Friday, December 2, 2016

Book Review: God the Son Incarnate

God the Son Incarnate. Stephen J. Wellum. 2016. Crossway. 480 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Jesus of Nazareth has been and still is an enigma to many people. Even though he has been the dominant figure in the history of Western culture for almost twenty centuries, a majority of people are still confused regarding his identity.

In case you were in doubt, Stephen J. Wellum's God the Son Incarnate is theology written primarily with a scholarly focus. To clarify, I think you'd need to be a scholar (or have the patience of a scholar) to unpack the information and then be able to make practical use of it. In other words: SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED. BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED. It has some BEAUTIFUL, GENUINE gems in it. I found it ultimately a satisfying read because even though it took concentrated effort and plain, old-fashioned WORK, it delivered.

The short summary: Who is Jesus? How can we know who Jesus is? How can we know how we know who Jesus is? Who can we trust--if anyone--? What can we trust--if anything? Why isn't the Bible enough anymore to "convince" skeptics and scholars? Who does the Bible say Jesus is? How can we--why can we--trust the Bible? How has the church understood the question 'who is Jesus?'? How has the church understand and explained the incarnation? Has the church always gotten it right? What is the result of arguing about words and phrases? What are some of the heresies the church has addressed in the past two thousand years? How has philosophy and culture impacted the church? and impacted how the church views the bible? and impacted how the church views Jesus Christ? When culture and society clash--what is the church to do?

That's keeping it short. This one is PACKED with so much information. The good news is that it is super-organized and logically arranged. I will say this, Wellum walks you through the difficult journey step-by-step. He always seems to be a few steps ahead. But he also seems patient to wait--now and then--and let you catch up and catch your breath. This book has built in pauses. I think he's aware that it's a dense, heavy subject. And equally aware that it's a vital, essential subject.

Part One: Epistemological Warrant for Christology
"In Part I, we will establish the epistemological warrant for Christology. In our current context, we cannot take it for granted that everyone agrees on how we can and do come to know who Jesus is. In fact, the possibility of objective truth is questioned openly in today’s world. It is difficult to jump into the propositional statements about the identity of Jesus Christ without first providing a well-reasoned account for how we can know anything about him."

Part Two: Biblical Warrant for Christology
"In Part II, we will turn to biblical warrant for Christology by following the Bible’s own presentation of who Jesus is. The Bible presents itself as one story that moves across four parts and through six covenants, unfolding the promises of God in the Old Testament and their fulfillment in the New Testament. To have biblical warrant for Christology today, what the Bible says about Jesus Christ must be read and understood according to this authoritative structure. "

Part Three: Ecclesiological Warrant for Christology
Instead of quoting the author--I'll just mention this is a seemingly thorough presentation of creeds and heresies of the church, concluding that doctrines are worth fighting for and holding onto.

Part Four: A Warranted Christology for Today
"In Part IV we will conclude our investigation by developing a contemporary articulation of classical Christology for evangelicals today."

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:
"Biblical truth does not change from generation to generation, but the issues that confront the church do. "
"In light of Scripture, the church has confessed consistently that to identify Jesus correctly we must affirm that he is the divine Son who has become incarnate, that to know him is life eternal, and that to know him not is judgment unto death. Biblically speaking, getting Christ right is a matter of life and death."
"Systematic theology does not merely articulate doctrines in timeless propositions; systematic theology, rather, is best understood as the application of Scripture to all areas of life."
"Our present-day confusion regarding the identity of Christ has a long history that is best understood by looking at pivot points that led thinking and theology away from orthodox Christology. Historic Christianity has uniformly affirmed that Jesus is the eternal Son of God made flesh, who, as a result of the incarnation, now subsists as “one person in two natures.” And until the Enlightenment era, the church invariably agreed that the “Jesus of history” is identical to the “Jesus of the Bible” or the “Christ of faith.”"
"Attempting to remove Jesus from the storyline of Scripture, or accepting certain parts and rejecting others—something all modern and postmodern Christologies do—will only lead to a subjective, arbitrary, and ultimately false construction of Jesus’s identity."
"Only by tracing out what the Bible says and how it says it do we discover what God intended all along: all of Scripture leads us to behold the glory of God in the person and work of Christ. But biblical theology alone is not sufficient. In addition to interpretation, the church is called to the application of Scripture. Even with the results of reading the Bible on its own terms, we must still make theological conclusions that make the best sense of the Bible’s own presentation of Christ."
"“Jesus” has almost become a meaningless word due to its separation from the content and framework of Scripture. When this occurs, the unfortunate result is that Jesus becomes anything we want him to be except the Jesus of the Bible."
"It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the doctrine of creation. Many Christians are naturally interested in the doctrine of salvation, but without creation there is no understanding of the Christian faith as the Bible describes it."
"There is no substitute for reading the Bible on its own terms to identify the real Christ."
"But to understand the biblical Jesus correctly, to come to know him rightly, and to place all of our confidence in him personally, we must also come to know something of our own guilt before God and why it is that we need the kind of Redeemer he is. For it is not until we know ourselves as lost, under the sentence of death, and condemned before God, that we can even appreciate and rejoice in a divine-human Redeemer. It is only when we realize that we cannot save ourselves that we clearly see that he is the Redeemer we need. Yet, for people who by God’s grace come to see their need of him, then the Jesus of the Bible is not only understood for who he is but he is also embraced, loved, and adored as Lord and Savior."

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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