“Followers of Jesus follow Jesus.” I don’t think the ground just slid out from underneath you; nevertheless, this is one of Scot McKnight’s base premises in his new book One.Life: Jesus Calls We Follow, “a manifesto of the Christian faith.”
One.Life, a book intended “for people who really do think a Christian is someone who follows Jesus and for those who want to focus once again on what Jesus meant when he said, ‘Come follow me,’” largely came out of McKnight’s Jesus of Nazareth class at North Park University (197). The book, beginning with a vision to spend your One.Life on “Jesus’ Kingdom dream,” systematically encompasses characteristics of the Christian life. McKnight utilizes the first eight chapters to build a working definition of what it means to be a Christian. Ultimately, he defines a Christian as,
One who follows Jesus by devoting his or her One.Life to the kingdom of God, fired by Jesus’ own imagination, to a life of loving God and loving others, and to a society shaped by justice, especially for those who have been marginalized, to peace, and to a life devoted to acquiring wisdom in the context of a local church. This life can only be discover by being empowered by God’s Spirit (106).
In One.Life, McKnight helped clarify two great things for me. First, “there’s a difference between focusing on being right and focusing on being a follower of Jesus” (47). McKnight used the parable of the good Samaritan as an example. The Levite and the priest passed by the mangled man because it would be ceremonially unclean to engage him. They were “right,” but not right enough. The Samaritan was ultimately right because he extended love. McKnight summarizes this point well: “Being right for Jesus meant a kind of Bible reading and a kind of theology and a kind of behavior that led to loving God and loving others” (48). Second, McKnight points to the communal characteristic of following Jesus. “When I hear Christians describe the Christian life,” writes McKnight, “as little more than soul development and personal intimacy with God…I have to wonder if Christians even read their Bibles” (60). Though he’s writing sharply, McKnight’s point is that we too often miss the forest for the trees. We treat intimacy with God as an end in itself and consequently miss Jesus’ Kingdom vision.
While McKnight challenged my thinking in these areas, he lost me in others. For starters, this “manifesto” is more like an arbitrary assortment of McKnight’s convictions of what following Jesus means. I had the hardest time weaving any sort of thematic thread through his book which covered topics ranging from Jesus parables, to sex, to eternity, to wisdom. McKnight’s writing was also troubling. In many cases, McKnight takes hot topics in the faith and writes his own “You have heard it said…but I say” discourses (pp. 65 includes a classic example). McKnight also writes with lofty lingo that is hard to follow. The “Jesus’-Kingdom-Dream” rhetoric was hard to follow as it was rarely defined and repeatedly mentioned.
Furthermore, it baffled me that McKnight pieced together a working definition of what it means to follow Jesus but never mentioned that a Christian is a witness who verbally proclaims the Gospel. Much was said about the actions of a witness and only one example at the end of the book was given about sharing the Gospel with others.
The last troubling facet of One.Life was one of McKnight’s premises. McKnight establishes his premise via a question: why did Jesus come to earth? I love the question. When I read it, it got me thinking. However, McKnight narrowly answers the question by citing Luke 4:16-21 (Jesus reciting Isaiah 61). Initially, I thought McKnight might expound on other Scriptures, but he stuck only to one. He neglected other Scriptures that didn’t fit with his “Justice.Life” theme. While I understand McKnight was trying to debunk the blindly stated, “He came to die for my sin,” he neglected important Scriptures such as John 10:10 (“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”) and 1 John 3:8b (“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”) Or what about John 9:39, John 18:37, or 1 Tim 1:15? It seems unfair to say that Jesus only came to earth to fulfill a justice mission.
I am thankful for Scot McKnight. I regularly read his blog. However, this book was troubling to me. I am still rattled as to how Bill Hybels could’ve read this book and concluded, “After reading One.Life, I made a silent covenant with God to read everything Scot writes from this day forward.”
While Scot brings up legitimate points about varying issues, One.Life is disorganized and misses the intended audience.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan by request in order to review its material. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.