The thesis of the book is found in the introduction where the author shares his desire to cover the topic of “imitation” in a broader, fuller sense than it has been handled by others. Dr. Hood says, “The idea is to progress from the imitation of God to the imitation of Jesus to the imitation of the saints. There is a certain narrative shape to our journey, one that follows the course of the canon before concluding with church history and contemporary concerns…These three aspects of imitation – the imitation of God, the imitation of his Son and the imitation of the saints – form the backbone of a biblical theology of imitation. They are an integral part of the biblical tapestry of humanity, discipleship and mission. But contemporary discussions of imitation often fail to consider the connection among these three aspects of imitation...” pg. 14. These three aspects of imitation shape Dr. Hood’s book: Part One is focused on imitating God in the Old Testament (covering chapters 1-4); Part Two is focused on imitating Jesus and the role of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament (covering chapters 5-11); Part Three is focused on imitating the saints as well as dealing with some questions about how the saints have chosen to use typological interpretation (covering chapters 12-13); and finally Part Four draws on parts one to three in order to explore how we can imitate them today (covering chapters 14-15).
Dr. Hood’s book is organized well and realizes his thesis. His readers will get a biblical-theology of imitation beginning in Genesis running all the way through the canon of Scripture up into Church History. Those that have read books like The Drama of Scripture by Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen, or Simply Christian by NT Wright, or The Servant King by TD Alexander will be at home with the narrative feel of the book. Because Dr. Hood’s book is only 220 pages in length there is an absence of in-depth examination of individual periods or characters within the biblical narrative aside from the persons of the Trinity. Nevertheless, Dr. Hood manages to stop along the way, and look at examples of key characters in the biblical narrative long enough to leave his readers challenged and enthused to undertake fuller, personal study of the characters themselves at a latter date. The writer also finds ways to creatively interweave illustrations from popular culture into his narrative readings, and connects some of the struggles of the original audience to the contemporary audience throughout his book. The reader will also notice the level of Dr. Hoods writing style as it relates to his intended audience. This is a popular level, non-technical book that is aimed at people who are either on the latitudinal left, muddled middle, reluctant right of Christian culture. Because of that Dr. Hood takes steps to reduce technical terms in the text, though they do seem to find their way into the main body toward the end. Dr. Hood moves his more serious scholarly conversation into his footnotes. The end result is that both those who’ve had exposure to formal Christian education and those who’ve not had that exposure find things to gain from the book.
Throughout the book the author provides his readers with simple summary statements to help them see the big picture of imitation within the biblical narrative. Here is an example of these summary statements, “Just as God’s people responded to God’s actions by imitating his ways in the Old Testament, God’s people in the New Testament respond to Jesus actions by imitating the one who is the way.” pg. 92. With these summary statements, the reader is admonitioned to imitate God, Jesus, and the Saints through the power of the Holy Spirit. In case readers think imitation is an option, Dr. Hood reminds them it is not. “The question is not whether we will imitate, but who and to what end.” pg. 190. What does viewing imitation in a fuller manner in light of the biblical narrative mean for the three audience’s Dr. Hood mentioned toward the beginning of his book? To the latitudinal left Christian they are reminded that imitation does not simply equal activism, there is a theological foundation they must also embrace. To the muddled middle they are likewise reminded that it is not enough to focus on “what would Jesus do,” they must also focus on “what Jesus has done.” To the reluctant right they are reminded that imitation includes not only having a good confessional statement of Jesus work, but allowing Jesus work to be embodied in how they live out their faith.
If there are criticisms to be made about Dr. Hood’s work, they are only of a secondary nature because this is one of the more well-written books on the subject of imitation that this reviewer has read. Having said that, here are a few criticisms: Dr. Hood’s chapter on “Objections, Obstacles, and Presuppositions for Interpretation” takes the popular level focus of the book beyond most popular level readers. Arriving where this chapter does late in the book it seems out of place because methodology and history of interpretation subjects are typically fronted. One way of correcting this would be to treat it like an appendix so that it is removed from the popular level style of the book. The only other criticism this reviewer has is that Dr. Hood could have allowed for more time on Imitating the Saints, and could have included a broader collection of Saints to imitate. Perhaps Saints that each of his three audiences could relate to. This would have added greater relevancy to chapter 15 for all three groups. Those criticisms aside, “Imitating God in Christ: Recapturing a Biblical Pattern” was a very encouraging and practical work. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to come to a biblical-theological understanding and practice of imitation.