Friday, 2 July 2010

Another one completed

This morning I've finished the second 'big' book of my 2010 reading list, Larry Hurtado's 'Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity'.

I've posted some comments on this book earlier - here.

This is a good book and well worth reading.

I think Hurtado is persuasive in showing that devotion to Jesus as God began early, in the first century certainly, most likely in the 30's and 40's, the very earliest period of the Christian church.
Hurtado's historical work is valuable not least because our Christian faith and hope depends upon the history of Jesus incarnate, crucified, buried, resurrected and ascended for us.

It is helpful that Hurtado illustrates the difficulty faced in second century Christianity was to articulate their faith in Jesus as Christ and God - within the framework of Jewish/OT monotheism. That there is only one God, and that he is only one, is the constraint placed upon expressions of devotion to Jesus. To deny the divinity of Jesus is easy, to collapse God into Jesus is also easy, to portray Jesus as one among many gods is easy. All these moves were made in the second century, but none of them were found to be adequate in describing this Jesus who is both human and divine, one person within one God.

In the final pages Hurtado offers, 'The devotional practice of earliest Christianity was particularly foundational for doctrinal developments.' (page 649) Today we often think of worship practices as culturally conditined, and I think that is right. However, there remains something about our worship and devotional practices that shapes and informs our doctrine. I think that for the earliest Christians, including the apostle Paul, it was the encounter with the risen Lord Jesus and their subsequent worship of him as God that largely shaped their expressions of the gospel. The question then is what do our current worship and devotional practices say about our understanding of the gospel and what are we communicating of the gospel through them to the world?

So, my list needs amended.
Gordon Fee's 'God's Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul' moves up to the top of the list. I'm really looking forward to this one. Hopefully I'll finish this in the third quarter of 2010.
For the final quarter then, an addition to the list:
Bernhard Lohse's 'Martin Luther's Theology: It's Historical and Systematic Development', T&T Clark, Edinburgh, 1999. I've had this book for three years now, I bought it in the Free Church Bookroom while at a Rutherford House Dogmatics Conference. So I'm looking forward to spending some time with Luther and learning from him something of the gospel.

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