Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Book Notes: Jesus Manifesto (4/5)

Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola have teamed up to write a new book about Jesus Christ.  Their work is an attempt to call the Christian community back to a exalted view of Jesus as all in all and to correct the Christian community for all the other pursuits that we have made primary over the years.  In many ways, their words are encouraging and powerful as they stirred my heart to reconsider my devotion to and connection with Christ.  In other ways, their book felt uneven (co-authorship can do that) and unnecessarily polemical (attempting to refute those who emphasize other things in their preaching and teaching).  I would have enjoyed their exalted vision of Jesus more had they not repeatedly attempted to correct the teaching of others.

As a guy who attempts to preach Christ in all that he does, I was saying "amen" to many passages in the book.  All of us can be reductionistic in our teaching (trying to say that all we need to teach is ______), and the Jesus Manifesto says that if we are going to be reductionistic in anything, it should be toward Christ.  The Scriptures do say that He is all in all, so we have justification for putting our whole attention and devotion and affection on Him.  However, Sweet and Viola don't go to the next step (which I understand is not the focus of their book) and show how an all-consuming devotion and love for Christ then impacts all the different areas of my life.  In other words, if we are not going to preach legalism or moralism or social justice or mission, then we need to show people how a passionate walk with Jesus produces morality and justice and evangelism.

Overall, this book is an attempt at a modern-day updated Christology.  How do we talk about Jesus in today's language so that we are faithful to the Bible and yet also help introduce people in our day to meet with the living Christ?  Sweet and Viola make a strong case against dry doctrinalism (just talking about Jesus instead of talking to Him), and yet their book is a doctrinal book - making the case for the biblical view of Jesus in all of His glory.  I think this is needed - I just wish they had not dogged the doctrine of Christ as less important than knowing Christ.  They are equally important.  Most cults in our culture today speak of Jesus and their relationship with Him, but they are not talking about the Jesus I know and meet with every day.  They are making Jesus in their own image, according to their own doctrine.  In order for our worship and devotion and love of Christ to not lead us into the ditch (to use the authors' language), we have to make sure that we are worshiping and loving the true Christ.  I'm afraid that most people in my generation use the name Jesus without any idea who they are talking to.

All this being said, I do want to sincerely thank Sweet and Viola for calling us back to the center of all things - Jesus Christ.  My heart is stirred to love Him more and to allow Him to live fully through me.

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