Things They Never Taught Me, by Tompaul Wheeler (LentBook #12)

I’m not sure I can really count this as LentBook, since I read most of it before Lent, but I did finish it the other day, so I’m counting it.  This short book was the SDA church’s young adult (by which they mean college-aged, 2o-something-ish) devotional book for this year. It’s not a “devotional book” in the traditional sense of daily readings, but rather a book of short essays on key concepts in Christian (and particularly Seventh-day Adventist) belief.

Wheeler’s style is light and fun, with an occasional sharp jab at institutions and systems he obviously disapproves of.  He starts out by admitting some hard facts about the Bible that I wish I had seen discussed this honestly in a church publication when I was a “young adult” — such as the fact that a lot of the Bible is gory, painful and hard to read.  He doesn’t explore this problem in as much detail as I’d hoped, but does keep it in view throughout, and ends by recommending to his readers that they read the Bible “from the centre out” — the centre being the gospels, getting to know Jesus and interpreting everything in the light of what He said and did.

Wheeler’s target audience seems to be young adults who have grown up in church but who haven’t had a meaningful personal encounter with God.   People who are, perhaps, “going through the motions” of religion and considering whether they want to stay in church or not.  Things They Never Taught Me invites them to take a fresh look at their faith, and does so in an appealing way.

The book has flaws, although those flaws are perhaps inherent in the type of book it is and the restrictions of the “devotional book” style.  It’s a little too breezy in places, skating quickly and easily past questions that some readers might want to see addressed in more depth and flippantly dismissing some things that deserve more thoughtful treatment (in a brief survey of church history, for example, the entire medieval period is written off as a time when not much got accomplished).  However, I’m not about to fault a book for leaving out things that are clearly outside its mandate.  It is (as I see it) a book that attempts to put a twenty-first century spin on the basics of Seventh-day Adventist Christianity for lukewarm twenty-somethings in the hopes that they’ll give their faith a closer look.  I think it succeeds in that attempt, and Tompaul Wheeler’s writing definitely makes me want to read whatever he’s going to come up with next.

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2 Comments

Filed under Nonfiction -- general

2 responses to “Things They Never Taught Me, by Tompaul Wheeler (LentBook #12)

  1. You’re too kind. And too right–that riff about the medieval era was one of the last changes I made before it went to press, trying to patch up a transition, and I shortly regretted it as too flippant for its own good as I hurtled on to the Reformation. (What can I say–the Great Schism didn’t fit into the narrative, and I’d already mentioned the crusades elsewhere.) Of course your excellent piece in the AR about Constantine was a major source for that particular chapter. I’m indebted to it for some major points.

    Thanks for the review.

  2. This was a nice little read. Thanks for the review. I connect with both your praises and your critiques. One of the things I felt in reading it was that there were some quite profound statements at times that were almost “by the way” kinds of comments that I would be interested to see further explored. Perhaps that’s the next book.

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