Milt Rodriguez is the author of “The Community Life of God.” Rodriguez contacted me some time ago to asked if I would review his book. I was intrigued by the topic of the book and agreed to post my thoughts.
Rodriguez is involved in the Organic Church movement and his book is endorsed by author Frank Viola and house church advocate Jon Zens. “The Community Life of God” attempts to lay both a practical and theological foundation for the Trinity as the model of all relationships.
The strength of this book is Rodriguez’s emphasis on the practical need within the church to build deep relationships. Rodriguez writes, “Building cannot happen with stones who occasionally and casually meet together (p. 106).” Community life only happens when there is a deep investment and willingness to sacrifice for others. Rodriguez argues that as the Trinity works in concert, so too each member of the church must eschew individualism and work together to fulfill the purpose of God (p. 130).
David Flowers has a good summary of what works well in this book. Flowers writes,
Rodriguez proposes that much of Christian activity today is spent furthering the individualistic mindset that is so popular in our culture. Even when believers come together corporately there is not an understanding of God’s image among us. Church life ought to be more than socializing and individual Christian ministries.
On this point I think every Christian can agree and aspire.
What Needs Work
The book started off a bit rough for me. The introductory chapter has some awkwardly worded paragraphs that are more confusing than helpful. For example, the following paragraph is supposed to define God’s purpose in the creation of man.
Why did God create? What was the motivational factor in the creation? I think that we can safely say the He created in order to put His plan into action; to take the first step toward fulfilling His purpose. You see, there is the purpose, but then there is His plan to fulfill the purpose. The purpose is His goal. The plan is the way to achieve that goal. The apostle Paul speaks of this “plan” in his letter to the Ephesians.
“Why did God create?” This paragraph does not help answer the question and quite honestly the entire introduction to the books is more frustrating than insightful.
At times, Rodriguez tries to lecture the reader. He writes,
Now please pay attention very carefully.
When you just read my quotation of that verse in Colossians you immediately took that verse and applied it to you as an individual (p. 49).
Stylistically, it is a bit off-putting when a writer lectures the reader about what they think or feel. Some readers may not mind this approach, but for me it created a barrier. Writing style aside, the bigger issue is Rodriguez’s theology.
In Rodriguez’s effort to counter the individualistic church culture, he tends to overstate his case. In this example, Rodriguez asserts that anyone who says they are, as an individual, made in the image of Christ is repeating a lie of Satan.
Yet I hear believers talking all the time about being “like Jesus”or being “like Christ.” Yet the scriptures do not ever teach that you, as an individual, can be like Christ. That again, is the delusion of the ole’ serpant. You cannot be like Jesus. You were never meant to be like Jesus (p. 52).
While I agree with Rodriguez that community is key to being conformed to the image of Christ, this in no way precludes the meaning for the individual disciple.
The most disconcerting aspect of Rodriguez’s theology is his bent toward “Open Theism” That is, Rodriguez takes the “community” of God’s being as analogous to the “community” of humanity.1 Here is a sampling of quotes where Rodriguez’s theology should be critically examined.
“From God’s perspective, Christ is no longer a single person. He is a corporate person, Christ and the Church are a single reality (87).” Quoting Frank Viola’s book, “From Here to Eternity”
“The Man is a new creation, a new species. He is made up of both God and Man. He is composed of both divinity and humanity. God and man have been merged together as one in Christ (p. 88).
“Who is in charge [of the church]?” Christ is in charge. A Christ who is made up of both the Head and the Body. The One New Man(p, 141).”
Ultimately, Rodriguez’s book blurs important distinction between the Creator and the Created.. and key difference between Christ and the Church.
There is no need, nor any biblical root, for connecting the essential “community-life” of Church with the “community-life” of the Trinity. There is a significant amount of Scripture that teaches the necessity of community that stands on its own without reading into it a philosophical paradigm that recreates God in the image of humanity. We, as the Church, can achieve a practical community life without the kind of “creative” theology embraced in “The Community Life of God.”