Liberation theology always looks good on paper. It can even be persuasive in moderate amounts. After all, Jesus did come to liberate us.
But when an author/theologian crosses that line whereupon the liberation becomes the end rather than a means to something greater, then it becomes something simply knonw as Bad Theology.
Such is the fate of this little book by James Mulholland, called Praying Like Jesus.
Promising to be a book about the "Prayer of Jesus," sometimes known as The Model Prayer, or still called The Lord's Prayer, this book failed to deliver on that promise.
Yes, it used the text of the Prayer of Jesus, but only used it as a springboard to launch into areas which I feel certain Jesus never intended to go.
The book seems to be a reaction to that ill-fated fad of a book, The Prayer of Jabez, wherein Bruce Wilkinson took a single verse from the Old Testament and proceeded (even though there are literally centuries of theological warnings against such idiocy) to build AN ENTIRE THEOLOGY OF PRAYER around it.
The verse is 1 Chronicles 4:10 which says, "Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, 'Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!' And God granted what he asked."
Wilkinson found that verse and decided that, since "God granted what he asked," that we should all pray that prayer, VERBATIM, EVERY SINGLE DAY!
He tried it, and when good things happened, he blamed the prayer.
Never mind that Jesus warned us not to use vain repitions.
Never mind that Jesus taught us to pray an entirely different way.
Probably the single most visible benefit of The Prayer of Jabez (outside of leading thousands of people astray) was the subsequent plethora of books published in the roughly 7 1/2 by 5 inch format.
Praying Like Jesus is part of that plethora.
What did I learn from Praying Like Jesus?
I learned that wealthy American Christians are the cause of all world hunger and social injustice everywhere! Because we don't do enough to stop it!! Hunger in the Sudan IS MY FAULT! Aids in Africa IS MY FAULT!
I'm so tired of being told that the world's problems are MY FAULT!
I'm also tired of being told that if I am a Christian, I MUST be concerned about such and such a cause. For Bono and others, it's AIDS in Africa. For Mr. Mulholland, it's world hunger and poverty. For someone else, its overcrowding in the prisons.
Listen, folks. We can't ALL be focused on the same thing! If every Christian in the world focused on AIDS in Africa, what would happen to the homeless people in the US?? It takes all of us to be concerned about all of us.
Now, let me say that Mr. Mulholland's little book did challenge me in some areas. I finished the book out of stubbornness, desperately trying to glean the good points out of it, and I think I may have succeeded. I probably do need to be a little more concerned about poverty. I probably do need to be less concerned with getting that new cd by one of my favorite artists.
But I must also admit that the author almost totally lost me, when, on page 64, he said, "The cross was not God's will. It was additional evidence of our resistance to both God's kingdom and will."
THE CROSS WAS NOT GOD'S WILL???
THE CROSS WAS NOT GOD'S WILL???
Wow. Here's a guy who obviously skipped a few verses in his Bible. Such as Isaiah 53:10. "Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand."
"It was the will of the LORD to crush him;"
And what about Philippians 2:8, "...he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." To whom was Christ being obedient to? If the cross was just the meanness of man, then there was no obedience involved.
There are others that I'm not looking up at the moment. Point is, the cross most definitely WAS god's will. We would have no hope of ever seeing our Father without it.
One last quote from the book that caught my attention.
On page 87, he says, "Until we eliminate poverty, everything else we do is a mockery of God's will." Later, "We cannot pray 'Forgive us our sins' with sincerity if we continue to allow children to starve to death. There is NO SIN GREATER than allowing some of our brothers or sisters to die when we have the capacity to save them." (emphasis mine)
First, by his statement, the author says that all evangelism is a mockery of God's will if we don't eliminate poverty first. This means people will die and go to hell while we feed other people. Because if all we do is try to work to eliminate poverty, we certainly will never have time to give the gospel to anyone. Especially since Jesus himself said that we would always have the poor with us (see Matthew 26, Jesus' response after a woman literally wasted a year's salary by pouring perfume on him, an action that Mr. Mulholland no doubt despises).
Second, I don't see a connection between asking for forgiveness and starving children. That was basically a non-sequitor.
Finally, there is most definitely a sin greater than "allowing some of our brothers and sisters to die when we have the capacity to save them." The greatest commandment is said by Jesus to be "you shall love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." The greater sin is to fail to do this. This is worship. The greatest sin is to fail to worship the Lord your God.
What authors like James Mulholland and other liberation theologians fail to realize is this: If you are obeying the greatest command, if you are loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength...I mean truly obeying, then all of this other stuff will fall into place. We will never eliminate poverty. But we can work to help people. We should work to help people. Jesus goes on to say that the second greatest command is to "love your neighbor as yourself." He says that these two commands basically sum up the entire law.
So, if I'm loving God the way I should be, I will love my neighbor the way I should be. But it must start with the God part. If I go out and try to start helping the hungery, homeless, AIDS-stricken, etc., without loving God first, my efforts will be skewed and only partially successful, at best. But if I love God first, then all the power of heaven is at my disposal. Ephesians 1:18ff says, "...having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places..."
Now that's power. And it's ours to use if we only follow the greatests commands. In their proper order.
Next book: Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
I like a little variety in my reading, eh?