Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Joshuanism (book)

Joshuanism: A Path Beyond Christianity by Michael Vito Tosto
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book description: In this conversational, theological book, Tosto details a new spiritual approach for knowing God in the 21st century. This new approach is called Joshuanism, an evolved expression of Christianity (though it draws from other sources as well, such as Buddhism, existentialism, psychology, and science), rooted in the same son of God Christianity worships: Jesus. Yet in this case, we are approaching him with a fresh, unencumbered perspective, preferring to call on him by his Hebrew name: Joshua. Thus, Joshuanism.

My review: Michael Vito Tosto wants to start a new movement. By writing this book he has made a start. The new movement is Joshuanism - based on the Hebrew transliteration of the name for Jesus. Joshuanism is intended to be an alternative to Christianity which he considers to have lost its way in fulfilling the teachings of Joshua (Jesus). The author's new movement is intended to appeal to those who are disaffected by Christianity or who perhaps have previously had nothing to do with Christianity, but are attracted by the teachings of Joshua. The reason for using Jesus’ Hebrew name is to avoid all the various negative connotations that are associated with the name “Jesus”.


Joshuanism is structured around some carefully articulated elements: The Ten Tenets of Joshuanism; The Eight Immovables of Joshuanism; and The Joshuanism Creed. There's nothing new in this “new” version of Christianity (for that is essentially what it is). There is nothing offered that has not been suggested in other writings or theologies that have, in some form or other, critiqued some of the negative features of some forms of Christianity. Even the suggestion that Zen meditation be practiced by Joshuans is hardly innovative. What is new is the way the author has synthesised it into his own system. Tosto writes in a conversational style and he is articulate and provocative - particularly for those who haven't heard these ideas before. He has also come up with some contemporary terminology (eg the Extraction for the church; the Table for the gathering together of beleivers) which often make more sense than some of the ancient terminology some Christians stick to. The book is engaging reading and does provide the opportunity for reflection on one’s own beliefs and values in relation to Christianity.

There is, however, some cause for concern. I do not want to review the whole system of thought that makes up Joshuanism. But I would like to reproduce the list of the Eight Immovables of Joshuanism. Here they are:

  1. A belief in God
  2. A belief in the Singular Relationship (The Father, The Son, and the Soul of Godliness)
  3. A decision to view God’s Son as Joshua rather than as Jesus
  4. Acceptance of the Ten Tenets of Joshuanism
  5. Acceptance of the Joshuanism Creed
  6. A decision to gather together with other Joshuans in a definitely Joshuan way
  7. A decision to practice the Five Elements
  8. A decision to read primarily The Joshuan Pages version of the New Testament [a paraphrases Tosto is currently working on]
Notice that these are called the “immovables”. In this context, I assume immovable means non-negotiable. In other words, a belief in the doctrine of the Trinity is non-negotiable. You must decide to view Jesus as Joshua - that's non-negotiable. There is a creed that is non-negotiable. You must decide to practice the Five Elements (spiritual disciplines) - non-negotiable. And you must decide to primarily read Tosto’s paraphrased New Testament - that's non-negotiable.
It always bothers me when people start telling me I must believe certain things and do certain things in order to be included in a group. The irony of this in regard to Joshuanism is that Tosto has taken great and repeated pains to affirm what he calls Diversified Uniformity. This is defined as “a proviso within Joshuanism stating that aside from the Eight Immovables, the Joshuan can hold any theological or zo√™ological view and still be considered a Joshuan.”

The moment any group starts setting up non-negotiables that determine when you're in or out then, however you might say it, it's no different to any other denomination of Christianity that has existed. Creeds haven't had a good history within Christianity. They've always been used to make judgments on others - despite plans not to use them as such.
Perhaps of most concern is the non-negotiable decision required to primarily read Tosto’s paraphrase of the New Testament. Why this? Why would anyone wish to make what someone reads non-negotiable? Providing even implicit primacy to any one version (or paraphrase in this case) seems to imbue it with an inappropriate authority - particularly when it is the product of one person’s interpretation.

Enough said. There are some elements of Joshuanism that are attractive and reasonable. In fact, the majority of the book is probably a very positive representation of the best of Christianity. It is naive, however, to think that producing yet another system with its own creeds, disciplines and doctrines is going to solve the problems of other similar attempts.
So ... worth a read but, like all ideas, think critically before jumping on board any new bandwagon. Adopt what is good and realise that anything good can also be distorted when human fallibility is part of the equation.

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