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Monday, March 11, 2019

"Insurgence" (Frank Viola)

TITLE: Insurgence: Reclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom
AUTHOR: Frank Viola
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2018, (448 pages).

The gospel of the kingdom is inherently radical. The early Church is radical in their love and faith. Unfortunately, the modern church have largely lost the necessary conviction and passion of old. What is needed is a renewal of conviction and a revelation of the Kingdom of God. How do we do that? Create an insurgence to reclaim the  gospel of the Kingdom of God. For the grand narrative of the whole Bible is about declaring the Kingdom of God having come and will be coming soon.  In order to do that, we need to clear the decks. We have to distinguish between worldly wisdom and heavenly wisdom. We need to proclaim the Kingdom of God over all else. We need a vision of the beauty of the Kingdom so that we can proclaim with passion our freedom in Christ and glory of God. Author Frank Viola writes in six parts to do just that. The six parts are titled as follows:

  1. Three Different Gospels
  2. Unveiling the King's Beauty
  3. The Gospel of the Kingdom
  4. Entering and Enjoying the Kingdom
  5. Our Glorious Liberty
  6. Advancing the Kingdom

In Part One, he describes two erroneous gospels before pointing out the true gospel. We need to navigate between the gospels of legalism and libertinism. Both of these gospels poison us in more ways than one. One uses human will to do things in the name of God. The other abuses God's grace in the name of freedom. Avoiding either of these would be a great start in our journey toward seeing God's kingdom come. Part Two continues the journey with the reason for our passions and convictions. In order to reveal the glory of God, we need to see the Glory of God revealed to us. This is exactly why many live shallow Christianity. Seeing God's beauty in all its glory is the single biggest motivation for living the Christian life. It propels our worship from superficiality to authenticity. It helps us remain focused on the reason for our faith. If Part One is about avoiding the gospels of legalism and libertinism, Part Three is about avoiding the "fire-insurance" and the "fixing the world" gospels. Both distract believers from the true kingdom. In the "fire-insurance" view, people think that heaven is a better place and the gospel is a ticket to that place. This leads to a relative lack of care and concern for the present earth. The "fixing the world" view thinks about solving the problems of this world in a supernatural sense. Such a perspective keeps one fixated on seeking solutions instead of the kingdom. Part Four shows us the practical realities associating with kingdom living. It's a time in which we learn to get rid of the things that are idolatrous, immoral, and illegitimate. Take on the things that matter. Enter into God's kingdom through obeying the Word. Viola challenges us that in the giving away or sharing of our stuff, we begin to realize how attached we are to those things. Part Five urges us to reconsider the things of the world that hold us and to recapture the beauty of God's promises. Freedom is about liberating ourselves from the idols of this world. The other challenge is to take a spiritual inventory of our lives and to test out whether they are from the world or from God. Part Six is the final part of the journey. If the kingdom has not changed our own lives, how are we to proclaim the kingdom? Viola spends a huge chunk of time on this. Emphasizing the co-labour aspect of service in the kingdom, he reminds us that victory in Christ is not according to how the world sees it but according to God. Even matters such as "social justice" could be totally different from kingdom work. Unfortunately, many want a theology of justice and "social cause" without the cross. When this grips our heart, we become less effective as kingdom people but worldly people trying to make a difference in this world on our own. Kingdom living is about being counter-cultural. It is about a collective sense of community building.

My Thoughts
This book is a collection of short writings that cover a wide range of Christian life. Not all the chapters are linked. The thoughts could vary widely and at some point even seem distracting from the overall thrust of revealing the kingdom. In fact, the book looks very much like a collection of scattered thoughts posted on his blog. While Viola often communicates a clear point across, joining the dots is quite a challenge. The brevity of the chapters might in itself be the reason for the apparent disjointed way the book is presented. Having said that, Viola does a great job in highlighting the problems with the false gospels, the dangerous flirting with idolatry, and the need to see the beauty of the Kingdom of God.

Viola's ideas do carry a form of radicalism that some Christians might find uncomfortable. For instance, the comparison with the Islamic radicals and how he admires the passion of these people. For some people, the very mention of radicalism carries a negative connotation with terrorism and extreme Islamic radicals. In this sense, it is unhelpful to connect "insurgence" with militant religious radicalism. I understand where Viola is coming from. In the light of contrarian books such as Francis Chan's "Crazy Love," David Platt's "Radical," and Kyle Idleman's "Not a Fan," Viola adds to this category of counter-cultural books to showcase the power of the gospel and the coming of the kingdom. In summary, I find this book easy reading. Some of the ideas really hit home hard, especially the part about justice and poverty. Being politically correct is not Viola's style. His hard-hitting manner is perhaps necessary in order to bump people out of their comfort zone. What I appreciate is Viola's consistent efforts to wake believers up to the main point about Christian living: Declaring the beauty of Christ, the glory of God, and the Kingdom of God. I urge readers not to be offended by the directness but to recognize the author's intent, which is less about making people upset but more about making God's kingdom known deeply and widely.

Frank Viola is author of over 20 books and hosts a blog that is among the top ten Christian blogs on the Internet. His passion is to lead people into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Baker Books and Graf-Martin Communications without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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