Jesus came preaching, but the church wound up preaching Jesus. Why does the church insist upon making Jesus the object of its attention rather than heeding his message? Esteemed Harvard minister Peter J. Gomes believes that excessive focus on the Bible and doctrines about Jesus have led the Christian church astray. "What did Jesus preach?" asks Gomes. To recover the transformative power of the gospel-"the good news"-Gomes says we must go beyond the Bible and rediscover how to live out Jesus' original revolutionary message of hope: "Dietrich Bonhoeffer once warned against cheap grace, and I warn now against cheap hope. Hope is not merely the optimistic view that somehow everything will turn out all right in the end if everyone just does as we do. Hope is the more rugged, the more muscular view that even if things don't turn out all right and aren't all right, we endure through and beyond the times that disappoint or threaten to destroy us."
As minister of Harvard University's Memorial Church, Gomes was a popular preacher well before The Good Book became a bestseller in 1996. Several subsequent books were, or read like, first-rate sermon collections, but this is an incisive original aimed at cautious defenders of conventional wisdom. Asserting that "we are meant to go beyond the Bible in order to discover the gospel," Gomes points away from the past toward "a future in which promise and fulfillment meet." Meanwhile, "we must manage to live in the world as it is"-a world steeped in hostility, suffering and injustice. If we take the gospel seriously, "then like Jesus we will risk all, and might even lose all." Still, we hang on to a muscular hope that is "not mere nostalgia for what never was, but an earnest expectation of what is to be." A born storyteller, Gomes knows how to spin an aphorism: "The opposite of fear is not courage but compassion." And indeed his tone is compassionate even when he chides those who fear conflict and change, but especially when he extols God's provision "for the healing and care of all his creation, and not simply our little part of it." (Nov.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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November 05, 2007
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