Title: Bad Faith: A Spiritual Humanist Alternative for Christianity and the West
Author: T. Drake-Brockman
Genre: Religious history / Theology
This scholarly look at Christianity, the Gospels, and the theology of Jesus and Paul argues that the solution for the troubling times facing our world is a version of spiritual humanism that embraces the historical Jesus while jettisoning the “bad faith” inherent in “salvation by faith alone” systems.
The author contrasts Jesus’s focus on hesed, a term that involves showing loving kindness when dealing with others, with Paul’s focus on grace alone, feeling that Paul unrealistically believed loving actions would follow the proper beliefs. The book’s intriguing view examines a short history of the fruits of Paul’s theology and offers specific, detailed suggestions on how spiritual humanists can use Jesus as their model and come to know God through hesed—while bringing healing to the world.
The book has a global approach, noting faults without shielding any particular political party or country, and the author’s criticism is balanced with hope that changes can be made. It offers a platform from which readers can explore the theological issues themselves and draw their own conclusions, and while it is persuasively written, its only passionate appeal is that the poorest of the poor are cared for and the fruits of bad faith no longer flourish.
Overall, the author maintains a positive, humanistic belief in the goodness and capability of humanity while coupling it with spirituality, finding the help required in Judaism, the Kabbalah, and Jesus’s teachings while harnessing those of other spiritual leaders, from the Buddha to Muhammad. The thought is that one justice system can work throughout the world if the focus shifted from faith to hesed, the imitation of God through caring for others.
While Jesus’s words are explored directly from the Bible, Paul’s writings tend to be filtered through articles and secondary sources about him, and the passages he wrote pertaining to “caring for the poor” and specifically how one was to do good can feel ignored or brushed aside in favor of the overarching argument that Christianity, and the world at large, needs a major shift. Similarly, one is left without a clear understanding of how to view New Testament books that aren’t discussed, like John’s epistles.
That being said, there are moments when the book doesn’t seem to be designed with the standard reader in mind, as it engages in refuting arguments from other scholars without giving the reader all the facts and details about what is being referenced. And the work could benefit from further editing polish, as the recurring habit of splitting the subject from the verb with commas could be confusing, and there are times when the scripture references lead one astray, citing the wrong verse entirely or leading one to chapters that don’t exist.
Honest and heart-felt, the author beautifully lays out his arguments, presenting a clear vision for the future grounded in historical scholarship and logic. Highly approachable thanks to the author’s tone and inclusive attitude, the book will draw readers in and provide a vigorous theological examination while offering its unique interpretation where humanism and spirituality are balanced for the perceived good of humanity.
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