By: Glenn Packiam
I read a lot of books. That might make me sound like a really smart person but don’t be deceived, I’m not a really smart person. I am a person who likes to look really smart so I buy a lot of books and put them on my book shelves. But I’m not a wasteful person so when I spend the money to buy books and put them on my shelf to make me look smart I also read them. When I go into a book store I am like a kid in a toy store who passes up the plain old brown football for the Nerf gun that has 64 triggers, can shoot underwater, is painted bright orange with lightning bolts and can also make you coffee and fix you breakfast. I only want the books that are bright and shiny and have interesting covers. I just finished reading Secondhand Jesus by Glenn Packiam. I don’t know how this book got on my shelf. It doesn’t have a flashy cover or a super clever title so the reason I picked it up and started reading it is beyond my comprehension. I have a running theory. I believe that a really boring person came in my office and thought that my books were to brightly colored so he added a dull one to the bunch to balance out the excitement.
My favorite books are those that I argue against. I find that I grow the most when I read books that cause me to think or cause me to rethink and retest by belief structure. They are covered in my own hand writing where I argue against the writer and some hair brained idea presented in the text. Secondhand Jesus is a bit safe for my liking. Safe like going skateboarding with two matresses strapped to your body for protection. Sure you don't get hurt, but you can't move enough to learn any new tricks either. The author didn’t cause me to stretch or to consider a way of thinking other than my own. Usually I read a book in a week or less but this one took me three to finish because I kept falling asleep reading it. If you are looking for a book that confirms what you already know or believe then I would defiantly give it a read but if you are looking to grow and test your faith look elsewhere.
In this book, Glenn Packiam unpacks the idea that most Christians accept what they hear from the pulpit or other books as truth and never really discover God on their own. He uses several examples concerning the Ark of the Covenant to show that some have accepted rumors of God as truth. The idea and theme of this book is a good one, Christians do need to seek and understand God for themselves, but the book seems a little repetitive and some of the evidence he uses to prove his point is sketchy at best.
In one chapter the author combats the rumor that God is please with our goodness. He uses a passage of Scripture from 1 Samuel 6 where God slaughtered a whole mess of guys because they looked in the Ark to prove his point. Packiam has this to say about why the men died, “Now, here’s the punch: To lift the cover of the Ark of the Covenant is to stare the law of God in the face without the cover of blood. It is to say that you are holy enough, good enough, to handle God’s law without the mercy of God’s forgiveness or the atoning power of the blood.” (This is where I started writing in by book and yelling at the author.)This verse preaches really well but adds some facts that just aren’t there. First of all, we don’t know that the Ten Commandments were the only thing in the Ark so how do we know they were opening it just to look at the law? Second, God has killed lots of people for touching the Ark who didn’t even try to look inside it. I understand that no one was, is, or ever will be good enough to fulfill the whole law, but this section of scripture says nothing about that. It says God struck down men because they tried to look inside the Ark. They died because they directly disobeyed God’s commandments concerning how to handle the Ark. (Read Numbers 4, specifically verse 15 where God tells them a certain family is to carry it a certain way so that no one else touches the Holy objects and dies.) The men who carried the Ark weren’t good enough on their own to approach God or his law either but they didn’t die. This part of the book is really a stretch.
I tried to think of some good quotes from this book that would be helpful to others but all the ones I came up with were quotes Packiam took from other books by other authors. This book as some cool stories about what happened in his church and the author writes some beautiful worship songs but you can get the gist of his message by reading Acts 17:10-12 (About the Bereans and their desire to know God’s Word personally) in combination with the works of C.S. Lewis (Particularly The Problem of Pain, The Weight of Glory, and Mere Christianity which are quoted numerous times in Secondhand Jesus.)After you get done with those go to a Christian book store and pick out the brightest colored book you can find and read it with discernment. I think the experience will be extremely valuable for you. While you do that I will make sure that sneaky boring guy doesn’t put anymore ‘safe’ books on my shelf. Thanks for reading!