Tag Archives: Christian

Jesus: A Biography

The first thing one must acknowledge about JESUS: A THEOGRAPHY by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola (Thomas Nelson, 2012) is that it is written for the layperson who is already a believing Christian what is commonly referred to as an evangelical.  It is not scholarly book meant for the seminary student, although I do not want imply that a seminarian would not profit from reading it.  It is written in a popular style and does not assume a very sophisticated reader.

The central theme of the book is that the Bible is a single narrative that is all about Jesus Christ from Genesis through Revelation.  There nothing new in that.  Any evangelical Christian, this reviewer included has heard that many times, and has no problem agreeing with it.  After all, we recognize the Bible as divine revelation, not a collection of myths and attempts by various individuals to answer those perennial questions of the meaningfulness, if any, of what exists.

Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola have taken on a difficult task.  The book is published by a prominent Christian publishing house to be sold primarily through Christian bookstores.  Hence they had to write within certain acceptable interpretations.  They had to keep one eye on the targeted market while trying to write a book that is both intellectually creditable and helpful.

Although I believe the subject could have been covered in far fewer pages, and perhaps too many concessions are made to avoid offending the intended audience, Sweet and Viola have succeeded in their mission.  The average Christian in the pew, the all too few who actually read books, will benefit from this very readable and understandable book.  The Bible IS all about Jesus Christ, and JESUS: A THEOGRAPHY makes that point in a convincing way.  Those who wish to pursue the topic further will find sufficient titles written by theologians and published by presses that specialize in publishing books for the more sophisticated pilgrim.

Myths Presented as History

The Coming Revolution : Signs from America's Past That Signal Our Nation's Future, DR. Richard Lee

On a positive note, Richard G. Lee is a good writer, one who writes with passion.  I am not surprised to discover that he is a popular preacher and one who makes the rounds as a featured speaker at conservative pep rallies.  According to his own assessment of his accomplishments, he is a popular figure within the conservative evangelical subculture.  Honorary doctorates from such conservative organizations as Liberty University hang on his wall.  Frankly, he is a raising pop star among middle-class “God and country” patriots.

His most recent book, THE COMING REVOLUTION:  SIGNS FROM OUR PAST THAT SIGNAL OUR NATION’S FUTURE (Nashville:  Thomas Nelson, 2012) is a good example of how the tradition of American civil religion can be easily mistaken for legitimate history.  Such books are perfectly harmless, even entertaining, so long as the reader keeps in mind that what is being presented as history is largely popular myth on the order of young George Washington chopping down the cherry tree. 

It would be futile for me to point out the numerous errors that occupy virtually every page.  Those who purchase and enjoy reading this and similar books are convinced that in some fashion or other the God of the Bible has orchestrated the history of the United States. They want to believe, contrary to all the evidence presented by trained historians, both Christian and non-Christian, that the so-called Founding Fathers were Christians consciously trying to create a Christian nation in the New World.  No amount of reason based upon solid scholarship will change their thinking.

As an anecdote to this and many similar books written by individuals with little or no formal training as historians, I recommend THE WHITES OF THEIR EYES:  THE TEA PARTY’S REVOLUTION AND THE BATTLE OVER AMERICAN HISTORY by Jill Lepore (Princeton University Press, 2010).  Dr. Lepore has an earned doctorate in American studies from Yale University, and is a Professor of American History at Harvard University.  Her scholarship has won for her the Bancroft Prize and the honor of being a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.  She is not the author of popular historical fiction.  She holds the credentials that entitle her to write about American history.  She knows how to do historical research and recognize the difference between fact and fiction.

Other works I would recommend include THE FAITH OF THE FOUNDING FATHERS by David L. Holmes (Oxford University Press, 2006), AMERICAN GOSPEL:  GOD, THE FOUNDING FATHERS, AND THE MAKING OF A NATION by Jon Meacham (Random House, 2006), THE MYTH OF A CHRISTIAN NATION by Gregory Boyd (Zondervan, 2007) and WAYWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS by Charles Marsh (Oxford University Press, 2007).

I have observed elsewhere that the LEFT BEHIND series by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye are perfectly harmless, even entertaining, so long as the reader keeps in mind that they are science fiction novels loosely based on the biblical book of Revelation.  Likewise, I believe that books like THE COMING REVOLUTION by Richard G. Lee are interesting to read, so long as the reader keeps in mind that they are historical fiction, not history.