Let me start by saying i don’t think i know everything and have everything together. I don’t think my opinion is infallible and so i hope that this can be a discussion on the book. I read it in two days (its written in a really easy reading style, I like the way he writes).
1. The Good
Well, my favorite part of the book is when Shane crits ‘the prayer of Jabez’ by Bruce Wilkinson on page 318. John Macarthur said much the same a while ago, and I think the more conservative and those who ae concerned with honoring God’s Word would figure that out, so props to Shane for nailing that.
I really like what is said about sweat shops, and how we just buy that stuff, we really should ask about things when we support such outright exploitation. I remember the days when Christians used to not by stuff cause it was in some way associated with Satanists, that makes no sense to me since those without Christ are in the same boat as Satanists, it boils down to who is exploiting and who is being fair
2. The Problems
I hate writing this because sometimes you feel like you are always fighting, but since over 80% of the New Testament was written to correct doctrinal errors and what not, i consider myself in good company 🙂 I also hope you know, I am not writing this because I enjoy being contentious, but rather because I understand that this book is popular and so I think we need to temper popularity with wisdom and discernment (essentially I love you my friends and just want to share my thoughts on something that might be dangerous, note I said might)
When i read it, this book reminded me of when I read ‘Mein Kampf’ by Adolf Hitler (wait for the shock of the crowd). What I mean is, Hitler had a political agenda and as he wrote his trashy book of hate he used the Bible to justify it, most of you my friends live in a country where people used the Bible to defend their political views of apartheid. As i read Clairborne’s book he is pushing a political agenda, o matter what he says and tries to get out of it, he is pushing an agenda, and he is not writing as a theologian, nor as a Christian, he is writing as a politician, as a revolutionary.
Now we know he studied at a liberal College (check out what liberal theology is on the net if you don’t know what it is). he tries to avoid the label yet bears every liberal characteristic (communistic tendency, pacifist, green, etc). Honestly, if you read this book, honestly not one of the scriptures he uses is what was intended by the original author to be used how he used them, I encourage you, go back, read good commentaries by godly men, again. There are two ways to interpret the Bible (right and wrong haha- just joking, but seriously) there is exegesis: what did the author mean and how does that apply today, and isegeisis: what do i think, what would I like this Scripture to say. Claiborne uses the second. If you have questions, ask in the comment section 🙂
How do I see his liberalness in his use of Scripture, well he ignores parts, we need to read the whole counsel of God together. eg
1 Tim 5:8 says that those who don’t look after their own are worse then the infidel, even Christ told the disciples to buy a sword. I am sure Adolf Hitler would have loved the world to be anti-war, then we would all be speaking German today.
John 6:68 tells us Christ turned a crowd away because they only followed him for food but they didn’t want His teaching
Romans 13:1-4 tells us that God puts governments in place and gives them a sword to being justice. Even bad governments are used for His purposes (this is a great topic on how God decrees evil but is not the author and uses it for His own purposes)
Luke 16:9 says we must make friends of ungodly mammon.
There is a ton more, but just to show you it is not as clear as he makes it.
Page 29 gives away what he is doing, he wants a new kind of Christianity. although he often tries to go and call for an early church, its interesting that he only picks the Jerusalem church, do you know that not one other church in the New Testament had a distribution! other churches had rich and poor and the rich were taught not to despise the poor but to be generous and help.
If you go and see what Christianity he claims to be converted to and become disenchanted with, you will soon see its not Christianity at all. (page 45; 64-65). I understand and feel with him when I see apathy, when the church does nothing I get angry, and James says faith that has not produces works is dead. But the right kind of works. Creation groaning is often mentioned, but if you read the Scriptures, it will only stop when Christ returns and rules with an iron fist.
yes we must care for the poor, but Clairborne makes two mistakes:
1. redefines who the Church is. In Scripture the Church are those, rich or poor who have been born of God into a new life, those saved by grace through faith resulting in works (Eph 2:8-10). However in Clairbornes book the Church are those who live in community and love each other, I think the world is able to love as well, its a common grace. What makes the church the church is not that we are a social society but that we have deeper answers then just earthly things.
if you read Scripture we are supposed to care for those in the Body of Christ, those who are saved, take care of them, not meaning we should not be involved in the world, but our primary job their is evangelism, or let us fill their bellies and send them to hell well fed?
2. He redefines salvation: This is not easy to see, but its typical of liberal theology. In his idea of coming into the church, do you ever see in this book the words sin; judgment; law; repentance? for sure he mentions some of them but not in the right context. Giving to the poor but swearing like a trooper is not a fine place to be, or who decides what sins we suddenly are allowed to do and those we are not?
There is so much more I could write, almost every page, but this is getting long already. so let me say two things
1st John the epistle was written to warn about false teachers. John gives two tests, one is righteousness and the other is faithfulness to sound Doctrine, not just one, but both. Now I readily admit that some Churches focus only on doctrine, and that is a sign of danger, even hypocrisy, but just having good works but bad doctrine is just as ugly before God. Oh how I pray for godly sound Holy Spirit filled young people who know their Bible and theology and can win the atheist and Mormon, but who can cry with the abused and share the truth of Christ and His forgiveness for even their sins.
Secondly, Clairborne quotes Boenhoffer, who was part of a group trying to assassinate Hitler, Boenhoffer once said that if you see a drunk man about to drive down a freeway you have the responsibility to arrest the wheel out of his hands, not exactly a pacifist.
furthermore Che Guevara was a mass murderer, not a hero of love, he was a communist killer like Stalin and Lenin and Moa and all such communists. I couldn’t believe he even mentioned him.
Lastly his use of mother Teresa is such a touchy subject, let me just say that Mother Teresa taught in her book, ‘the Simple way’ that her aim was to make a Muslim a better Muslim, a Hindu a better Hindu and what not, and you see this when Clairnorne says to the lepers, “I see God in you” (page 79) and the other guy says the same back, the Bible says without Christ you are a child of the devil, the Hindu idea of god in you is that you are actually a god. I recall God calling people’s good works ‘filthy rags’ before His eyes.
Really all Clairborne does is preach the same old liberal theology, this time from a perspective of communist rather then women or black. His liberalism is tinged with post-modernism. He redefines the Church to include all and thus says we need to reach out unconditionally on a social level to all, I see this as foreign to God’s intention. God did not come to set up an earthly kingdom, but one in men’s heart. As for Clairborne use of being persecuted, I think Christ made It clear as did the apostles, it only really counts if you are persecuted for righteousness sake, for preaching the gospel (that involves sin and repentance towards God, not listening to boring sermons). By the way he constantly miss uses the 2 or 3 are gathered quote, but then again so do most Christians.
In short, I think the book is dangerous because it steers us away from Christ the savior and points us towards a man-made revolutionary Christ. It steers us away from the teachings Christ came to bring and steers us towards a political worldview. It steers us away from the grace and mercy and soon coming judgment of God and our helplessness, towards a distant God, but wonderfully capable men who In fact seem like they could get along fine without Him. Please be careful, even if you don’t agree with all I have said (and I would love to discuss it, on the wall for comments after this being a good time). Thanks for taking the time to read this.