Monday, September 07, 2009

The Myth of a Christian Religion - Book Review

I first came across Greg Boyd in a 2007 documentary on CNN called God’s Warriors which took a look at Christianity, Judaism, and Islam in three two-hour documentaries. I found the two-hour segment a little disheartening not because it seemed critical of Christianity in American (because it seemed pretty balanced in it’s investigation) but because I increasingly cannot comfortably identify myself with much of the type of Christianity of which was given most coverage in the documentary… that is until they interviewed Greg Boyd. Out of all of the churches shown in the two-hour documentary, Boyd’s Church – Woodland Hills Church of St. Paul Minnesota was honestly the only church that I would even want to be a part of.

A few months after watching the documentary I was preparing a teaching for the Kenner Vineyard on Matthew 5:38-43 where Jesus teaches, among other things, to love one’s enemies (a radical text indeed!). As I was discussing the text with a friend of mine, he recommended a book by Greg Boyd called The Myth of a Christian Nation, thinking that it might be helpful in my preparation. So I picked up the book that afternoon and read through it in a matter of days. The book proved to be immensely helpful not only concerning the text at which I was looking but in so many other areas where we have commonly confused American Christian culture with the Kingdom of God. The Myth of a Christian Nation is one of those rare books I’ve read that has affected my life of faith in a profound way, not through deep and esoteric truths hidden in scripture, but with straight-ahead Jesus teachings.

So when I came across Boyd’s new book The Myth of a Christian Religion, I picked it up as soon as I could, anticipating the same kind of kingdom centered critique of church and culture. I have to say that I am normally not all that fond of authors who find a niche with books of the same titles but this second book bearing the title “Myth of…” doesn’t seem so much as marketing a franchise as a legitimate continuation of the ideas pioneered in The Myth of a Christian Nation.

Myth of a Christian Religion, while provocative, is practically minded which likely has something to do with Boyd not only being a theologian but a pastor. The chapters of Myth of a Christian Religion are not mere musings on theological ideas but rather are very much tied into practical application for the life of a Christ-follower. Boyd’s thesis is that Jesus never intended to start a religion—He was after nothing less than revolution. The Myth of a Christian Religion is about revolution, not in the traditional rebellious sense of the word but of a revolution with love as it’s driving force. So each of the chapter present what a love-centered revolution might look like addressing everything from idolatry to judgment, greed, individualism, consumerism, nationalism, violence, racism, and so on (as each of the book’s chapters are laid out). It may seem that Boyd is trying to cover too much in one book, but I would again reiterate that this book is written for practitioners of faith rather than those looking for more theological information and thus reads much more like a devotional (with an accompanying action guide for each chapter at the back of the book). This book seems like it would readily lend itself to small groups or book studies or as a primer for getting discussion started on the various topics contained within.

Though this book is written with everyday Christians in mind it doesn’t mean that Boyd steers away from anything controversial (discipleship light!). On the contrary, I suspect most readers will have a hard time with some of the ideas he is putting forth particularly when it comes to mixing Christianity with nationalism (I had my toes stepped on a couple of times). However, whether you agree with his assessment of American Christianity or not, I think his thoughts definitely merit attention. I would also note that Boyd’s treatment of such controversial issues does not come across as either whinny, contentious, or rebellious like so many on talk radio, cable news and countless other authors who have tried to argue on similar points. Boyd seems like someone who is genuinely interested in really living this stuff out and not just complaining about it which in and of itself is very refreshing these days.

As Christians we need someone to splash some cold water on us from time to time to wake us up to how easily we have succumb to individuality, consumerism, violence, and even nationalism in the name of following Jesus. Greg Boyd is just the person to do this and I would definitely recommend this book for those who are serious about living a life of faith.


Jeff Mikula said...

Great blog, Crispin. Way to push the rest of us to challenge our faith in new ways. I think the devil would like nothing more than for us to grow content in our faith and believe that we have it "figured out". I thought Greg's last book was awesome and look forward to this one. I actually have an extra copy of his "Myth of a Christian Nation" if anyone is interested, just pass along an address to Crispin or I and I'll send it on.

Pi Man said...

I'm so darn linear when it comes to reading books. I read like I study... slow and methodical, taking in and then thinking about what I've read. And it takes me a while as in my routine I usually only read when the wife and I go to bed. Right now I'm working thtough "Free of Charge..." that Brian recommended a while back. And I have on my list 3 others after that. And I want to read "The Myth of a Christian Nation" first since you highly recommend it, and then I'll see about this one. What I appreciate, Bro, is that you take the time to offer your thoughts on it, so thank you for doing that so often. And as a note to Jeff: I'd love to borrow your extra copy of MOACN if you're not in a hurry to get it back. 8^) (This is Tim Allen btw.)