THEOLOGY & APOLOGETICS
Jesus on Trial: A Review
By Dan Barkman
With endorsements from apologists like Frank Turek and Ravi Zacharias, I had high hopes for David Limbaugh's Jesus on Trial and the book did not disappoint. Limbaugh — a New York Times best-selling author — revealed that he has long been fascinated by intellectual defenses of the Christian faith, but finally decided to put his thoughts to writing after being challenged about his religious commitments from a longtime friend over dinner. This conversation was soon followed by a request from his publisher to switch gears in his next book from politics to theology. Limbaugh soon acquiesced to his publisher's request and what followed was a book broad in scope while at the same time not lacking in substance.
Limbaugh's approach was a refreshing change from the theological apriorism present in many apologetic works. Much like legal experts Gilbert West and Lord Lyttelton (both of whose conversions are discussed), Limbaugh's method is probably best described as a form of juridical apologetics as he applies his training in law and the evaluation of evidence to the central tenants of the Christian religion. In doing so, he has joined a long list of lawyers from Hugo Grotius to Sir Robert Anderson who have produced strong defenses of Christian theism. In the first three chapters, Limbaugh provides an autobiographical sketch of his own journey from skepticism to belief. While he flirted with deism, he ultimately found it rationally unsatisfying. After studying Jesus' fulfillment of messianic prophecies, Limbaugh says that he had reached a tipping point where he was convinced of the divine inspiration of Scripture. Issues such as divine hiddenness, the portrait of Yahweh given in the Old Testament, and God's ability to bring good out of evil are profitably discussed.
Chapters 4 and 5 deal with what Limbaugh calls "The Paradoxes of Christianity." The author addresses theological ideas that seem to be in tension with each other such as God's sovereignty and human freedom, a sinner's salvation through faith alone coupled with a requirement to fight sin, and how the books of the Bible could be written by men and yet be the Word of God, etc.
Chapter 6 aptly addresses issues related to Christ's Incarnation. Limbaugh favorably quotes the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451) which stated concerning Christ:
Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards His Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards His manhood. (p. 126)Chapters 7-10 provide for the reader a basic defense for the reliability and inspiration of Scripture. Appeals are made to messianic prophecy, the internal unity of Scripture, biblical manuscript evidence, data gained from archaeology, as well as non-biblical confirmations of Jesus' existence. There is also a brief response to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code as well as the idea that Christianity borrowed ideas from the pagan mystery religions.
Chapter 11 deals with the existence of objective truth, the resurrection of Christ, and the hotly contested issue of the 18th century philosopher David Hume's argument against the identification of miracles. Not much attention is given to the theistic proofs. However, versions of the cosmological, teleological, and moral arguments are briefly touched on and defended. The book closes with chapters addressing scientific controversies such as Intelligent Design and the origin of first life as well as various retorts to objections to theism from the existence of pain, suffering, and evil.
Limbaugh is well read and shows a familiarity with a wide range of Christian authors with quotations from writers such as Philip Yancey, Fulton Sheen, G.K. Chesterton, Charles Spurgeon, and A.W. Tozer spread throughout the book. He is also familiar with popular level critics of Christianity and interacts with their arguments as well. The author's writing style is engaging and should probably keep the attention of most people who have even a cursory interest in the subject matter. Jesus on Trial is a fine book that will be beneficial to both believer and unbeliever alike.
Tags: Biblical-Truth History-Apologetics Reviews-Critiques
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