The Jesus Creed for Students by Scot McKnight with Chris Folmsbee and Syler Thomas is exactly what the title says it is. The authors take what McKnight has named the “Jesus Creed” and written a book for high school and college students. The main idea is unchanged but the presentation is aimed at this different audience. This is a short book (substantially shorter than The Jesus Creed ) 100 pages, 12 chapters. It is an easy book to read. Complex concepts are presented, for the most part, clearly and simply. The tone of the book is friendly and inviting. This isn’t the last book you would want a student to read about the Christian life, but it works well as the first. Readers are encouraged to read the book by themselves first and then to discuss it with others. A good idea.
“The Jesus Creed” is what Scot McKnight calls Jesus’ answer to the question “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus reply is ” ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Matt 22:36-39).
The Jesus Creed for Students explores various aspects of what it means to take these words of Jesus seriously. The authors don’t try to discuss every implication of what the Jesus Creed means, rather they present ideas and issues that are of particular interest to people who are beginning to think seriously about their faith. Doubt, trust, when to speak about one’s faith (and when not to), the difference between saying an action is wrong and judging another person, and materialism are all thoughtfully and concisely discussed.
A significant portion of the book examines what it means to be part of the body of Christ. Very helpfully the authors talk about living the Jesus Creed where one already is, with open eyes to discover ways to serve (love) others. They also write about the role families play in all this, particularly is the student is more engaged in their faith than the rest of the family.
I have one criticism and then I want to end this review with what I think is the best thing about this book.
First the criticism. Chapter two titled,”happiness is a GPS (global positioning system), is a discussion of the Beatitudes. They begin by trying to compare and contrast “happiness” and “blessing”. Trying is the operative word here. By the end of the chapter if you didn’t have a clear idea of the differences to begin with, you won’t have much more clarity when you’re done. But the concept of being blessed is a difficult one for our society and this isn’t the main difficulty in the chapter.
My problem with this chapter is a paragraph which essentially says that depression occurs when people “live only for their own happiness” (pages 16, 17) Please don’t call this depression. Call it dissatisfaction, the emptiness of modern life, the result of self centeredness, ennui, unhappiness, or despair.
Depression is a serious, even life threatening clinical illness. It is not caused by selfishness, or shallowness, or lack of purpose. Depression requires treatment by medical professionals. This is an important distinction to make, especially in a book for young people. It is important for readers not to be confused about what depression is and its causes.
Now for what I liked best. What the authors did very well was encourage their readers to adopt a form of fixed hour prayer using the Jesus Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. They managed to encourage this ancient and “high church” practice without using any “church” language that might scare students away. It is not presented as a rule or a formula for successful holiness. It is gently offered as an intriguing challenge. Try this and see what happens. The authors encourage this practice by asking their readers to begin and end each chapter by saying the Jesus Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. Our daily habits shape us and praying the Lord’s Prayer and the Jesus Creed daily, and ideally several times a day, is a wonderful life shaping practice for people to engage in.
In The Jesus Creed for Students, the life of faith is not presented as doing great things for God. There are not stories of students doing fantastic deeds. This is a friendly yet serious book that encourages a thoughtful commitment to Christian living.
If you are still looking for a graduation present, The Jesus Creed for Students would make a great gift. Even better, give the book and then give your time and presence to your student and talk about the book together.
Note to my readers: Normally if I review a book, I have purchased the book myself or acquired it from the public library. However in this case, a PDF of this book was provided for review by its publisher, Paraclete Press. I was not paid for this review. Also, links to Amazon.com or other book selling sites are for your convenience, I have no financial arrangements with them. Just so we’re all clear about this…
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