An extended review of a 2022 book by W. Ross Hastings
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Baker Academic, 2022. 208 pages. $30 (e-book $15)
In his new book, W. Ross Hastings, who teaches at Regent College in Vancouver, provides a rich account of how the resurrection of Jesus is integral to our understanding of God’s work of salvation, the Christian life and the mission of the church.
With engaging prose he helps us appreciate the magnitude of the resurrection for our beliefs about the person of Jesus and our union with Him in a way that is both pastorally sensitive and theologically astute. And Hastings does so in dialogue with both Scripture and church history.
While he affirms the historical reliability of the resurrection, he only deals with this dimension in briefly in the first chapter. As he notes, “This book is primarily about the theological meaning and consequences of the resurrection.” The result is a compelling vision of Jesus and the Christian life thoroughly grounded in the cross and empty tomb.
Hastings divides his book into two main sections. The first seeks to unpack the saving efficacy of the resurrection. He begins by establishing the connection between the resurrection and the atonement. In fact, he describes the resurrection as “an atoning act” that undergirds the forensic nature of Jesus’ death on the cross for our justification.
Foundational to this is the notion of “union” or “participation.” In other words, in the incarnation Christ joined himself to us. Consequently, thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit, through faith we are able to participate in the saving work of Jesus’ death and resurrection. As Hastings puts it, “the Son became one with us . . . that we might become one with him.”
It is this participation of Christ in our humanity that not only makes justification possible but also defeats death. We are joined to Christ in His death and resurrection so that “Whatever is true of Christ is true of humanity.” Put another way, the atonement, the gift of salvation, our future resurrection and glorification, are all possible because they have been accomplished through the person of the risen Jesus, who became one with us in the incarnation in order to defeat death on our behalf.
In the second section Hastings asks, “What does the doctrine of the resurrection contribute to the doctrine of the person and work of Christ, which is sometimes called Christology?” He points out that “the resurrection changes something about Jesus . . . it changes his role or function and titles.” This applies to Jesus as Messiah and Lord and as High Priest and King. The resurrection definitively establishes Jesus as sovereign over creation and as intercessor on behalf of His people. So this is not an adoptionist Christology. Rather, through the resurrection Jesus fulfills these roles.
Throughout Hastings’ treatment of the resurrection, he’s clearly interested in demonstrating that our understanding of the risen Jesus is profoundly important to the Christian life. For instance, the grounding in the resurrection of Jesus’ ongoing priestly intercession “encourages us to confess openly and frequently, as a gathered people Sunday by Sunday and as individual persons living the life of prayer.” This is not theology for its own sake but theology for the sake of the Church and the living out of its life and mission.
Hastings writes with the mind of a scholar and the heart of a pastor. By including discussion questions at the end of each chapter, he no doubt has church Bible studies and small groups in mind. And because he wonderfully draws attention to several christological themes in Scripture, enabling us to see their various interconnections, he also enriches our reading of it.
And so more than an examination of the meaning of the resurrection, here we have a powerful and firmly grounded biblical vision of the person of Christ as the eternal, incarnate, crucified, risen, and exalted Son of God. Moreover, it through this vision of the risen Jesus that Hastings also offers us a compelling view of what it means to live as the people of God in His presence.
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