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November 20, 2007
Though many people use the name of Jesus in our day, it often seems that one Jesus bears very little resemblance to another. While almost everyone claims to love Jesus, few seem to know the real Jesus. It is to this problem that Erwin Lutzer, pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, addresses his new book Slandering Jesus.
The format is a simple. An opening chapter introduces the problem and the author’s rationale for addressing it. “Living as we do at the beginning of a new century, many new Jesuses are being fabricated year by year; this is the age of designer Jesuses.” “This book is about a few of the attempts that have been made to remake Jesus of Nazareth into a different kind of Jesus—a Jesus more in tune with the times, or a Jesus who will blend more nicely into the tolerance that our culture prizes so highly.” Lutzer introduces six assumptions that give scholars permission to reinvent Jesus according to their own liking:
- take a lesser aspect of His teaching and present it as the heart and soul of His ministry.
- the Jesus of history should be separated from the Christ of faith.
- history is subjective and that one historical viewpoint is really no better than another.
- antisupernaturalism, the notion that all miracles are to be summarily dismissed as impossible because of the supposed consistency of natural law.
- whatever is new is true.
- all religions of the world are essentially the same.
Lutzer than examines six views of Jesus that are common in our day, explaining each and then showing how it falls short of the truth. He does this under the headings of six lies people tell about Jesus.
- Lie #1 - Jesus’ family tomb has been discovered. This answers the ridiculous and widely-debunked claims of Simcha Jacobovici and James Cameron (in both a book and a film under the title of The Jesus Family Tomb) that archaeologists found the tomb of Jesus, his wife (Mary Magdalene, of course) and His son.
- Lie #2 - Jesus was not crucified. Here Lutzer primarily answers the claims of the Koran which says that Jesus did not actually die but that Judas was made to look like Jesus and died in His place. Of course the Koran is far from the only text to make such a claim.
- Lie #3 - Judas did Jesus a favor. This section deals with The Gospel of Judas, which claims that Judas handed over Jesus only because that is what Jesus wanted. Hence Judas has been misunderstood and should actually be regarded more as a hero than a villain.
- Lie #4 - Jesus was only a man. Though multitudes have made this claim, Lutzer turns here mostly to the Jesus Seminar and to their constant attempts to discredit Jesus and to remake Him into someone who was merely human.
- Lie #5 - Jesus has a dark secret. Here the author deals with the claims that Jesus was not born of a virgin but was conceived entirely naturally (and, as many claim, by a Roman soldier named Panthera).
- Lie #6 - Jesus is one way among many. This final lie is the one that is most prevalent in our society and one whose leading advocate may be Oprah Winfrey. Lutzer looks at what Oprah teaches and in that context discusses Jesus’ uniqueness.
After discussing those six lies, Lutzer presents a final chapter entitled “Finding a Jesus You Can Trust.” Here he tidies up a few loose ends and shows that the historical evidence for Jesus is strong—that He did exist and that He did die. And here he shows that only Jesus claims exclusive right to present us before the Father. This is a Jesus worth trusting and a Jesus who we must learn to know just as He is. In this chapter and in this book Lutzer shows that those who follows Jesus—the traditional Jesus—have nothing to fear about all of these lies that are being told in His name. Jesus is as controversial today as when He walked this earth. And He is still God.
This book aptly answers many of the claims that slander Jesus’ name. He does so in a way that is easy to read and easy to understand. Anyone can read and enjoy this book. I hope many do.
“The cross is the hub that holds the spokes of God’s eternal purposes.”
“Christians do not measure sin by comparing one person with another, or by how good we might feel about ourselves. Christians measure the seriousness of sin by the suffering needed to atone for it.”
“Our greatest temptation is to create a God just like us: forgiving, inclusive, and endlessly tolerant. We are tempted to think that because we are quick to excuse ourselves, that God is also very forgiving, no matter what we do or believe.”
“All other religions fall short in their understanding of God and therefore cannot understand the seriousness of sin.”
“The only holiness God accepts is His own.”
“The reason we think there are many ways to God is that we have lost our capacity to despise our sin.”
“Whenever we try to add to Christianity, we subtract from it. … Those who surrender the uniqueness of Christ do not simply surrender a part of the Christian message, they surrender it entirely.”