Honest to GOoD: Discerning the Sacred in the Secular
Author: John W H Smith First Published 2016, Morning Star Publishing $26.95
We have not given sufficient attention to the action of a spiritual energy present in the world being exhibited by many people, some of whom would not confess a religious faith in much the same way that Jesus didn’t… There is a need to change the way we interpret the events of life in the light of the wisdom of Jesus of Nazareth. (John Smith)
John Smith has been on a life-long search for what he calls a sense of ‘wholeness’ or ‘completeness’…an attempt to make sense of his world and his life. Many people will find common ground with this search and relate to his experiences. This book is the result of this search and how Jesus has influenced and stimulated his journey.
Each chapter examines a major influence and together point the way to various understandings of the sacred spirit he calls God.
- the influence of family and in particular his relationship with an encouraging mother who saw good in the world
- how reading and later formal education shaped his life and helped him to understand practical Christianity. A study of the classics was the major force in his refining of knowledge about the sacred
- the part played by the church, in particular the youth club where he learnt to manage adolescent anger and see the narratives of Jesus as lessons for life
- through a painful period, the guidance of several Methodist ministers
- Wesleyan theology and John Wesley’s Quadrilateral motivate him to search for personal authenticity and accept an inner suburban ministry
- developing philosophically and practically through secular social work
- discovery of a need to re-interpret the orthodox Christian explanation of the gospels as they impact on people with disabilities
- making sense of the New Testament by close examination of Jesus and his words where he grew as a progressive or evolving Christian greatly affected by scholars in the Westar Institute and Jesus seminar school
- his thinking about the atonement, concluding that there is no biblical evidence to suggest that Jesus’ death is in any way ‘substitutionary’ sacrifice for human misdemeanours
- what Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God
- learning how the historical Jesus and the way in which the organisation church falls short of appropriate modelling of this Jesus
- doubt about an ‘interventionist’ God
- the growing movement of groups leaving the church to form spiritual groups that are relevant to their 21st century needs
- realisation that Progressive Christianity offers the world a faith that makes sense and encourages each of us to seek evidence of the spirit of love we call God, at work in the lives of ordinary human beings.
- and ultimately the impact of new scholarship (something the Basis of Union of the UCA encourages) on himself and many others.
Although he claims this is not an academic text, it is well referenced and a great way to get an overview of the field of progressive thinking.
This book is written in the fervent hope that it will encourage others to continue to explore their own unique spiritual journey. (John Smith)
Paul Inglis, January 2019