The Scandalous Conclusion of My Time with Gomes

Well, I got about halfway through The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus and realized two things.

The first was one that I’ve already mentioned, but which got increasingly important as the book went on. This is a book by a believing, committed Christian. This observation is not a criticism. It is, however, a fact which I kept noticing, and which kept surprising me.  It shouldn’t have. The fact that it did is really my problem, and not a problem with the book. But it was, increasingly, a distraction for me. To be clear, Peter J. Gomes was not only the Rev. Gomes, but also a Baptist minister, professor at Harvard Divinity School, advisor to The Harvard Ichthus, and so on.

The second item is that, despite the title, there is not all that much gospel in the book.

There is, however, a whole lot of Gomes. Most of the subsections, sections, chapters, and conceptual divisions, consist mainly of Gomes talking about sermons he’s given or conversation he’s had. This would be OK if these anecdotes had linked back, on a regular basis, to the gospel, and to Gomes’s central thesis: that the gospel of Jesus calls us to a radical restructuring of our way of being in the world.

The book starts out strong, with the observation that much of mainline Protestantism preaches The Bible, and not so much Jesus. Jesus is awkward, especially in a world where Christians are not an embattled minority in the world, but the powers in the world, literally or (even merely?) culturally. The gospel elevates the underclass, the poor, the despised.

Gomes doesn’t spend much time with these people, and he doesn’t spend much time explaining the call of the gospels. Anyway. I got about halfway through the book. Maybe I’ll come back to it some day. Or maybe I’ll pick up some other Gomes title at some point.  But this book isn’t the one I was expecting from the title, so I’ll set it aside for now.

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