Kinlaw, Dennis. Let’s Start with Jesus: A New Way of Doing Theology.
In the preface, Kinlaw wrote: “…I began to feel that the key to understanding all of this was to start, not with the question of whether God exists and what can be known about him, but rather with Jesus himself, who has assured us that he is the ultimate revelation of God.”
Thus, Kinlaw begins his new way of doing theology by starting with Jesus instead of the older “systematic,” or, “constructive,” theology pattern.
Due to the nature of the content in this book, I want to give a much more thorough “review” than what would ordinarily be expected. I want to treat the six chapters one at a time and hopefully give enough of his concepts for you to decide whether or not you want to read more:
In chapter one, Kinlaw deals with, “God.” For example he deals with the issue of the Trinity in more than one context and it is always fascinating. Here is an introduction to part of his thinking: “love is an interpersonal reality… it is by definition ‘other-oriented.’ One needs an other to love.” So what does it mean to say, “God is love?” God is love because even though God is One, within the “Godhead there is an otherness and the relationship is one of self-giving love.” Perhaps it is an oversimplification but basically he is saying that love is defined and exists because of the love between the Persons of the Triune Godhead.
In the next chapter, Kinlaw examines what he considers the three primary metaphors the Bible uses to express God’s relationship with us. First is the “Royal/Legal Metaphor,” second is the “Familial Metaphor,” and thirdly, the “Nuptial Metaphor.” He demonstrates how each one shows an increasing desire for intimacy on God’s behalf.
There are some very “intriguing” (his word) implications here with relation to the Nuptial Metaphor. For example, Kinlaw builds his case then declares, “… marriage is the union of two persons in such self-giving love that they share a name, their bodies, their possessions, their vocations, their common life—their total selves. This is supposed to be a picture of the relationship that every believer may have with Christ.” Along the way, he has some interesting things to say about how this actually relates to human sexuality. He tactfully points out how male and female were made for each other and how fulfillment of the human person is found in a “sacred and exclusive relationship with another of the opposite sex.” He says that speaks to the idea that we humans are designed for a relationship with God.
In chapter three, Kinlaw tackles the issue of, “Personhood,” i.e., that what it means to be a “person.” He uses Jesus as the model of personhood. He builds a strong case using Scripture and logic finally arriving at the statement, “If we as persons, then, are not self-originating, self-sustaining, or self-explanatory, why should it come as a shock to us that we are not self-fulfilling,…” He rounds out the chapter reiterating that we are by design—by what it actually means to be a “person”—intended for self-giving, loving relationships with each other and with God.
Kinlaw titles chapter four, “The Human Problem.” Here he addresses sin. His approach here is less novel than some of the other work. He begins with the sin in the garden and says that the sin involved a change in relationship. It was a change from “God-centered, other-oriented, and reciprocal affection to individual and self-centered behavior. At issue was doubting God and trying to protect and enhance the self. He gets a little less mainstream and says that this broken relationship automatically damages all relationships. The way we treat God is the way we treat each other. [I posted a thread on the theology board earlier about nakedness and clothing in Genesis 3. Kinlaw quotes another on this topic as saying, “Their response is the invention of clothes. They produce an imaginary safety, which is an outward sign of an inward barrier.”] He finished the chapter with a great conclusion (which also introduces the next chapter): “When sin is understood from a relational perspective, it is much easier to grasp that the way of salvation is a journey of faith…. The road from self-giving love to self-centeredness and rebellion began in a doubt leading to distrust and rejection. The way back is the reverse.”
Chapter 5 is on, “The Way of Salvation.” To me this was the least satisfying chapter in the book. Kinlaw says that incarnation and atonement is only possible because we had been created in God’s image. If I understand him correctly here (and I question that!), Kinlaw bases this on the foundation he has laid earlier. He has already taught that Adam’s sin was the move from being other-oriented to be self-centered. He has already taught that because of what it means to be a “person” we participate in Adam’s sin. God now needed, “a second Adam through whom redemptive forces, opposite to those set in motion by the original Adam, can be released to counter the sin that is there and overcome it.” God couldn’t find a second Adam so he became one. Kinlaw then briefly explains the role of faith and then concludes the chapter with a mind-boggling section on intercession and our role in each other’s lives. If he is right, it puts our role in evangelism on an entirely new level. To whet your appetite I’ll share this, “The reality is that, when a Christian lets God put within him or her God’s own concern for a friend, family, church, institution, or even a country, spiritual possibilities develop that otherwise would not be possible.”
This brings us to the final chapter which you have perhaps guessed is Kinlaw’s, holiness chapter. He refers to it as the “Fulfillment of Salvation.” He returns to the metaphors he began with and explains how the royal/legal metaphor explains justification/forgiveness. But says, Kinlaw, we needed more than just a second chance, we need to be changed. Thus the familial metaphor with the new birth concept. But God wanted an even more intimate relationship than that, which brings us to the Nuptial metaphor. We are to be his “bride.” A bride is supposed to be given fully to the groom and only to the groom. Of course, that kind of complete self-giving love is not within our power to give. We must trust God to give it to us. Why is this a second work? We have to live with Christ for while and hear the Spirit before we “see the depths of our need,” We begin to realize how divided we are and we realize we need to surrender to God. The fear of that surrender is the final evidence of our fallenness.
Kinlaw’s book makes for a challenging read but it has been the most thought provoking and stimulating reading I’ve done in a while. I’d love to discuss it with some of you after you’ve read it.