Saturday, March 28, 2009

Wiebe, Philip. Review of Richard Swinburne's WAS JESUS GOD?. NDPR (March 2009).

Swinburne, Richard. Was Jesus God?. Oxford: OUP, 2008. This book articulates a coherent vision of Christian faith using its tradition, scriptures, creeds, and the views of prominent early theologians. The first half addresses the existence and nature of God, including grounds for considering God to be triune and disposed to co-suffer with humanity. The second half explores the theological significance of the life of Jesus. Swinburne is doing theology here, which can be brought out by reflecting on the remarkable dogma of the Virgin Birth. A historian would ask for the sources on the life of Jesus, and finding some fifty to sixty, would order them chronologically, undertake a comparative analysis, assess them in relation to other historical sources, etc. Upon discovering that this birth is mentioned in very few documents, and knowing that virgin human births (especially of males) are biologically improbable, the historian would conclude that this part of the life of Jesus taught in the Church is a fable. However, a theologian would consult the tradition, texts, and creeds on the matter, and finding that these show some consistency, would advance a Virgin Birth. A critic of Christian faith would wonder why we would do theology when we can do history. Swinburne accepts the fabulous nature of the OT books of Daniel and Jonah, but, unlike many modern exegetes, refuses to regard the Virgin Birth and Resurrection as fables. Swinburne's book is written from within the Church, and attempts to show that if God exists and has the attributes that tradition has given to him, especially the love that marks a triune nature, God will act in history much as tradition has taught. The book will appeal to those who trust the tradition, and possibly to some for whom the Holy Scriptures are the hinge upon which Christian claims depend. Whether Swinburne could convince those who find themselves unable to trust either the tradition or the bible is unclear. . . . Read the whole review here:

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