Saturday, December 03, 2005

Is Jesus the ONLY Way?

Dr. Glenn Layne raised the issue today of the uniqueness of Jesus ( He offered a web site where readers can pursue the subject at greater length. I want to add my own word of advice to this subject by proffering the new book by Dr. James R. Edwards, Is Jesus the Only Savior?

Several conservative voices have been raised to object that the ABC crisis does not really involve conflicts over human sexuality. In an important sense, this contentious flashpoint represents merely a symptom of a deeper theological divide. Biblical authority and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ constitute the real issues animating the debate.

Here are some early summary comments about Edwards' book penned by the press office at his educational institution, Whitworth College (

For Whitworth Professor of Theology James Edwards, a historically accurate understanding of who Jesus Christ is hinges on one tiny word.

"I think many people would like to say that Jesus is a savior -- that would allow them to breathe more easily," Edwards says. "It's that definite article, the, that makes people nervous."

In his new book, Is Jesus the Only Savior? (Eerdmans, 2005), Edwards faces head-on the question of whether Jesus is the savior of the world. Edwards, an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and a contributing editor of Christianity Today magazine, says that a revisionist view of Jesus is evident in some theology that in essence argues that the Jesus who is presented in the New Testament is a non-historical Jesus, a wish fulfillment of the early church."

These ideas have been in the bloodstream of the Western academy for two centuries and have now moved into mainstream culture," he says.

Due to groups such as the Jesus Seminar (a think-tank of scholars that has met since 1985 to attempt to determine the authenticity of the words and deeds attributed to Jesus in the Gospels), revisionist views of Jesus are being marketed to a broad audience, Edwards says.

"Society at large, as well as many people in the church who see specials on TV or read books by authors who dismantle the historic understanding of Jesus, are asking if there is a response from the church," Edwards says.

Edwards wrote Is Jesus the Only Savior? with two audiences in mind: the first is skeptics who think there is nothing credible to be said for the historical veracity of the Christian faith; the second audience is Christians who are unsettled by popular books, such as those written by Bishop John Spong, Marcus Borg, Robert Funk and Elaine Pagels, and wonder if the church has anything credible to say in response.

Edwards’ book approaches the question of whether Jesus is the only savior through a two-part thesis. In the first half of the book the author examines the evidence of the New Testament to see how well it stands up against rigorous historical questions.

"I conclude that it is as historically supportable -- indeed more historically supportable -- than the evidence for the skeptics' position," he says.

In the second half of the book Edwards examines the relationship between Christianity and contemporary historical currents such as religious pluralism, moral relativism, postmodernism, the quest for world peace, and the relationship of Christianity to other religions, particularly Judaism.

"I ask the question, 'Does belief that Jesus is the savior of the world lead to arrogance and elitism, as is often charged?' " Edwards says. "I don't think it does. The peace announced in the gospel is not achieved by an imposition of power on others, but by the self-sacrifice of Jesus. There is no passage in the New Testament that justifies doing ill or evil to others in the name of Christ, or for the purpose of converting them. The will of God in Christ for humanity is not separation or superiority, not arrogance or judgment, not fear, violence or death."

Edwards writes in the book's introduction that he hopes to show that his belief in Jesus as the savior of the world isn't arbitrary, but is instead a well-informed belief for which there is considerable evidence.

"I do not imagine, of course, that I can prove that Jesus is the savior of the world, or that the evidence I supply would supplant the need for faith," Edwards says. "I argue, in fact, that all final judgments of Jesus are faith judgments. I have tried to show, however, that there is a good deal more evidence for faith in Jesus as the savior of the world than most people realize."

Is Jesus the Only Savior? has been described by I. Howard Marshall, Honorary Research Professor of New Testament at the University of Aberdeen, in Aberdeen, Scotland, as a "...valuable contribution from the pen of a New Testament scholar that will assist readers looking for a defense of the historical Christian understanding of the person and place of Jesus." Stephen T. Davis, the Russell K. Pitzer Professor of Philosophy at Claremont McKenna College, says of the book, "This is Christian apologetics at its very best."

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