John Dickson
A Doubter's Guide to Jesus: An Introduction to the Man from Nazareth for Believers and Skeptics
Zondervan, 2018
ISBN-13:978-0310328612

A Doubters Guide to Jesus

 

"The book is meticulously researched and addresses the main claims of Jesus as well questions that any serious doubter might ask."

For many years now, John Dickson has been able to be relied upon for good, well-thought out explanations of Christian faith in a language that is accessible to the lay person. That is the case with his latest book, A Doubter’s Guide to Jesus.

As the title suggests, this book is for anyone who has ever been unsure of who Jesus is/was and what He was about. That includes people who would call themselves agnostics, atheists or believers.

Dickson’s many years of research into Jesus have given him a wonderful platform to write what is an eloquent summary of the Man from Nazareth. There is nothing I can think of about Jesus’ life that is left untouched in this volume. And for those who want more, there is a host of notes and a long list of other sources from which to gain more information.

The book is meticulously researched and addresses the main claims of Jesus as well questions that any serious doubter might ask.

Going through the various Biblical and extra-Biblical sources for evidence about Jesus’ life, this book is not so much an apologetics book as a reference for how we know what we know about Jesus and why we can rely on what we know about Him. The book does delve somewhat into apologetics as well as Christology, but, more so, it is a guide and a signpost to where we can gain information about Jesus.

For instance, chapter 11 on the resurrection makes clear that the author’s purpose is not to prove that Jesus rose from the dead, but to show that the resurrection was a clear focus of Christian faith right from the very earliest sources and has been central to it ever since. Dickson then provides links to other resources where the reader can find out more.

In other books or talks, Dickson has shared some of his own story of how he came to faith. This book is no different. For me this adds further authenticity to what he is saying. It is not just theory. Dickson did not grow up with any clear Christian faith background. An advantage of this is that he didn't carry any of the baggage that people who have grown up in the church might have. As a result, he has had to do a lot of his own investigation into the believability of Jesus. His various publications over many years now are testament to the thorough research that he has carried out. In short, Dickson really believes this stuff, and it shows. That makes it much more authentic in my opinion.

Another reason why Dickson’s own story is relevant to this book is because it shows, apart from any intellectual investigation, the power and magnetism of a life well lived in bringing someone to faith. It was through the hospitality of a Scripture teacher that John decided to commit his life to Jesus. The life of that teacher changed his own life.

Overall, this book brings Jesus alive and gives you a sense of the extraordinary impact He had, not just on the people who encountered Him in the flesh, but on the Roman world for the first three centuries and, indeed, on the rest of the world for the last 2,000 years.

Some of the details the book goes through includes who Jesus was in terms of the place of Israel in Jewish thought, His identity as saviour, healer, judge, friend of outcasts and sinners, His radical servanthood, and the impact and meaning of His life, death and resurrection on not just His disciples but His millions of followers to this day.

If you're after a 'one-stop-shop' summary of scholarly work concerning Jesus over many years, in a format that is accessible to both the academic and the lay person, then A Doubter’s Guide to Jesus is a book that is one of the best I have seen. The fact that it is also one that I would feel comfortable passing on to friends who might not believe but who want serious, thorough, research from authoritative sources by a respected Biblical scholar, makes it easy for me to recommend it.