There’s a new name in the trendy Christian explaining ideas to Christians book space. Working in Christian publishing, with an eye on the wider sector and pretty active on social media, I’d’ve have to have been blind not to see this book cover last year.Bold typography, black on white, published by Zondervan, intriguing internal layouts… no, this isn’t a ten year time machine reinventing Rob Bell. Today I’m reviewing a book by author and pastor John Mark Comer, God has a name.
The basic premise of this attractively produced and engagingly written book is found in its context – partly revealed in the opening pages. In our contemporary western culture (where both this author and this review live) there are a myriad and one conceptions if who God is, leading to easy misunderstandings and apologetic fails. The good thing about this book is that it looks to the Bible to find out who God says God is – looking at the most quoted verse in the Bible – when we take into account the Bible’s quoting of itself! Whilst the book does have its weaknesses – it is a little light on explicit Trinitarianism (check out my recent roundup for some great introductory books on this), for example – I think this is a really helpful book for our contemporary culture, for two basic reasons.
This is a book that does two things – explains who God has revealed God to be, and gives some pointers as to why it matters. Rooted in the Bible – particularly Exodus 34v4-7, from where Comer takes his cue – this is a book that is relentless in its pursuit of letting God explain who God is. Literally, the author spends almost 300 pages explaining the real meaning of just three verses. And it is beautiful. Comer writes in a self-deprecating but informed way, aware of his culture (though I, as someone who detests the usage of the word ‘millennial’ outside of discussion of eschatology, felt he [rightly] finds culture quite amusing and so writes tongue in cheek) but rooted in the Bible’s own language. This isn’t a book to make you laugh out loud – but it should make you smile, pray, ponder and change the way you approach God.
I appreciate the blend of books you read in this book. On the one hand, Comer is eminently quotable, which helps some people wrap their heads round complex things:
On Hope: “hope is the absolute expectation of coming good based on the character of God“
On the reason for hope: “Our hope is that no matter what happens to us, Jesus is back from the dead, and anything is possible“
On Worship: “Worship is an entire life oriented around wonder and awe at the nature of God“
On Jesus’ death: “We sin. Jesus dies. Jesus dies. We live on in relationship with the Father. Welcome to the kingdom of God, my friends“
On God’s Wrath: “Here’s my favourite definition of God’s wrath: ‘his steady, unrelenting, unremitting, uncompromising antagonism to evil in all its forms and manifestations” (He’s quoting John Stott)
At the same time as some great (occasionally sickeningly tweetable) one-liners, this is also clearly a very thought-through book. Comer delves into the meaning of Hebrew words, inviting readers to join him, in a way that works. For me, one of the highlights of this book was actually its endnotes – these are whimsical, comprehensive, and quite revealing. I even instagrammed a picture:
Overall, then, this is a book I’d want to warmly recommend to people. This isn’t the best book I’ve ever read on God’s nature, but it is definitely up there when you being to appreciate Comer’s big central point about who God is being so closely linked to God’s name. Pastorally, this would be a good book for those of us grappling with what it means to call God ‘Father’ (why not mother? doesn’t that make God male? etc etc), as well as a great book to give to someone who believes in ‘God’ but can’t really define or even begin to explain who or what that ‘God’ might be. Now I probably need to head off and read Comer’s other books.