Monday, November 03, 2014

Christology Matters: A Brief Review of 'The Jesus Gap'

This weekend, since I have so much extra time on my hands (not true!), I decided to read Jen Bradbury's new book The Jesus Gap.

To be honest, it took me a couple chapters to appreciate what she was up to with this book. I was, first of all, tempted to nitpick all her theological points and demand stronger development of the Christology she considered to be "orthodox." But then I realized that while I think the questions I have regarding the theological presuppositions of the book are important, they really only distract from what's really happening here.

Jen Bradbury is not a professional theologian, per se, but she thinks that theology actually matters. And that's no small thing. In a field/profession/practice that has dominantly operated on the pragmatic and methodological level, reserving its theological reflection to the halls of the academy, Bradbury reminds youth workers that what our kids confess concerning the person of Christ actually matters. Bradbury turns the dial, even if just a notch, in the right direction. This book will help youth workers. She's not trying to build a Christology from scratch, but with the conviction that Christology matters, she uses some key Christological perspectives to expose a gap between what churches think they're teaching and what kids are actually learning and believing. Academic theologians will have to extend grace if they're going to appreciate what this book is actually about. Bradbury is a practitioner. She's not offering a new theological paradigm for youth ministry or anything like that. In fact, I'd say she's still operating largely on the methodological level. But she is inviting us to reorient our strategies away from merely getting kids to stay in church and toward the normativity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. She asks a wonderful and welcome question, "Why is it that we're more concerned with people leaving the church than we are with the church leaving Jesus?" (207). A great question, indeed! 

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