A Farewell to Mars by Brian Zahnd (Book Review)

A Farewell to Mars

There was a time when Brian Zahnd prayed war prayers, asking God to bless America’s militarism. He, like so many other American Evangelicals, had a picture of God that was much more akin to Mars, the god of war, than to Jesus, “that preacher of peace.” But Brian has repented of his nationalistic idolatry, and he invites us to do the same.

This book was of interest to me, as I too have recently become convinced that Jesus taught a gospel peace and nonviolence. We simply cannot fulfill his command to love our enemies if we kill them. A Farewell to Mars promises to chronicle Brian’s “own journey from war crier to peacemaker” as he “reintroduces us to the gospel of Peace.”

Having now read it, I’m simultaneously delighted and disappointed. Delighted because I enjoyed every page—and disappointed because the book failed to do what it promised. This is a fantastic book; it simply is not the book that was advertised.

What Did Jesus Think of the Revolution?

Revolution

More than two centuries ago, the founding fathers of this country signed a statement known as the Declaration of Independence. This document officialized the American colonies’ break from Great Britain. The colonists believed they were justified in this action—along with the bloody conflict itself—due to an increase in taxes without sufficient representation. In fact, many of them were convinced that God was on their side in the war for independence from their oppressors. Let the revolution begin!

A similar situation existed two millennia ago. Much like the colonists under British rule, the Jews were under the oppressive rule of Rome. However, Israel was not a rightful colony of Rome; their land had been taken by force. Like the colonists, the Jews faced heavy taxation, but they also faced constant abuse, and their whole way of life was being destroyed. They couldn’t do anything without the interference of Rome. Caesar even considered himself to be god—the ultimate blasphemy against Yahweh.

Surely, they were justified in their desire to break from Rome. Surely, God was on their side.

Sound Doctrine, Heresy, and Theological Divisions

Persecution

The blogosphere has been buzzing recently with charges of heresy. But what is heresy? Is it a question of one’s theology? And is that theology something worth dividing over? I addressed these questions in a chapter for the upcoming book, What We’re For, edited by Eric Carpenter and scheduled to be published through Redeeming Press this Fall. What follows is an excerpt from my chapter, adapted with permission for this blog post.


When believers separate over theology, it is usually because one or both sides think the other’s theology is so badly wrong that they cannot remain in fellowship. As justification for this divisive behavior, they often appeal to verses that talk about “sound doctrine” or “heresy.” Of course, both groups pridefully imagine that they are protectors of sound doctrine but that the other group promotes heresy. This approach has caused the majority of schisms and persecutions throughout church history. It also reveals a misunderstanding of both sound doctrine and heresy as spoken of in the Bible.

Primal Fire by Neil Cole (Book Review)

Primal Fire

Neil Cole is a name I’ve known for quite some time. He literally wrote the book on “organic church”—a term that describes the journey I’ve been on for almost four years now. But until recently, I’d never actually read one of his books. I’m happy to say that’s no longer the case.

His latest book, Primal Fire, is about the five roles listed in Ephesians 4:11—apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher (or APEST for short). And while APEST is his focus, he covers much more than these specific callings. The book was thoroughly enjoyable from cover to cover.

I agreed with just about everything Neil had to say. Because of this, I’m going to get my one disagreement out of the way before covering the many things I loved about the book. And when it comes down to it, our only major area of disagreement is a matter of semantics.

10,000 Children

Steak

10,000.

That’s the number of children whose sponsors abandoned them because of World Vision’s (temporary) change in hiring policy. 10,000 alleged followers of Christ believed it would be better to break their covenants and ignore our prime directive—love your neighbor—than it would be to work alongside gays.

My heart breaks for the state of Jesus’ church.

I know I’m a bit late to be posting about this. The controversy has come and gone. World Vision’s decision has been reversed. Some sponsors have returned. But not all of them.

Thousands of children are still without a sponsor right now, thanks to our “Christian” generosity.

Now we all have two choices. We can complain about the state of the church—so bent on fighting the culture wars yet so lacking in love. Or we can step up and be the church Christ intended.