If you could see the back cover of my copy of “Prototype” by Jonathan Martin, you would understand how much I have wrestled with this book. I have left a scattering of notes, paraphrases of concepts, and bullet points wherever I could squeeze them on the page; I took so many notes because Martin covers a lot of theological ground and he frames his message in the language of his target audience. It took some time for me organize and absorb all his concepts. Martin goes to great length to frame the Gospel message in a way that his readers will find relevant: He wants those who feel marginalized to understand the penetrating love of God and the invitation to know Him.
Martin speaks very clearly to those who have looked askance at the Church in the past. He does a great job of welcoming anyone who wants to learn more while at the same time not reinventing the Church to skeptics. He can at once say that “liars, dreamers, and misfits” are welcome to hear about God’s love while at the same time telling them that “This is my grandmother’s church” and there are reasons why we do the things we do.
This is a good book to read more than once. I wanted the message to be clearer at times. At first, I could not relate to his concept of “the boy on the bike” or “coming alive to God”. I was busy trying to make sure he not equating these concepts to a salvation experience and it took some time to understand what he meant. Once I stripped through the various phrases and concepts Martin has created, I found the Gospel with refreshing clarity.
Martin is a very perceptive person. Several times I wondered if he found it frustrating to write this book instead of having a conversation with every reader. Watching the accompanying DVD helped me to understand Martin’s tone much better. In particular, some of his descriptions of his exposure to church culture as a child can sound dismissive in the book; however, he is genuine and reflective as he describes these same moments on the DVD. I spent most of the time reading the book on a defensive footing, trying to decipher how he was framing spirituality and understanding how all the concepts connected. As I watched the DVD, Martin’s sincerity and reliance on Scripture came through with much more force.
I feel like I need to say a word about the title and subtitle. When I saw the title “Prototype” I was concerned that the book was going to be pluralistic and as a result, I began reading the book defensively. I was relieved to find no such suggestion in the text. The subtitle “What happens when you discover you’re more like Jesus thank you think?” also kept me looking for hints of cheap grace, which I did not find either. I believe the subtitle is meant to be a description of Jesus’s humanness and how He can sympathize with man: people are made in image of God, we are physical people just as Jesus became flesh, and we are loved by Father just as much as Jesus is loved by Him.
Martin covers a lot of topics in 200 plus pages and the Gospel is presented more clearly as the book progresses. Be prepared to spend as much time reflecting on the content as you do reading the text. I recommend this book for those who want to understand more about Christianity but do not feel like they “fit the mold” of “church people”. I also think many Christians who want a fresh look at their faith and are willing to read discerningly will find this book helpful.
I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers for review