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
Swimming Against the Current is available from Pacific Press Publishing and at Amazon.com.
Reviewed by Sharon Fujimoto-Johnson
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