A wise seminary professor once warned those of us anxious to boil the New Testament down to Luther’s reading of Romans and Galatians to be careful, lest we turn faith itself into yet another good work.
In our efforts to correct what we perceive as inadequate patterns of meaning-making, we often fall right into those same patterns. So perhaps the strongest moment in Debbie Blue’s provocative new book comes toward the end, when her critique of the tendency to “mistake the summons of the living God for a rock”—to turn the Bible into an idol—turns in on itself.
“The idols I crank out tend to have some sort of feminine colors and maybe a stripe of some weird antirational thing going on,” Blue observes, “mixed in an unlikely manner with shades of Barth and lefty polka dots.” It’s a good description of the pages of freewheeling biblical interpretation that precede it. And by implicating herself as among the idolaters, Blue avoids setting up her own ideas as the solution. Instead, she recognizes that idols are inevitable—but they’re also hollow, and it’s in recognizing this hollowness that “we glimpse that what holds us is the grace of God.”
From Stone to Living Word is the second book from Blue, a founding pastor of House of Mercy in St. Paul, Minnesota. Sensual Orthodoxy (Cathedral Hill Press, 2003) offers a collection of sermons around a single thesis: that the gospels’ witness is not austere or tidy but rather physical and messy, alive. Here, Blue develops this idea further, applies it to the larger canon, and expands her project to questions about why good biblical reading matters to our faith and our lives.
If this sounds ambitious and overstuffed, it is. But this is part of the point: Blue embraces rather than downplays the Bible’s tendency toward the complicated, cryptic, and paradoxical. She seeks to revel in the text’s vivacious wildness, not tame it.