I read a lot of books during the year, but there always seems to be one that stands out, that I continue to go back to again and again.
Last year, my favorite read was Samir Selmanovic’s It’s Really All About God: How Islam, Atheism, and Judaism Made Me a Better Christian, which probably had a lot to do with the Ramadan experiment that I conducted in the summer.
This year’s best book came out of nowhere and crashed into my consciousness just a few weeks ago.
I happened to see a chance to get a free book from Christian Alternative, a liberal/radical Christian imprint from John Hunt Publishing on Facebook, in exchange for the promise to review it on Amazon. Out of five or six titles, I noticed one that sounded especially interesting: Fingerprints of Fire, Footprints of Peace: A Spiritual Manifesto from a Jesus Perspective by Noel Moules. I’d never heard of the book or the author.
Fingerprints of Fire is an extremely exciting read, laying out a vision for the authentic Christian life in today’s world. It’s truly the manifesto of one particular man, Noel Moules, a founding member of Anabaptist Network UK and the creator and director of Workshop Programme for Applied Spirituality.
Though the book is fairly compact, it is packed full of biblical quotations, anecdotes from history and personal experience, wisdom from different faith traditions, and theological insights. Even more important, Moules has put his own soul into this book — the words vibrate off the page with energy.
Moules writes of the time that he discovered the Hebrew concept of shalom, or peace, and how it transformed his understanding of the meaning of the scriptures, and of Christianity. He began to see that shalom was the point of Jesus, that shalom is the message of the gospel, and that shalom is the way forward.
Chapters are titled by different names of the Jesus-follower: New Age Traveller, Cosmic Visionary, Shalom Activist, Radical Mystic, Creation Companion, Messianic Anarchist, Values Master, Meekness Zealot, Wisdom Dancer, Subversive Celebrant, Faith Friend, and Childlike Inquisitor.
Moules’ vision of 21st-century Christianity is not so much different from Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Tony Jones, or any other emergent thinker.
Yet it sounds new and refreshing. Perhaps this is because Moules is from the UK; maybe I can hear his accent in his writing!
But it’s more likely because Moules’ voice truly is different and compelling. His book invites the reader into a new kind of life, beckoning us all into a vision of shalom for the world, full of grace and openness. He writes as if this vision is possible, as if we can actually participate in this radical world of peace. In other words, it truly does read like a manifesto. And I want to be a part of it.
Where do I sign, Noel? I’m all in!