GOD’S ULTIMATE PASSION: UNVEILING THE PURPOSE BEHIND EVERYTHING, by Frank Viola
I was sent a free copy of this book, and was initially resistant to reading it, as it looks so uncompelling. But two thinker/authors I highly respect – brian mclaren and alan hirsch – strongly endorsed it. So, I figured it was worth a day of my silent retreat.
The first third of this book consistently reminded me of the cliché: don’t judge a book by its cover. That’s because this book has one of the uglier covers I’ve seen in a long time (yeah, apparently I do judge a book’s cover!). But the first third of the book was fantastic. Fresh and insightful, Viola lobbies a brilliant, scripturally-based contention that God’s passionate love for the church (the local body of believers) is the over-arching theme of scripture, the reason for life, and the purpose behind everything.
That statement – that God’s ultimate passion is love for the church – doesn’t sound very revolutionary, the way I’m stating it. But Viola really does make it sound revolutionary, as he strips away so many of the padding and plussing we add to that beautifully simple notion.
Here’s a key paragraph:
The ultimate passion of god is all about love. Deep, profound, unending love. The passionate love of a man for a woman. The love of a monarch for a maiden. The love of a god for a bride. God’s intended ultimate is about a marriage. It’s about a wedding. It’s about an unbreakable union. This theme is carried straight through the entire scripture to the very end, when the story finds its climax in the book of revelation. And the bible closes just as it opened: with a perfect bridegroom, a perfect bride, a perfect wedding, a perfect marriage, and a perfect union.
The second section of the book, however, caused me to question my initial thoughts about judging the book by the cover. In this section, the author makes a case for god’s passion to build a home. While there were great bits and a few killer insights in this section, I started to feel the stereotypical weaknesses of self-publishing (which this book is): overstatement and proposition (suggestion) as fact being two of them. I was bothered by the author’s apparent dismissal of the last 1800 years of church history with statements such as, “after the last apostle died, god was once again homeless.” And – this is a bit petty, I suppose – but I started to get reader-weary of his overuse of exclamation points! Lots of them! Really! and with italics!
The third section paints a picture of the church as a new species. Again, some good stuff in here; but I was losing interest, I’ll admit, after the second section.
All that said: the first 112 pages is a book unto itself that I can highly, highly recommend. I’m giving a four-part talk series in a few weeks on the love of God, and I really do think I’ll read that first section again, as it’s dripping rich with fresh thinking and life-giving focus. And, if you are willing to push through the 2nd and 3rd sections, there are, as I said, nuggets in there also. Really!