ReJesus is the fourth book to come from the pens of the dynamic duo, Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch. It is only the second book, however, that has involved dual authorship (the first being The Shaping of Things to Come and Michael’s solo effort being Exiles.).
I made my first major post on the book back in November as a complaint, which served to obscure the good things about the effort. And what is so very, very good about the book is its attempt to disengage Jesus from cultural captivity and recapture his life and mission as central in our practice. So let’s have a look. I’ll try and make a post every day this week and work through the chapters.
On the fifth page of the introduction Frost and Hirsch list some questions they would like us to keep in mind:
â€¢Â Â Â what ongoing role does Jesus of Nazareth play in shaping the ethos and self-understanding of the movement that originated in him?
* how is the Christian religion, if we could legitimately call it that, informed and shaped by the Jesus we meet in the gospels/
â€¢Â Â Â how do we assess the continuity required between the life and example of Jesus and the subsequent religion called Christianity
â€¢Â Â Â in how many ways do we domesticate the radial revolutionary in order to sustain our religion and religiosity
â€¢Â Â Â how can a rediscovery of Jesus renew our discipleship and the ongoing mission of the church?
These are great questions, and they are set in the context of a shocking opening picture. Frost and Hirsch open the book with a story of a well known movement that placed Jesus squarely at the heart of its political activity: the Ku-Klux Klan. If it is possible to so move away from the life and teaching of our Lord in this way, then it behooves us to ask some hard questions. The authors point out, however, that the questions they ask above are not meant so much toward reformation as â€œrefounding,â€ â€“ raising the issue of the churchâ€™s true foundation. While they confess to being obsessed with rediscovering mission, they acknowledge that Christology is the first issue. What they mean by this is worked out in the rest of the book.
As they move ahead, Frost and Hirsch partner with one of my favorite writers. Jacques Ellul was a French sociologist and social critic who was also a radical follower of Jesus. (Perhaps Ellul was the European version of the well-loved, but fiery tongued Tony Campolo). They quote frequently from Ellul in what follows, starting with a long paragraph from The Subversion of Christianity:
The question that I want to sketch in this work is one that troubles me most deeply. As I now see it, it seems to be insoluble and assumes a serious character of historical oddness. It may be put very simply: How has it come about that the development of Christianity and the church has given birth to a society, a civilization, a culture that are completely opposite to what we read in the bible, to what is indisputably the text of the law, the prophets, Jesus and Paul? .. This is not just deviation.. but real subversion. (7)
What is intriguing to me about the approach Frost and Hirsch are framing is that it feels very Anabaptist. They will argue that the measure of our churches and the faithfulness of our mission must all be measured by the life of Jesus. Moreover, they display a strong sympathy with the critique of Empire and of the powers that has been prominent in Anabaptist thinkers such as Yoder, Hauerwas, Stuart Murray, Walsh and Keesmaat and others. Along the way they ask additional questions, like â€œAre we fundamentally aligned with Jesusâ€™ purposes and will for his community on earth?â€ Itâ€™s an excellent question.
As the authors close the first chapter, they restate their purpose in ReJesus.
â€œThis is not primarily a book about renewal for its own sake, not is it a book about Christology as a strictly theological discipline. Rather, it is an attempt to reinstate the central role of Jesus in the ongoing spiritual life of the faith and in the life and mission of Godâ€™s people. More specifically, it is an attempt to recalibrate the mission of the church around the person and work of Jesus.â€ (15)
Next stop, chapter one, a great read. I’ll work through the book chapter by chapter this week, picking up highlights, and then close with an assessment.