The following is the review I posted on Amazon.com for Frank Viola’s new book, Revise Us Again: Living from a Renewed Christian Script:
If you have read any of Viola’s previous works, you will not be surprised that he is again calling Christians to rethink some things. While his previous works delve into church history, church practices, and the church’s ultimate purpose, this lighter book encourages and challenges us to revise how we personally and corporately express Christ.
The book’s ten chapters and afterward address:
*Revising the Lord’s Voice
Viola begins with a humorous look at how different streams of Christians would react to a stop sign as an illustration of how varied and selective our responses to God’s voice are. He then looks at the three divisions of the Old Testament: Torah, Prophets, and Wisdoms, as three examples of how God speaks to us today, and that we should weigh and receive each voice equally as the expression of the mind of Christ.
This chapter looks at a personal pet peeve of mine: using the “God told me to do xyz” line to justify our personal decisions. Viola sheds light on this Christian habit and shares some personal confessions from people who have done this.
*Revising Christian Code Language
Have you ever asked a Christian for something and heard “Let me pray about it” as the reply, just to never get any answer at all? According to Viola, you’re not alone. While he certainly does not reject praying for others or over decisions, he does reject using prayer as a code-phrase for saying “no”.
*Revising Our Semantics
Here, Viola looks at three Spiritual Conversation Styles (Charasmatics, Quoters, and Pragmatics) and how they interact (or fail to). He emphasizes how these styles cause difficulty in relating to our brothers and sisters who might move in a different Christian circles. Viola encourages us to learn from each other despite varying semantics.
*Revising Our Message
This chapter looks at what Viola sees as five missing elements in the gospel message most Christians are preaching today. They are: the reality of an indwelling Lord, the greatness of Christ, the eternal purpose of God, that it takes God to be human, and that everything wears out except for Christ.
*Revising Our Awareness of the Divine
This section tackles the tricky issue of the “felt presence of God”. Viola reveals four distinctions of God’s presence, which expands our divine encounters beyond “feeling” God’s presence.
*Revising Our Attitudes
Viola observes here that Christians often become self-fulfilling prophecies and become the very thing that they oppose (elitism, jealousy, etc). Five common results of this condition are given, as well as how each one causes division in Christ’s body.
*Revising Our Spiritual Expectations
This chapter touches on the Lord’s way of defying our limited expectations with His unlimited means of providing for us. Viola shows a biblical pattern in which God takes things away and then replaces them with something better. Despite when, how, or if God meets your particular expectation, He is always in control.
*Revising the Holy Spirit’s Ministry
This chapter calls Christians to be revised in their understanding of how the Spirit expresses Christ. While many hold to narrow, selective ways in which the Spirit works, Viola says, “I believe in the supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit but without the classic Charasmatic and Pentacostal trappings and wrappings. A great deal of those wrappings are artificial, learned by imitation, and detract from the reality and primacy of Jesus Christ.” Viola asserts that the role of the Holy Spirit is to reveal to us the Lord Jesus Christ.
*Revising Our Chief Pursuit
Viola says, “I’ll be blunt: Either you and I can know God intimately, or the gospel is a sham.” Not only that, but he believes that we know Him by seeing and hearing Him through our brothers and sisters in Christ. Viola gives a high view of Christian community in this chapter and calls us to love each other and to love and know Christ through each other.
*Revising The Gospel We Live
In the afterward of the book, Viola describes two gospels that many Christians today live: the legalist gospel and the libertine gospel. He then calls us to a third way. “In Paul’s gospel, the standards of God are neither ignored nor rationalized into oblivion (as in the gospel of the libertine). On the other hand, the standards of God are never presented as demands by which our acceptance by God is tied (as in the gospel of the legalist).” Viola ends with a stirring reminder of who we are in Christ, and that our lives should flow from our life in Him.
I was personally challenged in many ways through this relatively short book. Viola brings many personal stories and experiences to these areas that he is calling us to revise. I believe that if Christians took these matters to their Lord with an open, honest, and meek heart, the Lord will not only revise us individually, but He will begin to revise us all together so that we may stand with each other in Christ.