As you know my lovelies, I agreed to write this review several weeks ago and was almost immediately deluged with life in all its glory and pain. Sadly this all pushed back my reading schedule.
But here we are, today is a new day and I am happy to report that I found Frank’s latest book well worth the read. In it he casts a vision for what the future of Christendom could look like if we were able to move beyond the religious right vs. the religious right squabbles to place beyond or outside of these two options.
In the book he lays out his vision for this third option if you will. He starts out by defining Evangelicalism and defining four different streams within it. He moves on to discuss the history of the movement, the hijacking of the term by the religious right and the push back from the religious left. The book culminates with a discussion of specific ways we can rise above the fray and become not ex-evangelical or even post evangelical but “Beyond Evangelical”.
He suggests we begin to do this by moving…
Beyond Legalism & Libertinism
In short, the libertine lives as if there is no God. The legalist lives as though she/he is God to everyone else…
The legalist doesn’t know that he/she is a legalist and tends to view all non-legalists as libertines.
The libertine doesn’t know that she/he is a libertine and tends to view all non-libertines as legalists.
Without the Holy Spirit’s illumination, this deception is difficult if not impossible to break.
The truth is, we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. And we all need Jesus Christ to forgive, deliver, and keep us each day from both the defiling acts of the flesh and the self-righteousness of the flesh.
Certainty? I’m a Christian: thus I’m absolutely “certain” of that which it is impossible to be “certain.” (2 Timothy 1:12)
It’s hip among some Christians today who have imbibed deconstructionism to believe that certainty is an unnecessary evil. Certainty is the cause of bloodshed, wars, persecution, etc. Yes. Certainty is the root of all evil (so they say).
As a Christian, I’m certain of that which none of us can be certain.
Now . . . shift gears and look at the sins that literally made Jesus angry and provoked Him to issue hot-boiling, scathing rebukes. It was the sins of self-righteousness. And it was aimed at those who sought to shame and humiliate others because of their wrong-doing.
The pure and spotless Lord Jesus Christ turned the pyramid upside down.
The fact is, every devoted Christian will be tested on whether they really believe in the oneness of the Body of Christ or whether they deny it deep in their hearts . . . especially when there is pressure from others to embrace a sectarian spirit and exclude other members of the Body.
Religious pressure is a powerful thing. And it is most often contrary to Jesus Christ.
Beyond Calvinism & Arminianism
You can go through your Bible carefully and find biblical texts that better fit the Calvinist model, while others have to nearly be bent to fit it. The same with Arminianism. Some texts refuse to fit neatly into its mold.
Why is this? Because the Bible wasn’t written to Western minds shaped by Aristotelian logic. And so it’s difficult for us (Westerners) to embrace paradox.
Yet Scripture is full of paradox, and Jesus Himself is the Ultimate and Absolute Paradox. He is God. He is Man. He is Divine and Human.
In the end, I believe Mr. Viola makes a good point. The cause of Christ to love all and serve all and reconcile all is better served not by bickering but rather by embracing the turning tide.
A tide of people who are increasingly Beyond Evangelical:
They are neither left nor right.
They are Christians who have a deep allegiance and devotion to Jesus Christ.
They believe that Jesus alone is this world’s true Lord and He stands above all systems and personalities, even religious.
They love, desire, and stand for the ekklesia, a local body of believers who are enthroning Christ as Head . . . and they believe that the church is Christ existing as a shared-life community, not two hours on Sunday and Wednesday. They don’t advocate any particular church form or structure. They simply want to follow the Lord with others.
This hearty band of Christians from every nation, tribe, kindred and tongue stand for the four notes of classic evangelicalism. But they have gone beyond them.
In addition, they are . . . intensely Christ-centered, Jesus is not only the supreme Lord. Not only the wonderful Savior. But He is All (Col. 3:11).
They are Resurrection life centered. They believe that Jesus, by his resurrection, is still alive and indwells every believer. But more, every believer can live by His indwelling life . . . and this is the meaning of the Christian life. They are also body centered. Christ in known in and through the shared life community called the church, which is His body.
And they are eternal purpose centered. God has a timeless purpose that goes beyond salvation, and He’s never let go of it.
They have gone beyond evangelical.