In 1992, Frank Viola had an epiphany. “All the sermons I had heard since I was a child faded dead away. They were profoundly eclipsed by the sight of a peerless worth. By God’s grace, I caught a wondrous glimpse into what Paul called the eternal purpose (Eph. 3:11).” Discovering God’s purpose freed Viola from a me-centered gospel, but ironically it allowed him to find his own purpose within God’s.
God’s Ultimate Passion outlines three themes or tales. Put together, Viola says that they embody God’s story – “the great interpretive narrative by which we may better understand the Bible, the Christian life, and our world.”
The three themes are:
- God’s ultimate passion is to obtain a Bride for the Eternal Son.
- God’s ultimate passion is to obtain a home for the Everlasting Father.
- God’s ultimate passion is to create a new species – the body of Christ and the family of God.
Viola takes his readers on a tour through Scripture in each of these themes.
I appreciate the passion within this book. Viola won’t settle for reciting abstract truths. I don’t think he’s written a page in this book that isn’t filled with passion. He’s clearly excited about these themes, and you can’t miss it.
I also appreciate the desire to see the overarching message of the Bible. Too often we atomize the Scripture. It’s great to see someone develop the central themes by focusing on God’s passion.
Many readers will see Scriptures in a new way in this book. Viola picks up on details I may have missed, and he sees them in fresh ways. I’m not always sold on his conclusions. For instance, Viola argues that while God is perfectly adequate within Himself, he created us because He was lonely – always a controversial assertion.
He sometimes allegorizes. For instance, he says that we were the girl inside God, just as Eve was the woman inside Adam. “There was a girl inside of God before time. And you and I are part of that girl.” Interesting parallel, and I know what he’s saying – but I think he’s overreaching.
Viola also expresses his anti-institutitonal bent throughout the book. While I share some of his frustrations, I’m not as ready to write off established congregations and institutions. God can work even there.
There is a debate about identifying the central themes of Scripture. Viola’s themes certainly are important, but I don’t think they’re the final word. Other themes like the kingdom of God, the mission of God (missio Dei), and the redemption of all creation also need to be emphasized.
At times, the passion of the book made it hard to read with exclamation marks! and italics. However, I do enjoy the passion and clarity of this book.
I’ve checked other reviews, and God’s Ultimate Passion seems to have touched many readers. If you’re interested in an overview of some important themes of Scripture, or you want to recapture some excitement about God’s eternal purposes, this may be a book that you’ll enjoy reading.