Birds of the Air – book review

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Mike Bull is an Australian Christian author who writes stimulating books under the (self-publishing) moniker of “Bible Matrix“. Here’s how he describes his own work:

…the basic premise is that the Bible is a “literary fractal.” This means that every part of it is the same shape as the entire book. This is because God has a very consistent way of doing things. For an introduction to fractals, see The Bible Is A Fractal.

Secondly, this “fractal” shape is symmetrical. Every part of the Bible has the same “DNA” shape, information contained in literary curves. This is the ‘X’ pattern found throughout the Scriptures. Comparing these shapes to one another not only explains why the text is so often strange to us, it opens up to the reader the internal logic of the authors. You can read more about that here.

Already some readers will want to know more and some, well, will think it smacks a little too much of the sort of crazy Bible Code shenanigans. Bull has written a number of books along the Bible Matrix theme,

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Bull is also on twitter (as distinguished from his Bible Matrix twitter account) and it’s a fine read. Bull has learned the art of 140 character pithy sayings and the fruit of it is to be seen in his latest book, Birds of the Air. Here’s how the back cover describes what he’s doing:

The truth wrapped in a riddle or a joke is irresistible. What looks like skylarking is sometimes the fowler’s snare. This selection of airborne quips and eagle-eyed observations by Michael Bull will likely challenge, offend, anger and unsettle. But it will edify and perhaps even amuse.

In a nutshell it’s a compilation of 1360 “tweets” designed to stimulate, encourage and (not least) provoke. I say provoke because you’re not going to agree with everything Bull writes, at least I think you won’t. Some of it will find almost universal acceptance.

#1 Whenever the Word of God comes, it is an end to business as usual.

A great start and it gets better very quickly,

#4 There is a heavenly breath and an earthly breath. Between them is one who possesses both as mediator between heaven and earth.

And on Bull goes, working his way diligently through several (Bible Matrix informed) topics; Creation, Division, Ascension, Testing, Maturity, Conquest, Glorification. Like I said, much of it is encouraging and will produce cheers from all around the arena. But then he also sticks it right into the hornets’ nest…

#9 Computer-modeled “extrapolations” based on a flawed worldview always create a fantasy world as they do with evolution and climate science.

and his aim is centred squarely on those in the church, too:

#217 Paedobaptism is an attempt to claim Abrahamic promises in a post-Abrahamic world.

#318 There’s a reason that every single word of the Bible, including the New Testament, was written by men, and not women.

I loved it even when I felt the full force of the buckshot coming in my direction because what soon becomes apparent is that Bull wants us to think and apply. Here is a thinking reader of the Bible who genuinely believes that it applies to all of life and that if only we had the courage to really apply it then we’d be able to get some answers, no matter how challenging they are. As he pushes through topics like evolution, climate change, politics and government he makes you squirm at times, but never so you want to put the book down. I found myself repeatedly shouting out “no!” in my head but then wanting to be prodded and provoked again.

You might not agree with Bull on everything he writes (and I certainly didn’t) but it’s been a long, long time since I had so much fun disagreeing and being disagreed with. With him or against him, Bull makes you think and perhaps question how you might have previously answered something, if you’d even thought about it before all the while chuckling at how he describes things. It was like reading Doug Wilson but in pellet form. It’s the perfect balance of profundity and brevity. If only all of twitter was like this.

Plus who can’t grin when they read this?:

#50 An atheist telling you all about religion is like a cat telling you all about surfing.

#754 When I draw a crowd it’s almost always a lynch mob.

#1039 A PDF is the only place I would ever embed a font.

If you want a nice gentle book to stroke you quietly as it mutters “there, there” then Birds of the Air is going to be a deep disappointment. But if you want to laugh and frown and sigh and cheer and do it all over and over again with a gentle smirk always in the background as you’re forced to think  about things then I can’t think of anything better.

Birds of the Air: Theological Twitter by Mike Bull

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