During the Summer of 2008 I read a book called “Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne. This book opened up a new world to me; a world of young Christians, passionate for social justice. Not just social justice, but a revolution against the “health and wealth—your-best-life-now” type of Christianity popular in America. Much of this rang very true for me as I read it. It still does. Claiborne sarcastically recalls some of his past experiences going to a youth group at a church where it seemed the main focus was on having fun; the things he remembered most about that youth group were the cheap snowboarding trips, the bouncy inflatable Velcro wall, and the special Velcro suit to use with it (37).
Claiborne has much to say about popular Christianity.
In our culture of “seeker sensitivity” and radical inclusivity, the great temptation is to compromise the cost of discipleship in order to draw a larger crowd. With the most sincere hearts, we do not want to see anyone walk away from Jesus because of the discomfort of his cross, so we clip the claws on the Lion a little, we clean up a bit the bloody Passion we are called to follow (104).
It’s hard to keep from screaming amen after reading that. As a stand-alone quote I think we should. The problem arrives when we understand this snippet in the larger context of what Claiborne believes. We must examine what is meant by, “the bloody Passion we are called to follow” in the context of his entire book. Is it really biblical passion for Christ and His mission, or something else? It seems evident that Claiborne’s ministry motivation comes largely as a response to much of evangelicalism’s talk with no walk. He writes at one point:
“I believed all the right stuff—that Jesus is the Son of God, died and rose again. I had become a “believer,” but I had no idea what it means to be a follower. People had taught me what Christians believe, but no one had told me how Christians live” (38-39).
Again, no Christian can disagree here; James writes, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” Maybe he is right; maybe we need a “revolution.” But what should this revolution look like? It’s important to point out that James did not say, “just be doers;” He said, “be doers of the Word.” So if we need a revolution, we need one which is focused on the Word. Orthopraxy which flows out of orthodoxy. Not just social action for the sake of social action.
Who is Shane Claiborne?
Shane Claiborne graduated from Eastern university, studying sociology, and youth ministries. He has also studied at Wheaton College, and Princeton Theological Seminary. From the passion he shows in his book, and willingness to live out what he teaches, it is clear that he truly believes what he writes. In the book he says:
“the answer to bad theology is not no theology but good theology. So rather than distancing ourselves from religious language and biblical study, let’s dive into the Scripture together, correcting bad theology with good theology” (169).
Let’s take this as a challenge to bring Claiborne’s theology and practices under the light of Scripture. We will see if this ‘revolution’ is a revolution toward being doers of the Word, or just doers for the sake of doing. There is a passion and drive in Claiborne’s life that should be present in all Christians, and a love for the poor which is commendable and close to the heart of God. There is truth to be learned from this book, but as a whole it falls short in correctly handling the Scriptures, and often applauds unscriptural practices. For these reasons I would not recommend the book. The next two posts will deal with Shane Claiborne’s twisting of Scripture, and questionable beliefs and practices.