Jim Taylor. The Power of the Cross Unveiled and Revealed in Jesus. Crosslink, 2018. See here to purchase the book.
Jim Taylor is a Church of Christ minister who formerly worked in electronics.
This book primarily engages Romans 5:12-21. Taylor’s main argument in this book is that Christ’s death on the cross eliminated the guilt that humanity had for Adam’s sin. According to Taylor, nobody now, Christian or non-Christian, is held accountable for Adam’s sin, in the eyes of God. Still, human beings are accountable for their own sins after they reach the age of accountability, which was twenty years old in the Old Testament (Numbers 14:28-32). To be forgiven of those sins, Taylor argues, people must repent (turn from sin towards a different way of life), be baptized, believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and abide in Christ. On page 117, Taylor states: “When the children of God live the best life they can live according to their conscience and according to the knowledge of God (Hosea 4:6), and they abide in the truth according to their Father’s commandments (John 8:31-32; 1 John 2:3-5) and walk in the light (1 John 1:7), they are never charged with sin (1 John 3:9).” That does not sound like once-saved-always-saved; rather, it sounds as if a Christian needs to repent continually in order to keep his or her salvation.
While some may feel that such a soteriology fails to offer assurance, there are beautiful passages in the book about the love of God. Taylor inquires how many people would be willing to sacrifice their own children to save somebody else. Few, if any. Yet, God the Father sent his Son to suffer and die for our salvation.
Taylor discusses another issue in Romans 5:12-21, as well: Romans 5:13-14’s statement that sin is not imputed when there is no law. Taylor argues that people were not guilty of sin or punished for it prior to the law of Moses. To his credit, Taylor does attempt to explain how this view can accord with God’s punishment of Noah’s generation with a Flood and God’s punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah. Taylor resorts to saying that people could still follow their consciences after Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and God stepped in with wrath when people’s consciences became overly seared. Some considerations, Taylor does not explain. For instance, Taylor states that there was not a system of forgiveness of sin prior to the Torah. Maybe, but did not Abraham pray that God might remove Abimelech’s guilt in Genesis 20? Is that not forgiveness of sin?
Taylor explores other issues, too, such as how Melchizedek was an intercessor between humans and God prior to the time of the Torah. A lot of what Taylor says was not surprising, in terms of my understanding of what Church of Christ people believe: baptism as a requirement for salvation, the risk of losing one’s salvation, and the treatment of the Kingdom of God largely as a heavenly reality. Some things were surprises, assuming that Taylor is stating Church of Christ beliefs and not just his own personal interpretation. For instance, Taylor states that Christ will eventually shed his fleshly body and return to his preincarnate state, which had a spirit body that lacked flesh.
This book had strengths and weaknesses. The strengths were that Taylor covered interesting topics and tried to account for Scriptures that might, at first sight, seem to challenge his scenarios. Taylor offers food for thought. One weakness was that Taylor did not successfully defend his thesis that Christ’s death erased human guilt for the sin of Adam and Eve. It just seemed to me that he asserted this rather than demonstrating it from the Scriptures, and questions were left unanswered. Why would Christ’s death in Romans 5 absolve all humanity of Adam’s sin, whether they believe in Christ or not, but not for their personal sins, whether they believe or not? Why do people still experience the penalty of physical death, which came from Adam’s sin? Perhaps Taylor should have looked at how others, such as John Wesley, have defending the sort of view that he is promoting, without sacrificing his own original contributions. Although the prose was fine, the book could have used more focus and better organization. And the paragraphs should have been indented.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Bookcrash. My review is honest.