|Size||9 x 6|
|Published||Cedar Fort 2018|
As I continue to read Huntsman’s work, I become increasingly impressed at his ability to combine faith and scholarship. This is a difficult thing to do, as it is all too easy to exist on one side or the other. Our community is very fortunate to have someone with the training and passion to make the fruits of biblical scholarship both accessible and faith-promoting.
The gospel of John has been the subject of Huntsman’s teaching and writing for years now. “Becoming the Beloved Disciple” is his latest exploration of the fourth gospel, this time with a focus on the issue of Christian discipleship. Each chapter examines a different character from the Gospel of John as an illustration of the many different ways that a person may come to a testimony of Christ. Some may believe right away, while others require intellectual justification for belief, and others only come to belief after periods of intense struggle and doubt. Each of these characters serve as a strong reminder that it is not the path that matters so much as where it leads you. This is exactly the kind of book that our community needs right now.
Books for the LDS audience tend to fall into one of two camps. They are either devotional or scholarly. Huntsman is able to draw on his considerable historical and linguistic training to provide interesting tidbits and valuable insights from the original languages and social/historical context of New Testament times. Likewise, he pulls from years of teaching and faithful discipleship to help highlight the personal application of his ideas. Rather than being another devotional type book or an overly verbose academic study, Huntsman strikes a beautifully simple balance where the finished product is greater than the sum of its parts. Readers will benefit from simply sitting down and reading it cover-to-cover, as well as coming back to it as a quick reference to help themselves or others when dealing with difficult portions of their spiritual journey.
For the last few years, my observation of the Advent season has been guided by Eric Huntsman's excellent book--a feast of art, music, scriptural interpretation, and inspiration that celebrates the miracle of Christ's birth. This year, my Christmas gift list will also be guided by an Eric Huntsman book: Becoming the Beloved Disciple, a reading of the Fourth Gospel by one of the best Latter-day Saint scholars around.
Becoming the Beloved Disciple is, as its title might suggest, a book about discipleship–an important gospel concept that cannot quite be reduced to followership, obedienceship, believership, or membership in any organization. True disciples both learn from and emulate their master. Christ’s disciples are the apostles who have been converted, the sheep who have been found, the prodigals who repent, and the doubters who develop faith–people with a variety of backgrounds and experiences who have been changed fundamentally by their personal relationship with a master.
As Huntsman presents it, the two purposes of the Gospel of John are 1) to deliver a powerful and definitive testimony of the mission and divinity of Jesus Christ; and 2) to give examples of the many different paths to becoming disciples.
The powerful testimony comes in Chapter One (1:1-18) and consists of the “Hymn to Logos,” a poetic invocation of Christ’s divinity. The rest of the book consists largely of stories about people coming to the same understanding of Jesus that John gives us in the beginning.
This is an immensely powerful and satisfying way to read both the theology and the narrative of our most challenging Gospel. It connects the text by creating one great similarity out of many different pieces: the calling of the apostles; the dialogues with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman; the story of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus; the betrayal of Peter; the doubting of Thomas.
These are very different stories about very different kinds of disciples coming to Christ in very different ways. Some of them believe immediately, while others believe only after coming through a period of doubt and disbelief. Some experience miracles, others feel the overwhelming call of divine love, and others still must find a way to assent intellectually to the reality of the Messiah.
And, John tells us, these are all the right path because they all lead to Christ. This is the point, and it would be hard to imagine a more important point to make. To become beloved disciples, we must learn to see the world as Christ sees it, which means learning to love other people as Christ loves them. Becoming the Beloved Disciple is a good starting point for the journey.