My introduction to Brian Zahnd was his book A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor’s Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace. I loved it! The book is a brilliant exposé of the nationalistic idolatry that enslaves so much of Evangelicalism today, and it’s a wonderful examination of nonviolent eschatology and atonement theory. The main place I thought the book fell short was in living up to its subtitle. A Farewell to Mars shows us the before, and it shows us the after, but we don’t get to see any of Brian’s actual “Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace.”
Brian later let me know that the subtitle was not his choice, but that he was in the process of writing a book that actually was about his journey.
Since then, I read (more like devoured) Brian’s Radical Forgiveness: God’s Call to Unconditional Love, and I met him briefly, along with Brad Jersak, at The Beautiful Gospel Conference in Abbotsford, BC. But I was still waiting for that book he mentioned.
Well, Water to Wine: Some of My Story is finally here, and it does not disappoint. Reading this book feels like sitting down with Brian over a cup of coffee and just listening to him share what God has done in his life. I never tire of hearing these journeys, no matter who is telling them, but it’s especially encouraging to hear one that so closely mirrors my own journey.
Brian discusses his exodus from fundamentalism, his embrace of a more ancient faith, his growing awareness of the need for mysticism, his understanding that we need all the different branches of the church. His book resonated with me nearly every step of the way.
Of course there are some differences too. I’ve never been the pastor of a megachurch for one thing, so I can’t know what it’s like to go through these transitions while so many people are depending on me for spiritual leadership. And if Brian and I really were sitting down for coffee right now, there are a few specifics I might push back on here and there. (And Brian, next time your travels bring you near Bellingham, Washington, that coffee is my treat!)
But all in all, I found Water to Wine to be an incredibly refreshing and enjoyable read. It’s exactly what I needed right now to encourage me on the journey I’m on. Thank you, Brian, for taking the time to share some of your story, and thank you as well for sending me your book to review!