August 19, 2009
Jared Wilson, pastor of Element (Nashville, TN), has a new book out titled Your Jesus Is Too Safe: Outgrowing a Drive-Thru, Feel-Good Savior.
While reading Ed Stetzer’s blog interview with Jared about his book, I was struck by Jared’s response to one of Ed’s interview questions.
You survey quite a few false Jesuses from contemporary culture in the Introduction–Grammy Award Speech Jesus, Hippie Jesus, ATM Jesus, etc. Which one do you think is most prevalent in the church right now? And what is the book’s response to it?
I don’t have the research resources that you do, so I can’t put a figure on this, but I can tell you that my biggest concern is actually about an Invisible Jesus. Jesus, the Best Supporting Actor. Cameo Appearance Jesus. The “Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain” Jesus.
In way too many churches – just one would be too many, but I know this is a larger problem than that because I have experienced it myself and I hear from many others across the country who have as well – Jesus barely or rarely shows up. He may make an appearance in an illustration or something, but he is not the point of the message. Sometimes his name is never mentioned. Perusing church websites or pastor’s blogs or Twitter feeds, they hardly ever mention him.
It’s bizarre. It’s distressing. But it makes sense given the current state of evangelicalism.
Wow! Something to think about. Is your church hiding Jesus?
Read IMonk’s review of Is Your Jesus Too Safe.
May 4, 2009
The best review I’ve read of The God I Don’t Understand by Christopher J. H. Wright is from Michael Spencer (IMonk), who says the book contains “first class examinations of some of the most troubling issues and questions that Christians face and ask.” Here are excerpts from the IMonk review:
Wright’s approach is not the traditional apologetic approach of defending the faith or presenting an answer to unbelieving challengers to the faith. He’s quite aware of that dialog, but he’s also very open about the problems these issues cause for Christians. Wright is not selling answers. He deconstructs inadequate answers in each section, an exercise that may perplex some readers who will be annoyed that their favorite shortcut answers are found to be inadequate.
Wright is very willing to live with some unresolved issues in scripture regarding God’s sovereignty and the issues of evil and violence. He does not conclude that the best thing to do is force a reconciliation of issues that aren’t syncing up easily. He wants to hear out all the different parts of what is a Biblical conversation, give weight to all of it and resist turning faith into some form of rationalism.
Wright will stir up some dust with Calvinists of the A.W. Pink variety for his decision to not play “this text trumps that one,” but to listen to all of them and confess that God’s relation to evil and suffering is sometimes beyond our ability to understand. He will also irritate those who consider the extermination of the Canaanites to be a matter which ought not to give any Christian pause, but Wright is aware of how this subject is used by the new atheists. He’s also aware of how troubling the slaughter of women and children is to many Christians. With some rich Old Testament study and a balanced, humbler approach to entire subject of God-commanded violence than some will appreciate, Wright proves to be a solid teacher, more concerned with honoring God in the study of scripture than in playing God by our own arrogant answers.
In the third section, Wright also undertakes a substantial examination of the atonement, particular the critique of some in the emerging church in rejecting the penal substitutionary atonement. Wright shows that some of the emerging critique is helpful, but that many on both sides of the issue get drawn into “either/or” approaches to the issues of the atonement that are not Biblical. Wright creates a solid endorsement of penal substitutionary atonement without perpetuating the usual and predictable back and forth between emerging and reformed views.
I appreciated this book as the kind of topical Bible study we need more of in evangelicalism. Wright’s commitment to the Bible, the mission of the church and the seriousness of the Gospel is obvious, but he does not simply join one of the prevailing shouting matches. He creates a model of fair Bible study and shows how being a judicious, comprehensive scholar devoted to the Bible is far more useful than simply adding another echo chamber or avoidance strategy to the evangelical response to these questions.
The God I Don’t Understand has an excellent resource site, with a complete study guide and a full set of video “warm ups” with Dr. Wright for the entire book. This would be a meaty small group study that would be satisfying to new Christians with serious questions and Christians with a more mature appreciation of the Bible. Those doing pastoral care would especially find the first half of the book useful.
The book is not available on Kindle, so I’m holding off purchasing it for now.
Read full IMonk blog