I am giving away a copy of Spoken for by Robin Jones Gunn and Alyssa Joy Bethke (Jeff’s wife)! Click here to enter!
I first heard about Jefferson Bethke a couple years ago when I watched his spoken word “Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus.” If you haven’t seen it yet, tuberculosis it’s definitely a must-watch.
I so appreciated what Jeff was saying about the heart of Christianity and what it means to love and follow Christ. I love when he asks, order “If Jesus came to your church, approved would they actually let him in?” Doesn’t that make you think? In all honesty, how would your church respond if Jesus showed up on Sunday morning?
Over the years I’ve enjoyed watching Jeff’s other spoken word videos and I’ve followed him on facebook. His book Jesus > Religion was released last year and has gotten a lot of attention, becoming a New York Times bestseller. I was interested in reading it both for myself and also because so many people are reading it and being influenced by it and I like to be aware of what’s out there as far as popular Christian books go.
So what did I think?
This book covers some basic, foundational Christian principles including grace, the character of God, and what it means to love and follow Jesus in community. Jeff is upfront with the fact that he’s not a theologian, has not gone to seminary, and is largely unqualified to write this book. I think that is both the beauty of and the fault of this book.
Jeff relies heavily on the theology of others and it’s pretty clear while reading his book to see who he’s influenced by (C.S. Lewis, Tim Keller, Bonhoeffer). I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing! I have read and love most of the books Jeff recommends in the back of his book. I do think that at times there are some slightly contradicting ideas in the book because he’s pulling his theology from several different theologians, but generally it’s not a problem. In a few cases, I strongly disagree with his reading of some verses and his conclusions on some theological issues. However, for the most part, I thought Jeff had really good things to say about Jesus and what it means to follow Him.
I think the biggest strength of this book is Jeff’s vulnerability and willingness to share deeply personal things about his life and Christian journey. I really admire his transparency and think that his is a story that many people relate to, which is why this book has been so popular. I also really liked his discussion on art, creativity, and the beauty of Creation.
Throughout this book I continually appreciated Jeff’s heart and love of Christ. What I sensed when I watched Jeff’s spoken word years ago was confirmed while reading this book–Jeff understands the core of what it means to follow Christ. And I think this is exactly why it’s beautiful that Jeff, a non-theologian, non-seminary graduate, wrote this book. The core principles of the gospel are not complicated. You don’t need to be a biblical scholar to love and follow Jesus, and that is good news!
Do I recommend it? This is a great book for anyone who is a new believer or someone who has questions about Christianity and what it means to follow Jesus. I don’t know that this is the top book I would recommend as far as basics of the faith (The Reason for God by Timothy Keller is my go-to). However, I am really happy to know that there are people who are reading this book and learning from Jeff. I’m looking forward to seeing what he writes next!