AGAINST THE STREAM: PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY
BETWEEN PULPIT AND PEW
Author: Rex A E Hunt.
2012. Morning Star Publishing.
RRP $27.95. P/back.
Reviewed by Canon Dr Nigel Leaves, St John's Cathedral, Brisbane.
When you accept the findings of critical biblical scholarship your ideas of God, Jesus and the Church are radically transformed.
You begin to view with suspicion many of the "official" doctrines framed within creeds and doctrine.
It can be an unsettling time.
But what happens when all this occurs as an ordained minister of the church? How can you be true to academic research and uphold church formularies?
More significantly, what do you expound every Sunday morning as you are called upon to explain from the pulpit "the Word of God?" What do you say to the faithful? How many academic insights dare you pass on?
Rex Hunt is an Associate of the Westar Institute and for many years was on the front-line, preaching to Uniting Church congregations.
In Against the Stream we are treated to a series of sermons that are an honest attempt to bridge the gap between the academic and the pew.
They are insightful, replete with stories and events that make connections with people's search for meaning and their condition of living in postmodernity.
The message of the man from Nazareth that is found in parables and aphorisms is translated into the thought-forms of the present era.
Rex Hunt is a masterful story-teller following the steps of the master!
The sermons in Against the Stream can be summed up by the word "honest". As Rex Hunt says in his sermon for Epiphany 5: "We've encouraged honesty in our thinking, becoming theologically vulnerable when much of the religious/church life in this city expects people to suspend their disbelief for a membership within a community, or for at least an hour or two each week."
It is that commitment to theological and biblical honesty that distinguishes this book of sermons and challenges us to follow what he considers to be the real Jesus. He endorses the sentiments of the late Walter Wink: "We are freed to go on the journey that Jesus charted, rather than to worship the journey of Jesus ... We can take Jesus out of the ghetto of the churches and offer him to anyone looking for a guide to true humanity".
This is a Jesus worth following.
It is probable that you would not read the book from cover to cover in one or two sittings. Rather, it is a book to dip into, savouring each sermon and pondering the wisdom found therein. It would be a wonderful book for a discussion group that could use it during traditional times of study – Advent or Lent.
Likewise, it could be used for daily or weekly meditation, reading one sermon at a time.