Monday, July 07, 2014

Book Review: Jesus the Son of God

Readers of this blog will know that I always appreciate Don Carson's writing. One of his more recent works, Jesus the Son of God, is published with the intention to 'foster clear thinking' on the subject. With Carson's name on it, you can be assured that the intention has been fulfilled.

In his thorough way, Carson first tackles the Son of God as a Christological Title. Highlighting all the references to 'son of God' which are concerned with Adam, Israel, Solomon, Israelites, peacemakers, and angels, he then focuses on Jesus as the Son of God. The discussion is set within the context of recent controversy regarding sonship in Trinitarian theology, some specialist volumes on particular texts, and within discussions on egalitarianism v complementarianism and reaching Muslim contexts. Within the 'Son of God' references to Jesus, he identifies various categories: 1. a catchall term; 2. as Davidic king; 3. the true Israel; 4. pre-existence of Jesus.

The second chapter then focuses in on some of these select passages - Hebrews 1 and John 5. This chapter provides a case study in Bible study, as he shows his working out of the issues raised in Hebrews 1 through consideration of Psalm 2 and 2 Samuel 7. It is a delight to follow the logic, and to discover something which is blatantly obvious once he has shown you it! Hebrews is the culmination of the trajectory of anticipatory passages looking forward to the identity of the Son of God kingship of David's son. He then turns to John 5, finding the exegetical roots of the Trinity as Jesus explains how he is God and like God.

Chapter Three provides the outworking of the theology, as Jesus the Son of God is considered in Christian and Muslim contexts. For Christians, there is much to consider regarding the understanding of the various 'son of God' texts. Carson urges the reader to not fall for unjustified reductionism (in only seeing son of God as meaning one little perspective of the full range of meanings), nor of reading the full range of meanings into every instance. The call comes clearly to be careful in Bible study, which will issue in evangelism and worship.

In the Muslim context, there is a discussion of the different forms of Christian communities found in Muslim countries, specifically concentrating on the 'Insider Movement.' I don't think I had heard of it before, nor really considered the issue. Carson provides a series of points relating to Bible translation and evangelism for those working in Muslim contexts. These are helpful, as they show the dangers of translation into any language, and how ideas travel from one culture to another. The final point is the clincher, though, with the argument that new translations (devoid of Jesus being the Son of God and instead described as Messiah or some such other substituted word) amputate converts from the classic creeds and councils of the church; with the need for translators, missionaries and pastors working together for the transmission of the good news in every culture.

With a particular focus on a single issue, this book will be mainly helpful for pastors, missionaries and Bible translators as they seek to communicate what is meant by Jesus being the Son of God. A relatively short book, there is much to consider long after the reading has stopped. Carson's passion for Jesus and the truth about him is clearly seen, and will live with the reader in subsequent Bible study.

Jesus the Son of God can be found on Amazonand Kindle.

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