Sunday, September 26, 2010
Look at the Books: Something's Going On
And, of course, there’s the book we’ve been discussing (via Nancy Rosback at Bend the Page): Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality by Michael Spencer, the original Internet monk.
There are others. And there are a lot of blog posts on these and related subjects, like the one posted Thursday by author Ian Morgan Cron entitled “Christians in Exile,” about a meeting he has with someone in a coffee shop, and the reasons why the someone has left the church.
When you see a spate of books on a similar subject, that’s a good indication of (1) publishers are seeing some level of market demand or opportunity and (2) there’s something going on. In this case, it appears that people are seeking Jesus, and a lot of them are doing it outside the church, or at least outside what Michael Spencer calls “churchianity.”
This isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon. More than a century ago, the philosopher doctor Albert Schweitzer wrote a book called The Quest of the Historical Jesus, and he was by no means the first or the last to do that.
It’s as if there is an understanding that we keep letting culture get in the way of our understanding of Jesus. Sometimes we try to “reinterpret” Jesus and in the process end up projecting our own doubts, questions and cultural understanding on him. Schweitzer was criticized for doing something exactly like that.
In Mere Churchianity, Spencer stakes a rather definitive claim as to what we can actually know:
• Jesus really existed.
• He was Jewish.
• He didn’t operate within a democratic system.
• He accepted the Hebrew Scriptures, with conditions.
• And, most importantly, Jesus is (note the change in verb tense) the incarnation of the One God.
That is what we can know, Spencer says. Accepting that is another story (and the next chapter).
Nancy Rosback at Bend the Page is leading a blogging discussion of Spencer’s Mere Churchianity. See also what Fatha Frank has been writing at Public Christianity. Yesterday, Fatha Frank did a cool wrap-up of all kinds of related blog posts, and has a new post called Jesus Works. Today, Bob Spencer at Wilderness Fandango had a discussion as well: My Faith Walk...For Now.