THE JOURNEY: A NEW BOOK ON SPIRITUALITY
You might think that a person who had taught college for thirty years and had written sixteen volumes would be tired of books (see https://davidafiensy.com for a list of my books). But I see books as friends. When I write them, I try to make them as reader-friendly as I can. That’s what I have done in my newest book: The Journey: Spiritual Growth in Galatians and Philippians. The book summarizes my view of the Christian life and lifestyle. I use a kind of slogan throughout the book: “The Christian life is not so much about walking the line as hitting the road.” I mean by that, the life lived in the Christian faith is not essentially about keeping rules, though, of course, there are ethical expectations. It is about joining with God on an exciting adventure, the journey of life. People who conceive of their faith as merely keeping rules are like tennis players who have studied the rule book and now think they are world class tennis stars. Knowing the rules and playing the game well are different things though, of course, one must also know the rules. There are ethical expectations in the Christian life. But for the Christian, ethics are not so much obligations as opportunities that we learn as part of our journey. We don’t just learn, for example, not to harm people; we learn how to be kind.
I have summarized my conception of the religious life based on the Apostle Paul’s biography as we see it in two of his letters, the Epistles to the Galatians and Philippians. I chose Paul because he wrote repeatedly, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” We learn the quickest by imitation. The two letters I focus on (this is not a verse-by-verse exposition) are full of obvious and not-so-obvious autobiographical references. Put them together and it makes for fascinating and inspiring reading.
I wrote this book in the spring and summer of 2020. At that time, the world was rocking, as they say. It had locked itself down for fear of the corona virus, it was mourning deaths from the virus, it had erupted in protest over the death of George Floyd, and the United States was choosing sides in a nasty presidential campaign. In dire and stressful circumstances, a person’s faith can easily be co-opted by bad actors wanting to exploit the faithful for their gain. We can lose track of our original commitments and feelings and pay too much attention to all the rhetoric and noise around us. So, I determined to set the record straight. I wanted to say to the world, “There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still” (quoting Corrie Ten Boom). I wanted to say to the church: Christian conversion demands change of attitude. You can’t say, “I love Jesus but am still a racist or misogynist.” That is not conversion; it is delusion.
I don’t say my take on the Christian faith is the only one. I do think it matches up well with the faith as it has been taught and understood for the past two thousand years. At least, that was my goal. I’m an orthodox Christian with no agenda other than to be just that.
Not only have I tried to present the faith as it historically has been understood and preached, I have given it my best to present it in readily understandable, colloquial American-English. I avoid Latinized theological jargon and other obscure terms wherever possible. My target audience is the average reader. If you enjoy reading books at least a little, I think you can easily move through this book. I have laced it with scores of stories and illustrations to make my points. I was happy to read the words of one of my endorsers for the book: “[This book is] scholarly, yet eminently pastoral. Whimsical, yet thoughtful and provocative” (Stephen Pattison, Lead Pastor of a large church in Frankfort, KY).
What I hope readers gain from this is an understanding of the essence of the Christian faith without all the divisive matters of opinion. C.S. Lewis wrote a great little book called Mere Christianity based on a series of talks he gave during the Second World War. He wanted to speak to all Christians (and interested non-Christians) about the essence of the faith without bringing up those issues that divide. I want this book—okay it won’t be as great as Lewis’s book—to be like that in content: no issues that divide denominations; just the essence of the faith, with no politics and no outside agendas. I’m not trying to get anyone to join a political party or social movement. I just want to talk about our common journey.
I would like to make the book known where it would be appreciated: in churches around the world. One reviewer commented that the book should be useful in Bible studies world-wide (Reader Views Review). I used illustrations and stories from a host of foreign countries: e.g., the U.S., Nigeria. Pakistan, North Korea, and China; and from the ancient church to current times with all points in between. I am exploring ways to make the book known in wider circles and deeply appreciate the opportunity from Author’s Lounge to present it here.
My next writing venture is still up in the air. I hope it won’t take another pandemic to get me started. Until then, I’ll enjoy my days with Molly, the love of my life, with our two wonderful daughters, our two noble sons-in-law, and our three genius grandchildren. [Amazon JOURNEY-David Fiensy]