The Misunderstood God (by Darin Hufford)

I really wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading this book just a few days ago. I'd bought it on the strength of online reviews, based on what I'd already enjoyed reading. I had never heard of Darin Hufford, but I had been very impressed with other books I'd read from the same publisher, Windblown Media: 'He Loves Me' by Wayne Jacobsen, and 'So you don't want to go to church anymore' by Jake Colsen.

'The Misunderstood God' is not, as I half feared, full of hype; nor does it contain criticism of any denomination within the Christian church. It does rather condemn much of what is taught within the established church - particularly the evangelical wing - but it's done in a way that didn't feel annoying or judgemental. Hufford sees it as sad that so many people have apparently lost the plot and perceive God as a hard taskmaster, or worse.

This book takes as its premise that God is love, alongside the famous passage of Scripture from I Corinthians 13, which begins: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast....". Logically speaking, from those two premises, we must conclude that God is patient, kind, and so on. I doubt if any Christian believer would doubt that, in theory. Unfortunately, many of us have twisted the meanings of the words so that if we're completely honest, we actually perceive God as being rather impatient and unkind.

Using personal anecdotes, and examples from his ministry and experience, Darin Hoffman gently draws out the meanings of each of these words, with each short phrase about love in a separate chapter. I had not thought I had too many misconceptions about God's love; I'm already quite far from being a conservative evangelical. But as I read, I found my heart stirred; I could almost feel little shackles, which I hadn't really noticed, loosening themselves. It was both liberating and a little scary at times.

There were places where I did a double-take, wondering if the author had even read some parts of the Bible which he seemed to be ignoring or even contradicting. But he mostly explains himself; besides, no one book can possibly cover every possible interpretation of theology, or every confusing part of Scripture. It's very difficult to reconcile the love we see in Jesus with the apparently angry, vengeful God we sometimes see in the Old Testament. This book looks determinedly at the former, and that's fine.

I found this book so inspiring that instead of reading just one chapter a day, as I intended, over two or three weeks, I finished it in three days, often reading for an hour or more without putting it down. It's encouraging, it's thought-provoking, and I hope that many people will read it and re-discover the God who loves them unconditionally.

Very highly recommended.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 3rd March 2010

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