Takeaway: Jesus’ life on earth was for more than just taking us to heaven.
Every once in a while I am truly surprised by a book. I have read several blog posts by Jonathan Martin (he is not currently blogging). And I generally have agreed with with what I read, especially when he was taking an uncomfortable position. So I was interested in reading his book, but did not really know much about him and assumed it would be another, not too much different from all the rest of Christian living books.
Prototype is different, primarily because of the theologically rich content, with virtually zero theological language, and no dumbing down. A lot of the great books that I read I am uncomfortable recommending to many because the language is too theological or the content is too dense to understand without some major background in theology or philosophy. Or if the book is intentionally trying to reach the masses, it is dumbed down and condescending. Prototype has all of the positives of theologically rich text, with none of the negatives of condescension, dumbing down or complicated theological language.
I don’t want to minimize Martin’s work here, but he manages to include many of the concepts of NT Wright’s Surprised by Hope (Heaven is important, but our faith is about Jesus working on us now, not just preparing us for a future life), Richard Beck’s Slavery of Death (fear is the root of sin and we can be transformed in this life by the power of Jesus to overcome fear), Barbara Brown Taylor’s, (to name one of many, the body as central to both Jesus’ incarnation and our own spiritual transformation), and Brennan Manning (Grace as the central message of the gospel), and I could keep going on.
Martin is not stealing ideas here, he is teaching the essence of spiritual formation by focusing on Jesus as our model. He doesn’t once mention the Cristus Victor or Moral Influence models of the atonement, but that is the root of the book. Jesus’ life here was more than just so he could die for our sins. The Penal Substitution model of the atonement is important, but not the only reason for the incarnation. The rediscovery of the full picture of the atonement that requires more from Jesus than death is essential if we want to have a faith in Christ that is more than a ticket out of hell.
I really can’t think of another more accessible, but theologically rich, book on what the Christian life is all about than this one. Martin exudes care and concern for the reader.
(I am a bit reluctant to include this, but one of the things that people love about George W Bush is that he was someone that people thought they would like to have a beer with. While Gore and Kerry felt like they were simply experts. I follow lot of Christian authors on twitter and while they are experts and have great ideas, I am not sure I really would want to have a beer with them. Jonathan Martin is someone that I think I would really like as a person, and at the same time has clearly read widely, thinks deeply and actually lives life as a real pastor. He also does a great job narrating the audiobook.)
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