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Christianity Without Superstition: Meaning, Metaphor, and Mystery, by John Mcquiston
PDF Ebook Christianity Without Superstition: Meaning, Metaphor, and Mystery, by John Mcquiston
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Is belief in the Nicene and Apostles Creeds required to be a Christian? Does science support or diminish belief in the divine? How does one live Jesus’ way in the world?
A careful study of Jesus shows that his intended legacy for us was not a set of propositional beliefs, but a way for being in the world, a way that opens us to the extraordinary opportunity of the present, a way that can convert our hurried, anxious lives into something luminous.
Our obsession with “what to believe” misses the primary message of the Bible, says McQuiston, who illustrates that the paramount message of Jesus, and even the Hebrew Scriptures, is not about what stories to believe, but how to live.
- Sales Rank: #822066 in Books
- Published on: 2012-09-01
- Original language: English
- Number of items: 1
- Dimensions: 7.99″ h x .29″ w x 5.00″ l, .25 pounds
- Binding: Paperback
- 128 pages
Most helpful customer reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful.
An Alternative to Belief
By James Williamson
Can one claim to be a Christian without accepting the literal truth of the stories in the Bible and the church’s traditional statements of belief? Millions reject Christianity because they have been taught that a set of supernatural beliefs are required that they cannot accept. For many of these people, atheism, agnosticism, or materialism seem to be the only other choices.
In his small, eloquent book, lawyer and Episcopal layman John McQuiston proposes an alternative. Basing his case on the New Testament and the Hebrew Scriptures, as well as an impressive array of modern philosophical and scientific concepts, he argues that ultimate reality is incomprehensible and unknowable. All propositions about the nature of God, including those contained in the dogmas and creeds of the church, are creations of the human mind, “a limited model of the impenetrable mystery that surrounds and constitutes our lives and our deaths.” They always fall short of the truth, and to mistake them for knowledge, for anything more than attempts to frame the unframeable, amounts to idolatry–the worship of that we have created ourselves.
Instead of a set of propositions that must be believed by Christians, McQuiston points to the teachings of Jesus, arguing that Jesus did not require correct beliefs. Jesus spoke of “the way” that leads to the kingdom of God, a kingdom to be found not at some future time or after death, but in the here and now. For McQuiston, being a Christian means seeking to follow “the way.”
He argues “this `kingdom within’ isn’t found through understanding. The kingdom of God is found through loving-kindness,” through compassionate, selfless relationships with others.
“Christianity without Superstition” is a profound work, all the more remarkable given its erudition and brevity. Many thoughtful, post-scientific individuals reject superstition and find themselves unable to fully embrace the traditional teachings of the church about what they should believe. Many of these, however, also find themselves attracted to Jesus’ teachings. McQuiston has shown an intellectually honest and spiritually sound alternative to a Christianity based on the primacy of belief. Freed from the burden of correct beliefs, they may find themselves better able to focus on the search for the kingdom. Let us hope the church will make room for these Christians, too.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful.
By Wayne R. Allen
John McQuiston — attorney, lay Episcopalian, and noted author of the widely acclaimed “Always We Begin Again: The Benedictine Way of Living” — has written several thoughtful, thought-provoking, and inspiring books examining spirituality in everyday life, both in his own life and in the lives of others. “Always We Begin Again” has inspired and enriched the lives of many who have sought a regular spiritual practice — a rule — that supports and affirms daily life in a modern world; ironically, it is grounded in one that dates to monastic life in the 6th century. With “Always,” McQuiston revealed the chain of events which led him to research the ancient Rule of St. Benedict (a good lawyer going straight to the primary source), gleaned for himself the Rule’s core teachings that are unbound by time or sect, and artfully adapted those teachings for modern pilgrims. Since that first publication, McQuiston has been one of this reviewer’s favorite authors.
The title of his latest work, “Christianity Without Superstition: Meaning, Metaphor, and Mystery,” speaks for itself — and it speaks to those who appreciate and aspire to live the message of Jesus but for whom stories about Christ present difficulties. In this book, the author continues his examination of spirituality in the modern world, this time from a specifically Christian perspective and experience — but Christian in the sense of following Jesus’ teachings and example rather than some necessarily literal belief in a set of propositions about the nature of Christ.
Here, McQuiston examines the origination and context of ancient statements of belief, with their formation being both religious and political events; the limits of language to convey the holy in life; the stumbling block that literal readings of religious texts and creeds present for many moderns; and the roles that metaphor, poetry, imagery, and mystery necessarily play in spiritual experience. (As McQuiston quotes from Flaubert, “Language is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, while all the time we long to move the stars to pity.”)
But just as Jesus summarized “all the law and the prophets” in a single statement, so McQuiston’s message here can be summarized in three sentences of his own: “Jesus’ consistent message throughout his ministry was that experience of the quality of life he called `the kingdom of God’ is accessible not by dogma or correct belief, but only by the way of love of neighbor…. This `kingdom,’ this `treasure,’ this `pearl,’ is a way of being, a way of doing life. It is not to be found by espousing correct statements of belief; it can only be found by performing it.”
This latest emphasis on, and demonstration of, a “way of doing life” is of one piece with McQuiston’s initial work: recognizing the holy and appreciating the mystery in everyday living, and the fostering of a healthy, adult spiritual life — all in relation to others. For spiritual pilgrims who are frequently attracted by the teachings and example of Jesus but often repelled by accretions of dogma about Jesus, McQuiston’s insight and inspiration are not to be missed. He is not the first author to assert this emphasis, to make this distinction — but he is one of the most thoughtful, eloquent, and best at doing so, and he writes from the perspective of a very learned and experienced layman, a fellow pilgrim.
This is a succinct, lucid, and profound work — filled with pages to ponder, to light a path. I highly recommend it.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful.
A book that mirrors my view of Christianity
By Thomas E. Riggs
We all seem to enjoy good, well written, short books that mirror our understanding. This was so good that I bought multiple copies to share with my friends. We have carefully gone through each chapter, one at a time, in our church and weekly discussion groups. Perhaps it would be better titled “Christianity for the Thinking Human” but that would be too controversial.
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