Book Review: The Gospel According to Jesus

After writings books with the somewhat overused title of “The Gospel According to…” about television shows LOST and Tony Soprano, Pastor Chris Seay reaches way back into a different pop cultural time period for his latest Gospel According to book – more than 2,000 years in fact to the time of Jesus’ ministry and the origins of our faith.

The result is The Gospel According to Jesus: A Faith That Restores All Things. Dissecting the teachings of Jesus much the way he dissected complex TV shows in his two previous offerings (this is his seventh book overall), Seay hones in on righteousness and what it means to seek righteousness in our pursuit of living the life Christ still teaches us to live in today’s day and age.

I haven’t read the books or watched the television shows the two aforementioned books were based on, but I do have a lot of experience with Christ’s teaching, particularly the teaching of righteousness with the feltboard Jesus and disciples in my early Sunday School days. Early on in the book, Seay comments how many of us, some of us who have been in church our whole lives, have misunderstood Christ’s teaching about righteousness and used our misunderstanding as weapons that judge, divide, polarize and turn those outside of our community of faith away from the Gospel instead of toward it.

During his work on a project called The Voice, Seay writes, “it became clear that the righteousness the majority of Christians are ‘seeking first’ was not biblical righteousness at all. In fact, it was more like the righteousness of the Pharisees (read: self-righteousness). This is a major problem. No wonder the church was so self-righteous and condescending!”

Through much of the book, Seay unpacks what it looks like to seek the kind of holistic, kingdom-minded righteousness that Christ teaches – one that seeks in every way to follow what Jesus said were the two greatest commandments – to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind and love our neighbor as ourself.

He does this with a lot of personal experiences (like his awkward encounter at a yoga class, an iron-sharpening-iron boat trip and experience in a church men’s room filled with flat screen TVs), some out of left field pot shots at my favorite baseball team (couldn’t resist – I’m a Cubs fan and he clearly is not) and a healthy dose of scripture and commentary. Oh and he also has some interviews with other well-known friends like Shane Claiborne, Gabe Lyons and Mark Batterson (sadly, the female voices are lacking) and some beautiful color artwork articulating some of his points in the middle.

The style makes for a somewhat disjointed book that for whatever reason took me much longer than it takes me to read a book under 200 pages. Since he’s coming from a Baptist theological perspective (as it seems most published Christian authors are) there are some things that don’t completely jive with the Wesleyan tradition, but there is also plenty of meat in the book that gives a perspective on something we as Christians can never get enough of – the words and teachings of our savior. In a time where it’s really easy to confuse the good news of Christ with our own Americanized version of what it means to seek Him first, it’s never a bad thing to seek and be reminded through our reading of scripture first and supplemental material second what exactly the good news of Christ is in the words of Jesus himself.

Purchase The Gospel According to Jesus: A Faith That Restores All Things at Christianbook.com.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided by its publisher, Thomas Nelson.

Want to review a book for the blog? E-mail matt.ralph@delanco.org.

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