Some regard Calvin Miller as one of the greatest writers of our time. Miller is considered by many to be the contemporary C.S. Lewis. His blockbuster The Singer is deemed by some critics to be one of the best pieces of Christian literature ever penned.
One afternoon as I was being my old self and happy in the state, I was not thinking of making any revisions in my lethargic spirituality. Then the daily mail arrived. In the mail was an advance copy of Leonard Sweet’s and Frank Viola’s Jesus Manifesto. I haven’t generally cared much for manifestos since the Communist Manifesto caused so much of a ruckus, so I was in no great hurry to read it.
I am often critical—but then so many deserve it. I am also thoughtful—you know what I mean? I am far too analytical—did I say this right? I can even be caustic to extremely stupid people.
But my worst fault is that I am very gossipy. The afternoon the book came in the mail I was lollygagging around the Evangelical end of the Net, You-Tubing my way around the heroes and anti-heroes, wondering why a particular Calvinist I know has to be so severe and why another creative iconic mega pastor has to always be more clever than deep. Everybody is pro or con on the Emergent Churchmen and many of us nowadays are questioning the new Evangelical, Unitarian virus that is just beginning to surface.
I had a tole lege moment as I picked up the book and began to read. The first line of the Viola-Sweet book is “The body of Christ is at a crossroads right now.” True but not outstanding. I thought. I read a few more pages and still had no idea where Sweet and Viola stood on New Calvinism, the Emergent Church, the rise of the liberal right, Neo-Universalism, or all things post denominational. Why wouldn’t the writers declare themselves?
I read on and on and never did find out. They talked about Christ for 170 pages, but the more I read I could tell this was not a gospel talk show, it was a lot more informed and intense but with a quiet intensity. It became pretty clear I had stumbled into a one-track book. I like one-track books, you never get sidetracked. Then, halfway into the book I got it! Jesus was the point! Then gradually I decided to do what I am so reluctant to do—to let it speak to me, manifesto or not. When I submitted to the message of this manifesto, it elicited a change in me—actually a confessio!
So here is the final fruit of the Sweet and Viola manifesto—my own confessio!
Realizing that the Christ today suffers from a massive Jesus deficit, (Page XXII) I, Calvin Miller, freely confess that Jesus is heaven’s passion and occupation. (Page 5) Like Thomas Aquinas I confess that “I can write no more; compared with what I have seen of Christ, all that I have written seems to me as straw.”(page 21)
After reading the manifesto I can only shake my head and agree: “Jesus Christ is like a vast ocean. He is too immense to fully explore, and too rich to fathom, and I am like a bottle. The wonder of his gospel is that the bottle is in the ocean and the ocean is in the bottle.” (page 34)
And here are the sins I freely confess:
I have belonged too long to cult of the cute. (page 75)
I have too long been unsubmissive to Christ because I have failed to see how submissive Christ was to his Father. (page 125).
I have too often preached sermons which failed to reveal Christ. (page 175)
But chief of all my sins has been the sin of forgetting his uniqueness. Political correctness has caused me too often to tip my hat to Buddha and Mohammed, “Jesus’ competition”. I now repent. Christ has no competition.
Jesus cannot be separated from his teachings. Aristotle said to his disciples.
“Follow my teachings.” Buddha said to his disciples, “Follow my meditations.”
Confucius said to his disciples, “Follow my sayings.” And Muhammad said to his disciples, “Follow my noble pillars.”
But Jesus says to his disciples, “Follow me.”
In all the religions and philosophies of the world, a follower can follow the teachings of its founder. But not so with Jesus Christ. The teachings of Jesus cannot be separated from Jesus Himself. Christ is still alive, and he embodies his teachings. This is what separates him from every great teacher and moral philosopher in history. (Page 82)
There is but one way. This is my acknowledgement that rises from his Testament. The mystery I swim in rises from his splendor. My proclamation rises from his acclamation. My confession rises from this manifesto and demands my allegiance or betrayal. Jesus is all! The first, last, word—Genesis and Logos—Jesus.
Click here to read my own confessional journey with respect to Jesus that inspired the chapters I wrote in Jesus Manifesto.