G. Campbell Morgan. The Crises of the Christ: The Seven Greatest Events of His Life. Wipf and Stock, 2005. 477 pp.
The well-known British Congregational minister, George Campbell Morgan (1863–1945) authored more than sixty books and booklets. Yet this work, The Crises of the Christ, stands above them all as his signature work. Virtually all who have read it over the last century agree that this is Morgan’s magnum opus. Morgan has included an unusual blend of the scholarly along with the devotional.
He avoids the overly technical; the book contains only a rare occurrence of Greek and Hebrew. Both layman and theologian would read this work with profit. Morgan does not deal philosophically with the person of Christ, but rather focuses on what may be known about Him through the accomplishment of His Divine work (11).
The structure of the book is important. Morgan sets the stage for the bulk of the book with a discussion of man’s fallen condition. This is “the call for Christ.” His Divine work is necessitated by human need. From this point, Morgan examines the seven key events in the life of Christ: the birth, the baptism, the temptation, the transfiguration, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the ascension, demonstrating how Christ’s work was designed to meet man’s need. The book concludes by showing the redemptive effects of this work in reversing the curse of sin.
Man was made in the image of God, but this image is like a shadow: “What the shadow is to the man, the man would be to God” (17). Since man is primarily spirit, the image of God is reflected in his spirit. Man is a volitional, emotional, and rational being—reflecting the nature of His Creator. Morgan is very careful to maintain a strong distinction between God and man. Man cannot simply look at himself and know what God is like. When he does, he sees only himself. All men worship either God or themselves (29). All false worshipers focus on man’s intellect, emotion, or volition.
The whole purpose of the incarnation was the atonement (59). Christ emptied Himself not by divesting His divine attributes. Rather, He changed the form of the manifestation of His deity. He took upon Himself the veil of humanity. Christ did not overcome His temptation in wilderness by use of His divine powers: “Not in His Deity did He resist, but in His perfect Manhood” (114, cf. 122).
Morgan has some interesting views based primarily on speculation. In answer to the question of whether there is a reason that man should be redeemed, Morgan asserts that there is: “God is bound to find a way of redemption, and answer the call of a ruined race. That reason lies within the nature of God. It is that He is Love. Because He is Love, He must” (43, emphasis mine). In the next paragraph, he asserts that “God is not bound to do anything for man” (44, emphasis mine). What Morgan probably means is that God is bound by Himself, not by anything outside of Himself. But is this so? Does God’s character necessitate redemption? To answer this question with certainty is to go beyond the bounds of specific revelation. Scripture does, however, emphasis God’s freedom. God would have been entirely faithful to His character to destroy the fallen race: He provided no redemption for the angels. Morgan also asserts that no man actually hates God (66). Hating God necessitates knowing Him. All hatred of God is actually hatred of a distortion of God. All knowledge of God results in love for Him. In addition, he dogmatically asserts that Christ “never learned, for there was no necessity for learning” (91). Learning is necessary only with fallen humanity (cf. Jn. 7:15). Morgan also avers that Christ was the best looking man who ever lived: “I strenuously hold that He was perfect in physical form and proportion. . . . To grant spiritual perfection of Jesus is of necessity to admit bodily perfection likewise” (94). He also did His woodworking with perfect craftsmanship (94-95). When Christ was in the wilderness being tempted (cf. Mark 1:13), he had fellowship with the wild beasts (112). During His temptation, Christ was the one on the offensive. He sought out Satan to engage Him in battle (114).
This classic volume, though a hundred years old, deserves to retain the place that it has held as one of the preeminent books on Christology. The discussion is not up to date by the standards of many, seeing that it lacks interaction with the latest critical theories. Most readers, however, will find such a work refreshing and encouraging. I wholeheartedly commend this work to both the student who desires to know more about Christ and the worshiper who desires to know more of Him.