Finally, after a great deal of introduction in the previous two posts (here and here), we will begin to dig into the main body of the book, covering, in this review, chapter two, “The Way of Weakness” and in the next installment, chapter three, “The Way of Renunciation” (don’t worry, that installment will be a lot shorter than this one). In both of these, Jones has some hard words for contemporary American churches, hard words that recall us to crucial Biblical themes that we like to ignore. My worry, though, comes with the question that must come next, after this realization: “How can I live my life differently so as to be a faithful disciple?” I’m not sure we’re given enough in these chapters to start answering this question very clearly. This is not because Jones fails to spell out all the specific concrete applications—indeed, to do so would prematurely stifle Christian liberty and in any case, be of little use because of the immense variety of circumstances in which Christians would be called upon to apply these principles. Rather, my concern is that Jones does not give sufficient coherence to the concept of “weakness” and “renunciation” to enable earnest believers to determine with any confidence how to apply them.
For in these chapters, Jones challenges two of the great gods of our age, military power and wealth, both points on which conscientious Christians will find themselves challenged by myriad practical ethical questions: when and what is an appropriate use of force, if there exists such a thing? How can I be a good steward of material wealth, or should I even think in those terms? Of course, his points in these chapters are broader than that, and he has somewhat more focused discussions of each of these issues in chapters six and five, respectively, as well as returning to critique common Christian views of wealth in chapters 15 and 16 and “American Mars” in chapter 17. Nonetheless, many of the fundamental ambiguities created in these two chapters will remain unresolved in those later discussions. Read More