Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Representing Christ by Uche Anizor and Hank Voss – Book Review

Anizor, Uche and Hank Voss. Representing Christ: A Vision for the Priesthood of All Believers.  Downers Grove, Ill.  IVP, 2016.  208 pp.

Having fallen precipitously from watchword to buzzword, “the priesthood of all believers” is in dire need of recovery today.

With this quote from the back cover, Fred Sanders offers the impetus of this work in which the authors attempt to once again energize what was revealed, passed down, and rediscovered concerning the priesthood of believers and what that means for the Church in the 21st century.  Believers need to be reminded of this wonderful privilege given to them by the Almighty.

The authors divide the task in half.  In the first three chapters, Anizor undertakes a biblical and historical foundation for the doctrine, while, in the latter three chapters, Voss takes up practical application for today.  As far as authorship plan, this seemed to work well.  The two men used their respective strengths to bring this work to fruition.  However, this also means that the two major sections, while presented with equal style, are not presented with equal biblical acumen, as will be noted below.

Anizor clearly and accurately presents the Bible in relation to history and historical theology with ease.  This can be seen in the second chapter as he works through key passages  building the case for a corporate priesthood through Jesus’ priestly office.  Especially good are two sections: Isaiah 52-66 and the role of the Priestly Servant in making a way for all God’s people to have equal access; then Jesus’ eschatological priesthood demonstrated in His incarnation.

In the following chapter, Anizor demonstrates how the corporate priesthood changed from the apostolic corporate model to the specialized hierarchical model prevalent through the Middle Ages into the Reformation.  While delivering an accurate picture overall, the author misses a key point of historical sacramental theology by assigning intent among the early church fathers (Tertullian, Hippolytus, Cyprian, et al.) to innovate rather than passing along what had been handed to them.  The author, however, does correctly identify the innovation that entered as the priestly duties were subsumed under these offices.

Voss takes up the task of applying Scripture to our modern day.  He does an acceptable job explaining our priesthood in light of the Trinity, our practice as a body, and then, as the title states, representing Christ to the world.  Particularly good was this line:
The basis for the royal priesthood's prayer is thus found in Christ, and we pray “through Christ, in Christ, and with Christ.” (129)
Sadly, he misunderstands or mishandles some information, coming to questionable conclusions.  Notable among these is his recommendation of lectio divina (130-5).  As described, it seems innocuous enough, however, outside research would show its mystical roots.  Better is biblical meditation on God’s Word.

Another disturbing point is his misquotes of Scripture to make his point, of which I give two examples.  The first comes from a belief that “Scripture is a script to be performed.”  This makes little sense, but he drives home the point with the desire to hear:
“Well done, my good and faithful minister” from the great Priest-King. (153)
We might possibly let this pass, but he does something similar on the next page as he attempts to substantiate his VIM model (vision - intention - means) for the church:
A long time ago a man named Noah received a vision for an ark.  He decided (intention) to build it in the face of great opposition.  God provided the means, and after one hundred years of labor an ark was built.
I searched my Bible in vain to find this version of the narrative.  Perhaps someone could point it out for me.

In conclusion, this book has much in the first half to commend it.  We need the historical basis to point us forward.  The second half, though promoting the corporate nature of priesthood in a modern context, needs work to shore up some doctrinal error.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free of charge.  I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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