Monday, June 05, 2017
REVIEW: Sinners In The Hands Of A Loving God
I've just finished reading Brian Zahnd's newest book, "Sinners In The Hands Of A Loving God" and it's breath-taking.
I was nearly wrapping up volume one of Greg Boyd's latest book, "Crucifixion of the Warrior God" when the book arrived in the mail.
Both Boyd and Zahnd are coming at the same ideas here, but from slightly different angles of approach. Where Boyd has taken a longer view and a more in-depth scholarly apologetic plan of attack, Zahnd opts for more of a practical, simplified and conversational tone.
Both of them are attempting to describe a Christ-centric hermeneutic or framework for understanding scripture, which is something I also did in my latest book, "Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb".
In fact, in chapter 3 of his book, Zahnd covers almost exactly the same territory as I did in chapter 2 of my book, namely the "Flat Bible vs Jesus-Centric" perspectives on scripture.
Honestly, I'm very grateful that my book came out a few months earlier than Zahnd's, otherwise people would claim that I ripped him off. [I know that no one is going to think that Zahnd took his cues from my book].
Still, the good news is that people like Zahnd are affirming this approach and helping to popularize the Jesus-Centered perspective. So, if the "Flat Bible vs Jesus-Centric" approach was challenging for you in my book, perhaps reading Zahnd's take on it might help you get a better grip on what this is all about.
For me, the book really took off on page 30. That's where the author begins to unpack his views on the differences between God as we see Him in the Old Testament and God as Jesus reveals Him in the New Testament:
"It seems obvious that we should accept that as Israel was in the process of receiving the revelation of Yahweh, some unavoidable assumptions were made. One of the assumptions was that Yahweh shared the violent attributes of other deities worshiped in the ancient near east. These assumptions were inevitable, but they were wrong. For example, the Torah assumed that Yahweh, like all the other gods, required ritual blood sacrifice, but eventually the psalmists and prophets take the sacred text beyond this earlier assumption." [page 30]
Finally, Zahnd concludes by saying:
"The Bible is not the perfect revelation of God; Jesus is. Jesus is the only perfect theology. Perfect theology is not a system of theology; perfect theology is a person. Perfect theology is not found in abstract thought; perfect theology is found in the Incarnation. Perfect theology is not a book; perfect theology is the life that Jesus lived. What the Bible does infallibly and inerrantly is point us to Jesus, just like John the Baptist did." [page 31]
Zahnd further develops his thesis around page 60 where he notes:
"Today, Moses and Elijah (the Law and the Prophets) do one thing: they point to Jesus! I'm a Christian, not a Biblicist. The Bible is subordinate to Christ...The final testimony of Moses and Elijah is to recede into the background so that Jesus stands alone as the full and true Word of God. Jesus is what God has to say!
"The Bible is the written word of God that bears witness to the living Word of God. God did not become a book, but God did become a human being. The Incarnation is not the creation of the canon of Scripture, but the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. The Bible is not perfect; parts are now obsolete. Surely you admit this. Do you ever worry about violating the biblical prohibition found in Leviticus 19:19 "Nor shall you put on a garment made of two different materials"? Of course not. You understand that part of the Bible to be obsolete as a contemporary command. But nothing about the risen Christ is obsolete. Christ alone is the perfection of God." [Page 60-61]
Zahnd also covers similar territory in this book as N.T. Wright does in his latest book regarding the crucifixion and what is - and what isn't - happening on the cross. Wright's book, "The Day The Revolution Began" is excellent, but it takes a long time to set up the topic and work its way through the various texts.
But, Zahnd takes a more logical and practical approach to those same ideas and does more in one chapter than Wright accomplishes in an entire book. [Not that Wright's book isn't wonderful, but Zahnd's ability to cut to the chase and communicate the truth in a few words is priceless].
For me, one of the truly great chapters of the book is chapter 7 where he explains how to understand the book of Revelation. Honestly, if all you did was buy this book and read that chapter, you'd have your money's worth. I have honestly never read anything that so clearly and simply explained the right way to approach Revelation before. It's amazing. Really, amazing.
Overall, "Sinners In The Hands Of A Loving God" goes a long way towards clarifying what a truly Jesus-Centered approach to scripture looks like, in contrast to the usual "Flat Bible" perspective that has plagued the Church for too long now.
I'm excited to read books like this one, and others mentioned here, that provide a refreshing view of Jesus as the full revelation of God.
For many, this book will be a huge stretch. I understand that. For some, the ideas in this book will be strange, and possibly even scandalous. But keep in mind that Jesus was scandalous in his day, and that the Gospel is scandalous and extremely controversial.
If Jesus version of the Kingdom was so radical and dangerous, why is our faith so safe and predictable?
Christians today need to rediscover the dangerous Gospel and the unsafe Jesus. Brian Zahnd puts Him on full display in this book. It's a glorious and beautiful thing.
I highly recommend you pick up this book and rediscover a more dangerous faith and a more radical Jesus.
"Sinners In The Hands Of A Loving God" by Brian Zahnd releases August, 2017. Pre-order here on Amazon:
FULL DISCLOSURE: The author and his publisher provided a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.