Monday, July 22, 2013

"Christ Our Mediator" by CJ Mahaney: A Review


He was born to die as our mediator


If you cannot explain the basic truths of the gospel in simple language that the average believer can understand, then you do not understand the gospel. At times theologians and pastors, including myself, spend countless hours diving deep into the pools of soteriology and the meaning of the atonement and fail to understand that deep theology must be applied to our lives and communicated to average believers and to nonbelievers. In his book Christ Our Mediator: Finding Passion at the Cross, CJ Mahaney explains the simple, yet powerful truth that, as the title suggests, Christ is our substitute and our mediator. We have reason to worship!

The context of the book regards the theatrical release of Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ. In his introduction, Mahaney describes his own experience viewing the movie and the reaction of the audience. The limitation of film, of course, is that interpretation is left to the viewer. In the case of the Passion movie, interpretation determines our eternal (and present) lives and so leaving the meaning of the cross in the air isn't enough. Mahaney, then, sets out to explain the basic meaning of the cross.

In the book, Mahaney argues that the central verse of the Bible is found in 1 Timothy 2:5, For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. The penal substitutionary theme of mediation in which Christ serves as central to the meaning of the cross. To understand this doctrine, we have to understand who God is and who we are in light of Him. In short, and Mahaney is brief throughout the book, we are rebels, sinners, and deserving the full wrath of Almighty God.

It is at this point that the author walks us through the passion narrative found in the Gospels itself. He emphasizes both the Garden of Gethsamane and the cry of forsakenness from the cross. The agony of the Garden shows us in real terms how much Jesus would suffer under the judgment ("cup") of God's Divine wrath. In the Garden our Mediator agrees to suffer. At the cross our Mediator takes upon Himself our sin. The cry from the cross (My God, My God why have you forsaken me?) is prophetic of course, but it is a powerful truth, according to Mahaney, about the gospel. Christ tasted forsakeness and abandonment so that we, in Christ, will not have to. Christ suffers on our behalf so that we can be freed.

Admittedly I am not so sure that Jesus' cry to His Father can be explained so easily, but Mahaney offers some real insights here. He carries with every stroke of the pen the wonderful truth of penal substitution and I do believe there is some level of truth to his argument here. Christ did, in a mysterious real sense, feel abandoned by His Father. How we understand this in light of the doctrine of the Trinity and other truths is perhaps beyond our ability to fathom, but let us, as Mahaney does here, take the text as is. Christ was forsaken. Gloriously, however, not even death will seperate us from the love of God.

Overall, this is a helpful short book. I read it in one setting and found it to be a helpful resource for young believers and those new to the subject of penal substitution. Mahaney avoids virtually every ongoing debate and controversy regarding the atonement, hermenteutics, and systematic theology. That is not to say that Mahaney is careless with the biblical text or with orthodox theology. Quite the contrary. However, Mahaney, in this book, is not interested in contributing to debates, but in explaining to the reader, in an easy to understand way, what the cross and He who hangs from it means.

Christ is our mediator. Amen to that!


This book was provided for the purpose of this review.


For more:
"Blood Work" by Anthony Carter: A Review"The Cross of Christ" by John Stott: A Review
"In My Place, Condemned He Stood"
"It is Well"
"Precious Blood": A Review 
"Death by Love" by Mark Driscoll 
Its Not Just a Theory: Stott on Penal Substitution
John Stott on the The Human Enigma
Theology Thursday | Does McLaren Reject Penal Substitution: A Review of the Evidence
Brian McLaren and Emergent Soteriology:  From Cultural Accommodation to the Social Gospel
God as Butcher: McLaren on Penal Substitution  
The Postmodern Social Gospel:  Brian McLaren Proves My Point  
Brian McLaren and Emergent Soteriology:  From Cultural Accommodation to the Social Gospel
Does McLaren Reject Penal Substitution:  A Look at the Evidence
Allison: A History of the Doctrine of the Atonement
"Salvation Brings Imitation": Piper on Christus Exemplar
Where Theology and Life Intersect: A Theological Case for Christus Exemplar and Why It is Necessary - Part 1 - Introduction
Where Theology and Life Intersect: A Theological Case for Christus Exemplar and Why It is Necessary - Part 2 - Christus Exemplar and the doctrine of sin and depravity
Where Theology and Life Intersect: A Theological Case for Christus Exemplar and Why It is Necessary - Part 3 - The History of Christus Exemplar
Where Theology and Life Intersect: A Theological Case for Christus Exemplar and Why It is Necessary - Part 4 - Christus Exemplar and Humility
Sanctification Demands It: The Necessity of the Atonement
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