Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Book Reviews, Part IV (Showtime).

San Clemente Presbyterian Church's senior pastor Tod Bolsinger has produced another book, Showtime: Living Down Hypocrisy by Living Out the Faith (2004). Showtime follows up his work, It Takes a Church to Raise a Christian (2004). (His blog is here.)

I don't think it's a coincidence these books are juxtaposed. When embarrassing scandals in the church have splashed across the media, I heard those in the community downplay these events with sentiments such as, "Well, as long as I keep my camp clean, that's all that matters". Not so fast.

Bolsinger makes at least two basic points in Showtime that undercut this type of thinking. First, Bolsinger grasps the corrosive effect that hypocrisy works on the church--internally and externally. The book is offered as an antidote. For example, he discusses Peter's litany of virtues in 2 Peter 1:5-8. Bolsinger observes that the list begins with faith and ends with love, which he says emphasizes their importance and order (like building blocks). Faith is the foundation, and love the ultimate goal. (vv. 5, 7.) Keeping these virtues in mind and seeking to implement them, Bolsinger reasons, will help eradicate hypocrisy. He provides a couple of compelling examples of believers who "walk the talk", including members of his church, who do not act out of self-aggrandizement or acclaim.

Second, Bolsinger rails against "lone ranger" Christians. He argues that the church is interconnected and imperative. Hypocrisy negatively impacts it; but, the church can also remedy disconnects between faith and practice. The community can help each other in this process of becoming more Christ-like, he posits.

In a recent interview with Mark D. Roberts about Showtime, Bolsinger said (quoting theologian Hans K√ľng) that "lay people are experts in living the Christian life". He asserts his target audience is "from start to finish ... 'everyday believers.'" The book is very accessible; it is not a dense theological study. On the flipside, the book is somewhat breezy and basic. Even though the book was brief, it took a little too much time getting to its core message; it did not build substantial momentum until several chapters into the text.