Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Gomes’s viewpoint is informed by his Baptist and African Methodist Episcopal background, as well as more than thirty years in academia. Most of the themes about Christian spirituality are found in the final section of the book. Gomes begins this section with “The Bible and the Good Life,” in which he discusses how the Bible can provide guidance to the person seeking a life of meaning (the “good life”). The Bible speaks effectively to common concerns such as the search for community and belonging, the dangers of false trust, the need for self-value as one made in God’s image, and the object of biblical hope.

Life situations in which the human and divine intersect are often the best points of contact for people who are seeking the core messages of the Bible. Gomes calls this concept “thin places,” drawn from Celtic mythology. For example, in “The Bible and Suffering,” Gomes notes that those who have suffered the most (like the excluded groups mentioned above) are the most likely to fully comprehend the hope that the Bible offers. Another thin place is joy. In “The Bible and Joy,” the author explains joy as gaining fleeting glimpses of what it means to be a citizen of another country, just as Christians are members of a heavenly community.

In “The Bible and Evil,” Gomes discusses the reality of evil and the interrelated issues of personal and social sin. He transitions to a reflection about “The Bible and Temptation,” examining the temptations of Jesus and concluding that temptation is a training ground for the soul. In the chapter on “The Bible and Wealth,” Gomes points out that while wealth is not inherently evil, it is a test of one’s faith. True wealth is appraised as coming from God as an opportunity to be generous to others.

When discussing the matter of “The Bible and Science,” Gomes asserts that science and the Bible have little in common, as they are distinct avenues to truth. Hence, the Bible need not suffer from the distortion that occurs when it is reconciled to scientific truth. Gomes feels that modern seekers still need to retain the mysterious and miraculous in their faith. In “The Bible and Mystery,” he discusses the phenomenal attraction church services on Easter and Christmas hold for attendees, the spiritual hunger it reveals, and what can satisfy it.