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From the Outside In
on April 7, 2008
The book is Jacobs' journal of his attempt to follow the Bible as literally as possible. He documented more than 700 rules in the Hebrew and Christian bible. As a pastor you can imagine why I needed to read this. Jacobs starts his Biblical journey (as I started mine as reader) as a bit of a skeptic. He describes himself as a secular Jew but says "...I'm Jewish in the same way the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant." A self-described agnostic - religion, the Bible and God had not taken up a lot of thought room in his life up to this point.
Jacob's research is very well done. He does not simply read the Bible but draws upon over a hundred Jewish and Christian resources as well as creating and regularly seeking the counsel of a spiritual advisory board made up of conservative and liberal rabbis, mainline and evangelical pastors. His bibliogrpahy is neither staunchly left or right but a mix of both and the middle. I especially appreciated a referance to Dennis Covington's fantastic book Salvation on Sand Mountain (which I have also read) and Jacobs' own visit to Appalachia. He also variously speaks to Tony Campolo, Ken Ham (Answers in Genesis), an Amish innkeeper, as well as visits Jerry Falwell's church, and several Bible study groups that cover the spectrum from conservative to liberal, etc. You get the idea.
The insights that Jacobs has into religion, the Bible, God and believers in general are quite incredible. Many of them are very affirming for me as a pastor and a Christ follower. As a believer, one cannot, no matter how hard one tries, fully put themselves into the shoes of a non-believer and see what they see or understand as they understand so the book does a great service in this sense.
Aside from the insights Jacobs' journey is incredibly humourous and at times quite poignant as well (the impact on his wife and family plays a major role). His openess and honesty are disarming and refreshing and his writing style is very approachable and easy to slip into. I won't tell you what the impact this experience had on Jacobs except to say it was definitely a perspective changer.
This book is a great read and will spark many a lively discussion (good book club material). I highly recommend it.