The Searchers: A Quest for Faith in the Valley of Doubt by Joseph Loconte
Drawing on everything from Rembrandt to Thomas Becket, historian Joseph Loconte retells the Emmaus road story with wit, wisdom and insight. As Loconte focuses in on the elements of the story in Luke 24 he writes, “What follows is a layman’s reflection on the meaning of that exchange, a story of hope, despondency, and faith. It is a story latent with insight for the believer, as well as the honest skeptic” (xxiv). Yet, what I thought was most insightful at the beginning of The Searchers is the way Loconte describes the unsettling nature of the story, the way in which the men walking down the road were shaken to the core by the events they had just been a part of.
In the startling passage where Jesus comes up to the men and walks by them, we find a very interesting phrase that Luke records, saying “but they were kept from recognizing him.” Loconte makes a unique point here by writing, “Perhaps we can learn something about the character of God from this encounter, something about his methods with ordinary people like us. He will not coerce us. He does not normally overwhelm our senses” (20). Luther’s famous phrase ‘deus absconditus,’ the hidden God is an appropriate application of this biblical setting on the road to Emmaus. God is knowable, but often he conceals himself for the purpose of disclosing his purposes later. The people on the road to Emmaus were not ready for God to reveal himself but were concerned with other things (22). What was remarkable about this chapter was the way Loconte combines cinematic representations, art and the visions in the Bible to show forth the mystery of God’s presence in specific scenes of life.
In the chapter on The Poison of Religion Loconte is careful to draw out the arguments from Hitchens and others about the poison that religion brings with it. Yet, Loconte is quick to point out that “people of faith also have been great liberators from the forces of tyranny and oppression” (65). Citing Bonhoeffer, Wilberforce and others, Loconte bears witness that the leaders of the day often persecute those who most virulently live out the Christian faith, and consequently, bringing great pain upon themselves. At the end of the chapter Loconte comments on the passage that indicates Jesus as a prophet, one who sentenced to death by the rulers by writing, “How could their spiritual teachers believe they were doing the will of God? It was like condemning goodness itself. Only false religion, poisoned religion, could behave this way” (71). The way of the cross for Jesus was the reverse stature of what many thought a great leader should exhibit.
This book was a great look into the road to Emmaus, with many examples drawn from history, art and theology that bring a greater clarity to this powerful biblical passage in Luke 24. I hope readers find great encouragement as they read through The Searchers.
Thanks to Thomas Nelson and the Book Sneeze program for the review copy in exchange for review.