Saturday, September 26, 2009

Book 38: Jesus and Politics: Confronting the Powers by Alan Storkey

Pages: 366.

How it was obtained: I bought it at an Evangelical Theological Society conference in 2005 (50% off most books at the conference! Woot!)

Time spent on the "to read" shelf: Four years.

Days spent reading it: 8 months.

Why I read it: I have been interested in how Christians should interact with politics for a long time. This book looked like it would be a solid examination of some of those principles.

Brief review: Religion and politics and Jesus, is there a more inflammatory combination of topics in the world? For me, I have a love/hate relationship with politics. I am interested in politics, but politics also makes me so angry sometimes. I do not understand a lot of the issues of our day, and understand even less when it comes to how a Christian should interact with a particular topic. I was hoping that Jesus and Politics would be a helpful and practical guide to understanding a Christian's role in politics. This book did not meet those expectations. I would say it flat out failed in that regard. Actually, the application elements of this book were limited to a few pages in the conclusion and pot-shots against the Iraq war.

What this book did deliver on, and oddly how I usually prefer content, was a solid exegesis of Jesus' life with a focus on how specifically he dealt with the political powers in his time. If I would have known this was going to be the pattern while reading this book, I probably would have enjoyed it more. Why? Because I love when key passages are examined and the principles of application are left to the reader (or student). Sadly, when I was reading this book I did not want to work that hard.

I loved the first few chapters. Storkey has an excellent chapter at the beginning of the book that details what the different political powers in Jerusalem were at the time Jesus was preaching and teaching. One of the best break-downs of the different factions I have ever read. His descriptions were concise and clear, but not simplistic.

My other favorite chapters were at the end of the book. One fascinating chapter was on taxation, it simply made me think about how Jesus perceived taxes, but also how taxes were different in the first century than they are in the 21st century.

The last few chapters were a fantastic analysis of how Jesus, on the road to the cross, confronts the authorities of his time. He shows them he has a kingdom that the different political groups do not understand. They think they have power, but the power of God is in the cross. I loved Storkey's description of Pilate confronting Jesus. I think Storkey has a great deal of sympathy for Pilate who is stuck between a) controlling the Jews from rioting (and thus losing his job, perhaps his own life) and b) the truth of who Jesus is. Like Pilate, are we more concerned about our livelihood and our own lives than we are with presenting who Jesus really is? It is a challenging question that haunted me as I read a tale that I know so well.

Overall I liked this book. I would not say that I loved it because it dragged in the middle, it was not what I expected, and the specific applications of texts were rare. But after finishing it, I appreciate the way Storkey uses the Biblical text to describe how Jesus confronts the political opponents of his day. This was a Biblical theology of politics and it will probably be used as a text book in colleges and seminaries for years to come.

Favorite quote: Principled opposition always costs.

Stars: 3.5

Final Word: Political.

1 comment:

Rob said...

Always good to read your thoughts.