It’s been a while since I’ve struggled with how to review a book, but here I sit typing and deleting my introductory sentence over and over. I’ve never heard of Scott Sauls, but I respect him and what he’s attempting to do with this new book, Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides. The thesis is great, the introduction is wonderful (this should be made freely available on a blog somewhere [Edit: An hour after posting this, Scott sent me this link: http://scottsauls.com/2015/02/04/611/.]), and then the rest of the book struggles with handling differing perspectives—how to work around the lines. Sauls is a Presbyterian minister, so I don’t expect him to write from another perspective; however, in a book trying to look at Jesus outside the lines of “My Christian Tribe” and “Christianity” (the two “parts” of the book), Sauls draws some pretty significant lines, some of which stem from particularly important Presbyterian conclusions. That’s fine, and I look to the “Introduction” and remember that he’s probably okay with my disagreeing with him on several of his lines, or at least the reasoning behind them.
So, here we have a book that doesn’t really wrestle with the both/and (or neither!) in a way that would be appropriate for its introductory claims, but there’s also a lot of really helpful material. There are some in-your-face moments that make me want to blow up Twitter (they’re too long, but I want to anyway!), and then there are moments when I want to throw the book at the wall for not delivering what I wanted from it (that’s my problem). It would be much easier to review and critique individual chapters on their own merit outside of the larger context, which I would probably do in a more favorable light, but as a whole the book just isn’t what it claims to be—it doesn’t take the reader on the “journey outside the lines” (xxvii) it promises. With that, I leave it up to the reader to decide whether or not he or she wants to go on a journey with Sauls.
Aside: If the author, editor, and publisher happen to read this, I would recommend publishing a book on the same thesis but with a collection of essays from differing perspectives and authors to help round it out.
*This book was provided by Tyndale House Publishers for review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I offered or provided any compensation.