Saving Jesus From the Church

by Robin Myers (2009), reviewed by Vern Ratzlaff

Myers, pastor of a Congregational church in Oklahoma City, has walked with his congregation on a path that looks more to relationships than to creeds as normative for Jesus’ friends.  It is the path that leads away from adoration of the ‘nation state and standing armies, away from closed religious scriptures’ (p 10).

Back to the days of the early church when the call of G-d was experiential, not creedal (‘right belief instead of right worship’, p 10).  He focuses on ‘What does the Bible really say?  What does it mean to say it is inspired by G-d? Why do we believe that G-d’s voice is exclusively in the past tense? (p 19).  He describes religion at its best: ‘biblically responsible, intellectually honest, emotionally satisfying and socially significant’ (p 22).  He looks at the way in which the bible has been shaped:  a process of review and selection that condensed an enormous amount of material down to four gospels, a pseudo-history we call the Acts of the Apostles, and the letters that complete the New Testament’ (p 24).

Myers does several chapters on emphasizing the relational dimensions of the drop-out carpenter:  ‘Original blessing, not Original Sin’, ‘Christianity as Compassion, not Condemnation’, ‘Discipleship as obedience, not Observance’, ‘Justice as Covenant, not Control’, ‘Prosperity as Dangerous, not Divine’; ‘Religion as Relationship, not Righteousness’.

Myers expresses powerfully his conviction that following Jesus in social compassion is what we do, not in what we creedally subscribe to. ‘The most important question is not about what we believe; it is about how we relate’ (p 223).

Vern Ratzlaff is a pastor and professor of historical theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.