Book Notice: Imitating God in Christ *without David*

Our friend and former student of Mike’s Jason Hood has published a new book by IVP called Imitating God in Christ. In this book of 15 chapters, Jason offers a biblical theology of imitation that begins in the OT, moves to the NT, and extends the conversation through the church into our own time.

Imitating God in Christ has a number of strengths. First, it is comprehensive of the biblical canon and the tradition of the Great Church. Second, it focuses on a significant theme, one which gets little attention in evangelical protestant circles. This is unlike say the Eastern Church where image and likeness of God are core features of theology. For all that Augustine gave the church I think his denigration of the topic of the image of God in the promotion of total depravity has been his least helpful contribution. Third, Jason interacts with some important thinkers both ancient and modern. But this is not a dense read by any means. Fourth, Jason works with a nuanced definition of “imitation” which does not imply precise copying. Rather imitation biblically defined means “aligning character, belief, mindset or action with a pattern or template so that the copy reflects the original” (210). In this way, imitation means conforming to the cross-shaped life of Jesus. I love that verse in 1 John 2:6: “Whoever claims to live  in him, must walk as Jesus did”. Fifth, in summing up Scriptures narrative, Jason quotes Stephen Dempster who has pointed us all in the right direction when it comes to the plot of the biblical narrative: God created humanity to rule the world in his image, and humanity was dethroned from that rule and will be re-throned as kings and queens of creation” (quoted on page 23-24).

I could list a handful more at least. But the last one I mentioned points to what I think is a weakness of his biblical theology. Looking at the index I found only 3 references to David which all were near the end of the book focusing on him as an character example. Now digging a bit deeper I found at least one more that the indexer missed (Jason did you index the book?) on page 63. Here on this page a passing reference to “David’s family” is made, but not developed. David is nearly absent in his discussion of the OT.

I think there is a missing link in Jason’s biblical theological change. And it is in my view not incidental or ancillary. When you talk about the image of God as a royal/priestly element how do you not deal significantly with David? As Graeme Goldsworthy has rightly pointed out recently, David is the zenith of the Old Testament (Christ-Centered Biblical Theology, 123). Jason’s study would have been greatly assisted if he had worked with 1-2 Chronicles. In this text you see the historical synthesizer crafting a story of Israel’s royal and priestly vocation to come to its pinnacle with David. To this end, I would recommend Scott Hahn’s recent commentary on Chronicles published by Baker.

In the end, I say good job Jason, but you need more DAVID!

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  • Jason B. Hood

    Thanks so much for the note and kind comments, Joel. All I can say is that you are certainly spot-on RE:David (although I know others who would put Abraham and Moses centrally). More of him is needed. I had a limited amount of time, esp in OT. My hope is that the ideas RE:humanity and image-bearing that I lay out with respect to Adam, Israel, Jesus, and New Humanity in NT can also be profitably explored in Abraham, Moses, the priesthood, David, etc. At least that is what I try to do in class, and plan to do in future publications.

    • jwillitts

      Congrats on writing a good book! Everyone we ever have the privilege of writing will have limitations. I would just point out that Jesus isn’t the Mosaic or Abraham Messiah; he’s the *Davidic* Messiah, which to my mind subsumes the others in the unfolding story of restoring the royal/priestly image of God.