Saturday, January 19, 2013

Book Review: Revisioning Christology by Oliver D. Crisp

What are we to make of Jesus, the Christ?  Was he a man?  Is he God?  What did he do?  What, if anything, does he still do?  These, and any other questions that seek to understand and clarify what Christians know and believe about Jesus, are the focus of the branch of theology known as Christology.  And taking a fresh look at some thoughts about Jesus is the task of Revisioning Christology by Oliver D. Crisp.

At its surface, Crisp’s task is simple. He takes six thinkers from the Reformed tradition of Protestant Christianity and looks anew at things they have said to understand the doctrine of Christ.  His purpose is twofold: one is to show the richness and diversity within the Reformed tradition, while the second is to analyze particular aspects of doctrine and assess their validity within an orthodox system of belief. 

Crisp draws on the work of theologians representing each century since the Reformation: Donald Baillie, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, William Shedd, John Owen and Kathryn Tanner. The aspects of Christology in their work that he critiques, in turn, are Paradox, Motivation, Idealism, the Theanthropic Person, the Spirit, and the Incarnation.

I was familiar with the work of several of these thinkers and unfamiliar with others.  Similarly, I was aware of some of the aspects of Christology he reviews and had never given a thought to others.  In each section of the book Crisp is thorough in his description of the work of the theologian under study, pointing out its strengths and weaknesses, and then discussing the implications of their work on an overall understanding of Jesus, the Christ.

Crisp is a serious theologian and his work requires careful and thoughtful reading.  He is very well-read and possesses scholarly expertise in the work of several of his subject theologians, particularly Edwards.  He shines a bright light on each topic.  Revisioning Christology is not an easy read, but it is a rich one.

This work is similar to another recent book of Crisp’s, Retrieving Doctrine. In both books he explores and analyzes dimensions of the work of specific Reformed theologians.  One thing I appreciated about each of these books was the opportunity to be exposed to other thinkers in the Reformed tradition, some of whom I want to read more from and others on whom I will likely pass by. 

I recommend both books to anyone who wants to dive into the deep end of the theological pond and explore what lies beneath the surface. 

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