Rachel Held Evans grew up loving the Bible and learning its stories, but as an adult, she found herself with many questions about it that shook her faith. In her quest to find out more about what the Bible is and how it's meant to be read, she discovered some surprising truths that she shares in Inspired, which led her back to a love for this sacred text. Using her scholarly knowledge of both the Bible and literature in general, she explores many of our favorite stories, creatively retelling them in other literary mediums such as poetry, short story, screenplay, and more to make them more accessible. Interspersed with these stories, she presents her struggles with her own doubts along with the possible meaning behind various biblical passages, and through it all, she shows exactly how the Word of God is a living, breathing, dynamic book that can still speak to us today.
Rachel Held Evans is an author who's been on my radar for quite some time. I've had a couple of her other books on my TBR list, but just haven't gotten around to reading them yet. I've also read and enjoyed many of her blog posts. She's someone whose story and spiritual journey resonates with me on a deep level. Therefore when our church book club chose her latest release, Inspired, as our new monthly read, I was very excited at the prospect of finally diving into one of her books. It certainly didn't disappoint. Ms. Evans is clearly a highly intelligent and scholarly individual who has extensively studied and researched the Bible, but at the same time, she's someone who has struggled with the meaning behind many of its stories. Therefore, she has studied it all the more while grappling with these questions, and we, the readers, get to benefit from the answers she's found in her travels through its pages.
Ms. Evans breaks the Bible down into groups (or genres, if you will) of stories (eg. origin stories, war stories, resistance stories, etc.) and focuses each chapter on one of these groups. In them, she explores the context in which these books of the Bible were written (eg. when they were written, who they were written for, and what was going on at that point in history). She also explores some of her own doubts and struggles with various stories within the larger story of God, and how she came to a place where she was able to reconcile her own feelings on those things with what the Bible says. In between the chapters, she takes a well-known Bible passage or story and creatively reimagines it, sometimes by adding more dialogue, emotion, and details than what the biblical account provides, and other times by exploring it from the viewpoint of a fictional character living in those times. In the case of the story of Job, she's turned it into a screenplay. All of these were very interesting and drew me into the book, helping me to see these stories in a new and accessible way.
As someone who has shared many of Ms. Evans' doubts and struggles with the Bible, I very much appreciated this book. In recent years, I've more or less abandoned my study of the Bible, although not my Christian faith. However, much like with Rob Bell's What Is the Bible?, Inspired helped me to see the Bible in a new light and context that makes me more interested in studying it again with the new knowledge that I've gained. I was also grateful for the author's vulnerability and transparency, which made it so easy for me to relate to her and her journey. I think that she and I are in similar spiritual places, and it's nice to know that I'm not the only one who has questions and uncertainties. After reading her blog posts, I had no real doubt that this would be the case, but it was still great to dive deeper into one of her more lengthy works. I think my favorite chapter was "Resistance Stories," because it speaks volumes to what's happening in the world today. It even brought tears to my eyes a few times. Overall, I really enjoyed Inspired and highly recommend it to anyone who has questions about the Bible, but who doesn't want to entirely abandon their faith because of their doubts.
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What Is the Bible? by Rob Bell
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