Stan Guthrie has framed this substantive volume (that’s meant to be a positive phrase) around the questions asked by Jesus as recorded in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. Some of the questions Jesus asked of his contemporaries are very personal (“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” or “Why are you weeping?”), some rhetorical (“Has not Moses given you the law?”) and some pedagogical (“What is the kingdom of God like?”). As presented and discussed by Guthrie, Jesus’ questions and their first-century context give us insight into His identity (part 1), His definition or vision of discipleship (parts 2, 3 and 4) and foundational issues of doctrine (part 5). In a postscript, Guthrie notes that the questions are “divinely ordained means to help us come face to face with the God-Man --- and with our own sinful hearts.”
Guthrie’s text is at the same time theologically dense and anecdotal; in style, I see parallels between Guthrie and Eugene Peterson’s Conversation series, published by Eerdmans. On some pages Guthrie is laying out a broad theological foundation; a chapter on overcoming anxiety includes six bulleted scriptural passages relevant to “persistent anxiety,” only two of them from the Gospels and only one of those including a question asked by Jesus. On others Guthrie is explicating a specific teaching, parable, or biblical conversation; in a chapter on the meaning of “faith,” he gives a three-point exposition of what the disciples lack that prompts Jesus to exclaim, “O you of little faith, why…?” (They lack spiritual perception, memory of God’s previous works, and a keen understanding of “Jesus’ deeper point.”)
Guthrie’s personal disability --- the cerebral palsy that seriously affects his gait and minimizes effective use of one hand --- colors and enriches his prose; for example, he’s spent years grappling with the ramifications of Jesus being a compassionate and powerful healer. Guthrie’s Christ is loving and merciful, yet demanding, calling disciples to be accountable for their resources, talents and gifts. The book’s back-cover endorsers are high-profile conservative evangelicals. Guthrie, though seemingly younger than many of them, is poised to join their ranks.
Each chapter ends with seven or eight discussion questions (26 chapters, a perfect number for a three- or six-month study). A topical list of Jesus’ questions and their biblical references makes for an interesting and valuable appendix.
So now I will ask a question of my own: Does any author or editor really think that thoughtful or merely curious readers want scriptural references dropped from their traditional place (in parentheses after a quotation) and buried in 20 pages of endnotes? I could show you “a more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31).
Reviewed by Evelyn Bence on November 1, 2010