The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus


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Wild, Wild West
The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus by Peter Gomes.

I enjoyed this book by Gomes although much of it was already familiar to me through his other book and many others I've read that focus on 'the social gospel,' of which I am a proponent.

My favorite part was the last couple of chapters in which he talks about hope, as opposed to optimism, and that Christians are not called to look to the past, trying to somehow recapture a 'pristine' faith that has supposedly been lost, but to look ahead to the future. Christ and the disciples all pointed to the future, a new beginning ushered in by Christ but is 'not yet.'

In this final part of the book he discussed the theology of Paul Tillich, one of my favorite theologians. From one of Tillich's best known sermons:

Tillich said:
You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted. If that happens to us, we experience grace.

Even though Gomes does not use the phrase, I believe in the victory of God, which fits very well with Gomes' idea of muscular hope, hope that is found when you look around and everything looks bad, and there's no good reason to think it will get better. He springboards off a work by New Testament scholar Barbara R. Rossing who looks at Revelation of St. John not as a doomsday scenarior of fear, but as an inspiration to urgency, a wake-up call. The point of the story is not the destruction but the establishment of the New Jerusalem, the victory of God's love and goodness. Rossing wirtes:

Revelation is not about an inevitable doomsday for earth, nor about the Rapture. Revelation's story is about seeing the Lamb beside you in every moment of your life. Revelation is about looking more deeply into God's picture and seeing how the Lamb is leading you even now into a world of joy and healing. This how scripture comes to life for you--not in the Red Horse of the Apocalypse but in the Lamb's river of life, in the tree of life beside the river with its leaves for the healing of the whole world.

So, Gomes goes on, one is not to read Revelation with despair, but with courage and hope. Revelation points to a redeemed, not a doomed future, one in which we have a share. "It is the promised time rather than the promised land taht now takes precedence, and that is why we call it the gospel, the good news, the gospel of hope."

Good stuff. :)