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Christianity Beyond Belief: Following Jesus for the Sake of Others

Intervarsity Press,
RRP $37.95

Reviewed by Karyl Davison.

ONE of the most concerning aspects of my work in the last four years is the overwhelming acceptance of a heaven or hell
framework among church people I have worked with, reducing Christianity to an individualistic, privatised faith that rewards “the saved” and sends “non-believers” to hell.

In Christianity Beyond Belief, Bishop Todd Hunter tries to redress this imbalanced view by placing the doctrines of sin,
forgiveness, heaven and hell within the context of humanity (and creation) being restored to fulfi l God’s purposes.

Rather than simply escaping hell, Hunter sees forgiveness as the starting point of a Christian life where a new life is formed – “a cooperative friendship with God”.

This is one of the four pivotal phrases that summarise his understanding of what it means to be a Christian, the others being “living in creative goodness”, “for the sake of others” and “through the power of the Holy Spirit”.

Put together, these steps bring about wholeness, resulting in the ability to participate with God in God’s plans for the world.

While I support Hunter’s aim, there’s a hyped-up, pop Christian feel about Christianity Beyond Belief that doesn’t necessarily convince Australian readers.

And although Hunter is keenly aware of the diminishing popularity of traditional church life and practice, he offers no solutions other than to say “don’t give up”.

Although the message is not new, and there isn’t much meat in the book, Hunter does remind us that Christianity is about life, not merely a comfortable death and that eternal life is about an abundant and meaningful life on earth, not in “some heaven, light years away, but here in this place” (Marty Haugen in Gather us In).