Reunion: The Good News of Jesus for Seekers, Saints, and Sinners
Reviewed by Nathan McCorkindale
What is the subject?
In a word, this book is about Jesus. Radically, wonderfully, beautifully about Jesus. The jacket of the book will tell you that this is a summary of the gospel in 1, 3 and 30 words, but at the end of the day it is a book that does what every book about the gospel should do, it leads to fall in love with Jesus.
Who is the author?
Bruxy Cavey is the teaching pastor at The Meeting House in Oakville, Ont., and is part of the Brethren In Christ denomination. He is also becoming one of the more prominent voices for those of us who call the Anabaptist tradition home. He has given voice to our distinctives in gracious but unapologeticetic ways.
Why this book?
There has been a lot written about “gospel” in recent years, but some of it pushes against some of our more Anabaptist theology. Reunion gives us a truly Anabaptist perspective on this word.
The thing I appreciated the most about it though is the way in which it is designed to help build a gospel fluency in the church. It is most of all a training tool for the church, so that we can speak well and confidently of Jesus in all his fullness.
Comment on the book’s theological perspective in light of the MB Confession of Faith.
The book is sure to ruffle some feathers. Especially for those who have grown up in a more Reformed tradition. Bruxy pulls no punches when it comes to critiquing the inadequacy of evangelism/“gospelling” techniques like Romans Road or the Four Spiritual laws. And this is what makes the book so wonderful. It actually helps us understand why so many churches today are speaking of a discipleship deficit and offers us a constructive solution. MBs should have no trouble embracing the radical call to discipleship and not just conversion.
Some will certainly pick up on Bruxy’s brief comments on hell and his personal point of view on the nature of eternal judgment. Whether or not his own view is in line with our Confession of Faith could be debated, but to do so would be pointless, especially when we consider that none of the Apostles nor early Christians felt it was necessary to speak of hell when they were talking of the gospel. The gospel is about Jesus and the Kingdom of God, not fire insurance.
Who should read it?
This is a the perfect book for your Bible study or Sunday School class to walk through. Jesus is good news, and our friends, neighbours, and enemies all deserve to hear about it. Bruxy has given the church a huge gift with his outstanding contribution to a field full of books on the gospel.
“So according to John 1:18, God reveals himself to us definitively through Christ in the way that makes his nature crystal clear. God somehow gives birth to himself – the God within God, he who is in the ‘bosom’ (literally, the lap or chest cavity) of the Father. It is as though God opened up his chest to show us his heart – and out walked a person! That person is Jesus. What we learn about God’s heart when we look at Jesus is really good news.”
[Nathan McCorkindale is the pastor of discipleship at Philadelphia MB Church, Watrous, Sask. He enjoys spending time with his wife Niki and four children, and when time allows, being outside in God’s creation hunting and fishing.
Thanks for the review! I appreciated your take on Cavey. I wonder if his insights are all that revolutionary or insightful of if it’s just that he’s got the enviable job title, the unique name, the unkempt hair, and a sort of retweetable quotability. Beyond helping us Anabaptists with our image which of his insights would you say are somewhat original to him? And what are the sources that Cavey is likely popularizing that you would point us towards for further reflection?
Would be interested in a few further thoughts from you (or others) when you have a moment. Thanks!
Crestwood MB Church
Medicine Hat, AB
I don’t think I meant to suggest that this book is particularly revolutionary, at least not in the sense that he breaks a lot of new ground in this book. Rather I see this book as a condensed and accessible work that goes down a well travelled path that has been marked for us by others like Scot McKnight, and N.T. Wright (Not Anabaptist, but certainly influential among many), Dallas Willard, and Greg Boyd. I remember reading McKnights “King Jesus Gospel” a number of years ago and thinking, this is great! I just don’t know how to articulate it to people. I think that Cavey’s new book really helps in that articulation process.
I think you are right that there is a certain retweetability to Cavey’s preaching and writing that gives him a platform and voice.
I will quickly mention two places that I do see Cavey as revolutionary
1) His commitment to peacemaking, not just in areas of violence and non-violence, but also as shown in the grace displayed in disagreement with other theological camps. It is most evidently seen in his preaching, but comes through in this book as well. I would argue that it is his Anabaptist commitment to peacemaking that creates space for disagreement while still being humble, loving, and desiring a relationship that will continue. I believe that not only is this revolutionary, but it is much needed in our current climate of polarization, right vs. wrong, and inability to hear each other that characterizes much of our current theological debate. So in that way, I see a revolutionary peacemaking and example for us all. We all desperately need to learn the lesson of peacemaking in our disagreement with our brothers and sisters in Christ in this age of message boards, blogs, twitter and Facebook).
2) I found his chapter “Requiem for Religion” very interesting. There is some similarity here between Boyd’s “Repenting of Religion” but Cavey seems to me at least to break some new ground in our understanding of the role of religion and the very irreligious way of Jesus. I haven’t come across much like it in my reading. Here is a taste, I loved this section: “Our weak hearts bend toward idolatry because it is more concrete, predictable, and immediate. After seeing God’s miracles and hearing God’s voice, Israel still built the golden calf the first chance they got…. Each new generation will be tempted to settle for something less than the glorious gospel of union with the Almighty and instead build a religion out of a lesser, truncated message. The possibility of diversion will always be present because our relationship with God, like all relationships, will benefit from the help of traditions, routines, special places, boundaries, and guidelines. And because these kinds of things can and do serve a good relationship, sometimes we will become lazy and turn to the things themselves to sustain us. Sometimes we will go through the motions but miss the heartbeat of friendship with God, ‘having a form of godliness but denying its power.’ (2 Tim 3:5).”
Thanks for the reply and for the bonus insight! One of the things I most appreciated about your review (and subsequent clarification) is that you’ve done a wonderful introduction to Cavey for me. I was hesitant to pick up his work on account of his popularity, but you’ve given me pause, and I appreciate that. I also like the example of peacemaking you point it. Tone matters, and it’s nice to know Cavey’s approach is spot on. Thank-you.
In addition, the source material for further study was appreciated as well. A treasure trove of insight to mine over the coming months.
I found the bonus quote interesting. I’ve had a recent realization when it comes to the role of religion (and in that broader sense the structured roles of institutions). Every choice we make is institutional – in that sense, every spiritual choice we make is religious. There is no way to be spiritual without religion, it’s simply a matter of form. (For example, someone may choose to listen to Cavey online on Sunday morning instead going to a local church building to listen to us lesser orators. Both choices are religious ones, even though one appears to be more in line with traditional religion).
The quote you highlighted was insightful. “Each new generation will be tempted to settle for something less than the glorious gospel of union with the Almighty and instead build a religion out of a lesser, truncated message.” In our day I think one way we truncate the message is by avoiding community that puts us in relationships with people we otherwise would not associate with. We lack people in our lives where the starting point of relationship is our common followership of Christ. In a less structured environment with more individual choice (i.e. less religious) it’s no surprise that we actually avoid the hard work of discipleship. This is ironic as Jesus went about discipleship in many informal ways. Informality seems to be either the greatest deterrent or greatest incubator of truly discipling relationships.
As Cavey observes, It’s not the form, it’s the heart, certainly. I think, however, our present forms are often lacking—and I think the old forms did a better job.
I digress. Thanks for pushing me in Cavey’s direction!