How to be a bad Christian ... and a better human being - Dave Tomlinson
(Hodder & Stoughton, £12.99)
You kind of know what sort of book you're going to get from Dave Tomlinson. A former house church leader who found himself increasingly at odds with his evangelical roots and church culture, he started a church in a pub called Holy Joes for disaffected churchgoers, and wrote the famously controversial The Post-Evangelical. He's now vicar of St Luke's, Holloway in London.
So for some, it will mean they will only read his writings primed ready to disagree. For others, they will enjoy his refreshing no-nonsense approach, and look forward to a few sacred cows being slaughtered along the way. I'm somewhere in the middle.
Dave's primary focus is on how God is working in – and using – those with little time for organised religion, creeds and churchgoing. He's more interested in human beings doing stuff that glints with the character of God, whether they self-identify as 'Christian' or not.
And there's the strength and weakness of the book. Yes, we all recognise that the Church can get so wrapped up in doctrines, rituals and tick-box beliefs that the secular stereotype of believers as verse-spouting, 'spot it and stop it' hypocritical bigots devoid of any sense of humanity and reality can be uncomfortably close to home, among some in the theological spectrum.
And yes, it's very necessary for Christians to grapple with the human kindness and goodness imbued with God shown by those who don't for a moment consider themselves believers.
But I'm left wondering exactly what his vision of the Church is – the Body of Christ, or something less than that. He has a lower view of the Bible than most evangelicals would be happy with, and while I like his generous view of a Church that is inclusive and diverse, I wonder how he interprets Hebrews 10:25?
There's a lot of wisdom and insight in here, and I'm glad people like Dave continue kicking at closed doors and asking questions. It's a healthy sign in the Church. Just don't read it if you don't have an open mind prepared to be challenged!
Russ Bravo, Editor