Monday, July 15, 2013

book review: the last templar

hello there!  i AM alive!  in case you had given me up for dead, i thought i would check in here at the old blogstead and verify my survival.  i was camping last weekend in the hellishly humid tropical rain forests of panama (okay, so it was really elysburg, pa), and haven't gotten my act together to write yet.  this summer has been an absolute whirlwind, as evidenced by the hundreds of pictures on my camera that need to be gone through, but shall have to wait until such a time as i can breath (also known as september).  in any case, i'm back, and here is a post about a book i read while slow-cooking in the july sun (in a tent). 

there is some great secret about Jesus.  there is someone who might just be able to discover the secret, and they are on the run, being chased by those who would do anything to protect the secret.  there are twists and turns, archaeological digs and dogmatic didactics.  and i'm not even talking about a dan brown novel.  no, this book was developed long before brown's "davinci code" took the world by storm and made conservative christians angrier and more ignorant-sounding than ever.  i'm talking here about "the last templar" by raymond khoury, a book that has been sitting on my shelf for several years.  i wanted something i could read quickly while camping, so i chose this 400-page historical fiction to fit the bill quite nicely. 

and it did.

it is a pretty fast-paced international chase and maze, with several surprises and nailbiting sequences.  for most of the way through i thought the church was going to be the worst of all the characters, and that Christianity was going to be treated like a bad idea thought up by some roman emperor.  but, without giving away the ending, let me just say that i was relatively pleased with the way it ended.  and if you read it, or you've already read it, please don't think that means i think this is true.  i absolutely do not.  i just think it was interesting and that khoury's resolution was fascinating.  let's just say it was a predictably post-modern approach, but with a surprisingly pragmatic element.  i have no idea if this is really khoury's worldview, or just something created for the story, but it goes something like this: much of christianity is essentially a myth, but we need the myth for the well-being and spiritual health of our global community.  in other words, it is a good and valuable story that has made the human race better overall. 

of course that's not what i believe. 

i do believe both in the value and the power of myths and stories.  and i am more willing than many Christians to allow for some wide space in interpreting some of the epic stories of the Scriptures, like Noah's flood, for example.  but when it comes to the resurrection, i nail my thesis to the doors of postmodernity: i can do no other.  i know the Gospels contradict in some details. i know that people don't just die and come back after a few days.  i know that its a story that looks and sounds and smells like myth.  and i know that there were groups of people who stood to gain something by spreading this story, at least at some point in history. 

but i also know that my faith hangs on this being more than just a political idea.  i know, and claim with certainty (lord, help my unbelief), that all my hope, all the meaning that the mundane moments of my life find a home in, is based on my faith that Jesus was real.  that he was human. and that he was God.  that he died.  and that, for him, death died.  that Jesus was the firstborn from the dead, paving the way and demonstrating the kind of power that Love really is.  is it crazy?  maybe.  but most of us probably aren't crazy enough to follow it to its logical conclusions: to love like mad.  would it be easier to believe that Jesus was just a really nice guy, a powerful preacher and teacher, and maybe a bit of an egomaniac, whose story got commandeered by those in power when it served their purposes?  maybe.  but maybe not, too.  either way, it doesn't really matter, because what is easier to believe has nothing to do with what is worth believing in. 

so, "the last templar."  is it a fun read?  sure.  is it a page turner and a quick read?  sure.  is it an interesting lens into one of post-modernity's options for dealing with Christianity in an increasingly pluralistic and anti-religious global community?  you bet.  is it helpful as a sign pointing the way towards our Only Hope?  nah.  i'll take the Good News any day of the week. 

1 comment:

Pete Sherry said...

Been looking for a novel for the summer...I know, I'm halfway through summer at this point, but better late than never, right?

Good to read through your blog and catch up a bit on you. Think the Pirates can pull it off this year? I sure would like to see that.

Be well bro.