The Non-Religious Christian – Finding Faith Outside the Church

Book Description

In The Non-Religious Christian, Vern Jones shares his journey growing up as constrained by the strict dogma of an evangelical Baptist church to a renewed faith without the myths and restrictive ideology taught by so many churches. Through the eyes of a scientist who has studied the Bible his entire life, Jones debunks many so-called biblical truths and the whole notion of biblical inerrancy. He then puts forward a new and exciting way of looking at faith, without the restrictions placed by organized religions nor the need to be a part of a church to be Christian. Many of the significant social issues of our time including abortion, stem cell research, school prayer, evolution and the display of the Ten Commandments are addressed in this book with new insights that run contrary to those in the traditional evangelical movement. Vern is not attempting to convert anyone, but simply sharing his years of research with fellow truth seekers to find a faith that they may call their own.

Review & Commentary

  • Dean Watt

    Finding Faith Outside the Church
    Vern Jones
    Principia Media, LLC, Wyoming MI

    The list of books by those who have departed from their early religious beliefs and affiliations continues to grow. The majority of writers, like Vern Jones, come from fundamentalist churches, in his case an evangelical Baptist church.

    He uses the term in the book title, “Non Religious Christians”. In recent years the term “religious” is increasingly attached to institutional religion, i.e., organized churches. Some would object to confining the term to organized religion, but the point is easily conveyed that there is a growing number of people who consider themselves “spiritual”, including “Christian” who have opted out of participation in any institutional church.

    Jones’ book is a fine primer for those seeking the basic knowledge of Christian history, theology and church history, both worldwide and American. He was very lucky to have had a grandfather who, while a loyal member of the hometown Baptist church, also kept his mind open to a broader view of the world and shared that fact with his grandson, whom he encouraged to trust the mind God had given him. His influence was life-long, supporting Vern in his continuing search for religious truth, while pursuing a career in science and business. Anticipating criticism from readers who cannot accept his movement into a wider and more open Christianity, in his Introduction he makes clear where he now stands: “Though some may say that I have wandered from the true spirit of Christianity, through my studies I have found two core beliefs: I know there is a God; and I believe Christ was sent by God to show us the path to human fulfillment.” He concludes the Introduction with a quote from Luke, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation nor will people say “Here it is, or “There it is”, ‘because the kingdom of God is within you.” “Thanks, Grandpa.”

    As with others who move from conservative toward a more inclusive faith, Jones offers chapters dealing with the fallacy of biblical inerrancy and literalism and the tragic use of religion in the suppression of human rights, but I was surprised to see a chapter I had not previously seen in similar books; that being the issue of “Suicide: ‘The Unpardonable Sin’”. I am guessing that the issue comes from a painful experience in his life history. If that is so, I believe a recounting of it would have been meaningful to include. He cites references from the Old and New Testament, plus early Christian writers offering that it is really not a simple black and white, right vs. wrong issue. His conclusion in the matter is that we should not be quick to condemn those who feel compelled to such a choice, as we don’t know the inner nor outer world confronting them.

    I had expected to find a chapter on just who Jesus really was and what we could reliably know about him. Instead I found only a few succinct statements that leave the issue essentially untouched. Jones does not move as far to the left as some others who leave their earlier conservatism. He states: To this day the core of my faith has not changed. I believe Christ was sent to Earth by God to bring us a message of love and personal fulfillment.” . . . .”and that Jesus died on the cross and arose from the dead.” He then goes on to say: “Like many, my beliefs are continually evolving.”
    But on this one issue of what and who Jesus was, Jones appears most strongly committed, saying: “And miracle of miracles, wonder of wonder, he rose from the dead. I know he did. Not because it is written in a book but because it is the only logical explanation for me.” “For me there is only one explanation. The resurrection is true. Jesus rose from the dead and the disciples saw the living Jesus.”

    The evidence Jones finds so completely convincing comes from the story in Luke of Jesus appearing to the disciples following the crucifixion. “While huddled together, something miraculous happened which turned this group of trembling men and women into fearless missionaries that left this shack and traveled far and wide in the face of threats and imprisonment to tell the incredible story of Jesus.”

    Jones is well read, so it seems apparent that he simply discounts the other scenarios that other scholars have written. While I would like to read his response to other written views, I must take him at his word and accept that his conclusion is, in fact, the only one acceptable to him. This conclusion will make the book more attractive to those who aren’t comfortable with fundamentalist literalism, but who are also not ready to completely reject the role of Jesus as “God’s chosen Son”.

    Jones is a good writer and at 188 pages the book is an easy read and would make a suitable resource for adult class study groups. I look forward to any further writing he may do in the area.

    Reviewer: Dean Watt, Th.M.