Provocative book titles quickly get my attention. When Nathan told me about Rob Bell and Don Golden’s new book the title grabbed me quickly – Jesus Wants to Save Christians.
Growing up in a conservative evangelical denomination, a group that would eschew the connection to “evangelical” back in the day for it conveyed something of a progressive conservatism opting rather for the “deeper” commitments to Fundamentalism, “save” was an event that came to “sinners.” “Jesus came to save sinners,” the Apostle Paul wrote. So naturally the title was evocative. Ours was a “nail it down” moment when it came to the subject of “saving.” Despite showing off our understanding of the perfect tense in the Greek, we really only talked about the past and the future. The present was troublesome. In part it must have had to do with the way it sounded. “I am being saved.” For us it was a matter of certainty – and if you were not certain then you better “do it” again and “mean it” and “get it right.” Some of our most significant “evangelistic moments” came when an evangelist came along to “knock all the props out from under you so that you are found standing on Jesus!” We just did not know, and still are not sure, what to do with the present.
We cannot abide the monastic life – we like our stuff way too much. But, when we feel guilty we may sell one of our televisions and debate about who to give the scant bit of cash we got for it. We want to be sure about the condition of those who are getting the money from out stuff. So really, it may have been more of an unwillingness to “let go” of an old reality and embrace the reality of living in the Kingdom of God. We liked the way things were for the most part, we just want the eternity thing cleared up.
Bell and Golden really don’t offer a new critique. They admit to the influence of Breuggemann. Though they don’t mention it, it sounds as though they channel the late Leslie Newbigin. Walsh and Kasemat’s Colossians Remixed get the nod from the authors.
What they do is continue the call to keep the narrative of Scripture intact. They appropriate the New Egypt Perspective following Tom Holland. I admit to hearing similar references in N.T. Wright and from conversations with my PCA friend Mark. The motifs in Scripture do find current connections. There is little doubt viewing Egypt as Empire and God’s people enslaved to it rings of our current blurring of our faith in Jesus and our commitments to the U.S.A.
Only the most resistant would challenge the way Bell and Golden draw out the parallels of empire as practiced and described in the Scriptures with America. The book is not about “bashing” America. But, it is about the call to Christians to continue to undergo the transforming work of the Spirit of God and resist the unholy alliance with the “empire.” When earthly empires are co-mingled with the people of God the results are not only not good, they are disastrous.
Bell and Golden have offered a very accessible call to re-think (read, repent) our close ally with a way of life opposite the way of Jesus. The call is certainly for Christians. Orienting our life around the life of Jesus is a present call – it is a “saving” process.
Pick up a copy. Read it. If you are not a reader, know there is plenty of “white space” in this little volume. The typeset is often used as a visual means to help convey the rich content found inside.
An endorsing confession. Generally I am an ADD reader. More than a couple of books often vie for my attention. It is a malady I readily admit to. When I read the first few pages curious to see where the book would take me, I set aside the others I had taken on a recent trip to read and finished it quickly. You may be tempted to do the same. My recommendation – give in.
You can find out more about Rob and Don’s book by clicking the Amazon link on the homepage.