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Dismissing Jesus: How We Evade the Way of the Cross

Dismissing Jesus: How We Evade the Way of the Cross

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Dismissing Jesus: How We Evade the Way of the Cross

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May 7, 2013


What is the way of the cross? Why does it create resistance? How do we answer objections to it? The revival of interest in Christ's kingdom and radical discipleship has produced a wave of discussions, but sometimes those discussions are scattered. This book aims to pull together in one place the core claims of the way of the cross. It aims to examine the deeply cherished assumptions that hinder us from hearing Jesus's call.

When we do that, we'll see that the gospel of Christ is not primarily about getting into heaven or about living a comfortable, individually pious, middle-class life. It is about being free from the ancient, pervasive, and delightful oppression of Mammon in order to create a very different community, the church, an alternative city-kingdom here and now on earth by means of living and celebrating the way of the cross--the reign of joyful weakness, renunciation, self-denial, sharing, foolishness, community, and love overcoming evil.
May 7, 2013

Informazioni sull'autore

Douglas Jones is an ordained minister in the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC) and a former senior fellow of humanities of New St. Andrews College, Moscow, Idaho. He helps oversee CREC Myanmar.

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Dismissing Jesus - Douglas M. Jones



Doug Jones has taught me more than I can remember. I got a refresher in Western philosophy sitting in on his philosophy class when I first arrived at New St. Andrews College (NSA). In lectures on Trinitarian theology, aesthetics, the ethics of jokes, theology of the body, Sabbath, and festivity, Doug’s habit of raising more questions than he answered left students and other faculty inspired, bewildered, always begging for more. I wasn’t the only one to learn much from him about Nietzsche; for several years, self-styled Uberwenches stalked the NSA campus, smart women not to be messed with. Not everything Doug tried to teach me has stuck: To this day, I cannot bring myself to regard Finnegans Wake as a novel, much less a masterpiece, though Doug convinced me it was worth my time to mine Joyce’s inexhaustible vein of neologisms.

Of all the things I have learned from Doug, none has been so revolutionary for me, or for Doug, as his recent work on political theology, economics, and the way of the cross. Doug shook me out of a complacent neoconservatism and forced me to examine how often our economic habits are liturgies to Mammon. During the depths of the recent recession, I caught myself breathing a sigh of relief at news reports that the Dow was rising again. I would never have recognized that sigh as the idolatry it is without Doug’s provocations.

Doug begins with a meditation on the mystery of persuasion. I am unpersuaded of several of the central arguments in Dismissing Jesus. As Doug says, Abraham was no Pharaoh, but the Bible describes him as a man of wealth, and at the climax of the Abraham narrative the sons of Heth declare him a great prince (Gen 23). Jesus says that the broad way leads to destruction, but Doug seems to think most Christians are on the broad way, that runs the risk of promoting a two-tiered church. I would like Doug to offer a more precise definition of violence, and I think the topography of maturation from Old to New is less smooth than Doug maps it. Doug is not a pacifist, but he needs to explain why not. I wonder if Doug has given weight to the way the patriarchal narratives, the life of David, the career of Jesus, and the history of the church progress from weakness to power. I would like to see Doug integrate Acts more intimately into his reading of Luke.

Doug has always been a jolly provocateur. There was the time he celebrated April Fool’s Day by parking a friend’s pickup in a neighboring town with a For Sale sign in the windshield. On another April 1, he joined with students to hack into the NSA web site and post pictures of the torture chamber in the cavernous basement of the library. Doug assumed the role of college President, wielding a whip against unruly students.

Dismissing Jesus too is a provocation, though no joke. Doug identifies and invites us to remove the blinders that seduce us from the way of our crucified and risen Lord. Ultimately he calls the church to be more fully herself, a community devoted to seeking Jesus’s kingdom and trusting the Father for the rest, a communion in the Spirit that is for that reason a communion in all of God’s good gifts, a fellowship that is herself a graced economy. His book is unsettling; frequently it is unsettling in just the way Jesus is. Doug’s barbs sink deep, and, persuaded or not, every reader will profit from a slow, receptive engagement with this book.

Peter J. Leithart

Peniel Hall

Moscow, Idaho

Preface on Persuasion

Ten years ago I would have dismissed this book rather quickly, after reading just a few paragraphs. I would have thought it missed the importance of beauty and joy and laughter, in the way I narrowly conceived them then.

Twenty years ago I would have dismissed this book with just a glance at the table of contents and back cover, for what I would have judged as a minimizing of the power of doctrine. It would not have meshed with my assumption of a worldview through which every answer clicks out automatically. I would also have held my nose at its tone. And its categories would have seemed alien territory, a different Christian tradition, too uncomfortable for my comfortable Reformed truths. What good could come from anywhere off my farm?

Thirty years ago, if I even would have picked up this book, I would have quickly denounced it as Marxist crap masquerading as Christian faith, completely hopeless and dangerous, lying about the whole gospel. I would have said that it lacked conservative hardness.

I can’t see any way I could have broken through to my earlier selves. They had barricaded themselves too well.

Persuasion is a terribly strange thing. It has to overcome our personality types, our histories, our ages, all our past friends and safe influences, and our willingness to reconsider. We dismiss books and authors for lacking the right feel or for not sounding like our friends. It’s an impossible task. Persuasion is magic or more like an unbelievable accident. We have to be standing at just the right intersection at the exact moment of time, tilting our head in just one direction to see what we need to see. It’s astounding we’re ever persuaded of anything new. I guess that’s why most of us tend to stick forever with views we embraced in high school or college.

Then Kierkegaard’s clown complicates the issue beyond all hope:

It happened that a fire broke out backstage in a theater. The clown came out to inform the public. They thought it was just a jest and applauded. He repeated his warning, they shouted even louder. So I think the world will come to an end amid general applause from all the wits, who believe that it is a joke.¹

1. Oden, Parables,



Part One

What Is the Way of the Cross?


Overview of the Way of the Cross

I am spiritually blind. Conservative Christian and blind. I am one of the many who followed the broad path and said to Jesus I will follow you but did not sit down first and count the cost (Luke 14:28). I have taught and pastored and misled many sincere Christians—congregants, students, my family—for decades, preaching cheap grace and missing the weightier matters of the law. Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:33). Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:27).

I am the rich young ruler Jesus addressed. I have a car, several computers, lawn sprinklers, a tiled shower, a full pantry, air conditioning, a nice outdoor deck, plenty of books, and I’ve spent years sincerely trying to figure out theological questions—Good teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 18:18). Bonhoeffer commented on the rich young ruler’s strategy: Keep on posing questions, and you will escape the necessity of obedience.¹

Why read on, then? Why read a book by the spiritually blind? Maybe, because I am not alone. I suspect you, like me, are a rich young ruler. Most of us in the West are. It’s our most common shape. At least, Jesus looking at him, loved him (Mark 10:21). Maybe there’s hope for us.

So, I am blind but arguing with myself, with us. I write to persuade myself out of blindness, with a plea to the Spirit. I long for a second chance, now later in life. Maybe the Spirit can get through to me. Of course, most of us rich, young rulers don’t consider ourselves wealthy or blind. It’s always the people above us, the blatantly greedy and cruel, whom Jesus had in mind, not us innocuous and insipid followers. And it’s always secularists or people in other Christian traditions who are blind. Never us.

But when Scripture addresses God’s people, it portrays spiritual blindness as rather normal. It’s regular, common, cutting across Old and New Testaments. Moses promised the Israelites I know after my death you will become utterly corrupt, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you (Deut 31:29). A psalmist lamented They do not know. . . . They walk about in darkness (Ps 82:5). Isaiah declared, who is blind but my servant? (Isa 42:19) and His watchmen are blind, they are all ignorant; they are all dumb dogs (Isa 56:10). Jesus was frustrated by both opponents and followers: blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch (Matt 15:14). And even just a few short years after the crucifixion, resurrection, and Pentecost, Christ told his own people, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you . . . do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked (Rev 3:16,17). Blindness everywhere. God’s people have a high probability of blindness.

How would you know if you were spiritually blind? It’s not obvious. Imagine, for a moment, that you are actually among the majority of us who are spiritually blind. You walk about in darkness, but you think you see clearly. Imagine you’re one of the nice, well-meaning churchgoers, who has nice Christian ideas in your head. Imagine you were one of the people Isaiah spoke to, the ones who sacrificed diligently and properly (Isa 1:11), you appeared before the Lord regularly (Isa 1:12), attended worship meetings and festivals (Isa 1:13), you offered many prayers (Isa 1:15), and you might even have been one of the few who were disciplined enough to fast regularly (Isa 58:3). That’s exactly the sort of person who was and is most likely to be blind. We are those who so often totally miss what God has called his people to do. Can we imagine being so sincere and well-meaning and diligent and yet hear God say to us When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear (Isa 1:15)? I have had enough (Isa 1:11). Rather, we tend to assume mere middle-class niceness and decency protects us from blindness. But it’s that decency that makes us the most likely to be blind.

So how could we know if we’re spiritually blind? The Old Testament prophets thought they could get through to us with pointed denunciations. Some of us respond to denunciations by looking more and more inward. We hope that greater introspection will lead to truth. But that, too, is often a path of blindness. Most truth is not that mysterious and subjective. Just as Moses said, for this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off (Deut 30:11). And it’s not as complicated as struggling to get a small gnat from a drink and accidentally swallowing a beast (Matt 23:24). In the end, Christ’s message is pretty straightforward and obvious. You don’t need five hundred years to figure it out. Whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. It’s not hard to see. In fact, spiritual blindness assumes that truth is easy to see and obey. It’s so easy we have to manufacture obstacles in order to miss it. We don’t want to see it. I don’t want to see it.

That’s what I want to argue about in this book. Here’s a short version of my thesis: The dominant form of Christian living is one designed to shield us from Jesus’s explicit priorities. How is it that the vast majority of Christians set aside Jesus’s obvious and revolutionary call so easily? How do we make disobedience and blindness so normal and acceptable?

Here’s a longer version of the same thesis: Certain deeply and widely cherished assumptions about Christ, society, and our selves block us from seeing Jesus’s call, and we must escape these blinders before we can walk Jesus’s path again. When we do that, we’ll see that the gospel of Christ is not primarily about getting into heaven or about living a comfortable, individually-pious middle-class life. It is about being free from the ancient, pervasive, and delightful oppression of Mammon in order to create a very different community, the church, an alternative city-kingdom here and now on earth by means of living and celebrating the way of the cross—the reign of joyful weakness, renunciation, self-denial, sharing, foolishness, community, and love-overcoming-evil.

We simply do not want the way of the cross to be what life is all about. It would mean that what most often passes for Christianity is largely a lie, a deception designed to keep us from the way Jesus. But how could a majority get it wrong? That seems so unlikely. I’ll come back to that.

This book is divided into three parts. The first and main part aims to get clear about the way of the cross itself. We have to understand the way of the cross before we can evade it. The second part focuses on several key, contemporary reasons why we can’t see the way of the cross, and it tries to undermine each. The third part offers a brief, constructive vision about what a healthy local and international church would look like if it took up the cross of Christ. It’s a new world with ancient roots. The final chapter describes the sort of ancient spirituality required for the kingdom work to proceed.

I somehow stumbled into talk of the way of the cross late in life, decades after doing the typical evangelical thing, and I’m still not there. I certainly wasn’t looking for it, and it’s certainly not some unique angle I made up. It has always been a stream within the Christian church, and it’s a tradition that beautifully cuts across all denominations and traditions. Within each prominent Christian tradition, you can find longtime defenders of the way of the cross. They’re usually pushed off to the side, often ignored, often suppressed, while the major institutions and teachers continue fussing and fighting about the broad and easy way. The way of the cross is sometimes described as radical but it’s just normal Jesus. The radical label frees us from taking it seriously. The way of the cross stands out clearly in the early church. But we also see it through the early Middle Ages in various expressions of monasticism. Later we see it in the Waldensians, St. Francis, Wycliffe and the Lollards, Hussites, Vincent de Paul, Thomas a Kempis, and many more. In modern times, we find expressions of the way of the cross in Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Eberhard Arnold, Nikolai Berdyaev, Peter Maurin, Dorothy Day, Howard Thurman, Andre Trocme, Jacques Ellul (both from my own Reformed tradition), Clarence Jordan, and, of course, the Lutheran Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the author of the most important theology book of the last two or three hundred years—The Cost of Discipleship (1937). That’s the book that many of us have long had on our shelves but never got around to reading. It is not a perfect book, but it is profoundly simple, exasperating, timeless, and revolutionary. It aims, after all, to be just a simple restatement of Jesus’s most basic teaching—the way of the cross.

Bonhoeffer recognized the long tradition of the way of the cross. He offered this famous insight about the rise of monasticism as a protest movement, once the broad way had settled into the church after Constantine.

Here on the outer fringe of the church was a place where the older vision was kept alive. Here men still remembered that grace costs, that grace means following Christ. Here they left all they had for Christ’s sake, and endeavored daily to practice.²

Bonhoeffer added that the false turn came when the church represented monasticism as an individual achievement which the mass of the laity could not be expected to emulate.

By thus limiting the application of the commandments of Jesus to a restricted group of specialists, the Church evolved the fatal conception of the double standard—a maximum and a minimum standard of Christian obedience. . . . [T]he fatal error of monasticism lay not so much in its rigorism (though even here there was a good deal of misunderstanding . . . ) as in the extent to which it departed from genuine Christianity by setting up itself as the individual achievement of a select few, and so claiming a special merit of its own.³

The way of the cross turned into something marginal, something radical, and so Jesus’s basic, normal way was sidelined throughout most of the church. Jesus’s way diverged from the normal Christian way. Jesus’s path somehow became freakish. The Sermon on the Mount was tamed and declawed.

And, strangely, none of these results should be surprising. Jesus predicted this marginalizing of himself within the church. After all, he gave all those famous warnings about the narrow way. What other words have been so ignored and explained away? Sure, some Christian traditions, way-of-the-cross traditions understood these passages, at least in part. But most of our traditions have to twist and turn to get away from that pointed warning in order to make the faith fit with Western notions of bigness and success. Wall Street can’t do anything in a narrow way.

What could be more straightforward, though? Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matt 7:14). This language should always and immediately make us skeptical of the huge manifestations of Christianity, whether it’s evangelical academic institutions, sprawling megachurches, or St. Peter’s Basilica. Something is amiss. It doesn’t mean that God can’t work through whatever the broad way is, but, at least, we shouldn’t grant automatic awe to these expressions. They are most likely misleading.

To explain the narrow way, Jesus added that premonition of his own future sidelining: Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matt 7:22, 23). In other words, they missed it. They were doing good, churchy things, even supernatural things, but these Christians missed Jesus’s way. The many will do all sorts of broad-path behavior, even activities of the Spirit—preaching, prophesying, exorcism, and miracles. The many even have some manifestations of God’s Spirit working on their side, and yet they have missed the way of Jesus. Missed it completely, notice. Again, Jesus’s way isn’t obscure. After all, his warning comes at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. That’s the way of the cross, when it’s not been suppressed and gutted. In my circles, we got pretty good at dismissing the narrow-way passages, and I’ll return to interact with those moves in the second part of the book.

Dostoevsky offered one of the most telling explanations about the sidelining of the way of the cross in his presentation of the Grand Inquisitor in the Brothers Karamazov. Dostoevsky puts the story in the mouth of the atheistic brother, Ivan, and uses it with great irony as an attack on Christ. In Ivan’s story, Christ returns to earth during the height of the Spanish Inquisition. The head of the Inquisition, the Grand Inquisitor, recognizes Jesus walking around the town and has him arrested. In prison, the Grand Inquisitor tells Jesus that he will burn him at the stake as the worst heretic. Why? Because, after 1500 years, the church had finally fixed Jesus’s mistake. Jesus’s error, says the Grand Inquisitor, was requiring too much freedom and responsibility from his followers. In Satan’s temptation, Christ had repudiated all the ways that constrain freedom—miracle of bread, mystery of faith, and the power of domination. Instead of such terrible freedom, the church had given Christ’s followers happiness. Instead of the way of the cross, the church had relieved believers of the burdens of responsibility, conscience, disciplines, of going against the cultural grain, and given them the happiness of rule-following.

In the midst of the account,⁴ the Grand Inquisitor tells Jesus, you overestimated mankind. Man is created weaker and baser that you thought him! It was impossible to leave them in greater confusion and torment than you did, abandoning them to so many cares and insoluble problems. Thus you yourself laid the foundation for the destruction of your own kingdom. That’s why the church has corrected your deed.

The Grand Inquisitor recognizes the centrality of Satan’s temptation of Christ. Christians often take that temptation as trivial filler. But the Inquisitor sees that now that fifteen centuries have gone by, we can see that in these three questions everything was so precisely divined and foretold, and has proved so completely true, that to add to them or subtract anything from them is impossible.

Christ rejected the three central offers that would have furnished all that man seeks on earth, that is: someone to bow down to, someone to take over his conscience, and a means for uniting everyone at last into a common, concordant, and incontestable anthill.

The church fixed that misdeed. Instead of the way of the cross and its frightening freedom, the church created an easier way that delivered the masses from their great care and their present terrible torments of personal and free decision. And at the last day, the easy-way church will stand strong against Jesus and say Judge us if you can and dare. The Grand Inquisitor ends with the telling observation to Jesus, "I joined the host of those who have corrected your deed. I left the proud and returned to the humble, for the happiness of the humble. What I am telling you will come true, and our kingdom will be established. Tomorrow, I repeat, you will see this obedient flock, which at my first gesture will rush to heap hot coals around your stake, as which I shall burn you for having come to interfere with us."

So, what exactly is this narrow way of life, this way of the cross? Notice, first, that Jesus characterized it as a way, a path, a road on which we travel and do things. A way is biased toward action rather than mere thinking. For most of us, being a Christian has meant holding Christian ideas in our heads. Christianity is just a view, a worldview by which we judge everything else. Sure, these ideas also serve as rules and shape some of our behavior, but for the most part we live the typical middle-class life, with all its worries, activities, and rituals—all the things Jesus warned us against.

We first find the language of a way describing Jesus’s mission at his birth. Jesus was said to be the one who will guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:79). Others acknowledged that he taught the way of God (Matt 22:16; Luke 20:21). Jesus himself observed that John the Baptist also taught the way of righteousness (Matt 21:32). But difficult is the way (Matt 7:14). And he who entered some other way was a thief (John 10:1). Most importantly, Jesus said, I am the way (John 14:6).

In the book of Acts, the language of the way does more work. The word grows and becomes a label for the whole gospel of Christ. Paul was said to be hunting any who were of the Way, whether men or women (Acts 9:2). He confessed that he persecuted this Way to the death (Acts 22:4). Apollos knew something of the way of the Lord (Acts 18:25), but Aquila and Priscilla took him aside and explained to him the way of God more (Acts 18:26). In Ephesus, opponents spoke evil of the Way (Acts 19:9) and later there arose a great commotion about the Way (Acts 19:23). Before the governor, Paul explained that he worshiped the God of his fathers, according to the Way which they call a sect (Acts 24:14), and, after Paul’s explanation, Felix had a more accurate knowledge of the Way (Acts 24:22). As ancient Christians understood it, a way suggests a journey of transformation, with steps and maturing of soul and community. In contrast, one can embrace a system of belief and never mature, except in fine-tuning of doctrines. As many have noted, a system of belief is different than a way of transformation. Most of us rest happy within a system of belief, century after century.

For the apostle Paul, the whole message of the Way gets summarized in terms of the cross of Christ: I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor 2:2). For many Christians, Paul’s claim simply means he’s only concerned with blood atonement. But in context, Paul hasn’t been talking about blood or forgiveness at all. He’s been discussing weakness. In fact, just following his claim about Christ crucified, Paul explains it as social weakness (1 Cor 2:3), not atonement.

What is the way of the cross, then? It is first and foremost a genuine way, a course of action, not merely a set of ideas. And, as noted, it’s a course of action that has been recognized with marvelous consistency across many centuries and traditions and denominations. Agreement over the basic way of the cross is certainly a miracle. But as noted, it’s not hard to see. It’s just the Sermon on the Mount taken seriously. It should be obvious. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life began to open up to him when he realized this.

In 1935, Bonhoeffer wrote his brother about how his theological studies had turned from mere academic work to something completely different from that.

I now believe I know at least that I am at least on the right track—for the first time in my life. And that often makes me very glad . . . I believe I know that inwardly I shall be really clear and honest only when I have begun to take seriously the Sermon on the Mount. Here is set the only source of power capable of exploding the whole enchantment and specter [Hitler and his rule]. . . . The restoration of the church will surely come from a sort of new monasticism which has in common with the old only the uncompromising attitude of a life lived according to the Sermon on the Mount in the following of Christ. I believe it is now time to call people to this.

For Bonhoeffer, and many others in the way of the cross tradition, we see this move, a shift of the Sermon on the Mount and Sermon on the Plain from being peripheral, afterthoughts to standing at the center. And the whole Christian world shifts around a new axis.

Expositors of the way of the cross have explained it in many ways, often in bits and pieces. I had a hard time finding something attempting a more comprehensive summary of it, so that’s what I’m trying. Other advocates will and have chosen other language or categories to do so. But it’s basically the same thing. I’ll summarize the way of the cross in terms of seven subordinate ways that make it up. Here is the basic list, and later sections of the book will trace each of these ways through scripture.

The way of the cross is made up of these paths:

Way of Weakness: In the history of his saving work, the Lord primarily and regularly works through various kinds of human weakness rather than through power and wealth. He uses the aged, the lame, the enslaved, the few, the poor, the women, the shameful ones. This doesn’t mean that God excludes the powerful, wealthy, and healthy (Luke 5:31). These just aren’t the focus of God’s reign. Most importantly, death on the cross in the first century was a despised and shameful way of death. It was the way Romans utterly humiliated and killed the hope of those hoping to resist its rule. The way of the cross, then, sides, first, with the weak and shameful. Everything begins around this.

Way of Renunciation: From Eden to Revelation, the continuous enemy of God’s work is some incarnation of the spirit of domination, selfishness, power, greed, ostentation, pageantry, exceptionalism, and greatness—way of the Serpent, Sodom, Canaan, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, and all those who kiss up to them. Jesus labels this demonic mixture Mammon and the World. The evil of Mammon is not money itself, but the broader cult of domination, unsacrificial wealth, violence, and greatness. The way of the cross continually renounces the delicious ways of Mammon and seeks to overthrow all its expressions. But modern life glorifies domination, selfish wealth, and greatness.

Way of Deliverance: The chief goal of God’s work is not to populate heaven with holy thinkers but to create a living, holy community on earth, and this means that the main thrust of God’s work, from the start, has been to deliver people from the various oppressions of Mammon, both fleshly and spiritual. Without neglecting any subordinate duties and callings, God’s people aim first and foremost to emancipate enemies and friends from the domination of sin, demons, and the perennial rulers of Mammon. The way of the cross is the continual mission of Exodus. It takes seriously—mercy, not sacrifice.

Way of Sharing: The earth is the Lord’s, and Father, Son, and Spirit give life and freedom to one another. Once delivered, God’s people incarnate God’s life of sharing by sacrificial living so that all in the community have enough, a sharing that characterized original sabbath life—Every man had gathered according to each one’s need (Exod 16:18), demanded by the prophets (Isa 58), revived by Christ and the apostles—distributed to each as anyone had need (Acts 4:35), and pictured in the Lord’s Supper. But modern Western life is not organized around self-denial and sacrifice. We’re happy to do generosity on the side, giving out of our abundance, but Jesus rejected the life of charity.

Way of Enemy Love: God is love, and he is also patient, training his Old Covenant people out of the one-time relevant but immature ways of violence, hatred, and war against enemies into the new life of loving our enemies, blessing not cursing, and overcoming evil with good—the way of peace and peacemaking. The way of the cross does not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty (2 Cor 10:3, 4). Modern life rushes to bow to the god Mars, calling on us to respect and support the butchery and enslavement of civilians and manufactured enemies.

Way of the Foolishness: The way of Mammon or the World appears undeniable, rational, effective, superior, but the way of the cross recognizes that God works in mysterious, unpredictable, and surprising ways. It takes a special way of seeing to understand the unpredictable truth of God’s ways. This way of perceiving contrary to common sense, scripture calls faith. It is a perception of unseen things and a way of walking not by sight. This contrary-to-sight perception distinguishes the great heroes of the faith, like Abraham, the prophets, Christ, and the apostles. Faith is not just a belief in a supernatural truth or an easy way into heaven, but a costly way of living contrary to the World—do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed (Rom 12:2). Faith is not simply believing that Jesus is the divine savior but a total way of life, a way opposed to the seemingly obvious and automatic rules of the World and Mammon.

Way of Community: The way of the cross thrives only in a dedicated body of believers, not heroic individuals. Jesus has delegated his mission on earth to his body, the church, the center of worship and effective ceremony. The way of the cross fails if it is not lived in community. It is not designed for loners. Jesus’s way assumes a community of love and commitment and burden bearing. It requires great sacrifice and self-denial out of love for others in the body. The way of the cross is deeply communal because, in the end, it seeks to incarnate the love and loyalty of Father, Son, and Spirit on earth. The way of the cross seeks to make Trinity here and now. That is God’s mission for us.

But these paths are not my life. (Yet.) The way of the cross is not the typical middle-class, Christian way. In fact it’s at odds with it. A church that lived this way would quickly undermine everything dear to our way of life—mortgages, jobs with no kingdom relevance, the assumption of constant ease, military glories, clothing made by wage-slaves, being the greatest among our peers, and the cool relief of blindness. The great Christian observer Nikolai Berdyaev once noted, that typical, Christian, middle-class life is dominated by money and social position [and] a complete disregard of the human personality. It is

the fortress of virtues, principles, patriotism, family, property, Church, State, morality. It can also be the champion of freedom, equality, and fraternity. But such falsehood and falsification are a most terrible manifestation of universal evil. The devil is a liar. Thus a negation of spirit must masquerade itself as a defense of spirit, atheism may assume the form of a piety, a contempt for freedom and equality may manifest itself as

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    In Dismissing Jesus: How We Evade the Way of the Cross, author Douglas Jones says the 21st-century church has reflected the world too much, at the cost of neglecting the teachings and priorities of Jesus Christ. This is seen especially in middle-class American churches, in which people seek to have Christ as well as all the trappings of the middle-class. These churches have abandoned the exclusive worship of Jesus in favor of syncretism, adding idolatry of Mammon to the worship agenda. Mammon, which Jones defines as "the broader cult of domination, unsacrificial wealth, violence, and greatness" (12), is so ingrained in our culture that we are blind to its effects. We are on the wide path that Jesus describes in Matthew 7, one that leads to destruction.The remedy that Jones offers in this book is to return to the narrow path, which he labels the "Way of the Cross." It means a rejection of the ways of the world, in favor of complete submission and obedience to Christ. It means a focus on the heart of Jesus, reflected in the acts of weakness, renunciation, deliverance, sharing, enemy love, foolishness, and community. By embracing the priorities of Christ, and rejecting the ways of Mammon, we will be made more in his image than in the image of the world.The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 looks at characteristics of the Way of the Cross, found in the teachings and actions of Christ. Part 2 highlights the obstacles in our way of following the Way of the Cross. Part 3 gives readers a glimpse of what a Christian community truly united on the Way of the Cross looks like.Dismissing Jesus is not a book you skim through, nor is it a book you nod and agree with. This book will challenge you, stretch you, and make you truly think about whether you more reflect the ways of Mammon or the Way of the Cross. By far his strongest chapters are those explaining the Way of the Cross in Part 1. Each reads as a wonderful sermon, packed with rich exegesis and challenging application. He does a fine job unsettling all types of readers, especially in Part 2, when he goes to war against the embedded practices of Mammon in our lives. Perhaps the best compliment I can give Douglas Jones is to say I must read this book again soon, for it will take another reading to process everything in the book.Overall, Dismissing Jesus is a very powerful book for the 21st-century church. As I said above, I will be processing and working through the implications of this book for some time to come. Douglas Jones has written a much-needed book for the 21st-century church, and I pray that pastors and church leaders will read it and heed to the changes that Jones, and ultimately Christ, calls the church to make.I received a review copy from Cascade Books in return for an unbiased review.