This review first appeared at Lifeway’s Pastors Today web-blog.
Alex Himaya. Jesus Hates Religion: Finding Grace in a Works-Driven Culture. Nashville: B&H, 2014. 172 pp. $14.99.
Alex Himaya is the pastor of a fast-growing church, theCHURCH.at in Tulsa Oklahoma, and he hates religion. In his new book, Jesus Hates Religion, Himaya says, “I don’t hate religion because of what it did to me. I hate it because of what it didn’t do.” According to Himaya: a past Coptic, Catholic, Episcopalian, and now Baptist – religion leads to a works based approach to God defined as: “A man-made path to God.”
The time of Himaya’s life when he pursued religion is the time he missed Jesus. Essentially, religion did not give him Jesus; it gave him works. It forced him to try to be good enough. Arguing against religion, he says, “It’s not about you being “good” enough…it’s about God being enough. Period.”
In order to validate his polemic against religion, Himaya shares his experiences, commentary on grace-oriented texts, and anecdotal stories illustrating these texts in order to dissuade readers from loving religion rather than grace.
Here is a concise summary of the books argument. Chapter two puts religion in context. Chapters three and four cover two dead ends: self and religion. Chapter five sets a path to Jesus through grace. Chapters six and seven deter us from two religious paths: legalism and inferiority. Chapter eight encourages us to discover our identity as saints. Chapters nine and ten dissuade us from two more paths: guilt and works. Chapter eleven recalibrates us to approach works not for favor but in response to favor. And chapter twelve concludes by putting a love for grace within the context of evangelism.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
Jesus Hates Religion helps anyone suffering from the clutches of legalism. This book assists those curious about Jesus by presenting him in light of the gospel of grace. Give this book to “Seekers” and recent Christ-followers. They will appreciate Jesus Hates Religion most.
Himaya, in simple terms, explains complex doctrines like law and gospel, union with Christ, repentance, and predestination. He also makes space to explain a few Greek terms for the benefit of readers. I commend him for this effort. Jesus Hates Religion faithfully articulates the gospel and emphasizes the crucial component of identity in Christ.
Only two places gave pause for concern. I think Himaya unnecessarily subordinates predestination under the doctrine of foreknowledge. I also fear he risks leading readers down a path towards antinomianism by not articulating the function of the law after conversion. I admit, the objective of this book is not to instruct on holiness after conversion but to free people from a works based approach to salvation; I will not fault him for silence.
Himaya portrays a sincere and intentional pastoral sensitivity throughout Jesus Hates Religion. His gentle but direct appeals for readers to get out from under the thumb of performance-based living is admirable. This book is a great encouragement to those who require freedom from legalism, inferiority, guilt, and works. Jesus Hates Religion boldly stands against the performance driven world and frees us from succumbing to its allure.
Essential Recommended Helpful Pass It By
Jesus Hates Religion rescues readers from a mundane life of works and places them into the grip of God’s grace.