As high school and college graduation season is approaching, I wanted to trace back to a great book written by Rut Etheridge and published in 2019, God Breathed: Connecting through Scripture, to God, Others, the Natural World, and Yourself. I happily endorsed it, saying:
It is difficult to find good books targeted for a young adult reading audience. They are usually dumbed down, trying too hard to connect, or cheesy. And yet this is often the time of life when people have serious and meaningful questions about the Christian faith. Rut offers us a “Shaeffer-esque” blend of philosophy, theology, and apologetics that connects with the questions about God that Christians and unbelievers alike wrestle with in our current cultural context. He takes his audience seriously and points them to something (Someone) altogether delightful. I will be giving this one away!
It isn’t one of those smaller books that maybe are more marketable to give to the younger crowd. It’s substantial, just like the questions they are asking. With all the deconversion stories we are hearing, with all the hypocrisy that young adults are naming, and with all the pain and suffering that continues both inside and outside the church, many of the questions are still the same:
Do Christians even take God seriously? Why should they?
Can the Bible be trusted? How do we know?
What is the nature of truth? Why does it matter?
Where do I fit into the church? Why is it important?
What is God doing about evil? Why are we still suffering?
Where can I find true beauty? How can I express my own pain in the seeking?
One reviewer fittingly stated, “This book is in part almost a love letter to those who have been hurt by the Church, or those who have walked away from church because their sin felt too big.” As a professor, Rut is in touch with searching, doubting, hurting young hearts and directs them to find fullness to their deepest, image-bearing affections in the risen Christ. Not only that, he sees how the church needs their contributions, their questions, and their company.
At an increasingly polarizing time, God Breathed helps those with different convictions within Christianity to dialogue productively about today’s most pressing issues. Our young adults are possibly the most aware of the moral chaos that we are in and need to see that we value one another as the body of Christ as we come together to dialogue. But Etheridge doesn’t shy away from exposing the idols of our time, even using plenty of pop-culture references coupled with his philosophical engagement, as he knows how art shapes thinking.
And, if I can just be blunt, young adults see through the empty slogans, cheap grace, and extra-biblical categories that are saturating the evangelical church. Etheridge has expressed that well-meaning conservative evangelical parents, teachers, and pastors need to see and understand why young adults aren’t buying the cultural accretions more and more conservative churches preach as gospel truth. The book is for us as well.
I love how Etheridge closes the book by highlighting God’s soundtrack in the Psalms, quoting Calvin who refers to them as “an anatomy of the human soul.” This part of the book really ministered to me. He says, “The Psalms are God’s permission to express honestly our truest, deepest selves—you don’t have to hide your heart from God!—and they’re God’s most personal means of forming us in full humanness. Among God’s other words, the Psalms are uniquely powerful and personal because they are simultaneously God’s words to us and our words to him.” He shows how Jesus himself was captivated by the Psalms. Why?
“Communion with God, loving Withness, is what we humans were made for and it’s how we grow in our true selves. It’s what Jesus lived and it’s what he provides for those who trust him. The Psalms are vital for this formation. As we believe and sing the songs the Holy Spirit composed, the Holy Spirit composes us.”
True to his subtitle, this book is about human connection with God and his world. Perhaps you have some young adults in mind who are asking these questions or longing for this connection. Perhaps it is a book you would like to read yourself!