Book Review: Kevin Harvey’s “Jonah, John, and the Second Greatest (And Most Avoided) Commandment”

Posted: April 18, 2010 by Matt Horan in ReEmergent Church
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By Matt Horan

In my previous post, I wrote about the “New Calvinism” on the rise among American followers of Jesus Christ.  There are many important voices to be heard among them, and one new up-and-comer is Kevin Harvey.

During many years in the editing and publishing business, Harvey saw book after book come across his desk destined for the shelves of clergy and laity across the country.  What he began to see lacking in these books was attention to the second of Jesus’ greatest commandments.

The first, of course, “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength,” gets a lot of attention in Calvinist teaching, preaching, and worship.  Listen to the lyrics of songs by David Crowder, the message of sermons by Mark Driscoll, or teaching at the many conferences put on by Andy Stanley.  The message of our depravity and our need for God’s grace and salvation are in no short supply.  But to keep these denominations relevant in the 21st century, New Calvinists should listen to Kevin Harvey.

“The second is like it, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

A title like this might sound like a book off the shelves of denominations steeped in Social Gospel or Liberation Theology, but it’s not.  Neo Calvinists should take note because this call comes from one of their own.  Harvey’s engaging narrative and self-depreciating style reads like Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz and Searching for God Knows What.  But the theological underpinnings are straight out of TULIP itself.  You won’t find the phrase “social justice” in Harvey’s vocabulary, but this is the essential call to love of neighbor that has so often taken a back seat to the pursuit of humility and the cultivation of our own individual personal relationships with Jesus Christ.

I have a rule about titles.  I think that two-word titles are a waste of a word, though I do occasionally allow the definite article “The” when effective.  So, when I first looked at the book’s ten-word title when it came in the mail, I groaned.  However, it’s hard to figure out what words to leave out.  It is a journey through the Book of Jonah, with help from the writings of John, and it’s about the second of the two great commandments.  However, for the sake of blog length, I’m going to call it “Harvey’s Jonah.

The book is a close look at Jonah’s steps and missteps as he avoids God’s call to offer ministry to those he doesn’t like.  Harvey offers adventures and misadventures in loving others from his own life, which effectively puts practical legs to the Jonah story–especially helpful since most of us aren’t called to preach the Gospel to the Ninevites.

As a pastor from the Wesleyan free-will tradition, I didn’t feel entirely at home with some of the background theological precepts, of course, but it didn’t matter.  In the end, I felt challenged to love my neighbors more than I do, which is what Harvey asks.  His challenge is clear, “The disciples died to self long before they died physically.  And though Jonah was willing to die for the sake of the sailors, he had no intention of dying to self and going to Nineveh.  How hard are you trying to avoid dying to self and loving others as we have been commanded?”

Harvey’s Jonah contains probing discussion questions at the end of each chapter, making it helpful in both an individual or group setting.  I hope that, as a New Calvinists fans out across America, that it will take Harvey’s book with them.

Order it at

  1. jrhickey73 says:

    When I read this I thought…
    “Wait a minute, is that THE Kevin Harvey; as in Kevin and Amy Harvey?”

    Way to go Kevin! I’m ordering a copy.


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