Posts Tagged ‘Holy Subversion’

Special thanks to Connie of Crossway for a review copy of this book.

Trevin Wax is a popular blogger over at Kingdom People, and a pastor in Tennessee.  While 99% of bloggers out there should never write a book, I was excited about this one since I’ve found his blog insightful and challenging.  I appreciate his ability to step back and examine a situation, not without bias but not allowing his biases to rule everything.  This ability serves him well in his first book, Holy Subversion.

Holy Subversion is appropriately subtitled, “Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals.”  In this book, Wax tackles modern day “Caesars” in our (Western, specifically American) society.  Throughout the book he refers to his 5 years in Romania, which gave him an opportunity to examine American culture from afar (he refers to this in an interview here).  By stepping back and looking at America, and more importantly, the American church, he saw 6 “Caesars” that plague the church and stood as a rival to the honor due Christ.

In his introduction he helpfully overviews how “Jesus is Lord” was a radical and subversive statement in the New Testament times.  After all, Caesar was lord, the one to whom all people were to bow and profess loyalty.  The earliest Christians stood against this and, thus, were deeply offensive to their neighbors, for whom allegiance to Caesar was an unquestioned part of their worldview.  Caesar no longer exists in our culture but, as Wax notes, the “powers and principalities” that stood behind Caesar still do exist in a more subtle form.  Those subtle Caesars, so ingrained to our worldview that we may easily overlook them, are given a place in our lives reserved only for the King of Kings.

I can appreciate Wax’s use of “Caesars” rather than “idols.”  The reason is simply this: an idol is never good, Caesar can be good.  There is never a good reason to own an image of another god (or the one true God, for that matter).  But a Caesar is, at least theoretically, a good thing.  Someone has to rule.  Romans 13 tells us that the Roman Emperor (Caesar) was given power by God himself.  It is what Caesar does with that power that may make him evil (and did, in the case of the actual Roman Caesars).  When Caesar claims for himself, or more crucially for this book, is ascribed by those who serve him the authority that belongs to Jesus alone, he must be subverted.   In the same way, sex, leisure, money, etc., are not inherently idols.  They do not always serve an evil purpose.  They are Caesars, gifts from God whose original purposes have been abused and distorted.  They have been given the honor due to Christ and must be subverted by those who claim allegiance to him.

The 6 “Caesars” that Wax tackles are: Self, Success, Money, Leisure, Sex and Power.  Not all of these will hit each reader with equal force, but if you feel no conviction at any point you’re either perfect or obtuse.  But not only does Wax diagnose the problem, he offers suggestions to cure our ailment.  It should be pointed out that Wax is using the term “subvert” not in the sense of overthrowing, but putting in its proper place.  Thus, being a failure is not the solution to the Caesar of Success, but having a proper understanding of the nature and purpose of success.

One major reason I like Wax’s book so much is that he avoids easy reductionism.  There are some who hear the cry “Christ, not Caesar, is King” and they merely politicize it.  “Tell Caesar Obama (or Caesar Bush, or Caesar Whoever) that we aren’t going to stand for his claims to power any more!”,  as if they can co-opt biblical truth to serve their political interests, and rarely look at their own lives to see if Jesus is truly King.

But Wax doesn’t reduce “Christ vs Caesar” to “what’s the Caesar in your life?” either.  This book isn’t simply a call for Christians to look inward (although there is that), as if spending less time watching TV or playing World of Warcraft will make Jesus Lord.  Holy Subversion asks us, the community of Christ, not just the individuals, to consider our entire worldview and challenge those aspects of our culture than attempt to claim Christ’s authority.

Wax’s goal is to reclaim “the subversive nature of Christian discipleship.”  By stepping back to look at our culture, he helpfully reveals the subtly of these Caesars (e.g., “The Caesar of Power is most seductive when it appeals to our good instincts”) and calls us to “subversive evangelism” (in his excellent last chapter).  At a short, but power packed 150 pages, Holy Subversion will benefit all who read and hear its message.

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