Being Christian in the Twenty-First Century
by Sam Gould, PhD
In 2018 Being Christian in the Twenty-First Century was published. Following are some relevant questions regarding this book.
Why another book on Christianity?
The Pew Research Center’s “Religious Landscape Studies” continue to deliver bad news for the future of Christianity. As early as the 1930s Pierre Teilhard de Chardin recognized the need to revise the way Christianity was being articulated. Over the centuries layer after layer of dogma creeds and doctrine have grown to smother the meaning of Jesus’ message. This kept the faithful “in line” back in the day when churches had more power over their congregants. But those days are over, and that power has faded. We have all heard professors Einstein’s adage “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” In so many ways, that is what the Christian church has been doing into the twenty-first century.
What is this book like?
Being Christian in the Twenty-First Century presents a rational and pragmatic interpretation of Christianity by going back to its roots in the first century and the centuries leading up to it. By understanding the social, political and religious context of the time when Scripture was formulated one can understand it in a way that makes sense, without need for extraordinary claims that leave post moderns incredulous. By understanding the context of ancient life and progressive thought through the years Christianity can be truly internalized and be independent of irrational faith statements that continue to fall on deaf ears at an accelerating pace.
How is this book different?
Being Christian in the Twenty-First Century integrates the work of theologians throughout the centuries in ways that bring new insights and confidence to the faithful as well as the doubtful. It also brings to the fold relevant findings of contemporary historians, sociologists, archaeologists and biblical scholars to provide a characterization of the matrix within which the ancient Scriptures were constructed. The book is ideal for study groups, with a study guide for each chapter and guidance on establishing and managing a discussion class.
Such a book can be dry and boring. Why should I read it?
Since the book has been published, I have received many humbling accolades. Some have praised the scholarship. Others have commented on how it gave new meaning to their faith. One retired pastor and prior seminary professor commented on how it helped things fall into place for him that much of his seminary training had obfuscated. In advance, I ask your indulgence for the occasional pun or infusion of subtle humor in the book. Yes, even a little humor “can help make the theology go down,” to paraphrase a Mary Poppins theme. But, enough of my thoughts. Here are some excerpts from unsolicited comments of readers of Being Christian.
Masterfully written and fully accessible to the layperson.
Gives substance to progressive theology
After you have read this book, you’re likely to feel revived and have a much deeper connection to Jesus and the Faith.
Stimulated as much dialogue as any resource we have used to date.
Asks pertinent questions that require deep thought and reflections.
Lays out the case for major revisions to orthodox Christian doctrine
Well-reasoned and clearly written.
An important contribution to the progressive Christian movement.
Who am I and what do I have to offer Progressive Christianity?
First, some things I am not. I am not an academically trained theologian in the commonly held understanding of the term. I am not a member of the clergy and I have not attended seminary. That may seem disqualifying. But perhaps not. Here is why. I have had a thirty-year career as a college professor and academic administrator. This training has given me the skills for discerning good scholarship and the ability to integrate disparate thought into a coherent thesis. I can study material across multiple disciplines and integrate them into a lucid thematic whole. Additionally, I can express thoughts that are accessible to both clergy and lay persons alike without the use of archaic terminology understood only by theologians. I am not limited in my scope by trendy academic cultures deciding what is acceptable for publication. Further I have no denominational axe to grind, no history of preaching that I must rescind or negate and no congregation that could throw me to the wolves and destroy my career. In other words, I am much freer to call it like I see it. That is what I have done with Being Christian. Try it, I think you will like it.