John Dickson has sure come a long way since he started a band to spread the news of Jesus to the people of Sydney. In the time that I spent away from the church he has gone from being a pastor of an inner city Sydney church to becoming an associate professor in ancient history and he has moved from writing books directed at young adults and teenagers such as 'A Sneaking Suspicion' to more academic, but still accessible, works. Anyway, in this book he looks at the mainstream scholarship on the historicity of Jesus in a way that is accessible to most of us. I found the book interesting and helpful, noting that he does try to take a middle road between hardened sceptics such as Spong and Dawkins, and rabid promoters such as McDowell. I don't necessarily agree with everything that Dickson writes, however much of my theorising is simply just that - theorising, without any real supportable evidence, whereas being a scholar as such he moves further to the evidence that is supported by, well, evidence.
One of the problems that I find with books such as these is that the writers seem to sometimes get dragged too far into the secular sphere that they end up restraining God scientifically. For instance, when writing about the seven days of creation, John Dickson says“But mainstream Christians for decades have dismissed 6-Day Creationism as a misguided (if well-intentioned) project” which actually makes me balk a bit because by making that statement it sounds as if he is going down the path that the fundamentalists have taken when they say things along the lines of “unless you believe in a literal seven days of creation then you are not a Christian”, which, according to Dickson, somebody who says that is not a part of mainstream Christianity, but rather a part of a fringe group (or cult).
As for me, with regards to the seven days of creation, my position is “I don't know”. God has the power to create everything in seven days, or he could have created it instantly, or he could have taken billions of years – the truth is that none of us were around at that time, and the only references that we have are myths and legends that have come out of the human collective – even the Biblical account is rather vague considering that it has been written in poetic form.
With regards to the contents of this book, well, I am going to have to say that it is useful, and interesting, and as Dickson is able to do quite well, written in a brief and very readable way. The subject of the book can be very dry and academic at times, but Dickson is able to write in a way that the average person can have access to the information. Further, what he is intending to do here is to prove, based on historical evidence, that Jesus was a real person, and then goes further to prove that the claims that he made came about as he made them (that is that he is the Son of God, and that he died and came to life again). Personally, I am not necessarily convinced that any amount of proof is going to change people's mind; rather an intervention by God is required – and my supporting argument for a statement along those lines is that there are still holocaust deniers out there despite the fact of the overwhelming evidence supporting the fact the the Nazi death camps not only existed, but were used to kill anybody that the Nazi's did not like.