Christian Book Review: Prototype by Jonathan Martin
I still remember. The complete ecstasy in the freedom I felt as a child, knowing I was completely loved by my father, completely adored by mother, and completely oblivious to the darkness of this world. Time has passed since then and the pain of this broken world is now no stranger to me. Depression and anxiety marked my soul early on, eclipsing for the moment any memory of my unadulterated childlike joy.
Jonathan Martin, pastor of Renovatus Church, writes this book to call me back to that joy. And he does it well.
I hadn’t heard of Martin prior to reading this book, but I’m glad I have now. I admire Martin’s unique giftedness when it comes to writing — his ability to tell a story so compellingly and winsomely that I couldn’t stop reading.
In many ways, Jonathan’s story is my story. He writes vividly of the innocence of his childhood, a time of imagination, joy, and wonder. On his bike, he would ride around the cul-de-sac, transporting magically in time, conjuring fantasies that swept him up to God with each pedal — until the reality of this world’s brokenness shattered his own world. However, in the midst of this darkness, Martin discovered the beauty and truth of the Gospel. He discovered that Jesus came to accomplish more than the removing of our sins, He came to restore us back to our child-like wonder, free in the love of the Father; he came to show us what it means to re-become human. He came to be our prototype.
In nine chapters, Martin endeavors to “show you how we can unite as beloved children of God — people from the future who are fully alive in the present.” With an eschatological thrust, this book breaks down into three parts that I’ve labeled Identity, Redemption, and Resurrection. In these sections, Martin explains the Christian life, modeling it after the life of Jesus.
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The first section, consisting of the first two chapters, brings us back to the beginning and asks the question: Who are you? He argues that our generation struggles with being so inundated with different voices that demand us to define ourselves, that we lose sight of who we really are. He beckons us to remember a time before all the brokenness, when we felt fully loved, fully free to wonder. Drawing from his own life stories and using David as an example, Martin says that our primary problem is that we don’t realize how deeply loved by God we are. This must be our ultimate identity
The second section consisting of the preceding three chapters, Martin describes the journey of how we realize our identity. It is through the struggle of obscurity and pain that we truly begin to under our calling and our identity. He calls this the “gift of the wilderness.” This was my favorite section of the book — I found myself nodding my head, constantly in agreement.
Finally, Martin expounds the resurrection, showing us how the resurrection expresses itself through the sacraments, the community of believers, and our witness. Although Christ has saved us and we are loved by God, we are still awaiting the time when God will make all things new — a time in the future when we will return to being fully human. So through the sacraments, the community, and our witness to this new reality, we are ushering in this new reality, in the footsteps of our Prototype.
In an age of rugged individualism, Prototype rightly heralds a holistic view of the Gospel and calls us back to a Kuyperian view of the world, a vision that all things will be renewed and resurrected, both creation and humanity itself. Martin urges and exhorts his readers to believe that because of the resurrection, we are able to return to our belovedness. I am thankful for this and wholeheartedly commend this effort to do so.
Yet, this book overlooks a monumental aspect of the Christian life. So crucial is this omission I’d argue that a good chapter or two devoted to this is needed, and this omission is that of sin. Nowhere in the book does Martin ever discuss in length the effect that sin has on humanity. Rather, Martin argues that the difference between David and Saul was that Saul simply did not recognize his belovedness. What of his pride? What of his disobedience?
There needs to be a section that deals with God’s righteousness, our sin, and the cross, before we can reconcile our original belovedness and resurrection. If not, to talk of our belovedness apart from the cross is meaningless.
With the exception of this flaw, I still appreciate the call back to our belovedness in Christ, as well as our vision for a renewed, resurrected reality. Ultimately, this was a captivating book — Martin writes skilfully to our emotions, pulling both from his own life and from Scripture, albeit with an understandable Pentecostal bent (he is a Pentecostal), challenging us to believe as Christ, our Prototype, did. While I would pair this book up with another book that explicitly talked about sin and the Gospel, I would nonetheless recommend this book to others, easily.