John F. Walvoord. Jesus Christ Our Lord. Moody, 1969. 318 pp.
This volume, written by well-known author and dispensational theologian John F. Walvoord, is a theological work on the person and work of Christ that systematically presents key Christological themes. Christ’s person occupies the bulk of the discussion, though Walvoord does address His life and work as well. Although it is not overly technical, neither is it casual reading. It is suited for the college level, but both pastors and more learned laymen would profit from it as well.
The portion of the book relevant to this review covers the subjects of recent trends in Christological discussion, the person of Christ, Christ in eternity, in Old Testament history, in typology, in prophecy, and the incarnation.
Within these chapters occur discussions on the Trinity, Christ’s Sonship, His attributes, and His names and titles. The person of Christ is a subject beyond the grasp of any writer. No one can hope to deal sufficiently with it. Nevertheless, Christ being the very center of Scripture and history, an attempt to systematically deal with Him is absolutely essential.
Since the first few centuries of Christological debate, the church has been in basic agreement about the person of Christ. He is one person with two natures-fully divine and fully human. It was not until the last century that serious challenges began to arise from liberalism and neo-orthodoxy. These faulty Christologies always stem from an improper view of Scripture as the inspired and inerrant revelation of God. A proper hermeneutic that understands the Scripture for what it says is also a vital part of having an orthodox Christology. The central problem, then, with these new views is bibliological.
The doctrine of Christ’s eternality is “the most important doctrine of Christology as a whole” (22). This doctrine divides between creature and Creator. No other category exists. Externality necessitates self-existent deity. The Old Testament presents the second person of the Trinity as eternal. Psalm 90:2; Proverbs 8:22-23; Isaiah 9:6; and Micah 5:2 all make this point. The New Testament affirms this same point in John 1:1; 8:58; Colossians 1:16-17; Ephesians 1:4; and Revelation 1:8. His eternality is clear and as such is sufficient proof of His deity. The issue of preexistence, although proven as a result of His eternality, nonetheless has clear attestations of its own. Christ was the Son prior to His coming (John 3:17; 3:31; 6:38). Many other passages teach Christ’s heavenly origin (John 1:15, 18, 30; 3:13, 16; 6:33, 42, 50-51). As eternally pre-existent God, Christ has every divine attribute in common with the Father and Spirit. He is self-existent, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, immutable, and sovereign. And while He took on another set of attributes at His incarnation, none of those in any way influenced the full scope of divine attributes that He possessed.
The Old Testament used the complete range of divine titles to refer to Christ. He is Yahweh (Zech. 12:10b, cf. Rev. 1:7; Is. 6:5, cf. Jn. 12:41), Elohim (Is. 40:3, cf. Lk. 3:4), and Adonai (Ps. 110:1, cf. Heb. 1:13). The second person of the Trinity was also God’s Son. Debate exists concerning the beginning of this Sonship. Views include the incarnation, His baptism, the resurrection, His exaltation, the institution of the covenant of redemption, and eternal sonship. The last of these is the only one that fully accords with Scripture. The Old Testament angel of the Lord is the second person of the Trinity: (1) Christ is the visible representation of God, (2) the angel does not appear after the incarnation, and (3) they have a similar function.
Walvoord has some interesting views. The terms for God in the Old Testament should not be isolated to a specific member of the Trinity, unless the context or New Testament usage requires it. Rather, one should interpret these as reference to the Triune God (38). That Christ is called the “firstborn” is a clear attestation to eternal existence (43). The Greek word monogenh,j means “only begotten,” as rendered by the KJV (44). The statement Psalm 2:7, “this day have I begotten you,” is not a reference to the resurrection (as Acts seems to indicate) but the eternal act of generation (40-41). His discussion on typology is quite surprising coming from a dispensationalist who opposes subjectivity in interpretation-one of the primary arguments against a non-literal hermeneutic. His comment, however, is that typology “is more subject to personal opinion of the interpreter” (62). Extremes to avoid are finding typology everywhere in the Old Testament and finding typology only where the New Testament identifies it as such (63). In spite of the recent trend to see “Son of Man” as emphasizing Christ’s deity, Walvoord maintains that the title itself teaches Christ’s humanity (117-18).
Walvoord’s work is a valuable contribution to the field of Christological studies. While not entering into discussions on a very technical, scholarly level, this thorough and well-organized presentation is a helpful resource. Walvoord does interact with higher critical views, but not to the degree where one is overburdened. He focuses in a very refreshing manner simply on systematically delineating the Scriptural teaching. Most will profit from this fine work.