Book Review: The Jesus Inquest

The Jesus Inquest by Charles Foster

X and Y duke it out in a battle for the minds and hearts of the readers of The Jesus Inquest. If you accept, as X does, that belief in the Christian is belief in a lie, and as both X and Y, that to believe a lie is a terrible thing indeed, you will fight wholeheartedly to convince those who believe this considered lie of the truth, as you see it. And Y is no less hearty in his defense of the same.

X and Y are figments of barrister (lawyer) Charles Foster’s literary imagination. Two fiends for truth who wage epic battle through the pages of The Jesus Inquest, arguing and counter-arguing the aspects of Jesus‘ death, burial, resurrection, and subsequent appearances and final ascension using logic, reason, evidence, history, science, and any and all other tools they can muster There can only be one victor, and on the outcome hangs the foundation of faith for billions of people through history and today.

The book began as Charles Foster encountered his own doubts and need to substantiate what he’d believed regarding the epitome of Christs life and all human history. In the truest sense, his heart cannot believe what his mind will not accept. And so he set out to research and investigate, beyond the just-so stories of  Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell.

As a barrister Foster is used to being able to see and argue both sides of an argument, and he brings this skill to good use through creating not a devil’s advocate, but two characters of reasonable intelligence with deep grasps of their respective positions, their strengths and weaknesses, and the others preferred points. These two characters, X and Y, meet in the pages of The Jesus Inquest. The arguments from the anti-Christian X always come first. Some may say this weakens him as the final word always then goes to the pro-Christian Y. Foster wrote the book for his own purposes and this structure affirms that.

The Jesus Inquest is clear and readable. In creating the two characters as he did, Foster saves the book from being a simple tit-for-tat straight and dry comparison of facts and arguments. The conflict between the two holds the facts and arguments to a narrative which remains interesting and engaging.

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Loving God, Loving Each Other

Gratuitous Family Picture: My children William and Tatiana

In Sunday School we wrapped up a series on knowing God’s will with a session where our teacher asked us for verses that applied what we’d learned to actual practice. The key verses were very quickly reached, the great commandments, as they are called:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40

How do we know we are really loving God as we ought? By what measure can we tell that we are giving to God what is His, our love and devotion?

This is complicated because our relationship with God primarily occurs inside us, in our hearts and minds. It has repercussions externally, but the primary work of this relationship goes on inside. This is a problem because we ought not trust our insides, our heart and mind, so much as we do. We know that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) So what our hearts may be telling us about our relationship with God could well be inaccurate. The heart of man is also continually involved in reconciling the actions of man with the beliefs of man, and it becomes very adept at rationalizing wrongs and glossing over failures and errors, and because we want to believe that we are good people, we become complacent, accepting our own word of the state of our being, and so we are complicit in our own self-deception.

This does not bode well for us. God will judge our hearts more easily even then man can judge his actions. He is the Maker and understands us in totality. There is no aspect of us He does not know thoroughly.

So by what measure can we tell whether our hearts are in true fellowship with God?

While the heart may be deceitful, it cannot lie always. Our actions, those doings and sayings of us that go out from us and interact with and affect others, come from our heart too, and they are a much more honest sort of measure.

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.Luke 6:45

Here is the measure we can use. While we cannot use our own hearts reports as factual evidence of the state of our relationship with God, we can use our actions and interactions.

And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

To love other people is to love God. The true love of other people will indicate a heart condition of true God-love, for it is from the fullness of our heart, a fullness of love in our heart, that our mouth will speak love, and our hands will do love, and our actions will work love. And that perfect love which will do all this is the love that flows from knowing and loving God

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1st John 4:20 & 21