Alan Jacobs on Philip Jenkins

Alan Jacobs wrote an excellent critique of Philip Jenkins’ work, The Lost History of Christianity. (Jacobs actually critiques a Boston Globe essay by Jenkins, but the Globe essay was “a kind of preview” to Jenkins’ new book.)

Here’s an excerpt:

And if I do give up on the uniqueness of Jesus, what do I retain? I think we get a clue in this passage from Jenkins:

By the twelfth century, flourishing churches in China and southern India were using the lotus-cross. The lotus is a superbly beautiful flower that grows out of muck and slime. No symbol could better represent the rise of the soul from the material, the victory of enlightenment over ignorance, desire, and attachment. For two thousand years, Buddhist artists have used the lotus to convey these messages in countless paintings and sculptures. The Christian Cross, meanwhile, teaches a comparable lesson, of divine victory over sin and injustice, of the defeat of the world.

But these lessons are not comparable at all; they are quite dramatically at odds with each other, which may help to explain why attempts to reconcile them—if indeed that was really what was going on—have not succeeded. Christianity, being anything but Gnostic, does not believe that the material world is evil, but rather good: the glorious creation of a personal God. Christianity does not teach the innocence or purity of the soul, but rather the corruption of the will and the resulting involvement of the body in sin: As the Body says in a poem by Andrew Marvell, What but a Soul could have the wit / To build me up for Sin so fit? Christianity does not believe in nonattachment, but rather teaches precisely the opposite, that we should weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. The Buddha says, “He who has no love has no woe”; St. John says, “He who does not love abides in death.”


The whole article is well worth reading.

Thoughts on Judges – (1:1-20)

Judges opens as though the great victories recounted in the book of Joshua will continue. Before the chapter ends, however, failure after failure becomes apparent.

A close look at the opening of the chapter reveals that all was not well even in Israel’s successes. Though Judah conquered Bezek and Jerusalem, Bezek was treated in the same manner as the Canaanites treated their captives. He was not put to death as the law demanded (Deut. 7:1-4).

Nevertheless, “The LORD was with Judah, and he took possession of the hill country, but he could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain because they had chariots of iron” (Judg. 1:19). This looks, at first, like a statement of success.

But the final part of the sentence raises a question. Why would iron chariots matter? God had promised that he would deliver nations mightier than Israel over to his people (Deut. 7:1-2). Joshua told the people of Ephraim and Manasseh that they would triumph over enemies with iron chariots (Josh 17:16-18). Within Judges itself, Sisera’s nine hundred iron chariots (Judg. 4:3) posed no problem when God had determined to give Israel the victory.

Judah’s inability to drive out the inhabitants of the plain is thus a subtle indicator that not all is well with Judah.

Thoughts on the Theology of Joshua – Leadership

The book emphasizes Joshua as the godly successor to Moses. Joshua was not the Prophet like Moses, but he was a leader like Moses. The close of the book that notes that Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua and the elders who survived him foreshadows that Israel stopped serving him when no leader like Moses followed. Judges concludes by noting the need for a king, which of course has a messianic implication.

Thoughts on the Theology of Joshua – Holiness

If the Israelites were to subdue the land and live out the dominion mandate as a kingdom of priests to the rest of the world, holiness or purity of worship was absolutely necessary.

Genesis 15:16 and Leviticus 18:24-25 indicates that placing the Canaanites under the ban was a judicial matter, but the Canaanites were put also under the ban so that Israel would not be adversely affected by the Canaanites (Deut. 7:1-4; 20:17-18). Israel would not be an effective priest to the nations (Ex. 19:6; Deut. 4:5-8) if it succumbed to the sins of the Canaanites.

Thus, ironic as it may sound, the extermination of the Canaanites seems to include a missionary motive.