Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Jesus Paradigm - Book Review

I met Dave Black last year when he and his wife came to our fellowship. Dave is a Professor of Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He and his wife are self supporting missionaries to Ethiopia. They use all of their vacation and spare time to minister to churches there and around the world. Dave is an interesting man. He is a civil war buff, and attends and ministers at various civil war re-enactments. He is a prolific writer and has authored over a dozen books. For a complete biography click here.

I just received an advanced copy of his new book The Jesus Paradigm. In order to get an advanced copy, I agreed to do a review of the book. Dave has challenged me in many areas and I am looking forward to reading the book and commenting on it.

I have not read the whole book yet, but I have begun reading it. My goal is to review the book as I read it. For starters I am going to review the preface.

How many of you read the preface of books you read? Many times I skip over or just skim through the prefaces of books I read. However, as I read the preface to this book, it captivated me. Dave Black makes a lot of powerful statements which entice me to read on. He starts off with this:

"I now realize that I exist for one reason: to live for Jesus by serving others in his name. I was raised to think that the world exists for me. Now I realize that I exist for the world."

He then goes on to say:

"This book is written for anyone who is dissatisfied with cultural Christianity and who longs for a greater reality in the whole body of Christ."

This is a powerful statement coming from an academician at a southern baptist seminary. Although he is right in the middle of what I consider one of the main problems with christianity in America: the production of paid professional ministers out of our seminaries, he is on the cutting edge of changing the mold of what leadership should look like in the church. Gone will be the days of sending fresh seminary graduates out to pastor churches. It is one of the most unbiblical practices we observe in western christianity.

Although Dave may appear to be unorthodox to many, he says he is a strong believer in doctrinal purity, "but orthodoxy is incomplete--a disastrous aberration even--without orthopraxy." While he is "making the Jesus way of life known" all over the world in his travels, he says:

"Amid all the debates over Calvinism, and the King James Version, and the emerging church and worship styles I have come to a slightly different realization: that God is calling out a people who are committed to living lives of genuine obedience to Christ, a community of faith that functions in Christ-like ways - visibly, voluntarily, sacrificially -to show people this thing Jesus called the Kingdom."

Having spent time with Dave and his wife, Becky, I have seen how they live lives that transcend the latest theological debate. They are more interested in sharing the love of Jesus and serving others than getting caught up in debates that drive wedges into the body of Christ.

However, he will challenge you on your political thinking. He says, "...this way of the cross, transcends political loyalties." "...anyone who tries to make Jesus into a conservative or a liberal, must be reading a different Bible than the one I know and love. I believe that the church should be moving away from, not toward, political solutions to the world's problems."

While he does not deny the need for christian participation in the political arena, he says, "The Christian Gospel cannot be equated with any political movement or cause."

As he brings the preface to a close he gives a warning: "...this book is not for the timid. Within these pages you will find tough questions and (hopefully) straight answers. I may be wrong, but know one can say I am afraid to speak my mind or to take on hard issues."

I believe Dave Black's ultimate goal in this book is to challenge our orthopraxy. What does the bible really say about how we practice our Christ following lives. I think he has noticed like many of us have, our orthopraxy does not follow our orthodoxy. In many cases our "doctrinal purity" is rife with our traditions and doctrines that make the Word of God of none effect.

Hang on, more to come!

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