Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Jesus Manifesto: Thoughts

The Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ.  Sounds like a great title to me (minus the whole manifesto thing - smacks of something I don't agree with - communism).  However, the devil is in the details on this one.  As I began to unwrap what the authors meant by the supremacy and sovereignty of Christ, I began to notice some discouraging things.  Then my discouragement turned to disagreement, then to disdain.  I really hate to say it, but this one is not worth the paper it is printed on.  It will not make it to a spot on the bookshelves. 

A little harsh you may think.  Well, if you do, I advise you to stop reading now.  If that bothered you, you really are not going to like what comes next. 

Buckle up, as I unpack the book.  I will attempt to categorize my thoughts, but things may bleed into one another.  My apologies:

1.  Context, context, context. Any child of God who is a student of the Word (sad that there is a category of God's children who are not students of the word), discovers very quickly the principles of interpretation of Scripture.  The foremost in this is that context rules the interpretation.  God did not speak any verse of the Bible into a vacuum.  Rather, He knit together the Word of God into a beautiful tapestry of His Glory.  As such, we, as students, cannot get around the fact that each verse is part of a greater whole.  Thus, the first problem with the Manifesto is taking MANY passages referenced out of context.  As a Berean, I am one of those people who read a "Christian" book with a Bible sitting next to me.  I look up almost all of the passages mentioned, to make sure I understand them fully in the context.  This is the best way to figure out "whether these things are so."  I can count up the ones that jumped out to me enough to note them and I need two hands.  Two hands!  This shows me it is not a mere mistake on one passage of Scripture, but an effort to distort the very words of God to fit a philosophy of man.  Here are the "worst" offenders:
From Genesis to Revelation, the forces of evil have disputed God's right to have a home on this earth. But from the beginning, God has wanted a "house" - a place where He could rest and "presence" Himself.
They then reference Isaiah 66:1. Open your Bible to Isaiah 66 and tell me if you get the idea that God needs anything from man. No, he desires nothing of the sort, rather He regards "him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word." At what? At His word - this is the most important thing to God. And who is the Word made flesh? Christ. So, who are we to tremble before? Only Christ.
In a word, Jesus is heaven's passion and occupation.
Really, what about Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4?  What about that little thing God said about not sharing His glory with any other?  In truth, God is the focus of heaven; God, represented by Him who sits on the throne and the Lamb who is among the seven Spirits before the throne.  The book seeks to exalt Christ to the detriment of the other members of the Trinity.  I am all for the exaltation of God, His attributes, His actions, His glory, His revelation, His Word, but I am not going to divide God up into three boxes, two small ones for the Holy Spirit and God and one great, big one for Jesus.  Jesus came that He might glorify the Father.  The Holy Spirit came that He might glorify Jesus.  It seems they are all working for the same goal...glory.
You will never know the depths of Christ on your own. It matters not how intelligent, gifted, or spiritual you may be. It takes a functioning body to know Him fully. And it takes a functioning body to display his fullness. Paul made this clear in Ephesians that we come to know the width, length, depth, and height of Christ 'with all the saints.' It's only by being vitally and organically connected with other members of the body in a living way that we experience the fullness of God.
The problem with this is that they think the saints are the mediating source of knowledge. The "with all the saints" here in Ephesians refers to the saints who have believed in Christ (throughout all time). Consider that OT believers are referred to as "saints" all the way back to Daniel's time; each of these believers came to the full realization of the magnitude of God's love. Also, in this context, Paul refers to the inner man. He is referring to the personal relationship man has with Christ, not the corporate relationship of Christ to His church.  Also, in this context, Paul is speaking of the love of Christ, not the fullness of God.  What Paul prays for is an understanding of God's love that carries out in the life of a believer as a worthy walk (chapters 4-6 of Ephesians).

2. Sorry, Wrong Number: In the places where context was not at best questionable, and at worst misleading, the authors of this book simply got it wrong.  It is shocking that two men could read the same passage of Scripture, reference it a number of times in their book and both get it wrong.  The temptation of Christ is referenced in the book a few times.  Here are some highlights:
Israel was tempted in the wilderness for forty years.  Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for forty days.  In fact, the same temptations that Israel experienced in the wilderness were repeated when Christ was in the wilderness.  To combat them, Jesus quoted the words of Moses to satan. Interestingly, they were the exact same words that Moses gave to Israel when she was tempted. 
The references here are Deuteronomy 8:3; 6:13, 16.  Sorry, wrong number.  Each of these verses explicitly bring to remembrance another time where the Lord tested Israel.  Deuteronomy is the summation of the Law, it is the grand review before the great final exam.  These are the last words Moses speaks to the people of God.  They are commands, not admonitions. 

Then, later in the book:
The Holy One's public ministry began only after He faced and outfaced three temptations. The most tantalizing of the three was the temptation to turn the kingdom of God into a political program. Jesus shook off the lure of political theology by stiff-arming it with these words: "My kingdom is not of this world."
Sorry, wrong number: Jesus did not say these words to Satan during the temptation in the wilderness.  In fact, He said them much later in his ministry, almost at the end, when he was speaking to Pilate (John 18:36).  You may think that this is nit-picking, but there is a problem with smashing the word of God together to make it fit something you want it to say.   Oh, but then there is the little problem that Satan's temptations had nothing to with turning Christ's ministry into a political program. It seems to me that is a modern interpretation of the first century opposition to Christ.

3. What about the Holy Spirit?  As I was reading, I started wondering where the Holy Spirit fits into this Manifesto.  But the authors promised a more complete discussion of the Holy Spirit and the Father in chapter 10.  Still, as I continued to read, I grew more and more concerned.  There was in chapter 3 a biography of you, written by God, that was actually the biography of Christ (I am not making this up), but it did not mention the Holy Spirit, except to say, "You must grow, mature, and develop in My Spirit, and, "My [God's] object and the object of the Spirit is to make My beloved Son everything."  The biography spans 13 pages and mentions the Holy Spirit twice.  Hmmm....interesting that what Christ spent chapters in John (14-16) disclosing to the disciples, warrants only a small footnote in the biography of the believer.  There is no explanation that without the power of the Spirit we can do nothing.  No mention that the Spirit is our Helper to guide us into all truth and take what is Christ's and disclose it to us. No mention that the Spirit abides in the life of a believer and will be with us forever.  Such a life changing presence in the life of a child of God and yet, barely a footnote. 
When I finally got to Chapter 10, I found much more of the same: a mere page and a half description of the Trinity and a reference to another book to find out more.

4.  Implantation vs. Indwelling.  With such problems found in chapter 3 regarding the near absence of the Holy Spirit, it is no surprise that chapter 4 finds us further off the track.  Here, the authors begin to discuss the life of Christ in the believer.  Without mentioning the Holy Spirit as the power, we find that:
So instead of having the Spirit of God dwelling in us and empowering us, we are incarnations of Christ.  I don't know how I feel about the implications of this statement.
The good news is as scary as it is good.  It is safe to be "like" Jesus; it is scary to "be" and "do" Jesus...Likewise a Christian should not mean, but be.  Be what?  The living Christ for a dying world.  But to "be" is to give up control and ownership and to share life with the Word made flesh, the very image of the invisible God. The truth is that if we all fully understood what it means that the very being of God wants to take residence in us and share our life, we would all be reluctant incarnations.

5.  What happened to the Scriptures?  Late in the book, we find out the reason for all this confusion regarding context, chapters and verses, and the Holy Spirit.  The authors don't believe the Word of God is what it says it is. 
The Bible is not reader-indifferent or history-independent. Each age draws new insights from the Scriptures based on what that age brings to it. This means that revelation is always veiled in mystery. We bring it to our culture, our history, our gaze, and our glasses. The fundamentalist idea that the text has only one meaning is of relatively recent invention.
We have learned a lot from different perspectives of Jesus: feminist theology, creation theology, process theology, liberation theology, narrative theology, postliberal theology, emergent theology.
All there is to say in regard to this is God does not agree.  Please see 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Peter 1:20-25 and 2 Peter 1:19-21.  I could go on regarding the warnings against preaching anything contrary to what the Word says.

6. Bethany: A Home for Christ? The authors of this book, not wanting to leave any stone unturned on the shocking assertions field, discussed at great length the significance of the city of Bethany in the life of Christ.  They spent an entire chapter on it and presented it as a microcosm or a shadow of the church.  The problems I had with this discussion are many, but this is the most important one:
Christ didn't go to Bethany because he wanted a place to call home. He went to Bethany because it was a predetermined place to show the glory of the Father on His road to the cross. There were works in Bethany God had planned for Him to do. And because He was obedient (to the point of death), He fulfilled His mission in Bethany.
This is what Bethany symbolizes - a home for Christ...Bethany is the place where Jesus was utterly welcome.  In contrast to everywhere else He went, Jesus was completely and gladly received in Bethany. 

In fact, he was only welcome in Martha and Mary's home. At least we know the disciples were a little concerned about travelling in that area. In John 11: 8, they said of the proposed trip to Bethany, "Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and you are going there again?" When was the last time you found a welcoming committee outfitted with welcoming stones?
Besides all these things, did anyone notice that Christ already has a home?  He mentions it a few times during His ministry.  It is called Heaven.  He came from there, where the Father dwells.  He planned on going back. He did not need a home on earth, for He had a much greater one in Heaven.

Whew....that was a long one.  All that to say, I believe to my very core that these teachings are detrimental to the church.  It is out of a love for the brethren that I point these things out.  I urge you to seek the answers to the questions raised in the Word of God.  I urge you to consider that Christ is preeminent (along with the "rest" of God) and that Christ is the Word made flesh.  To diminish the very Word of God is to cut down the Risen Lord.

Rating: 0 out of 7.



  1. How can we get this review to the world? The book is what they read but who gets to read the excellent reviews you and Drew have presented? My prayer is for many, many to read and discover the real truth from your reviews and do as you did, throw the book away!!

  2. Two quick things:

    Perhaps I am just being too generous, but God the Father and God the Spirit seem to be implicitly present throughout the chapters of this book. For example, to live as though Christ were 'in us' is obviously not a literal thing. Implicit message - the Spirit makes this happen.

    Heaven as Christ's home: Your presentation of this assumes that heaven and earth are wholly different from one another, which is not necessarily the case if one were to take a new creation take on things. Just a thought.



  3. I enjoyed both of your reviews.
    I had a much different experience with the book. However, I come to it from the perspective of being in quite a few churches where Jesus is pretty much absent. The message of this book appealed to me so much, that we need to get back to Jesus. I don't think I "missed" the Holy Spirit so much because I come from the experience of being a new Christian in a church that didn't so much preach Jesus, but what you must do to be Christian and very little of that involved Jesus.

    As a growing Christian I welcomed this book. I didn't get into the details so much while reading the book because my level of understanding/knowledge isn't there. But what it did do was inspire me to get back to the basics, to understand Jesus and to get all that other nonsense that is being taught in so many churches today out of my head.

  4. note to Shan: I applaud your efforts to get back to the basics and to understand Jesus. You will find who He is, what He's done, what He's doing and going to do in His Word. You need look no further than there. Be diligent to use sound bible study tools (mentioned by Leah) and remember, CONTEXT is king! Lord bless you as you "study to show yourself approved...accurately handleing th eWord of truth." II Timothy 2:10