Sunday, September 26, 2010

Look at the Books: Something's Going On

Over at Internet Monk, Jeff Dunn posted a book review Thursday under the title of “Christianity’s Forgotten Man.” The book is Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. As I read the review, I was reminded of another book I’m going to be reading soon: David Platt’s Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.

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.


Maureen said...

Good post, Glynn. I also stopped at Fatha Frank's; I liked his presentation of the issue and the variety of posts on the subject.

Kathleen Overby said...

Oh my aching heart. Just to know it isn't a journey completely alone.

Fatha Frank said...

Somethin's happenin' here, what it is... There's definitely a hunger

Anonymous said...

Saw Fatha Frank's post yesterday. A lot of good seeking going on. Aside from the new books coming out, I would imagine the blogoshpere is an even better place to get a pulse of what's going on with the quest for Jesus outside of traditional church culture.

Beth said...

Well said. I've been faithfully reading the book and the comments, but am finding it difficult to put my thoughts to words. I appreciate your imput immensely.