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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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Inspired and Inspiring

I shall listen to this again, but first will read the Kindle version. Listening on the move does not always allow time for consideration and this book deserves such consideration. It is certainly thought provoking and for me, inspiring. Rachel is honest, and whilst not ducking the questions, is insightful and faithful. Brilliant.

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As titled...

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

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  • Adam Shields
  • 14-06-18

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.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 25-07-18

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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  • Douglas
  • 19-07-18

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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  • Amazon Customer
  • 29-11-18

Meh

Really enjoyed her first couple books, but felt the author could have dived deeper into her philosophies and analysis of scripture. She certainly could have, there were many opportunities to do so. I was a bit disappointed in this one overall, and that's too bad.

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  • Anthony Lorenzen
  • 03-07-18

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
  • 23-06-18

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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  • P. R. Miller
  • 14-01-19

One overall but with better scores in others? How?

Rachel is a master of seeming "down to earth." She is quite accomplished at this; the book is entirely anecdotal so that she can be "down to earth." In that way, her performance is spot on, even if some of her southern jargon is very forced in most instances of it. It's almost as if she wants to tap into her roots, but can't quite find a way to make it work on paper.

Story-wise, if this is your first Rachel Held Evans book, you're likely going to find her story quite compelling. It is her story.
She asks many, many questions that have troubled and inspired thinkers for years concerning the Bible and its interpretation. I can empathize with her because I have heard many, many people ask the same questions she does. She certainly has an audience that can say, "Me too! I know those feelings."

However, this was not my first Rachel Held Evans book and thus leads to my 1-star overall score. The entire first chapter could have been carbon-copied out of her other books ("Searching for Sunday" for example, is this first chapter in expanded form). I certainly did not need another Evans biography, but I doubt that's why she wrote it and published yet again. I'm quite convinced that Evans enjoys listing all of the reasons she likes to be a skeptic in every book she writes as if for some reason we didn't hear her the first few times.

If this is the case, I highly doubt, for all of her questions, that she ever really and truly wants answers. If her childhood was as she has described, and I have no reason to doubt her because I know of many similar stories, I can see readily how the crashing of her faith occurred. What is not readily apparent is why she cannot move on from it. The questions that she asks in this and her other books have been answered (there are, of course, no original criticisms, which is the main thrust of my frustration) by greater Christian thinkers for centuries; answered long before the advent of the modern Evangelical Christianity which she attributes to her struggles. And the ad nauseam list of inconsistencies she loves to publish in everything she writes do not necessitate a fundamentalist, Evangelical Christian answer, and no one knows this better than Evans herself; she describes jumping through many denominational traditions ("a dozen or so times", according to her book). Modern historical-critical theologians answer many of her qualms. I personally know of a few who are tired of hearing those questions. It's akin to a recent book on Christian apologetics writing and answering the 20-year-old Jesus Seminar; it's been done already.

She has made one thing, her childhood faith, her prey, and she continues to publish books on a dead horse she has repeatedly hunted and killed. If her criticisms of Christianity are not original, ironically enough, neither is Rachel Held Evan's book when compared with its published predecessors.

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  • Lesley
  • 09-01-19

A far stretch from Biblical Truth

The book begins by saying that because the Bible is written by man that is not the word of God and is fallible and just a book full of stories. This book is good for people who have a strong since of their faith, but for new believers this book can easily make people doubt their faith in God.

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  • Alyssa
  • 07-12-18

Insightful and Inspiring

I wasn't sure what to expect but already knew id love it! Rachel didn't disappoint, I was challenged to see scripture in a whole new way and i love it.

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  • Rachel
  • 29-11-18

Inspired faith!

This book lives up to its title and more! I have long been a proclaimed critic of Christianity, walking away from the faith as a young woman. I thoroughly enjoyed how the book uses the vantage point of biblical underdogs to make valid points and realign the religious hierarchy of Christianity. If you're feeling stagnant, jaded or just disenfranchised with your faith I encourage you to take this book for a spin, you wont regret it! Super easy read with an engaging and humorous tone!