Better Books - Holy Subversion
Recently I was given a copy of Holy Subversion by Trevin Wax. When it comes to those who blog regularly, there are few who consistently produce the kind of thoughtful, theological and yet applicable material as Trevin. I got to know Trevin a bit last October when we attended the Southern Baptists, Evangelicalism & the Future of Denominationalism conference at Union Unversity. I found Trevin to be incredibly engaging, extremely thoughtful and irenic which often seems to be a rare trait within the Christian community. Recently Trevin agreed to do a short interview about his book. I would really encourage you to pick up a copy for yourself. I am quite confident it will impact your life and encourage your walk with Christ.
You can purchase the book here.
I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, blessed to lead my family (my wife is Corina; we have two young children) and serve the people at First Baptist Church in Shelbyville, TN as associate pastor. I also read and write… a lot.
2. Explain to us why you chose to write “Holy Subversion” initially.
For five years I served in Romania, a formerly Communist country where evangelicals were the minority. The majority of Romanians were Orthodox, but most were Christian in name only. So there were clear lines of distinction between evangelicals and the rest of society. Once we returned to the American South, we discovered the situation was completely reversed. I was ministering in a context in which everyone seemed to be Baptist, but the name was just a name.
So living in one context as part of a beleaguered minority and then being thrust into a different context where we were part of the “majority” opened our eyes to the way evangelicalism mirrors the world in the West. Holy Subversion is an attempt to call the Western church away from cultural captivity, and to shine light on the blind spots that we often miss.
3. In chapter 1 you state, “But true Christianity is not merely life-changing. It is world-changing.” Why do you think there is such a distinction between the “world-changing” faith of the 1stcentury church, and the nominal faith of the typical Evangelical today?
We have privatized the truth claims of Christianity and kicked God upstairs to the irrelevant spheres of life. In the days of the early church, the Roman Emperor would not have been threatened by a private religious experience for individual believers in Christ, just as the Communist regime in Romania was not concerned with private religious feeling. It was the subversive, communal nature of the gospel – “Jesus is Savior and Lord” – lived out by believers that threatened Caesar’s own kingship, and in Romania, led to the toppling of a dictator. The early Christians were pledging allegiance to another King, an action that subverted the Caesar worship of the day.
4. In the book you essentially attempt to attack the various “Caesars” which attract our affection. Explain what you mean by “Caesars” and how they work against transformational faith.
The book starts out by showing how the early Christians were subversive of the Caesar-worship of their day. They subverted Caesar, not by plotting a revolution, but by living the Christian life that declares there is another king, a greater king – Jesus. By using the witness of the early Christians as the launching pad, I then am able to point out several “Caesars” that are worshiped in our day and age, Caesars that need to be subverted, i.e. “put back in their proper place.” Money, Sex, Power, Self, Leisure, Success, Tolerance – these are the primary Caesars today that are vying for our allegiance. 5. In the book you posit seven different “Caesars’” which vie for our affection. As American Christ followers, are there any one or two that you would elevate as the most prevalent and challenging in our context.
Most of our problems begin with a self-centered understanding of salvation that centers solely on personal benefit at the expense of radical grace that transforms our hearts and lives. This then leads to a church-less gospel that individualizes the Christian life to the point where there is no longer any real reason for a Christian to be part of a church. The church then adopts worldly definitions of “success” as an attempt to convince people of the attractiveness of going to church (where we reinforce a self-centered view of salvation), and the cycle begins over again.
6. I find the chapter dealing with the danger of “success”, or at least the danger of defining success by the world’s standards to be particularly compelling. You describe a number of biblical characteristics of success in God’s eyes. Of particular interest to me you reference the need to embrace suffering over comfort. This is certainly contrary to our American expectation. Can you discuss your thought process in this area?
My Romanian brothers and sisters challenged my perspective on this question. Under persecution, the idea of success was “faithfulness.” When everything else was stripped away, the only thing left to pursue was faithfulness in the time of struggle.
I was also challenged by Paul’s “letter of recommendation” in 2 Corinthians, where he lists his “accomplishments” in order to set himself apart from the “super-apostles” he is criticizing. The accomplishments read like a list of indictments. Paul defines success as suffering for the kingdom. I worry that we have the mindset of the super-apostles—that success is ever-growing numbers, a celebrity pastor, bigger buildings, etc. Instead, we should be teaching our churches that while success sometimes leads to these things, we could very well be unfaithful and still wind up with the same results.
We need to recapture a sense of holy desperation for the Spirit, relying on his power to grow his church and send out the gospel. Until we arrive at that place of desperation, I think we will see more and more churches adopting a worldly definition of success rather than a biblical one that centers on service, suffering, and sacrifice.
7. Why should the person reading this interview get a copy of “Holy Subversion”?
I’d rather let people who have read and reviewed the book give you some reasons you might want to pick it up. You can see a list of endorsements and reviews here: http://trevinwax.com/holysubversioninfo/