Putting Jesus in His Place: the Case for the Deity of Christ.
By Robert Bowman, Jr. and J. Ed Komoszewski. Kregel, 2007: 392 pages.
“But who do you say that I am” (Matt. 16:15)? Arguably the most important question one must face, Jesus forces his hearers to contemplate his divine identity. That Jesus is “begotten of the Father as only begotten, that is, from the essence of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God” (Nicene Creed) is absolutely central to the Christian faith. It is, however, a widely rejected belief. For example, John Dominic Crossan, former co-chair of the infamous Jesus Seminar, defines references to Jesus as the “Lamb of God” as “symbolic…figurative…metaphorical.” Similar denials may be found in John Hick’s The Myth of God Incarnate.
In response, Robert Bowman Jr., manager of Apologetics and Interfaith Evangelism for the North American Mission Board, and J. Ed Komoszewski, founder of Christus Nexus and Director of Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, have written the clearest, most comprehensive and convincing case for the deity of Christ available. Though concerned to demonstrate Christ’s divinity from the New Testament, the authors are equally concerned to equip their readers to remember the material. They thus employ their innovative HANDS acronym (as they say, Jesus shares the HANDS of God), organizing the biblical teachings into five corresponding categories.
The first part of the book, which comprises chapters one through five, treats the Honors due to God that Jesus shares. We are not only to “think about Jesus as God in an abstract, theological way, but to respond to him as our God” (p. 30). As the authors explain, the New Testament teaches that Jesus is due glory and worship and that it is permissible to pray to him—things reserved for God. Moreover, Paul teaches Christians to sing to Jesus (Eph. 5:18-20), an Old Testament practice directed to Yahweh (p. 55). This should not surprise us, for Jesus says that everyone should “honor the Son just as they honor the Father” (Jn. 5:23).
“Jesus shares the Attributes of God.” In chapters six through ten, the authors explore Jesus’ attributes, showing “not that all of Jesus Christ’s attributes are those of God, but that Jesus Christ has all the attributes of God” (p. 75). Especially interesting is their discussion on Jesus’ preexistence, that is, Jesus’ existing “as a divine person prior to his becoming a human being” (p. 82). Some accept this belief, but argue that he was merely another creature in heaven. The authors go on to show the inadequacy of this position, establishing Jesus’ divine eternality (Jn. 8:58).
The third section talks about Jesus’ sharing the Names of God. Chapter eleven begins with a helpful, general discussion of names. Names are significant throughout Scripture, and those given to Jesus are certainly no exception. For example, the name Immanuel (“God with us”) hearkens back to the Messianic prophecies of Isaiah. As the authors show, Scripture teaches that the Messiah is God. Chapter thirteen takes up the many references to Jesus as “Lord,” which “was the highest designation a Jew could use for deity” (p. 157). Indeed, the New Testament uses a variety of significant names and titles—within a variety of key theological contexts—to attribute deity to Jesus Christ.
Part four shows that “Jesus shares in the Deeds that God does.” As we are reminded at the opening of this section, “the New Testament summons us to acknowledge and honor Jesus Christ as God primarily because of what he has done for us” (p. 185). This includes even creation; the New Testament teaches that Jesus shared in God’s creative work because he is identified with God. Of course, Jesus’ work didn’t stop there. The authors go on to discuss Jesus’ work of providence: “creation stands in an ongoing relation of dependence on the Son for its existence” (p. 196). Chapter seventeen is a treatment of Jesus’ bold claim: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6), the truth of which is supported throughout the New Testament. This section is rounded out by a discussion of Jesus’ eschatological deeds, those pertaining to the end of history, including his final judgment.
Not only does Jesus perform these deeds, he does so from “the highest possible position in all existence” (p. 231). So, the final section of the book explains that “Jesus shares the Seat of God’s throne.” The material found here, the authors believe, is the least familiar to most Christians. I tend to agree. After considering the Sanhedrin’s blasphemy charge against him (for claiming to be Messiah), the authors explain that Jesus claimed even more than the Sanhedrin realized: he claimed to function in the very place of God (p. 243). This leads to an interesting examination of the Old Testament passages from which Jesus quotes in Mark 14:62. The section closes with a close look at the meaning of the New Testament teaching of Christ being “seated at God’s right hand.” The authors offer six lines of evidence that “Jesus shares God’s very position of divine rule over all creation” (p. 255), before considering entertaining some possible objections to their position.
After a fine concluding chapter in which they helpfully review the book’s argument, the authors provide eighty-five pages of appendices, notes, and recommended resources for further study. Though unfortunately lacking an index, Putting Jesus in His Place is an invaluable, user-friendly resource on the case for the deity of Christ.