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Forward into battle

by
08 September 2009

Andrew Davison on apologetics with a contemporary thrust

Lies! Lies! Lies! Exposing myths about the real Jesus
Michael Green
IVP £7.99 (978-1-84474-391-9)
Church Times Bookshop £7.20

MICHAEL GREEN lectures at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apolo­getics. Here he covers the standard apologetic topics concern­ing Jesus: his existence, significance, and resur­rection, and the reliability of the manuscripts that tell the story. His book stands out for setting these perennial questions in a con­temporary context, bringing in the Gnostic Gospels, Mary Magda­lene, Islam, Dan Brown, and Richard Dawkins.

Green’s style is informal and pitched at the reader of non-scholarly books, with frequent asides and exclamation marks. There are accounts of Alpha Course conversions, which appeal to some readers and put others off, as will Green’s attitude towards other reli­gions. Sometimes he is warm, but there are also unbecoming quips about their sacred stories.

There are other tensions. He puts the emphasis in revelation on Jesus, not the Bible. He still works harder to justify the complete accuracy of the Gospels than we may need. He states bravely that the atonement is not about God satisfying his wrath. None the less, he returns frequently to the crucifixion as God’s self-punishment, as if that more or less summed up the atonement. There are more references to the evils of homosexuality than one might credit for a book about Jesus.

Green gives us lively and con­vincing rejoinders to current attacks on Christ and the Christian Faith. The book is not expensive, but it would be good to see chapters avail­able even more cheaply as pamph­lets. The reader of Dawkins might require something a little weightier, but every reader of Dan Brown should read this.

The Revd Dr Andrew Davison is Tutor in Christian Doctrine at St Stephen’s House, Oxford, and directs its programme in apologetics.

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