All posts in Books

  • Twenty-Two Days

    Version 2

    Fourteen years ago I began a journey of faith that led me beyond paper-thin pop Christianity, cheap certitude, and nationalistic civil religion. That’s when the water became wine! In a few days we’ll be announcing a Water To Wine gathering here at Word of Life in St. Joseph in June. But today I thought I would share the first chapter of Water To Wine — the story of my deep discontent and the 22 day fast that began the pivotal year of 2004. (The photo is me in Beit She’an, Israel in November of 2003, shortly before the fast.) -BZ

    Twenty-Two Days

    “No one who has ever tasted fine aged wine prefers unaged wine.”
    —Jesus

    “The only wines that actually speak to our whole lives are authentic wines. Confected wines are not designed for human beings; they are designed for ‘consumers.’ Which do you want to be?”
    —Terry Theise

    “When we are crushed like grapes, we cannot think of the wine we will become.”
    —Henri J.M. Nouwen

    I was halfway to ninety — midway through life — and I had reached a full-blown crisis. Call it a garden-variety mid-life crisis if you want, but it was something more. You might say it was a theological crisis, though that makes it sound too cerebral. The unease I felt came from a deeper place than a mental file labeled “theology.” To borrow some King James style language, my soul was disquieted within me. It was like I was singing over and over the U2 song:

    I have climbed the highest mountains
    I have run through the fields
    Only to be with you
    But I still haven’t found
    What I’m looking for
    —U2, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”

    I was wrestling with the uneasy feeling that the faith I had built my life around was somehow deficient. Not wrong, but lacking. It seemed watery, weak. In my most honest moments I couldn’t help but notice that the faith I knew seemed to lack the kind of robust authenticity that made Jesus so fascinating. And I had always been utterly fascinated by Jesus. Jesus wasn’t in question but Christianity American style was. Read more

  • The Middle Way of Erasmus

    Holbein-erasmus

    The Middle Way of Erasmus
    Brian Zahnd

    Ever since becoming familiar with the Renaissance theologian and Christian humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466–1536) some ten or twelve years ago, I have often wished that Erasmus could have won the day during the theological tumults of the 16th century. By which I mean, I wish that the Renaissance-era Church in the West could have experienced reform without the divorce and subsequent Protestant fragmentation. (Recently I wrote some thoughts on the Reformation in a piece I called “Beyond the Wittenberg Door.”)

    This month Ron Dart published a collection of essays on Erasmus under the title Erasmus: Wild Bird. Ron Dart is a Canadian professor, scholar, and theologian with considerable expertise in Church History, Patristics, George Grant, and Thomas Merton. Dart has written 35 books and is an accomplished mountaineer. He’s also a personal friend and there are few people for whom I have as much respect as I do Ron Dart. He is an inspiring example of a wise and contemplative academic.

    In his latest book Dart asks, “What would the Christian Church be like today if the guidance and wisdom of Erasmus in the early 16th century had been followed rather than the reactionary Protestant thinking of Luther or Calvin or the equally brittle response of the Roman Catholic stance at the Treaty of Trent?” Throughout this collection of essays Dart makes these points about Erasmus:
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  • Best Reads of 2017

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    Reader extraordinaire Peri Zahnd shares her favorite books from 2017. -BZ

    BEST READS OF 2017
    By Peri Zahnd

    I can’t imagine a life without books — I was banned from reading for a week this year following eye surgery, which was just long enough to show me how awful it could be. As I’ve looked over the list of what I’ve read this year, there are three standouts in three different genres.
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  • Fyodor Dostoevsky Reviews “Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God”

    Fyodor Dostoevsky (a.k.a. Boyd Barrett) reviews Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God.

    (Thanks Boyd!)

    BZ

  • The Looming Specter

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    The Looming Specter
    Brian Zahnd

    My criteria for writing a book is simple. I write what I cannot not write. I don’t rummage around in my mind for a topic, I don’t attempt to divine the whims of the market, I don’t ask, “Who is my target audience?” (A question always posed to me by publishers and one I never know how to answer. Everyone? Those who have ears to hear? Four friends? I don’t know.) I wrote A Farewell To Mars because I had to write about war in the light of Christ. I couldn’t be at peace until I did. I wrote Water To Wine because I had to tell some of my story. I was compelled to testify about what had happened to me. If these books found an audience who resonate with what I have to say, it makes me very happy…but I wrote them for the wellbeing of my own soul. And all of this is even more true with Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God.

    In Bob Dylan’s “Nettie Moore” there’s a line that says, “Got a pile of sins to pay for and I ain’t got time to hide.” I can relate to that. There is a sense in which I’m trying to make amends with Sinners in the Hand of a Loving God. I am trying to recant some of my old sermons that presented God as angry, violent, and retributive. But my deepest motivation for writing Sinners is not to do penance for purveying ignoble ideas about God. My chief motivation for writing this book comes not from looking into the past with regret, but from looking into the future with concern.
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  • Foreword to “Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God”

    ForBlog

    Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God releases August 15. Let me share with you Wm. Paul Young’s foreword. It’s full of brilliant and beautiful insights about our journey to know the God revealed in Christ. Enjoy!

    BZ
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  • Every Scene By Heart

    Perigrino
    Peri in front of our albergue in Belorado, Spain

    Peri Zahnd has written a book about her experience on the Camino de Santiago that she and I walked last fall. The book is entitled Every Scene By Heart. It’s a beautifully written and deeply spiritual memoir that takes the reader on the five hundred mile journey with Peri. I’m thrilled to say that Every Scene By Heart is now available! And to help celebrate I would like to share some thoughts from the afterword Peri asked me to write for her enchanting book.

    Sundown, yellow moon, I replay the past
    I know every scene by heart, they all went by so fast

    -Bob Dylan

    ESBH

    Afterword
    Brian Zahnd
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  • Certitude: A Disaster Waiting To Happen

    Doubt

    Certitude: A Disaster Waiting To Happen
    Brian Zahnd

    Do you love your faith so little that you have never battled a single fear lest your faith should not be true? Where there are no doubts, no questions, no perplexities, there can be no growth.
    –George MacDonald

    In my spiritual memoir, Water To Wine, part of the story I tell involves my own journey away from cheap certitude toward an authentic faith. It is a phenomenon of modernity that certitude (mental assent toward something as an absolute empirical fact) has become confused with faith (an orientation of the soul toward God in the form of deep trust). That this phenomenon is prevalent among certain streams of Christians is strangely ironic since this involves genuflecting at the altar of empiricism and privileging knowledge over faith. Privileging empiricism above faith as the final arbiter of truth is a hallmark of modernity, but it is also antithetical to Christianity.

    Certitude is a poor substitute for authentic faith. But certitude is popular; it’s popular because it’s easy. No wrestling with doubt, no dark night of the soul, no costly agonizing over the matter, no testing yourself with hard questions. Just accept a secondhand assumption or a majority opinion or a popular sentiment as the final word and settle into certainty. Certitude is easy…until it’s impossible. And that’s why certitude is so often a disaster waiting to happen. The empty slogan “the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it” is cheap certitude, not genuine faith.
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  • Why I Wrote “Water To Wine”

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    Why I Wrote “Water To Wine” Brian Zahnd

    Today is the release date for my new book, Water To Wine: Some of My Story. I wrote this book because I could not not write this book. I was compelled to justify my journey and give some guidance to fellow seekers.

    Over the past twelve years I’ve gone through a tremendous spiritual and theological transition. Some friends, pastors, and former church members have been critical of these changes. But many more have found hope and encouragement in my spiritual pilgrimage. Water To Wine is written for all these people. For my critics this is my humble, yet earnest, defense. For those who have found my journey helpful and have asked for some direction, this is it.

    Most of all I wrote Water To Wine for the multitudes of Christians who are sold on Jesus, but have come to feel that pop-Christianity is too watery and too thin. They are right…it is. And I want to help. I hope the story of how I found my way out of cotton-candy Christianity and into a richer and more robust faith may help point these seekers in the right direction. Perhaps you are one of them.

    Instead of trying to reproduce the book in this blog post, I want to share a thousand words — a thousand words selected from throughout the introductory first chapter. I hope it will whet your appetite.

    BZ
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