Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Book Review: Far as the Curse is Found

Far as the Curse is Found, by Michael Williams, is, as its subtitle indicates, an introduction to the "covenant story of redemption." One of the best features of the book is how it begins with the most important aspect of the story, the Resurrection. There are two reasons why I like this approach. First, as Williams argues, the whole story is about the triumph of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, and therefore to introduce Him at the beginning seems a fitting way to highlight His prominence in the story. Second, I am glad that Williams chooses the Resurrection rather than the Crucifixion as his starting point, for that is both the emphasis of the New Testament writers, and it is the point at which Jesus' triumph is made manifest to the onlooking Creation--God's raising Christ from the dead was a vindication of His Covenantal status and favor; His righteousness before God and man.

There is another curious feature about Williams' organization of the book. After beginning with the high point of the story, he does not retreat back to the beginning of the Bible, but rather to the beginning of what he calls the "pattern of redemption," which is found in the Exodus of Israel out of Egypt. Again, this makes good sense insofar as Williams is telling the story of redemption. We have the principle actor, Jesus, in the opening chapter following by the principle pattern of the story in chapter two. He argues that we need to know God as redeemer prior to knowing Him as Creator, and that this is evident in the original context of the Scriptures themselves, since the first audience of Moses' accounts in the Pentateuch was a freshly delivered-from-bondage Israel. The remaining chapters follow redemptive history from the Fall through the Eschaton, or renewal of all things.

There are many things that are familiar in Williams' account, such as the federal headship of Adam and Christ, the covenantal community (Church) as the principle object of salvation (i.e. securing a Bride for the Christ), the cosmological import of salvation, promise-fulfillment, and so on.

There are two refreshing aspects in Williams' book that have not always been emphasized in the modern Reformed tradition. The first is the emphasis upon the graciousness of God's covenant with Adam in the Garden of Eden--the so-called covenant of works. Williams comes out strongly in his emphasis upon Adam total reliance upon God's grace, though he is given a command that promises a reward for obedience. The second is Williams' emphasis upon the graciousness of the Law at Sinai, or Calvin's famous third use of the Law as a guide to believers. He provides a robust and positive treatment of the relevance of the Law for contemporary Christians, which is welcome.

Overall this book is a great resource for a brief, bite-sized introduction to redemptive history and to biblical theology. I'm enthusiastic about the opportunity to use the book as our primary text in the eighth grade theology class for next year.


travis said...

I really enjoyed this one myself as well. It has been a few years since I read it so I think I may need to pick it back up again at some point.

Joshua Butcher said...

It was a really easy read with just enough combination of scholarly interaction without being so technical as to lose the average reader.