“Is your faith for real?” asks pastor Jarrid Wilson in his new book Jesus Swagger. I’ll admit, the cards were stacked against this book from the get-go. Everything pointed to a trendy, fluffy “Christian” book that has little of substance to say. At the same time, this effect can be done well (See Trip Lee’s Rise for a good example), so I decided to give Wilson a chance. In the end, is his challenge to ‘break free from poser Christianity’ worth the effort? Read on for more.
The book starts out strong. Nothing contradicts the Bible, and Wilson is pretty grounded in the gospel and what Christ did on the cross to effect our salvation. But the further I read, the more I was disappointed. While Wilson defines ‘swagger’ as “A person’s style–the way they walk, talk, and dress,” it’s pretty clear the title was picked out by a marketing team for the shock value of it all. In fact, as time went on, Wilson watered the term down more deeply, until he was challenging the reader to “start finding your inner Jesus swagger.”
This characterizes much of the book: an individualistic, pathos-heavy attempt to sell Christianity as something desirable, and shake much of the bad image that’s plagued it throughout the centuries. But Wilson undercuts his own call to radical Christianity by attempting to package it with a trendy bow. The style of the book apologizes for the very content he’s trying to put across. Yes, nothing he says contradicts the Bible, but it’s wrapped up in so much fluff that any impact from his message is obscured.
As the book went on, problems deepened, which reflect where mainline Christianity is today. Sanctification is all-but-ignored, and while Wilson has plenty to say about God accepting flawed people (and challenging us to do the same), he has little to say about God’s promise to strip of us sin and change us. Yes, he accepts us where we are, but he will change us, in ways that hurt, and Wilson glosses over that in favor of a feel-good, all-accepting ‘love’ that fails to capture how God views sin.
Wilson also glosses over theology, almost dismissing it as the product of denominational strife. So uncool. But what he fails to note is that by refusing to interact with doctrine, he again undercuts his own message. Doctrine is the polarizing factor of Christianity, but it’s also the burning core of what we believe, and downplaying it to sound palatable weakens Wilson’s overall message. I don’t doubt that Wilson is a Christian, but the way he presents his book — as a ‘getting-started guide’ for those unfamiliar or hostile to the church — opens the door to a lot of roads that look nothing like true Christianity.
Ultimately, Jesus Swagger has too many flaws to make it worth recommending. There are just too many books that do a much better job of introducing Christianity as a whole. Most recently, Trip Lee’s Rise is a fantastic, very accessible book that doesn’t dilute doctrine and is biblically rooted. Joshua Harris’ Dug Down Deep is another great example. If you’ve more of a philosophical bent, both Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton and Mere Christianity (a quite old review located here) by C.S. Lewis do a great job of balancing relevance with reverence for what makes Christianity Christianity. I’d highly recommend checking out one of these books before picking up Wilson’s.
Published on 4 May, 2015. Last updated on