In the thrilling series finale of the hit drama Searching for God Knows What…
Donald Miller makes a confession here in the second to last chapter of Searching for God Knows What. He doesn’t claim to be right. He instead admits, “As for me, I’m somebody who repeats what I was taught in Sunday school using fancier language.” Isn’t that shocking? We’ve read almost his whole book and only now does Miller tell us that he stole the main ideas behind everything he writes.
But wait, he qualifies the confession with, “And yet it is amazing how I can take these beautiful things Jesus told me, this skeleton of the human story He explains in narrative and poetry, and turn it around as though I wrote it on the back of a napkin at Denny’s in a moment of inspiration.” And that’s why I still enjoyed reading his book.
Miller has a gift for polishing old ideas until they shine like new, though his writing as other attractions. The above quote is an example of something perhaps even greater than his refreshing perspective. The book carries on every page an honest and humble tone. Miller doesn’t claim he is right in all his ideas, let alone to have everything together. He doesn’t see himself as an experienced theologian who other people should listen to and trust without question. Rather he’s just a guy across the café table, telling you what he thinks about God. If you don’t agree with him, he doesn’t hold that against you. He won’t use it to separate himself as better than you, putting himself on the “right” side, while you’re standing in the “wrong.”
Still, you are never right, according to Miller. Even when you think you are, when you say you might be the slightest bit of right, not even then. He says no one can “be” right, because “right” is only an idea that we label as part of truth. Whether we agree with a “right” idea has nothing to do with our own “rightness.” We can’t claim the credit for an idea that was never ours. Memorizing scripture and winning Bible trivia games don’t make you a better Christian, either, let alone a better shot at a ticket to heaven. Thinking we know all the right answers has a strange effect that fills us up with air until other people become the ants we’ve risen above.
Miller responds that, “Scripture says the nature of sin is deceptive, so deceptive that a person’s mind can be carried away, and he will have no idea he has become something arrogant and proud and offensive until one of his friends slaps him on the back of the head.”
If you’re wondering about the biblical basis there, try Galatians 6:3 and James 1:26 for starters. God tells us our artificial trophy religion and all our hoarded knowledge do nothing for us in the end. Far from being medals of pride and honor, they mean nothing unless we know Jesus Christ and he knows us.
The Church has received some well-deserved criticism in recent decades. Many Christians, if not all of us, are outright hypocrites. Miller recognizes that we desperately try to prove our value, and ultimately Christianity’s, to the world. We want to show we are right and can still be cool.
Yet, for all her mistakes and blunders, Miller rejects the argument that the Church has to go. Religion has its failings and has caused severe harm in some cases, but then it is also beautiful when used to connect with Christ and spread his love to all people.
Shakespeare’s classic tale relates allegorically the greatest love story, that of Christians and Christ.
To show the relationship between the Church and Christ, Miller applies the example of Romeo and Juliet. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? The connection has surprising foundations in the famous balcony scene when Romeo comes to see Juliet at her home and later when the lovers are finally reunited only after dying. Miller goes so far as to say the poetic lines can match directly to the Calvinist theology of Shakespeare’s time.
“In this beautiful way William Shakespeare weaves the intricate complexities of the love relationship between God and the church into the context of narrative,” Miller says.
He argues that the best way to explain the gospel is not through formulas and lists, but through a series of stories that communicate the greatest love story. This is just what the Bible does, and which Shakespeare uses in Romeo and Juliet. We can’t simplify our relationship with Jesus to a cold list of things to believe and do. His love frees us from the lifeboat’s ropes. We can forget about accumulating wealth, beauty and status to give ourselves worth. Christ alone redeems us to Himself, our true love, and we will reunite when this life passes away.
So what’s my final review? Searching for God Knows What does not disappoint and is a worthy book to follow Miller’s previous bestseller, Blue Like Jazz. Other Christian writers should use Miller as an example if they want to inspire ordinary, lukewarm people to talk about the Bible and get to know Jesus.
I’m grateful my sister had the wise inspiration to give me this book for us to discuss together. It certainly can give anyone fortunate to read it much to discuss with anyone they choose, Christians and non-Christians alike. If you’re looking for all the answers to God and life, you’re looking in the wrong place. But if you want something engaging and thought-provoking, prepare yourself to probe deep into what you believe about the greatest love story the world has experienced.