Book Review: The Jesus Paradigm by David Alan Black

Many thanks to Henry Neufeld of Energion Publications for this review copy of David Alan Black’s The Jesus Paradigm.

For professor Black, the “Jesus Paradigm”  expression “alludes to the way Jesus concluded his earthly ministry.  He washed his disciples’ feet and then said, ‘I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done’ (John 13:15)…  It is the exact opposite of our human way.  We seek glory by moving upward.  Jesus chose the way of downward mobility, through suffering for us” (p. 7).  It is a radical call to the cruciform life, a life that views the cross as “the hermeneutical key to understanding the revelation of God in Christ” (p. 10).

In many ways The Jesus Paradigm is a critique of what Prof. Black refers to as churchianity, “a form of Christianity that considers ‘relevance’ more important than service and sacrifice” (pp. 126-27).

Drawing on the inimitable Malcolm Muggeridge, Mr. Black draws a distinction between Christendom and Christianity: “The founder of Christianity was, of course, Christ.  The founder of Christendom I suppose could be named as the Emperor Constantine” (p. 29).  For example, “The religion of our age is utopian pragmatism, and with it the whole social structure of America is tumbling down, dethroning its God and undermining all its certainties” (Ibid., emphasis added).

In his call for Radical Reformation (not a return to the 16th century Reformation but the model of church life of the early church as revealed in the New Testament), Prof. Black draws heavily on the Anabaptists of the sixteenth century: “I believe it is time for an alternative vision of church and society, one that is Christocentric and follows the pattern of Jesus by obedience to his teaching and his example” (p. 41), which the professor thought was the quest of the Anabaptists.

Prof. Black has a recommendation for guys who like titles: “If you are a pastor and decide you must have a title, might I recommend “servant pastor” instead of “senior pastor”? (p. 57).

Mr. Black argues that The Jesus Paradigm is “Apolitical Christianity.”  Of course the question of How to follow Jesus and do that responsibly in the political sphere must be addressed (pp. 51-52).   “Christianity in America is now seen as an indispensable tool for political campaigning… Satan must be jumping with joy” (p. 54; chapter six deals with this in more details).

“There can be no justification given for the state usurping the function of private individuals and the church….  The tragedy is that American Christianity has so closely allied itself with the government of the day that the transcendent Gospel has become submerged in the world’s values” (p. 66, emphasis added).

In The Community of the Spirit: Leadership Jesus’ Style, Mr. Black provides a new theological term, Hekastology (from the Greek word for “every,” hekastos), which is based on Ephesians 4:16: “as each and every part does its job effectively.”    Prof. Black goes on to say “Every saint is to make his or her own contribution to the mission and unity of the church, all cooperating according to their ability” (p. 85).

“The whole traditional concept of one pastor of a local congregation is a practice that is absolutely foreign to Scipture,” writes Prof. Black.

The more we know about the kingdom, the greater our obligation to live for it.  We are not called to be Americans.  We are not called to be Baptists.  We are not called to be Republicans or Democrats.  We are called to be foot-washers” (p. 136, emphasis added).

In The Future of Christianity, Mr. Black writes, “For my wife and me, spiritual priorities have become paramount in our life as a married couple.  I think we are discovering what Paul meant when he wrote to the Corinthians, ‘Because the time has been shortened, those who are married should live as though they are not’ [1 Cor. 7:29] (p. 133).

If you’re seeking a short yet insightful read on what it means to be a Jesus-follower, a radical disciple, one who longs for the simple Christianity of the early church before Constantine and Christendom, which have engulfed evangelical Christianity—let me recommend David Alan Black’s The Jesus Paradigm.

David Alan Black is professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina.  When he’s not in the classroom, writing a book, or on the mission field somewhere in Europe, Asia, or African, you can find the good professor online @ daveblackonline.c0mor commenting on someone’s blog.

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This entry was posted in Anabaptists, Book Reviews, Christianity, Church, Church History, Cross of Christ, David Alan Black, Reformation and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Book Review: The Jesus Paradigm by David Alan Black

  1. Pingback: Quote of the Day: Gospel and Politics | Scripture Zealot

  2. Pingback: T. C. Robinson Reviews The Jesus Paradigm « Energion Publications Announcements

  3. Pingback: My Top Seven Reads of 2010 | New Leaven

  4. Pingback: David Alan Black: Missionary Academic | New Leaven

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