Friday, May 28, 2010

Jesus Manifesto

On the train yesterday I read an freebie advance copy of Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola's new book The Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ .

It's an easy read with a simple idea: Christianity is Christ. You can't really disagree with that. It should be so obvious that no-one would argue with it. Jesus Manifesto suggests this is pretty revolutionary...

"Christians have made the gospel about so many things—things other than Christ. Religious concepts, ideas, doctrines, strategies, methods, techniques, formulas, "its" and "things" have all eclipsed the beauty, the glory, and the reality of the Lord Jesus Himself. On the whole, the Christian family today is starved for a real experience of the living Christ."

In many ways I really really like this book, particularly it's unpacking of what Colossians says about Jesus, and the idea of telling your life story through the story of Jesus is a very good example of what union with Christ means: "From the viewpoint of God, your biography is Jesus Christ" (p59). Amen! When it's doing this, the book is excellent.

But I have some issues with it.
  • I wish they didn't make "mystery" so mysterious, I get what they're saying but it's a bit confusing.
  • I wish they were a bit more encouraging about how things are. It's not as innovative as they suggest, and the state of the church isn't quite as devoid as they suggest. The sense that the church has totally "lost it" made me sad and gave the book a sense of unreality.
  • In an effort to rebalance an underemphasis of Jesus life I think they could probably be clearer about his death.
Overall, its an encouraging devotional book that really is all about Jesus and will direct you to stay with Jesus by showing you what the Bible says about Jesus, and that's no bad thing. What it isn't is particularly "original" you'll get similar from Mike Cain's Real Life Jesus and from any good writing about union with Christ. See: Mike Reeves on Union with Christ or Michael Horton on Union with Christ or Richard Sibbes - A description of Christ, or read Calvin, or anything else by Sibbes, or Piper, or Luther, or Robert Jenson etc. That said, we do need books that are about Jesus and about how our life is in him - this is one of those books and despite my frustrations and questions I'm thankful to have read it.

“Thomas Nelson has just released the new book Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola and it is presently discounted under $9 from You can learn more by going to Endorsements by Rowan Williams, Matt Chandler, Calvin Miller, Ed Young, Jack Hayford, Shane Claiborne, Ed Stetzer, Reggie McNeal, Mark Batterson, Gregory Boyd, David Fitch, Steve Brown, Dan Kimball, Margaret Feinberg, Mark Chironna, Francis Frangipane, Todd Hunter, Alan Hirsch, Chris Seay, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Anne Jackson, Craig Keener, Ken Ulmer, Tommy Barnett, Sally Morgenthaler, and others.

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