God Breathed: Connecting through Scripture to God, Others, the Natural World, and Yourself
Rutledge Etheridge III | Crown & Covenant | 2019, 410 pp., $15 |
In the first chapter of his debut book, Rut Etheridge III begins with an intriguing interaction between ideas from cultural icons such as Bob Dylan and Jerry Seinfeld and Western philosophical giants such as René Descartes and Immanuel Kant, all measured by biblical truth. Etheridge directly challenges the modern mantras “be true to yourself” and “perception is reality.”
He ranges from telling stories of blissfully innocent kids on Christmas morning to discussing emotionally charged injustices of Western politics. Etheridge moves from scenes of nostalgia and questions of morality to statistical reality. Sobering numbers reveal that myriads of college students struggle with hopelessness, loneliness, anxiety, and depression. The first chapter establishes the wide scope of his book.
The next nine chapters challenge self-made truth and admire God-given truth, while engaging with a wide range of subjects. God Breathed faces the heavy attacks that theologians, such as textual critic Bart Ehrman, and politicians levy against scriptural truth. It discusses deeply sensitive subjects like abortion, human trafficking, and racial reconciliation.
Throughout, Etheridge regularly uses cultural entertainment, his family, and personal experiences for illustrations. Most importantly, Scripture is found on every page. Etheridge lets God’s Word defend itself against societal challenges.
Refreshingly balanced, Etheridge’s insight into modern Western culture blends serious critique with friendly fondness, even calling himself at one point a “fanboy” of Harry Potter. He skillfully critiques the ideas of culture while often admiring the expression of those ideas.
Furthermore, his use of self- deprecating humor and childlike excitement makes his wisdom winsome and the read pleasant. On certain topics, such as abortion, Etheridge especially shows pastoral maturity. In the midst of critiquing Ehrman’s “neglect of this issue,” Etheridge steps into his role of Pastor Rut and asks his readers to “please forgive any hurt this reading is causing.”
Despite Etheridge’s brilliant ability to make the material understandable and palatable, there is a lot of material. Nearly 20% of the 400-page book is endnotes that cite sources and encourage the reader to dig deeper. A slow read—perhaps with a book club or discussion group—is recommended.
Overall, God Breathed is an excellent book that is well worth a careful read. It may well be a must-read for anyone living in the West, where so many assumed ideas are hurtful. “Thankfully,” Etheridge argues, “some ideas are beautiful and true forever.”
This review was written by Clay Joseph for publication in the RP Witness Magazine, and is shared with their kind permission.