Reviewed by Sharon Fujimoto-Johnson
Put simply, Swimming Against the Current: Living for the God You Love gave me hope for the future of Adventism. I’m a lifelong Adventist and the product of Adventist education, the missionary field, and veggie meat, and I’ve already seen some of my friends leave the church—although not God in most cases—because they found little connection between corporate faith and real life. They aren’t rebellious, angry types, these friends of mine; they’re intellectuals, creative minds, and seekers. What they want is spirituality with more substance than cotton candy. What they want is theology to be brought down from the stratosphere to earth. What they want is less tradition for the sake of tradition and more grace. I can’t blame my friends for seeking elsewhere what they didn’t find in the Adventist church—I want the same things myself.
Blake wrote Swimming Against the Current for people like my friends, and me. In the preface, Blake says that his earlier volume, Searching for a God to Love, was for “people who believe in God but who don’t believe what they hear about God” and that Swimming Against the Current is for those who have found a God to love and who are now searching for more. If you’re a longtime Adventist or a Christian believer struggling to connect the God you know and the religion you practice, this book is for you, too.
Swimming Against the Current is divided into three sections: “Do Justly,” “Love Mercy,” and “Walk Humbly with Our God.” Blake says that the first section is the most countercultural, but it’s by far my favorite. I think Blake is at his best here as he tackles topics as various as Adventists and activism, spiritual bullying, prejudice, the state of Adventist writing, integrity, and valuing the church’s youth, in chapters with titles like “Why I Don’t Pray for Jesus to Come ‘Soon.’” It’s thought-provoking theology for those who want more than to await divine rescue from a world that supposedly isn’t our home.
Blake is serious about his topic, but the tone of the book is never preachy or heavy. The reader encounters, instead, openness, warmth, and humor in Blake’s assorted anecdotes about skydiving, romance, prison, and even sitting behind the G.C. platform with buddy Clifford Goldstein (whom he describes as “giving a first impression of a ruffled politician with ADHD”), and in quintessential Chris Blake style, he provides refreshing insights on the makings of a thriving spirituality.
Blake doesn’t set out to thrill everyone on every single page. Reactions to this book will be as individual as its readers and as various as its chapter lengths, tones, and topics. Some chapters may elicit a shrug; others, fierce dissent. But I posit that at least one of the chapters will leave you awestruck by the God you love.
Read this book. Read it if you’re Blake’s intended audience—people like my friends and me who are looking for an authentic spirituality. Read it if you’re a family—“even a family of one,” as Blake puts it—just for the chapter titled “Family Values.” And finally, read it especially if you’re one of the leaders, pastors, and theologians who collectively steer the direction of the Adventist church. The theology in this book is daring but grounded, principled but pragmatic, and at its core, compassionate. Along with Stuart Tyner’s Searching for the God of Grace, it hints at the direction in which Adventism must move in order to be alive and relevant: against the current.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/4253