Monday, April 26, 2010

Book Review: Raised With Christ

Books on the resurrection are like Jesus - you wait for ages, then two come along at once. Since Easter, I've been reading both Sam Allberry's Lifted, and blogger Adrian Warnock's Raised With Christ. This evening, I'll review the Warnock book (as I read it first), then tomorrow evening shall hopefully review Allberry's offering.

The subtitle of the book, 'How the Resurrection Changes Everything' drives the thoroughness and focus of the entire work. Warnock rightly begins by pointing out that the resurrection has been neglected, with Christians instead preferring to focus on the events of Good Friday - the cross (with or without the resurrection). Therefore, Raised With Christ seeks to redress the balance, and highlights the importance of the resurrection - not just as a happy ending tacked on, but on vital importance to the whole Christian message: 'When considering if Christianity is true, it all boils down to whether Jesus rose from the dead.'

There were some very useful sections in the book. Particularly noteworthy were the chapters asking if Jesus really did rise from the dead, the Old Testament survey of glimpses of resurrection, and the chapter dealing with the preaching of Peter and Paul in Acts which highlights and mentions the resurrection in every sermon.

As I read, I take notes, and I recorded some memorable and useful quotations from the book. How about these:

'The church did not create the resurrection stories; instead the resurrection stories created the church.'

'We cannot be truly cross-centred without also being empty-grave-centred.'

Yet at the same time, there were moments when I didn't seem to follow the logic of what was being argued. Several times the argument is made that the early Christians met early on the Sunday, the Lord's Day, because this was timed to coincide with the resurrection, indeed, 'as they watched the sunrise, it would mirror to them the glorious rebirth of creation begun by Christ's victory over death.' (p. 105). Perhaps it's more likely that with Sunday being a 'normal' day of trade, they couldn't meet at the 10.30am or 11.30am which is more traditional now that Sunday is a day of rest? In order to meet on the Lord's Day, they would have to meet before work / trade / whatever went on in the Roman Empire on the first day of the week...

Similarly, Warnock uses a Mark Driscoll quote to show the danger of emphasizing the cross over the resurrection or the resurrection over against the cross:

"Conversely, there are others who preach only the new kingdom life that Jesus offers through his resurrection... This is the perennial error of Christian liberalism."

Yet earlier, and indeed throughout the book, liberals are presented as among those who deny the resurrection, so how can they here be portrayed as revelling in resurrection life?

The mention of the Driscoll quote brings to mind the virtual constant quoting of Jonathan Edwards, Spurgeon, Driscoll, John Piper, and several other Christian leaders. At times it almost seemed to me that the book was hung between quotations, and it was the quotations that gave it the structure. Perhaps it just wasn't my style, but they seemed to be on overload.

Finally, in Warnock's attempt to be very thorough, there were times when the book almost seemed to be overly long. For example, early on, there was the discussion about two types of groups which are influencing the future of the church, the emergings and the young restless reformed types - although I haven't quite worked out why this discussion is there.

Similarly, there seemed to be quite a lot of emphasis on the healing / spiritual gifts / experience aspect of the Holy Spirit, which didn't sit so easily with me - this may simply be a charismatic thing, which isn't where I'm coming from - which led into three chapters on expecting revival, reviving prayer and the reviving word (perhaps the wrong chapter ordering, as I would have expected the word to come first and prayer and revival in response).

All in all, it's good to see the resurrection being raised to its proper importance, and even with the few questions and issues I have discussed, I think this is a helpful book - although sometimes heavy enough going. While I would probably recommend Allberry's book over this one, Raised With Christ is still going to be a great help to the church and individual Christians' understanding of the importance of the resurrection.

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