I was initially hesitant to join Margaret Feinberg in her quest for Scouting the Divine. Prior to reading the book, I didn’t know anything about the author or her religious beliefs, and in reading the book’s back cover and first few paragraphs, I was unable to get a solid grasp on what divinity was being pursued. In the second paragraph, Feinberg writes,
“While some dismiss the Bible as a dusty old book, I view its pages as portals to adventure. Not only is the book chock-full of clever plots and compelling stories, but it’s laced with historical insights and literary beauty. When I open the Scripture, I imagine myself exploring an ancient kingdom…at every turn I meet kings and queens, scribes, and poets, all sharing their stories of courage and faith.”
All of these sentiments are nice, but I still couldn’t get a firm grasp on whether the author thinks the Bible is more than just an ancient version The Game of Thrones. While everything in her description was true, I was getting a little nervous over the fact that she never mentioned that the Bible is also the inspired word of God. I was fearful that the next 200 pages would either be filled with heretical views on the Scriptures that I hold dear or a self indulging diatribe of the author searching for some emotional revelation. I was nervous this was going to be a fruitless attempt at a “Christian” version of Eat, Pray, Love.
What I found instead was a sister in Christ who realizes that modern day Christians are missing out on a level of beauty and depth of the Scriptures because of our urban culture. While each word in the Bible is true and applicable to every human being, there’s an angle of understanding we miss by spending so much time on streets and sidewalks instead of pastures and vineyards.
Throughout the entire Bible, including Psalm 23, one of the most famous Psalms, we see the analogy of the Lord being our Shepherd. But what does this really mean to us if we’ve never even seen a real sheep outside of the zoo? In the Old Testament, the Promised Land is described as the “land of milk and honey,” but are we missing out on a deeper truth if we’ve never milked a cow and our honey comes in a plastic, bear shaped bottle from the supermarket?
Feinberg approaches these issues as a true journalist. Throughout the book, she spends time with and interviews a shepherdess in Oregon, a farmer in Nebraska, a beekeeper in Colorado, and a vintner in California. It’s obvious through her line of questioning that she prepared for her interviews by meticulously scouring the Scriptures for passages relating to the topics she wanted to study. She delves into the original Greek and Hebrew texts proving that this is not a self indulgent vacation but rather an academic endeavor. Throughout the pages of this book, she weaves deep Biblical truth with a relaxed narrative that allows the reader to feel that he or she is present throughout her journey.
While I was very impressed by Feinberg’s preparation for this book and initiative in pursuing her subjects, I was most moved by her trip to Sonoma and Napa Valley in California to explore the Scriptures relating to grapes, vines, wine, and viniculture. While sharing lunch with her husband and the vintner she was interviewing, he pulled a bottle of Chardonnay out of the cellar at his vineyard and described the complexities of the flavors. When offered a taste of the wine, the author purposefully abstained because she realized that this could have a negative impact on some of those reading her book that held different religious views than her own or those who had been personally affected by alcohol abuse.
While I initially questioned this book, I found myself disappointed that it was over as I finished reading the last paragraph. Feinberg led me on a journey across the U.S. which not only gave me an interesting insight into professions much different than my own, but she also helped the Bible come alive to me in a brand new way. This book is definitely worth reading and sharing with your friends.