Which Jesus Do You Believe In?

In an interview with Mockingbird marking the American release of his latest book, Unapologetic, Francis Spufford remarks on the different ways Jesus is portrayed:

M: So not the meek, not the cool, not the Ché, not the ironic, so then, what are we missing? Who is Jesus?

FS: We’re missing the open door to a generosity which thinks that law is the very beginning of what human beings need, where calling it radical is too small. You could call it conservative and it would make just as much sense, and you would still slough it off like a skin and leave it way behind. He is somebody. He is love without cost controls engaged. He is what it looks like to love deliberately without self-protection.

Reviewing the book, Wesley Hill appreciates that Spufford doesn’t offer “another defense of Christian ideas” but instead tries “to paint a picture of what it’s like to be a believer”:

Religious sensibilities, as Spufford writes in the preface, “are not made of glass, [and] do not need to hide themselves nervously from whole dimensions of human experience.” When we talk about sin and grace and faith, we’re not entering some rarefied realm of discourse removed from everyday life. We are, Spufford contends, trying to describe the sense of guilt that keeps us up at night worrying that our mean-spirited comment at a fancy dinner party puts us in the same predicament as the guy who tears into his former drinking buddy in a bar fight. We’re trying to describe the sense of mystery and elusive presence that frightens and comforts us—or comforts by frightening us—when we listen to the lilting melodies of Mozart’s “Clarinet Concerto.”

At the heart of Spufford’s book is a long retelling of the story of Jesus, or Yeshua, that is as evocative as any I’ve read. When I sent a copy of the book to a skeptical friend, I told him, “Finishing the Yeshua chapter made me want to become a Christian all over again.”

Previous Dish on Spufford here, here, and here.