New book Taboo Or To Do by Clifford & Johnson

We invite our friends, colleagues and readers to join us, Ross Clifford and Philip Johnson, in a conversation about our book, Taboo Or To Do? Is Christianity complementary with yoga, martial arts, Hallowe’en, mindfulness and other alternative practices? It is published by Darton Longman & Todd. Our friend John Drane, who is a Scottish practical theologian, biblical scholar and best-selling author, has written a foreword.

There is a new blog-spot dedicated to the book Taboo Or To Do (click here)

Taboo Or To Do is a book for Christians who may be exploring different practices either for their personal development, or are involved in creative missions ventures where hot-button issues are being faced. It is a conversation-starter for individual Christians and bible study groups that want to work out if something is “taboo” or not. We believe that we are long overdue for having frank and respectful conversations on specific hot-button matters such as:

  • May a Christian do the physical exercises of yoga without being exposed to some sort of spiritual peril?
  • My employer has enrolled me in a personal development course that presents “mindfulness meditation”. Isn’t this taboo because it comes from Buddhist practices?
  • Are churches  compromising truth by “celebrating” Hallowe’en when it seems tainted by pagan beliefs and crass commercialism?
  • Can a Christian participate in martial arts such as karate, kung fu and T’ai Chi given that they have historical roots in Buddhist or Taoist beliefs? How can a Christian manifest the fruit of the spirit (love, joy, peace patience etc) while being trained in violent techniques of fighting?
  • Are church services for blessing animals a diversion from the gospel message?

Taboo Or To Do? is not an encyclopedia of topics similar to books opposing cults and non-Christian religions. Taboo Or To Do? takes a different tack by not preaching at readers to shun what is new, edgy or unusual. Instead, we present helpful information to enable readers to make up their own minds.

In ten chapters we explore controversial hot-button topics such as yoga,martial arts, Hallowe’en, energy healing (e.g. Reiki), mindfulness meditation, aromatherapy, mind-power transformation seminars,animal-blessing services, etc. We examine the historical background and root beliefs associated with each topic. How do people perceive them: Is this religious? Is it secularised? Has it been “Christianised”? We draw attention to critical matters for discernment particularly in assessing the practitioner’s worldview.

We present case studies of churches that have responded in different ways. For example, some churches condemn and reject the celebration of Hallowe’en, while others believe they have “Christianised” it, and there are others who for purposes of outreach have devised alternatives to trick or treat. Each chapter contains discussion questions as well as suggested “things to do” to take matters beyond what our book examines.

You may join us in subsequent blog-posts to chat about particular hot-button issues discussed in our book. We look forward to your lively and fruitful contributions to this conversation.For other background about our book check out the publisher’s press release (click here).


Scot McKnight Includes Cross Is Not Enough in his “Book of the Year” list

A big thank you to new testament scholar Scot McKnight for mentioning The Cross Is Not Enough in his 2012 list of books of the year. He expresses the hope that many more books on resurrection theology will be written and inspired from what we have written.

Undead and Theology

In a previous post (click here) about resurrection theology we drew attention to the folk religiosity surrounding Vampire Spirituality and the Undead. In The Cross Is Not Enough we discuss the phenomena of stories about Undead and Living Dead creatures like werewolves, vampires and zombies.

Over at Philip’s other blog (TARDIS) there is some discussion about the Undead and Resurrection themes popping up in the cult-TV series Doctor Who.

We believe that much more serious theological reflection is needed about the pop cultural appeal of the Undead and Living Dead, which can extend beyond just musings about the resurrection.

In this regard we are delighted to point to a new book hot off the presses (print and Kindle editions)that takes a step in that direction: The Undead and Theology edited by Kim Paffenroth and John W. Morehead (Pickwick Publications 2012). Twelve chapters containing essays by various contributors exploring the intersections between pop culture, undead films involving vampires and zombies, other undead creatures like the Golem and Cenobites, and theological connections to themes of blood-atonement, sacrifice, redemption and judgment, and postmodern festivity. Order the Kindle edition (here) and for the paper version (here).

We hope that more publications of this ilk will surface and that the centrality of the resurrection will be pursued in new studies that examine and interpret both classic and current interests in spirituality, the Undead, the Living Dead, ghosts, and Gothic literature.

Scot McKnight’s Dialogue Continues

Some further dialogue about The Cross Is Not Enough is occurring via Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed blogspot. The latest reflections revolve around chapter two. See Scot’s comments and the exchanges of his readers here. Also see Scot’s discussion of chapter 3 where we reframe apologetics (see here).

Some of our readers might also be amused to know that the “Grimecore Metal” band Hungry Like Rakovitz have completed an album called “The Cross Is Not Enough”. The harsh and confronting demo version of the album (uploaded in June 2012 half a year after our book was published) can be listened to on the web. The album has no connection at all to our book.

Scot McKnight on The Cross Is Not Enough

Scot McKnight has paid us a great compliment by drawing positive attention to our book, The Cross Is Not Enough. Check out what Scot has to say and scroll through his readers’ responses.

An Unhappy Reviewer

Another pseudonymous reviewer has expressed deep and hostile thoughts about The Cross Is Not Enough. Apparently there is just one author of The Cross Is Not Enough  as the reviewer begins by saying “This author…”. If the reviewer has read the book then why has such a basic fact that the book has two authors escaped the reviewer’s eyes?

As we have noted with a previous negative reader’s review, it is proper etiquette to  describe a book’s argument before one raises criticisms, and it helps if due acknowledgement is made that there are two authors.

Leaving aside those minor points, check out what the pseudonymous reviewer at Barnes & Noble argues based on using portions of the epistle to the Galatians. Evidently we are guilty of diluting the gospel by overlooking passages in Galatians concerning the law and the cross. It is somewhat ironic that the reviewer skips over Paul’s salutation: “Paul an apostle-sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead…” (Gal. 1:1). The resurrection of Christ is the melody and the undergirding theme through which Paul interprets the power and meaning of the cross.

As we have carefully stated in our book so that readers would not go off the beaten track about what we think of the Cross:

We accept that the cross is an indispensable part of the gospel’s message of reconciliation, and that it shows us the obedience, humility, and servanthood of Christ and forgiveness of sin in his atoning death (p 26) … we do not want to be misunderstood: We affirm that the death of Jesus on the cross is very important. We are not belittling the agony and horror of the cross or downplaying the theological importance of atonement. In fact we want to underscore the point that Paul was right in saying that ‘the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us’ (2 Cor. 1:5).

What needs to be brought back into focus, and which the pseudonymous reviewer fails to comment on, is that Paul made it very plain as to the content of the message of the gospel:

Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which you also stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you-unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn I had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures. (1 Cor. 15:1-4).

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (1 Cor 15.:17)

Paul’s gospel message consists of both the death and resurrection of Jesus, and he asserts that without Christ’s resurrection there would no forgiveness for sin. Again, while Paul referred to the cross and justification, he also saw the resurrection as integral to justification:

“Who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.” (Rom. 4:25)

It is difficult to know if this reviewer has read the whole book and read it in context. It seems like, on the basis of the reviewer’s remarks, that the message of the gospel is just the cross.

Check out what the reviewer has written and make up your own mind. See the review at

James Bond Skyfall and Resurrection

The next scheduled film in the James Bond stable starring Daniel Craig is Skyfall (first release in UK October 26 2012, November 9 USA, and November 22 in Australia).

The plot appears to involve a character named Silva who seeks vengeance on “M” (Judi Dench). The first teasers for the film are now surfacing and intimate that Bond has a death and resurrection-like experience. The pre-credit shows Bond being shot “dead” on top of a moving train and he plummets to his death under water.

His “death” is just an artifice for story-telling (he does not truly die). Bond needs to appear to the world to be “dead” in order to operate covertly. Nevertheless an analogy for death and resurrection is embedded in Skyfall.

A snippet in one of the trailers has this exchange of dialogue between Bond and his nemesis Silva:

Bond: “everybody needs a hobby.”

Silva: “So what’s your hobby?”

Bond: “Resurrection.”

It may also be that motifs about atonement for “past sins” will be peppered throughout the film. The film trailer shows “M” peering at a computer flat-screen monitor which has this message: “Think On Your Sins”.

(For the relevant trailer “First Full Skyfall Trailer” go here, or better still see the official film website and click the US trailer).

While Bond is one of the most amoral hero-action figures around, it seems that Skyfall can be added to the list of death-resurrection analogies abounding in different facets of pop culture. In chapter 4 of The Cross Is Not Enough we discuss a few selected morsels of death-resurrection analogies in film, cult TV series, comic-books, poems, novels and Shakespearean plays. Check out our book if it piques your interest.

Cross Is Not Enough on LAMs

James Dalzeil at Macquarie University uses the distance-teaching facility known as LAMS. He has developed an illustrative example using the main themes found in chapter one of The Cross Is Not Enough. We are delighted to see our first chapter being used as a practical illustration on using LAMS. See James’ example on Preaching in Acts based on our book here

55 Resurrection Theses

The Cross is Not Enough has among its various goals the intention of inspiring and goading Christians to live in the power of the resurrected Christ. As a literary gesture we closed the book with 55 theses for the third millennium. They are based around our argument that the resurrection is the lynchpin.

It is in spirit and intent a dim echo of the infamous 95 theses posted by Luther (which sparked off the momentous Reformation). We’d love to see a Resurrection Reformation take place in the lives of all Christians and hence across the assemblies where Christians gather together.

One of our “fans” has reproduced an abridgment of our 55 theses. If you haven’t had a chance to read the book, then you can “sample” the theses “cut-down” at LifeCoach4God.