HOLY SUBVERSION has much in common with Tim Keller’s COUNTERFEIT GODS. They both take on the idols of our culture, and they each have great insight into how these gods take us captive.
Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals, by Trevin Wax; Crossway Books (January 31, 2010)
I thought I would dislike this book, but instead I am inspired by it. Pastors doing the real work of ministry find it is easy to grow tired of well meaning instructions on how to “fix” the church. I expected that would be my reaction to Trevin Wax.
It is not that he is short on ideas, but HOLY SUBVERSION is different. Wax is intoxicated with a refreshing vision of what it means to belong to the church that is understood as a kingdom community in which the future has already broken into the present (p. 24). It is a call “to enter into a new realm, a new way of seeing the world because of what Christ had done in history” (p. 136).
HOLY SUBVERSION also has much in common with Tim Keller’s COUNTERFEIT GODS.
They both take on the idols of our culture, and they each have great insight into how these gods take us captive. But in a sense Wax is an extension of Keller. What happens next? What does it mean for a people to come into being who are debtors to grace, have been adopted by God, and have rejected the idols of self, success, money, leisure, sex, and power?
The book is about what it would look like if “communities of faith live in a way that subverts the ‘Caesars’ that rule people around us . . . and seek to rule us too” (p. 26).
Wax begins with the subversive model of the early church which declared to Caesar’s consternation that Jesus is Lord. Wax believes that we have bought into the rampant individualism of our culture, neglecting the realization that “the gospel is intended to create a kingdom community” (p. 27).
As he points out, “Caesar was not threatened by Christian missionaries telling people they needed a personal Savior, one who will come ‘to live in their hearts.’ He was threatened by a subversive community who believed that a Jewish Messiah had been physically raised from the dead and who was then living according to the new reality that his resurrection had inaugurated” (p. 23).
Wax is convinced that true Christianity is not merely life-transforming but world-changing and that salvation is not just about a new you, but a new world in which you have been chosen to play a part. “Salvation is about God’s plan for the world, and the gospel is what he has done through Jesus of Nazareth in order to accomplish that plan” (p. 28).
If you would like to see how Wax works this all out, you will have to read the book. But let me suggest that given the present political context in which many are becoming increasingly angry and alienated, this book is a great way to engage the church in a positive kingdom agenda that is genuinely subversive, radically gospel-centered, and beholden to neither the gods of the left nor the right. The stuff of once again becoming the people who are turning the world upside down is in this book.
By the way, the book is worth its price simply to see how a young Southern Baptist pastor articulates a Christian world view and explains the gospel of grace in a fresh and disarming way. I kept waiting for the legalistic paradigms of my Baptist roots but found instead a passion for a Christ-centered gospel rooted in grace and lived out in the community of faith.
Stephen M. Clark is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America and is currently serving as Senior Pastor of Old Cutler Presbyterian Church in Miami, Florida. He holds a PhD from Drew University and is the author of As Good As It Gets; Love, Life, and Relationships – 50 Days in the Song of Songs, awaiting publication by Wipf and Stock publishers.