Tag Archives: gregory boyd

Q&A with Pastor Greg Boyd, Part III


Greg Boyd is co-founder of Woodland Hills Church, an evangelical fellowship in St. Paul. He is also president of ReKnew.org. Greg is a pastor, theologian, and author of more than a dozen academic and popular books.

I have been personally challenged, encouraged, and inspired by Greg’s work for many years now. So, I asked Greg if he would share his Kingdom vision with my readers. He was gracious enough to answer some of my questions about his ministry at Woodland Hills and talk about his upcoming books.

It’s my desire that you will find Greg’s ministry intellectually honest and spiritually refreshing in today’s fractured and dry evangelicalism.

Did you read Q&A with Pastor Greg Boyd, Part I and Part II?

This is the final installment in a three-part interview.

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Greg, before your massive Crucifixion of the Warrior God with IVP comes out, I’m told you have another smaller worker coming out with Baker called Benefit of the Doubt: Dismantling the Idol of Certainty.

What is the release date for this book?

Greg: I believe it’s scheduled for Spring of 2013.

What led you to write this book?

Greg: A number of factors led me to write this book. First, I find that most people today hold to a concept of faith that assumes that a person’s faith is as strong as they are certain and free of doubt.

So in this model, certainty is a supreme virtue and doubt is the enemy. This prevalent model is wreaking havoc with people’s heads and with the church!

For example, several months ago a lady came up to me after church and told me that, while she loves Jesus and believes the Bible is the Word of God, she struggles with some of its violent stories. They don’t seem to be something God would inspire. She was worried that her doubts were causing her to lose her salvation.

I met a couple last year who wondered if the reason their daughter wasn’t healed was because they “lacked faith” when they prayed — meaning, they couldn’t make themselves certain their daughter would for sure be healed when they prayed. Think what a burden that would be to carry around!

This idea that your faith is as strong as you are free of doubt is a form of psychological torture for some people!

On top of this, this model of faith encourages people to TRY to make themselves certain and to TRY not to doubt, which in turn creates a culture of closed-minded people who view challenges to their faith as threats and who are afraid of reading books or listening to speakers who might challenge their views. (With heaven and hell riding on how certain you remain, why would you risk being open-minded?).

I’m convinced this is one of the reasons Barna’s research shows that Evangelicals have a reputation for being intolerant and ignorant.

Another negative aspect of the equation of faith with feeling certain is that it presupposes a strange, if not malevolent, picture of God. I have always wondered what it was about “faith” (understood as striving for certainty) that made God value it so highly.

Why would God leverage salvation or a daughter’s healing on the degree to which a person can convince him or herself that something is true? What is virtuous about this? In fact, what is rational about this, for rational people usually allow the strength of evidence and the persuasiveness of arguments determine their degree of certainty for a particular belief?

The ability to make yourself feel certain about a belief for which there is insufficient evidence and argumentation is an ability that simple people and delusional people tend to possess while people who are rational or naturally skeptical tend to lack. This difference is natural because people simply possess different sorts of minds.

But why would God leverage everything in favor of simple and delusional people and be so prejudiced against grounded, inquisitive or skeptical people? And what kind of God would put parents in a position where the fate of their daughter is dependent on how certain they can make themselves feel that their daughter will be healed? It’s cruel!

Over the years I have grown increasingly suspicious that there was something “off” with this wide-spread model of faith. And my research over the years increasingly confirmed my suspicion.

As I argue in Benefit of the Doubt, the contemporary model of faith is very different from the way Scripture understands faith.

The modern concept of faith is a PSYCHOLOGICAL concept, while the biblical model is COVENANTAL.

Faith in Scripture isn’t about striving for certainty: it’s about being willing to commit to a course of action — to a way of living — in the face of uncertainty. And while the modern concept makes people run away from doubt, the biblical model encourages us to embrace it.

Another thing that motivated me to write this book is that I’m deeply grieved by the astounding number of young people — especially college kids —  who are walking away from the faith because they become convinced that it is no longer tenable.

So far as I can see, the main reason this is happening is that young Evangelicals are taught to embrace their faith as a sort of “package deal.” To be a Christian means you have to hold a an assortment of different beliefs, as though each were equally important.

I call this way of embracing faith a “house of cards” model of theology. If one card gets knocked out, the whole edifice of faith comes crashing down.

This model was tenable in the past when a Christian could live most of their life and never confront sincere and informed people of other faiths or never have to confront serious objections to their faith. But it is no longer tenable in the world we live in today, a world that is much smaller, much more complex and much more ambiguous than the world people lived in up until fifty to a hundred years ago.

This is why the “house of cards” theology forces many to leave the faith.

I had a discussion on a plane with a guy several months ago who told me he was forced to conclude Christianity wasn’t true while taking a course on the Bible in a secular university. A book he was assigned to read presented archeological evidence that convinced him the story of God’s people conquering the promised land was not historical.

I asked him, “Why on earth did you reject a relationship with Jesus because of that?” His response was that he had always assumed that believing every story in Scripture was divinely inspired and historically accurate was simply part of what it meant to be a Christian.

I include a lot of personal stories in Benefit of the Doubt, one of which is my loss of faith in college. I had the same “house of cards” experience as this man. According to the teaching I’d been given in the Pentecostal Church I was “saved” in,  the first two chapters of Genesis had to be scientifically accurate or, as one preacher put it, the whole Bible is a book of lies.

Unfortunately, my first course in college was a class on evolutionary biology. I fought hard to defend my faith by reading every book I could find on creationism, but it wasn’t long before I felt I had no choice but to concede there was at least some truth to the theory of evolution.

Consequently, I rejected the Christian faith and thereby embarked on the most existentially excruciating year of my life before I began to slowly work my way back into a much less rigid form of Christianity.

In Benefit of the Doubt, I offer people an alternative to the “house of cards” way of embracing faith. It’s a flexible model in which (among other things) our faith isn’t leveraged on the historicity of every particular story, or any particular story of the Bible.

In fact, in the model I propose, the intellectual foundation of our faith isn’t rooted in Scripture, but in the historical Jesus, based on what I believe are strong historical-critical considerations.

Hence, in the model I propose, one can feel comfortable entertaining doubts about every belief they have, so long as they are sufficiently convinced of the Lordship of Christ (based on considerations I prove in the book) to commit to acting in a certain way – viz. to living as though Jesus is Lord, which includes cultivating a relationship with him.

How is this book on faith and doubt different from other books on the subject?

Greg: At the risk of sounding immodest, I believe there are four things that sets Benefit of the Doubt apart from other books that address faith and doubt.

  1. Benefit of the Doubt exposes the unbiblical, irrational and idolatrous nature of the certainty-seeking faith that most people embrace today in a way that has not been done before.
  2. I am not aware of any book that fleshes out the biblical nature of faith the way I do in Benefit of the Doubt.
  3. This book is very unique in the way it empowers readers to cultivate an intellectually grounded, confident, vibrant relationship with Christ while embracing doubt about any number of beliefs.
  4. And finally, not only does Benefit of the Doubt help readers not be afraid of doubt; it empowers them to see how doubt can and should play a positive role in their life.

David: You have recently presented the basic message of this book to Woodland Hills as you finished the first draft.

How have the folks at Woodland Hills responded to this message?

Greg: The feedback I’ve gotten from both the attenders and the podritioners (our 10-15,000 weekly podcasters) of Woodland Hills Church has been simply overwhelming. Many have found my way of reframing faith and doubt to be absolutely liberating.

In fact, I’ve had a dozen or so people tell me that the way of embracing faith that I propose has been a life-line that has kept them from losing their faith.

From the feedback I’ve received, it seems the most important distinctive of my approach has been the way it shifts the intellectual foundation of the faith from the Bible to the historical Jesus.

I encourage people to not believe in Jesus because they believe in the Bible, but to believe in the Bible because they believe in Jesus.

In my view, the Bible is inspired to serve as the foundation for what we believe, but it was never intended to be the foundation for why we believe.

In my view, the Bible is far too vulnerable to serve as this foundation. That is, there are far too many problematic aspects to Scripture to make our faith dependent on this book.

It should never be the case that a person’s faith hangs in the balance on whether or not (for example) the conquest narratives are anchored in history, or whether or not the story about Samson is historical or legend (or a thousand other disputed aspects of Scripture).

By contrast, the case for believing that the historical Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God is very compelling (on this issue, see P. Eddy, G. Boyd, The Jesus Legend [Baker, 2007).

When a person’s faith depends on Scripture, every one of Scriptures problematic features becomes all-important and the foundation of their faith is constantly vulnerable as a result.

But when a person’s faith depends only on the historical Jesus, the problematic aspects of Scripture become irrelevant.

From the feedback I’ve gotten, this has been the most liberating aspect of my model of faith. My prayer is that many others will find that Benefit of the Doubt helps them cultivate a vibrant, Christ-centered faith in our increasing complex, ambiguous and doubt-filled world.

David: Thanks, Greg! I appreciate you taking the time to share.

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If you would like to hear more from Greg Boyd, check out his website & blog and sermons! Interested in his books? See his collection of academic and popular writings at Amazon. Thanks for reading!

D.D. Flowers, 2012.


Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up? Part I

Many evangelicals are drunk on the spirit of the political age. We are often guilty of joining with the crowd that is fear mongering, demonizing people that disagree with us, and misrepresenting the positions of others in the process. We jump to conclusions and often assume the very worst about people, even those in the church.

This is hardly reflective of the suffering servant from Nazareth.

Unfortunately, many evangelical pastors and teachers have become spiritual demagogues for their own ministries, denominations, and causes. Just how bad is it? Well, some believe that ecumenicism is the work of devil worshipping liberals, yet legalism and spiritual narcissism is accepted as the true work of God. I think it’s satanic at the core.

I don’t know how else to put it. It’s evil masked as piety. It’s Pharisaism posing as God’s righteousness.

Ironically, mis-information is rampant in this great age of mass-information. While we have more access to learning than ever before in the history of the world, we’re actually getting dumber it seems.

What is happening? I think it has something to do with our inability to think critically and discern truth from error in a flood of ideas that challenge us, even causing us to doubt our faith.

We feel the world is threatening us so we retreat into an anti-intellectual spirituality, dig our heels into what we believe to be true, and speak loudly to all those who challenge our worldview.

This prompts some folks to believe everything coming from sensationalist media, and from their leaders who they have allowed to think for them. Can we do anything to correct this problem?

I think so. But first we’re going to have to address this judgmental spirit at work among us.

You Godless Liberal!

Let’s start with a verse that’s often proof-texted as “biblical” support for furthering your own personal agenda and pet doctrines. There are many others, but I’ll just address this one.

I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.  Romans 16:17 (NIV)

I don’t agree with the way this verse and several others from Paul have been used by many evangelical pastors and teachers to condemn others in the Body of Christ as false teachers and heretics (e.g. 1 Tim 1:3; 2 Tim 2:14-16, 2 Pet 2:1-3, etc). Let me tell you why.

The fact of the matter is that Rom 16:17 can be used and has been used to oppose anyone who believes or teaches anything we’ve never heard of or don’t agree with—which is often called “liberal” by those who feel it threatens the foundations of their faith.

What I have found is that most of these folks simply haven’t been exposed to anything other than what their denomination or tradition has taught them to believe, or they have been taught to shun everything that the “gatekeepers” of orthodoxy have told them to shun.

Of course they may just haven’t learned to think for themselves. If that’s not it, they may have the spirit of the heresy hunter.

What kind of person qualifies as a heresy hunter?

If you have a heightened sensitivity to anything that makes you theologically uncomfortable and compels you to hunt down and destroy all who you perceive to be theological terrorists, then you might be a heresy hunter.

I have done it. And I’ve had it done to me. It’s no fun.

It’s this sort of reaction by fundamentalist thinkers who are perpetuating division and causing quarrels in the church today. It’s not people like Rob Bell, Peter Enns, or the “open” scary-theist Greg Boyd that are the real source of division. It’s those who have verbally lynched them.

And while I don’t always agree with the seemingly forever-emerging Brian McLaren, I don’t even see him as a “threat” to our faith. No matter how much your pulpit-pounding preacher says these things with conviction, as we say in Texas, they just ain’t so.

The Gallows of Social Networking

The time it once took for papal bulls, church edicts, and the Baptist Standard to be sent out and circulated, in order to condemn so-called heretics, has now been expedited to the speed of Twitter and Facebook.

Exhibit A: John Piper’s tweet “Farewell, Rob Bell” in response to Bell’s book Love Wins—which sparked debate and an outcry by many evangelicals against our brother, Rob.

In the end, Piper’s tweet only helped Rob publish more books. It was quite the marketing strategy. But it also proved just how unloving and reactionary some have become in the church.

I know something similar has happened to my good friend, Frank Viola. His book, Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices (co-authored with George Barna), was the most despised book never read.

And just recently we have seen a backlash against missional church leader Alan Hirsch because of his book, The Permanent Revolution.

We don’t need to burn folks at the stake anymore… we have social networking.

What in tarnation is going on? Is this the Body of Christ? It’s time we rethink our use of social networking, and think about the serious consequences of posting everything we think or feel before having time to process things and respond in a way that honors the Lord.

I know that my record is not flawless in this area, but I’m determined to be more responsible with how I challenge others to think and respond to our neighbors and our enemies. I believe in being intentionally provocative, but there’s no excuse for ugliness in Jesus’ name.

Misjudging People as Heretics

Before we look at what the NT actually says about how to spot false teachers and heretics, let’s first look at a few faulty assumptions made about them in the church today.

Assumption #1: Anyone causing division might be a heretic.

Many Christians think that anyone bringing a teaching that causes division in the church is a sign of heresy or a false teacher at work. That could be the case, but usually it isn’t. It’s important to remember that all of the prophets, including Jesus and the apostles, caused division with their teachings.

Jesus was almost thrown off a cliff in his hometown! Religious folks were always plotting to kill him. In fact, Jesus’ own family thought he had lost his mind and was only stirring up trouble (Mk 3:20-21).

Look at the apostle Paul. Paul brought division in the Jerusalem church over the requirements (or lack thereof) for Gentiles becoming Christians. And some Jewish “super apostles” never gave up trying to undermine his Gentile ministry while he was alive (2 Cor 11:5; 12:11).

It seems clear to me that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was the heresy hunters who opposed him at every turn (2 Cor 12:7). Notice that he mentions the thorn in the context of these zealous Judaizers. So, division isn’t always a sign of a false teacher. Take it from Jesus and Paul.

Instead, the problem of division that we have today is mainly caused by heresy hunters and those screaming “witch” or “liberal” at every book published that doesn’t line up with their own theological opinions.

Assumption #2: Anyone who doesn’t agree with my favorite Bible teacher is probably a heretic.

“Well, you can believe what you want, but John MacArthur thinks you’re a heretic.” While I haven’t actually had someone say these exact words to my face, it has been insinuated many times over.

Just plug in the name of your favorite teacher and you get the gist of what I’m saying. “John Piper says…” or “Matt Chandler says…” or “My mamma says…” We should never think that any pastor, teacher, or family member has the cutting edge on truth. Never ever.

Of course there is rarely any consistency with those who herald one man, or a group of like-minded men, as the dispenser(s) of truth—which creates an unhealthy commitment to them, and causes us to look suspiciously at others who don’t fit in our group.

I once reminded someone that John MacArthur, whom they believed was a defender of orthodoxy, didn’t believe in telling people to “tithe” the OT temple tax. Needless to say, they didn’t take that too well since they adamantly believed that God would not bless you unless you gave 10% to the church—a teaching not found anywhere in the NT or practiced in the early church. (See 2 Corinthians 9 for NT-styled giving.)

And I’ll never forget hearing Ravi Zacharias bash Brian McLaren’s book The Secret Message of Jesus on a panel of conservative preachers (including Al Mohler) expressing their disdain for the emerging/emergent church. Zacharias admitted that he had not read the book personally. He merely criticized the book because of its title.

John Piper has done this sort of thing too.

Since I had read the book, I knew that McLaren was referring to what is known as the “Messianic Secret” among scholars. I have heard the same message in McLaren’s book preached in pulpits everywhere.

Clearly we are guilty of throwing people under the bus before giving them a fair trial. Who does that sound like? Ever heard of the Sanhedrin?

So, just because your favorite Bible teacher or someone you greatly admire believes something doesn’t necessarily make it so. Go to the source, consider the word of other Christian leaders, and think for yourself. Nobody has all perfect wisdom and knowledge except for the Lord Jesus.

Assumption #3: Those who disagree with the majority of pastors, scholars, and teachers are heretics of the worst kind.

This last assumption I would like to address may be the most common. On the surface this charge appears reasonable. However, we need to seriously consider whether or not judging truth based on the “majority” is more American and democratic than it is biblical.

When I was in college I remember regularly listening to a Christian radio program on the way to school. One day I heard them say that Hank Hanegraaff would no longer be played on their radio station because he disagreed with pre-tribulation rapture theology. The host said, “We just refuse to believe that Hank is right and everyone else (conservative preachers) is wrong.”

You guessed it. I never listened to that radio station again.

That’s terrible reasoning. Mainstream biblical scholarship rejects Left Behind eschatology, but who really cares when the majority of our favorite teachers say something different. Seriously?

There are tons of biblical examples that overturn this sort of reasoning. In Noah’s day the majority would soon take their chances with sin and rebellion than listen to news of a great coming flood.

The majority at Sodom and Gomorrah chose to ignore the outstretched arm of Yahweh to save them from their sins of greed, idolatry, and sexual immorality (Gen 19). Want to join the Sodom majority?

I’d say a lot of American Christians are committing the real sins of Sodom (see Ezek 16:47-49). So much for singling out homosexuality as the most detestable sin on the planet.

Jeremiah preached for 40 years without a single convert! All of the people believed the rest of the king’s prophets, not Jeremiah. They threw the lone voice in a dungeon, saying that he was a false prophet and a heretic.

In fact, most of the prophets were eccentric loners who were perceived as rabble-rousers and disturbers of the peace. They rattled the cages of the religious elite, and it ticked them off.

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.  Jesus, Matt 23:37

Do you really want to believe the majority? The majority killed Christ. They distorted his message, they trapped him, and they brutally murdered him. Jesus challenged their safe, traditional interpretations of Scripture and their way of life, and they crucified him for it.

Follow the Lord, not the majority. The majority is not always right.

Who are the real heretics and who are true teachers of the Lord? In the next post (Part II) I will outline what I believe to be the criteria for discerning false teachers from faithful followers of Christ.

Can you think of other faulty assumptions people make when discerning truth from error? What do you make of the name-calling and finger pointing in the church today? What can we do to reverse this satanic practice of judging others in the Body of Christ?

D.D. Flowers, 2012.


Vision for 21st Century Evangelicalism, Book Four

Gregory Boyd is the founder and senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is also the founder and president of Christus Victor Ministries, currently undergoing a transformation.

ReKnew.org will be launched on June 30th.

For sixteen years Boyd taught theology at Bethel College in St. Paul. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Yale Divinity School, and Princeton Theological Seminary. He has authored or coauthored over twenty books.

In 2010, Boyd was listed as one of the twenty most influential Christian scholars alive today.

In April 2004—an election year—Boyd preached a sermon series entitled The Cross and the Sword, which addressed the Christian’s call to love one’s enemies and to give exclusive allegiance to Christ and his kingdom.

As a consequence of challenging the highly politicized American evangelicalism, refusing to promote certain political agendas from the pulpit, and for preaching a radical non-violent commitment to Christ, Boyd lost about 20% of his congregation. Those who left Woodland Hills were later replaced with others who agreed with his vision.

From Boyd’s controversial sermon series came the book, The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church (Zondervan 2006). This book got Boyd a front-page New York Times profile in July 2006. He was also featured in CNN’s 2007 religious special, “God’s Warriors.” And an interview with Charlie Rose about the book.

I read the book when it was first published. It has not only been one of the most influential books in my life, a milestone in my personal thought, I believe it offers the clarity of vision evangelicalism needs right now—especially this election year.

Here are the contents of the book:

  1. The Kingdom of the Sword
  2. The Kingdom of the Cross
  3. Keeping the Kingdom Holy
  4. From Resident Aliens to Conquering Warlords
  5. Taking America Back for God
  6. The Myth of a Christian Nation
  7. When Chief Sinners Become Moral Guardians
  8. One Nation Under God?
  9. Christians and Violence: Confronting the Tough Questions

Boyd says, “My Thesis, which caused such an uproar, is this: I believe a significant segment of American evangelicalism is guilty of nationalistic and political idolatry.” Boyd believes evangelicals have fused their faith with certain political ideologies. Something Jesus never did.

“For some evangelicals, the kingdom of God is largely about, if not centered on, “taking America back for God,” voting for the Christian candidate, outlawing abortion, outlawing gay marriage, winning the culture war, defending political freedom at home and abroad, keeping the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, fighting for prayer in the public schools and at public events, and fighting to display the Ten Commandments in government buildings” (p.11).

Boyd dismantles the myth that America is a Christian nation, claiming that the myth “blinds us to the way in which our most basic and most cherished cultural assumptions are diametrically opposed to the kingdom way of life taught by Jesus and his disciples.”

He says that this myth “clouds our vision of God’s distinctly beautiful kingdom” and “harms the church’s primary mission” in the world. He believes that the American flag has “smothered the glory of the cross.”

Boyd contrasts the different versions of the “power over” kingdom of the world with that of the “power under” kingdom of God. “Allegiance to the kingdom of God,” Boyd says, “ is confused with allegiance to America, and lives that are called to be spent serving others are spent trying to gain power over others.”

What is the role of the government until Christ comes? How ought the Christian relate to politics and still carry out Christ’s commission? Boyd persuasively addresses these questions and much more—expositing the words of Christ and the teachings of the apostles in fresh relevant ways.

He even deals with common objections: “What about self-defense?” and “What about Christians in the military?” or “Don’t your views lead to passivity?”

Boyd writes, “Jesus’ teachings aren’t a set of pacifistic laws people are to merely obey, however unnatural and immoral they seem. Rather, his teachings are descriptions of what life in God’s domain looks like and prescriptions for how we are to cultivate this alternative form of life.”

While Jesus acknowledged political realities, he refused to invest his hopes and energies in politics as a solution to the world’s problems. In an examination of moments drawn from history and our own day, Boyd shows that whenever the church is co-opted by politics, we are seen as self-righteous jerks rather than God’s loving servants.

This needlessly turns people away from Christ.

Boyd is tirelessly working to cast a new vision, which is really an old vision, for evangelical Christians who have lost sight of the gospel. It’s time to abandon the quest for political power and begin living out the beautiful kingdom that Christ began with his life and ministry.

D.D. Flowers, 2012.

* Read the final post: Vision for 21st Century Evangelicalism, Book Five


Vision for 21st Century Evangelicalism, Book Three

There is a great deal of talk about Jesus within evangelicalism today, but oddly enough the church has lost sight of who Christ is and what it means to make him the center of our lives. I’m confident that the third book that every evangelical needs to read for a fresh vision is the book, Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ (June, 2010).

Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola combine their voices to trumpet a resounding reminder that we never “graduate beyond Christ” in the Christian faith. And Christ isn’t found only in the center of things, but along the “corners and on the edges” as well.

Leonard Sweet occupies the Chair of Evangelism at Drew University in New Jersey and contributes weekly to http://www.sermons.com and a podcast, “Napkin Scribbles.” He has authored numerous articles, sermons, and forty books.

Frank Viola is a best-selling author, international conference speaker, and a personal friend. Some of his books include Pagan Christianity?, Finding Organic Church, Reimagining Church, The Untold Story of the New Testament Church, and the best-selling From Eternity to Here.

Sweet and Viola believe we have created a “narcissistic” and a “best-seller” Christianity which is “self-centeredness wrapped up as ‘spirituality,’ which has become the latest fashion accessory for the person who has everything” (p. 100).

As I look across the present post-modern landscape of Christianity, I see several camps of believers pushing their way through the crowd to stand on the rooftop of evangelicalism with their megaphone in hand (i.e. books, magazines, blogs, etc.) proclaiming a gospel tailored to fit their own tradition. And you dare not challenge that tradition!

There are several current groups and “movements” that are all trying to highlight the neglected sides of historic and “traditional” Christianity. We have the reformed “defenders of orthodoxy,” the emerging brand, the missional-minded, and the organic house church folk, just to name a few.

I do believe that most of the people in these groups truly love the Lord and his church, but many of them are in danger of becoming preoccupied with some thing else other than Christ.

There is indeed much to be disheartened with in Christianity today. Yet, there is a growing number of evangelicals that are discovering that pop-culture Christianity is leaving them high and dry. “Whether they realize it or not,” says Sweet and Viola, “people are looking for a fresh alternative—a third way” (p. xiii).

Sweet and Viola believe there are three features present in every spiritual awakening in the Christian church: (1) a rediscovery of the “living Word,” or the Scriptures and its authority; (2) a rediscovery of the living Christ and His supremacy; and (3) a rediscovery of the living Spirit and the Spirit’s gifts and power to manifest Christ in the context of that culture.  (p. xvii)

We’re living in some hot times economically, politically, and socially. Christians are engaging in an exchange of ideas (not without some name-calling and finger-pointing). It’s evident that even those who have been the most outspoken for the “supremacy of Christ” and right “doctrine” have succumbed to rhetorically burning people at the stake in the name of Jesus.

Where is Christ in word and deed? Sweet and Viola write, “Whatever you are occupied with comes out of your mouth. It’s what you talk about most of the time” (p.19).

And we should not just be hearers of Jesus only, but doers of him.

Is “mission” our center? Is it community? Maybe discipleship? Some say it’s preaching and others say it’s ministry. If we say that Christ is central and supreme, what does that mean concerning justice? What does his universe look like when we are first seeking Christ and his kingdom?

When Christ is not central and supreme in our lives, everything about life shifts out of orbit and moves out of kilter. So for Christians, our first task is to know Jesus. And out of that knowing, we will come to love Him, adore Him, proclaim Him, and manifest Him. (p. 2)

That’s why this book has been written. It addresses the present challenges we face as many “things” compete for the centrality and supremacy of the person Jesus Christ. We are called to be “living epistles” or “Jesus Manifestos” in our world. It’s about being true to Christianity.

So what is Christianity? It is Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less. Christianity is not an ideology or a philosophy. Neither is it a new type of morality, social ethic, or worldview. Christianity is the ‘good news’ that beauty, truth, and goodness are found in a person. And true humanity and community are founded on and experienced by connection to that person. (p. xvi)

Jesus Manifesto has been purposely written in an “ancient devotional tone” of writing. In the spirit of Watchman Nee, Jeanne Guyon, Andrew Murray, and T. Austin-Sparks, this book is a fresh call to the post-modern church: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” (Heb. 12:2).

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”   Paul, Colossians 2:6,7

As evangelicals, can we agree upon the person of Christ, and cease from all of our heresy hunting and doctrinal division? “Receiving Christ also means receiving all who belong to Him” (p. 147).

The future of evangelicalism depends upon our willingness to embrace all Christ followers and extend grace to the outsider.

What Others Have Said…

“One more sign of a Christianity that is beginning to look like Jesus again. Our great challenge over the past few decades has not been one of right believing but of right living. Viola and Sweet create a harmony here that invites you to give the world a Christianity worth believing in … after all they will know we are Christians, not by our bumper stickers and t-shirts — but by our love.” 
Shane Claiborne—author, activist, and recovering sinner    http://www.simpleway.org

“From beginning to end, authentic Christianity is all about Jesus and, ultimately, nothing but Jesus. No one has proclaimed this more clearly and persuasively than Viola and Sweet. Jesus Manifesto is an important and powerful prophetic call for the Martha-like Church to get back to doing “the one thing that is needful.” 
Gregory A. Boyd—Senior Pastor, Woodland Hills Church, Maplewood, MN; Author, Present Perfect, The Myth of a Christian Nation, and The Jesus Legend.

“This is a really exhilarating reintroduction to a Jesus who seems sometimes to have become a stranger to the Church; a passionate and joyful celebration of God with us, which cuts right through churchy quarrelling and brings us back to wonder, love and praise – and the urgent desire to make Him known to all.”  Rowan Williams—Archbishop of Canterbury

“I look for books that call us to love Jesus and make His name more widely known. In Jesus Manifesto, Sweet and Viola ask us to step away out of the “Youniverse” (their word) of narcissistic religion and away from the pop-culture Jesus who is just a nice man. Throughout the book, they exalt Jesus as the divine Savior and ask the church to do the same. I believe this book will spark a renewed love for Christ by pointing us to the deep mystery of His person. You will be motivated to love and serve more deeply as your life is focused on Jesus the Messiah.”
 Ed Stetzer—President of LifeWay Research http://www.edstetzer.com

Read more endorsements at:  www.thejesusmanifesto.org

Read the next post: Vision for 21st Century Evangelicalism, Book Four

D.D. Flowers, 2012.

 


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