I recently finished Steven Nichol’s book Jesus Made In America. Nichols is a church historian. His books are always well-written and insightful. This book is no exception. The subtitle, “A cultural history From the Puritans to the Passion of the Christ,” is a good description.
The doctrine of Christ, Christology, is complicated. Easy answers, and pius over simplications just don’t do the subject justice. However, according to Nichols, that is exactly what Americans have done since the 1750s.
The story starts with the Puritans and their highwater, Jonathan Edwards. Edwards preached a multi-faceted, robustly complex Christ. Christ was not a stuffed teddy bear on the end of his bed. Yes, God’s love is infinite, and it appears most clearly in the life and ministry of God’s Son. But the Puritans also stressed other dimensions.
Christ is our judge. Christ is one with the Father. He is angry with unrepentant sinners. On the Day of Judgment unbelievers will cry out to the rocks to bury them and hide them from the wrath of the Lamb (Rev. 6:16). “The wrath of the Lamb” says it all. What could be more upside down than a Lamb with wrath?
According to Nichols, since the Puritan era, Jesus has not fared as well. Successive chapters cover the Revolutionary War period, the Civil War era, the early 20th century, and the Jesus movement of the 1960s. Nichols book is worth reading and ruminating over. We want the Jesus made in the Bible, not the Jesus Made in America!