How to follow Jesus without believing in him.
USA Today columnist Krattenmaker (The Evangelicals You Don't Know: Introducing the Next Generation of Christians, 2013, etc.), the communications director at Yale Divinity, sticks close to his self-identity as a nonbeliever. Though he does not proclaim himself an atheist, he is indeed a secularist. Despite this, he finds in Jesus a role model of the highest order, and he attempts to convince his fellow secularists that Jesus is worth listening to, even worth following, so long as you don’t call it “religion.” Krattenmaker comes across as an almost stereotypical coastal liberal, working at Yale, with roots in Portland, Oregon, and a view of Christianity as something steeped in myth. Though he pokes fun at himself in this vein, the reality remains that he comes to his topic with a very defined worldview. He prides himself on having gotten to know some evangelical Christians, who were not as bad as he feared, but he still thinks they are wrong to have religious faith in Jesus. As a teacher of ethics and morality, however, Jesus is an unsurpassed example for the human race. Jesus’ words in the New Testament are not sacred to Krattenmaker but are indeed worth utilizing for daily ethical dilemmas. “When it comes to a secular engagement with Jesus,” he notes, “we can pick and choose, accept and reject, mix and match, however we wish.” The author stands in a difficult position. To nonbelievers, he will come off as a Christian. No matter how much he protests, the reality is that many self-professed Christians are just as unconvinced as he is of the supernatural aspects of Jesus’ story. Yet to many committed Christians, he will seem to be appropriating what they hold dear for his own purposes.
Though the author is right to find moral bearings in the teachings of Jesus, his argument that one can follow Jesus yet not believe in him falls flat.