Is Jesus the Only Savior?
James R Edwards
ISBN 9780802809810 (0802809812)
Eerdmans, 2006 (250pp)
James Edwards is professor of biblical languages and literature at Whitworth College, Spokane, Washington in the USA. His book, Is Jesus the Only Savior?, is a significant and well-written work of apologetics, rooted in New Testament scholarship, in which he responds in the affirmative to the question that provides the title. He wrote it with two types of reader in mind: Christians whose faith has been disturbed by pluralistic approaches to the person of Christ, and non-Christians who are open to considering the question. The argument, occupying twelve chapters, debates the issue from a range of perspectives and builds a comprehensive case for the uniqueness of both the person and the work of Christ.
In the opening chapters Edwards surveys the historical issues surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, including the various ‘quests’ of the historical Jesus, the Jesus seminar, the trustworthiness of the documents of the New Testament (which constitute the almost unique source of our information about Christ), and the extent and reliability of our knowledge of the Jesus of history. In the following chapters, which are at the heart of the argument, he considers Jesus’ own consciousness of his divinity and the nature of his saving work.
This is followed by a consideration of the various challenges to the notion of a unique saviour. Thus, against the argument that the contemporary world is unique in its awareness of a multiplicity of faiths, Edwards points out that the world of the first century church was little different and that absolute claims for the person of Christ were as problematic then as they are now.
He goes on to respond to the prevalent climate of moral relativism, which makes the notion of a saviour from sin meaningless, and explains the necessity of Christ’s atoning work. He discusses the challenge that postmodernism presents to the idea of absolute truth, while suggesting that Christians may have something to learn from some postmodern perspectives. And he deals with the argument that religious exclusivism poses a threat to world peace and should be abandoned in favour of soteriological pluralism.
Finally, in the last two chapters he discusses other religions, and rejects the idea that they are all in essence the same. However, Edwards also claims that the Bible’s approach to them demonstrates some ambiguity, and he takes an agnostic view as to the situation of those who have never heard the gospel.
In general Edwards’ argument is persuasive and energetic, supported by telling illustrations and solid reasoning. He maintains a conservative evangelical stance, although his interpretation of some biblical passages and themes is open to question, especially perhaps his discussion of other religions. Overall he gives a strong and contemporary defence of the uniqueness of the person and work of Christ, as well as strong grounds for confidence in the historical foundations of New Testament faith. If there is a criticism it would be that at times Edwards seems to be attempting too much within the compass of a relatively brief book, with consequent dangers.
Keith Ferdinando, April 2009
Dr Keith Ferdinando is the author of The Triumph of Christ in African Perspective: A Study of Demonology and Redemption in the African Context (ISBN 9780853648307 / 0853648301, Paternoster, 1999). He taught mission studies at London School of Theology for several years before returning to Africa full time in 2006 to continue his work in theological education there with AIM International at the Faculté de Théologie Evangélique au Rwanda.