Restoring the Great Tradition – Part 2

In my previous post I introduced The Soul of Christianity; Restoring the Great Tradition, by Huston Smith.  Over the years I have read many, many books for Christians, about Christians, or by Christians.  But I believe that this one stands head and shoulders above almost all others.

The book has three main sections.  Part One is The Christian Worldview, which is the best expression of the basic tenets of Christian faith that I have seen.  This is fascinating and illuminating content, but it is definitely not light reading.  I found myself going back over several passages multiple times.  And I took lots of notes as I went.  One profound quote from this section is “For Christians, God is defined by Jesus, but He is not confined to Jesus.”  Another is “Revelation is multiple in scope and degree.”

Part Two is the Christian Story, which captures the life and person of Christ — what He said, what He did, and who He was.  One of my favorite lines in this section is “Instead of telling people what to do or believe, He invited them to see things differently. … He worked with people’s imaginations more than their reason or will”.  This section has encouraged me to reread the gospels and the words of Jesus with an expectation of seeing things differently.  I look forward to gaining a fresh appreciation for His parables and metaphors.

Part Three is The Three Main Branches of Christianity Today.  Smith provides an excellent overview of the differences and similarities between Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestantism.  I expect that few people would agree with every statement, but there is a great deal of meaningful insight captured here.

This book is still available, and can be purchased on Amazon.com.  I believe that this could be the best $6.00 you would ever spend on a book.  It should be on every Christian’s bookshelf, and should be read frequently and devotionally.   For your convenience, there is a direct link to purchase this book on Amazon at

http://pathsofchristianity.com/?p=27

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Restoring the Great Tradition

I just started reading The Soul of Christianity, Restoring the Great Tradition by Huston Smith.  The author was  born to Methodist missionaries in China, and went on to become internationally known and revered as the premier teacher of world religions.  I’m not very far into the book yet, but I have found it very interesting so far.

In the Preface, Mr. Smith states that he feels like a voice crying in the wilderness, the wilderness of secular modernity.  He goes on to say “And yet a voice that can pull us out of the wilderness is on our very doorstep.  That voice is the voice of first-millenium Christianity, the Great Tradition, which all Christians can accept because it is the solid trunk of the tree from which its branches have sprung.  It is the voice of peace, justice, and beauty that emanates from the Christian soul …”

Later, in the Introduction section, he states that “today religion is hamstrung between liberals and conservatives who cancel each other out.  Conservative Christians, commonly tagged as fundamentalists, incline toward a biblical literalism that is unworkable because it ignores the contexts that give words their meaning … and they are in constant danger of slipping into disastrous political agendas.”  On the other side, he says “Liberal churches, for their part, are digging their own graves, for without a robust, emphatically  theistic worldview to work within, they have nothing to offer their members except rallying cries to be good.”

There are two main sections to the book:  The Christian Worldview, and The Christian Story.  I have read just far enough to discern a main thread.  The author maintains that God is coming back into the picture in our cultures because we now understand where secularism has gone wrong.  Secularism has equated two things, absence-of-evidence and evidence-of-absence.  However, it is clear that these are really two very different concepts.   I think that Mr. Smith is on to something pretty profound here.

I am looking forward to reading the rest of this book to see how this thread is developed.  I am also anxious to see how Mr. Smith believes we should navigate the middle ground of Christianity between the flawed approaches of those who are too liberal and those who are too conservative.  I’ll be sure to share my findings with you.