I heard Dr. Ron Martoia speak last month at the Story Chicago conference (I mentioned him in #12 of my blog post about the event here). I happened to receive an advanced reader copy of Martoia’s new book a couple of days after the conference, and was really looking forward to reading it after hearing his talk.
The Bible As Improv: Seeing & Living the Script in New Ways (Zondervan, scheduled to release in March, 2010) did not disappoint. He tackles the way most of us have learned to read and interpret the Bible, and suggests that our “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth” cherry-pick-life-principles approach doesn’t lead us or our churches to spiritual maturity. The chapter on Faith and Human Development is the hinge on which the book turns; Martoia gives an overview of James Fowler’s stages of faith development in order to demonstrate what many of us have suspected all along – spiritual growth isn’t a tidy upward continuum.
“I realized the Bible wasn’t bringing life change to me and other the way I thought it should,” Martoia writes. “In my journey toward a deeper grappling with how the Bible is supposed to work in my life, I underwent a dramatic shift in my view of how we develop as people of faith.” The struggle and revelation changed not only the way he pastored, but the kinds of questions he asked of the Bible. He uses some powerful, memorable metaphors to encourage us to learn to improvise on the text and to read/discern as communities of faith. The content of The Bible As Improv was an helpful complement to Scot McKnight’s Blue Parakeet (not surprising, since Martoia studied with McKnight when both were at Trinity International University).
The book’s message may jar and annoy some conservative evangelicals, but I believe it’s a valuable contribution to the discussion of how we can engage the text and live into God’s Story.