March 29, 2009

REJesus Book Review

In REJesus Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch make the case for re-jesusing the church. Through the centuries the church has added layer after layer of religious baggage turning the church into something Jesus never intended. The answer is to re-Jesus the refocus ourselves, our doctrines, our practices, and our mission on the person and work of Jesus Christ. "Rather than call this reformation, we will call this task refounding the church because it raises the issue of the church's true founder or foundation. And in our opinion, nothing is more important for the church in our day than the question of refounding Christianity" (p. 5).

When the church refocuses on Jesus everything will change. It will change the Church's worship, its discipleship, and, ultimately, its mission; realigning it with its true course.

Likes and Dislikes
I battled back and forth with myself while reading this book. I hated parts of it, and absolutely loved other parts. Frost and Hirsch, I believe, are at their best when they present the foundational elements of what happens when we REJesus the Church.

Their discussion of Orthopathy-Orthopraxy-Orthodoxy is wonderful...especially the explanation of the Hebraic understanding of "knowing." I loved the quote "We are never alone when we do a holy deed because we partner with God in the redemption of the world. In other words, a deed done in his name is a means of grace, a sacrament" (p.152).

I also like their explanation of the changes that REJesusing the church will cause in the Church...a Christlike community that reflects his character, life, and activity...a holistic community that seeks to offer up all of life to the lordship of Jesus...a peace-loving community that is considerate, submissive, merciful, fruitful, impartial, and sincere...a worshipping community that exalts Jesus and declares his sovereignty...a devoted community that experiences intimacy with Jesus...a graced community that relies on the work of Jesus for salvation...a holy community that seeks after the righteousness of Jesus...a healthy community that feeds on God's Word and the ministry of the Spirit.

I found myself nodding in agreement with their discussion about stripping away the layers of things that separate from the true message of Jesus, but infuriated that those same layers are not seen as bringing others to the true message of Jesus. They wanted a Hebraic understanding of Jesus, but separated his debates with the pharisees from their cultural context. As Andrew Perriman points out, "the controversy with Judaism tends to be construed as a simplistic competition between authentic community and institutional religion..." (Article on Open Source Theology).

A few of the problems I have...

Problem #1-There is no adequate picture of Jesus offered. Frost and Hirsch state, "If the heart of Christian spirituality is to increasingly become like our founder, then an authentic comprehension of Jesus becomes critical" (p. 13). Then they progress to give us no authentic, comprehensive picture of Jesus.

They obviously have a picture within their minds as they write this book, and yet they simply rely on a few catchy phrases to define their image of God. They want us to, "go back to the daring, radical, strange, wonderful, inexplicable, unstoppable, marvelous, unsettling, disturbing, caring, powerful God-man" (p. 111)...but again offer no real explanation or defense of their position. They simply affirm that others have done this adequately and better. I think their Jesus tends to look a little like them. Andrew Perriman brings up this same point here, and Ed Stetzer ask that question of one of the authors here.

Problem #2-They offer no picture of their own, but they are great at poking holes in other views of Jesus they deem inadequate. (This is closely related to the previous one.) They dedicate an entire chapter to knocking over some inadequate pictures of Jesus, and I agree that some of them may need to go. My problem comes when they, at least by the way they write and layout the section, imply that the picture of Jesus offered by a "motley crew of unlikely people...Some were unemployed. Some were working occasionally as artists. Others were suffering with mental illness" is somehow better than that offered by Jesus-lovers throughout the centuries...even the very people who created the images in which they are now poking holes (p. 107). I have this same backlash when non-Christians with no commitment to Jesus (and probably haven't even read the Bible) are asked what Jesus is like. (Which they do in the chapter "The Church Jesus Built.")

Problem #3-A devaluing of Church history and religion. There is an intense amount of writing in today's Church degrading the role of "religion" in Christianity. Most often they simply mean rote religiosity. With that I can agree, but I think it is lazy and dangerous to be so loose with our terminology. Religion is simply the set or system of belief. Like it or not...Christianity (reJesused or not) is a religion. What needs to be attacked is the rote, meaningless practice that never enters the heart and is completely happy with the liturgical ritual in whatever church it may take place be it Catholic, Charismatic, Baptist, or Methodist.

Frost and Hirsch state, "When Paul explains the content of the Gospel, it doesn't consist of propositional statements about creation, sin, atonement, and redemption. It is a recapturing of the historical story of Jesus!" Then they note the "flowery Nicene Creed from the fourth century" (p. 194). Of course they were different, they were addressing different things and needed to be different. The later did not negate the former.

What Can We Use?
There is much to commend this book. I am constantly challenged by the life of Jesus, and I believe that He is the standard by which Christian discipleship is to be judged. Frost and Hirsch do a great job of setting Him up as the leveling line of our discipleship.

I also think their explanations of what the church will look like are invaluable. I may disagree with some of their explanations (attacks on pop praise and worship), but their underlying philosophical structure is great.

All in was a good, challenging read.

Here is a free chapter from the book. - Alan Hirsch's blog

1 comment:

  1. I appreciated the reminder concerning religion from Dr. Thomas Noble of Nazarene Theological Seminary. He said that religion comes from the two words "re" and "ligare" which together mean to "reconnect". Religion, therefore, is the reconnecting of humankind with God.

    I too find it disconcerting when certain camps want to poke holes in the ship and at the same time ride it to port. If you're going to poke holes, you need to have something with which to patch them--and something that better work.

    Thanks for the great book review.