologian, lover of language and nuance, and one who has been studying semantics and the positive or negative impact culture can leave on our words, I loved this book and am grateful it was written at this point in history. This is a must-read for anyone who has been looking for a way to embark on meaningful conversation with strangers, neighbors, friends, and so-called enemies. Jonathan's bravery in exploring and excavating some of the sacred words of belief is much needed. With fear and siloing driving our culture and so much shouting, and silence, in America's landscape right now, "Learning to Speak God from Scratch," is a white flag invitation to an inclusive table where engaging and sacred conversation is allowed to unfurl. His words offer oxygen to people who have been suffocated in their American Churchianity but have never lost hope that a good and loving God exists in spite of our cultural context. I'm looking forward to gathering several groups this fall at my own table, in person and on-line, to read and engage and excavate this book together. This book will also be one I give to friends as a gift, knowing how the words within the pages rekindled some hope I had lost in our polarized state. I received an advanced reader copy of this book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Shelby Spear

    Why Words Are a Holy Gift We’re Called to Steward Have you ever taken the time to reflect on the depth and wonder of vocabulary? Or imagined what life would be like without words? As humans, we have the power to wield elements of speech for both destruction and encouragement, education and deceit, praise and desecration. Quite a supernatural superpower; one that sets us apart from all other living things. God spoke us into being and then passed the torch of language, entrusting us with its care. Why Words Are a Holy Gift We’re Called to Steward Have you ever taken the time to reflect on the depth and wonder of vocabulary? Or imagined what life would be like without words? As humans, we have the power to wield elements of speech for both destruction and encouragement, education and deceit, praise and desecration. Quite a supernatural superpower; one that sets us apart from all other living things. God spoke us into being and then passed the torch of language, entrusting us with its care. In doing so, the gift of words became an unseen force pushing, pulling, and shaping the shores of humanity like lingual gravity. Jonathan Merritt’s new book, Learning to Speak God from Scratch: Why Sacred Words Are Vanishing—and How We Can Revive Them, reminds us that our responsibility to steward such an inheritance is profound and sacred, and challenges us to self-reflect on whether we understand our role. Which begins with understanding the genesis of words in the first place, Godspeak in particular. The realm of possibility when it comes to interpreting and extracting meaning from sacred language can be an infinite pursuit—which Jonathan points out is a blessing. He shares a quote from Sally McFague who says, “The figurative language of the Bible beckons us into a larger conversation. It forces us to stop and pause—to engage our imaginations, not just our brains.” Like nature—varied, expanding, life-giving, creative, words offer us a glimpse into the all-encompassing wonder and complexity of God. They have buoyed us for millennia as a medium for exchanging information via storytelling, parables, recorded history, etc. The evolution of mankind and the passing on of all things Divine would be impossible without human language. Words are how we define our existence and make sense of the world around us. Jonathan begins Learning to Speak God from Scratch by sharing statistics on how and why faith talk is on the decline in our country, while stressing the urgency for a revival of Godspeak if we want the Good News to continue filtering down to future generations. Much of our problem when it comes to the language of faith is misuse and misunderstanding of certain words. We’ve also allowed many sacred terms to remain static, thus preventing deeper insight into what God may be trying to communicate. So, Jonathan pulls several from our sacred vocabulary and invites us to ponder new and imaginative connotations. He helps us along by weaving Biblical narratives and vulnerable personal stories which help draw out the richness and beauty of our spiritual vernacular. We all love to talk and yammer away—often without second thought about what we’re transmitting from our mouths. But Jonathan points out that when it comes to how we speak about our spiritual heritage, the words we use and intention behind them matters. Slung around improperly, sacred words can destroy a person. Uttered carelessly, the gift of speech can send a neighbor down a wayward path. Maybe the most damaging of all is choosing to stifle our Godpseak altogether. Choosing not to talk about faith and spirituality out of fear, ignorance, or worry over rocking the Titanic isn’t healthy for humanity. The risk is allowing all things sacred to become obsolete or ordinary, which diminishes the luster of the miraculous and extraordinary. Jonathan will wow you with his extensive research about language. He will challenge you to lean into words like family, blessed, creed, pain, grace, sin, and neighbor with an open heart and spacious mind. As C.S. Lewis said, “As everyone knows, words constantly take on new meanings.” Truth be told, I wasn’t a legit member of the “everyone knows” group until reading this book. Jonathan encouraged me to consider words as living elements and to give these God-given gifts the attention and respect they deserve. Learning to Speak God from Scratch opened my eyes, stretched my heart, and renewed my passion for Godspeak. I’m confident this book will do the same for you.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Heather Caliri

    I’ll be honest—the first third of the book frustrated me. Merritt’s contention—that our use of sacred speech in the Church has often calcified our vocabulary and made it off-putting to a secular public—is one I agree with. Yet for much of the beginning of the book, Merritt supports his argument with statistics, general statements, and the distance of the reporter that he is. The problem did not feel VISCERAL in those pages, it did not convey with any emotion how damaging our spiritual words can I’ll be honest—the first third of the book frustrated me. Merritt’s contention—that our use of sacred speech in the Church has often calcified our vocabulary and made it off-putting to a secular public—is one I agree with. Yet for much of the beginning of the book, Merritt supports his argument with statistics, general statements, and the distance of the reporter that he is. The problem did not feel VISCERAL in those pages, it did not convey with any emotion how damaging our spiritual words can be. Instead, it felt like Merritt just felt a bit of culture shock upon moving to New York and hoped to adjust his religious “accent”. His critique of progressives abandoning the word “God” for other terms also didn’t make much sense to me. Jesus used “Abba” instead of traditional Jewish God names—why is this imaginative work wrong when Rob Bell or Barbara Brown Taylor do it? However, my frustrations largely disappeared in the last section of the book, where Merritt’s word-arguments take on flesh. Using more personal anecdotes (his and others) he helps capture what we lose when “saving” is what happens at a big box store. I often felt grateful for Merritt’s gracious way of exposing how our serrated religious words hurt outsiders and the vulnerable—and inspired by his portrayal of how those same words quite literally transform us when we use them well. A worthy read, especially if you skim to the good part.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Elle Berry

    In 'Learning to Speak God from Scratch' Jonathan Merritt details what he notes as a disturbing decline in our use of spiritual words. He follows this by making a compelling case for why reviving these words matters, and then provides a kind of geography for how those of us who want to speak God can find our way forward. Far from a static definition of God-speak, the chapters that follow are part story and part essay. While I enjoyed all of these chapters, I was particularly moved by his chapters In 'Learning to Speak God from Scratch' Jonathan Merritt details what he notes as a disturbing decline in our use of spiritual words. He follows this by making a compelling case for why reviving these words matters, and then provides a kind of geography for how those of us who want to speak God can find our way forward. Far from a static definition of God-speak, the chapters that follow are part story and part essay. While I enjoyed all of these chapters, I was particularly moved by his chapters on disappointment, pain, and sin. His framing of these words is personal and compassionate, but most of all, these chapters have inspired me, and are leaving their mark on the stories I am telling myself about my own life. While the subjects and depth of the book are frequently weighty, the writing and presentation is as approachable as sitting down with a good friend for a cup of tea. 'Learning to speak God from Scratch' isn’t a dogmatic directional for how to speak God—it’s an appeal for each of us to revive how we engage with spiritual language, and an invitation for us to join in the important linguistic work of incarnating God-speak with our own stories and divine encounters. I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    In Learning to Speak God from Scratch, award-winning contributor to The Atlantic Jonathan Merritt tackles a subtle but consequential issue in America - the decline of spiritual conversations. Fear not. This is not a book preaching to its readers that they should "share Jesus" more. Even among religious people, spiritual conversations are on a sharp decline. Merritt believes that everyone should be speaking more about their spiritual lives as it often informs and shapes their values and morals. Lea In Learning to Speak God from Scratch, award-winning contributor to The Atlantic Jonathan Merritt tackles a subtle but consequential issue in America - the decline of spiritual conversations. Fear not. This is not a book preaching to its readers that they should "share Jesus" more. Even among religious people, spiritual conversations are on a sharp decline. Merritt believes that everyone should be speaking more about their spiritual lives as it often informs and shapes their values and morals. Learning to Speak God from Scratch is divided into two sections. The first part tackles linguistics and how words can actually shape our perception (and vice versa), and the second part is a collection of essays on various "spiritual words" and how they've been abused and how they can be repurposed for the 21st Century. Filled with personal anecdotes, brain science, and some truly fantastic storytelling, Learning to Speak God from Scratch is a must-read for anyone trying to articulate their spirituality in a post-modern and pluralistic society.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Terri Fullerton

    My husband and I read this aloud. It captured the place we are—not sure how to talk about our faith. Throughout this book I felt like some of the confusing and deflated sacred words were standing up again—in my own heart, like God used this book to blow fresh air to me. I have struggled to know how to talk about my faith, especially in the last couple of years. This book was exactly what we needed. Jonathan provides a way forward. His storytelling snags your soul, gives you hope, and equips you t My husband and I read this aloud. It captured the place we are—not sure how to talk about our faith. Throughout this book I felt like some of the confusing and deflated sacred words were standing up again—in my own heart, like God used this book to blow fresh air to me. I have struggled to know how to talk about my faith, especially in the last couple of years. This book was exactly what we needed. Jonathan provides a way forward. His storytelling snags your soul, gives you hope, and equips you to move forward. I think it’s his best book so far.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lizz

    This book is an exploration into sacred words that in today’s culture have become so diluted or negative that we have forgotten what they truly mean. Words like grace, sin, and gospel just to name a few. Jonathan goes on a journey of re-learning those words from their origins and learning to ‘speak God from scratch’ in order to help others understand and come to terms with such sacred words and language. I received an Advance Readers Copy from the publisher.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Bier

    read for a book study discussion at church. Merritt's solution to the "disappearance of sacred words" is to empty theological language of any traditional meaning so that we then can fill with whatever meaning we want. Rather than translating the truth of Scripture and Christian theology to the 21st century, Merritt argues for a progressive approach to language and theology that is ultimately unhelpful. read for a book study discussion at church. Merritt's solution to the "disappearance of sacred words" is to empty theological language of any traditional meaning so that we then can fill with whatever meaning we want. Rather than translating the truth of Scripture and Christian theology to the 21st century, Merritt argues for a progressive approach to language and theology that is ultimately unhelpful.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Styf

    As an English teacher and a lover of language, pretty much everything in this book hit home. Merritt makes a lot clear in a way that those in my traditional upbringing haven't been able to express. As an English teacher and a lover of language, pretty much everything in this book hit home. Merritt makes a lot clear in a way that those in my traditional upbringing haven't been able to express.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Willow O'Briant

    Fantastic book. I am still digesting and feel like I need to read it again get more good stuff. t

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I could relate to this book on multiple levels. Well researched, well written, well done! I can’t wait to dive into the bibliography. I received an advance reader copy of the book from the publisher for review.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    I love language, words, humanity, and I love the world and the way we try to seek understanding...and I really wanted to love this book, too. Perhaps my hopes were too high? I did enjoy the history lessons and dissections of words, and I genuinely appreciated certain passages and observations, but I felt disappointed by the end. I'm glad I read it, but I wanted more than the text offered. I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book. I love language, words, humanity, and I love the world and the way we try to seek understanding...and I really wanted to love this book, too. Perhaps my hopes were too high? I did enjoy the history lessons and dissections of words, and I genuinely appreciated certain passages and observations, but I felt disappointed by the end. I'm glad I read it, but I wanted more than the text offered. I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ginger

    This was a tale of two books. The first 82 pages, I was set to declare it one of my favorite books of the year. I kept jotting down names in the back of the book of the people I wanted to recommend it to, kept stopping to read passages aloud to my husband. Jonathan Merritt breaks down a complex concept on the exploration of how languages die and are revived clearly, and convincingly. He also does a fantastic job in the first half of countering concerns. I'd make a note to research further in a mar This was a tale of two books. The first 82 pages, I was set to declare it one of my favorite books of the year. I kept jotting down names in the back of the book of the people I wanted to recommend it to, kept stopping to read passages aloud to my husband. Jonathan Merritt breaks down a complex concept on the exploration of how languages die and are revived clearly, and convincingly. He also does a fantastic job in the first half of countering concerns. I'd make a note to research further in a margin, then turn the page to find he addressed the very argument on the next page. Far too few books manage to do a good job at this. But the book then shifts to a lexicon of words. This was the section of the book I was most excited about. Merritt convinces us in the first half that sacred words need to be redefined, and sets out to redefine them. I'm sorry to say, he doesn't succeed at his task. In the first section, he lays out three steps to recapturing dying languages, even going so far as to caution those that stop at the second step of dismantling language and failing to build it back up infused with new meaning, and then he proceeds to do just that. It felt like a great second draft. The essays themselves are uneven. Some are a little thin (like the very first, on "yes" feeling like a weak place to start, since the word itself isn't one that particularly carries much religious baggage) and some are extremely well done (like his essay on "family" which traces the evolution of families in culture through American television--from Andy Griffith to Who's the Boss to Full House to Modern Family was a fascinating exploration). Many fall in the middle--aren't particularly awful but aren't particularly great either. But almost all of them disappointingly suffer from extremely flawed logic. He cites scripture in defense of his points that is widely accepted as descriptive, not prescriptive (Israel's kings in the historical record having multiples wives, not God's endorsement on that choice). He conflates words that have vastly different meanings (example: mystery and doubt) which should be known to anyone holding a seminary degree (I do not, but he does). While I agree that parables are often deliberately opaque, he picks three of the very clearest parables in his "Lost" chapter and questions who is symbolized by the sheep. He spends the entire chapter breaking down that we might not truly understand who the "sheep" are in this parable, and then later himself cites Jesus' own commentary making clear who the sheep are (spoiler alert: Luke 15:7... they're us sinners). He warns against being too literal, making theology out of metaphor, and then proceeds to do that exact thing multiple times (primarily during his chapter on "Spirit," when five out of six of his scripture references used to support his argument are metaphor). I should have been Merritt's target audience--raised in a conservative Christian place, moved somewhere significantly more liberal, haven't lost my faith by any means, but finding it changing. When learning to speak, "from scratch," the scratch ingredients seemed to be disparate and shaky. He drags other theologians that I too often take issue with, but even so, giving such a small portion of the quote, I have to wonder if they're being taken wildly out of context. When he criticizes people he goes on to cite more than once, you have to wonder if he's signaling. He once derides a preacher for speaking about an issue "in isolation from the full sweep of the Bible." But I could literally cite examples of the concept in question from Genesis to Revelation. I might agree with his endpoint here, and do in this case, but I have to wonder what he's missing... or ignoring. Perhaps most surprisingly of all, since he's talking about language, he becomes so cheesy at times. I had to wonder if more of his Southern Baptist dad's preaching didn't seep into his brain than he thought ("Grace on the receiving end is a lovely flower. Grace on the giving end is the pits." ... cringe... "often the best way to open one's heart is to close one's mouth"... groan!). I've heard it said that we should whisper where scripture whispers and yell where scripture yells. Merritt seems to get this backwards a lot of the times. He cautions against majoring on the minors, and then proceeds to cherry pick themes and concepts that suit his thesis. The consistency of the logic in his argument is shockingly impoverished and on display here. After the strong start, I was deeply disappointed. I would have been pressing this book into the hands of everyone I knew after the first 80+ pages. Read Frederick Beuchner's Wishful Thinking instead. Merritt makes a fantastic journalist, a poor theologian.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Motter

    I picked this up as research for a worship series coming up, and wondered if it would feel too much like a lexicon of faith. Instead, Merritt’s reflections on words like “neighbor” and “lost” we’re really affecting, both for the memoir honesty he injects into them and the plaintive confessional style he offers through them. The last chapter of the book is worth the cost of admission, as is his SPEAK tool for considering reimplementing sacred words in conversation.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Jonathan Merritt moved from his Bible Belt home town to New York. Used to 'Christianese' being spoken everywhere, from church on Sunday morning to the gun counter at the local department store, he found himself in culture-shock - New Yorkers spoke a different language. Christian referents were either largely absent or tied up with the rhetoric of campaigning politicians, fundamentalism and televangelists. It's a uniquely American situation but there's an underlying pattern that stretches out to Jonathan Merritt moved from his Bible Belt home town to New York. Used to 'Christianese' being spoken everywhere, from church on Sunday morning to the gun counter at the local department store, he found himself in culture-shock - New Yorkers spoke a different language. Christian referents were either largely absent or tied up with the rhetoric of campaigning politicians, fundamentalism and televangelists. It's a uniquely American situation but there's an underlying pattern that stretches out to people who might be inclined to have conversations about faith around the western world. We now live in a world where the language and vocab of religion are either way outside people's standard lexicographical frameworks or are subject to a web of additional cultural construals. Faced with this situation, studies show that people of faith are editing these terms out of their everyday interactions and altogether avoiding conversations about faith. But sacred words are important - they allow us to have a certain type of conversation - and hopefully not just conversations within our own epistemological bubbles. And so Merritt sets about addressing the issue. The book is wonderfully memoir-based, as he uses anecdotes from his own journey to propel the book forward and as gateways to discussing the subject at hand. A diagnosis of the problem is followed by a survey of possible responses: fossilisation - circle the wagons in an attempt to preserve the language (preserve the bubble amongst the initiated); substitution - in the face of misunderstanding and negative connotations drop the words altogether (maybe don't even say 'God' any more) and find alternates; and (spoiler alert: Merritt's proposed solution) transformation - keep using the terms but acknowledge their problems and let them evolve, discussing and negotiating meaning alongside their use... ie learn to speak God from scratch - be aware of the words you're using, play with them, experiment, keep language alive. The second part of the book is designed to demonstrate transformation in process (still couched in memoir) and Merritt explores a grab-bag of terms: creed, prayer, pain, disappointment, mystery, God, fall, sin, grace, brokenness, blessed, neighbour, pride, saint, confession, spirit, family and lost. I have genuine empathy with all the three possible responses to the challenges of God-speak - and I say this as a person who is already invested in the function of words and likes to think about them to a detail that becomes almost impractical in everyday life. I like the idea of honouring the historicity of the meanings of words - their etymology and their dictionary definition. I like specialist words. I know the impulse to preserve. I also like the idea of seeking alternate ways to express old concepts. I used to sometimes think about Jesus's words about not putting new wine (new concepts) in old wineskins (old frameworks)... that storage method doesn't work because as the new wine ferments it bursts a bag that no longer has stretch in it. But, I used to think to myself, putting old wine in new wineskins - that would work. So I used to give a lot of thought to fresh expression for old ideas, and so understand the impulse to drop words that aren't working any more or that are standing in the way of communication. But in more recent times I've become a fan of 'third-way thinking' which attempts to weave a path between supposed dualities, and so I like this proposition of Merritt's... and I like that it involves a notion of play - word-play, exploring the diversity of words and having conversations about what words mean, so that these kinds of discussions travel alongside the use of the words themselves. I'm the type of person who would probably find this fun. I was going to use a chunk of this review to talk about a word that I wish Merritt had included in his grab-bag: religion. Oh my. Heck, let's take a punt at discussing a real curly one. It's a word that's become seriously besmirched in the last several decades, and is now popularly seen as being a negative thing. On one side it's faced the squeeze from atheists who see religion as inherently bad - responsible for most of the problems of the world (exacerbated by revelations of some of the terrible things that sometimes go on inside the confines of religion) - and they seem dedicated to the futile task of eradicating it from human culture. Then, speaking specifically about the Christian faith - usually on the pentecostal / charismatic tip - the word religion has been used as synonymous with a rules-based, legalistic, boring, geeky, rote, non-spontaneous, dead construct - a dangerous substitute for genuine personal faith. So you hear people say such things as, 'I'm not religious, I have a relationship with Jesus.' What's happened in both these situations is that 'religion' has lost its qualifier. What should rightly be termed 'bad religion' or 'dead religion' is now simply called 'religion'. The reason I find this sad, and frustrating, is that without 'religion' we no longer have a term that describes the frameworks and matrices that humans always (and I mean always) have in their approaches to the divine. Religion is an utterly natural human instinct. Religion can turn bad, but it is not inherently bad - it's like 'culture', 'society', 'economics', 'science', 'government'. I wish we could at least preserve the word as a purely anthropological term. I like this definition: "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs." Here are some external things that Christians might do (even those who feel strong resistance to being labelled as 'religious') which fall under the category of religion: go to church, pray, read the Bible, sing specific types of songs as acts of worship (ie acts of devotion), take communion, practise baptism (these last two can be technically called by another besmirched word - 'ritual', aka 'sacraments' - in this case directly instituted by Jesus). And that's just the tip of it. Now, I know none of things are a substitute for a 'relationship with Jesus' but, when done in a healthy way, they are most certainly actions by which a 'relationship with Jesus' is formed and maintained. Deep breath. Yep, us Christians (or if you are shy of the word 'Christian', Christ-followers) are religious - might as well own it - if it isn't already too late. And in owning it begin to play with the term 'religious', work with it, negotiate it, take ownership of the connotations, fess up where we need to fess up, know the pitfalls, explore the beauty, maybe even let it hold us, accept its gifts, define and use it, in the kinds of ways Merritt suggests as we learn and relearn how to language the divine and our interactions with the divine. It feels risky but it's a compelling proposition - I wonder where it might lead.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rob O'Lynn

    In a time when theological language has become arcane, unfamiliar and potentially irrelevant, it is time for the Church to reclaim its linguistic heritage. The language of the Christian faith is rich, beautiful and absolutely necessary to comprehending and engaging the Christian faith. Yet, our words have lost their meaning to the common ear, mainly because our language has been accommodated by the surrounding culture (i.e., mystery, broken, sin, lost and blessed), much like early Christianity a In a time when theological language has become arcane, unfamiliar and potentially irrelevant, it is time for the Church to reclaim its linguistic heritage. The language of the Christian faith is rich, beautiful and absolutely necessary to comprehending and engaging the Christian faith. Yet, our words have lost their meaning to the common ear, mainly because our language has been accommodated by the surrounding culture (i.e., mystery, broken, sin, lost and blessed), much like early Christianity accommodated language from its surrounding culture (i.e., assembly, gospel, baptism, sanctuary). Merritt's argument is a simple one: we, as speakers of "God" (the Christian faith), must review what we mean when we use these words and work diligently to ensure that their meaning is both deeply theological while also being culturally accurate. In doing so, we can once again speak the "good news" of God to a world that is forgetting God. Merritt stands squarely in both his research and communication. He knows his stuff and writes in the same tradition as Marilyn Chandler McEntyre (Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies), Kathleen Norris (Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith) and Barbara Brown Taylor (Speaking of Sin). I will definitely be recommending Merritt's book to both speakers and non-speakers alike!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stefanie Kellum

    Jonathan Merritt has a knack for taking the observations, struggles, and joys I’ve had about being a Christian in today’s world and eloquently expressing them on paper. As someone who finds it difficult to speak about her faith in love and truth in an increasingly polarized society, this was a helpful guide for how we tongue-tied Christians can re-imbrace and reimagine sacred words of Christian faith in a way that brings glory to God and shows love to those around us. I practically used up an en Jonathan Merritt has a knack for taking the observations, struggles, and joys I’ve had about being a Christian in today’s world and eloquently expressing them on paper. As someone who finds it difficult to speak about her faith in love and truth in an increasingly polarized society, this was a helpful guide for how we tongue-tied Christians can re-imbrace and reimagine sacred words of Christian faith in a way that brings glory to God and shows love to those around us. I practically used up an entire highlighter on this book there were so many thought provoking insights, but the concept of Jesus as The Word and also as The Divine Conversation rocked my world, and the chapter on disillusionment was soul wrenching and cathartic. We have a divine calling to speak God with others who need His love and wisdom and healing, and this book shows us how to do just that and grow His kingdom through our conversations. Another fantastic book from a favorite writer who always seems to perfectly encapsulate a “purple” (as he has called it) way to live out Christianity in a red and blue America. *A huge thanks to the publisher and Jonathan Merritt for giving me an ARC of this title as part of the launch team!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey Felty

    The first few chapters of this book challenge the reader to examine their relationship with religious language and the cause of that. It helped me understand the growing, evolving definitions that I’ve had since I was a kid. Some of the main points stretched further than I could get down with, but a good read.

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