You hear the same news reports every year: ‘Record numbers have attended Easter services this year’, followed by the imagery of packed churches and men in robes. Makes you wonder whether Christianity really is on the decrease….but then again, this and Christmas are mere annual events, and the large attendances speak more of ritual than sincere faith. Me, I only got to a half of a service all Easter! I chose instead to bury myself into the previously mentioned two books, Honest to God and The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions. All I can say is, wow these books are magnificent. If you can get a hold of Honest to God (check your second-hand bookstore, that’s where I found mine), make it a priority, I can really see why Spong was endeared to it.
As for the other book, it is a rich distillation of two of the leading thinkers in contemporary theology. Even though N.T. Wright is generally seen as being in the conservative camp, his historical critical analysis on the gospels here would make many from that side blush; he doesn’t instantly adorn Jesus with the majesty that you normally get. His clear and concise reasoning appears to smash the arguments of Marcus Borg. Wright displays in-depth knowledge of the culture of first-century Israel, and places Jesus front-and-centre within that setting. However, I am not so quick to call him the victor of a debate. It does seem that he fills every gap while Borg leaves huge holes; yet I wonder if it is better to have ambiguity than perfect understanding? Borg seems keen to explain away many aspects of Jesus as metaphor and imagination; Wright argues for a hermeneutical trust that he sees to be historically accurate.
Given my conservative background, both in a previous reading and now I want Wright to be right. At the same time, I want more to side with Borg, since I find no joy in the conservative position. Well, I’ll just travel with the text and see how I go.