Harvey Cox, in his new groundbreaking book The Future of Faith (Harper, 2009), talks about Christian history in three eras. First came the era of faith, a relatively short period of profound and powerful confidence in Jesus and his message. Soon, the era of faith gave way to the age of belief, where correct beliefs about Jesus took precedence over dynamic confidence in Jesus. We’re now coming to the end of that age of belief, Cox says: the age of the Spirit is dawning, and in many ways this new chapter in Christian history has more in common with the first era than the second.
According to Cox, in the era of faith, to be a Christian was to follow a way of life as one in this world but not of it. In the era of belief, to be a Christian was to adhere to a system of belief, codified in creed and confession, argued in proposition and polemic, enforced by inquisition and heresy trial. In the age of the Spirit, he says, we rediscover our faith as a way of life again. As central as the concept of orthodoxy was to the age of belief, spirituality is to the age of the Spirit. And that’s what makes Josh Graves’ new book so important and worthwhile.
As I read The Feast, I felt I was being given a window into the soul of Cox’s era of the Spirit. As the subtitle makes clear, Josh Graves knows that the soul’s hunger is not satisfied by right beliefs alone. People crave spirituality, and not just a wishy-washy, airy-fairy, this-and-that spirituality, either. They want a robust, lifelong, dynamic, profound, and deep-rooted (or radical) spirituality that is focused, not simply on “my needs” or “my feelings,” but on Jesus and his mission in our world. They seek what Graves calls “the Real Jesus,” and they want to be led by the Spirit of the real Jesus to engage with this world‘s messiest realities: injustice, racism, economic inequity, hate, fear.
That’s why I believe that young adults will be especially drawn to this book: it deals with the messy world in which they are coming of age. And of course, older folks who have grown tired and disillusioned with religion-as-usual will also find a feast in these pages. Drawing from top scholars like Walter Brueggemann and N. T. Wright one moment, from pop culture like the “Truman Show” the next, and from his own life experience in between, Josh Graves speaks as a native in the Age of the Spirit.
Brian McLaren, author/speaker/activist
Wondering how to get your hands on a copy of The Feast? Look for Josh's new book in these select bookstores:
FamilyChristian.com (Order online)
Amazon.com (Order online)
Family Christian (Now available)
Mardel (Now available)
LifeWay (Available in November)
Books-A-Million (Available in October)