Book Reviews

This category contains 118 posts

Book Review: “The Bible Story Handbook” by John Walton and Kim Walton

bsh-walton

John Walton and Kim Walton’s The Bible Story Handbook is a resource for teaching 175 Bible stories and their meanings. I want to say at the outset that this wide range and its being written towards a general audience (with teaching to children as a special focus) in no way means this is an easy or unchallenging book.

The book has a great introduction that argues that we need to be teaching the actual point of the Bible stories we use in lessons in Sunday School, sermons, and the like rather than abstracting the stories and chopping them apart to draw out specific illustrations we’d like to have. This is a very challenging introduction, not because it is technical, but because we so often do see this done in teaching the Bible and we so often do it ourselves. For example, we might see the story of Jonathan and David as about friendship rather than about what God was doing through the people acting in the story. A more extreme example is from the authors: one of their children came home and had been taught the story of Cain and Abel in Sunday School. But the point of the story–which was told sans violence because of the age of the children–they were told was that Cain and Abel had bodies. That’s it.

It is this level of abstraction that John Walton and Kim Walton work against in the book, consistently arguing story-by-story that the point of the Bible is to teach us about God and God’s action in human history. The stories are each outlined in the same fashion. There is a subheading listing the passage that has what the Bible story is (i.e. Samson and Delilah) followed by the verses that will be discussed (i.e. Judges 16). Then, there is a “Lesson Focus” that outlines key parts of the lesson in a sentence or two, then has main focal points of the lesson in bullet points. After that there is a Lesson Application which hones the Lesson Focus in to what we might take from the lesson. Then, the biblical context of the lesson is highlighted (this section often begins the same if there are multiple lessons in the same book). After that, Interpretational Issues are addressed (such as Samson’s hair and his strength). Background information related to the text is given (such as looms and their usage at the time of the story). Finally, “Mistakes to Avoid” puts forward the key meaning of the text and highlights some errors related to interpretation that people often make related to the specific text.

These sections each have vital information and are certainly of great value for those who want to preach, teach, or explore God’s Word.

There are a few downsides to the book. At times, it seems the “Mistakes to Avoid” might not fully explain why certain interpretations are “mistakes” or why the preferred interpretation ought to be put forward. The book has very broad application but does focus on teaching the Bible stories to children. It would perhaps have been nice to have similar notes about how to direct the lesson towards adults. These are both largely just nitpicks about what is an otherwise phenomenal book.

The Good

+Extremely challenging to many presupposed ideas about how to tell and teach Bible stories
+Great selection of Bible stories
+A constant stream of firm exegesis yielding sometimes surprising insights
+Applicable immediately to teaching settings

The Bad

-Would have been nice to have more focus on teaching Bible stories to adults as well
-Some of the “mistakes to avoid” do not seem like mistakes after all

Conclusion

John Walton and Kim Walton have done a great service with The Bible Story Handbook. I would recommend it for the shelf of the pastor, teacher, and laity. Anyone can benefit from reading the book, whether they are just learning the Bible or coming back to stories that have grown familiar with time. Highly recommended.

Disclaimer: Crossway provided me with a copy of the book for review. I was not obligated to provide any specific kind of feedback whatsoever, nor did they request changes or edit this review in any way. 

Links

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Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

John Walton and Kim Walton, The Bible Story Handbook (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Creative Church Handbook” by J. Scott McElroy

cchurch-mcelroyHow do we integrate the arts into our lives in the church?

As someone who is interested in the way we can more completely integrate our faith into our lives, this is a question that has interested me for some time. When Creative Church Handbook by J. Scott McElroy showed up as a book available for review, I immediately requested it, thinking it might be a good read. What an understatement! The Creative Church Handbook is a phenomenal guide for those interested in how to make arts ministries and integrate a love for the arts into their church.

The book is, well, a handbook for starting up, organizing, and thriving in arts ministries in your church. It is organized in a logical fashion, with an introduction providing reasons for supporting arts ministries and ways to get leadership on board, followed by numerous chapters on building said ministry, ideas for specific types of arts ministries, and moving the ministry beyond the church walls.

The chapters on setting up an arts ministry are wonderful because they provide a number of different concepts of what that ministry might look like, along with how to overcome potential challenges which may come up and advice on how to avoid burning people out or scaring them off. McElroy does a good job of envisioning the issues which may come up like funding, integration into worship, and the like.

The chapters on what an arts ministry may look like are where the rubber really hits the road as generalized suggestions about things like creating live artworks in worship are intertwined with concrete examples from successful arts ministries.

One downside to the book is that there is little if any mention of several art forms like music and technical arts. McElroy acknowledges this in the Preface and notes that, in part, it is because music has been integrated fairly well into worship and the technical arts are, well, technical and would require a different type of book. However, it seems to me that much of McElroy’s advice in this book could be modified slightly to apply to these other forms of the arts. The copy I received was a pre-release and so I was unable to evaluate the index as this was not included.

Overall, I would highly recommend Creative Church Handbook for the libraries of leaders in churches and also for laity interested in starting arts ministries. It is an extremely insightful guide with many ideas to help foster growth. You will almost certainly have your mind filled with all kinds of excellent ideas for developing the arts in your faith community. It comes highly recommended. I know I’ll be trying to start a ministry like this up when my wife gets a call after graduation.

I received a review copy of the book from InterVarsity Press. I was not obligated by the publisher to give any specific type of feedback whatsoever. 

Links

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Source

J. Scott McElroy Creative Church Handbook (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

 

Book Review: “Mapping Apologetics” by Brian Morley

ma-morleyAlthough there is widespread agreement over the need to have a defense of the faith (a biblical charge–1 Peter 3:15-16), there is much disagreement over exactly how that defense should proceed. Brian Morley’s Mapping Apologetics is a way forward in helping interested readers discern how they may defend the faith.

There are few books that deal exclusively with apologetic methodology by outlining various approaches. Perhaps the most comprehensive is Faith Has Its Reasons by Kenneth Boa and Robert Bowman, Jr. Mapping Apologetics is distinguished from this other excellent work by having a narrower focus that provides more in-depth comments on the individual proponents of the various systems. Whereas Faith… attempts a synthesis of the varied methods, Mapping… is geared more towards giving readers understanding of each method.

After a couple introductory chapters on apologetics in the Bible and history, the following chapters each highlight individuals who are major contemporary proponents of different apologetics methods. Included are such people as Cornelius Van Til, Alvin Plantinga, E.J. Carnell, Richard Swinburne, William Lane Craig, and John Warwick Montgomery, just to name a few.

Each of these chapters presents an extended overview of the apologist’s method of defending the faith along with several quotes and often detailed analysis of their primary arguments with examples. Thus, readers are given the resources to compare and contrast the various approaches on the level of the actual arguments and counter-arguments presented.

The people chosen are each major contributors to their specific variety of apologetics, so both those who are well-versed in apologetics and those who are just beginning will get insights from top defenders of the faith. I personally have an MA in Christian Apologetics, and I was familiar with each author, but the way that each was presented gave me a good refresher on their method and primary arguments–and sent me scampering to re-read some of my favorites!

The book includes some great follow-up questions after each chapter to help readers review the material in the chapter, along with useful further reading sections for those interested in learning more about specific defenders. Each chapter also includes criticisms of the specific type of apologetic the individual puts forward. These are often only about 1 1/2 to 2 pages, though, and it would have been nice to have a bit more space dedicated to the critiques and rebuttals to each approach. Morley also very quickly dismisses the fideistic approach as being “unbiblical” with only a brief argument. Although I am not at all a fideist, I do think that the approach has at least some merit and the aforementioned work by Boa and Bowman has some great insights into how it might also offer some insights into apologetics.

Mapping Apologetics is an excellent read for those interested in apologetic methodology, with sympathetic interpretations of many of the primary contemporary defenders of each approach. I recommend it highly for those interested in apologetics and how we are to defend the faith.

The Good

+Great summaries of top apologists from multiple methodological approaches
+Invaluable insight into different apologetics methodologies
+Helpful review questions and resource lists

The Bad

-Dismisses fideism too quickly
-Could stand to have more reflection on criticisms of each position

Disclaimer: InterVarsity Press provided me with a copy of the book for review. I was not obligated to provide any specific kind of feedback whatsoever, nor did they request changes or edit this review in any way. 

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

Brian Morley, Mapping Apologetics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“Dune” by Frank Herbert- Prophecy, Religion, and the Messiah

Dune-HerbertBless the Maker and His water. Bless the coming and the going of Him. May His passage cleanse the world. May He keep the world for his people.

Dune has been called “Science Fiction’s Supreme Masterpiece.” I say that this tagline is accurate. The depth of the saga is breathtaking, and its majesty is at times overpowering. Here, I’ll take a look at some key themes in the book from a Christian perspective. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Prophecy

Prophecy is found throughout the various factions in Dune. The Bene Gesserit is a school composed of women who are working to bring about a prophesied man–but to use him for their own ends. The Fremen, inhabitants of the desert, also have prophecies of one who would bring their world–Arrakis–to fertility and unite the Fremen against their enemies.

Prophecy has a function, which will be fulfilled one way or another. Often, this involves the conscious working of persons towards the fulfillment. This is unlike prophecy in the Bible, which is sometimes fulfilled in quite unexpected ways or even has double applications (such as the virgin birth).

Religion

Religion is a theme throughout the book, as there are many different philosophies of life on offer, but few which seem genuine. Herbert’s vision of religion is that it is essentially a function of humanity and one which is constructed through the interplay of power and belief. For example, in one biographical entry about Paul Atreides, the protagonist, the Princess Irulan writes:

You cannot avoid the interplay of politics within an orthodox religion. The power struggle permeates the training, educating and disciplining of the orthodox community… the leaders of such a community… must face that ultimate internal question: to succumb to complete opportunism as the price of maintaining their rule, or risk sacrificing themselves for the sake of the orthodox ethic. (401)

Hebert also channels much wariness about any engagement of politics and religion throughout the book. Representative is a saying allegedly from the Muad’Dib–the name given to Paul Atreides after he is seen as the fulfillment of various prophecies: “When law and duty are one, united by religion, you never become fully conscious, fully aware of yourself. You are always a little less than an individual” (408).

Yet this is not to say there is no genuine belief in the world of Dune. Debates over determinism and divinely decreed futures are placed throughout the book, and Paul Atreides himself struggles with his own role as an apparent Messiah.

The religious mixture of Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity found in the various factions provides much food for discussion and engagement for those who want to dialogue on these topics. How should we interact with those of other faiths? What lines of correlation may we see in other religions and how might we use these to engage believers in other faith traditions? These are questions which arise in Dune, and Herbert also offers challenges to believers to see what harm might be in their beliefs and to search out those aspects of their faith which lead astray from the truth.

Truth

There are many more philosophical, theological, and political questions which could be asked after reading a masterwork like Dune. A fundamental issue is that of truth. The issues of religion and prophecy listed above make one read the world of the work with a rather ambiguous eye: there seems to be some deception, but some truth, in various aspects of the different factions’ belief systems and what they present to the world as the truth.

From a Christian perspective, there is but one truth and that is found in Jesus Christ. Similarly, even on the world of Arrakis, we find that there is an objective standard of truth, it just isn’t always cut-and-dried as to how we might discern it. It is a reflection of the fallenness of the real world in which often the truth is intermingled with lies. We should work ever towards seeking the truth and working to bring it forward.

Conclusion

Weeks after reading Dune, I can still feel the hot sand under my feet, and still smell the Spice in the air. It is a simply incredible read which demands hours of reflection afterwards. I recommend it highly to you, dear readers. It will get your mind going, and it will also perhaps force some thought into one’s own faith and life–are we living a genuine life of faith, or have we turned it into a perversion?

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

A Solar System and Cosmos Filled with Life?- A reflection on Ben Bova’s “Farside” and “New Earth”– I explore the notion that life should be expected all over the place in a post that looks at some of Bova’s most recent works.

“Fitzpatrick’s War”- Religion, truth, and forgiveness in Theodore Judson’s epic steampunk tale– I take a look at the book Fitzpatrick’s War, a novel of alternative history with steampunk. What could be better? Check out some of the worldview issues brought up in the book.

I have discussed the use of science fiction in showing how religious persons act. Check out Religious Dialogue: A case study in science fiction with Bova and Weber.

Source

Frank Herbert, Dune (New York: Ace, 1990). Originally printed 1965.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Microview: “Searching for an Adequate God” edited by John Cobb Jr. and Clark Pinnock

sadg-cobbpinnockSearching for an Adequate God (how’s that for a provocative title?) is a dialogue between process theists and open theists (aka free will theists). Process theism is most basically the notion that God is fully involved in and impacted by temporal processes like the free actions of creatures, the changing of nature, etc. (for a good summary of process thought, see here). Open theism (aka “free will theism” in this volume) is essentially classical theism, but with the notion that the future is “open”–that is, that some aspects of the future are yet undetermined and unknown (in that they are unknowable, because there are no facts about these open aspects of the future to be known).

Given the major divergence between these positions, this book provides a fascinating dialogue and real insights into points of division between two radically different concepts of God. Intriguingly, the two positions also share many basic premises (as is emphasized by every author) such as an emphasis on human free will as a way to handle theodicy, the notion that God is temporal and impacted in some way by creation, and so on.  The essays herein revolve, therefore, around these dual notions–the radical differences between the groups and the shared insights they argue they provide for theology.

The essays by David Ray Griffin (process) and William Hasker (open), along with their rebuttals to each other, frame the debate in an extremely interesting fashion, as their essays truly show the great differences between the positions. In between, essays by the other contributors (and their responses to each other) offer frequently autobiographical reflections on the two positions.

Perhaps most enlightening is the way that both positions show their distance on various points from classical theism and Christianity. Each of the Process contributors (and David Ray Griffin in particular) blithely dismissed or redefined the Trinity as a tertiary (as Griffin described it) doctrine for Christianity. This astounding claim demonstrates how vast the chasm is between the process view and Christianity. The open position, particularly as represented by Hasker, is highly critical of views of providence which entail God being even a secondary cause of evil.

The Good

+Fascinating interaction between two radically different yet frequently similar non-standard theistic positions
+Solid lineup of major representatives on both sides of the debate
+Good format
+Interesting insight into two positions which challenge classical theism

The Bad

-Too frequently autobiographical rather than topical in the middle essays

Conclusion

The value of Searching for an Adequate God is found in its many areas of clarification and insight: distinctions between process thought and classical Christian thought, clarifications on the meaning and extent of open theism, areas of mutual engagement between these divergent views, and more. It is a wonderfully fascinating book, even if I as a reader am deeply critical of both positions. I found it quite excellent.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

John B. Cobb, Jr. and Clark Pinnock, eds. Searching for an Adequate God (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2000). 

 

Book Review: “Bulls, Bears, and Golden Calves” by John Stapleford

bbgc-staplefordJohn Stapleford’s Bulls, Bears and Golden Calves is a broad look at the application of Christian ethics to economics. It is stuffed with information from statistics to economic theory to ethics.

Often, when I read about someone putting forward a “Christian” view of economics, I get worried because what happens all too frequently is that the “Christian” view is taken to be equivalent to some existing economic theory and then anyone who disagrees with that theory is seen as being sub-biblical. By contrast, Stapleford does a fantastic job of never giving into the temptation to endorse wholly any one system, noting the impact of human sin and the real injustices that are possible in any economic system. Thus, he successfully navigates a kind of balancing act between liberal and conservative economic views throughout the book.

That said, his often incisive criticism of various economic systems from different angles is sure to challenge almost any reader. In favor of pure free market economies? Stapleford notes that these are the best way to increase overall wealth in a system, but calls them out for often falling victim to greed or ignoring the poor. All in favor of socialist systems? Stapleford argues that these systems can trample the rights of the individual while also making it difficult to anticipate and plan for the needs of societies. No one is safe from the cogent analysis offered in this book.

After outlining numerous ethical theories and practices that Christians can apply to the public square and economics, the book proceeds with a number of practical chapters that apply these to specific situations, whether it is international economics, the environment, and more. The topics treated are extremely wide-ranging and the analysis offered continues to be challenging and insightful throughout. Just as an example, the chapter on gambling points out the failure of several arguments put forth to attempt to ethically justify the practice, while also pointing to numerous injustices in the system. This kind of detailed analysis is found throughout the book on every topic Stapleford touches.

That said, the main downside of the book just is its broadness. At times, readers may feel blown away by how much information is being fed to them. The sheer amount of data can feel a bit overwhelming. Also, because of the broadness of the book, some of the solutions offered feel over-simplified and may leave readers wishing for more analysis.

Overall, Bulls, Bears, and Golden Calves is a simply phenomenal read that will challenge all readers to live out a Christian life in the realm of economics.

The Good

+Eye-opening facts about numerous economic practices
+Excellent chapters on specific economic issues with applicable insights
+Bridges the seeming gap between liberal and conservative views in multiple places
+Consistently puts forth a Christian and holistic view of economics

The Bad

-Sheer amount of data can be overwhelming
-Some solutions offered seem over-simplified

Conclusion

I would highly recommend Bulls, Bears and Golden Calves to readers interested in exploring how Christianity can inform economic decisions and systems.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from InterVarsity Press. I was not obligated to provide any specific type of feedback or review nor was I required to give a positive review. 

Source

John Stapleford, Bulls, Bears and Golden Calves (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015) Third Edition.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

 

Book Review: “Total Church” by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

total-churchTim Chester and Steve Timmis aim to present a gospel-centered vision of the local church as a fellowship community oriented towards missions in  Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community

The notion that the church must be community- and gospel- oriented is absolutely central to the whole book. Time and again examples are put forward towards how the house church can make a huge impact on individuals. The authors rightly emphasize the notion that sometimes measuring success by pure numbers is misleading and, yes, misguided. Throughout the book, a commendable call is issued to seek using the gospel of Christ and making missions a priority in church.

Many stories are provided throughout the book to help make these insights into a practical application. They are appreciated because it gives readers some hands-on ways to deal with situations. I also enjoyed much of the discussion on youth groups and “children’s church.” Basically, it was argued that we cannot simply make the kids a separate unit from the rest of the church. Youth groups cannot just be a game night, because once the youths get past that, “real, adult” church is so vastly different. We need to emphasize the truths of Christianity throughout our children’s lives from the very earliest stages.

The book, however, has some deeply problematic elements. First, the view put forward of counseling and psychology was, frankly, disturbing. There’s a lot going on in this chapter, but it really seems to come down to the authors saying that “secular” psychological treatment doesn’t help, only the gospel can. We just need to embrace the truths of the gospel and all will be well. One representative quote: “The Bible addresses the entire range of problems we experience in living in this world… It addresses all the basic and essential issues of what it means to be human, both in our sin and in our salvation” (Kindle location 1802; all references are to Kindle locations hereafter). Later, this is made into an application that if we just focus on Christ, our sufferings won’t seem significant. At the end of all of this, there is a vague reference to how some kind of counseling outside of church might also be needed, but it is too little, too late, too vaguely stated.

I think this is a deeply misguided attempt to describe a “Christian” view of counseling which simply is–ironically–not outlined in the Bible. Choosing a couple quotes about how our present suffering can be alleviated or overcome by God does not mean that going to “secular” [whatever that means–and in exclusion of the reality of Christian] psychologists and therapists is a poor decision. Yes, we should try to deal with and help with these issues in the context of a community of faith. But God forbid that we approach someone who self-harms [one example they used] and just tell them that their problem is reducible to a spiritual problem, as the authors do: “The term ‘spiritual’ is not simply another category alongside biological, physical, environmental, upbringing, or relationships. Each of those forms of suffering, passive or active, is always and at some point a spiritual and theological issue” (1881). This seems clearly reductionistic and potentially damaging. I felt this whole section was quite disturbing.

Second, there is a very dim view of academic theology put forward. The authors complain that academic theology is often just for academics and compare the probably legendary story of medieval debates over the number of angels on the head of a pin to modern evangelical theological journals as “no less obscure” (2159)! This is another huge difficulty in the book because it ignores the wide implications of “obscure” theology being done in academia for the church at large. By reducing theology to the task merely of the local church (2148), it seems there is something of a denial of the Holy Spirit’s work in guiding the church at large, and, yes, a danger of local churches simply deciding that soul-destroying heresy is sound theology without any support from those “obscure” academics. A blithe dismissal of this enterprise relegates authors like Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and more into the scrap heap of obscurity.

Third, the book largely dismisses the enterprise of apologetics as dealing with issues of the mind and instead argues that “The problem is not that we cannot know God. The problem is that we will not know God. It is a problem of the heart rather than the head” (2344). Later, this leads the authors to the claim that the goal of apologetics must be to “demonstrate that unbelief is a problem of the heart rather than a problem with the head” (2419). Apologetics is envisioned as not being intellectually engage but rather engaged with trying to show people the relational problems they have with God (2467). Not only does this reduce apologetics quite a bit in scope, but it also performs some serious psychoanalysis of those who do not believe by saying that the ultimate problem with every non-Christian is that they somehow have some passionate anger against God.

Now, unless we are to assume that all of these people are lying to us, plenty of atheists throughout history have grounded their rejection quite clearly in intellectual issues. Numerous modern studies have shown that the people leaving the church often do so because of perceived anti-intellectualism or a failure to engage the mind. The task of apologetics can not, and dare not do this, be reduced to vague exploration of the heart rather than the mind. We must engage with the intellectual attacks on Christianity and put forward our position in a winsome manner.

Fourth, the Chester and Timmis often say they are not saying their position is the only way to do something, but then continually pound the notion that their way is the only biblical or gospel-oriented way so often that one wonders whether they do believe other approaches might work. The discussion of the biblical warrant for house churches is but one example, where, after asserting that there is nothing inherently wrong with larger churches, the authors compares them to pagan temples founded due to Constantine’s making Christianity the civil religion of the Roman Empire [a historical reality that should be questioned, as it was not the official or exclusive religion until Theodosius I, though this is a complex topic not worth getting deeply into here] (1255). If one approach is “biblical” and other other is merely capitulation to replicate paganism, which one is acceptable? Speaking inclusive approaches but following up with things like this makes me wonder whether there is much generosity happening towards those with whom the authors disagree.

The kindle edition of the book also has some typos, such as replacing “initially” with “Initial” (yes, capitalized in the middle of sentences) at several places in the text. Another one is this portion: “I have used the Initial person, but not to trumpet my experience… I have used the Initial person to show that what I am describing is not impossible rhetoric or unrealistic idealism… At Initial they expressed concern that we did not have an accountability structure over and outside us…” (2782). Looking at the print edition on Amazon, I find that it says “first” in all these places. I don’t know if this is the same with all Kindle editions or just the one I received for review.

The Good

+Several good insights into how we might build communities in church
+Emphasis on holistic approach to youths and children

The Bad

-Extremely problematic discussion of counseling
-Often paints an inclusive picture, but then contradicts it with exclusion
-Some questionable exegesis
-Largely dismisses academic theology
-Largely undermines the majority of Christian apologetics

Conclusion

Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community was, unfortunately, not what I had hoped for. Will readers get insights into founding house churches and making communities therefrom? Yes. But unfortunately there is an awful lot of baggage to go along with those insights, including, but not limited to, rejection of massive amounts of Christian academic theology, undercutting Christian apologetics, distorting a Christian view of therapy and psychological treatment, sometimes questionable exegesis, and more.

Crossway provided me with a copy of the book for review purposes. I was not obligated by the publisher to write any kind of review whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community (Wheaton, IL: Crossway).

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Faith, Freedom, and the Spirit” by Paul Molnar

ffs-molnarPaul Molnar’s Faith, Freedom and the Spirit is an extremely ambitious project. Its main thrust is the exploration of Trinitarian theology–particularly a distinction between the economic and immanent Trinity–in light of Torrance, Barth, and others.

The book is packed with insights into numerous topics, whether readers are interested in learning more about Barth and Torrance (and Rahner) or the relations within the Trinity, Molnar sweeps broadly but takes the time to dissect many topics in helpful ways.

A primary topic is how we relate to God, and through Barth (though alongside other theologians), Molnar argues that God is perfectly free in relation to us and frees us through grace. It is not our work that saves us but rather God entirely and miraculously revealing Himself to us through Christ by the power of the Spirit.

Throughout the entire book, the aforementioned theologians are highlighted, often providing readers with lengthy quotes and expositions of their positions in order to lend more detail and analysis to topics related to the Trinity.

There seems to be a bit bit too much discussion of various other scholars’ dissent from Molnar’s position or misunderstanding it. At times it reads as though there are journal articles put into the book rather than developing as a book itself. Responses to specific authors seem to often be esoteric rather than helpful, though I’m sure in the broader project Molnar is tracing, it makes sense.

Another downside is that it seems that at a few points the “low hanging fruit” is that which is engaged. For example, Molnar’s discussion of eternal subordination was interesting–in particular his insight from Barth and Torrance about how such a position confuses the immanent and economic Trinity–but then he went on to focus on specific views of select scholars which were blatantly subordinationist in the Arian sense rather than on some of the more nuanced approaches of others. Another example is his discussion of natural theology, which did not seem to take into account the various ways in which Barth’s attack on the notion are undermined by other considerations.

Overall, Faith, Freedom and the Spirit is worthy of careful consideration. Readers may not always find it helpful in its discussion of specific scholars, but the broader theme of the economic Trinity and the channeling and condensing of the thought of several important theologians makes it well worth the time and effort to read it.

The Good

+Insight into many aspects of the economic and immanent Trinity
+Deeply thought-provoking
+Solid critique of some views of the Trinity which (potentially or actually) stray from orthodoxy

The Bad

-A few too many rabbit trails make it feel like pieced-together journal articles at times
-Fails to distinguish adequately between types of apologetics
-At times feels repetitious

I received a review copy of the book from InterVarsity. I was not required to give any kind of review whatsoever. My thanks to the publisher for the book.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

Paul D. Molnar, Faith, Freedom and the Spirit (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015). 

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “The Lost World of Adam and Eve” by John Walton

lwae-waltonJohn Walton’s latest book, The Lost World of Adam and Eve is primarily an exegetical attempt to get at what the Bible teaches about Adam and Eve. Walton applies his insights from the Ancient Near East (ANE) to the study of the Bible. Perhaps the central focus of the text, then, is the notion that unlike us, those who wrote the Bible and were its first audience would look not for material origins but rather functional origins and purpose. When applied to the topic of Adam and Eve, this yields a number of surprising conclusions about what the text is intended to mean.

Walton argues that the Genesis creation account does not specifically tell us how Adam and Eve materially came to be but rather is an account of God giving them their functions as the image of God, ushering in order against the chaos. His view is one which sees Adam as archetypical head of humanity rather than necessarily being the first ever human. Adam and Eve were chosen by God to become God’s representatives in the world.

Many intriguing arguments are put forward by Walton once he has established what is the central thesis–that the text is concerned with functional, not material origins. These include reading Genesis 2 as a sequel to rather than recapitulation of Genesis 1, the use of the term “very good” and “good” in the text, the meaning of “formed from dust” and from the rib, the archetypal meaning of Adam and Eve, the real existence of this couple, the priesthood of the couple in sacred space, our role as bringing order from disorder, the “serpent” in the Garden, and more. Each chapter is filled with compelling arguments and sometimes surprising conclusions.

Because the worldview of the ANE was not concerned with material origins, the questions we often ask of the text like “Were Adam and Eve the first humans?”; “Are we all descended from Adam?” and the like are questions which the text is not intended to answer. These are questions from our background, not from the background of the text. Thus, Walton argues that there can be much openness to the answers to these questions. When we come to the New Testament discussions of Adam and Eve, Walton (and the contribution from NT Wright) argue that this is why the notion of federal headship (though not necessarily material/genetic headship) is probably in mind.

Readers who are unconvinced by the notion that we should apply ANE insights to our reading of the text will be challenged to support that claim. Walton cogently argues that although there is not a 1-to-1 correspondence between the worldview of the ANE and the Bible, it is highly questionable to assume that the writers and audience of the Bible would not have been influenced by their background and cultural understanding.

Regarding the science, Walton readily points out that he is not an expert in the area but defers largely to the experts. He applies the exegetical arguments to questions of original sin, federal headship, and the like in the context of  modern scientific findings, though he does so in such a way that he retains his commitment to teach what the text does rather than trying to force it to speak of our concerns.

Many (most?) readers will find this book challenging on a number of levels because Walton so readily exposes our presuppositions about what the text should say. Very often Walton simply points readers back to the text to reveal how often we have our expectations bring meaning to the text rather than allowing it to speak for itself.

The Good

+Excellent insight into the ANE background of the Old Testament
+Strong exegetical argument with a commitment to understanding the text
+Coherent with the rest of Walton’s thought
+Challenges our presuppositions about the text

The Bad

-A bit difficult to pin down exactly what his view is of original sin

Conclusion

The Lost World of Adam and Eve is a fantastic work and one which needs to be on the shelf of anyone interested in the topic. It is surprising, challenging, and frequently enlightening. Whether one agrees with Walton or not, this book is a must-read.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of the book courtesy of InterVarsity Press. I was not obligated to write any sort of review whatsoever. My thanks to the publisher for the copy.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Origins Debate– Read a whole bunch more on different views within Christianity of the “origins debate.” Here I have posts on young and old earth creationism, intelligent design, theistic evolutionism, and more!

Source

John Walton, The Lost World of Adam and Eve (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Academic, 2015).

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Luther on the Christian Life” by Carl Trueman

locl-truemanCarl Trueman’s Luther on the Christian Life is a very entertaining work highlighting Luther’s view of how we should live as sinner/saints.

Understanding Luther, argues Trueman, means at least in part to understand his own life and the pressures that exerted on his thought. Thus, in the first chapter (and throughout), readers get a picture of what Luther’s own Christian life was like and how that impacted his thought. Then, Trueman traces Luther’s theology of Christian life through various themes including theology of the Word, Sacraments, righteousness, government, family, and more.

The insights into Luther’s life and theology abound throughout the book, and the way that Trueman skillfully weave the two together is impressive. This is a highly readable and, yes, entertaining book. There is much to learn, but it is a joy to read. Luther’s doctrine of the Christian life is intertwined not only with his own life, but also with his sacramental theology. Trueman draws this out in extended fashion, showing how these ideas are related to readers who may not be familiar with such a way of thinking about the world.

Trueman puts forward a tremendous effort to be sympathetic in his reading of Luther. The sacramental theology of Luther is put forward as part of his understanding of the Christian life without any efforts to undermine or thwart the power of that same message. Trueman is Presbyterian (or so I gather from his Introduction), and admits to serious disagreements with Luther on sacraments and other areas. But he presents in this book Luther’s view, not his own critique, and he does so generously with a spirit of trying to understand and convey Luther’s meaning. This is exactly the kind of Christ-like attitude towards those with whom we disagree that we should all have as Christians, and as a Lutheran I was taken aback by how well Trueman accomplished it.

Luther on the Christian Life presents readers with exactly what they should expect: an exposition of Luther’s thought (and life) on how we should live as sinners and saints. But he goes beyond the merely expected to make this an incredibly readable, insightful, and entertaining work as well.

The Good

+Surprisingly sympathetic reading of Luther from a non-Lutheran
+Many insights into Luther’s broader patterns of thought
+Focus on Christian life in Luther’s work is highly interesting
+Constantly brings up strong insights

The Bad

-Not really anything to put in this category

Conclusion

Luther on the Christian Life is an extremely readable and insightful work that is well-worth the time put into reading, marking, and inwardly digesting it. Luther’s prowess as a theologian concerned with the lives of Christians–not just their beliefs–comes to the forefront. It is a phenomenal work.

I received a review copy of the book from Crossway. I was not required to give any kind of review whatsoever. My thanks to the publisher for the book.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

Carl Trueman, Luther on the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015).

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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