July 13, 2005
Whitworth Theology Professor's New Book Delves into Question
For Whitworth Professor of Theology James Edwards, a historically accurate understanding of who Jesus Christ is hinges on one tiny word.
"I think many people would like to say that Jesus is a savior -- that would allow them to breathe more easily," Edwards says. "It's that definite article, the, that makes people nervous."
"Society at large, as well as many people in the church who see specials on TV or read books by authors who dismantle the historic understanding of Jesus, are asking if there is a response from the church," Edwards says.
Edwards wrote Is Jesus the Only Savior? with two audiences in mind: the first is skeptics who think there is nothing credible to be said for the historical veracity of the Christian faith; the second audience is Christians who are unsettled by popular books, such as those written by Bishop John Spong, Marcus Borg, Robert Funk and Elaine Pagels, and wonder if the church has anything credible to say in response.
Edwards' book approaches the question of whether Jesus is the only savior through a two-part thesis. In the first half of the book the author examines the evidence of the New Testament to see how well it stands up against rigorous historical questions.
"I conclude that it is as historically supportable -- indeed more historically supportable -- than the evidence for the skeptics' position," he says.
In the second half of the book Edwards examines the relationship between Christianity and contemporary historical currents such as religious pluralism, moral relativism, postmodernism, the quest for world peace, and the relationship of Christianity to other religions, particularly Judaism.
"I ask the question, 'Does belief that Jesus is the savior of the world lead to arrogance and elitism, as is often charged?' " Edwards says. "I don't think it does. The peace announced in the gospel is not achieved by an imposition of power on others, but by the self-sacrifice of Jesus. There is no passage in the New Testament that justifies doing ill or evil to others in the name of Christ, or for the purpose of converting them. The will of God in Christ for humanity is not separation or superiority, not arrogance or judgment, not fear, violence or death."
Edwards writes in the book's introduction that he hopes to show that his belief in Jesus as the savior of the world isn't arbitrary, but is instead a well-informed belief for which there is considerable evidence.
"I do not imagine, of course, that I can prove that Jesus is the savior of the world, or that the evidence I supply would supplant the need for faith," Edwards says. "I argue, in fact, that all final judgments of Jesus are faith judgments. I have tried to show, however, that there is a good deal more evidence for faith in Jesus as the savior of the world than most people realize."
Is Jesus the Only Savior? has been described by I. Howard Marshall, Honorary Research Professor of New Testament at the University of Aberdeen, in Aberdeen, Scotland, as a "...valuable contribution from the pen of a New Testament scholar that will assist readers looking for a defense of the historical Christian understanding of the person and place of Jesus." Stephen T. Davis, the Russell K. Pitzer Professor of Philosophy at Claremont McKenna College, says of the book, "This is Christian apologetics at its very best."
Is Jesus the Only Savior? is available at the Whitworth bookstore (509-777-4524), and at major bookstores in Spokane and online, including www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.
James Edwards, professor of theology, Whitworth College, (509) 777-4546 or firstname.lastname@example.org.