Setting Jesus Free
In the Bible, things need not be literally true for them to be experienced as truth in daily life.
The Bible and the Church have become more or less irrelevant to the contemporary world. Sadly the message of Jesus, totally relevant to all times, has been ignored and lost because it is seen as being part of the Church that is now rejected with nothing important to say to present-day life. This book deals with the need to move away from structures of traditional beliefs, creeds and doctrines that are outmoded in our contemporary world. It encourages a move into a Church-based environment, living by a set of Jesus values that include compassion, sacrifice and acceptance of difference without having to believe the unbelievable and the unscientific.
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This is a fantastically refreshing and extremely passionate book that deals with liberal theology. This is an intensely readable book and whilst challenging on some levels it is nevertheless also enlightening and very much worthy of consideration as it provides an interesting and easy way into liberal theology and biblical study. ~ Melanie Carroll, The Goodbookstall
Iâ€™ve just finished Setting Jesus Free by John Churcher. What a treat! It is passionate, refreshing, inspiring and stimulating. I remember the occasion of devouring a book of similar impact: Free to Believe by Bishop David Jenkins. Back then (some 20 years ago) Iâ€™d not read any â€˜Liberalâ€™ Christian books at all. I decided on Jenkinsâ€™s new work because I was a disillusioned (and disgruntled) fundamentalist and thought the time had come to see what all the fuss was about. I soon discovered that this infamous Bishop was a passionate and inspiring follower of the God â€˜who is as he is in Jesus.â€™ Deep faith (intellectual, tested, struggling and powerful faith) oozed from every single page. I was converted (again)! John Churcherâ€™s book had the same effect. I love books that help continue the process of conversion, for conversion is not a once off â€˜I was in darkness, now I am in lightâ€™ experience, but a gradual loosing of the grip of the ego on what we think â€˜Godâ€™ is â€“ a slow but constant erosion of our own idols. So what made Setting Jesus Free so special, and important enough in my journey to equate it with the book that moved me from a conservative to a liberal form of Christianity 20 years ago? One word â€“ relevance! Iâ€™m afraid that so many Liberal Christian books lack relevance because they lack passion and (dare I say) gospel zeal. Greyness is a colour often seen as synonymous with Liberalism and, as a proud liberal who had five years theological / ministerial training within two different Anglican liberal institutions, I have to say that the â€˜greyâ€™ label does often stick. The problem is partly to do with translating the super academic / intellectual theories into a language that folk can easily grasp, and which can be moulded into passionate sermons. Here is where Churcher gives us a real gift for, while being thoroughly immersed in all the latest critical scholarship, he writes in such a way as to keep our attention and make it feel profoundly relevant - and so it is. It is written to be used. The author clearly has a deep love and respect for the man Jesus and the people he (as a minister) is called to serve. On top of this, while being unashamedly critical of the biblical literalists and theological conservatives, the author is generous, respectful and loving towards them too. I therefore urge you (whoever you are and whatever you believe) to get hold of this book. If you are a Christian believer whoâ€™s always found biblical criticism too heady and dry it will surprise and delight you; if you are a non-Christian who would like to know more about the human radical who began this whole church thing, but without the ulterior motive of winning you for the church, then this is for you; if you are any sort of priest or minister, then please get a heap of them and use them for your 2010 lent groups or bible study classes. I am confident that you will discover, within the pages of John Churcherâ€™s book, a Jesus who is exciting, refreshing, realistic and relevant; a real Jesus who will inspire and challenge you. For this Jesus has (within the book) now been taken down from the divine pedestals weâ€™ve placed him on, and returned to his home country â€“ a tiny slither of 1st Century Jewish soil under occupation of an alien force. This wandering radical was so loved up on â€˜God Spiritâ€™ that he changed the lives of all he came in contact with; but not because he was a â€˜God Incarnateâ€™ whom we must worship, but because he was a human mirror through which we can recognise our own divinity. Order Setting Jesus Free and you may well yourself end up free indeed. ~ Mark Townsend, Author, Priest, magician
For anyone setting out to free up their thinking about the Gospels this would be a very good book with which to start. ~ HW, Open Christianity Newsletter
There is much in the book that needs saying and the sooner people are encouraged to confront it the better. I found all the historical background and its bearing on the accuracy of the gospels fascinating; the Signs of the Times is interesting; the pre-70 / post-70 discussion of the Gospel of Mark is extremely thought-provoking; the introduction to Midrash should be issued to every Bible Study Group in the country. ~ Brian W.J.G. Wilson, author, broadcaster, scholar of Christâ€™s College, Cambridge
"To tread the path of truth is never easy as the natural instincts of humans is to sit and enjoy their comfort zones. The author takes the courage to challenge traditionalist views of a comfort zone locked in the past, bringing alive a beautiful interpretation on living in Jesus in this ever increasing diverse world." ~ Anil Bhanot, General Secretary of the Hindu Council of U.K.
John Churcher has a message for the ever-dwindling few who remain in the church: Present Jesus in terms that make sense to an educated, twenty-first century mind or be prepared for the total collapse of Christianity in the industrialized world. When freed from stultifying doctrines and mind-numbing dogmas, the teachings and example of Jesus make as much sense today as they did in the first century. Jesus can still be the gateway to awareness of the indwelling divine spark. Jesus can still show the way to perfect, unconditional, and sacrificial love, which is what Christians in their finer moments have always meant by God. What is required of those who would be loyal followers of Jesus is a willingness to separate truth from factual accuracy in their study of the Bible. By way of illustration, Churcher has shown that the truth of Lukeâ€™s Gospel can be uncovered by understanding that the author employed the ancient Hebrew method of the midrash, interpreting what was remembered about Jesus through the literary techniques of metaphor, myth, and fiction. In this approach, the truth of the resurrection is not to be found in stories about an empty tomb but in the discovery of Jesus as a living and life-changing presence. ~ James Rowe Adams, Founder and Honorary Advisor of The Center for Progressive Christianity Author, From Literal to Literary: The Essential Reference Book for Biblical Metaphors