Book Excerpt: The River of Life

Imagine a tree which divides into two grafted-in branches. The root and original trunk of the tree is the words of the Bible and the life of a long-ago man who inspires us still today. This trunk reflects the Jesus movement which began 2,000 years ago, though two millennia of bitter theological argument has obscured its original character. We no longer know with any precision what the tree was first like—perhaps it was a fig tree—but we all have our opinions, projecting upon Jesus the image which best fits our own treasured church atmosphere.

One branch grafted onto this trunk became a mighty red maple, built atop Jesus and the Bible, stretching ever upward toward heaven. Let’s call this branch the conservatives. The other branch of the tree grew into a willow, drawing strength from the same Jesus and the same Bible, but bending to reach back down to earth. It is less a religion than a philosophy. Let’s call this branch the liberals.

The leaves of this odd tree intermingle, but they look and act very differently. They view each other with suspicion. They all draw life from the Son-light, but seem to be stretching in opposite directions, as if they reach for the Son in different locations. They trust in the strength of their roots, but against such diverse winds that one wonders if they really share the same foundation.

Is there hope for reconciliation? Will the maple leaves ever convince the willow leaves to lift their eyes heavenward? Will the willow leaves ever persuade the maple leaves to reach out to their brothers and sisters down here on earth? Curiously, both sides echo the same frustrated chorus: “Blast it, man, how can you call yourself a real Christian if you ignore what Jesus said?”

This book, then, is an attempt to uncover the roots, and in so doing to explain Jesus and the New Testament from a liberal perspective so that perhaps we can at least respectfully appreciate our differences. Perhaps someday we can even join hands in a common purpose, if not common beliefs.

–The River of Life, Energion Publications, 2014 by Lee Harmon

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