Book Review: The Lamb’s Agenda

The Lamb’s Agenda: Why Jesus Is Calling You To A Life Of Righteousness And Justice, by Samuel Rodriguez

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[Note: This book was provided by Booksneeze/Thomas Nelson Publishers free of charge in exchange for an honest review.]

There are some books that one can unreservedly endorse wholeheartedly and other books that one can equally wholeheartedly (and mercilessly) critique, but this particular book falls into neither extreme. Indeed, this is the sort of book that is difficult to do justice to for a variety of reasons, and so both my fervent praise as well as caution and criticism of this work require a certain sense of balance. It is therefore appropriate that the subject of this book reveals the balancing act that genuine Christianity requires, one of its most praiseworthy aspects. This is not a book that is necessarily easy to read, or that entirely lives up to its high ideals, but its noble attempt is a worthy one and the book’s argument needs to be reflected on and taken seriously by believers who wish to be better citizens of the kingdom of heaven and better ambassadors of Christ here and now.

At its core, this book is about the balance between ideals in tension that Christians must harmonize and reconcile. Whether we are dealing with the vertical obligations of love towards God or the horizontal obligations of love towards neighbor, the concern for holiness of a Billy Graham or the demands for social justice of a Martin Luther King Jr. (this book is a bit too flattering of people like Martin Luther King Jr. for my tastes, given my own understanding of his plagarism and womanizing and political dalliances with the communists, for example), the aspects of social justice the Democrats get (somewhat) right and the aspects of personal morality that some Republicans get right, the balancing of mercy and judgment, of servant leadership with a staunch defense of the integrity of faith and a strong stand against evil, and other related concerns. The author uses language like “the nexus of the cross” and “imago Dei” and “habitus Christus” and other elevated and philosophical language to discuss what are at their core simple and straightforward ideals (even if they are difficult to practise). The preference of the author for contemporary stories and high-toned theological reasoning will probably turn off some readers, and his occasional ill-advised attempts at pontificating on issues such as illegal immigration [1] will turn off other readers, but even if the author makes some missteps in his arguments, his basic points are sound and worthy of reflection and application.

Given that this author and I come from very similar positions concerning the moral obligations of Christians to be involved in setting a practical example of God’s ways in all walks of life but also avoiding the false dilemmas of our political systems and compromises with evil in high or low places, I found it a bit frustrating that this author did not spend more time examaning the Bible and spent a lot of time looking at rather imperfect contemporaries who sought to demonstrate some part or another of the wholehearted Christian commitment to justice and mercy, to obedience and faith, that the author wishes of believers. Given the high moral obligations of Christianity and the honest and sincere wrestling with these obligations of the author, there is much to commend for readers here.

Ultimately, though, there were two aspects that kept me from a wholehearted endorsement of this book. The first is the fact that the author appears to have an outlook of postmillennial optimism that is of the belief that the Millennial generation of young adults will engage in a wholehearted turn to God away from their self-absorbed naval gazing and skepticism of organized religion and divinely revealed texts and will lead a “third Great Awakening” to restore our country and preserve us from divine judgment. I am not so sanguine, and so the optimism of the author, which flies in the face of the entirety of God’s working with humanity (which has always involved a small number of faithful believers, occasional halfhearted and temporary revivals to some simulcrum of righteous behavior and repentance physical or spiritual Israel, and quick and consistent lapses into error after that), is a bit off-putting to those of different eschatological beliefs to his own.

The second substantial qualm I have with this book is the almost complete ignorance the author shows for the commandments of God that have the greatest to do with the social justice and righteousness towards God that the author endorses. Indeed, the author does not in any meaningful way point the reader of his book to either the two great commandments, or the ten commandments, or the larger implications of those commandments. In particular, the Sabbath commandment (with its provisions for forgiveness of debts, freedom from slavery and freedom from economic exploitation for the land, people, and animals, weekly freedom from the rat race, as well as redemption from sin and the giving of grace to others) is largely ignored in this book, and a proper understanding of the Sabbath would provide a stronger biblical grounding for the worldview of the author and those who believe as he does (including myself). Indeed, a knowledge of God’s laws and a teaching of God’s laws would provide many opportunities for people to understand God’s consistent and longtime desire for social justice within those institutions whom He has called and chosen to work with throughout history. This omission greatly undercut the desire of the author to point his readers towards right beliefs and right practice as believers.

Ultimately, though, these flaws and shortcomings do not in any way invalidate the author’s fervent desire for believers to embrace the obligations we have towards God and to fellow man, but rather they demonstrate just how embedded within the whole of scripture this balance and this tension happens to be. Those who read the book and seek a deeper understanding of the Bible to see God’s calls through His prophets for social justice as well as personal righteousness, for orthodoxy as well as orthopraxy, for relationships rather than ritualistic and formal religion that cuts us off from showing love to our neighbor (i.e. everyone else) will find much to reflect on and work on here. Despite the work’s flaws, that is a substantial achievement that is worthy of respect and consideration. In particular, the book’s strong moral stands on issues like abortion and homosexuality, while retaining a love for those murderers and sexually immoral who engage in such sins, is a model for believers to follow and emulate, no minor achievement itself.

[1] For example, it would appear as if this author believes that it is unchristian for anyone to advocate or act in such a way as would lead an illegal immigrant to be held legally accountable for his or her actions. Speaking for myself, I believe that our immigration laws ought to be open to those who wish to come here, and that those who have arrived here illegally are still human beings created in the image and likeness of God, just like all other sinners and criminals, but that those who came here illegally need to pay restitution for their crimes in paying back benefits and back taxes in order to be given a legitimate status (even as we work to make it easier for legal immigration in the future) and especially that those who benefit from and exploit illegal immigrants for their own profit deserve to be punished serverely as well for their complicity and involvement in such corrupt behavior.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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