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The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What's So Good About the Good News?

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  470 ratings  ·  52 reviews
Jesus came preaching, but the church wound up preaching Jesus. Why does the church insist upon making Jesus the object of its attention rather than heeding his message? Esteemed Harvard minister Peter J. Gomes believes that excessive focus on the Bible and doctrines about Jesus have led the Christian church astray. "What did Jesus preach?" asks Gomes. To recover the transf ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published November 6th 2007 by HarperOne (first published November 1st 2007)
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Start your review of The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What's So Good About the Good News?
The late Peter J. Gomes, the only black, gay, Republican, Baptist Minister of Harvard's Memorial Church with whom I am familiar, argues that most contemporary, church-going Christians would find the actual gospel of Jesus to be scandalous.
Most people do not go to church to be confronted with the gap between what they believe and practice and what their faith teaches and requires. One of the reasons that religious people are often cultural conservatives, and that cultural conservatives take co
May 24, 2008 rated it liked it
Much of what I thought about the book was expressed perfectly by Leela on this site: "I think what I wanted and didn't get was a richer portrait of Jesus-as-rebel. What I got instead was a rich analysis of the Christian church and how hard it may be to apply the principles developed as a minority underdog when one finds oneself holding all (or many) of the power cards. Fascinating. Interesting. Great sermon material. But not as compelling as I'd expected. It felt much more like work and much les ...more
John M
Jan 06, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(4.5 stars)

The essential criteria for good preaching -- and books by preachers -- are eloquence and edification, and not (as some think) a deep intellectual depth. Gomes satisfies all three, but his writing is saved from the dead language of a theological tome, and instead blessed with an authentic preacherly ability to express deep principles in understandable ways.

He makes the case forcefully and enthrallingly for the first half of the book, bubbling over with pristine prose never for a moment
Jan 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion, ministry
This was a good book, but not as much fun as I'd hoped. As usual, Gomes' turns of phrase are elegant and evoke his formal, slightly British preaching style. He has done an excellent job of mixing anecdotes and scholarship, while writing accessibly. I think what I wanted and didn't get was a richer portrait of Jesus-as-rebel. What I got instead was a rich analysis of the Christian church and how hard it may be to apply the principles developed as a minority underdog when one finds oneself holding ...more
Dec 19, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was disappointing on two levels. First, instead of the well-turned phrases I have grown to expect from Gomes, we get a work that substitutes extensive quotation of hymns and the writings of others for originality. I got the impression I was reading a school research paper on hymnody rather than an original work on the gospel. More importantly, after covering what the Bible is not in the first part and what it should be in the second, Gomes leaves the reader with very little of substanc ...more
Mar 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Every Christian
Recommended to Sam by: the library 'new arrivals' email
In this startlingly accurate depiction of Christianity Gomes asks, 'why are our religious organizations always the last to get behind social change and justice?'

Not only are they slow to promote social change but they have come to be the keepers of the status quo.
This is in stark contrast to what Jesus came to do, which was to disrupt it.

Christianity has thrived in western society but the societal problems that Jesus preached against are as bad as they have ever been.

So what is the 'good news'
The culmination of Gomes' trilogy which started with The Good Book, this book was pretty much preaching to the choir as far as I was concerned, so of course I liked it. Also, Gomes uses hymns to make his point a lot of the time, which was great. As a gay, liberal Christian, chaplain at "Godless Harvard," and consistently rated as one of America's best preachers, Gomes has a lot to offer. I particularly liked his differentiating between optimism and hope. My one quibble would be that he has a li ...more
Sep 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Not - What would Jesus Do?

But - What would Jesus have US do?

Mark Mitchell
Aug 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Jesus (and early Christians) were rebels, persecuted by both religious and civil authorities, and that Jesus challenged the status quo. One of Jesus’ central teachings was that we should not presume that one’s earthly status (wealth, power, etc.) is indicative of their heavenly future; instead, the last shall be first and the first last. But, Gomes argues, in an era where the church has become established, and, in fact, has become a part of the establishment, Christians have had a tendency to de ...more
Apr 19, 2019 rated it liked it
This, the last book Rev Peter Gomes wrote before his death, is very accessible yet approaches the Bible from an atypical perspective. the Bible, he says, is not a book but a library containing different books written at different times, by different authors, to respond to concerns of different times. This, he says, explains the many internal contradictions in the Bible, contradictions and inconsistencies that have lead to endless and sometime violent disputes among Christians. To Gomes there is ...more
Damon Gray
Mar 08, 2020 rated it liked it
In this book, Gomes attempts to make the case that the majority if current-generation, church-going Christians would find the "true" gospel of Jesus scandalously offensive. Gomes believed most church-goers are comfortable with their faith as it is (likely so) and therefore have no desire to confront hear about the divide between the life they are living and the life the gospel requires. In Gomes' view, Jesus established a new paradigm, intentionally disturbing the status-quo, and it seems Gomes ...more
Apr 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In many ways, this book is too late for me. Recently retired after 40 years of ministry, I wish I would have read this book back then. My preaching may have been more engaging, more relevant. And my teaching more confrontational. And my understanding of the gospel more solid. But, alas, I couldn’t have read this back then because it didn’t exist. So, now what do I do? Get together with other old farts and talk about what we should have done if we had only known? Decried the way our seminaries we ...more
Jan 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This was Peter Gomes' last book. It is intended to be the conclusion of his three part work after "The Good Book"and "The Good Life." The title was suggested by his publisher. His preferred title was to have been, "The Good News." It's based on the premise that focusing on worshiping Christ can substitute doing what Christ taught in the gospels. He peppers this work with numerous quotes from theologians, preachers, academics and historical figures as he often did. I appreciate his approach and l ...more
Roger Miller
Oct 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very few liberal and social justice authors challenge me, but Peter J. Gomes does. Very seldom do I read books twice, but I am committed to reading this again. I listened to this audibly, and the author's reading left me gasping for air. Peter often got the hermeneutics and the spirit of Jesus right. Still not convinced he got his politics right, but it's smart, challenging and engaging. ...more
Roger Smitter
Jun 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In the second page, the author reminds us “The Bible …is a complicated collection of books, written by many hands over many years and in a wide variety of media, including poetry, history, parable, theology and apocalypse. (p. 2) A few pages later, he tells us that the Bible can be read as a “….textbook for the status quo, a book of quiescent pieties and promises, or it is a recipe for social change and transformation. “ (12)

He wants to take the reader in some new ways to make sense of the Bibl
Greg Dill
Sep 19, 2015 rated it liked it
Good, but not great. The ramblings of a liberal Christian. And, I don't say this in a negative way, for I myself am liberal in many views. Made for a good read, but I thought the book lost it's luster towards the end as it seemed to become rather repetitive on the same issues (oppression, racism, counter-culture, etc). Although there was some good insight into the teachings of Christ, I didn't think Gomes offered anything new and fresh. I thought there was an over abundance of quotes taken from ...more
Apr 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Harvard chaplain Gomes does a fine job of afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted in this eloquent call to look beyond Jesus as personal savior, and to learn from and realize his demanding teachings. Gomes calls for a return to the vigorous, active social gospel exemplified by Martin Luther King Jr. and the Salvation Army, a religion working towards salvation in this world rather than the next, and that finds loving one’s neighbor incompatible with gated communities and a winner- ...more
Feb 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Richard by: Book club at church
Packed with theology from old hymns and quotes from people he likes, this collections of his thoughts from high in his ivory tower at Harvard, this final book from Mr. Gomes tells us where we all got everything wrong.

I should appreciate more a person who has 33 honorary degrees; is an honorary Fellow at Emmanuel College, Cambridge; has a lectureship named for him there; and was minister of Harvard's Memorial Church for over 30 years. He has rubbed elbows with the religious greats of the 20/21st
Grady Ormsby
Feb 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
No finger-wagging, dogmatic pomposity here. Esteemed Harvard minister Peter J. Gomes shares his view of Jesus and the Gospel.

I've often felt that the problem with the Protestant Reformation is that they quit protesting and quit reforming. Now it seems Christianity has crystallized into a narrow, exclusive, moralistic monolith similar the the Roman Catholic Church that was the target of reform.

Gomes offers a refreshing look not at Jesus, but at what Jesus taught. He begins by reminding us that e
Mar 06, 2009 rated it liked it
Gomes is always entertaining... but I don't quite get the point of what he's trying to say with this one. Of course, I chalk it up to the fact that I read such a diff. genre of religious literature these days, and this is unusual for me. But he's got some interesting lines and an interesting forepoint: people need to move beyond their sanctity for Scripture so they can read what it actually says.

Should be a quick read for you genius types... I'm almost done with it myself.

night of 8.7.09:
Ok, upd
Aug 03, 2009 rated it liked it
Re-validates me when I'm feeling oppressed by the "stadium-seating worship arena seating 10,000 people megachurch" Christianity-lite that passes for spirituality in my part of the woods today. "WWJD" if he wandered into one of these corporate churches? He would be appalled. Christianity today has gotten so far removed from Christ that He wouldn't recognize it. "Church" has become synonymous with "entertainment" instead of "spiritual instruction" and Christianity must renew itself with spreading ...more
May 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
This is the first Gomes I've read and I liked it. I'm also reading Shane Claiborne's Irresistable Revolution at the same time and I was struck by how much they had in common. Gomes is more of an older, intellectual version of Claiborne's radical hippy themes. Both talk a lot about how the church has become the defender of the status quo and we've lost sight of the truly radical things the gospel actually calls us to do. I'd like to put Claiborne and Gomes in the same room and just be a fly on th ...more
Wil Roese
Sep 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
By the Gospel, Peter Gomes means the social gossip. The irony is that while he belittles fundamentalist for interpreting the bible literally, he interprets the sayings of Jesus literally to justify his insistence on the social gossip. I felt somewhat embarrassed for Dr. Gomes constant need to drop in stories that happen to show how great he is. He lets us know he meet the Queen Mother, received an honorary degree and mentions his relation to Harvard at least a dozen times. He should take the bes ...more
Joe Henry
Jan 13, 2011 rated it liked it
We read/discussed this in our Sunday School class. It was a good read for me. To me, Gomes stands/writes in the best tradition of the prophets, (probably more “traditional” than I, but…) eloquently and effectively speaking the truth, as he sees it…not one for pulling punches or sugar-coating his analysis.

The book is organized in three parts:
1. The Trouble with the Scripture, where he speaks of “an offending gospel” and the “risks of nonconformity,”
2. The Gospel and the Conventional Wisdom, wher
Paul Dinger
I have to admit that while I didn't follow a lot of his reasoning, I did enjoy the way he wrote it. Gomes has a wonderful, almost sermonesque way of writing that seems so natural and unforced, but you know it wasn't. This is a book about AGAPE which means impossible love. It is at the heart of the social gospel which is what he is concerned with. As a Christian, I did enjoy this book and found a lot of it informative, even challenging. However, it's conclusions were a little too vague. Still, I ...more
Jan 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Conservative Christians may not like what Rev. Gomes is saying (look at what He says and act on it) nor the fact that he's even saying it (he's openly gay). Gomes, a longtime minister and Harvard professor, calls for a return to the social gospel in vogue until the 1970s. ...more
Feb 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
Absolutely, totally brilliant. One of the greatest theologians of our time. However, it can draggg a little in places and get a little impenetrable. However, the quality of ideas and the challenge presented to people of faith is so great it still wins 4 stars from me.
Sep 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book reinforced my Christian beliefs. Gomes wraps up nicely how one can be a social liberal and still be a Christian. I would like to read his other books. Bible scholars will probably not be interested in this book because Gomes does not do an in depth study of scripture.
A reminder that Jesus was a radical who advocated disruptive social change and would be opposed by conservatives if he appeared today. A call to those who claim to be "Christian" to challenge the status quo and stand against injustice. ...more
Ms. S...........
Aug 01, 2011 rated it liked it
Not bad for a Protestant! Gomes remind us that it's all about love...specifically love of neighbor...and don't ask, like the smarty pants in Luke, "...who is my neighbor?" ...its the gay person, the homeless person, the Democrat, the Republican... ...more
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Born May 22, 1942, in Boston, Massachusetts from Cape Verdean parents, Gomes graduated from Bates College in 1965 and Harvard Divinity School in 1968. He also spent time at the University of Cambridge and is now an Honorary Fellow of Emmanuel College, where The Gomes Lectureship is established in his name. Gomes was ordained as an American Baptist minister by the First Baptist Church of Plymouth, ...more

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4 likes · 0 comments
“The question should not be "What would Jesus do?" but rather, more dangerously, "What would Jesus have me do?" The onus is not on Jesus but on us, for Jesus did not come to ask semidivine human beings to do impossible things. He came to ask human beings to live up to their full humanity; he wants us to live in the full implication of our human gifts, and that is far more demanding.” 14 likes
“It is interesting to me to note that those who most frequently call for fair play are those who are advantaged by the play as it currently is, and that only when that position of privilege is endangered are they likely to benefit from the change required to "play by the rules." What if the "rules" are inherently unfair or simply wrong, or a greater good is to be accomplished by changing them? When the gospel says, "The last will be first, and the first will be last," despite the fact it is counterintuitive to our cultural presuppositions, it is invariably good news to those who are last, and at least problematic news to those who see themselves as first.” 8 likes
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