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John Eldredge’s Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus attempts to paint a comely picture of Jesus that challenges what Eldredge thinks is the religious way that people are typically taught to view Christ.
A bestselling author and Christian counselor, Eldredge uses an inviting, narrative style that draws the reader along as he layers his portrait of Jesus. The description uses the Gospels and additional texts to illustrate Christ's playfulness, fierce intentionality, humanity, generosity, honesty, cunning, humility and trueness. The final few chapters invite the reader into an intimate relationship with Jesus, this beautiful outlaw.
Eldredge’s overall portrait of Jesus is generally accurate though sometimes prone to overstatement, imaginative readings, and too-quick dismissals of positions with which the author disagrees. A greater awareness of or interaction with socio-cultural values and customs of the New Testament period would have made the portrait more compelling.
Most lay audiences are likely to find the presentation of Jesus helpful. The experienced pastor, however, should find few novel or challenging insights. Nevertheless, the truly impacting portion of the book is not the portrait of Jesus, but the call to intimacy.
The weaving of stories involving personal encounters with the living Jesus along with advice and prayers provides powerful encouragement to the reader to deepen his or her relationship with this beautiful friend and savior.
Beautiful Outlaw could be an effective tool for new believer’s classes or for immersion discipleship groups, challenging perspectives on Jesus and holiness while inviting deeper personal relationship.
Reviewed by: Michael Salmeier, D.Phil., academic dean and associate professor of Bible and theology at Life Pacific College in San Dimas, Calif.