Thursday, June 17, 2010
Jesus Manifesto review
Someone mysteriously recommended this blog to the publishers of this book "Jesus Manifesto" by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola for review. I'm glad they did. Like many I am sure, I immediately thought this book was an extension of the website jesusmanifesto.com. It is not. Jesusmanifesto.com is a webzine hosted by Mark Van Steenwyk and THEjesusmanifesto.com is the site for the book. All cleared up? No? Well, you can read the different parties talk about it HERE if you feel the need.
The main idea of Jesus Manifesto is to call the Christian church back to a Christ centered faith. To me, it reads as a reaction to popular trends in christian culture (lowercase "c" is on purpose), the culture of selfish appeal...the "Best Life Now"/"This Is Your Day" kind of christianity as well as the "justice/emergent" trends too. The authors communicate the insufficiency of these schools of thought in and of themselves and call Christians back to Christ as the center of our faith.
Did I like the book? Yes and no.
What did I like? Most of it! This book delivers a clear call to remember Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith. He started it and is still working (alive and real and active in everyday life) to finish it. There are many worthy words in this book that call us back to remember that Jesus is not a dusty, dead man who said wise things but that he is real, alive now and very much at work in the world, at work in us. In it's best passages, this book shows us Jesus. That is a good thing.
I really enjoyed the last few chapters as the writers find their stride. There are many open and freeing ideas about Jesus. And this book did it's work on me. The intention is to help us see Jesus again. To help us remember who this faith is all about. To call us back to our "first love". This book accomplished this goal in me.
This book has great things to say about the communal nature of life in Christ and how simple and beautiful church can be. This book challenged me in the way I perceive my own local church and called me to a deeper commitment to love Christ's body, his people. So, yes, I enjoyed most of it.
A nit picky thing I liked was the quotes from other writers throughout the book in the margins. Many books of this kind have quotes from the book's text highlighted and larger in the margins of the page to bring special emphasis to the point they are trying to make. This usually annoys me because if I read it in the text, why would I care to read it again bigger to the side of the page? It just ends up feeling in the way and a like a way to fill up space to make the book seem bigger. In Jesus Manifesto, the highlighted quotes are not from the text but are from other writers and they add to the point the authors are trying to make. These provided nice little snippets from other viewpoints (even other disciplines like poetry) to chew on.
What didn't I like? Well, up there in my first paragraph, I said that this book reads like a reaction. This bugged me the whole way through. The message can come across defensive and worried. This book's claim is that it wants to call us back to Christ by helping us see him again. Well, ok, do that. Write a book about Jesus. Don't write a book about others that are wrong.
This book critisizes the emergent, missional, and justice ideas circulating out there for missing the point. It asks us to think of our faith more deeply than what works of good we can do in the world. This book cautions against social justice as an emphasis in the church. And in these issues, this book comes across to me like it plays the middle ground. In one sentence it will say that social justice and serving the poor are important but those working for it are missing the point. There's a "yes it's good but..." tone throughout. This gets annoying. The message get convoluted. I don't know why works of justice and mercy in the world can't be seen as expressions of love for Jesus instead of competing with his love. This just doesn't make sense to me.
This book is called "Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ" and I think the name points to a problem. I had no idea that Jesus needs his sovereignty or supremacy restored. So much of western christian culture today is about fearful and reactionary sentiments like this. Like somehow God's throne can be overthrown by a flash in the pan, silly society. It's the language of "we've got to vote God back into office." I don't think he's running. Show us Jesus, guys.
And for the most part, they did. I would recommend reading Jesus Manifesto. I don't think it's important to sign it online or join any movement or the facebook group but as a call to remember Christ, this book has helped me, comforted me and challenged me. I'm glad I read it.
Again, the book's website is here... http://thejesusmanifesto.com
And you can read a bit of it on Amazon HERE.
And you can read Mark Van Steenwyk's review (which I tend to agree with) HERE.