Our book for August is certainly not daunting in terms of pages, it only takes a few hours to read, but the author and the ideas make up for that! We're facing the heady combination of the well-known big thinker, Don Carson, and a rather big issue: the identity of Jesus as the Son of God. So, I think we're still in for a big month!
This work is a conversion of a lecture series into a book, so that doesn't make for the easiest of reads, or the most comprehensive of explorations on this massive topic. I was certainly left wanting more! But it serves as a helpful introduction to the key theological issues, and provides a preliminary investigation into a pressing concern in Bible translation. There were so many things coming out of each chapter that could be explored. I plan to share with you just one idea that each lecture had me pondering.
This week, with Father's Day fast approaching, I'm considering how our culture has lost so much of the concept of sonship. Chapter one highlighted for me that the idea of 'son of' is used in the Bible much more than we realise, for example identifying people by their fathers (1 Sam 16:18), using the title to refer to a social dynamic (especially page 21's revelation of the use of 'son of Belial' - hidden in most of our translations!) or idiomatic phrases such as 'son of a bow' to mean arrow. What hit me in all of this was how a father really determined his son's identity: a son was not just biologically but 'functionally derived' from his father, he was shaped by who his father was, so the vital piece of information: 'who's your Daddy?' told society a whole lot about you. Hence all those surnames we carry on with today (any Donaldsons or Williamsons reading this?).
There are a number of theological implications flowing from this. It made me realise how meaningful the title of the king as 'Son of God' was meant to be. When having a king as the replacement for God's direct rule of his people became a reality for Israel (1 Samuel 8:7), that king was truly meant to still represent God. His character, his power, his holiness. How terrible that all of Israel's kings failed to do that to greater or lesser degrees - and some shockingly! And then my thoughts turned to how much we, as sons of God, (Galatians 3:26 and the rest of the list on page 30) are to honour him in how we live to bear that great title. And this made me finally realise (but maybe you've all worked this out long ago and I'm the only slow one) how right it is to call myself a son, and not just a daughter, of God. Gender balanced terms are all very well in this modern world, but when the term 'daughters of God' (or children) does not carry the historical association that 'sons of God' does, we need to ditch that politically correct concept and return to an original translation that communicates what the Bible intends to tell us with its choice of language. (Not mentioning any current new translations by name, but there's something for the 'trainspotters' among us.....)
All this leads us to the primary topic on view in this book: that of Jesus as God's Only Son. This is the issue that we'll explore next week.
About our contributor:
Alison Napier has served in fulltime ministry since 2005 in Sydney’s CBD. During that time she’s discovered the joys of high-rise living and exotic food in Chinatown. An animal lover who’s recently developed a fascination for elephants, Alison’s own pets tend to be fish or birds, as they fit best into a one-bedroom flat on the 26th floor. Having become a Christian in her second year of university, Alison delights in growing in her knowledge of and love for God day by day. An avid, but time-poor, reader she particularly enjoys any book that takes her away to another world for a few hours, if relaxing, or challenges her brain with interesting ideas, if working.