Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Nourishing the Root: A Review of "Putting Jesus in His Place"

[originally posted at Conservative Reformed Mafia]

American evangelicals have invested a great deal of effort in making the case for certain important doctrines in the past few decades. We have seen a tremendous amount of resources generated over biblical prophecy and end-times matters. Predictive prophecy is scattered throughout the Bible and the end-times is always a popular topic so the attention is understandable. In the 1980's, evangelicals spent much time and effort debating and discussing the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. Evangelicals have also focused heavily on church-growth philosophy and strategies for many years now. Every one of these issues is important and worthy of a large degree of the attention they have received (some more than others). However, these popular issues, important as they are, are secondary matters. In other words, good, faithful, orthodox believers can agree to disagree over these matters and the core of Christianity is not going to rise or fall either way. Christology, on the other hand, does get to the very root of all of Christianity.

Thankfully, several evangelical scholars and authors have in recent years begun to help us to avoid getting lost in secondary matters such as those noted above. Authors Robert M. Bowman, Jr. and J. Ed Komoszewski have written a book that will greatly assist us in nourishing the root of Christianity. Putting Jesus in His Place, The Case for the Deity of Christ answers the crucial question: Is Jesus God? The deity of Christ, a fact that is perpetually doubted in scholarly circles, has come under increased scrutiny at the more popular level recently. TV specials, magazine cover stories, novels and movies propose more accurate alternatives to the centuries-old doctrine of the deity of Jesus Christ. Christology is an area that has been in need of increased attention within evangelicalism anyway. These conflicting accounts of Jesus in the popular media have added to the need to strengthen our efforts in teaching and defending the deity of Christ. Putting Jesus in His Place makes a much-needed and timely case for a central, core doctrine of the faith: the deity of Jesus.

Readers will be pleased to know that Bowman and Komoszewski have crafted the book in such a way that it is a suitable resource for both the popular and scholarly level. The body of the work is written in an accessible manner with more critical notes provided in the endnotes. When theological insider lingo is used, the authors provide helpful explanations along the way. The authors have used the endnotes to provide further information and to point the reader to other valuable resources for further study. For those who are looking to extend their study beyond what is provided in this book, I would highly recommend acquiring the resources mentioned in endnotes #15-18 in the Introduction: Making Sense of the New Testament: Three Crucial Questions by Craig Blomberg, Reinventing Jesus by Komoszewski, Sawyer, and Wallace, 20 Compelling Evidences That God Exists by Boa and Bowman, The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright, Making Sense of the Trinity: Three Crucial Questions by Millard J. Erickson, and "The Biblical Basis of the Doctrine of the Trinity: An Outline Study" by Robert M. Bowman Jr. This gives you an indication of the valuable nature of the material provided in the endnotes.

One of the problems I have when reading a book that is filled with so much useful information is the inevitable brain dump that occurs shortly after completing the book. Bowman and Komoszewski have provided a way to alleviate this problem by arranging the material around a creative and meaningful acronym: HANDS. As the authors explain, Jesus shares the Honors due to God, the Attributes of God, the Names of God, shares in the Deeds that God does, and shares the Seat of God's throne. Just as Thomas was persuaded that Jesus is his Lord and God upon seeing and feeling teh scars in His hands, the HANDS of the New Testament are powerfully persuasive to convince readers of the same.

The book is divided into five parts according to the acronym HANDS. Each part of the book contains three to five substantive and convincing chapters explaining how the New Testament serves as witness to the deity of Christ. The appendix is a tremendous resource in its own right as it summarizes the biblical evidence for the deity of Christ according to subject and biblical reference (book, chapter, and verse).

One of the things I most appreciate about the book is that the authors make it very clear that the intent of the book is not to merely add another book of abstract ideas to our libraries. The main motivation for the book is to help others to "respond to him [Jesus] as our God." We can make the case for the deity of Jesus but we cannot stop there as if we're just getting all our theological ducks in a row. We must respond to Jesus in accordance with who He truly is. He is God and we must know Him as such. This is how the authors of the New Testament know Him as Putting Jesus in His Place demonstrates.

End-times speculations, biblical inerrancy battles, and church growth formulas have generated a lot of books, videos, and more in recent decades. Each of these areas are important and cannot be neglected but it is time to nourish the root in evangelicalism. I hope that Putting Jesus in His Place enjoys tremendous success and is read by thousands. Now that we know what will happen to those who are Left Behind, let us turn our attention to a subject that I believe have been neglected in favor of lesser things: the deity of Christ. The Bible says so much more about the deity of Jesus than the one or two verses we may have memorized. What good are our attractional church strategies if we are not ready to teach the fullness of the root of Christianity when the people come? How can we demonstrate a proper response to Jesus as God if we are not nourishing this root? I am encouraged by the increase in efforts dealing with this subject. Putting Jesus in His Place, The Case for the Deity of Christ is one of the top resources in this area and the best book you could buy this year. Read it, study it, buy one for your friends and family and may we all be better equipped to know and respond to Jesus as God.

For more information about the book, visit http://www.deityofchrist.com/

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