A longtime minister offers a manifesto on faith.
Debut author Block, who has been involved in pastoring and community activism for over six decades, provides a lifetime’s worth of lessons about Christianity, Scripture, and the church. He necessarily begins with a brief autobiographical essay, providing readers with an idea of the author’s overarching frame of reference. From there, Block goes on to produce an outline of the Christian Bible, describing it in progressive and intellectually rich terms. For instance, in discussing the Tower of Babel, he takes the intriguing step of comparing the tale to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: “Human beings trying to play…God, while creating their own nemesis.” In discussing the New Testament, he extends a universalism to the story of Jesus, noting that “I fully believe also that God speaks to…people who profess other religions…and even no religion.” The author addresses what he views as misuses of the Bible, instances in which Scripture has been cited to support everything from racial and gender inequality to holy wars and the rejection of scientific findings. Finally, he commits a lengthy portion of his reflections to the subject of the church. His ideal view of the church is an open and liberalized one in which social activism is thoroughly coupled with a dedication to doctrine and evangelization. He also reviews the ministerial profession, with the benefit of a lengthy career’s worth of experience. Block is a clear and accessible writer who is frank, introspective, and well-read. But his opinions will not find agreement from the full range of readers. The author takes a thoroughly modern view of Scripture, studying it critically and proclaiming, for instance, that “one mistake is to maintain that the Bible…is automatically to be taken as the direct and literal word of God.” He quotes widely from progressive—and even controversial—authors like Eckhart Tolle, Bart Ehrman, and Marcus Borg and thoroughly discounts a literal reading of such traditional tenets of the faith as Jesus’ virgin birth. Still, his tone is generous and inviting throughout, endearing his writing to those who agree and disagree alike.
Progressive and modern in approach, an engaging appeal to the future Western church.