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February 24, 2022

Christianity Without Dogma by Jack Bergstrand ~ a Review

by Donna Huber

Christianity Without Dogma is an interesting book with a lot to think about. I'm always looking for a more authentic Christian walk in my personal life so I thought I would give this book a try.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free audiobook was provided for an honest review.

cover of audiobook Christianity Without Dogma
January 2022; Christian Consciousness
audio (7h 12m), ebook, print; nonfiction

In the church, we are often warned not to be present-day Pharisees and Sadducees. Jack Bergstrand draws comparisons between the legalism and philosophies of the Pharisees and Sadduccees of the Bible with how some people are in the church today. He discusses ways to guard against falling into their same thought patterns and habits. He challenges the reader to think more deeply about their faith. He often frames his arguments in a religion versus spirituality context. It reminded me of the religion versus relationship discussions of my college days.

There were a few things that bugged me about the book so let's discuss them first.

  1. The author uses the word deconstruction over and over again, but never truly defines what it is. Is it some kind of deprogramming like people who have been in a cult go through? Even when he got to describing his own deconstructing journey I didn't understand exactly what deconstructing was. A lot of what he was saying I had been challenged to do by Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, and pastors since I was in middle school. So I wonder if his idea of deconstruction is the same as my definition of Christian maturity and the Christian walk and growth.
  2. He blames church leadership and models for why people need to "deconstruct", but I think possibly some of the blame is on the person. I had always been encouraged to be sure that my faith was mine and not my parents or my church leaders. I heard the adage more than once "God gave you a brain, use it". But I know some Christians are happy to be spoonfed.
  3. The personal story snippets sounded scripted as they all sound alike and use jargon. It was like the people were told this is how to state your journey and not in a way they would normally speak. It reminded me of when learning to give your testimony and you are told not to use "church" words. It was like they were using the words of the deconstruction movement and I had to wonder if they really understood it.
  4. There is a lot of repetition. While the audiobook is just over 7 hours, it felt much longer. Some of that is because there is a lot of material to consider, but I also felt like he repeated things a little too much.
  5. A drawback to listening to the audiobook was the tables and figures. I had trouble following the descriptions. It was said that the tables and figures are in the accompanying pdf, but I could not find the pdf in my Audible library. So if you want to listen to the audiobook make sure you get the pdf as I think it will make it easier to understand the tables and figures.
While those are the big things, I had a few smaller issues that I would have liked to have addressed. I couldn't get a good feel on what he thought of the divine nature of Jesus. I'm not sure if he lumped the divine with the supernatural which he discounts. Also, I'm not sure he gets what Adam and Eve's sin really was. He kept pointing to Adam eating a piece of fruit, but their sin was disobedience, which to today all sin is an act of disobedience.

I did agree with him about the lack of focus on the discipline of mediation in my Christian education. Growing up, eastern religions were growing in popularity and I can see the church's need to distinguish between the practice of mediation in eastern religions and the Christian discipline of mediation. For me, I think that is why there was an emphasis on Scripture memorization. Some of the methods used to memorize Scripture are the same that are used for meditating on Scripture. Like the author discovered, practicing the discipline of mediation took my Christian walk to a new level. The Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster is an excellent book if you are interested in learning more about how to meditate. 

I felt sometimes he was picking and choosing Scriptures to focus on. This may have been in an attempt to streamline the book and avoid wading into more difficult passages. He liked to emphasize living in the present and often quotes Matthew 6:25-34 (do not worry about tomorrow), but seems to ignore Proverbs 6:7-8 in which we are told to be like the ant who stores food in summer for the winter. 

I also felt at times that he thought good works were more important than a personal relationship with God. I wondered several times how Matthew 7:21-23 fit into his belief system. Perhaps he ignores it as it has more to do with the hereafter and he is very focused on the here and now

I think Bergstrand had many good things to say. I was saddened that in so many of the testimonals in the personal stories about deconstructing people rejected the faith since the author says on several occasions that this process will lead you to a deeper faith.

I could see the small group I attended after college using this book as a basis for discussion as we often debated the beliefs of the church and our denomination.  

(Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read the ebook for FREE)

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour

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  1. Thank you for your thoughtful review, Donna. You bring up many good points that are good ones for people to consider during their spiritual Christian journeys. I can see where the deconstruction definition is much easier to miss in the audio version versus the book itself. The definition, credited to the Deconstruction Network, is an overarching process of questioning core beliefs; literally meaning to break down and analyze something to discover its true significance. Also, as you point out, deconstruction (especially evangelical deconstruction) often leads to deconversion. The book (and ChristianConsciousness.Org) try to provide a path that still embraces Jesus. Again, thank you for listening and reviewing. All the best, Jack Bergstrand