What enables some to survive as Christians when so many others falter?
Would you like some guidance on hard to understand issues with the Christian faith, but without cliché or pat answers? I think there's a lot of people in that category. But where does that person turn? The Bible? Well, that's a great starting point, but what if you don't understand all that you read, or even get confused by what you do read?
There's a new book, just released this week, that doesn't resort to empty answers, clichés, relativism, or smug certainty. Does it answer every and all questions a person might have about God, faith, the Bible and what it says? No, but it gives you a starting point for thinking things through from a fresh vantage point.
This is something new for me and my posting—an interview. Originally, I wanted to do a "live" interview on Skype, but that will have to wait for now. So, this is a written interview, you know, like you see in magazines.
So... pretend you're reading a magazine at a dentist or doctor's office, and hopefully it will take away some of the anxiety that scenario brings up.
I'm interviewing Ed Cyzcewski, a freelance writer and theologian-for-the-times. The last description is my own, not Ed's, but I think it fits him. Ed speaks to issues of our times from both a theological and cultural framework.
Ed is married and the father of two children, the youngest is, well, really young, hence the need for a written interview.
Interview with Ed Cyzewski
TK– Ed, would you tell us a bit about yourself, your family, and how you got into writing Christian books?
Ed– Thanks for hosting me Trip!
I grew up Catholic, got "saved" in a Baptist church, and married into a charismatic family. I suppose it's not shocking that we've ended up in a Vineyard church that has a little bit of each. I never really knew what to do with myself, but in retrospect, I was always writing or journaling or reading. In searching for a "career," I settled on ministry because I at least liked the Bible. So I went to seminary, worked at a church, and realized halfway through that I'd made a huge mistake.
Nevertheless, I'd always wanted to write a book. It was that annoying pipe dream: "I've always thought it would be cool to publish a book." I had no idea how much work it would be, not did I know how emotionally taxing it would be. However, when I gave up on the ministry as a career, I started looking into writing full time. My seminary degree helped me get started into Christian publishing with my first book Coffeehouse Theology.
TK– How much do you think your eclectic background plays a part in your writing, and was there anything in particular that prompted or stirred you to write, A Christian Survival Guide?
Ed– One of the key messages of the Survival Guide is the broad range of beliefs among Christians that speak to many different people with varying experiences and backgrounds. I see the diversity of belief and practice in Christianity as a real asset for survival. Having seen Christians thrive as Catholics, Baptists, and charismatics, I'm hopeful that person who finds liturgy constricting can find life in a church like my Vineyard. However, the person who finds my Vineyard chaotic will perhaps find life in the order of liturgy.
A Christian Survival Guide doesn't aim to shut down conversations or to fully answer questions. Rather, I'm pointing people in several helpful directions so that they can seek God in their communities. This is a book for people who feel stuck or at a dead end. They need to know that there are so many answers and options within the various Christian traditions.
TK– Ed, I've enjoyed your humor throughout the book, which prompted a couple of questions for me. So, this a two-part question...
In light of the difficulty of these topics, which chapter or topic was the most difficult to work on and why?
Ed– The chapter on suffering (Is God Late?) was really tough because it's hard for me to imagine God sitting back and watching horrible things happen that he has the power to prevent. I am not a Calvinist, so I don't believe God orchestrates every tragedy in the world. I believe in free will, and I believe that God imparts his Holy Spirit as a way of changing the world relationally, from the ground up.
So while I struggle with the thought of God watching suffering unfold, I think God's solution is a grass roots, relational path to change. I want a quick fix. When I shout, "God, why aren't you doing anything?" God turns that question around. "Good question, Ed. I gave you my Spirit. Why aren't you doing anything?"
Was there any chapter or topic that was easier or more fun to write than others?
Ed– The chapter on the Bible and culture, (titled Less Lobsters, More Bonnets) has been on my mind quite a bit lately, and teasing out the quirky ways we apply the Bible selectively proved to be both fun and challenging to write about. I mean, if we're honest with ourselves, following the New Testament "literally" would result in a church planting manual that depends on sending letters and preaching short sermons. We all know from Acts that preaching a long sermon killed someone.Dealing with the inconsistencies of strict biblical literalism is like shooting fish in a barrel.
A brief summary
TK– I know you cover this in your introduction to the book, but would you give us a brief summary of your primary hope for those who read, A Christian Survival Guide?
Also, who do you hope will read it [other than everyone, because that's a no-brainer (lol)], and what kind of feedback have you gotten so far, good or bad?
Ed– This book intends to help Christians who are struggling with doubts or feel unable to move forward in their faith. However, I've found that most Christians have questions simmering in the back of their minds, but they've been avoiding them for fear of what they'd find. This book attempts to address both the doubts and struggles of the first group and the pressing questions of the latter group.
I don't set out to give neat, final, conclusive answers. Rather, it's a book that starts a discussion and helps people take the next step. In fact, many of these readers, I think, would put the book down immediately if I started offering, neat, tidy, and definitive answers. I've also heard from people who left the faith and found my book helpful to begin exploring a return.
All that to say, people who love old school apologetics and who believe the Bible provides simple, definitive answers for all time will really, really hate this book. I already have a one-star review on Amazon, and while I have not read it, I presume this person found my book too wishy-washy and prone to compromise.
Wrapping things up
TK– Ed, I really appreciate you taking time out for this interview since I know you're busy with your writing, and life with a young family. So, tell us what else you've written and what you're working on now. Also, are there any special offers connected to the releasing of, A Christian Survival Guide?
Ed– I have written several other co-author books, including The Good News of Revelation with Dr. Larry Helyer. It's a brief commentary on several themes of the book that asks what we can learn from Revelation today if we read it through the eyes of its original readers--readers who actually saw it as good news. I also write short fiction to introduce each chapter and to help undo some of the misconceptions we've gotten from the Left Behind books.
I've also recently published a book called Unfollowers: Unlikely Lessons on Faith from Those Who Doubted Jesus that asks what kept people from following Jesus and whether the same things could be obstacles to our faith today.
This week a bunch of my other books are on sale for $2.99 on Kindle, so this is a great time to pick up a bundle of books for the price of one.
Thanks so much for hosting me at your blog. I'm really grateful that you took the time to ask about my books!
All the best, Ed
TK– Hey Ed, it was my pleasure to host you on my site, and hopefully we can do a face-to-face interview in the future!
I trust your book will help people who are either adrift or struggling to keep their head above water with their faith. I think you did a great job addressing issues that just don't get talked about enough in a genuine way.
I do hope you'll give Ed's book a read, especially if Christianity is a puzzle or frustration for you.