Your support is needed to help ProgressiveChristianityorg. We need to reach our year-end fundraising goal that will determine what we can do for 2023. If you have already donated, thank you! If you have not donated yet, please do so today. There is so much more we can do and offer our readership with your support! DONATE NOW!

Giving Christianity Back to Agape Love

A New Paradigm for Being Church Together

 

How could a church that has been plagued by anti-Semitism, the killing of the Crusades, and the violence of the Inquisition (to name a few) be redeemed of these evils? Quite simply, it has always returned to Jesus. When you return to Jesus, you return to the heart of his message: agape. Agape is a Greek word in the New Testament referring to a love that is without limits and beyond conditions. Agape is the love that God has for us and that we are called to have toward one another.

This book centers around this one assumption: God loves us unconditionally. Our task- individually and as communities- is to be instruments of that love. This book re-envisions traditional Christian beliefs- including sin, the Bible, salvation, homosexuality, pluralism, Jesus, and atonement theology- through the lens of agape love. What would the Christian life look like if we embodied the good news in community as contemplatives in action?

In a time when churches are dying and failing, giving Christianity back to agape love has the power to bring life into a religion that feels old, worn out, and over-institutionalized. To return Christianity to Jesus is to give the church universal back to a love that is boundless, free, and unconditional; to a love that finds its heart in service, peacemaking, and radical transformation; to a love that will set the world on fire.

 

Reviews

For anyone looking for ways to remain Christian in good conscience…
In clear, concise, accessible prose, Matt Carriker calls the church back to the heart of Jesus. For anyone searching for a way to identify and function as a Christian in good conscience, Carriker provides a simple framework and rationale: do the various tenets of your belief system lead you deeper into an experience and practice of the unconditional and life giving love Jesus embodied, or do they get in the way? If they get in the way, Jesus would be the first to tell you to let them go.

Carriker doesn’t shy away from difficult or controversial topics, but tackles the big questions many have around sin, salvation, sexuality, and religious pluralism. Even when you disagree with his answers, you will be grateful for his spiritual companionship as you once again consider what you truly believe and how that belief has the power to shape you and your relationship to the people around you. Ultimately, this is a beautiful little handbook for anyone who longs to follow in the way of Jesus with honesty, humility, compassion, and conviction. – Rev. Sarah Buteux, Pastor First Churches of Northampton, MA

This is a book for all Christians and anyone else trying to understand the all-enveloping love of the Holiest of Holies, or whatever you want to call God as you understand it. Not only is the discussion and exploration accessible, it reminds me of talking with someone with two open hands…it’s all for you. The book is warm, open, and loving with so many personal stories for the reader. In each chapter there are real issues explored in such inviting ways as to allow the reader space to contemplate their own beliefs while delving deeper into the subject before them.

In full disclosure, I’ve known Matt ever since I moved to Massachusetts and joined the same church, First Congregational Church Natick UCC. I’m also an ordained minister, just like Matt. Having been through seminary and leading a church myself, this is the kind of book that I heartily recommend to my parishioners and anyone who’s interested in getting back to agape love, unconditional love in Christianity. It’s a wonderfully easy read and the perfect gift to anyone who wants to know what Christian means—Christ-like. It was a joy to read. – Angela CMB

Giving Christianity Back to Agape Love is a beautiful invitation to embodied and expansive faith. It would provide a clear introduction to a God of infinite love for those seeking a better understanding of a progressive faith. For those who have already chosen that path, the thoughtful and clear explorations of faith will lead them deeper. Grateful for this resource. – Rev. Dr. Jan Gregory-Charpentier, Pastor, Kingston Congregational Church, UCC

What I deeply appreciate about Matt’s book is how it engages the questions, criticisms and controversies of Christianity, or more accurately, how Christians have practiced Christianity, head on. We have not always lived up to the example of our Teacher. Matt calls us to align our beliefs and practices with Jesus’, who lived a life and modeled a faith embedded in God’s Agape Love. This would be a wonderful book to give to new seekers and attenders who are looking for a deeply faithful, deeply inclusive Christianity or for a small group of committed Christians who want to deepen our theological language while staying true to a progressive Christian worldview. Thank you, Matt! – Susan N. Allen

As a spiritual director and clergywoman, concerned for the spiritual health and well-being of our churches, I find this book to be both inspiration and a road map, leading us to a life-giving way of being the people of the Way of Love. In clear, wise, and faithful terms, Matt describes how we have strayed from this ‘Way’ and shows us the road forward through open-hearted questions and interpretations. This is a wonderful book for clergy and lay-folk, alike. Thank you, Matt! – fireteacher23

One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “Spiritual arrogance only leads to greater harm for people and for the planet.” This book does a wonderful job of allowing the reader to have an honest faith discussion with themselves. The book allowed me to be introspective and examine my own beliefs, which offer mirror Carriker’s message of inclusion and acceptance. He helps ease anxiety with a chapter about heaven, hell and salvation. As Carriker states, “God loved us and there is nothing we can do about it.”

Rev. Carriker seamlessly weaves together personal narratives and powerful prophetic statements; despite the conversational tone of the book, his research and arguments are cogent. He does not shy away from controversial issues, and even if readers disagree with some of his statements, we can still find kernels of truth and seeds of hope. This is a must-read! I am eager to dive into these topics with my church in the near future. – Rev. Shelby L., Nashville TN

 

About the Author

Reverend Matt Carriker is an ordained United Church of Christ (UCC) pastor serving a new UCC church in Waltham called Agape Spiritual Community. Matt finds joy in leading mindfulness, meditation, and contemplative practice opportunities in the Greater Boston community and in the church at large. Through the Southern New England Conference UCC, Matt co-facilitates confirmation and youth retreats and adult spiritual formation retreats. Matt is passionate about altering Christianity today into a spiritual tradition that models the unconditional love of God and the life and teachings of Jesus. Visit his website A Christian Yogi here.

Review & Commentary