Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Jesus Wars

On this same trip to the bookstore, I also came across Philip Jenkins newest book, The Jesus Wars:  How Four Patriarchs, Three Queens, and Two Emperors Decided What Christians Would Believe for the Next 1,500 Years, a rather interesting if not uneven telling of the history of the early church.  It pretty much begins following the council of Nicea and continues for the next 500 years or so.  The focus of the book is on the struggle to define who Jesus is (was).  Was Jesus a man-bearing God, or a God-bearing man?

The book was fascinating, but at times got lost in minutia.  Overall, I enjoyed the way that Jenkins' laid out the struggle of the early church to define orthodoxy.  His writes with the style of education, which makes the book less accessible to an average audience.

Having read Richard Rubenstein's work: When God Was Born, a number of years ago, I found his treatise of the years leading up Nicea as more engaging.  Jenkins' argues that Nicea (identifying Jesus with God) was the easy part --- the challenge was preventing Jesus from becoming entirely God.  That is the subject of the book --- what kind of man was Jesus and what kind of God was he.

We live in such as different time from the one that Jenkins' writes about.  We live with a multiplicity of understanding of who Jesus is (was) and have no fear that the inquisitor will be coming to knock at the door in the middle of the night.  Jenkins' concludes the book by suggesting: "A religion that is not constantly spawning alternatives and heresies has ceased to thing and has achieved only the peace of the grave."

I can rest easily knowing that I am doing my part to helping people see some of the alternatives than those proclaimed at Chalcedon and the following councils!

American Moses

I was browsing at the Book Store that Cokesbury sets up at annual conference in June and saw this book by Bruce Feiler and was intrigued.  I have to admit that everything that I have read from him so far (Walking the Bible, Where God Was Born, Abraham) have been wonderfully written and powerful books that have gripped me and challenged me in my own walk with God.  I re-read (or listen to) walking the Bible every time I get ready to head back to Israel and strongly encourage all those that travel with me to do the same.  The title of the book alone: America's Prophet: Moses and the American Story, peaked my interest.  I was not disappointed.

Feiler argues that throughout the history of the United States you will find the Exodus story and that we have had the repeated need to raise up American Moses'.  The book begins with the Pilgrims off Massachusets coast, quoting the story.  They saw themselves as the new Israelites fleeing bondage in the old world and escaping to set up God's kingdom in the new world.

But the story doesn't end there.  The founding fathers (Franklin and Jefferson) suggested that Moses should be a part of the great seal of this new country.  The Liberty Belll has words from Moses inscribed on it.  Both Washington and Lincoln were called Moses incarnate.  Martin Luther King invoked the image of Moses the night before he was murdered.  And many see Barak Obama as a new Moses as well.

But the real point of Feilers book is a call for us to re-examin our lives and our priorities as a country.  He is calling us (as any good preacher would do) to re-evaluate our priorites before it is too late. 

Feiler is a master story teller and I would highy recommend this book!