Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet & Frank Viola take on a common North American version of Christianity by inviting readers into the mystery of Christ and “restoring the supremacy and sovereignty of Jesus Christ”. From their unique perspective, they infuse their book with Eastern Orthodoxy, radical grace, and challenges to Evangelicals and Liberal Protestants alike. They do this by reminding readers that it is loving Christ that is at the center of Christianity, not imitating him or choosing which of his teachings or acts are important to emulate. Too much of North American Christianity has become about “me”, rather than Christ.
Sweet & Viola had their work cut out convincing me. The opening chapters were tedious and did a poor job at making the case for their perspective. Many of the scriptural references felt like “proof texting”. I kept asking myself how they were going to end up describing just what this love for Christ might look like. Was it going to be more works righteousness? They nearly lost me completely with their non-sacramental treatment of Baptism and their description of our physical birth as being “born from above”. But, mid-way through the book, they finally caught their stride. They dismissed out of hand works righteousness. They lifted up radical grace. They demonstrated what it means to keep Christ at the center without resorting to more religious obligation. In the end, they came through with some helpful observations.
I’ve got mixed feelings about the book. While I’ll probably not recommend the book widely, I’ll certainly use some of the material in the last half of the book for preaching and teaching.
Thomas Nelson Publishers provided me with a complimentary advanced reading copy of this book for review.