Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again

Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again

by Rachel Held Evans


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One Woman’s Journey Back to Loving the Bible

If the Bible isn’t a science book or an instruction manual, then what is it? What do people mean when they say the Bible is inspired? When Rachel Held Evans found herself asking these questions, she began a quest to better understand what the Bible is and how it is meant to be read. What she discovered changed her—and it will change you too.

Drawing on the best in recent scholarship and using her well-honed literary expertise, Evans examines some of our favorite Bible stories and possible interpretations, retelling them through memoir, original poetry, short stories, soliloquies, and even a short screenplay. Undaunted by the Bible’s most difficult passages, Evans wrestles through the process of doubting, imagining, and debating Scripture’s mysteries. The Bible, she discovers, is not a static work but is a living, breathing, captivating, and confounding book that is able to equip us to join God’s loving and redemptive work in the world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780718022310
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 06/12/2018
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 23,068
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Rachel Held Evans (1981–2019) is known for her books and articles about faith, doubt, and life in the Bible Belt. Rachel has been featured in the Washington Post, The Guardian, Christianity Today, Slate, HuffPost, and the CNN Belief Blog, and on NPR, BBC, Today, and The View. She served on President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and kept a busy schedule speaking at churches, conferences, and universities. Rachel’s messages continue to reverberate around the world.

Read an Excerpt



Our Bible was forged from a crisis of faith. Though many of its stories, proverbs, and poems were undoubtedly passed down through oral tradition, scholars believe the writing and compilation of most of Hebrew Scripture, also known as the Old Testament, began during the reign of King David and gained momentum during the Babylonian invasion of Judah and in the wake of the Babylonian exile, when Israel was occupied by that mighty pagan empire.

One cannot overstate the trauma of this exile. The people of Israel had once boasted a king, a temple, and a great expanse of land — all of which they believed had been given to them by God and ensured to them forever. But in the sixth century BC, King Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem, destroying both the city and its temple. Many of the Jews who lived there were taken captive and forced into the empire's service. Others remained, but without a king, without a place of worship, without a national identity. This catastrophic event threw everything the people of Israel believed about themselves and about their God into question. Many assumed their collective sins were to blame and that with repentance their honor might be restored. Others feared God had abandoned them completely. Priests wondered how to conduct rituals and sacrifices without a temple or an altar, and parents worried their children would grow enamored by the wealth and power of Babylon and forget their own people's most cherished values.

The words of Psalm 137:1–6 capture the agony:

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.
It should come as no surprise to any writer that all this emotional suffering produced some quality literature. Jewish scribes got to work, pulling together centuries of oral and written material and adding reflections of their own as they wrestled through this national crisis of faith. If the people of Israel no longer had their own land, their own king, or their own temple, what did they have?

They had their stories. They had their songs. They had their traditions and laws. They had the promise that the God who set all of creation in order, who told Abraham his descendants would outnumber the stars, who rescued the Hebrews from slavery, who spoke to them from Mount Sinai, and who turned a shepherd boy into a king, would remain present with them no matter what. This God would be faithful.

Today we still return to our roots in times of crisis; we look to the stories of our origins to make sense of things, to remember who we are. The role of origin stories, both in the ancient Near Eastern culture from which the Old Testament emerged and at that familiar kitchen table where you first learned the story of how your grandparents met, is to enlighten the present by recalling the past. Origin stories are rarely straightforward history. Over the years, they morph into a colorful amalgam of truth and myth, nostalgia and cautionary tale, the shades of their significance brought out by the particular light of a particular moment.

Contrary to what many of us are told, Israel's origin stories weren't designed to answer scientific, twenty-first-century questions about the beginning of the universe or the biological evolution of human beings, but rather were meant to answer then-pressing, ancient questions about the nature of God and God's relationship to creation. Even the story of Adam and Eve, found in Genesis 2 and 3, is thought by many scholars to be less a story about human origins and more a story about Israel's origins, a symbolic representation of Israel's pattern of habitation, disobedience, and exile, set in primeval time.

My friend Kerlin, an Episcopal priest with blue hair, once said the thing she loves most about the Bible is that it sweeps her into an epic story in which she is not the central character. As much as we may wish them to be, our present squabbles over science, politics, and public school textbooks were not on the minds of those Jewish scribes seeking to assure an oppressed and scattered people they were still beloved by God. To demand that the Bible meet our demands is to put ourselves and our own interests at the center of the story, which is one of the first traps we must learn to avoid if we are to engage the Bible with integrity or care.

Indeed, one cannot seriously engage the origin stories of the Pentateuch — Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy — without encountering ancient and foreign assumptions about the nature of reality. The first creation account of Genesis 1, for example, presumes the existence of a firmament, a vast dome into which the stars and moon were affixed, believed by the Hebrews and their ancient neighbors to keep great cascades of water above the earth from crashing into the land below. An entire day is devoted to the creation of this "vault between the waters" (Genesis 1:6), with no mention of the fact that modern science proves no such atmospheric contraption exists.

In addition to sharing a cosmological worldview with their neighbors, the Jewish scribes who compiled the Hebrew Scripture shared literary sensibilities with them. If, like me, you read the Epic of Gilgamesh in college, you already know there are striking similarities between that Akkadian poem, which likely predates Genesis, and the story of Noah. Both involve a worldwide flood and a noble character who builds a boat, rescues the earth's animals, releases birds to see if the waters have subsided, and eventually survives when the boat comes to rest on a mountain. Questions regarding which community borrowed from which are less important than simply acknowledging the fact that Israel shared a conceptual world with its neighbors and used similar literary genres and stories to address issues of identity and purpose.

"It is a fundamental misunderstanding of Genesis," wrote Peter Enns, "to expect it to answer questions generated by a modern worldview, such as whether the days were literal or figurative, or whether the days of creation can be lined up with modern science, or whether the flood was local or universal. The question that Genesis is prepared to answer is whether Yahweh, the God of Israel, is worthy of worship."

You don't have to be a biblical scholar to recognize these genre categories for what they are. In the same way we automatically adjust our expectations when a story begins with "Once upon a time" versus "The Associated Press is reporting ...," we instinctively sense upon reading the stories of Adam and Eve and Noah's ark that these tales of origin aren't meant to be straightforward recitations of historical fact. The problem isn't that liberal scholars are imposing novel interpretations on our sacred texts; the problem is that over time we've been conditioned to deny our instincts about what kinds of stories we're reading when those stories are found in the Bible. We've been instructed to reject any trace of poetry, myth, hyperbole, or symbolism even when those literary forms are virtually shouting at us from the page via talking snakes and enchanted trees. That's because there's a curious but popular notion circulating around the church these days that says God would never stoop to using ancient genre categories to communicate. Speaking to ancient people using their own language, literary structures, and cosmological assumptions would be beneath God, it is said, for only our modern categories of science and history can convey the truth in any meaningful way.

In addition to once again prioritizing modern, Western (and often uniquely American) concerns, this notion overlooks one of the most central themes of Scripture itself: God stoops. From walking with Adam and Eve through the garden of Eden, to traveling with the liberated Hebrew slaves in a pillar of cloud and fire, to slipping into flesh and eating, laughing, suffering, healing, weeping, and dying among us as part of humanity, the God of Scripture stoops and stoops and stoops and stoops. At the heart of the gospel message is the story of a God who stoops to the point of death on a cross. Dignified or not, believable or not, ours is a God perpetually on bended knee, doing everything it takes to convince stubborn and petulant children that they are seen and loved. It is no more beneath God to speak to us using poetry, proverb, letters, and legend than it is for a mother to read storybooks to her daughter at bedtime. This is who God is. This is what God does.

While the circumstances of the exiled Israelites may seem far removed from us today, the questions raised by that national crisis of faith remain as pressing as ever: Why do bad things happen to good people? Will evil and death continue to prevail? What does it mean to be chosen by God? Is God faithful? Is God present? Is God good?

Rather than answering these questions in propositions, the Spirit spoke the language of stories, quickening the memories of prophets and the pens of scribes to call a lost and searching people to gather together and remember:

Remember how in the beginning, God put everything in order and made the whole cosmos a temple? Remember how we are created in God's image, as stewards, not slaves? Remember how Adam and Eve disobeyed, how Cain and Abel fought, how all the people of the earth grew so rebellious and cruel that God regretted creating the world in the first place? Remember how one family's faithfulness was enough to save them from the Great Flood?

Remember how God promised an elderly Abraham his descendants would outnumber the stars? Remember how Sarah laughed? Remember how God chose a peopleless nomad, a second-born son, a stuttering runaway, and a little shepherd boy to create, liberate, and rule a nation? Remember how that nation is named for a man who limped from wrestling with God?

Remember how God saw the suffering of the banished Hagar, the unloved Leah, and the oppressed Hebrew slaves? Remember how Pharaoh's mighty army drowned in the sea?

Remember the desert? Remember the manna? Remember the water from rock?

Remember how it is our God who said, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine" (Isaiah 43:1 NRSV)?

Remember how this God has been faithful?

This collective remembering produced the Bible as we know it and explains why it looks the way it does — foreign yet familiar, sacred yet indelibly smudged with human fingerprints. The Bible's original readers may not share our culture, but they share our humanity, and the God they worshipped invited them to bring that humanity to their theology, prayers, songs, and stories.

And so we have on our hands a Bible that includes psalms of praise but also psalms of complaint and anger, a Bible that poses big questions about the nature of evil and the cause of suffering without always answering them. We have a Bible that says in one place that "with much wisdom comes much sorrow" (Ecclesiastes 1:18) and in another "wisdom is supreme — so get wisdom" (Proverbs 4:7 HCSB). We have a Bible concerned with what to do when your neighbor's donkey falls into a pit and exactly how much cinnamon to add to anointing oil. We have a Bible that depicts God as aloof and in control in one moment, and vulnerable and humanlike in the next, a Bible that has frustrated even the best systematic theologians for centuries because it's a Bible that so rarely behaves.

In short, we have on our hands a Bible as complicated and dynamic as our relationship with God, one that reads less like divine monologue and more like an intimate conversation. Our most sacred stories emerged from a rift in that relationship, an intense crisis of faith. Those of us who spend as much time doubting as we do believing can take enormous comfort in that.

The Bible is for us too.

* * *

I come from mountain people. In the shadow of Grandfather Mountain, forty winding miles from the closest city and ensconced in a cold Appalachian holler, lies a graveyard where most of my extended family is buried. The dates on the tombstones stretch back to before the Civil War, and the inscriptions conjure memories of Christmases at my great-grandmother's farmhouse when a baffling mix of aunts and uncles, cousins, and neighbors told stories about my ancestors — Dewy, Buck, Wick, Ethel, Tarp, Cordi, Freddie, and Toots — whose legends were as strange as their names.

Take Uncle Wick and Aunt Ethel, for example. As the story goes, one hot July morning, Uncle Wick and a gaggle of local boys got themselves some discount fireworks from an out-of-towner's tent in Bakersville. Aunt Ethel did not approve. The daughter of a coal miner, she respected explosives too much to abide anyone horsing around with them, so she told Uncle Wick he'd have to toss all those Roman candles and bottle rockets in the creek if he expected to get any supper that night. But Uncle Wick, being stubborn, and probably a little sexist, waved her off and went about his scheming. That evening, as the moon rose and the drinks flowed, he filled the front lawn with friends and family and put on a fireworks show worthy of the National Mall.

Sure enough, not ten minutes into the revelry, Uncle Wick came charging into the kitchen, a bloody handkerchief pressed to his hand, screaming, "Ethel! Ethel! I done blowed my finger off!"

Without even looking up from her sink of dishes, Aunt Ethel replied, "Well goody, goody."

That response became so enshrined in our family parlance, I heard it every time I fought my mother on wearing a jacket to school only to come home complaining about the cold bus, or looked for sympathy after flunking a test for which I refused to study, or spent a weekend nursing a sunburn, having lied about wearing sunblock. Mom would give me a wry smile and say, "Well goody, goody," just like her mother and her mother's mother before that. I rolled my eyes, but the joke reminded me I belong to a long line of unflappable southern women.

Even my middle name, Grace, harks back to my great-grandmother, a woman whose dry wit charmed all but the crustiest farmhands, and whose picture in the family photo album shows her frowning in front of the smokehouse, holding a hog's head by the ears. Grace was the first woman in Mitchell County to drive a car, and her daughter, my grandmother, was one of the first to go to college. I once scaled a small boulder to get a picture of a dewy leaf for Instagram, so clearly the legacy of valor continues.

Origin stories take all sorts of forms, from the story of why the women of my family say "goody, goody," to the explanation for why there's a rusty toilet seat hanging from your grandfather's barn door, to the legends that urge us to idealize our nation's founders, to the reason your Jewish neighbors dip celery in salt water at their Passover meal each year. So ubiquitous they can blend into the scenery, origin stories permeate our language, our assumptions, our routines.

An eighteenth-century English naval officer once raised a telescope to his blind eye to ensure he'd miss the signal from his superior ordering him to withdraw from battle, and two hundred years later, we still talk about politicians "turning a blind eye" to corruption. My friends and I drink at a place called Monkey Town Brewery because eighty years ago our town prosecuted a substitute teacher for presenting the theory of evolution to a biology class, bringing the "Trial of the Century" to Dayton, Tennessee. The ghosts of old gods haunt our calendars — Thursday marking "Thor's Day" — and the heroes of centuries past still hunt and battle and dance across our night sky. Cultures worldwide treasure their creation myths, those passed-down tales that orient a people in the universe and explain how it all began, whether it was from a lotus risen from the navel of Vishnu (Hindu), or out of the belly of the Rainbow Serpent (Aboriginal), or from the Spider Woman guiding the lost to a new world (Hopi). Americans love stories about billion-dollar companies that started in garages and superheroes bitten by radioactive insects.

Origin stories sometimes serve to protect us from uncomfortable truths, like the way nostalgia for the first Thanksgiving tends to charm white folks out of confronting our ancestors' mistreatment of indigenous people. Or they can offer dignity and hope to the suffering the way recounting Israel's deliverance from Egypt has comforted the Jews through exiles and diasporas and African Americans through slavery and the civil rights movement. Good therapists encourage clients to engage their "storied selves," as research shows people who can construct the events of their lives into redemptive narratives have healthier outcomes. You can pay a consultant several thousand dollars to help your organization determine its "guiding story."


Excerpted from "Inspired"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Rachel Held Evans.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction xi

The Temple 1

1 Origin Stories 7

The Well 29

2 Deliverance Stories 35

The Walls 59

3 War Stories 61

The Debate 81

4 Wisdom Stories 91

The Beast 113

5 Resistance Stories 115

The Water 141

6 Gospel Stories 147

The Sea 165

7 Fish Stories 175

The Letter 191

8 Church Stories 199

Epilogue 215

Acknowledgments 223

About the Author 227

Notes 229

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Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was first introduced to Rachel's writing in her book "Searching For Sunday". Reading her newest book"Inspired"; was like eating dessert. I read it slowly enjoying every word. Rachel's style is very personal. It's as if she wrote this book just for me. I am learning to love scripture in a whole new way, never before thought it was possible. Thank you Rachel for writing this wonderful story.
CristiJ More than 1 year ago
Having read Rachel’s previous books, I was excited to get my hands on a copy of Inspired. But if I’m being honest, I was also a bit hesitant because as a LGBTQIA+ Christian, the Bible has been used as a weapon against me in the past and it left me badly broken. I’ve been on a long winding journey with my faith, and the idea of approaching the Bible with a different mindset than the one I grew up with is what ultimately drew me to the book. I found myself seeing stories I’d heard my entire life in a different light, and found comfort in knowing I wasn’t the only person who had a difficult time with a literal interpretation of the Bible. Rachel shares her experiences of wrestling with different stories and themes of the Bible while also sharing her in depth research into the who, where, when and why of the text. This quote sums up how I’m feeling having read the last page of the book. “In short, we have on our hands, a Bible as complicated and dynamic as our relationship with God, one that reads less like divine monologue and more like an intimate conversation.” If you’re looking for a different approach to Scripture that engages and inspires you, I highly recommend this book!
Angel Granger-Caploe More than 1 year ago
“...The wilderness has a way of forcing the point, of bringing to the surface whatever fears, questions and struggles hidden within. Nothing strips you down to your essential humanity... In the wilderness you find out what you’re made of and who you’re friends are. You are forced to leave behind nonessentials, to quiet yourself and listen.” I love this because I have gone through several spiritual “wilderness” experiences myself-I lived in a cabin in the woods and lost many “friends”, I went through a time of questioning my faith in high school, then again in college, then again about a month ago... Growing up in a Christian home I didn’t even think to question things until I got older... then I asked all the questions she talks about in this book! I’ve had a love/ hate relationship with religion & other Christians, but I love Jesus. RHE does her research & writes from her experience but also takes into account what is happening in the context of the biblical story. I love the stories in between chapters. What a different & cool perspective they provide!
melindakay82 More than 1 year ago
Wow. This book is enlightening, challenging, disrupting, and inspiring. Rachel Held Evans’ knowledge of the Bible is amazing. Even stories I’ve heard dozens of times were cast in a new light. I truly enjoyed this book and savored it.
dibasketcase More than 1 year ago
Anything that book that starts with “Once upon a time” and ends with the image of God taking me in his arms, saying “let me tell you a story” becomes a definite favorite of mine. I’m long an admirer of Ms. Evans. I appreciate her questions and how her questions deepen her faith. More importantly, I’m impressed with how clear Ms. Evans is in the understanding that questioning is not only acceptable by God, it’s encouraged. I’ve long been a believer in the power of story and the idea that story has deep influence over individuals and groups alike. As a child therapist, I would encourage my clients to use the power of stories to work through their problems, gain insight into their choices, and provide and encourage hope for change. “Inspired” shows how the Biblical texts—so familiar and ingrained in my soul—can do the same for me. Bravo, Ms. Evans. I’m again thankful for your ability to articulate my thoughts, questions and beliefs so profoundly. I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book from the publisher.
elischulenburg More than 1 year ago
I have found it hard, over the years, to love the Bible. It seems to have become a battering ram, bashing "truth" over the heads of those who don't conform. A surgeon's knife, excising the ones who "don't belong". Or, more recently, a paintbrush, to whitewash the horrors being perpetrated in a coat of "God said it". It has been hard, for me, to reconcile this Bible with the faith I have come to profess. So thank God for Rachel Held Evans. With a writer's ear for a beautiful phrase, and a theologian's intellect and curiosity, Evans delivers an ode to the believer who just can't quite make it all make sense. This book gave me permission to jump into the struggle, feet first, and the strength to believe I will come out the other side. This is a magnificent work, and one I know I will return to over and over again.
aediez More than 1 year ago
Disclaimer: I received an advance reader copy. Rachel has once again written a well thought out, intriguing and inspiring book. It gave me new ways to answer the hard questions people ask about my faith. I especially appreciated the layout of the book, introducing each chapter by retelling an old bible story with more detail surrounding it, drawing you in for what the chapter had in store. I loved the time period context she gave in the last chapter regarding Paul and his letters to various churches. This definitely answered many questions I had concerning Paul and his writings and found her research into the time period for context about his writings very helpful in understanding where he was coming from. Each chapter could be a stand alone sermon, as each one tackles something different that modern Christians either don’t understand or misinterpret and breaks it down to give quotes from scripture and theologians to show that not all things can be applied today as they were back then. If you are a person of strong faith, or someone who has trouble believing, please read this book. It is written with such love and respect and has so many good nuggets of truth woven throughout.
Brandie Verrett 4 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
khouria_jen More than 1 year ago
For those who don't know, Rachel Held Evans passed away on May 4, after having to be put in a coma to stop her brain from seizing. Her death made it very difficult for me to finish this book because it was her last piece of writing (other than her blog) before she passed away. She approaches her faith the same way I do, and she profoundly loves Jesus and loves the Bible, so it is fitting that this was her last book. She admits her difficulties with reconciling various things and engages the material instead of writing it off. This is a book I would hand to any teen in my youth group who was having a crisis of faith. Well done, good and faithful servant. Eshet chayil!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
InspirationClothesline More than 1 year ago
"A controversial book that has my heartbeat written on the pages. " You won’t hear me say this often. But "Inspired" by Rachel Held Evans had my heartbeat written on its pages. It’s a controversial book, as is Evans herself, in the faith community. But, considering myself someone of “evolving faith” this book has the love of Scripture that I hold so dear, but also so much of what I have come to know to be true or part of how I read Scripture. Evans’ memoir is about her own experience with Scripture and as she explores some of the most popular Bible stories; and ways they can be interpreted, she also tapped into current scholarship and her own literary expertise to candidly discuss how Scripture is read, can be read, and how she has found it come alive and be transformative in her own life. You can’t help but be inspired yourself. "Sometimes we construct our present realities around our stories of origin; other times we construct our stories of origin around our present realities; most of the time it’s a little of both. Spiritual maturation requires untangling these [origin] stories, sorting fact from fiction (or, more precisely, truth from untruth), and embracing those stories that move us toward wholeness while rejecting or reinterpreting those that do harm. " – Evans I had to read and re-read chapters. I switched between audiobook (just to make headway) and the print form because I was constantly wanting to take notes, re-read and underline. There really aren’t words for me to explain how “understood” I felt when I read the pages of her book. Much of my faith journey was similar to Evans so to have someone who loves the Lord and Scripture just candidly share about her findings, her exploration, and her own journey was like a breath of fresh air for me. I’ve heard what all the naysayers or those who outright disagree with Evans have had to say, I read this book with a couple of those very people. I’ve heard her speak, can’t wait to go back and read her book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood“ and to continue to journey along with Evans as she pursues God, the Scriptures, and what faith means to her. I read this book on my own, and now am re-reading it with a community of women I trust and are all in different spots on their faith journey and find themselves in different spots on the belief spectrum. It is not only a fantastic place to start a discussion, but the book is creating a space for us to explore and learn from each other. Scriptures say “as iron sharpens iron so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17) and Evans story is not only bringing her iron to the sharpening party, but also giving us a launching point in our relationships to go there, ask hard questions and be okay if our answers are different. "These questions loosened my grip on the text and gave me permission to love the Bible for what it is, not what I want it to be. When you stop trying to force the Bible to be something it’s not – static, perspicacious, certain, absolute – then you’re free to revel in what it is: living, breathing, confounding, surprising and yes, perhaps even magic. The ancient rabbis likened Scripture to a palace, alive and bustling, fully of grand halls, banquet rooms, secret passages, and locked doors." – Evans Grateful to have received a copy of the book from Booklook Bloggers. All opinions shared here are my own. And this one… I’d purchase again and again to give away!
JennGrand More than 1 year ago
Taken from the back of the book: "Drawing on the best in recent scholarship and using her well-honed literary expertise, Evans examines some of our favorite Bible stories and possible interpretations, retelling them through memoir, original poetry, short stories, soliloquies, and even a short screenplay. Undaunted by the Bible’s most difficult passages, Evans wrestles through the process of doubting, imagining, and debating Scripture’s mysteries. The Bible, she discovers, is not a static work but is a living, breathing, captivating, and confounding book that is able to equip us to join God’s loving and redemptive work in the world." This book will seriously make you fall in love with the Bible again! Together you will dive into some of your favorite Bible stories and look at them with a brand new perspective! Rachel Held Evans has an amazing gift to show you a new side of the scriptures you've been reading your whole life, and deepen your love for the Lord and his Word. 
Rick Mason More than 1 year ago
Evans' writing in "Inspired" highlights those aspects of the Bible which challenge many readers, inviting the reader to see them in the context of the ongoing relationship. Each section examines the stories from a range of viewpoints: religious, historical, social, psychological, and personal. She argues that recognizing these themes, woven into a tapestry of Judeo-Christian experience, offer a window to understanding our own experience. These themes range from Origin stories, Deliverance, War, Wisdom, Resistance, Gospel ("good news"), Fish stories (metaphor and miracles), and Church. None of these themes are easily summarized or explained, simply because the Bible isn't intended to be an easily explained summary, but rather stories, poems, and letters that provide us with the starting point for an in-depth adult religious life. War stories celebrate against-the-odds underdog victories alongside attacks that we now view as genocide. Gospel stories tell of the life and ministry of Jesus, but also make it clear that he was experienced differently by nearly everyone he encountered. Church stories examine the contradictions and challenges within Paul's letters and throughout the wider church. Interspersed between thematic chapters are Evans' personal exploration of a few stories. Here we will encounter a first person narrative of the pregnant Hagar as she flees the wrath of Sarah. We also encounter a play set in a cafeteria, cast with the characters of Job and his friends, discussing why bad things happen to people. We get to sit with the congregants in Nympha's house in Laodicea as she reads the latest letter from Paul. We even get a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story about walking on water, and how the different choices we make can still lead to truth — as well as new questions. Deeper understanding is often drawn from previously unnoticed perspectives. Like her previous book, "Searching for Sunday," Evans' prose is personal and friendly, and her enthusiasm contagious. Though the themes and background scholarship she discusses are complex, her explanations present them in a conversational manner that unveil the storytelling that lies at the heart of the Bible. And this, she states, is the key: "We may wish for answers, but God rarely gives us answers. Instead, God gathers us up into soft, familiar arms and says, 'Let me tell you a story.'"
dibasketcase More than 1 year ago
Anything that book that starts with “Once upon a time” and ends with the image of God taking me in his arms, saying “let me tell you a story” becomes a definite favorite of mine. I’m long an admirer of Ms. Evans. I appreciate her questions and how her questions deepen her faith. More importantly, I’m impressed with how clear Ms. Evans is in the understanding that questioning is not only acceptable by God, it’s encouraged. I’ve long been a believer in the power of story and the idea that story has deep influence over individuals and groups alike. As a child therapist, I would encourage my clients to use the power of stories to work through their problems, gain insight into their choices, and provide and encourage hope for change. “Inspired” shows how the Biblical texts—so familiar and ingrained in my soul—can do the same for me. Bravo, Ms. Evans. I’m again thankful for your ability to articulate my thoughts, questions and beliefs so profoundly. I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book from the publisher.
battlecryleader87 More than 1 year ago
This is the first of Rachel’s books that I’ve read, but I have been exposed to her work here and there via podcast interviews. When I have heard her, she is always extremely intelligent in her content and communication, and this book is no different. Rachel presents a very non-traditional but very needed view of the Bible. As someone who has always been very fundamentalist, this book challenged my views of the Bible in some very healthy ways that I believe will do nothing but contribute to a deeper faith in my life. I truly believe this book could be a tipping point for the church/Christianity at this pivotal time in the church’s history. The thoughts and ideas in here are well worth reading and considering. Go get this book!! Now!!
CristaJonesKettenhofen More than 1 year ago
Rachel Held Evans has written a deeply intelligent and spiritually powerful memoir of her lifelong relationship to the Bible—"Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Learning to Love the Bible Again". She does not shy away from tough topics raised in the Bible. Inerrancy, feminism, slavery, genocide, war, racism, xenophobia, government, doubt, evil, and many more topics are addressed in Rachel's book. The book is simply organized. In the introduction, she begins her story by describing the joyful and unchallenged faith of her childhood. She then describes how her faith began to unravel: "The girl was older now, with a mature and curious mind, and she noticed some things she hadn’t before. Like how God rewarded the chosen patriarch Abraham for obeying God’s request that he sacrifice his own son. Or how God permitted the chosen people of Israel to kidnap women and girls as spoils of war. After the famous walls of Jericho came a-tumblin’ down, a God-appointed army slaughtered every man, woman, and child in the city, and after Pharaoh refused to release his slaves, a God-appointed angel killed every firstborn boy in Egypt. Even the story of all the earth’s animals taking refuge in a giant ark, once one of the girl’s favorites, begins with a God so sorry for creating life, God simply washes it all away. If God was supposed to be the hero of the story, then why did God behave like a villain? If the book was supposed to explain all the mysteries of life, why did it leave her with so many questions?" From there, the book is divided into eight types of Bible stories, and for each topic she begins with a retelling of a Bible story. I think some of her retellings are a bit uneven and may be off-putting for some readers. I was least fond of the retelling of Job's story, which felt stilted. On the other hand, the first-person retelling of Hagar's story is thoroughly gripping and deeply moving. Following each retelling are the author's reflections. She is a thoughtful, intelligent, and well-informed seeker, and her observations ring with authenticity. One of my favorite short passages shows that Rachel Held Evans is not without a sense of humor. "What sparked my imagination as a little girl stirs my faith today, reminding me that a misogynistic king running a dangerously dysfunctional superpower is nothing new, and nothing God can’t handle." She does an outstanding job illuminating a literary view of Bible Stories, recognizing that the terrain of truth does not always involve historicity. I loved this book, and highly recommend it. I truly am "Inspired" by her persistence in addressing real life in the modern world. This is a book for brave followers of Christ, sincere spiritual searchers, and those who are made uncomfortable by their doubts and questions.
BeLonging More than 1 year ago
“The Bible clearly states …” How often have you heard that phrase used? How often have you heard it misused? Sometimes the Bible is as clear as mud. If you are looking for a book to give you the answers to your biblical questions, this isn’t it. “Inspired” IS a book that will help you explore and discover new pathways and it will walk with you on your journey as you ask questions and struggle with the answers. The Bible was written by dozens of authors over the span of thousands of years and Rachel Held Evans takes just a few of the stories in this beloved book and helps the reader see them with new eyes. “With Scripture, we’ve not been invited to an academic fraternity; we’ve been invited to a wrestling match. We’ve been invited to a dynamic, centuries-long conversation with God and God’s people that has been unfolding since creation, one story at a time.” RHE - “Inspired” I received an advance copy of the book from the publisher and I am so glad that I did.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading, and I feel like crying. I'm not even ready to think about what my review will say, because then it will truly be over. I already know I plan to revisit this work many times as I continue my journey with the Bible, but there's only one first time, full of new discoveries and gasps of surprise, tears of relief, laughter and joy and catharsis. This last year has been the most tumultuous of my faith by far, and I've been angry, hurt, and raw. Reading this was a balm to my soul, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be on the Launch Team* for this book! RHE blends storytelling, memoirs, and academia to make a compelling case for loving the Bible, in spite of and because of the sticking points I've encountered in my journey. Perhaps most moving for me was her re-imagining of the story of Job, placed in a contemporary college dining hall. Job sits in a daze, going through the motions of his day following the tragic death of his wife, while three of his colleagues debate what sin brought about her death and the idea that "God never gives you more than you can handle". In this version, God pops up in an unexpected character and opens their arms wide to embrace the grieving Job: "C'mon Job. I know you've got some things to get off your chest." That's what this book invited me to do: lay out my doubts and my difficulties and understand that questions do not separate me from my God. As RHE notes, "I've often said that those who say having a childlike faith means not asking questions haven't met too many children... Questions are a child's way of expressing love and trust. They are a child's way of starting a conversation." With Inspired, I am ready to delve back into the Bible with new eyes to see, new ears to hear God in all things. Let this be the start of a new conversation with God! *Just a note: I read an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher when I joined the Launch Team, but I'm anxiously awaiting my official copy so I can highlight it and take notes all over the margins!
MagnoliaBear More than 1 year ago
Rachel Held Evans came into my life a number of years ago when I was just beginning to explore my faith and the Bible. A Year of Biblical Womanhood gave me a new way to see the Bible. Evans’s approach - sharing the Bible stories and examining their modern application - made the Bible relevant and understandable for me while not ignoring the brutal, difficult parts. Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again continues and adds to that approach by dividing the Bible’s stories into genres and helping readers think about how those genres should affect the way readers read and apply them. Like A Year of Biblical Womanhood, Inspired comes into my life at a perfect time. Recently, I’ve been growing my faith by exploring the historical and cultural contexts of the Bible, and Inspired does that well. Evans looks at the Bible as a work of literature and a collection of stories. It’s clear that these stories enthrall her, and she shares that enthusiasm with readers. It’s in those stories, she shows, that we can find both God’s divinity and our humanity. Evans chooses to arrange the Bible stories by subject. Chapters are titled Origin Stories, Deliverance Stories, War Stories, Wisdom Stories, Resistance Stories, Gospel Stories, Fish Stories, and Church Stories. This arrangement is smart. By looking at stories in the larger context of their genres, Evans makes them feel fresh and allows us as readers to come to the Bible with new eyes. Not all of Evan’s authorial choices work for me. Each of the chapters in Inspired begins with Evans retelling a story from the genre in a new way. Wisdom Stories, for example, reframes the Book of Job as a play set in a cafeteria; Resistance Stories begins with a poem titled The Beast. This is a kind of midrash, which I understand is a Jewish tradition of exploring the Bible through imagination and interpretation. It may be due to my unfamiliarity with this tradition, but these retellings did not work for me. It’s an interesting experiment, but I find Evans at her best when she’s doing a more straightforward analysis of the text. She excels at explaining the historical background of the stories without losing the magic of the inspiration. She addresses the violence and suffering without losing the progressive heart of the stories. She has a talent for revealing both the human and the divine. I wholeheartedly recommend Inspired. I especially suggest it for readers who, like me, are starting to explore the Bible in its historical and cultural depth. If you are struggling to find or recover an appreciation for the Bible, Inspired will give you insights, walk with you in your questions and doubts, and may just make you love the Bible again - or even for the first time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago