Sanity Snippet: Ten Things Christians Wished Jesus Hadn’t Taught

As of October 24, 2021, Sanity Snippets are snapshots of my daily life, those things I’m doing—such as reading, writing, biking, photographing, and gardening—to maintain sanity while living in the most regressive state imaginable. Alabama.

Richard L. Fricks

Just finished this excellent book. Whether you are a believer or non-believer, you will gain by reading, comprehending, and considering these words.

I encourage you to read this 5 Star review. It accurately portrays the contents and truths embodied in David’s book:

Jack Wathey

Fascinating read; possibly the single most helpful book for Christians who struggle with doubt.

Reviewed in the United States on August 24, 2021 Verified Purchase

There are problems with religious faith. We see it in the brutality of the fundamentalist Muslims who are retaking Afghanistan; in the group-think that makes Covid denial and vaccine refusal badges of tribal loyalty for a significant fraction of American Evangelicals; and in Christian bookstores stocked with countless works of Christian apologetics aimed at believers who struggle with unanswered prayers and inherent contradictions in Christian theology.

This lucid, insightful, and concise book takes a unique approach to the problem of Christian faith. Biblical scholar David Madison approaches the reader in a spirit of empathy and generosity but also uncompromising honesty. More specifically, he approaches Christian readers on their own turf. In the first ten chapters he assumes, for the sake of argument, that the words attributed to Jesus in the gospels are accurate representations of his teachings. If we accept this premise, is Jesus truly the greatest teacher of all time? Do his words really match the image of the loving Savior we were told about as children in Vacation Bible School? The answers will shock a great many Christians who have never read the New Testament completely, carefully, and honestly.

Some of these teachings are merely strange, unwise, or hopelessly impractical, like the admonition never to refuse anyone who asks you for a loan, the advice to ignore the basic human needs of food and clothing, or appeals to magical thinking. Others, however, are truly shocking and disturbing for anyone who believes in a Jesus of unconditional love and forgiveness. For example, Jesus teaches that we cannot be his followers unless we hate our closest family members, suggests that we should value devotion to him above life itself, and threatens eternal torture for anyone who fails to acknowledge his divinity and worship him. These are the Bible verses that seldom appear in Sunday School lessons or preachers’ sermons, yet they are the purported words of the Messiah. Madison tells of one devout believer who accused him of lying when he quoted Luke 14:26 for her. She simply refused to accept that Jesus could have said those words, though they were there in her own copy of the Bible.

In the last part of the book, Madison tackles the deeper problems of the unhistorical nature of the gospels and the dubious historicity of Jesus. This is a quick and broad survey of these subjects, but he emphasizes the most salient points and directs the reader to a helpful list of sources for further exploration.

Of course, many Christians are so deeply committed to their faith that nothing will shake the scales from their eyes, and Madison obviously understands this. But he also knows, from his own experience, that there are intellectually honest Christians who struggle with doubt and that a deep, open-minded study of Scripture only makes the problem worse. This book is ideal for people who are on that difficult path. It takes courage to seek truth, wherever that journey leads, but this book will help.

The book is also a fascinating read for anyone skeptical of religion. I read it late in life, decades after my own deconversion from Christianity, but I kept thinking as I read it how much I wish I had had it back then. It would have eased and accelerated the process, and it would have been a great way to explain my loss of faith to my Christian parents. I could have just handed it to them and said, “Here, read this.”

This is a splendid book. I’m almost certain it did not expose me to any new arguments. But, after six plus years of reading hundreds of essays and books arguing for and against the Christian God, it impressed me how cogently the author addressed the issues. His writing is brilliant, meaning you don’t have to read and reread to grasp his points. Further, I suspect his story is not as rare as many church-goers would think.

End of review.

David also has another book, which I’ve read: Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief.

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Author: Richard L. Fricks

Former CPA, attorney, and lifelong wanderer. I'm now a full-time skeptic and part-time novelist. The rest of my time I spend biking, gardening, photographing, reading, writing, and encouraging others to adopt The Pencil Driven Life.

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