A Thicker Jesus: Incarnational Discipleship in a Secular Age, Glen H. Stassen (Westminster John Knox Press, 2012) $25
From my days at Fuller Theological Seminary, I so enjoyed the perspective taught and embodied by Dr. Glen Stassen. His ethics course and seminal text, Kingdom Ethics, gave useful language for budding young seminarians like myself on how the teachings from the Sermon on the Mount must infuse every part of our ethical decisions. His stories about marching with Dr. King inspired me about the value of civil disobedience and political actions today. His teachings on just peacemaking, gender roles, and the death penalty deeply guided me into the methodology of forming ethical convictions with the narrative of Scripture as a framework. And more than that, his faithfulness as an educator and a follower of Christ gave life to his teachings and proved an authentic model of deeply reflective pastoral engagement in the world through the power of the living Christ.
Though it had been years since my time with Dr. Stassen, I was eager to dive into his newest text, A Thicker Jesus and the book did not disappoint. I was immediately struck by how helpful this text would be for the field of practical theology as it matures as an academic discipline. As a academic, Stassen only wants to deepen the conversation about Christian discipleship rather than water down any convictions for the sake of accessibility. Stassen’s work serves as a robust text for defending a Christian ethic of incarnation and engagement in social inequalities. Building upon the shoulders of his major influencer, theologian and activist Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Stassen propones that one of the primary challenges for the Church today is to confront secularism with a costly discipleship that will provide the resources for renewal and revival. Incarnational discipleship, as defined by Stassen, will represent three spheres: a thicker interpretation of Jesus of Nazareth, the holistic sovereignty of God, and the Holy Spirit moving the church to what Stassen calls a “repentance from ideological entanglement.” I could not agree more. He looks to utilize such a formula as a model to help resolve some of the many challenges facing the Church in the 21st century. Heroes of the faith throughout Christian history, in his assessment, all share the common trait of a ‘deep and specific interpretation of the apostolic and biblical witness to Jesus Christ.’ Continue reading