These are difficult days to be a biblical Christian. In affirming the uniqueness of the Christian truth claims, we run up against a host of obstacles, such as the denial of truth, as is postmodernism; disdain of ethical absolutes, as in moral relativism; spiritual eclecticism, as in the New Age Movement; religious pluralism, as in interfaith dialogue; and theological relativism, as in liberal Christianity.
Because biblical Christianity insists that Jesus is the unique and only way to God, and the only true saviour, such claims are met with hostility and disdain in today’s pluralistic climate. Yet they must be insisted upon, if we are to retain the very heart of the Christian faith.
Can a good case be put forward that Jesus is indeed who he claimed to be? Is it possible to affirm the uniqueness of Christianity in the face of other world religions and their claims? Are the New Testament documents indeed reliable? Can a case for universal truth still be made in a postmodern world? And does the insistence on Jesus being the one true way make Christianity intolerant and bigoted?
These and other important questions are more than adequately addressed in James Edward’s new volume. He takes on all the challengers – be they from without the faith, such as postmodernism, or from within, such as the Jesus Seminar.
Christian particularity and uniqueness can be cogently defended, as Edwards demonstrates. Consider just one issue, that of the Jesus Seminar. This is an effort to reconstruct Jesus in the image of contemporary liberal theologians. By voting with coloured ballots, they determine whether a saying attributed to Jesus is indeed authentic. In the end, they have decided that 82 per cent are not.
Of course such scepticism about Jesus and his words and deeds is not new. But what is different is the way the Jesus Seminar has marketed their results since coming together in 1985. They have managed to get a lot of free publicity, and have been able to widely disseminate their radical claims. But they have “turned the wine of myth into the cold water of reality” says Edwards.
He argues that these scholars come to the New Testament with minds already made up, with a predetermined agenda. Instead of letting the gospels speak, and recognising the high level of reliability and authority of the canonical gospels, they simply read their own assumptions into the debate. The question is, does their reconstruction best fit the evidence? Edwards thinks not.
Other meaty chapters deal with other attacks on the Christian truth claims. By the end of the book, the reader is left with the strong impression that these various attacks have not been effective, and the traditional understanding of biblical Christianity still stands.
Edwards deserves credit for nicely bringing together in one volume the various recent assaults on the Christ of Christianity, and performing a credible job of debunking those challenges.