In Dismissing Jesus: How We Evade the Way of the Cross, author Douglas Jones says the 21st-century church has reflected the world too much, at the cost of neglecting the teachings and priorities of Jesus Christ. This is seen especially in middle-class American churches, in which people seek to have Christ as well as all the trappings of the middle-class. These churches have abandoned the exclusive worship of Jesus in favor of syncretism, adding idolatry of Mammon to the worship agenda. Mammon, which Jones defines as “the broader cult of domination, unsacrificial wealth, violence, and greatness” (12), is so ingrained in our culture that we are blind to its effects. We are on the wide path that Jesus describes in Matthew 7, one that leads to destruction.
The remedy that Jones offers in this book is to return to the narrow path, which he labels the “Way of the Cross.” It means a rejection of the ways of the world, in favor of complete submission and obedience to Christ. It means a focus on the heart of Jesus, reflected in the acts of weakness, renunciation, deliverance, sharing, enemy love, foolishness, and community. By embracing the priorities of Christ, and rejecting the ways of Mammon, we will be made more in his image than in the image of the world.
The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 looks at characteristics of the Way of the Cross, found in the teachings and actions of Christ. Part 2 highlights the obstacles in our way of following the Way of the Cross. Part 3 gives readers a glimpse of what a Christian community truly united on the Way of the Cross looks like.
In Part 1, Jones clarifies the Way of the Cross. Devoting a chapter to each, he discusses the characteristics of weakness, renunciation, deliverance, sharing, enemy love, foolishness, and community. With each, Jones notes how countercultural and counter-Mammon each trait is. He also shows how Christ embodied each trait, and called his followers to walk the same path. These characteristics provide a measuring stick with which to evaluate today’s church.
In Part 2, Jones seeks to provide practical examples of how we are more reflective of Mammon than we are of Christ. He touches on several key areas, including how we view church, sin, God, politics, military, and money. If you are like me, there will be some chapters you resonate with, cheering “Amen!”; other chapters will leave you broken and wounded, feeling like David when Nathan says “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7).
In Part 3, Jones concludes the book by giving a glimpse of what the church ought to look like away from the grasp of Mammon. He provides examples from history—like the Basiliad community founded by Basil of Caesarea (237–239)—giving hope to readers that this type of life can be lived. He provides practical advice for church leaders who long to move their congregations in this direction. Most of all, he provides encouragement to all, as breaking free from the bonds of Mammon is an extremely difficult journey.
Dismissing Jesus is not a book you skim through, nor is it a book you nod and agree with. This book will challenge you, stretch you, and make you truly think about whether you more reflect the ways of Mammon or the Way of the Cross. By far his strongest chapters are those explaining the Way of the Cross in Part 1. Each reads as a wonderful sermon, packed with rich exegesis and challenging application. He does a fine job unsettling all types of readers, especially in Part 2, when he goes to war against the embedded practices of Mammon in our lives. Perhaps the best compliment I can give Douglas Jones is to say I must read this book again soon, for it will take another reading to process everything in the book.
Overall, Dismissing Jesus is a very powerful book for the 21st-century church. As I said above, I will be processing and working through the implications of this book for some time to come. Douglas Jones has written a much-needed book for the 21st-century church, and I pray that pastors and church leaders will read it and heed to the changes that Jones, and ultimately Christ, calls the church to make.
- Title: Dismissing Jesus: How We Evade the Way of the Cross
- Author: Douglas M. Jones
- Publisher: Cascade Books (2013)
- Format: Paperback
- My Rating: 5/5
Thanks to Cascade Books a review copy of this book!Tweet