"Go against the grain."
This is what Mark Ellingsen wants your church to hear in A Rebellious Faith. It isn't merely odd or contradictory in the eyes of the world to live a Christian life. It is offensive.
To go against the grain - by discounting our accomplishments, carrying no shame in the light of grace, considering no one outside of God's love - is to sometimes make people who worship hard work, the quest for perfection and exceptionalism deeply uncomfortable.
And that is a very good thing.
Ellingsen begins with the irrevocable truth that the ashes we put on our living bodies at the beginning of the Lenten season represent the death we all deserve. From there, he leads your congregation through the brazenly offensive, un-American ideas presented in the New Testament.
Confession does not shame and isolate us, it liberates us. Bearing the cross of our sin is not a burden, but a blessing in the knowledge the Lord has paid the ultimate price for our sin. The Resurrection does not make anyone exceptional. It unites us all whether or not we are ready to enter Heaven together.
A Rebellious Faith reminds us thatthe war is already won, and we are to live as brave sinners whose Savior cannot be overcome.
Mark Ellingsen, a minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), has been a professor of Church History at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia, since 1993. He graduated magna cum laude from Gettysburg College (Pennsylvania) and Yale University, from which he received three master's degrees in divinity, arts, and philosophy, as well as his Ph.D. He has authored eighteen books including Sin Bravely: A Joyful Alternative to a Purpose-Driven Life (Continuum) and The Integrity of Biblical Narrative (Wipf and Stock). He and his wife have three grown children. When he is not writing or teaching, Ellingsen enjoys discussing politics, sports, and playing guitar.