I Just Read ‘The Great Good Thing’

 

When Ricochet member @andrewklavan posted about his new book called The Great Good Thing – A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ, I was curious. I was curious why he took a little flack from a few Jewish members of Ricochet when he posted about his new book, who didn’t feel he gave Judaism a fair shake. But that’s not why I ordered the book.  As a Christian, I was born into the faith, but came to a more personal faith backward and sideways, sometimes kicking and screaming. I was curious to hear about another person’s journey of faith – was it worse than mine?

So I ordered it and threw it up on my bookshelf for another day.  Published in 2016, I am three years late in picking it up, but not really. I read it at the perfect time. There are times in a person’s life when a book like this is profound and quite frankly, more appreciated, than other times. The recent deaths of people I love and thoughts about mortality and immortality flowing through my mind, rapidly changing world events, including challenges to people of faith, especially Christians and Jews, with the dramatic rise in antisemitism, religious persecution across the world, and the upcoming peace talks in Israel made it the right time.

This book is a story of a soul – we’re all born with one, and Andrew Klavan, an atheist at one time, then an agnostic, could not shake this truth. His awareness seemed to start at around eight years old. Then there was the abusive father, along with the distant mother. In the midst of great suffering, somehow his spirit was never extinguished. I am amazed at how some people can put in words what cannot be put in words. It’s like he turned himself inside out. Andrew Klavan found the words to hold his heart and soul out to the world, that others might find comfort. This book teaches how fragile children are, how innocent, and how parents especially, form their mental and emotional health and well-being.

I could not put it down. An excerpt:

The human heart is so steeped in self-deception that it can easily outrun our own lies. It can even use meticulous honesty as a form of dishonesty, a way of saying to God, “Look how honest I am “. So I let it go – I let it all go. I swung wide the gates to the sorry junkyard of my soul and let God have a good look at the whole rubble-strewn wreck of it.

Another:

An Ultimate Moral Good cannot just be an idea. It must be, in effect, a personality with consciousness and free will. Happy and sad events, from birth to death, just happen, and we ascribe moral qualities to them as they suit us or don’t. We have to choose. Either there is no God and no morality whatsoever, or there is morality and God is real. I couldn’t quite bring myself to accept the existence of God. But I knew the road to hell when I saw it and I chose to go home by another way.

What does love have to do with his experience, marriage, seeing a birth, being on death’s door, suffering mental anguish beyond description, addiction, anger, forgiveness, miracles, poverty, success, rejection, fear, depression and ultimately peace, have to do with it? Read the book. It doesn’t matter where you are in life, how old, what faith or none, how successful or barely making it – this book has something for wherever you find yourself in life. It will give you hope if nothing else. There is no other reason to write it. I found it to be a gift. It’s a story of the human spirit – and in it, you will discover a better understanding of yourself and your place in this world.

Thank you, Mr. Klavan, for sharing your amazing story.

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  1. Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu Inactive
    Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu
    @YehoshuaBenEliyahu

    HeavyWater (View Comment):
    Sometimes, “I don’t know,” is the most honest answer one can give. That’s why agnosticism continues to have an appeal to me that neither Christianity, nor Judaism nor Islam has.

    There’s a great story about a Jew who comes to a rabbbi and says he does not believe in G-d.  “Have you read the Bible?” the rabbi asks.  “I’m familiar with it” is the response.  “Have you learned Mishna (basic primer of Jewish law)?”  “A little” is the answer.  “Have you learned Talmud (elaboration of the Mishna)? the rabbi finally asks.  “Not really” is the response.  “When you have mastered the Bible, the Mishna, and the Talmud,” the rabbi instructs, “only then you will have a right to call yourself a non-believer.”

    • #61
  2. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):
    Sometimes, “I don’t know,” is the most honest answer one can give. That’s why agnosticism continues to have an appeal to me that neither Christianity, nor Judaism nor Islam has.

    There’s a great story about a Jew who comes to a rabbbi and says he does not believe in G-d. “Have you read the Bible?” the rabbi asks. “I’m familiar with it” is the response. “Have you learned Mishna (basic primer of Jewish law)?” “A little” is the answer. “Have you learned Talmud (elaboration of the Mishna)? the rabbi finally asks. “Not really” is the response. “When you have mastered the Bible, the Mishna, and the Talmud,” the rabbi instructs, “only then you will have a right to call yourself a non-believer.”

    I haven’t read the Koran.  But I am not a believer in Islam.  I have not read the Book of Mormon.  Yet I am not a believer in Mormonism.  

    It’s sort of like if I were to ask my wife if she is a fan of the Rolling Stones.  She would say, “No.”  If I were to say, “Well, you have not listened to every one of the songs recorded by the Rolling Stones?” she would say I am being unreasonable and she would be correct.

    Just because someone says, “This book is the word of God,” does not make it the word of God.

    One need not read every book ever written to think that books are written by human beings, not God.

     

     

    • #62
  3. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    G-d gave the Jews 613 laws to follow

    Which of these was the greatest?

    All are equally important.

    Why?

    • #63
  4. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Lois Lane (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Lois Lane (View Comment):
    There is a twist, however, because being Christian means being a “follower of Christ.”

    That depends on whose definition you’re using.

    True. No word has any inherent meaning.

    When a follower of Christ says “I’m a Christian” he means “I am a follower of Christ”.

    I and many others who believe we are followers of Christ believe this:

    That a person who says he is a Christian, and seeks to prove it to himself or to men by his acts, is deceived by Satan.

    That a person who says he is a Jew and seeks to prove it to himself or to men by his acts, is deceived by Satan.

    That the Bible, old parts and new parts, says that God is disgusted by the rituals of hypocrites, who believe that following “Jewish traditions” or “Christian traditions” will restore them to his household.

    That to be a true Christian one must be a true Jew, one who humbly seeks God in truth and in spirit.

    That all acts of true worship, whether traditional or unplanned, are the response to, not the cause of, oneness with God.

    Honestly… you sound a bit like Kirkegaard. ;) And I dig me some Soren.

    Ummm…words do have inherent meaning but that meaning can encompass a broad semantic field. If they did not, our writing these symbols here would be pointless. 

    The works/acts divide is important to be sure, but if your professed belief does not result in action and in change of your heart to conform more to the loving, just and merciful character of God – well, then, as Jesus said “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord!’ and not do as I say?” Faith and action must go together, though, of course, the real question is where the heart is. 

     

    • #64
  5. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):
    If they did not, our writing these symbols here would be pointless. 

    He said on the Internet.

    • #65
  6. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Ummm…words do have inherent meaning but that meaning can encompass a broad semantic field. If they did not, our writing these symbols here would be pointless. 

    The works/acts divide is important to be sure, but if your professed belief does not result in action and in change of your heart to conform more to the loving, just and merciful character of God – well, then, as Jesus said “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord!’ and not do as I say?” Faith and action must go together, though, of course, the real question is where the heart is. 

    I am a novice with philosophy, but that first part sounds a bit Derrida-ish, right?  

    That last part could be from the mouth of James who was an indisputable Jew as well as a follower of Christ and pillar of the early church.  :)  (“Faith without works is dead.”)

    While the Jews who were Christians invited the Gentiles into the love that is the heart of the whole business, they all remained Jews who went to Temple and engaged with the Torah.  In my mind, they did not discard Judaism.  They expanded upon it as chronicled in Acts.  

     

     

     

     

     

    • #66
  7. Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu Inactive
    Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu
    @YehoshuaBenEliyahu

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    G-d gave the Jews 613 laws to follow

    Which of these was the greatest?

    All are equally important.

    Why?

    Because it’s a slippery slope.  If you exclude one law, you may soon exclude another and then another until you have stopped keeping any of them.

    Still, it is possible to talk about essential Jewish living as encompassing 5 major areas of life:

    1.  Sabbath observance; from sundown Friday to nighfall on Saturday, no work, shopping, driving, or turning on lights or other appliances is   allowed
    2.  Reciting a blessing before consumption of any food or drink (and reciting after blessings, where required)
    3.  Adherence to dietary laws, i.e. keeping kosher, where certain foods are excluded (shell fish and pork, for example) and foods that are allowed requre special preparation; all produce, but especially leafy vegetables, must be carefully checked for insects prior to consumption
    4. Prayer; daily donning of tefillin/phylacteries, except on the Sabbath and festivals, for men; morning, afternoon, and evening prayers every day
    5. Family purity; restricted marital relations around the woman’s menstrual cycle; the woman immerses monthly in a mikva or ritual bath at the end of her cycle
    • #67
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Lois Lane (View Comment):
    While the Jews who were Christians invited the Gentiles into the love that is the heart of the whole business, they all remained Jews who went to Temple and engaged with the Torah. In my mind, they did not discard Judaism. They expanded upon it as chronicled in Acts.

    That is the Christian belief. They also dropped a lot of Jewish practices. Some say those decisions were ways of distinguishing Christians from Jews. Examples would be the laws of kashrut (kosher).

    • #68
  9. Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu Inactive
    Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu
    @YehoshuaBenEliyahu

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    That is the Christian belief. They also dropped a lot of Jewish practices. Some say those decisions were ways of distinguishing Christians from Jews. Examples would be the laws of kashrut (kosher).

    So that if Jesus does come back, he will only eat in the homes of Orthodox Jews.

    • #69
  10. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Lois Lane (View Comment):
    While the Jews who were Christians invited the Gentiles into the love that is the heart of the whole business, they all remained Jews who went to Temple and engaged with the Torah. In my mind, they did not discard Judaism. They expanded upon it as chronicled in Acts.

    That is the Christian belief. They also dropped a lot of Jewish practices. Some say those decisions were ways of distinguishing Christians from Jews. Examples would be the laws of kashrut (kosher).

    There is to this day considerable debate on how much of the ritual law- especially dietary law- is still applicable. The Christian and Messianic Jewish communities with which I am in contact or involved as a member have individual members and households that keep kashrut. The biggest dietary issue for early Christians though was not eating food that had been sacrificed to pagan idols, which is still an issue for some Christians in China, India and Japan. 

    • #70
  11. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Lois Lane (View Comment):
    While the Jews who were Christians invited the Gentiles into the love that is the heart of the whole business, they all remained Jews who went to Temple and engaged with the Torah. In my mind, they did not discard Judaism. They expanded upon it as chronicled in Acts.

    That is the Christian belief. They also dropped a lot of Jewish practices. Some say those decisions were ways of distinguishing Christians from Jews. Examples would be the laws of kashrut (kosher).

    I get it, but a lot of Jews aren’t kosher and still Jews, which circles me back to the can of worms that is the question of “Jewishness,” but you have already given me a lot to think about there and a book!  :)

    Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    That is the Christian belief. They also dropped a lot of Jewish practices. Some say those decisions were ways of distinguishing Christians from Jews. Examples would be the laws of kashrut (kosher).

    So that if Jesus does come back, he will only eat in the homes of Orthodox Jews.

    Not being cheeky here, but I don’t know nearly as much as I should about Judaism.  If one does not believe Jesus is the Messiah, when the Messiah comes, will that Messiah only be the king of the Jewish people? 

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):
    There is to this day considerable debate on how much of the ritual law- especially dietary law- is still applicable. The Christian and Messianic Jewish communities with which I am in contact or involved as a member have individual members and households that keep kashrut.

    Interesting.   

     

    • #71
  12. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):
    Ummm…words do have inherent meaning but that meaning can encompass a broad semantic field. If they did not, our writing these symbols here would be pointless.

    My opening comment about words not having inherent meaning was casual, not part of what I was saying.

    But since I think you misunderstood that not-relevant comment, I will explain it while I’m thinking about it. I recognize that I’m sidetracking an important conversation, and will have to be careful how far I take it.

    I meant something different by “inherent”.  This may make it clear how I was using the word.

    1. You are right that our writing these symbols here would be pointless if the reader and writer don’t agree  on their meaning.
    2. It doesn’t follow, and is in fact incorrect, that that the source of that meaning is the scratchings or the noises themselves. (Now you see what I meant by “inherent”.)
    3. If those do have the same meaning  (i.e., point both minds to the same categories and objects) then that fact is entirely the result of past operations involving the two people and the tokens, not from the tokens themselves. Those were the learning of language, the subconscious assumption by the writer that the reader would take the same meaning, and the subconscious assumption by the reader that the writer must have been pointing to the same idea that the reader is thinking of.
      1. Words are not persistent objects of nature whose material properties we can determine by experience.
      2. Rather they are arbitrary shared recognizable sounds or sights which mean nothing until we agree on what they shall mean in a given sentence.
      3. In the next hour we may use the same sequence of characters or syllables to mean something completely different, which is not surprising once we realize that they they have no inherent meaning.
    4. So the use of tokens to convey ideas is not pointless if we agree throughout the conversation on what the tokens refer to. not refer to anything by themselves.
    • #72
  13. Podkayne of Israel Inactive
    Podkayne of Israel
    @PodkayneofIsrael

    iWe (View Comment):

    Lois Lane (View Comment):
    We have established being Jewish is not being a certain race, but it is also not about being a certain religion. It is… hard to pin down.

    I hate the idea that Judaism is an ethnicity, usually trivially defined by language and food.

    Ultimately, anyone who really wants to be Jewish will be. And anyone who really wants to NOT be Jewish can manage it as well.

    For me (and, I believe, G-d), being Jewish is about seeking a relationship with G-d using the Torah as the guide.

    I agree. If “being Jewish” is all about the ethnicity  it’s a waste of too much suffering and the stigma against marrying non-Jews would be racist. We’re on a mission from G-d.

    • #73
  14. Podkayne of Israel Inactive
    Podkayne of Israel
    @PodkayneofIsrael

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Lois Lane (View Comment):
    While the Jews who were Christians invited the Gentiles into the love that is the heart of the whole business, they all remained Jews who went to Temple and engaged with the Torah. In my mind, they did not discard Judaism. They expanded upon it as chronicled in Acts.

    That is the Christian belief. They also dropped a lot of Jewish practices. Some say those decisions were ways of distinguishing Christians from Jews. Examples would be the laws of kashrut (kosher).

    I agree. You put this concisely and well, Susan.

    • #74
  15. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    Some say those decisions were ways of distinguishing Christians from Jews.

    These people who say that: do you mean non-Christians?

    • #75
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