Freeing Jesus: Rediscovering Jesus as Friend, Teacher, Savior, Lord, Way, and Presence

HarperOne. Mar. 2021. 320p. ISBN 9780062659521. $26.99. REL
Approaches to Jesus generally gravitate to one of two poles: the abstract Jesus of Trinitarian theology or a reconstructed Jesus of historical speculation. Although useful, neither idea encompasses the compelling figure of the Gospels or Epistles, nor—as independent scholar Bass (Christianity for the Rest of Us) contends—do they embrace the full extent of the believer’s spiritual encounters with God. Bass sets out to instantiate a number of motifs about Jesus (such as “friend,” “teacher,” “savior,” and “presence”) in a series of autobiographical sketches that run from childhood in mainline protestant churches, through various stages of evangelicalism, to what may be called progressive Christianity. These encounters are further developed with biblical and theological reflections. At each point the reader confronts a very tangible Jesus, more substantial than mysticism but every bit as intimate.
VERDICT As with mysticism, highly personal accounts of Jesus run the risk of portraying the Jesus one wants to see, rather than encountering the transformative power of the Spirit. Bass neatly avoids most of this and so provides a portrait of Jesus for progressive Christians of all stripes that is as tangible, compelling, and biblical as the Christ of their more fundamentalist counterparts.
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