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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2018 Rachel Held Evans (P)2018 Thomas Nelson

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Hermeneutics for people that don't use the word

I very much value Rachel Held Evans. I do not have all of the same questions and issues that Evans has had. I grew up in a different context, I am male and therefore was not restricted in similar ways as she was. I grew up in an evangelical wing of a mainline denomination, so I did not have the fundamentalist tendencies that her church background did. The problem of evil, which I treat seriously, has never been threatening to my faith in the same way that it was to her faith. But I valued her voice as one that helps me with perspective.

Evans is getting older. The original memoir-y looks at young adult faith and coming of age cannot go on forever. And while I don’t think her books were always primarily deconstructing, Inspired is consciously an attempt at constructing. I do not want to presume motive or changes, but she is 35 now. She has a young son and a newborn daughter. She has chosen a church home. So I think that it is likely that the settled nature of young middle age has her thinking about how to construct faith of those around her not just ask questions and pose problems (not that there is anything wrong with asking questions and posing problems.)

Inspired is focused on how to read the bible, or at least how she has learned to read the bible, in a new way. She is primarily approaching the bible as story. Looking at what is there, but in a new way. Evans is primarily known as a memoirist. She is not a scholar, but a writer and writing with a writer’s sense of how stories are supposed to be read and understood. 

I went through my own period of trying to understand how to read scripture again eight or ten years ago. I had a seminary degree. I had grown up in the church. I had read the bible cover to cover multiple times. At one point I felt like I needed to step away and ‘forget’ the bible a bit to be able to approach it differently. But what really helped me see the bible again in a fresh way was a combination of seeing the bible through other people’s eyes (as Evans is attempting to do here) and liturgical approach through the book of common prayer. Evans as well has found help within the liturgical world and this is largely approached as a liturgical exercise. 

I also really appreciate Rachel’s skill as a writer. She can write, but she also has a real skill of taking dense theological ideas and making them readable and understandable for people without theology degrees. That is an important and needed pastoral skill. We need to move ideas (from Greg Boyd or NT Wright or Walter Bruggemann or many others) that primarily are writing to the academy or to clergy, to lay people. One of the continued problems of the church is that bad theology can get stuck in the imaginations of lay people and lead to a distortion of the lived life of the believer. So books like Inspired are helpful to both make scripture clear and bring serious academic concepts to lay people. 

Rachel Held Evans is also passionate about whatever she is doing or talking about or writing. Having read all of her books and being an occasional reader of her blog and twitter account, that passion carries through. I do not alway agree with what she is passionate about and I think she can occasional fall into traps that her common opponents use, but I love her passion.

As with any author, there are places I disagree. But for the most part some of my complaints about previous books are much less here. I think that either Evans has a new set of editors or she is doing a better job of listening to them. This is just a cleaner book with less extraneous content than some of her previous projects. And while there are some areas where I think she does misunderstand or misrepresent opinions that differ from hers, there is a lot less of that and I think there is more grace in the presentation of differing ideas. 

I have never been as fascinated by Midrash as many popular progressive Evangelical authors seem to be. Maybe I just have not studied it enough. But while I do think we can learn something from Jewish commentators as well as the basic concept of the way that the Midrash handles differing ideas, I tend to think it gets overused. 

The section on the parables, and the incarnation and the importance of the incarnation to our faith, is my favorite part of the book. There are many Evangelicals that are not fans of Rachel Held Evans, but this section should be read by people that are not fans of hers. Her theology may not be the exact theology of others, but the importance of faith shows through. Sections like this are a reminder to me, not just that progresses can be real Christians too, but that conservatives (who I tend to have less patience for) have human reactions to faith as well.

I am also glad that Rachel Held Evans reads her own books. Authors should pretty much always read their own books if they want to. Evans is not a professional narrator, but knows her words and communicates them well.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Keep ASKING Questions Rachel

I don't have the words to express my deep compassionate love for this author, her work, her journey, her bravery and her honesty. She grabs my heart every time I pick up any of her books.I find myself rooting and sheering her on. I love the care and deep consideration she has for life, the text, and how we live out our lives. KEEP ASKING QUESTIONS. KEEP LOVING. This book is for more than the scope she's written it for - it is for anyone and everyone currious about the Inspired. The Bible, ladies and gentleman, unpacked in a new and lofe breathing way. and Rachel Held Evens is a born reader, her voice gives presence and nuiance to her own words that might otherwise have been lost. Admittedly, I have a personal preference for authors reading their works aloud.

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What I’ve Been Seeking

I was raised in a conservative Christian tradition but became a member of the Episcopal Church as an adult. Nonetheless, those early teachings persisted in how I viewed the Bible . . . until my EfM experience. I then became somewhat unmoored from the Bible. This book has provided a foundational reconnection and for that I’m so thankful.

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It truly is inspired!

A great reflection on the Bible and the biblical tradition. The literalist will learn the importance of historical critical study and the non believer will come away with a,better appreciation for stories, poems, letters that are still inspirational even for the non religious.

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  • Jon
  • Richardson, TX, United States
  • 06-23-18

Very good overall, but she has her soapboxes

This book was like a very tasty blackberry cobbler. It’s tastes very good, but you have be mindful of of the pits/seeds. I loved so many of her insights, but she definitely has her soapboxes she likes to get on occasionally. Just like those pits/seeds won’t keep me from eating and enjoying that cobbler, her soapboxes won’t prevent me from reading this again in the future. For those that are on the same page with her soapboxes, they will love this book entirely.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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I'm frustrated with the Church...

This book gives me (and you) a right/practical perspective on how the Bible is meant to influence us, the role of people in that journey, and a fresh understanding of just how risque it all was. This book helped me to remember why God and the Bible are so captivating, and just how scandalous it all is, especially when it's different contexts, writing styles, and people are considered.

Definitely a must-read book for folks with questions!

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Lots of thinking points

This book contains masterful ways to rethink many Biblical stories. I think it is a great book and produced much for pondering life today through the lens of the Bible. I gave it 3 stars overall because as the author claims some skepticism for the Bible, for me, it took some of the stories too far into the modern realm. I will think deeply upon what I heard and will probably at some point incorporate some of her style at looking at life, but for now, some of this felt a bit jarring.

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Bravely Written, Tenderly Told

Rachel does an amazing job of building up the listener’s faith in scripture, even as she reframes what they might have originally believed scripture to be.
Her love for God & the Bible is evident in every sentence & her care for the listener is apparent in the way she tells stories.
I highly recommend this book to everyone! To those who grew up evangelical but just don’t know if they believe it anymore; to those who were never taught how to approach the Bible; to those who want a fresh & accessible take on scripture.
I cried through every chapter. It was healing to listen to.

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Always Thoughtful and Excellent

Rachel Held Evans's words nourish my soul and inspire me. She is a font of discernment.

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If you have questions about the Bible Reqd this book

If you struggle with the Bible's violence, miracles, and science this book will show you that you are not alone in this wrestling match, even the Biblical characters lived in this struggle. Gather a group of friends and journey through this book together. Join us on Thursdays at 10 and share life in the 79412! Grace abounds all around us.

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  • Craig
  • 08-05-18

As titled...

As inspired as the title suggests. Fantastic Biblical interpretation, extrapolation and elaboration. I highly recommend.