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The Underground Church: Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus.

The Underground Church: Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus. By Robin Meyers. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2012. ISBN-13: 978-1-1180-6159-6. xiv and 263 pages. Cloth. $24.95.

How should Christians in the U.S. respond to the decline of church membership and respectability within the past few decades? Meyers lifts up the first century church as a paradigm to consider. Since he sees a resemblance between the postmodern American landscape and the early church's social situation, Meyers exhorts the contemporary church to emphasize orthopraxy (faithful practice) over orthodoxy (right belief). Rather than succumb to theological divisions, Meyers exhorts today's churches to emulate early Christianity's commitment to an active faith life of service and witness instead of a strict adherence to static dogmas. Though this may not increase membership, it will reconnect with what Meyers sees as the church's core identity.

With the rise of Nicene Christianity, an orthodoxy he attributes to Constantinian convenience, Meyers sees a corruption of the early church that continues through today, particularly in the compromises on nonviolence, inclusiveness, and bold witness against the idolatry and injustice of the Empire. He envisions the Underground Church as a radically inclusive, anti-imperial community modeled after the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Such a community should decline preferential treatment from the government (including tax incentives), commit steadfastly to nonviolence, embrace creation care, prefer inclusivity to propriety, and reform budgets to reflect Jesus' missional directive.

Readers should engage Meyers' exhortations judiciously. His predominant use of liberal sources for supporting evidence undermines his hopes to unite Christians from across the theological and political spectrum. Meyers often fails to acknowledge contradictory evidence, especially in his evaluations of orthodoxy within church history. Despite his overly general presentation, the complicated relationship between orthodoxy and orthopraxis was never mutually exclusive. Even with these limitations, The Underground Church deserves critical consideration. Meyers casts a vision for a church united in the selfless mission of Christ, a vision for which Jesus prayed and gave his life. Surely that deserves our attention.

Andrew Tucker

Columbia, S. C.

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Author:Tucker, Andrew
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Article Type:Book review
Date:Feb 1, 2014
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