This volume, as the title clearly indicates, is a collection of essays on the deity of Jesus Christ. The book begins with a brief introduction the editors, Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson, in which they discuss the vital importance of this topic and the need for fresh discussion. Morgan and Peterson cite with approval Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli’s work, Handbook of Christian Apologetics, stating that the divinity of Christ is the “most distinctively Christian doctrine of all” (19). The centrality of the doctrine, according to Morgan and Peterson, is not the only noteworthy reason for the publication of this particular book: contemporary challenges to Christ’s deity expressed in popular fiction (like Dan Brown’s, The DaVinci Code), the growth of Islam, the reality of religious pluralism, and preponderance of Christian counterfeits necessitate a solid, biblical defense of the deity of Christ and a thoughtful response to the current challenges (19-22).
The book proceeds with an essay by Stephen Nichols in which he surveys the current theological and sociological scene, providing a concise narrative on the development of what he calls a “contemporary Christology” which has left present-day culture with an assortment of “personal Jesuses” that fall far short of the biblical witness (26-31). The answer to such confusion, according to Nichols, is an exposition of the biblical teaching that submits both to tradition and to the text of Scripture. Submitting to tradition means, primarily, listening to the early creeds that articulated the truth that Christ was fully God and fully man; submitting to Scripture requires us to draw from the whole of God’s Word, not merely those passages that reinforce an image of Jesus that we, for whatever reasons, prefer (32-38).
The following essays, then, approach their discussion and defense of the deity of Christ on the assumption that the ancient creeds do express accurately the biblical teaching. Ray Ortland Jr. examines the Old Testament for evidence of Christ’s divinity, carefully navigating between overly zealous proof-texting and undue skepticism. Thus, Ortland advances his investigation by dividing the biblical data into three categories: 1) Old Testament passages that are inaccurately interpreted to refer to Christ’s deity; 2) Old Testament passages that are appropriately interpreted to refer to Christ’s deity; and 3) Old Testament passages that do not provide conclusive evidence one way or the other.
Stephen Wellum’s two chapters investigate the synoptic gospels and the apostolic witness found in Acts and the epistles, respectively. Wellum’s inquiry into the synoptic gospels examines the implicit and explicit statements about Christ’s divinity, while his study of the apostolic witness focuses on several crucial texts that speak directly to the person of Christ (e.g. Romans 1:3-7, Colossians 1:15-20 and Hebrews 1:1-4, Titus 2:13 and I Peter 1:1). Andres Kostenberger, in two separate chapters, fills in the New Testament gaps by digging into the apostle John’s writings. In his chapter on John’s gospel, Kostenberger notes the many ways in which the apostle refers explicitly to Christ as both God and the Son of God. In his study of Revelation, Kostenberger observes how John links Christ with both the God of the Old Testament and the Son of Man described specifically in Daniel.
Gerald Bray bolsters and confirms the previous biblical study with his analysis of church history. Bray concludes that the doctrine of the deity of Christ is a teaching that, while being strongly contested by various heretical teachers and movements, has enjoyed strong testimony and affirmation throughout church history. Robert Patterson follows Bray’s historical discussion by seeking to synthesize the previous theological and biblical efforts. Here, Patterson develops a systematic presentation of the doctrine that takes into account the whole of the biblical data, structuring his chapter around five major arguments that demonstrate that Christ is identified with God, is worshipped as God, and performs works that can only be attributed to God.
The subsequent chapter, written by Alan Gomes, considers the problem of Christian cults, demonstrating the primary ways in which Christian counterfeit groups have wrongly conceived of and sought to explain the doctrine of Christ’s deity. J. Nelson Jennings concludes the book by applying the previous biblical, theological, and historical efforts to world missions. In this chapter, Jennings argues that the doctrine of Christ’s deity is significant to missional work not only in efforts to persuade unbelievers to embrace the God-man, Christ Jesus, but also by helping us understand how the religions of the world can reflect, in some measure, the truth of the one true God.