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Clif's Book World

Adventures from reading books captured within short reviews.

When Faith Meets Reason: Religion Scholars Reflect on Their Spiritual Journeys - Charles W. Hedrick, Robert M. Price, Paul Alan Laughlin, James McConkey Robinson, Walter Wink, Theodore J. Weeden Sr., Hal Taussig, Robert W. Funk, Glenna S. Jackson, Nigel Leaves, Darren J.N. Middleton, David Galston, Mahlon H. Smith, Susan M. Elliott Anyone who studies New Testament history will discover significant differences between and among the writers of the New Testament regarding theology and their understandings as to who Jesus was. Additional study of non-canonical manuscripts of early Christian writings reveals still greater diversity of opinions about theology and Christology. Then as one learns about how the early creeds were carefully worded to narrow the definition of what constituted Christianity, it becomes apparent that there was a lot of human politics involved in deciding what were acceptable Christian beliefs. Also, careful analysis of historical evidence reveals that the historical Jesus was most likely quite a bit different from his depiction by the New Testament writers. Viewed in this light, the title of "Holy Word of God" begins to appear a bit tarnished.

Then if that weren't enough, modern science has developed an understanding of energy, matter, the universe and living cells to plainly show that biblical portrayals of a personal God reigning over a three tiered universe simply gets no further than the metaphorical stage. So what's a person to do after investing ones life in the Christian faith and developing a circle of friends centered around a church community? Well, for me it means that it's time to change my concept of God and understanding of who Jesus was to fit the new realities.

Biblical scholars are in a similar position. After a lifetime of academic study they are so far removed from the beliefs of the common church member that they often need to keep their understandings of biblical history to themselves, or lose their jobs -- if their salaries are paid by churches that hold to conservative beliefs.

I was attracted to this book because its contents are written by thirteen different bible scholars who have been invited to describe their personal faith journeys through a life time of academic study. This book contains their essays in which they lay it all on the line, and say what they really believe.

I was part of an adult Sunday school class that used this book as a basis for discussions over a three month period. We found the book to be a useful tool for initiating discussion about what to do when old understandings of faith simply don't hold up to modern understandings of reality. Some in our class, including myself, were not entirely satisfied with the images of God suggested by any of the essays in this book. We found the images of God as described by Gordon D. Kaufman in his book In the Beginning Creativity to be more useful for us. Kaufman has also written a later book titled Jesus and Creativity which serves as a good follow-up to those of us from a Christian background.