Book review: The Future of Jesus

Future of Jesus

Title Boyer Lectures 2005: Future of Jesus
Author Peter F. Jensen
Pages 144
Publisher ABC Books
Year 2005
ISBN 0 7333 1749 9
Purchase ABC Shop or Booktopia

Yes, I know that the transcripts for the Boyer Lectures are available free from the ABC web site, but I bought the book anyway. It so happens to include an extra chapter not part of the radio lectures.

It looks like that the review will be quite lengthy, so I will place a snip here.

Preliminary observations

If you have been following what’s been happening in Sydney Anglicanism over the past few years, you wouldn’t be surprised about the topic of this year’s lectures.

The title of the series, The Future of Jesus is really a misnomer. The Scriptures make it quite clear what the future of Jesus will be, e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:20-28. What is really being discussed here can be found in the following quote from the final lecture:

I am not really worried about the future of Jesus without this nation to support him; he will survive and prosper. But I am deeply concerned about the future of this nation without Jesus.

This sets the tone for the rest of my review.

Argument

In the introductory lecture, Jesus and his future, Jensen made the observation that while Jesus’ influence on modern Australian culture is prevalent, he is not readily acknowledged or well known. Jesus in his historical context seemed so far removed from modern society, so why the influence? What does one make of his constant pronouncements about the future coming of the kingdom of God?

The second lecture, Jesus, religious genius or failed prophet, introduces a number of alternatives. One is to reduce Jesus to a great moral teacher (“religous genius”), although this does not take care of his pronouncements about the kingdom of God. Another is to see Jesus as a prophet, although the problem remains that the kingdom of God he preached has not yet come (physically), thus “failed prophet”. The third way would be “Jesus’ reply”: The kingdom has arrived.

If the kingdom has already arrived, what brought it forth? This leads to a discussion on Jesus, was he miraculous? One may dismiss a priori that miracles are impossible, and even if one does not, the fact that Jesus was crucified shows that he was a failed prophet. But then again, it was Jesus’ very crucifixion and subsequent resurrect that let loose the kingdom of God, as prophesied in the Old Testament.

The fourth lecture, Jesus or Caesar, the choice of martyrs*, examines two examples of Jesus’ influence exhibited in the kingdom of God, martyrdom and the church.

Although it has been shown that Jesus has been so influential in history, the kingdom has proclaimed has not “fully come”. This is the subject of Jesus and the millenium, will he never come back?. The discussion particularly focussed on the influence of dispensational premillenialism on American foreign policy in the Middle East, and how it does not really fit into the biblical-theological framework. What, then, is the value of those promises about the future of the kingdom? That depends on the promisor.

The series concludes with Jesus, freedom and the choices we make, which deals with the concept of freedom. The discussion contrasts between individualist consumerism (the prevailing view of freedom) from both what was the original philosophies of the major political parties in Australia, and the freedom offered by Jesus. This freedom is one of choosing to do good, to serve others and to be mutually dependent.

An extra chapter not included in the lecutures, Jesus and the question of faith, deals with the concept of faith, and in particular faith in Jesus.

Comment

I did not come to the lectures with any expectations at all. While I am familiar with the subject matter, I do realise that this is supposed to be an intellectual discussion in a secular context.

Overall, I found the exercise stimulating, particularly for “less widely read” person like me. I like to see the interactions between the Christian worldview and other prevailing worldviews, for it confirms the soundness of Christian thinking. God created this world, after all.

It will be interesting to see how non-Christians will react to these lectures. News coverage has not been spectacular by popular standards, but it may be so for an intellectual series like the Boyer Lectures. I don’t know.

Nevertheless, sometimes I find the logic difficult to follow, particularly in between chapters/lectures. I’ve never read a set of radio lectures before, so it might be due to the medium itself more than anything.

Buy this book, or read it for free at the ABC web site. If you are willing to spend intellectual energy, you will probably find it stimulating.

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