Let’s just say that I’m beyond honored to have Michael Spencer review my book the way he did.
Here’s the full review:
A Review of Frank Viola’s From Eternity to Here by Michael Spencer (the iMonk)
Let’s be honest.
Guys like me – ordained in the traditional church, collecting a paycheck from the traditional church, investing a significant portion of our life in the traditional church- are supposed to be put off by Frank Viola’s entire project. And depending on what you’ve read by or about Frank Viola, that may be exactly how you feel: defensive about an “open” house church model that dismisses traditional denominations as a selling out of the church.
Viola’s work makes us defensive and rightfully so. Of all the contemporary critics of the traditional church, Viola has been the most effective. He’s not ranted and railed. Instead, he’s done the hard scholarly work to make his case, and offered a full and complete discussion and informed experience for his own model.
But what’s been missing in Viola’s project has been an extensive and foundational Biblical underpinning; specifically a foundational understanding of the church. With From Eternity to Here, Viola has given us that foundational Biblical discussion of the church, and in a compelling and creative way.
From Eternity to Here is a very different book from Pagan Christianity and Reimagining Church. It takes three major Biblical themes- marriage, house and family- and explores them extensively and in detail for what these themes have to say about the church. It’s an excellent Biblical study, with hundreds of Biblical connections and insights that tie these great themes together.
Viola hasn’t written a Biblical theology or a narrative approach to the Bible. He’s written a Biblical theology of the church, focusing on those themes with the most influence on how the church sees itself.
I was taken aback with how much I liked this book. I read it quickly, and I’m going to read it again. Why? Because if there is a book on the Jesus-shaped church that I could recommend to everyone who identifies with my description of that journey, this has easily cleared the bar as my first choice. Not because I would sell all that I have and follow Frank Viola into the organic church movement, but because the way in which Jesus Christ dominates the ecclesiology is exactly what so many of us are searching for in the evangelical wilderness.
Viola is generous with his debt to mentors and teachers, some of whom will be new discoveries to some in this audience. The name Watchman Nee causes me some concern, but I’m not as concerned with where all of the sources for these Biblical themes come from as I am in whether the end result expounds all of scripture in a Christ-centered way. That is exactly where Viola succeeds. This is a uniquely original comprehensive tour of the threads that hold the Bible together.
I was most impressed with Viola’s compassion for the church and for the Christians who love the church. He understands how the church and the individuals who make it up have been hurt, abused and sold out. He understands how shabbily the bride of Christ, the house of God and his children have been treated. If nothing else, a reader will come away from this book enjoying and reveling in the love that God has for his people.