Monday, 6 February 2017

My Proposal

The book project I have been working recently reached sufficient shape for me to want to bounce the idea off potential publishers. So far I have only contacted a couple, using the text below. Both have since responded with some interest and want more content. So now I have a lot of work to do, which is daunting for me as I am finding looking at screens for too long really tires me out. So, in the meantime before my big day, whenever that'll be, here's the proposal (please feel free as a reader to my blog to recommend contacts and offer any support you might feel prompted to give).

For the last couple of years a book has been taking shape that started as something of a major career risk, and concerns someone really quite special: the Christian God.

This book should weigh in at around the 90000 word-mark and tracks a remarkable theological journey that took me to the brink of my career, my faith, my church, to interact with specialist materials that I had no idea existed, and to finally assert and lobby for a full-scale allegiance to a threefold religious centre to the Christian life and vocation: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The Christian market – predominantly evangelical – is worth $1.2 billion, approximately 10% of the wider US publishing market, with Christians spending more money on books than the average reader. While evangelical Christians are indeed the intended audience for this work, we can, however, also identify a number of sub-groups who will identify with various chapters to varying degrees:

-          Disenchanted Christians who are dissatisfied with the chasm they may be experiencing between what they receive in church and what they read in their bibles.
-          Professional Christian organisations, particularly HR departments.
-          Biblical teachers and apologists for the Christian faith.
-          Unitarian believers who strongly deny that “God is three persons”.
-          Some scholars and historians of early Christianity.
-          Those involved in the Evangelical/Charismatic “worship scene”: worship-leaders, religious songwriters, pastors.
-          Also, unaffiliated atheistic or agnostic readers who are curious about religion may be interested to see the unique nature of this exploration and any controversy that it could generate (see the large amount of media attention on Wheaton College professor, Larycia Hawkins).

Reason for the book’s existence: Part by part

The unique selling point of this three-part book is its element of risk to be seen as a worthy price for Truth. Tantalisingly, the framework of Part 1 reflects closely the content of a paper I submitted to my employer in 2015 in which I basically state the reasons (contemporary, historical and biblical) that compelled me to no longer “sign off” on my organisation’s Statement of Faith. An interlude between Parts 1 and 2 will relate in nail-biting detail the “What-Happened-Next”, as I (bravely? foolishly?) dismissed for the last time the opportunity to just let the whole thing blow over and get on with my career and my life. As readers follow the journey, which was incomplete in 2015 and is still ongoing in 2017, some should start to question themselves about their own beliefs and that for which they too are willing to stand up and take a risk. Doing so is scary, but can make a big difference: by end 2015, my organisation, present internationally wherever Christians are persecuted, refined their Statement of Faith. This outcome was beyond my wildest expectations.

As the book moves into Part 2, its second unique selling point becomes more obvious: an allegiance to the Truth trumps any theological partisanship. While Trinitarian evangelicals may find some of the contents of Part 1 quite scandalous, Unitarians may find the flow of Part 2 to be even more alarming as I home in on the key theological offering of this book, namely that the church of the first century was utterly trinitarian in focus. This “Trinity”, however, is not, at least according to first century Judaeo-Christian paradigms, not a “trinity of essence” but a “trinity of design” – God’s design. Various scholars of Christianity in antiquity have adopted the language of “mutation” to describe how it was possible that the Christian faith was birthed from within the Jewish faith, and not in opposition to it. Once I have documented those key offerings (taken from Larry Hurtado, the mutation of dyadic worship; from N. T. Wright, the mutation of an inaugurated, two-stage eschatology through Christ’s surprisingly early resurrection; and from John Dominic Crossan, the mutation of a “participative eschatology”, which I slightly correct to necessarily require the Holy Spirit’s central status), I am ready to make my core theological claim, which stands squarely on top of these accepted mutations. 

This book’s fundamental theological offering – laid out in Part 2 – is that the ultimate first century mutation now requires the new Judeo-Christian faith to hold at its core a threefold “hub”. All else must turn around and is expressed through those three. If electronic books could have animated covers, this book cover would attract potential readers’ eyes with a solar system in which the centre was occupied by three suns, themselves rotating around one another, and around which all the dependent planets also rotated. The word “mutate” is thus crucial to this book, so much so that it would be fitting to assign a title like “Mutated Faith”. This title plays on the parallel between my own faith’s fragile process of mutation and that of the early Jewish Christians. Finally before heading for the more hands-on applicability of Part 3, Part 2’s allegiance to Truth seems to have had a substantial payoff: nearly all of the conflicting criteria examined under the two lenses in Part 1 are now largely satisfied under the lens of the Triune Hub model. In other words, the Triune Hub provides a much more harmonious reading of the New Testament texts once liberated from more interpolative approaches.

Part 3 of Mutated Faith now asks the question: so what? What does this mean for the Church? Here, my own previous role as a worship leader helps to “land the theological plane” in the “Fields of Worship”. It is plainly evident that the state of charismatic Christian song-writing is in a state of confusion and discrepancy with respect to the Triune Hub model developed in Part 2. The point is that human beings don’t learn so much through theoretical exposition (to which the book can be associated), but through their experience (research for this chapter is primarily along the lines of James K. A. Smith’s Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works (Cultural Liturgies), Baker Academic). Song writing thus becomes a crucial component because it is precisely at that point of religious, sacramental and spiritual surrender and practice that our core beliefs are truly formed. The preacher can heartily preach the Trinity from the pulpit and yet if the songs with which the congregation actually relate to God are fundamentally modalistic in nature, he will constantly be under the impression of being a poor communicator. Thus, while worship launches the landing sequence of Mutated Faith, the book has two last ports of call down here on terra firma: personal application of the Triune Hub, and applying the Hub to the church’s vocation to advance the loving and just rule of God’s Son – the kingdom of God – in the power of his Spirit.

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