Matthew Paul Turner is one of those writers who can write in dialogue form. I love a good conversation, with questions and stretching hypotheticals, and finding someone to have those conversations with is rough. But his book Provocative Faith, while being decidedly one-sided—since I’m not so sure he heard my witty remarks or skeptical questions in return to his prose while reading—is a book that feels like a Starbucks conversation. And that’s not a bad thing, unless people look at you funny for talking to a book.
Turner’s memoirs, the story of his journey of faith, challenged me on many of the same levels. Basically, asking yourself why you believe what you believe, how you got to this point in your life, how any of this makes sense or has any meaning—that’s the journey Turner outlines for the reader. His own demons and shortcomings took him through all the nuances of forgiveness and repentance:
But for me, even though I knew Jesus had freed me from my sin, my misunderstanding of freedom in Christ restrained me from truly experiencing the liberty that Jesus offers to each of us. I think this is true for many people of faith. If we truly want to experience Jesus to the fullest and live extraordinarily, though, we must pursue complete freedom.
Finding that complete freedom leads one to a provocative faith, one that impacts the people and world around us.
The narrative turns from Turner’s journey through sin and finding freedom to anecdotes of life that point out the genuine value of real love, of “joy as a lifestyle”, of healing and the real move of the Spirit in lives of faith. The fresh perspective brought here is from one who understands he is still imperfect, still working through the process, still discovering fresh and new things about God, still maturing and growing through the trials and the victories. I appreciate that his prose has a weightiness without taking itself/himself to seriously, and it’s almost never presumptuous or insincere. Like I said, I get the feeling that we’ve had this conversation over lattes at the coffeeshop, and we’ve both learned from the other.
My only drawback is that this book made me think thoughts that Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell had already brought to the fore. If you want to read something a little lighter and a little more general than Bell’s book, this is the one to spend some time in this week. Turner has a place on my shelf: books that have been fun, that have challenged, that I can pass along to just about anyone.