The Relevance Of Jesus’ Own Gospel: The Views Of A Physics Teacher, by Allen C. Dotson
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/WestBow Press in exchange for an honest review.]
It is hard to understand the relevance of this book. To be sure, this is the sort of book that should be self-published, as it clearly represents the author’s own personal perspective about the Gospel message, and deals with a lot of the contemporary books and thinkers who deal with the Gospel message from a higher criticism perspective. The author is certainly an intelligent man, who has read a lot and somewhat deeply, and who clearly considers himself competent to serve as an expert on the veracity of different stories of the Bible. Yet what is at question is not so much what is the relevance of Jesus’ own gospel, but rather what knowledge does an author possess of that Gospel, and what relevance are their words to any kind of accurate understanding of that message of good news. And while Dotson’s thoughts are not entirely erroneous, he makes some fundamental errors that make it impossible to wholeheartedly recommend this book for its intended purposes.
The errors of this book are on a fundamental level. For one, the author goes to the Gospel as a presumed and self-appointed expert on the veracity of that text from a higher criticism perspective rather than as someone needing to learn from the expertise and message of the Gospel themselves. He does not see himself as being subject to the Gospel, but rather a judge on it. This error is related to other errors, including a marked preference for the viewpoints of Ehrman and the Jesus Seminar and a certain tendency to conflate the views of others into a monolithic orthodox view. It seems difficult to understand exactly who this book is trying to appeal to–those who believe mistakenly in the neo-Darwinian synthesis are unlikely to give much credence to the author’s willingness to accept miracles as well as a purpose in the universe, and any readers who possess a genuine respect for the Gospels as texts rather than pretexts will likely be offended by the author’s casual presumption in knowing what is and what is not genuine about Jesus’ words as written in the Gospels, even if those judged are hedged about by highly personal terms like “I consider” and “I believe.”
This book would seem to adequately represent the views of the author himself, and as a book it is likely to be most of interest to the author himself and those who agree with him in his immediate circle of friends and family. Alternatively, one can view this book as the well-organized but ultimately irrelevant thoughts of someone who writes as a presumed expect in an area where he is manifestly unqualified, and who thinks himself far more clever than he is, and someone who one might humor by listening to them drone on for hours on end, but mostly out of a sense of duty rather than out of pleasure. This is a shame, but so long as it is easy for people to write their thoughts and release them to the larger world in blogs and self-published books, it will be a matter for readers to decide for themselves what credence to give to the thoughts and opinions of many who consider themselves to be authorities. It is an issue that author and critic and reader alike must wrestle with seriously.