This book has been a catalyst in reshaping my thoughts. I guess it’s high time I did a review.
There have been many volumes of books written on the subject of spiritual formation, some forming their arguments listing for the reader some fundamental disciplines to be considered for spiritual growth. In “Jesus Creed” written by a prolific New Testament scholar, Scot McKnight who is also a ardent blogger for a blog with the same name as the book, has written a volume specifically on spiritual formation. But his direction takes the reader into a different direction. McKnight invites his readers to discover what Jesus’ answer to spiritual formation was. It is a fresh approach to spiritual formation one that focuses on how Jesus would present his direction upon it.
McKnight’s book is divided into five parts on which he weaves around the understanding of what he calls Jesus Creed; Jesus’ answer to spiritual formation. Those five parts can be divided again into two sections that I have identified by which the first explores the foundation and vision of the Jesus Creed and the second part is a response to the creed.
In the first section of the book McKnight presents his thesis of his book. It starts with a creed which is a statement of truth that forms as a mechanism of recitation for someone. Jesus’ creed is not something Jesus invented out of the blue. As McKnight explains, it is Jesus’ amendment of the Shema which can be found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, a Jewish creed and combined that with Leviticus 19:18. In a nutshell the creed focuses on Loving God and loving others. According to McKnight this was what formed Jesus, his creed and it was the answer he gave when he was asked what was important for life by a Jewish expert on the Law. McKnight goes on to developed imprints of this creed in the prayer Jesus taught his disciples and making expositions of the creed to give a clear understanding of what it is. As he develops this he directs the reader’s attention to those who have experienced the Jesus Creed in the form of characters in the gospel. The creed is not just merely directed at personal formation but hinged to a larger vision which is connected to a society that is formed and living out the Jesus Creed to impact a larger scope of life; the world.
The second section which focuses on a response to the fundamental vision of the Jesus Creed dealt with in another two parts. The first part is McKnight’s exposition of how someone responds in devotion to Jesus as the creed entails that following Jesus is how God would see someone loving him. And what it means to follow Jesus is to love him. The second part of the second section requires the reader to respond by participating in the life of Jesus. Correct devotion is not just a heart bent posture. It needs completion, and that completion is the participation in the life of Jesus which initiates action. Here McKnight focuses on six important events in the gospels to carry the point through.
Most of the things that McKnight presents in the book are not new but I would consider them as fresh undertakings especially in the direction of spiritual formation. Many have written on spiritual formation introducing readers to ancient practices such as contemplation, solitude, lectio divinia and many others which are good and they are indeed important. Coupled with this the direction has been to get some biblical reference to support the bulk of their argument. But not many writers have explored what Jesus might think about the whole dimension of spiritual formation. McKnight has a clever way of presenting this and argues in the direction of a New Testament scholar and his findings are a welcome addition to spiritual formation. The important thing to note here is that McKnight sees the formation of a creed for recitation and meditation used for the formation of the believer. The constant recitation and meditation of a creed, in this manner the creed Jesus formed had dimensions forms within the individual a thought vision of responding to it. This is not a usual practice undertaken by myself personally or the church which I attend but it encourages a deep reflection of what matters most to Jesus.
There is much to agree with the author on what he calls the Jesus creed. A minor question would rather be “Did Jesus actually recited it as McKnight had presented?” Well that could be a side issue judging from the fact that Jews were people who did a lot of recitation and that could have given weight to the probability of the argument. But what is important here is the fact that Jesus did hold to the fact that loving God and loving others were things that were foundational for people who wanted to obey and worship God. So for me there is nothing for me to disagree with the book.
In reading the book the author has widened my vision on spiritual formation. Devotion to God is not just an inner affair which we are called to privatize form others. But like what McKnight presents in his book spiritual formation is very much engaging. The initial response to loving God by following Jesus entails another perspective which we commonly neglect which is loving others as well. For Jesus that was an integral part in what he calls for as foundational tenants in what was important in life. The book is also strong on community and gives a strong argument for the importance of church, the community that is founded by people who share a common faith found in Jesus. It is good for a book promoting spiritual formation to hold this as important because in the modern age, spirituality is only viewed as a private affair.
I have also gained a new appreciation on reciting a creed. Once thought of as mechanical and dead has now been resurrected as a new thing to rediscover and learn. Reciting a creed is very much connected with the discipline of meditation, contemplation and prayer all at once and that could be a helpful thing in reminding me of what matters most to God and in that manner reminded to live what is being prayerfully meditated out in real life. There are many strengths and help that the book has gleaned on me but the most important thing that it contributes is that devotion to God entails us to follow his son, Jesus. But we are not to stop there, people matter and as the creed helps unfolds, we are to love others as well.