Following Jesus: Journeys in Radical Discipleship: Essays in Honor of Ronald J. Sider

by Paul Alexander and Al Tizon, editors

—Reviewed by Larry Poston, professor of Religion, Nyack College.

 

Regnum Books International, Woodstock Road, Oxford, UK OX2 UKR, 2013,  235 pages, $19.99.

 

Reviewed by Larry Poston, professor of Religion, Nyack College.

The strength of this volume lies in its portrayal of Ronald J. Sider, former professor at Messiah College and now at Palmer Theological Seminary of Eastern University. Sider is most noted for his book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, a modern classic dealing with economic and social justice.  
Somewhat surprisingly, however, nearly every contributor to Following Jesus is insistent that Sider’s primary focus in ministry has never been social, economic, or political activism, but rather the necessity of an internal and personal conversion to Christ as Lord. In a day and age in which community development, relief work, and international justice and peacekeeping efforts appear to have all but replaced the more traditional missionary ministries of evangelism, disciplemaking, and church planting, Sider’s insistence upon a balanced view of ministry is a breath of fresh air.

As with all such volumes, the quality of the chapters varies considerably. The contributing authors represent a wide range of backgrounds and commitments, having in common only the fact of having been profoundly impacted by Sider’s life and writings. The writers speak of the influence of Ron in their lives, followed by accounts of the various ministries that have been established as a result of that influence.

While some are quite obviously taking the opportunity to advertise their own contributions to the kingdom, nearly all deal with some aspect of social, economic, environmental, or political engagement. Some are profound (Heidi Unruh’s chapter on “Civil Discourse,” for instance, should be required reading for all Christians), while others include statements that would elicit groans of disbelief from veteran missionaries (“…the Risen LORD is leading the way in overcoming global warming…”). In addition to Unruh’s contribution, Craig Keener, Kristyn Komarniki, and David Gushee deserve special mention for having produced well-written, informative, and highly applicable chapters.

Many of the authors have adopted the longstanding fallacy of social activists in general and the ecumenical movement in particular, insisting that Jesus gave “preferential treatment to the poor” in his ministry. This view is clearly contradicted by the Gospels, which show Jesus caustically dismissing the masses on occasion (“Let the dead bury their own dead”; Matt. 8:22), dining often with wealthy Pharisees (Luke 7:36; 11:37-44; 14:1-14), inviting himself to the home of Zacchaeus, the rich tax collector (Luke 19:1-10), and spending time with the likes of Nicodemus (a member of the Sanhedrin) and Joseph of Arimathea (upper-class gentlemen who took it upon themselves to prepare  Jesus’ body for burial [John 19:38-42]). Despite this bias, the accounts of Ronald Sider’s wisdom and emphasis on the more historical views of ministry make this book a worthwhile read.

Check these titles:
Chilton, David. 1985. Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt-Manipulators: A Biblical Response to Ronald J. Sider. Tyler, Tex.: Institute for Biblical Economics.  

Sider, Ronald J. 2005. Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger (5th edition). Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson.

_____. 2005. The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.

….

EMQ, Vol. 50, No. 2, pp. 246-248. Copyright  © 2014 Billy Graham Center.  All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.


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