Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Q & A with Jared Wilson Author of “Your Jesus is Too Safe”

I am stoked that Jared asked me to review his book as well be a part of his blog tour.  You can check out the rest of the blog tour.  There are some great blogs that are part of this tour; and from what I have seen thus far there are great questions and answers.  Recently I had the opportunity to interview Jared.

1. In chapter 3, Jesus the Forgiver, you say that it’s not true “that you can’t forgive an unrepentant person”.  You then helpfully explain the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Would you say that God forgives everyone but is only reconciled to those that trust in Christ through faith and repentance?

No, I don't believe God forgives everyone. I am an old school Calvinist when it comes to the extent of the atonement, so I do affirm the "L" in TULIP. I believe Christ's work on the cross accomplished salvation for the elect. This has less to do with God forgiving all but only being reconciled with some as it does with God's forgiveness being a work begun that he himself is faithful to finish in reconciliation. I guess you could say that when it comes to the elect, I am a universalist. :-) God gets them all.
The logical question from this, of course, is "If God doesn't forgive everyone, why should we?" And there are several answers but the most important one is this: We are not God. We are not perfectly holy and perfectly just. We don't have the right, as God does, to love Jacob and hate Esau. It is our duty to love others as God has loved us: in spite of anything we've done, in the face of constant rebellion, and on the condition of Jesus Christ.

2. Is it possible that your book is the only one in print which contains the word “waaaaambulance”?

Quite possible. Also, I guarantee it's the only Christian book that employs the phrase "burninate the peasants" and suggests one listen to heavy metal when reading the minor prophets.

3. Your book is obviously written for those that are “hip” more so than those that need a “hip replacement”.  How do you speak the language of the culture without being guilty of creating a fad Jesus of your own?  Or to ask that another way: how do I as a youth pastor speak the language of teenagers without creating a Jesus that is merely "safe" for teenagers?

I think there is a line where context becomes content -- the medium becomes the message -- and we just do our darndest not to cross it. I was conscious throughout the book of the danger in the different profiles of Jesus in the chapters of crafting an array of different Jesuses myself, ironically undercutting the point of the book. I address this in the Conclusion. I think what I tried to do is make sure the humor, the sarcasm, the pop cultural references were part of the window dressing, not the furniture in the room. Someone else recently asked me if I was nervous about receiving some of the same criticism Mark Driscoll got from "Vintage Jesus" for being too humorous with Jesus, and while I don't think Mark crossed any lines, I do think my humor steers clear of pushing Jesus buttons.
So to make a long answer short, I think the way we do this is by consciously and conscientiously making sure our language does not obscure or replace our message. And the way you measure this is if your hearers/readers walk way with an unsafe Jesus. If they think Jesus is so cool he doesn't change them, it's cause for concern and evaluation. 

4. What was your favorite chapter to write and why?

My favorite chapters were "Jesus the Redeemer" because I am a storyteller at heart, and I got to play with narratives and the biblical narrative in that chapter, and "Jesus the King" because I got to present some material I have studied a long time and that reflects a paradigm shift in my own understanding of Jesus and the Gospels over the last ten years. I think it's stuff that the Church has neglected for a long time too, so I felt like that one was a really important chapter. (I have since heard that "Jesus the King" is a lot of people's favorite chapter, as well.)

5. The stated goal of your book is to “remove layers of dirt and grime” from twelve different aspects of who Jesus is.  What particular aspect of Jesus do you feel is the most need of “dusting off”?

There's two, and they represent the two extremes the Church vacillates between. Driscoll has been great at speaking against this false dichotomy too, and I quote him from the Piper/Taylor edited collection "The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World" in my book on this subject. It's basically that we either so dwell on Jesus' incarnation -- Jesus' manhood -- that we suffer for lack of enjoying his exaltation, or we so dwell on his exaltation that we lose the joy of the incarnation. I think many churches favor one or the other and lose real pleasure and profit in who Jesus fully is.

I will provide a complete review of the book in late August/early September.  For now, let me encourage you to buy the book.  Thanks for the interview Jared!

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