Review of “Freeing Jesus” by Diana Butler Bass

I know Diana Butler Bass as a church historian.  I heard her speak at ESR after the publication of Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening, which was a passionate but still scholarly study of the past and future of Christian faith.  
Freeing Jesus is different.  This book is a deeply personal study of Jesus, following the progression of the author's experience of Jesus throughout her life, from her childhood with parents who were conventionally religious to her days as a born-again evangelical Christian, her time as a missionary, through her first marriage and divorce, through her struggles with theology and bible study.  Her commitment to Jesus remains constant through all of her life changes, but the form of that commitment varies widely, and she remarkably manages to stay true to all of those forms as she moves from one to the next.  We travel with her as she describes her relationship to Jesus as friend and teacher, which lays the groundwork for her understanding of Jesus as Lord and Savior, which in turn allows us to see Jesus as the Way and finally as Presence.  
The central liberating idea is that we do not have to choose one over the other!  Even though I might emphasize the role of Jesus as friend and teacher, I can still embrace Jesus as Lord and Savior.  
She acknowledges and celebrates these differences, and does not seek to resolve them. She embraces ambiguity, confusion, and mystery, which appears as a section in her final chapter on Jesus as Presence.  “The opposite of faith is not doubt; it is certainty.”
Of particular note to us as Quakers:  in her chapter on Jesus as friend, she discusses the Religious Society of Friends as a denomination that stresses the friendship of Jesus (“I call you friends”) which leads to a spiritual friendship with each other and the world. “Friends do not let friends be held in slavery.” 


  1. Sabrina Darnowsky | | Reply

    Thank you, Friend, for sharing about this intriguing book. I myself have gone through different understandings of the person and role of Jesus. This sounds like a work that might speak to my condition.

  2. Carole Barnhart | | Reply

    Sabrina speaks my mind, and I’ve already got this book reserved at the library. Thank you for the review, Jeff!

  3. Vicki Culler | | Reply

    Friend, thank you for bringing this to our attention! I reserved a copy, also.

  4. Ann Troxel | | Reply

    Think I will need to read this. Sounds like my life.

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