Surprised by Christ – Fr James Bernstein’s search for Truth

Everyone searching for Christ should read this wonderful book. Bernstein is an immensely gifted man with a keen intellect and a profound desire, from early life, for the truth. His writing style is simple and direct. The book is well laid out and touches on many major theological issues. It is very easy to read except perhaps for Chapters 14 and 15 which may have to be taken more slowly (but are an excellent introduction to the theology of the Fall and Salvation). There are many supplementary notes and suggestions for further reading all grouped together at the end, leaving the main text uncluttered.

Bernstein’s life-long journey, starting with his childhood in Queens, New York and surrounded by his devout Jewish family, is beset with setbacks, doubts, difficulties, false moves and misleading dead ends. He encounters many of the seminal social movements of the 20th century – the Holocaust is a vivid memory and antisemitism a daily reality in Queens, his formative years are spent in the atmosphere of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement, and his visit as a student to Israel coincides with the 6-day war. He belongs for a while to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and has to untangle in his mind the differences between their version of the New Testament and that of his Roman Catholic friends. He moves into Evangelical Christianity and does his bit battling against the sex and drugs counterculture in the USA. His final ‘destination’ then, as an Orthodox priest, seems all the more dramatic.

In this astonishing book, ‘cradle’ Orthodox will glimpse the doubts and bewilderment of non-Orthodox Christians, misguided for centuries. Converts to Orthodoxy will find. with real joy, clearly articulated answers to fundamental questions. For non-Orthodox, genuinely prepared to move out of their comfort zone in the search for Christ, this book will be mind-blowing.

Surprised by Christ is available from the book stall in the church.

David Lewis

February 2015

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