Wednesday, November 14, 2012

If only Jesus really meant what WE THINK He said

Red Letter Revolution (Thomas Nelson, 2012) is a series of dialogues concerning some of the major issues facing the church in America today. Authors Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo, use an interesting approach of dialoging about issues such as money, homosexuality, politics and a slew of other topics. The fact that they are dialoging isn't what draws one's attention, it's the starting point that they use to formulate their arguments. (By the way this is not a debate with one side for and the other against - Claiborne and Campolo are looking at things from the same perspective.) Their litmus test for their position on the issues is found in the Bible, specifically the Gospels as recorded in the New Testament. We ask WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) and the authors look to His teachings, specifically the words in red, to try and answer that question.

Many of us are familiar with Red Letter editions of the Bible, the editions where the words that are traditionally ascribed to Jesus are in red ink to make it easier to differentiate between what Jesus said, t(including the Old Testament scriptures from which He quoted) and the words of the disciples or the narrator. Campolo, Claiborne and others call themselves Red Letter Christians, because they try to live according to the teachings of Jesus, but they seriously miss the boat when they seem to indicate that if we just read and follow the words in red then we are doing all Jesus wants us to do.

Although I appreciate their heart for the poor and disenfranchised, I take exception to their position that the ‘red letter’ passages are all that we really need, or are somehow more important than the rest of scripture. I actually think that publishers do readers of the Bible a disservice when they print red letter editions. Our attention is automatically drawn to the red, and it is far too easy to give those passages a higher level of importance and skim over or skip completely the black letter passages, somehow relegating them to the category of ‘read if you have time’.

Having said that, I agree with the authors’ positions on some of the issues, and strongly disagree with many others. I would hesitate to give this book to a new Christian, because I think it gives the wrong impression of what it truly means to be a Christian. I know many people of other faiths, or no faith, who do a lot of the good things described in this book. Being a good person doesn't make one a Christian.

I enjoyed reading the book, because as a pastor I want to be aware of what others are teaching, even when I disagree with those teachings.  In this case I think the picture that is presented is skewed.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


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