Releases May 3rd; available for pre-order now

About The Pursuing God


Many of us feel that way. It’s as if God’s gone missing, out in the universe somewhere—and we must pick up the hunt, following any trail of breadcrumbs we can to go find him. We speak of “searching for God,” “exploring spirituality,” and “finding faith.”

But what if we have it backward and God is the one pursuing us? What if our job is not to go find God, but to stop running and hiding? Not to discover the light, but step out of the shadows? Not to earn God’s love, but simply receive it?

Jesus reveals a God who comes after us, who is on the prowl, hunting down his world for reconciliation. And the question we’re left with is not whether we’ve been good enough, jumped high enough, or sought hard enough…

The question is,


Along the way, the book tackles tough topics like:
  • Exclusivity: “Is Jesus the only way to God?” Jesus is not the one and only way we go out into the universe to find God; Jesus is the unique and decisive way God has come to us.
  • Atonement: “Is the cross divine child abuse?” A mature account of Jesus’ bearing our punishment within the broader framework of God’s reconciling love.
  • Sacrifice: “Is God a bloodthirsty carnivore?” The sacrificial system of the Old Testament was not how we clean ourselves up so God can stand to be in our presence, but how God cleanses us so that we can stand to be in God’s presence–and it points to Jesus. 
  • Sin: “Does God run away when we mess up?” It’s not that God can’t stand the presence of sin, as rather sin that can’t stand to be in the presence of God–God comes for us in our distance.
  • Wrath: “Why does God get angry?” God’s wrath arises from his love for the world, not in spite of or contradiction to it.
  • The Church: “What is the Church?” The Church is not a group of individuals pursuing God together, so much as the body of people through whom God pursues the world.
  • Tough Passages: Abraham’s call to sacrifice Isaac, Noah’s flood, Jesus’ cry of forsakenness on the cross.
Reclaim a greater confidence in the unrelenting goodness of God.

What People Are Saying About

The Pursuing God

“New Author of the Year” 2015 finalist Evangelical Christian Publisher’s Association (ECPA)

“I commend this book front, left, and center because it thinks deeply and cares immensely for the moral vision of the Christian faith.” Scot McKnight, Professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary (Chicago, IL)

“In vibrant prose, paints a dramatic, textured, and beautiful portrait of the God who we constantly underestimate.” J. Todd Billings, Professor of Theology, Western Theological Seminary (Holland, MI)

“May well be the most spiritually perceptive writer of his generation.” Sarah Thebarge, Author of The Invisible Girls

“Hands down: this is THE book to read for 2016!” Preston Sprinkle, Professor, Author of People to Be Loved, Charis, and Fight

Holds up a king-sized mirror to the heart of God and invites everyone to look inside. It’s beautiful in there. Breathtakingly beautiful.” Evan Wickham,Worship Pastor of A Jesus Church: Westside

A fiery prophetic word–a flaming arrow shot across the dark landscape of dead religion; piercing our moral codes and feeble attempts to find our way to God. Our work is not to find him, but to stop and be found. John Sowers, President of The Mentoring Project

A brilliant mind… a prophetic voice… tells us the truth about God–that he absolutely, recklessly loves us to death–while not shying away from the difficult passages that, at first glance, can seem to tell us otherwise.” Nish Weiseth, Author of Speak

“Artfully, beautifully, and emotionally written, Joshua deconstructs some of the most powerfully embedded caricatures we have around God and replaces them with gospel truth… it left me feeling more free to be human, mess and all.” David Lomas, Pastor of Reality San Francisco

“Sets out to restore a portrait of the biblical gospel of God’s incarnate, crucified, and risen Son,correcting our worst caricatures of sacrifice and atonement, and revealing the glory of the triune God who has been relentlessly seeking to restore us to himself.”
Derek Rishmawy, Theologian and Blogger at
“A twenty-first century thinker who straddles opposing worlds: those of the artist, the dreamer, the skeptic, the academic,the clinician, the idealist and the theologian–as a sure-footed guide he walks with us turning old, worn-out theological concepts on their head, startling the reader with unforgettable paradigms of God’s goodness and generosity and love.”
Celestia G. Tracy, Cofounder and Director of Mending theSoul Ministries
“Recovers the grace of orthodoxy by flipping caricatures on their heads so that we might see just how astounding God’s love is for us… an uncanny ability to take deep theological concepts and not only make them accessible, but beautiful. “
Nate Pyle, Pastor of Christ’s Community Church, Indiana,
Author of Man Enough:How Jesus Redefines Manhood
Asking the right questions and offering excellent and accessible answers… bridges the gap between pastoral concerns and rich theological study… digests a mountain of research and thought into a warm and approachable book.”
Adam J. Johnson, Assistant Professor of Theology, Biola University,
Author of Atonement: A Guide for the Perplexed
“Captivating gift of storytelling makes potentially thorny spiritual concepts wonderfully accessible… invites readers to take another look at God and risk comparing our culture-crafted caricatures to the Original.”
Dr. Alicia Britt Chole, Author of 40 Days of Decrease 
and Anonymous: Jesus’ HiddenYears and Yours
“Every generation needs new theologians standing on the shoulders of those who have preceded them. We need these “new” theologians to exemplify the humility that traverses across traditions, cultures, and generations so that they may speak winsomely and wisely to our present times… This book is astounding and will spur you on to greater love.”
Tyler Johnson, Lead Pastor of Redemption Church Arizona

About The Skeletons in God’s Closet

Is God a Sadistic Torturer? Coldhearted Judge? Genocidal Maniac? 

Unfortunately, our popular caricatures often make him out to be.

There are some questions no Christian wants to be asked. Many today believe hell, judgment and holy war are “skeletons in God’s closet,” tough topics that, if looked at closely, would reveal a cruel, vindictive tyrant rather than a good and loving God. And we aren’t comfortable with the answers we’ve been given.

“How can a loving God send people to Hell?”

“Isn’t it arrogant to believe Jesus is the only way to God?”

“Why is there so much violence in the Old Testament?”

In this book, we’ll pull these bones out into the open to confront popular caricatures with the beauty and power of the real thing. We’ll discover these topics were never really skeletons at all . . . but proclamations of a God who is good “in his very bones,” not just in what he does, but in who he is. We’ll fling wide the closet door and sing loudly, boldly and clearly:

God is good and coming to redeem his world.

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What people are saying about

The Skeletons in God’s Closet

ChBkAwdFinalistSilver “New Author of the Year” 2015 finalist -Evangelical Christian Publisher’s Association (ECPA)

 “Best Popular Theological Book of 2014” –Andrew Wilson, Christianity Today contributor


 “Has the potential to be a game-changer for a lot of struggling Christians and skeptics.” –The Gospel Coalition


“For a long time many of us have been unsettled with how traditionalists talk about hell. At the heart of the unsettledness is that hell seems to have no large purpose other than vindictiveness, even (as some say it) sadistic punishment. In this book Joshua Ryan Butler beautifully places tough topics, like hell and holy war and final judgment, in the larger mission of God for wedding once again heaven and earth. This, my friends, is a genuinely helpful book and I hope those who struggle with these tough topics will discover here what I have — relief and joy.

Scot McKnight
Professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary


Profound. Powerful. Paradigm shifting. This is simply the best book I’ve read from a young author in years. We will be hearing a lot more from Joshua, and I’ll be listening to everything he has to say and all that he writes. He writes with the depth of a theologian, the passion of an activist, the mind of a thinker, and the view of a globalist. This book is a book for the 21st century in a pluralistic public square kind of world. We are in desperate need of thinkers and writers like Joshua whether you agree or disagree with him.”

Bob Roberts Jr.
Pastor of Northwood Church, Author of Bold as Love


“Christians need to be a people who, first and foremost, have overflowing love for others, but we also need to be thinkers—not just for ourselves but for those we care about. The Skeletons in God’s Closet hits some of the bull’s-eye topics that frequently come up when we are in dialogue with people about the Bible and our beliefs. I’m thankful for this book: it’s theologically trustworthy but stretches your thinking, and you’ll come away with more than just powerful ideas on difficult questions—the way Joshua has written truly causes you to worship God all the more.”

Dan Kimball
Pastor of Vintage Faith Church


“I began reading Joshua Ryan Butler’s book wondering if his arguments would change my mind about judgment and hell. Instead, as I read deeper and deeper into the book, I found that Joshua’s words changed not only my mind, but also my heart, as I began to understand God’s pure, unrelenting love for the world. ”

Sarah Thebarge
Author of The Invisible Girls


“Christians find themselves today facing the spiritual equivalents of questions like “Have you stopped beating your children?” The challenge: you lose no matter how you answer. Certainly, that’s the case with tough topics like hell, judgment and holy war, where those who control the questions often control the debate. In The Skeletons in God’s Closet, Joshua Ryan Butler undertakes the important work of reframing the questions and putting the emphasis on the right syllables when addressing people’s struggles with the God of the Bible. Butler engages these controversial subjects critically, creatively, and constructively. The end result is that Christians will be better able to go from back pedaling to walking with doubters and critics and addressing their questions and challenges in meaningful ways.”

Dr. Paul Louis Metzger
Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins,
Author of Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths


“What if God’s not the good and loving Father I thought him to be?” The Skeletons in God’s Closet doesn’t shy away from the awkward subjects most authors avoid at all cost, but charges right into them with theological precision, unexpected biblical insight and compassionate application. It addresses issues by reframing them within the context of God’s historical narrative and demonstrates their relevance by placing them in the context of today’s culture. Butler has produced something profoundly unique here: intellectually satisfying and enlightening—as well as entertaining and life-changing—this is a gem!

Ken Wytsma
Founder of The Justice Conference, author of Pursuing Justice
President of Kilns College and pastor of Antioch Church


“This book is an anomaly – it talks about dark themes such as holy war and hell in a bold and refreshing way. It is deeply theological but approachable, personal and available. I love that Joshua has the courage to ‘open the door’ to God’s skeleton closet and shine a light on what’s there. He is a reliable guide. ”

John Sowers
President of The Mentoring Project and author of The Heroic Path


“It takes a unique, brave and gracious voice to navigate the subjects of hell, judgment and holy war. Thank goodness we can count on Joshua Ryan Butler as our guide. In his incredible first book, The Skeletons in God’s Closet, Joshua clearly lays out another way to view some of culture and Christianity’s hardest topics – and this new way of thinking leads us into a deeper understanding of our loving God and His redemptive Gospel. Mind-bending, approachable, and deeply pastoral, Skeletons is going to do huge things for the Church. One of my favorite books of the year and an absolute must-read.”

Nish Weiseth
Author of Speak, Editor-in-Chief


“The Skeletons in God’s Closet is a deeply satisfying read. When referencing Scripture, Joshua mixes equal parts respectful reverence and playful familiarity. He joyfully excavates Christianity’s most feared doctrines from the rubble of our modern cultural misunderstanding and restores them to their rightful place as pillars of our faith. Joshua has addressed and dispelled, with unflinching directness, many of my deepest doubts and skepticisms. I am deeply grateful for the faith strengthening effect this book has had on my life.

Sebastian Rogers
Peripheral Vision Studios


The Skeletons in God’s Closet comes at such an important time in the Western church. After centuries of nationalism and military violence, a new generation is questioning the status quo. Does violence have any place in Jesus’ kingdom? In the life of his followers? If not, how do we reconcile Jesus’ teaching on loving our enemies with judgment, hell, and destruction? How we do read the Old Testament texts of genocide and ethnic cleansing? These kinds of questions are paramount. Whether you agree with Josh’s answers or not, I’m just so happy that he’s leading the way towards a new kind of conversation. This book is courageous, intelligent, provocative, and sound. Read it.

John Mark Comer
Pastor for teaching and vision at Bridgetown: a Jesus Church


“For more than a decade, I have been dreaming of the day the world would be introduced to the thoughts of Joshua Ryan Butler. Through the pages of The Skeletons in God’s Closet my dream has come true.  This articulate, original and prayerfully discerned book is a must read for all Bible-inspired thinkers who have the courage to explore in the lush idea-fields that exist beyond the deep-rutted wagon trails of much religious writing.

Tony “The Beat Poet” Kriz
Author of Neighbors and Wise Men and Aloof


“This is a profound book, a vital antidote to some of our most malicious misunderstandings of God’s good news. With compelling stories, careful exegesis and wise theological grounding, Joshua Ryan Butler invites us not only into a clearer way of understanding, but also into a different way of being in the world. Dive into this book and you’ll find yourself caught up in the surprisingly hopeful story of how the Creating, Sustaining and Redeeming God is at work to bring life in all its fullness where skeletons–both imagined and real–have for too long endured.”

 Michael Yankoski
Author of The Sacred Year and Under the Overpass


“There is a towering stack of books on my desk — many given as gifts by friends. When I received The Skeletons in God’s Closet I would never have anticipated my inability to put it down. I was challenged and inspired as I read through this book!”

Dr. Andrea Cook
President of Warner Pacific College


For those who can’t “just believe,” those who need to wrestle with the allegations that God is given to “ethnic cleansing” and sending people to hell for the glory of His name, The Skeletons in God’s Closet is a huge gift. Joshua helps us see that God’s “mission is to get the hell out of earth,” to remove the evil and bring people and creation into His mercy and goodness. I am recommending it to all my thoughtful and troubled friends.

 Gerry Breshears, PhD
Professor of Theology, Western Seminary 


“With sensitivity to those for whom the Christian story is seen as coercive and cruel, Joshua Ryan Butler deftly navigates between biblical narratives and real life experiences to show that God is good and gracious and will put right injustice. Calling for the abandonment of popular typologies of hell, judgment, and holy war, Butler constantly pushes back to the overall arc of the biblical story, that God is at work to reconcile and contain evil, pride, and abuse, not to mete it out in some underground prison or on a battleground. This is a fine book for the postmodern skeptic or bruised reed in our ruthless world, as well as a church needing to reclaim her story of a good King inviting all his beleaguered people into his just kingdom of shalom.”

Michael Andres
Northwestern College
Marvin and Jerene DeWitt Professor of Religion


“I have taught graduate theology classes for twenty years and have read countless books on apologetics, salvation, world religions, hell, sin and genocide. The Skeletons in God’s Closet [This] stands out as one of the most stimulating books I have read on these subjects.  It gave me new insights which blessed and challenged me. Josh has an uncanny ability to connect biblical truth with real world issues in an incredibly creative manner. This book won’t answer all your questions but it will stimulate paradigm shifts in your thinking. That is its genius. I will be recommending this book to my students and friends. It is truly a must read work.”

Steve Tracy
Professor of Theology and Ethics at Phoenix Seminary
Executive Director of Mending the Soul