15.5.11

"Revise Us Again" by Frank Viola



Frank Viola. Revise Us Again: Living From a Renewed Christian Spirit. David C. Cook, 2011. 176 pgs. 

In this book Viola takes a look at revising the script of our life to be in line with the script of Jesus Christ. Through ten chapters Viola examines various issues in the Christian life, how we think about things, how we talk about things, and how our life needs to be revised in light of Jesus and His word. These topics range from our misuse of phrases such as "Let me pray about that" (which really means 'no, but I am too uncomfortable to say it to your face, so I would rather take a spiritual out and hope you forget you asked me') and "God told me..." to our misunderstanding of the gospel and our God. 

Unfortunately, caricature reigns in this promising, but ultimately disappointing, book by Frank Viola. He almost brings up some good issues, but then approaches them in such a shallow manner as to negate even the good brought about in raising the topics. In the first chapter, Viola offers a list of 'lenses' which Christians see through when it comes to matters of faith. This list is terrible; after reading it I actually sat back and was overcome by a momentary feeling of foreboding. It only got worse. Maybe I am just blessed, but I have never met anyone who flagrantly abuses the phrase 'God told me...' in the manner Viola describes. Maybe I have just never talked to the right(wrong) people, but Viola's outline of the three theological conversational styles seemed completely useless. Again, it is a caricature, a reduction of real people to formulas. Viola even acknowledges the danger of this happening but seems blissfully unaware that through the utter lack of insight and by failing to make better options available he has, unintentionally or not, fallen into that same trap. 

I could say the same about pretty much every chapter; there is a near formula at work here. 1. Describe caricatured and exaggerated problem. 2. Tell some luke-warm stories. 3. Offer shallow solution based on mistaken caricature.  There is, despite all, truth in this book. We really ought not to abuse such phrases as "God told me" and "let me pray about that." We really do need to be aware of how we converse, how powerful our God is, and so on. But does God really fit into a procrustean bed of "the God of unseen endings?" Watching Viola try to squeeze the story of Job into that model was, in a word, painful.  

Conclusion: 1.5 Stars. Not Recommended. Viola had the opportunity to do some great good here; the idea, of revising the scripts of our lives to conform that of Christ, is a good one. It is just executed very poorly in this book. 

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