"What's So Funny About God?" by Steve Wilkins. A Review
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I love puns, Dad-Jokes, witticisms and jests, both getting and giving them. It’s a family trait. My dad was famous for such things, all told with a twinkle in his eye. And if he received his desired effect, groans and laughter, his day was made! So, my interest was piqued when I saw that Steve Wilkens, author and professor of philosophy and ethics at Azusa Pacific University, penned “What's So Funny About God? A Theological Look at Humor”. This 200-Page softback is coming out just in time for the New Year, and I was not disappointed. It is peppered, on almost every page, with witty jokes and quips, but they are all married to healthy theological subjects unpacked in a relaxed and friendly manner. I think the author achieved his desired aim of helping his readers to “meditate on what we might see in Scripture and in our faith when we look at them humorously” (5).
One of Wilkins’s working premises is that “humor helps us understand God’s ways because these ways are full of unexpected punch lines” (25). And so, he recounts biblical stories to tease out the comical and curious that swim around in those episodes. Whether it’s Jonah, laughing Sarah, the Christmas accounts, the comedic drama of Esther, or the road to Emmaus, there are numerous examples of funny and laughable quirks and twists that help us to learn to laugh, and usually laugh at ourselves. But also teach us to laugh with joy and praise at who God is, what he has done, is doing, and will do for his people.
I deeply appreciated the author’s point at how good humor is anti-Gnostic, especially when our bodies join in on the joke. As Wilkins observes when he contrasts biblical faith to Gnosticism, and its twisted sister, naturalism, “both recognize the incongruent worlds we occupy; the difference is that they (Gnosticism and naturalism) just flat don’t like it.” But when we can see ourselves as God’s humorous creation, then “laughter becomes a way of hugging human life…It allows us to recognize that God does not desire save us from our humanity, but to save us in our humanity” (47).
The volume is packed with good, healthy, solid theology that is broad enough to include Wesleyans and Calvinists. As Wilkins puts it, he’s a Nazarene, “but I’m really lousy at it” (135). Yet he’s not lousy at how he presents who God is, and what he has done, is doing, and will do for his people. “As in humor, theology requires that we see something in our world that others do not, will not, or cannot see” (102). My only concern is that sometimes the jesting and joviality take over here and there, and the jokes become – in my estimation – irreverent. This troubled me in places and reduced some of the value of this normally delightful script.
Still, “What’s So Funny About God” is a delightful and thoughtful study on the place of humor in the Christian Faith, especially since “the capacity for comedy and laughter is not just coded into the human gnome. It is essential to Christianity’s DNA” (99). Pastors and church leaders will benefit immensely from this volume, specifically drawing on the author’s way of presenting and communicating certain biblical truth and theological concepts. Also, dads in need of more ammo for their Dad-Joke arsenal will find it a must-read! And so, with a chuckle, and an occasional blush, I recommend the book.
My thanks to IVP for publishing this volume and willingly sending me a copy at my request. Their stipulations on me were nil. Therefore, with pleasure I have freely crafted my analysis, and present it just as freely.
You can pick up the book here: IVP
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