Published by Herald Press on June 1, 2021
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life
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Do you feel like God is angry at you? Or at least disappointed?
Our view of God shapes our minds, behavior, and relationships. What happens when we view God as a furious, frustrated deity? What changes when we glimpse a God who looks like Jesus?
Building upon personal experience, biblical study, and recent discoveries in neuroscience, pastor and ministry coach Colin McCartney warns of the dangers of viewing God as a judgmental, angry dictator. Such a negative view of God poisons the mind and produces alienation from God and others. In its place, McCartney lays out a strong case, rooted in Scripture, for a more accurate image of a God that is Love. Healing from distorted images of God is one of the primary tasks of the maturing Christian, and McCartney gently leads readers on this healing journey. He also refuses to shy away from difficult topics as God’s wrath, hell as eternal punishment, and violent depictions of God in the Bible. By sharing the beliefs of the early church fathers and mothers and pointing to a Christ-centered hermeneutic, McCartney inspires readers with the truth of a God who is extremely involved and deeply in love with every one of us. What if the boundless love that we see in Jesus Christ isn’t just one of many traits of God? What if that infinite, absolute love is, well, everything?
There’s an old apologetics story, meant to get people to think critically about their concept of God that goes something like this:
During a flight, a man asks his seatmate what he does for a living.
“I’m a pastor,” the seatmate replies.
The man snaps immediately, “Well, I don’t believe in God.”
The pastor is quiet for a moment. “What God don’t you believe in?”
The man goes on a diatribe while the pastor listens thoughtfully. When the man is finally silent, the pastor nods his head. “Yeah, I don’t believe in that God, either.”
In Let the Light In, Colin McCartney does something very similar, reminding readers that their experience of God may not be who God is. That doesn’t change those experiences, but it does offer a foundation on the journey toward healing from distorted images of God. Do you believe that God is angry with you? That he wants to send people to hell? That he’s violent and causes suffering? Have you been hurt by people—maybe even well-intentioned—who taught you that image of God? Let the Light In offers a path toward healing, not just healing yourself and your heart but healing the way you relate to God.
Let the Light In is divided into three different parts. In the first, McCartney lays out the argument for “A Christlike God,” that is, a God who loves and is love. God doesn’t just tolerate you. Isn’t waiting to punish you unless you get your act together. Doesn’t love you only on the condition of your strict obedience. Rather, simply, God loves you and sees you as their child. McCartney also explores how our thinking about God affects the way we live and love ourselves.
The second part of the book deals with how to find this God of love in Scripture. This isn’t some sort of way to twist Scriptures to get to a more palatable view of God. Rather, it’s an untwisting that shows how this God of love is obvious, evidence, and overflowing within the Scriptures. Let the Light In pulls back the veil on some traditional theologies to look at them with the light of Christ. So often, Christians have a belief about God based on superficial, biased, or noncontextualized readings of Scripture. McCartney takes the time to show readers that developing a healthier view of God doesn’t mean abandoning Scripture, but means embracing it as it was meant to be.
The final part of the book gives some examples of how to apply the lessons in the second part of the book by looking at some “problem passages.” In particular, Let the Light In focuses on God’s wrath, including the violence in the OT, the apocalyptic end times, the concept of hell, and Jesus’s death on the cross. McCartney’s exploration of each of these topics could be a book in its own right. These chapters aren’t big enough to make a convincing argument toward McCartney’s position, but they do fulfill their intended purpose of showing the reader that other interpretations exist—and exist within orthodox Christianity.
Let the Light In is a compassionate, loving plea to those who have been hurt by toxic views of God to not turn away from God altogether but see God as a God who is Love. It is a theology-altering, paradigm-shattering work that leads people out of the bondage of religion and into the freedom of Love.