Jesus: A Theography (Partial Review)
November 29, 2012
I’ve wanted to post a book review for some time now but I just couldn’t bring myself to do so because I’ve felt a bit overwhelmed. However, I decided to do a partial review of Jesus: A Theography because it is required reading for my Doctoral work at George Fox. For the purpose of full disclosure, I should point out that one of the authors, Leonard Sweet, is my main professor and someone I consider a friend and advisor.
Now, with that out of the way, I’d like to point out one of the most important things I’ve come to learn over the past decade. The simple truth is Christians must realize we do not (and should not) have to agree with another person on every single point of faith and doctrine. In fact, I’m finding the more I disagree with someone the more it causes me to try and find common ground. When we have some common ground, dialogue always increases. Interestingly, it has been my experience the more I agree with someone the less we tend to talk.
I mention this because I have a few theological and scholarly differences with this book. Some of the differences some would consider major and others might consider minor. This is the way of the world. For example, I don’t find Lucifer and Satan to be the same thing in the biblical text (p. 118). In fact, I don’t believe Lucifer should even be used in the Scripture as it is considered, by many, a theological imposition on the text and only found in Isaiah 14:12.
The other theological difference I have is with the use of the term Son of God in the book. I’m very much in the camp of NT Wright and others who see the term son of God, as used in the Gospels, as not being descriptive of Jesus’ divinity but, instead, describes his kingship. There are those who also see the term son of God as describing any Israelites special relationship with YHWH. With that in mind, the Gospels use of this term would mean any Israelite male would have been considered a “son of God.” So, when Jesus is using this term throughout the New Testament one shouldn’t see it as a specific claim to his divinity but, instead, should read it as his claim to being a true Israelite and true king. (Personally, I’m of the opinion the term son of Man points more to Jesus’ divinity, within the historical context of the Gospels, than does the term son of God. In essence, I’m saying we’ve gotten it backwards for way too long.) Of course, since this book is written for a more general audience I can see why this issue wasn’t addressed in the writing though, with the extensive footnotes found in the book, I do believe it should have been worth a mention.
So, as you may have guessed, this book uses the term son of God with the more traditional and commonly accepted approach. (At least it does at this point I’m at in the book. This is, after all, a partial review.) Yet, even with my different approach to this phrasing, I am finding some big nuggets of gold in this book. For example, there is a continued emphasis of Jesus’ true humanity and the extreme importance of his kenosis (self-emptying). In many Christian circles, this is often ignored or downplayed. In fact, most of us want our God (Jesus) to have “thunder in His footsteps and lightning in His fist.” We’re looking for Superman….not Spiderman.
Instead, when we see God manifested in Jesus, we hear his thunderous voice screaming, “Eloi, Eloi, Sabacthani” because, in his humanity he understood what it means to be forsaken. At the same time, we see the divinity of Jesus on the cross as he thunders and says, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus understands forsakenness and forgiveness at the same time and this is the reality of the incarnation. This is True Humanity at work and this is the point of agreement I find myself grasping as I read Jesus: A Theography. In seeing Jesus in this manner, we realize that having Him live with and in us is to become more truly and thoroughly human. This means that life here and now is extremely important. We’re not just meant to be “saved people” waiting to die and “go to heaven.” In being Jesus people, we’ve become subcreators spreading Jesus’ humanity to the world through the arts, sciences, and in a life well lived. We are becoming what we were originally meant to be In The Beginning.
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