I first heard of The Searchers through the recommendation of Eric Metaxas, the author of Bonhoeffer:Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. After reading Metaxas’ book I decided that anything he thought was a good book simply must be worth my time. So I got my hands on a copy of Joseph Loconte’s 2012 book The Searchers.
I must say with absolute conviction this is one of the best books I have read in the past few years. The book is an historical, philosophical, literary, existential, and theological commentary of the tale of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. That’s a lot to take in but don’t let that scare you. The book is easily readable (a hybrid between a fiction narrative and a non-fiction piece of art) by the everyman and deals not with high end arm chair ideas but the every day search for truth which we all experience. Whether you are an arm chair theologian or just the curious reader, I can promise you will find much in this book worthy of your time.
Loconte’s overarching idea is that the two disciples on the road to Emmaus very much represent who we are in our doubt and disillusionment of life. Not that the two disciples are fictitious characters (as many in my own discipline like to suggest) but that the reader finds himself walking on the same road throughout life. Things happen. Expectations and hopes are broken to pieces. Life and God are not always what we thought they would be. Sometimes our hope is crucified.
If you don’t know the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus you will encounter them in the book. Through this ancient story Loconte asks questions about grief, disillusionment, hope, justice, humility, faith, the incarnation, science, myth and much more. Ultimately, he wants to explore what Christianity actually says about finding faith in the moments where we feel all is lost. It is, truly, a book about finding faith in the shadows.
The book succeeds in many ways. One of which is its ability to show that in spite of thousands of years separating us from the ancients, the entire human race experiences the same existential problems and can equally share the same hope. We should not think that we are the only generation that doubts. We should not think we are alone in it. The entire human race knows what it feels like to have hope and faith shattered. It’s a comforting feeling to know that mankind is unified in this experience. And, with that, that we can all equally experience a timeless hope.
It also succeeds in its ability to bring together pop culture and solid scholarly thought. One quickly realizes that whether you’re reading a philosophical tract by St. Ambrose or reading Harry Potter (or more preferably Lord of the Rings) or listening to a U2 song, we are all conveying ideas about the way this world is, our place in it, and how to get by in the midst of let downs and struggles. Different rhetoric, same language. As much as Loconte comes off as an expert in every field of every age, he merely shows an ability to resonate and recognize the homogeneity of the human situation.
If you are a believer or a non-believer, this is a book to check out. It is not preachy. It is not even specifically Christian, though it professes that the Christian story tells our story in the best way. There is hope and faith in the midst of doubt and Loconte’s story is a solid attempt to search it out. Read it.