Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Book Review (#2 of 2013) A Genuine Faith by Rodney Reeves

Dr. Rodney Reeves had a bigger impact on me than perhaps anything else in my 3.5 years living in Bolivar, MO. A friend and former student of Reeves aptly called him "a walking paradigm shift." I've heard Reeves preach the best sermons on the Apostle Paul I've ever heard, marveled at his use of the Socratic method in his preaching to encourage deliberation and thought from his audience, and I've watched him wrestle with thoughts on his blog all to my great personal benefit. 
"I'm a Baptist because I was raised Baptist" is probably the most radical comment from a Baptist pastor/theologian I've ever read. (Most say they're Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, etc. because they're "right.")
Whether it's a men's retreat or his Introduction to New Testament freshmen, the man always gives his audience something they hadn't thought about before and desperately want to push back on.  The book is no different than its author.

It's countercultural even in its publishing. When most contemporary Christian books are following a model of fewer words and more flash on a page, making it hard to call them a "book," this book required the publisher to squeeze words tightly onto the page to keep it from being an even longer tome. As such, there is a lot of thought on each page that it takes a long time to ponder.

It's also countercultural in its many introspective criticisms of evangelical Church culture. This is not a "how to" book as the subtitle suggests, it's a "let's acknowledge how hard this is" book (P. 13):
"Jesus cannot teach me to be an American Christian because he was a Galilean Jew."

Reeves is a Greek scholar and uses that to examine the four Gospel authors' perspectives on Jesus and to flesh out both the contexts and motives in their writings.  
"We cannot follow Jesus by ourselves. It takes twelve people to follow Him" (P. 18). 

There are a lot of statements Reeves makes in the book that I might disagree with. That "the beloved disciple" in John might well have been Lazarus rather than John himself, for example. Reeves' assertion that the Jerusalem church became a destitute burden on the other churches precisely because they gave up all their possessions in a communal life (see Acts) is something I've never heard even Austrian Christian economists purport. But Reeves' statements always make you think "But why do I have the presupposition that I have? Can I defend it?"

I learned a lot about the Gospels and read them differently now-- particularly Luke. It's easy to take the readings from the book, look at the thoughts on Reeves' blog, and combine the two. I will never view the Lord's Supper the same way as I used to-- every church I've ever been in worldwide does it in an incorrect manner, I'm convinced. You can find your own life-changing nuggets in the book. 

It doesn't appear Reeves has ever traveled to Israel or other parts of the ancient world, where he might color his pages with descriptions of what terrain looked like, how the people live, etc. It's written from a Midwestern-Southern American Christian perspective, so his own experience with the Church may be irrelevant to your own. I see that as somewhat of a weakness, but Reeves mainly sticks to the written word. He is not the liberal some might want to peg him as-- he is critical of biblical scholars who while reading between the lines "also ignore the lines." This book is also not available in an e-book format which is my biggest criticism-- I don't have notes that I'd normally have for the book since I'd have to handwrite or type them as I read. 

I give this book 4 stars out of 5. I highly recommend it to any Christian looking for deep, challenging thoughts on the Gospels.

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