The Jesus of Suburbia: Have We Tamed the Son of God to Fit Our Lifestyle?
by Mike Erre
Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2006, 196 pp, $13.99, paperback.
We like to think of Jesus as being like Mr. Rogers. The problem is, no one would crucify Mr. Rogers (55).and this one:
The Ten Commandments (like the rest of the Old Testament law) were given to a people already redeemed.He rightly points out that keeping these commandments had nothing to do with redemption. However, Erre also makes head-scratching statements like the following:
We cower behind our fortresses of absolute truth, arrogantly pronouncing judgment on the world around us, condemning sin and sinner alike (xiii).Exactly who is cowering? Why does he make absolute truth sound like a bad thing? Why does he seem to be saying--in typical emerging church fashion--that anyone who believes in absolutes must be arrogant?
From behind our fortress of objective, absolute truth, Christianity has traditionally been defended with a "we're right, you're wrong," "us versus them" mindset that alienates, divides, and threatens. Such a paradigm is unbiblical and wrongheaded (163).Again, it's unclear just what he's lumping in with the flawed paradigm. It sounds suspiciously like the "we're right, you're wrong" crowd is countered by a similar "we're right, you're wrongheaded" exhortation. Apparently it's rather hard to avoid making absolutist statements when one wishes to oppose the concept absolute truth. I wish the book was clearer on these statements. To me, that's the greatest weakness--we get hints about certain controversial concepts, but like any good politician would do, Erre leaves himself plenty of wiggle room and space for future deniability. I don't think it's intentional (I think it is intentional in Brian McLaren's books), but I do think it's somewhat sloppy. For example, we get seemingly contradictory statements like the following:
Sound doctrine is critical to belief (88).I don't understand that. If sound doctrine is critical to belief, why would we need less doctrine? So we could believe less? That's not Erre's goal. Wouldn't we need sound doctrine in order get more God? To be honest, the first statement sounds like he's speaking what he knows to be true, and the latter seems meant to sound catchy, especially to postmodern-influenced, sound-bite loving, readers. It would preach well in a lot of churches.
We need more God and less doctrine (119).
...many evangelicals seek to withdraw from culture by forming a Christian subculture with its own schools, music, novels, movies, et cetera (156).And, dare I add, non-fiction books about suburban Christianity, such as Death By Suburb, to name only one. Perhaps you can name a second.
In a society where any claims of universality, rationality, and objectivity are suspect from the outset, the Christian must first persuade its audience that Christianity has something important to say and should be heard; only then should we suggest that it might be true (179).We are not told how to persuade--don't overlook that term--our audience before even suggesting that Christianity might be true. Does anyone else find that just a little puzzling? Sans rationality, you're utterly wasting your time if you think you can be persuasive. What would be the point?