Liberal (Maybe Even Post-Christian?) Baptist Faith And Message. The Southern Baptist Convention‘s Baptist Faith and Message is the doctrinal screed for the group, listing various points of beliefs with proof-texted “reference verses” claiming to provide “evidence” that this belief is grounded in their view of the Bible. As someone who was a Southern Baptist for the first couple decades of my life, it is a document I’m pretty familiar with. Here, Gushee effectively recreates it for the more anti-white-male crowd, arguing (correctly) against prosperity theology while openly embracing humanist and liberation theology. Ultimately, he makes enough solid points to be worthy of discussion, but due to the constant proof-texting (a flaw in many similar works, and one that in my own personal war against is an automatic one star deduction in my reviews) and near-constant near straw man level attacks against more conservative theologies is to be read with a healthy amount of skepticism. That noted, as I generally try to do with such texts, I’m trying to be a bit balanced here. A much more conservative reader will probably find much more to attack in this text, and a much more liberal reader will probably find much more to love. Overall a solid work of its type, and recommended for any interested in such discussions.
As I say in the Goodreads review below, just to be completely upfront: I’ve been in the crowd a few times when Johnny Hunt has preached. The church he has been at for over 20 years, Woodstock First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga, was where some relatives were members for several years and was not far from my grandfather’s home in nearby Hickory Flat. One aunt in particular damn near considers the guy one of her favorite preachers ever.
So I know the guy and his style, despite neither of us ever saying a single word to the other in any medium I am aware of, including face to face. And I knew what I was getting into in reading this book. And the only thing that struck me as somewhat unexpected was when he specifically speaks of showing love for everyone, no matter their sins. Some of his parishioners… well, they’re some of the reasons I began using the term “Talibaptist” many years ago, and some of them are fairly influential in local and State politics there.
But the book itself very much reads as though you are sitting in the sanctuary for his Sunday morning sermons for a month or two (twelve total chapters, but a couple of them could be combined into one sermon). And they really are pretty much exactly what he would say on a Sunday morning, all the way down to outright including the Sinner’s Prayer a couple of times. If you’re a conservative evangelical American christian, you’re going to love this book. The further you are away from that philosophy… the more you likely won’t. If you don’t want a preachy book even if you are in that mindset, I cannot emphasize enough that this book reads as though he strung several sermons together.
Theologically, I can and over the last 20 yrs have several times poked so many holes in the overall theology that it begins to resemble swiss cheese, but again, I knew what I was getting into here so I’m not overly going to lambast it in this review. Hunt is a bit more hard headed and blunt than I prefer, and absolutely old school – at one point he tells the story of talking to his daughter about the birds and the bees years ago and says that he told her “if a boy tries to get you in the backseat of a car, you better not go back there!”. Basically the dude is one of those that you listen to while letting most of his points go in one ear and out the other, because he does occasionally have a solid if not excellent point, and those are usually worth sticking around to find. Kind of like a bitter grandmother or crazy aunt. You respect them, and you’ve heard it all before, but occasionally you get an “aha” moment.
Thus, I think the three stars I decided on for this book are pretty solid for my own feelings with it. Again, someone more ardently in Hunt’s particular mindset will likely rate it higher, those brave souls who read this book despite being even less inclined to Hunt’s mindset than I will likely be a bit more harsh. But I’m comfortable with this, and this is my review and my blog. 🙂
As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
A Few Good Points. A Few Troubling Ones. Standard Johnny Hunt. Full disclosure up front: I’ve been in a few crowds Johnny Hunt has preached to, and some relatives have been members of First Baptist Woodstock, where he preaches. So I know most of Johnny’s story, what he believes, and his style. And this book is effectively sitting through a month or two of his sermons – each chapter tends to sound nearly identical to a given weekly sermon, in at least two instances complete with the Sinner’s Prayer. And that is why I can’t rate this book any higher, yet also don’t feel comfortable rating it any lower. Conservative American Evangelical Christians will likely hit this book with 5*, the further away you are from that group, the lower your rating will likely be. Overall he does in fact make some solid points, he just does it in the lazy country preacher style I’ve known him to employ for the last 20 yrs – which works well in a region that 20 yrs ago still composed a fair amount of farmland, despite being in the middle of Metro Atlanta’s northward surge. Recommended, just do your own research any time he makes a claim.