Magnificent Obsession: Why Jesus Is Great by David Robertson
One of the best books of 2013, Magnificent Obsession is Pastor David Robertson’s look into what re-energizes the conversation over truth, knowing Jesus, and the virulent opposition to the Christian faith by atheists. Written as a series of letters in the form of questions David has received over the past few years, this book doesn’t back down from explaining the truths of the gospel, the historicity of the Bible, and the nature of epistemology. Full of pastoral wisdom and engaging conversation, these letters further the dialogue with those struggling with issues of faith, those on the outside looking in, and those desiring to harness their analytic and theological minds for good.
The first letter deals with objections to the historicity of Jesus and the trustworthiness of the records that portray his life. Robertson starts out the case for veracity of Jesus being a historical person from the work of Bart Ehrman, no friend of the Christian faith, to demonstrate that there is ample evidence beyond Jesus’ cohorts that he existed. Tied to this is the gospel records which accurately give a solid picture of the events, history, and ministry of the first century. In order to discount these gospel accounts, one would have to find evidence that the places surrounding Nazareth didn’t exist, that the gospel accounts were much later than traditionally given, and that there were other more reliable gospels to choose from than these fictional accounts (32). Moving from the gospel records to miracles, Robertson counters the claim that religion makes people self-conceited by looking at Jesus’ miracles in a way that brings out his desire to be in relationship with the people around him. Robertson writes, “It could be said that many religions exploit that self-centered conceit, but that cannot be said about Jesus. All His deeds demonstrate His love and call us out of our selfishness into His self-giving.” (51) The miracles of Jesus tell us who He is and how his character of the selfless servant is true.
David beautifully weaves the story of the crucifixion and the power of the atonement into his letters by way of talking of murder. Concerning the death of Jesus, David writes, “Unlike the death of any wise man, guru, religious founder or hero in the history of mankind, Jesus’ death is where the story begins, not where it ends. The atonement is about reconciliation: God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself.” (90) It is hard to grasp the significance of the atonement for some because we look back with awe and wonder at the heroes of old by remembering their deeds. Yet, we fail to fully come to grips with Jesus if we only gawk at the amazing work he did on the cross in the past and miss the point of the present. Looking to Christ, confessing our sins, accepting his work on our behalf, receiving his life over against our sin, our faith becomes evident.
Magnificent Obsession is real gem. Taking on the new atheists and their lack of sound reason, history, and argument, David carefully constructs an argument for Jesus through dialogue and sound truth. You won’t want to miss this provocative and enriching work that displays Jesus in all his glory. I think this book would be great for those seeking to understand the claims of Christianity, those captivated with Jesus, and those wanting to share the good news of Jesus with others.
Thanks to Christian Focus Publications and Cross Focused Reviews for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.