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Book Review: Who is Jesus…Really? by McDowell and Sterrett

Title: Who is Jesus . . . Really?
Authors: Josh McDowell & Dave Sterrett
Publisher: Moody Publishers (2011)

In the first book of the Coffee House Chronicles series, Is the Bible True… Really?, co-authors Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett introduced readers to Nick, a freshman student at a State school in Texas who’s faith is put to the test when confronted with the hard questions about the reliability of the Bible.

In book two of the series, Who is Jesus . . . Really?, we find Nick has gone on to lead a student Bible Study that meets in a local coffee house and things are great‚ÄĒuntil the school’s atheist club arrives with a series of hostile questions about the identity of Jesus Christ. Among the group’s members is Nick’s friend Andrea, who had followed him along the journey of discovering the truth about the Bible, but rejected God after the death of a close cousin.

Nick and friends Jamal, Jessica and Mina begin a series of conversations with Andrea and her friends Brett, Scott and Lauren to discover if the claims of Christianity about Jesus are reliable. Along the way, they learn that:

1. If one trusts the historical evidence for the existence of Socrates, Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great, one must also accept the evidence for the existence of Christ. In fact, it can be reasonably argued that there is more evidence for Christ’s existence than of any of these men. Likewise,¬†His existence is verified through multiple sources, not only Christian, but Greek, Roman and Jewish. Each source confirms the crucifixion of Christ and the subsequent worshipping of Him as God by His followers.

2. Jesus really did perform the miracles ascribed to Him; arguments against the possibility of miracles (such as those put forward by David Hume) are based on a defective view of probability in that “Hume treats the probability of events in history like miracles in the same way he treats the probability of recurring events that give rise to the formation of scientific laws” (pp. 63-64). According to Dr. Norman Geisler, “Hume does not really weigh the evidence for miracles; rather he adds evidence against them” (p. 62). Essentially, to treat the probability of a miracle in the same way as you would the probability of the sun rising tomorrow is like comparing an orange to a bowling ball. The two are completely different things and must be evaluated accordingly.

3. In every gospel account, even Mark which is generally agreed to be the oldest of the four, Jesus unmistakably makes claims of deity‚ÄĒand those that heard Him make these claims clearly understood Him to be saying that He was, in fact, God. Mark 14:60-64 and Matthew 27:41-43 are key examples, as is Jesus’ frequent use of the title “the Son of Man,” a reference to Daniel 7:13.

As in the first book of the series, McDowell and Sterrett’s narrative approach is most welcome and appreciated. The subject covered in this book is one that is addressed in many academic and popular level books, but by connecting it to a story, the authors allow readers to engage with it in a way they might not be able to otherwise. Additionally, they provide a surprising wealth of evidence to support the truth of Jesus’ claims about Himself, enough to satisfy the more academically natured reader but no so much as to overwhelm those who are less scholastically inclined.

My only serious complaint about this volume surrounds the character of Dr. Clayton Ingraham, who come across as almost a caricature of the naturalistic, atheistic academic. He seems almost too over-the-top at times as he quickly moves from relatively friendly “hello,” to a blustery “you Christians are judgmental and intolerant!” His mood swings are startling at times.¬†However, as I reflect on interviews with New Atheism proponents such as Dr. Richard Dawkins (who is not typically known for his genial disposition), Ingraham may be less of a caricature than I think.

Christ’s identity is the subject of much debate in print & online media and on college & university campuses and Christians need to know the facts if they are to engage the conversation. Who is Jesus . . . Really? offers a terrific foundational understanding of the difficult questions surrounding Christ and is sure to be a benefit to its readers.

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