I have enjoyed the distinct pleasure of growing to know John Shore within the past few months. I have found him to be astutely insightful, wickedly funny and fearlessly true to his understandings of grace through Christ.
As such, I have been awaiting the opportunity to clear some books off of my “to read” list so that I could fully enjoy “Penguins, Pain and the Whole Shebang”, expecting it to be filled with John’s uniquely wry and humorous insights into the nature of God and our relationship with God.
I was not disappointed. The book is simply stated, a riot. I found myself laughing out loud at several points throughout. I will not spoil a readers’ joy by offering too many details, but; the premise of the book is that God took control of John’s body so that He could present his side of the story; largely in response to those atheists and agnostics who (with often compelling arguments) do not believe that God exists. As such; the book seems largely intended as a sort of apologetic for God’s existence. The surprise is that God has a wicked sense of humor (penguin, anyone?)
What I was not expecting though was just how substantial the book is. Many times while reading, I found myself highlighting, dog-earing pages saying ”ouch” in response the strong criticism of some of the church’s more exclusionary and less gracious actions. There is strong polemic here, have no doubt. And the prophetic tone does not stop at the institutional church, either; but often finds purchase within the individual heart as well.
The genius of this work is that it is filled with such moments; and yet that prophetic voice is soon followed by humor. But rather than it seeming to present God as having some serious bipolar mood swings; the work as a whole presents an image of God as love. In “Penguins…” God can and does rebuke, but then immediately seeks to bring us back with laughter; often at God’s own expense. That is the type of love we can all aspire to; where anger burns quickly and grace abounds. That is the type of God, that we can identify with and love rather than tremble in fear at the thought of.
While “Penguins…” would seem to have been written to a non-believing audience; the wonderful insights into God’s nature found therein have tremendous value to those of faith as well.
Do yourself a favor and read this book. You will be both entertained and inspired.