Thursday, June 04, 2015

A Fellowship of Differents by Scot McKnight

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book for the purpose of review. My integrity is not for sale. Those who know me well are aware I would relish the chance to give a bad review in exchange for a free book. If I've failed to do so, it has nothing to do with the source of the material and only with the material itself.

Scot McKnight is a pretty popular author, although I've not read any of his other books. I've read blog posts and articles from time to time and I respect his suggestions greatly when it comes to biblical commentaries. He's a top-notch scholar and I was excited to read his new book, A Fellowship of Differents, a challenging look at how God calls Christians to live and worship together.

The book follows largely the life and teachings of Paul in an attempt to re-orient the often confused nature and construction of modern congregations. At the same time, McKnight is gracious and uplifting in addressing these congregations and the value of a local worshiping body in the formation and continuation of the Christian faith.

The book is difficult in places, a real challenge to what we've come to see as normal comfort in the American Church. In other places it reinfuses a love of those people who nurtured us in faith, even if we may now differ in perspective quite greatly. But overall, McKnight addresses the positive, essential attributes of what it means to live together in Christ. Chief among those is diversity, not just racially or culturally, but also theologically and politically and in every way imaginable. For him (and for Paul), the core of the gospel is making room for all people to live together in love.

It's a loft goal and as the book is fleshed out, the many ways in which that can be difficult are addressed. In the Afterward, McKnight mentions the book was once much longer than its current 250 or so pages. That becomes pretty clear as he seems to be writing the bare minimum of his thoughts in some sections. He is careful to step forward and address some topics in detail. He addresses the unique issues of homosexuality in the modern Church with grace and calm. His treatment of scripture is both responsible and full of integrity. He addresses without antagonism, those areas where he disagrees with others on interpretation and meaning, but one of my great regrets in reading the book is that he chooses not to engage those Christians who agree with him on scripture, but disagree on the ultimate course of gay Christians (marriage or celibacy).

Ultimately, though, this is one small chapter in a much larger work, which deftly maneuvers over many difficult and rocky topics without sounding judgmental or pushy. This is largely because he maintains the focus on unity, love, and mutual submission that was so important to Paul and so essential for faithful Christ-like living. This is not a book about hot topics or religious controversies, although a number of them are mentioned; it is a book about how the Church can remain unified and healthy in the midst of a world with disagreements and difficulties. For that, it is an important read.

Maybe I read it too fast - I suspect A Fellowship of Differents is best digested a chapter at a time - but there were obviously some places that meant less to me than others. It wasn't a book where I was dying to get to the next page. I thought the first half was better than the second, but largely, I think, because the first half was more general and the second more specific (as is necessary for the form it takes). Overall, it is an interesting perspective and a unique way of presenting some deep intricacies of Pauline theology in ways that are entirely accessible to the average Christian.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

No comments: