Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Original Jesus by Daniel Darling

Darling is concerned about the kind of Jesus the American church culture is promoting. He is one we can resonate with – a Jesus we can shape and mold into our liking.

Darling's aim in this book is to knock down those mythical images of Jesus and reveal Jesus as He is.

He does a good job of identifying those false images of Jesus and why they are so attractive. He writes about the “Guru Jesus” and the “Red-Letter Jesus.” He explores the “American Jesus” or the “Republican Jesus.” He discusses politics and various causes Christians want Jesus to promote. In his chapter on the “Left-Wing Jesus,” he writes about the “best delivery system for raising the poor out of poverty.” (78) I thought he got a bit off track in that discussion, writing about free markets, wages, profit, economic growth, creating wealth, and the right to private property. He notes, “The creation of wealth provides more opportunity for charitable giving.” (85) He adds that readers are to understand he is “not saying Jesus gives his endorsement to all aspects of our modern economic system.” (85) I didn't know Jesus gave an endorsement to any aspect of our modern economic system. It was strange, after reading a chapter on the “American Jesus” that Darling wrote so much about the American economic system. I kept wondering how that would apply to Christians in an oppressed nation, say under a dictatorship.

Later on, in his chapter on the “Prosperity Jesus,” Darling does remind us, “The call to discipleship is one of self-denial and sacrifice (Luke 9:23).” (111)

Perhaps what was missing in the whole discussion of the poor and wealth is what I found missing in the book in general. Darling has done a great job identifying the wrong images of Jesus but fails to give us a right view of Jesus. I would have appreciated a paragraph or two at the end of each chapter suggesting the right image of Jesus in response to the wrong one. In that respect, this is not a biblical study of who Jesus is, what he is like, what he taught on subjects.

This missing aspect of the book was really apparent in his chapter on the importance of being a part of a church body. He makes reference to three sayings of Jesus, eighteen references to other books in the New Testament and one reference to an Old Testament passage. We read much more of what Paul said about being part of a church than Jesus did. I found it odd that in a book about revealing the real Jesus, Darling did not make reference to Jesus' practice of regular synagogue attendance as an example for us today.

So this book was not what I expected. After reading it, I pretty much know who Jesus is not, but am left having to do my own research in the gospels to remind myself of who He really is. In that respect, Darling did not fulfill the second part of his aim, to reveal Jesus as He really is.

I appreciate Darling's premise. He wonders if we have lost the transcendence of an Almighty God. “We seem to have lost touch with the divine mystery of Christ.” (135) Jesus has become our buddy, our best friend. I just wish Darling would have brought us to the feet of Jesus and reminded us of His majesty.

My rating: 3 stars.

Daniel Darling is the vice president of communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He is a former pastor, the author of several books, a speaker and blogger. He lives with his wife and their four children in Nashville, Tennessee. Learn more at www.danieldarling.com.

Baker Books, 160 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

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