"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." ~ 1 Peter 3:15-16

Review: The Jesus Paradigm

My free advance copy of "The Jesus Paradigm" by David Alan Black, was found lying in my mail box about two weeks ago. I am not sure if you have heard of David, but as a writer, scholar, teacher, and missionary, he has taught New Testament and Greek for over 30 years. For this alone, I am truly appreciative of having another NT Greek expert weighing in on the issue surrounding ekklesiology and other topics in the book, including the issues on authority and the priesthood of all believers.

It is not a secret that something is brewing underground in the western churches today which can be described as either Churchianity, Christendom or Christless Christianity if you like. Whether one labels it as restoration, renewal, revival, reformation or even revolution, no one will disagree that something needs to be done if we are to continue following Christ. For the local churches that are westernized at the east side of the world, it will probably take some time before the wave can be felt. I suspect some may probably be caught by surprise.

In his latest book, David discussed briefly his view on the various issues including power, politics, christian nationalism, ekklesiology and radical discipleship with reference to the Anabaptist tradition. In my opinion, the latter seems to be the main theme of the book which aims to change our entire paradigm to the Jesus Paradigm, in order to be true servants of Jesus Christ again. Interestingly, there seems to be a growing trend of interests in the tradition of the Anabaptists, as the multitude seeks to follow Christ in a simpler way with deep intensity. Actually, it will be an exhilarating milestone if we can fully live out what we already do know.

An overview of "The Jesus Paradigm" is as follow:

Chapter 1: Introduction – The Jesus Paradigm
Chapter 2: The Liberated Church – Recasting Our Vision of Discipleship
Chapter 3: The Radical Reformation – The Anabaptists and Suffering Servanthood
Chapter 4: The Priestly Kingdom – Communal Ekklesiology and Every-Member Ministry
Chapter 5: The Community of the Spirit – Leadership Jesus’ Style
Chapter 6: The Politics of Jesus – Disarming the Principalities and Powers
Chapter 7: The Future of Christianity – Habits of the Upside-Down Community
Afterwords: A New Paradigm for Theological Education?

David sees serious flaws in the very structure on which the western churches and denominations were built on, and how the unbiblical foundation prevents us from following the Lord. The solution proposed, thus is to seek restoration of the church organized as Jesus intended it and according to the example provided by the earliest church sources in the NT. That's three cheers for a NT and Greek teacher! You don't manufacture a product which doesn't match the original specifications, do you?

Overall, I find The Jesus Paradigm a fresh reading especially those portions on politics, power and the Anabaptist tradition, many points which I can agree with. As David put it, “This book is written for anyone who is dissatisfied with cultural Christianity and who longs for a greater reality in the whole Body of Christ. Its plea is that we get serious about following Jesus. It is written for anyone who is ready to build unity around the essentials of Christianity and get on with the top priorities.

However, I think this book serves more like a tantalizing appetizer than the sumptuous main course, as David did not elaborate further on the detailed practical outworking of the ekklesia and her functions. How does an emphasis on the priesthood of all believers transform the sacred cow of modern worship service with a three-point sermon, good entertainment programs and other church practices which warrant closer examination? It may leave readers to wonder, so what now? Perhaps David is thinking of authoring a future title on this topic? I hope he will not stop here.

If you wish to explore more on ekklesiology, I will suggest the three titles "The Church Comes Home", "Paul's Idea of Community" and "Going to Church in the First Century" by Robert Banks, and another three titles "Pagan Christianity", "Reimagining Church" and "From Eternity to Here" by Frank Viola, besides Wolfgang Simson's "Houses that Change the World", Chip Brogden's "The Irresistible Kingdom", Manfred Haller's "God's Goal: Christ As All in All" and many other more, just to give a flavour.

This review is based on the free advance copy graciously given by Energion Publications (http://energionpubs.com).