Friday, January 4, 2013

Book Review – The Man Christ Jesus

Tension is characteristic of the Christian faith. It doesn’t take long to realize that the Christian’s pilgrimage is one fraught with various positions, ideas, and beliefs that appear to be contradictory and yet are convictions we must hold. We experience an “already-not yet” redemption in which we are saved and yet await a final salvation. Our God is three and our God is one. God is sovereign and we have free will. And the list goes on. Author and professor Bruce A. Ware deals with one of seemingly contradictory doctrines held by Christians in his book The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ. Ware addresses the clear biblical fact that our Savior is fully God and fully human. He does so in a manner that clarifies how we ought to think about many of the apparent contradictions. His approach is one of worshipful study of Christ that leads the reader to join him in adoration. And the format of the book lends itself to both individual and group study.

In a relatively short and thus accessible book, only 156 pages, Ware engages with many difficult issues related to the united divine and human natures in the son of Mary who was also the Son of the Most High. Ware presents and satisfactorily addresses the following questions: How could two natures-the divine and the human-coexist? How could one who was divine be truly human? Was Christ able to live a perfect and sinless life of obedience because he was God or did he accomplish this as a human? How should one think about Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, increasing in wisdom and growing in faith? Did Christ really experience temptation as humans do? Was it necessary for Christ to be male? How is Christ’s humanity related to the atonement? These questions, and many others, are answered in a way that is understandable and awe inspiring. The author regularly uses helpful illustrations to support his points, some of which I have already shared with others who have also found them edifying. I was very impressed with the amount of ground this book covers and the teaching that it delivers on some very tough questions.

Ware states that he longs for “Jesus to be honoured through the reflections upon his humanity” (12) in The Man Christ Jesus. Having read the book, my guess is that his longing will be fulfilled as Christians read and digest this work. Ware regularly pauses in his explanations and answers to remind the reader of how certain aspects of Jesus’ humanity are glorious and praise-worthy. His consideration of difficulties and queries about Christ’s humanity do not terminate on the accumulating of knowledge but lead to adulation and adoration. For example, Ware grapples with how Jesus was tempted and concludes that his temptations were similar in every way to ours and the fact that as God he was impeccable (unable to sin) Jesus did not resist sin from his divinity but rather from his humanity. To this he writes, “For our sake and for our salvation, he steeled his heart to fight temptation as a man, in dependence on his Father and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Praise be to Jesus who, though tempted in every way as we are, never, ever sinned.” (85) This response-heartfelt worship-to theological truths encourages the reader to move from thinking in the head to adoring in the heart. Ware’s proclivity to pursue praise for Christ from doctrines about his humanity is a commendable characteristic of this book.

Finally, this book is very functional due to its format. Each chapter contains a section focused on application as well as a section of questions for further discussion. The application sections are wonderfully written and contain practical considerations that are pure gold. These support the reader by helping him to apply these significant spiritual truths to everyday life. These practical portions make the book helpful for personal study and growth. I am very glad that Ware included this aspect in his book. The questions for discussion that are positioned at the end of each chapter promote the benefit of this book as a resource for small groups. These questions help clarify the issues and ideas in each chapter and indicate what knowledge should be garnered. They lend themselves to a small group study and I intend to use them and this book for that purpose. Both individuals and groups will find the book’s format, sections for application and further study, beneficial for practical application.

This book was easily one of the top books I read this year. It was significant for its teaching on some difficult doctrines about Christ’s humanity. It elicited thoughtful exultation and worship of the great God-man who redeemed us. And it is a very functional book with a format that encourages practical application of its truths. I highly recommend this book.

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