Authentic Christianity by Peter Watts is a delightful, readable and thoughtful book about what it means to be a Christian. Of course, everyone has some impression of what it means to be a Christian. There are multitudes of books, podcasts, articles and such out there on this. Everyone has an opinion, and you can probably find a church or denomination to support your opinion.
So what makes Watts’ book special?
I read this while I was working on a newsletter update for my partners in ministry. I work with college students and hear story after story from students who are turned off to Christianity due to perceived hypocrisy, irrelevance and more. I hear the same stories from alumni, whether they continue to stay in church or not, who struggle to find churches. Through talking to current and former students, and thinking of how I do ministry, I believe the best thing young adults desire is honesty. When they have questions or objections they do not want to be sold some weak, textbook answer. They want honesty.
Or, as Watts puts it, authentic Christianity.
Authentic Christianity does not pretend all is right in our lives or the world. It does not seek to smooth the rough edges off. Instead, it lives in the real world of doubt and struggle and darkness and brokenness.
Reading this book while writing that newsletter was like reading my own thoughts being told back to me. I think Watts is 100% moving in the right direction. Well, when he gets into God “risking” things in the second to last chapter, I rolled my eyes. He cites Greg Boyd, who I generally appreciate, but I find the whole Open Theism, “God who risks” to be much less satisfying than more Classical Views of God. So I’ll say Watts is like 95% moving in the right direction.
But that’s the thing, isn’t it? Authentic Christianity leaves space for us to disagree on such things. This leads to perhaps the best thing I can say about this book: Watts comes across like a great, wise, humble, kind disciple of Jesus. He’s someone I’d want to be friends with, argue with, debate and discuss with. Along those lines, this is the sort of book I could recommend to a skeptical college student or a friend who is not a Christian. There are few books out there about things of faith and God that I can imagine non-Christians reading. This is one, which itself is an accomplishment.
Overall, this is a good book to read for Christians or non-Christians, as individuals or in groups.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.