I realise this review (in hindsight I am not sure this even qualifies as a review) is about five years after everyone else has probably read the book. But it is one of the occupational hazards of being a incurable non-conformist… if everyone is reading it then I almost always don’t want to.
The book made such an indelible impression on me in a couple of ways that I thought I would scribble down my thoughts anyway.
This is generally an easy read, a bit repetitive at times, a bit circular in theme and logic at times. It reads more like a story but a story with a definite agenda. The theology is at times a bit wonky and at other times down right dodgy. With a few good bits mixed in. Although both Claiborne and I would calls ourselves evangelical I am not sure we would both agree on what that meant. I suspect Claiborne has jigged the term a bit to his own end. Tim Challies has a mostly decent review that looks at some of the theological problems a bit more.
The impact of the book for me is that here is a guy who tangibly puts his life at the service of his theology. Here is a guy that has read his Bible and come to an understanding about what it means to follow Jesus and now he is doing it. Again I do not agree with all of his thinking or actions but you cannot deny that here is a Christian who has put it all on the line to follow Jesus.
My biggest frustration after reading this book is less with Shane Claiborne (although there is quite a bit of that too!) but with those of us who have a better theology, a more robust theology than Claiborne.
Critique his theology all we like (and critique we must!) but let us ask ourselves what is the fruit of our better theology? If Claiborne with his wonky theology can serve the poor, seek justice for the oppressed, move into the forgotten areas of our city and live and love there, practice community at a deep level, welcome the outsider, feed the hungry, question the rampant commercialism of our societies and then follow Jesus in counter-cultural ways that actually display the love, mercy and justice of the Kingdom of God. And there are some great stories of this in the book…
Then surely we who have better theology should be doing the kinds of things Claiborne is doing but just better, deeper and richer. As our theology outstrips his so should our practice…
If we believe what we say we believe… then we ought to know better than him dammit…
Why should I have to read a book filled with wonky theology to be inspired to follow Jesus more radically and counter-culturally.
I am surrounded by those with better theology and yet our track record is terrible in most of the ways Claiborne and his community is brilliant – justice, mercy, community, serving the poor and moving into the forgotten or undesirable areas of our city.