Friday, February 26, 2016

Rediscovering Jesus - David B. Capes, Rodney Reeves, and E. Randolph Richards

Let me know more of the true Christ; nothing less will do.

Rediscovering Jesus: An Introduction to Biblical, Religious and Cultural Perspectives on Christ
Authors: Capes, David B.; Reeves, Rodney; Richards, E. Randolph
Publisher: IVP Academic (www.ivpress.com)
Pages: 272

Rediscovering Jesus could be the most interesting and helpful book that you ever read about Christ. This is not a quest for the historic Jesus, though that has its place and there is a chapter about it. This has more to do with answering two questions posed by Jesus to his disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” and “Who do you say that I am?”

You might think it pointless: I have answered these questions. The authors contend that there is more to Jesus than we can ever know. No one has him figured-out, but we can learn from each other.

Along the way, we must recognize the tendency to magnify aspects of his person that appeal to us and ignore or reject what we might not like. We might like to think that our view of Christ is biblical, but it can easily include outside elements. It can be a reflection of our limited knowledge, experience and even prejudice.

Rediscovering Jesus is divided into two parts: (1) portraits of Christ from the various New Testament books and writers and (2) views from outside the Bible. The latter consists of how he is seen by Gnostics, Muslims, Mormons, and Americans in general, those in search of the historical Jesus, and the images conveyed in the many movies about Christ. The authors could have easily added an interesting chapter about how Jesus is portrayed in song and hymns. As with the other subjects, the picture is not always accurate.

Even though the first part is engaging and insightful, I was even more intrigued by the examination of the unorthodox views in the second part, probably because the latter is less familiar. Even so, the material in the first section is well-organized and can serve as an excellent reference for studying New Testament depictions of Christ. Seeing the differences can be a revelation.

Each chapter in both sections contains three critical parts:

1.       What does the picture of Jesus look like?
2.       How is different?
3.       What if this was the only portrait of Christ?

For example, the authors ask, “Who does Mark say that Jesus is?” How does this differ from the Jesus of the other New Testament writers? In the cases of unorthodox portrayals, how do they differ from Scripture? Lastly, imagining that any one picture were the only one can have startling implications for worship and Christian practice.

They point out among many other things the widespread influence of Paul’s and John’s Jesus. “Paul tell us what Jesus did for us on the cross. John tells us that we need to be born again. So what do we talk about in our churches? We need to be born again (based on what Jesus did on the cross)” (255).

It may be obvious but worth stating, “We need a biblical Jesus” (256). One taken from the biblical texts but one that includes voices from the entire Bible.

Failure to do so can have serious consequences. You can see an extreme example in what critics refer to as ultra- or hyper-dispensationalism. This Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom to the Jews. Therefore, in relation to living the Christian life Paul’s words are deemed more applicable than the words of Jesus. It was left to Paul to reveal the gospel of grace and provide instructions for the Church. Subtle divisions like this seem right but can get people off-course when working-out the implications.

It might have been helpful if the authors had addressed the progressive nature of revelation. Does Paul further the ideas contained in the gospels or is he bringing new revelation? In order to answer groups like the hyper-dispensationalists, we need to be able to show how it all fits together. To some extent this is covered in the conclusion, but more could be said. I would welcome another volume from the authors along these lines.

This study can lead to greater discernment. “Give me Jesus” might well become the cry of the heart. It means rejecting wrong ideas and images learned from others and/or gained by making Christ in our own image. 

Rediscovering Jesus can be a guide towards knowing Christ more fully. Our knowledge of him now will never be perfect, but we can grow in our relationship and understanding.
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