Ian wants answers his faith can't provide, so he abandons traditional religion and its magic, mysticism, and supernaturalism, turning instead to a worldview of pure science and reason.
Bill's path has become that of a devoted Christian who sees the bountiful harvest that can be achieved through spirituality and faith.
When profound revelations lead each friend to uncover shocking historical "secrets" in support of his own worldview, their odyssey plays out on a global stage, with tragic consequences. Only by embracing the inherent mystery and pain of their quest do Ian and Bill make the discovery that really matters - a genuine secret of the universe.
As emotional and hopeful as it is hard-hitting and brutally honest, Gibson's dramatic allegory is fundamentally about beliefs. It's about how we come to form "knowledge" about the big questions in life: God, sexual ethics, morals, political ideology - even which medical treatments we will choose to fight our cancers. More importantly, it's about how those beliefs affect our actions, our lives, and the world around us! Told through two friends' struggle to make sense of life's triumphs and tragedies - which they interpret through very different religious filters.
A Secret of the Universe is both a mirror through which each of us can view our human fallibility, and an illuminating path out of the dogmatism and violence that ail us.
The premise of honest evaluation of traditional Christianity with the collective knowledge of our time interested me enough to buy this book. I listened with an open mind but the book descended rather quickly into the very blind acceptance of values and assumptions for which the book accuses Christianity of doing. If there was an astonishing discovery I missed it.
There was a lot of promotion of the school of thought that Jesus never existed and the Christian Bible is a collection of recycled myths from other cultures. This could help listeners understand the details of these theories but these arguments are certainly not new. The book says most people don't know about these alternative views because the church has repressed the truth, but many Biblical scholars might say they haven't gained traction in the spiritual market of ideas due to their own lack of merit. The Secret Of The Universe in the book was delivered wrapped in a bunch of spiritual babble and by then end of the book the main characters were making weepy speeches and sounding like they could be members of Oprah's team of spiritual advisors.
Those who embrace more traditional Christian views may have issues with some aspects of the book such as profanity, pre-marital sex by the main characters not seen as inconsistent with their Christian faith, a long-term extra-marital affair portrayed as God's provision of intimacy, an ongoing lesbian relationship approved by the husband because he is glad his wife was able to find another person who could love her as much as he does.
There are discussions in the book about many topics of interest that those who embrace, study, or disagree with Christianity will find helpful and thought provoking. Both sides of controversial ideas are presented for balance, but the balance definitely is not 50/50.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful
Having read few fiction works on the subject, I found the story a good format to illustrate the formation of life views. Contrary to the foreign reviews posted, Gibsons portrayal of suburban American Christianity very accurate. While the globe enjoys free thought, America has interwoven conservative political thought with Christian dogma. What one review considers the arguments as old hat, it would be rare to find someone in American Christianity with such knowledge. What? Yes, I am saying American Christianity is as shallow as the tabloids we feast on. It is this demographic I believe Gibson wishes to engage.
Readers familiar with Spong, Doherty, and Price will find the material introductory. However, the meat of the story depicts the thought journey of two men, one of which investigates Christian origins and dogma. Gibson shows how life details develop beliefs. I found this interesting.
Works by authors Dan Barker and Tom Loftus focus on the problematic issues of Christian dogma, Gibson takes the reader to the middle ground, where very different views play out in the characters minds. Here I find "A Secret" a bridge between faith and reason.
I would recomend downloading "A Secret" discussion guide from his web site to reference the names of works/authors mentioned in the book.
A good read, hope the book does well.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
The synopsis of this book was intriguing and promised meaty food for thought. The acknowledgment also indicated that the book would offer philosophies and thoughts that would be worth pondering and considering, intertwined with a fictional portrayal of two men dealing with their demons. The idea and goal of the book are commendable but the skills of the author fell far short of being able to meet the goal. In the same way, the sing song delivery of the narrator fails to portray and sense of interest or importance. The fictional part of the book is clumsy and the prose is very stilted. The philosophical sections are superficial and preachy.
This book was so disappointing because it could have been so much more.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
I just finished this book and feel I need to comment on it with the hope that I might forewarn other potential readers. This novel is in summary the life story of a man who is raised in Christianity but through diligent study and a quest for the truth finally realizes that the Bible is just a book of myths, lies, and teaching adopted from pagan religions. The book comes to a climax when the best scholars from around the globe prove the Jesus never existed. The man then faces persecution from Christians and finally the author proves his point that all religions and especially Christianity is bad by having a well meaning man, who has been deluded by Christian dogma, attack the main character. This book is essentially a diatribe against Christianity. The story line is a simple one in which most of the book is a dialog about the falsehood of the Bible. The dialogs are long so the book tends to drag a lot. The author mentions the novel the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, and may wish to garner his own following. I read the Da Vinci Code when it first came out and found it to be well written and exciting at times. I was surprised when I later found that some people actually took it seriously. Personally I thought it was ludicrous, (a hit man priest? Really? Mr. Brown). In any case this book is nothing like the Da Vinci Code. There was none of the thrill, excitement, and mystery found in Dan Brown’s novel. The Christians were nothing like real Christians, they drank, fooled around, swore like the proverbial sailor, and almost every thought they had centered on sex. The atheists of course were kind, compassionate, understanding, tolerant, intelligent, honest, and diligent in their quest for the Truth. Gone from the novel was any semblance of true Christian men and women who reach out to the world around them, sacrificing for their neighbors of all nationalities, race, and religion. The novel had no entertainment value for me and the augments against the Bible have been around a long time and were far from shocking. These arguments have been refuted by real biblical scholars and apologists like Ravi Zacharias (RZIM) long ago. Although this is a work of fiction, the author clearly wants the reader to believe that the information presented is factual. He used the words scholar and scholarly so many times that it got annoying, as he tried to convince the readers that the “facts” presented are true and uncontested. In conclusion the author presented a view where we each need to look to our own spark of divinity, and Christianity would be good if you just got rid of Jesus, God, miracles, “the magic”, and the supernatural. In summary I did not find the novel worth the time I spent on it. If you are an atheist or anti-Christian perhaps you will find the arguments compelling, it’s the only reason I can think of for those who thought the novel was compelling. If you are a Christian or someone seeking real truth, you won’t find it here. I suggest it would be a waste your time.
If you need to be challenged by what this story labours to tell, you probably won't put down tabloids, bestsellers on magical thinking for success, or the "left behind" series long enough to listen.
This was not worth 21+ hrs time to me-21+ hrs about people who mistake cultural norms of some forms of conservative N. America culture for Christianity and slowly see the light. I wish I had downloaded the author's shorter nonfiction instead. Literature can convey philosophy in concise, intuitive fashion; however, this rambles and deals with critical thinking more than epistemology. It lacks female voice and is a very N American (even WASP) centred view of scholarship. Most believers of all faiths are not as intolerant as portrayed. The differences between Islam and Islamist politics are not made clear. Empire & institutional terrorism are not considered. The book could make readers less open to scholarship, not more.
While pre-modern and modern understandings of faith do not suit a postmodern world, faith should not so easily be identified with superstition. Rather than denegrating Christian (or Islamic etc.) faith, the scholarship this novel attempts to popularize needs to be contextualized in experience and creed by adherents. Also, while rationality is important, empirical methods aren't infallible. Being able to perceive and accept paradox and generous orthodoxy better suits the postmodern. Only the very end of the novel hints at this.
The novel underestimates the current availability of ideas: Search Audible (or a bookstore) for the novel's cited Spong, Erhman, Crossman, Borg, Armstrong, or Pagels! Better off reading them for 21 hrs.
While the middle contains an imaginative overview of research such as the Jesus seminar, I recommend fastforwarding to hour 6:25 of part 3, or Googling the parable of the three rings. That's the allegory and essential of the Secret.
1 of 3 people found this review helpful