When Daniel Darling announced that he would be releasing a book on the person of Jesus, I shrugged to myself. "Eh. I'm sure Darling can do it justice, but there are quite literally thousands of books out there talking about the character of Jesus."
When I found out that the book's full title would be The Original Jesus: Trading the Myths We Create for the Savior Who Is, my ears perked up. This certainly sounded like a book I should consider, and I think that it is a book you, too, should consider.
In the title alone, Darling concedes that we invent a false savior to replace the Savior, "who is." Echoing what Francis Schaeffer once said, there is a God who is there, and He reveals Himself—especially in the historical person of Jesus Christ, who is the Word incarnate. When we come to Jesus, we don't get to choose who he is, decide how he acts, or scribble in what he says. Instead, we must, as Darling reminds us, "step off the cardboard throne we have erected and surrender to his kingship over our lives." We must surrender all of our self-righteousness, self-indoctrination, and self-glory to the person of Jesus.
Surrendering to Jesus won't cut it, though, if it isn't truly Jesus who we are surrendering to. Darling agrees as he writes, "I'm glad people are talking about Jesus, but sometimes the Jesus we talk about bears little resemblance to the Jesus who is." Jesus alone, as both historical figure and King of Creation, can speak for Jesus. The rest of The Original Jesus conducts its business in trying to discover Jesus not as we want him to be, but as he actually is. Darling addresses ten different "versions" of Jesus that are commonly found in today's Christian culture (my favorite chapters were Braveheart Jesus, Left-Wing Jesus, Post-Church Jesus, and BFF Jesus).
Trading the Myths We Create...
One of the things that made The Original Jesus so compelling was Darling's selection of caricatures. I found myself relating to the underlying principles these myths stood on. After all, who hasn't been frustrated with political stand-stills, the pursuit of holiness, or their local church at some point or another? Darling did a great job at addressing those images of Jesus that are easiest exchanged for the true Jesus. I think almost every chapter began with an anecdote (which did not feel as exhausting as it might sound here) that helped the reader understand how the Jesus being discussed was conjured up in the first place. Darling is refreshingly honest and engaging as we approach each "kind" of Jesus.
...For the Savior Who Is
The Original Jesus starts packing punches when Darling's conversation shifts to discuss the nature of the true Jesus. For those doubtful of Darling's delivery, here is one instance in which I remember writing, "Amen!" in the margin and setting down the book to reflect: "The first coming of Jesus as King inaugurated the kingdom to be fully consummated at his second coming. Jesus is the first sign of spring after a long winter's thaw, the only hope of renewal and restoration. Those who have repented of their sin and accepted his lordship will find eternal salvation. The cosmos will be restored. Evil, which long held sway over creation, will be trampled under his feet."
I don't want to spoil the actual contents of Darling's chapters, but rest assured. They are profoundly biblical and continually helpful.
You should give thoughtful consideration to blocking out a day or two to read The Original Jesus. When I first picked it up, I thought that it might be a short book that would be another work chalked up for my reading list. Instead, I came away challenged to identify the ways I manipulate the Jesus who is. The book reads easily, but don't let that deceive you. Darling came to point you to the Bible.
My biggest contention is that I want Darling to write a full-fledged work on manhood (covered in his chapter "Braveheart Jesus"). I found the content to be highly practical and well-founded, and I would love to hear more of what he has to say about the topic. Though there are some places where Darling lost me for a minute, he continually drew me back to Scripture, and that is the most important thing an author can do given the subject matter.
You can pre-order The Original Jesus at Amazon here, or pick it up in stores on September 1, 2015.