Archives For Jesus Christ

 

“Have We Radically Misunderstood
What it Means to Follow Jesus?

A review of
The Gospel According to Jesus:
A Faith that Restores All Things.

By Chris Seay.

Reviewed by Adam Ellis.

The Gospel According to Jesus:
A Faith that Restores All Things.

Chris Seay.

Hardback: Thomas Nelson, 2010.

Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

The Gospel According to Jesus - Chris SeayAs much as you can be a “fan” of someone like Chris Seay and his work, I am one.  I really enjoy his easy, almost conversational writing style.  I’m impressed with his ability to exegete theological meaning from various touchpoints of pop-culture, from the Enron scandal to the epic television series “LOST.”  The theology that drives his work (both writing and speaking) somehow comes across as equal parts ancient wisdom and fresh insight.  He almost always manages to be challenging without being condescending;  crazy-smart, yet humble and accessible.  In light of all of this, and given the fact that one of my favorite theological soapboxes has to do with the fact that the Gospel many Christians proclaim seems to have very little to do with anything Jesus said or did (besides dying), it would be an understatement to say that I approached Seay’s new book, “The Gospel According to Jesus” with interest.

What if we who seek to follow Jesus have radically misunderstood some of the most basic aspects of what it means to do so?  Would it get your attention if someone could make a solidly persuasive argument that this is the case?  If so, Seay will have you from the first chapter.  Using research that he apparently commissioned from the Barna Research Group, and solid research regarding the Biblical text and the original languages in which it was written, he makes a solid case that the majority of Western Christians may well be working with a deep misunderstanding of the Biblical concept of “righteousness.” Worse yet, how many of us actually define the concept may often put us at odds with Jesus’s actual agenda.

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“The Fundamentally Local Nature of Theology?

A Review of
The Other Christs:

Imitating Jesus in Ancient Christian Ideologies of Martyrdom
.
By Candida Moss
.

Reviewed by Chris Smith.


The Other Christs:
Imitating Jesus in Ancient Christian Ideologies of Martyrdom
.
Candida Moss
.
Hardback: Oxford UP, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

THE OTHER CHRISTS - Candida MossFor many years now, I have been intrigued by the martyrs of the Early Church era, their faith that did not waiver amidst threats of death and their significance in the life of the Church.  Thus, I was excited when I heard about Oxford University Press’s release of the new book The Other Christs: Imitating Jesus in Ancient Christian Ideologies of Martyrdom by Candida Moss, a professor of theology at Notre Dame.  This new work is a study of the “Acts of the Martyrs,” the mostly extra-canonical accounts of the deaths of the martyrs, and seeks to understand “the presentation of the martyrs in the early church, both the ways that the martyr acts interpret the person and death of Jesus and the manner in which this interpretation can inform our understanding of martyrdom in early Christianity” (vii).  Acknowledging that the act of martyrdom is generally accepted as following in the footsteps of Jesus, she notes that this sort of imitation has yet to be explored in depth, and undertakes to do so in this volume.

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An excerpt from:

The Other Christs:
Imitating Jesus in Ancient Christian Ideologies of Martyrdom
.
Candida Moss.
Hardback: Oxford UP, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Watch for our review next week!

 

“Specific, Strange and Special”

A Review of
Sun of Righteousness, Arise!
God’s Future for Humanity and The Earth.
By Jürgen Moltmann
.

Reviewed by Bob Cornwall.


Sun of Righteousness, Arise!
God’s Future for Humanity and The Earth.
Jürgen Moltmann
.
Paperback: Fortress, 2010.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

Sun of Righteousness, Arise!  Jurgen MoltmannToo often we’re presented with theological “choices” that are either so narrow that they exclude a vast number of those who call themselves Christian, or so broad that there is little substance left.   Jürgen Moltmann walks down a middle path, not too light or too heavy, not to narrow and not so broad as to leave the faith empty.  For many modern Christians, Moltmann has been and continues to be a faithful theological companion, opening new vistas, offering new ways of seeing God and God’s relationship with humanity and the world.  His is a theology that is both evangelical in the truest sense of the word and ecumenical.  It recognizes the suffering present in the world, but it also foresees a time when God will be all in all, so that suffering will be no more.  When a new book emerges from his pen, many gravitate toward it, hoping to find something that will help sustain one’s faith journey.

In The Sun of Righteousness, Arise! Moltmann takes up many of the issues that have been close to his heart over the years – the future of the world, the resurrection of Christ and humanity, justice, the Trinity and creation.  The chapters in this book, seventeen in all, are not original creations; rather this book is a gathering together of lectures, meditations, sermons, and essays that were either presented at the meetings of the Gesellschaft für Evangelische Theologie or published in the journal Evangelische Theologie over the past the past ten years.  They may have previous incarnations, but they are available for the first time in English translation (ably provided by Margaret Kohl).

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A Review of

421311: Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity

By Mark Batterson
Harback: Multnomah, 2009.

Buy now:  [ ChristianBook.com ]

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

Over the last year, Waterbrook Multnomah has released several books that are targeted for evangelical audiences and yet call their readers to depths of faithfulness that go beyond the typical religious understandings of personal piety (I am thinking here especially of Joshua Harris’s Dug Down Deep and David Platt’s Radical).  In this same vein, comes Mark Batterson’s newest book, Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity.  What Batterson undertakes to do in Primal may sound a bit familiar to those who know something of the history of the Christian Church tradition (and the broader Stone-Campbell tradition of churches of which we are part); he poses the question: “[W]hen all the superficialities [that have been building up over two thousand years of Church history] are stripped away, what is the primal essence of Christianity?” (3).  In answer to this question, Batterson offers the “great commandment” of Jesus: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” and one is, of course, hard-pressed to argue with this claim (although, it is striking that this great commandment is severed in Primal from its twin commandment named by Jesus: “Love your  neighbor as you love yourself.”)

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A Review of

838479: The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of Our Calling The Radical Disciple:
Some Neglected Aspects of Our Calling

By John Stott.
Hardback: IVP Books, 2010.


Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

Reviewed by Jeff Romack.


“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.”  (John 13:13; NIV)

About six years ago New York Times Op-Ed Columnist David Brooks wrote of John Stott,

“When you read Stott, you encounter first a tone of voice. Tom Wolfe once noticed that at a certain moment all airline pilots came to speak like Chuck Yeager. The parallel is inexact, but over the years I’ve heard hundreds of evangelicals who sound like Stott.

It is a voice that is friendly, courteous and natural. It is humble and self-critical, but also confident, joyful and optimistic. Stott’s mission is to pierce through all the encrustations and share direct contact with Jesus.  Stott says that the central message of the gospel is not the teachings of Jesus, but Jesus himself, the human/divine figure. He is always bringing people back to the concrete reality of Jesus’ life and sacrifice.” (NYT; 11/30/04)

Later, in that same piece, Brooks went on to lament that the media is actually the reason why so many people are misinformed about evangelical Christians.  When the media puts forth windbags like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as the principal evangelical spokesmen, rather than “real life people of faith” like John Stott, everyone is done a huge disservice.

This is interesting stuff coming from a non-believing Jewish fellow like Brooks. Based on my most recent encounter with John Stott in this his latest and last book, The Radical Disciple, I’d say Brooks got it right.  Of course, Stott found his voice and pen quite some time ago.  Many first learned of the faith and Stott in his classic, Basic Christianity, which has been in print for more than fifty years.  With this most recent effort, we are not surprised to find the writing completely in character with the voice we have come to know and trust.  For me this small new gem is compelling precisely because we know that Stott ventures to write only of that which he has personally taken onboard. The so-called neglected aspects of the disciple’s calling have very clearly not been neglected by this real life man of faith and for this reason he has our respect and attention.

In his preface to, The Radical Disciple, Stott explains the thinking behind the book’s title.  He observes that there are different levels of commitment among Christians.  In saying this Stott is being descriptive, not prescriptive.  The difference lies, he says, in one’s being selective as to which areas one will actually follow Christ.  The radical disciple is one that recognizes that Jesus is Lord and he or she, the disciple, is not.  The radical disciple, therefore, relinquishes all selectivity based on personal preference.

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A Brief Review of

946011: Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and  Sovereignty of Jesus Christ Jesus Manifesto:
Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ

By Leonard Sweet & Frank Viola

Hardback: Thomas Nelson, 2010.

Buy now:  [ ChristianBook.com ]

Reviewed by Jeff Rhodes.

“The gospel that’s so often preached today lacks a revelation of Jesus Christ. The contemporary gospel boils down to a fire-insurance policy, a Santa Claus God, or a performance-based religion. As long as we stay on that plane, we’ll never see or comprehend the staggering enormity of our Lord.”

Frank Viola and Len Sweet have combined their writing prowess to form one of the most powerful pieces of Christian literature of our generation. Jesus Manifesto is a no-holds-barred examination of the Bible’s infatuation with Jesus Christ. Viola and Sweet articulate the awe-inspiring truth that the Old Testament is taken up with Jesus Christ; the New Testament is taken up with Jesus Christ; Paul was taken up with Jesus Christ; the Apostle’s “doctrine” was taken up with Jesus Christ; the Father was taken up with Jesus Christ; the Holy Spirit was taken up with Jesus Christ; the early church was taken up with Jesus Christ; and throughout the last 2000+ years, whenever a serious refocus of God’s people occurred, they were taken up with a fresh revelation of the supremacy of Jesus Christ. From the Creation narrative, to the summation of all things in the last two chapters of Revelation, Jesus Christ is the One through whom all things were made and the One in whom all things will be consummated. He is the Alpha and Omega.

Viola and Sweet illustrate Jesus to be the aperture through which the light of the Godhead is focused, harnessed, and glaringly intensified. They take time to develop the truth that Truth is not a statement, religion, system, buildings, or any other man-made initiative; but rather Truth is a person, the person of Jesus. They laboriously insist the gospel is not merely social activism, moral objectivity, or a system through which to make the world a better place. Instead the gospel is nothing short of a monumental unveiling of Jesus Christ in all His mercy, love, compassion, grace, wisdom, and grandeur. The gospel is both death and life. It marks the beginning of a new race, a new humanity that never existed before Jesus Christ’s atoning work on the Cross. Jesus is the gospel! Furthermore, according to Viola and Sweet, the Bible never advocates just the following of Jesus’ sayings or teachings. Rather, Jesus said, “Follow me.” This distinction separates Christianity from all other religious systems whose leaders are dead and cannot be followed.

If you’ve never glimpsed the “sight of peerless worth,” you’re in for a jaw-dropping, breath-taking, whirlwind of emotions and spiritual advancement as you journey through this masterfully written work of art. Jesus exudes its pages. No other agenda outside of exalting the Exalted Christ is at hand. Though this book may be an affront to modern religionist ideologies of social justice, doctrinal creeds, health-and-wealth purveyors, and many other religious institutions of thought, Viola and Sweet make one thing clear: Christianity is NOT about us, but is totally about Him who is all and fills all, the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

“Doing Jesus”

A Review of
Jesus Freak:
Feeding – Healing – Raising the Dead

Sara Miles

Reviewed by Margaret D. McGee.
[ InTheCourtyard.com ]

Jesus Freak:
Feeding – Healing – Raising the Dead
Sara Miles.
Hardcover: Jossey-Bass, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Jesus Freak - Sara Miles This book is a blast – a blast of gospel strong enough to whirl its readers around and send them striding off in a new direction. In Jesus Freak, Sara Miles strips the good news of Jesus down to its essence and shares it in story after story. She tells of ordinary people doing extraordinary things when the walls between “us” (responsible folk trying to save the world) and “them” (recipients of our good deeds) come tumbling down. In the kingdom of God where Miles works and prays, anybody can get saved, because the Savior lives in everybody.

“Well, of course,” I hear my friends at church say. “Jesus taught that the good we do for others in the world is really done for Him. As Christians, we are supposed to treat everyone we meet as we would treat Christ. What’s new about that?”

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A Review of

292500: Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide? (Cause I Need More Room for My Plasma TV) Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide?
(Cause I Need More Room for My Plasma TV)
By Karen Spears Zacharias

Hardback: Zondervan, 2010.

Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

Reviewed by Michelle Van Loon.

Sing it with me: They will know we are Christians by our stuff, success, and status.

Isn’t that how the song goes?

We know the Bible says a whole bunch of uncomfortable stuff about denying oneself, picking up the cross and suffering for the gospel. This message is a hard sell in our culture. (Come to think of it, it’s been a hard sell in most every culture.)  But, here in America as Karen Spears Zacharias notes in Will Jesus Buy Me A Double-Wide?, “…there are a lot of folks prancing around treating the Bible like an algebra book and God like their personal banker. They figure if they can do the equation just right, they’ll earn God’s approval and he’ll hand over the keys to the great vault of heaven. Then the abundant life mentioned in John 10:10 will finally be theirs.”

This greedy thinking is not the sole domain of shiny televangelists, notes Zacharias. It is deeply rooted in churches of all theological stripes and polka dots. She uses her reporter’s skill and her unique, Southern-fried writer’s voice to tell stories, 19 short chapters’ worth. The stories are meant to illustrate both the problems with prosperity thinking and to crank open our imaginations to the “follow Me” life to which Jesus is calling us.

Few of the people Zacharias profiles are famous, unless you count Patricia Barnes, better known as the Sister Schubert of homemade frozen roll renown. Most are people like The Marine, a guy who slowly backed away from his shiny, upwardly-mobile existence in order to live with the homeless in Memphis with the desire to simply provide practical help: sitting with one friend in the hospital ER, hooking up another friend with a pair of steel-toed boots in order to snag a better paying day labor job.

Reflecting on The Marine’s way of life, she writes, “A lot of us want to help the poor on our own terms. We want to give them a house in the burbs and a big-screen plasma TV because we believe that is the American Dream…we treat people like they are paper dolls. We want to paste cut-out clothes and shoes and display them on our refrigerator doors…It never occurs to us that these people aren’t lost. They are just poor.”

Zacharias’ masterful way with a tale does more to whack at the over-inflated piñata of our wrong-headed belief than a theological treatise ever will. We diminish grace by our insistence that our “faithfulness” be rewarded with lovely parting gifts. The book tackles stinkin’ thinkin’ without shaming or hectoring its readers. Instead, Will Jesus Buy Me A Double-Wide? is a thought-provoking – and, dare I say it? – a rich read for anyone who is trying to understand what it means to walk in the way of Jesus.