Sometimes I have to do this – read a book that is "outside" of what many of us would call the "main" stream of faith. I do it for the following reasons – first, I want to be up to snuff about what people are saying about the bible, a faith journey and issues related to all things "church." Secondly, it is important to keep abreast of current scholarship in "my" field. Scholars are cherished persons in the world…they do many things that many of us don't have the time, interest or expertise to do. Thirdly, I need my thinking challenged. True…I do and you do. It is important to keep our minds active…challenging our assumptions and presumptions keeps our faith fresh, our intellect strong and the "mind of Christ" being constantly reformed within us. I know for me, I don't have to be afraid of encountering issues that might push me a bit. In fact, as Peter Rollins so well did in his last book, Insurrection, doubt has a redemptive quality to it. It presses us for resolution…see doubt, maybe, as that which pushes you into new realizations, new understandings, and new truths.
I just finished Bart Ehrman's new book, Did Jesus Exist. Good book…if you want to put it this way, "classic" scholarly work done by a person who, by his own admission, has walked away from faith. Bart is a smart man…his scholarship is excellent and he does a great job in laying out what many would call a "Schweitzer" perspective on the life of Jesus (that being, he was an itinerant Jewish apocalypticist who died under Pontius Pilate – no God, no Son of God, no Savior, etc.). But what Bart does is argue for the historicity of Jesus in opposition to the "mythicists" (his word, not mine) who deny that Jesus as we know Him in the bible actually existed. I enjoyed the book…I don't buy his theology but I thought his approach in analyzing biblical texts and historical issues relating to the "quest for the historical Jesus" was thorough and well-written. In fact, if you want a good "fly by" of what some scholars think about Jesus and biblical issues, he lays them out….unapologetically and plainly.
So, I just had to do it…I got a bit annoyed with Bart's "preaching" near the end…his cynicism (of which I'm not immune) started to bug me…but the book was worth reading because it stretched me and made me mentally engage in what I think and believe. As I said, I'm not afraid of this stuff…you shouldn't be either. Here's 2 Corinthians 10:5, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." We don't have to be afraid of information and honest debate and inquiry. Jesus is still Lord!
Now, I'm moving on to something just as challenging but definitely more confessional – NT Wright's book on the Kingdom of God…mmmm, tasty! Oh yeah, if you want ANOTHER book that will challenge your thinking, try this one Genesis for Normal People (of course if you are "normal", you own a Kindle).