Aleteia

‘God Is Not Nice’: Speaking with Ulrich L. Lehner about his new book

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"We should never tame God," says the Marquette professor, who specializes in Early Modern Religious History and Theology.

Ave Maria Press

 

Brant Pitre, author of the excellent The Case for Jesus and the indispensable Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, sounds pretty excited about Ulrich Lehner’s new book, God Is Not Nice: Rejecting Pop Culture Theology and Discovering the God Worth Living For. “This book is a bombshell in the playground of the contemporary sentimentalism and therapeutic deism that often masquerades as Christianity,” declares Pitre.

“[It is] one of those rare works that brilliantly diagnoses the errors of our time and responds to them with clarity and charity. In our age of ‘safe spaces, ‘ it should be required reading for college and university students who likely haven’t yet met the God of the Bible — a God who is good, but by no means safe.”

Lehner was kind enough to answer a few questions for our Aleteia readers.

Aleteia: What inspired the book?

Ulrich L. Lehner: I encountered countless students who were bored by the Christian faith, and I wondered why. One day I realized that we feed them the idea of a boring, conventional, nice God—something that kills passion for the faith. Even catechized young adults seemed to be unable to respond to the criticism of their friends that our faith is just a boring, middle-class invention, colonialist, or “European.”

What story or anecdote (or piece of advice) in this book most personally resonated with you?

We should never tame God or cover his majesty with our expectations and wishes. We should fight the temptation to see God as the divine vending machine: Our prayers are good in themselves, and God is worthy of worship because he is God. Let’s get into the adventure of adoration.

Did writing this book teach you anything?

It taught me many things. First, I was surprised the book was in me since I normally write history books. Second, it brought back many memories of my childhood where I encountered passionate, intelligent faith, and people who lived the adventure of living with God moment by moment, second to second. Third, it gave me a rationale of why I am a theology professor: helping others to find Christ.

If there is one person you want to reach with this book, who would that be?

Young adults and perhaps even teens who think about returning to the Church but are concerned that it is not for them. Anybody who thinks faith is boring or something for people who cannot cope with the real world. It is also a roadmap for believers on how to rekindle their imagination about the faith, thus giving it more vividness and a rational footing.

What is the ideal beverage to have in hand while reading your book? 

As a Bavarian I would say a good Bavarian beer, but really any drink that refreshes you and gets you into the mood to read about a wild God.

 

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