Since before seminary, quite a few years ago, I’ve been trying to settle, for myself at least, the issues that seem to divide people of faith. Why are there so many religions? Why are there so many Christian groups? What is the truth that should bring believers together and set them clearly apart from those who follow ideas that are not true? How do we demonstrate and establish the existence of truth among a people that seem determined to deny it? Through my life and ministry, I have found convincing answers for many of those questions, but I haven’t stopped asking and learning.
Rumors of God: Experience the Kind of Faith You’ve Only Heard About, by Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson, offers many of those same answers and a few new ones for me to consider. Whitehead and Tyson are originally from Australia, where they became friends and prayer partners; they came to the United States, apparently led by God to address the decline in Western Christian influence. In a sense, this book offers a summary of what they’ve discovered.
The title is based on a quotation from C. S. Lewis (page 5): “This world is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues and there’s a rumor going around the shop that some of us are someday going to come to life,” a metaphor for the new life a person receives in Christ, “life more abundant,” as Jesus says in John 10:10. Each chapter discusses a different rumor and how a person might discover through experience that the rumor is true.
People in this postmodern era do not tolerate churchy jargon, and the authors do an excellent job of sticking to and explaining Biblical terminology plainly, peppering their explanations with illustrative stories of real people discovering the truth in the rumors. Not only do these help clarify the ideas offered, but they provide encouragement to believers whom may themselves wonder if the rumors they have followed are true. Too many of us have found ourselves either caught in places where spiritual vitality seems stunted or in confusion of our own making. It was gratifying, as a long-time believer and teacher, to read ideas that address my own frustrations and uncertainties.
One of the important sections discusses the development of the extreme kind of individuality we see in the West today, especially the United States. People function with lives virtually cut off from both communities and from most other individuals, as evidenced by extreme divorce rates, living together in relationships that change frequently, and the influence of social networking where “friends” are often not even real acquaintances. Another insightful analysis addresses the materialistic and wasteful form of consumerism that has become the norm. Many decry this problem, especially around Christmas, but I’ve never read a better explanation of its origins.
In the course of identifying the real thing, Whitehead and Tyson make passing references to the fables or, at least, imply that host of ideas put forth, sometimes in error and sometimes merely to attract people to the teacher. Paul warned of our times: “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” He also gave the remedy: “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction,” which is what the authors have done in Rumors. In other words, each rumor addresses both the barriers to abundant living and ideas on how to discover the path to the truth of the “rumors” of God that people have heard.
Darren Whitehead is a teaching pastor at mega-church Willow Creek, and Jon Tyson leads a multi-campus, missional church in New York City. I found that the book commended me to those ministries, rather than the other way around. It’s a good book, and I encourage any believer or non-believer to read it.