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Book Review: “Rethinking Incarceration: Advocating for Justice that Restores” by Dominique DuBois Gilliard

People from across the political system have called for reform of the penal system in the United States. With Rethinking Incarceration: Advocating for Justice that Restores, Dominique DuBois Gilliard delivers both a bevvy of information for those curious about the penal system alongside a call to work for higher justice.

The book is arranged around two parts: “The Roots and Evolution of Mass Incarceration” and “The Church’s Witness and Testimony.” These parts have much interplay with each other. The first part lays the groundwork for understanding how the United States has become the world’s largest prison system. He grounds this in a slew of historical details, starting with an examination of the “War on Drugs” and how it led to a massive upturn in numbers of incarcerated. Gilliard notes how Black Codes paved the way for “Neoslavery” and the use of the penal system to effectively make slaves once again. He notes these historical perspectives alongside discussion of the “pipelines” (to prison) of mental health, privatized prisons for profit, and immigration. Each of these has clear justice issues that cannot be ignored. The School-to-Prison pipeline, something I had only heard referenced but not really dug into before, seems quite clear to me after reading this book. Essentially, by allowing police presence into schools, we have criminalized delinquency at an alarming rate. Things that may have earned detention or suspension before now yield prison sentences to minors. Frankly, this seems insane. I was blown away by learning that very few states have any special training for the “resource officers” that are put into schools to watch our children is equally disturbing. There is no requirement for any kind of child psychology, de-escalating situations with minors, and the like whatsoever in most places.

After establishing this historical basis for the increase in incarceration rates, Gilliard turns to seeing what the church might do about this plight. He does not ignore historical perspective here, either. One of the most moving and interesting chapters in the book is “The Prisoners’ Pastor: Chaplaincy and Theology’s Institutional Impact.” Therein, Gilliard uses chaplains at the notorious Sing Sing prison in New York as a case study. It was thought by some that sending chaplains to the prisoners was pointless because they were “too far gone” to be impacted by such a ministry. The impact of the persistent chaplains in the face of serious opposition–including by those who ran the prison–is a wonderful tale, but not one without stumbling blocks either. It is also clear that when the chaplains become tools of the system, it can be incredibly damaging.

Another chapter examines the nature of punishment and how a Christian view of the penal system ought to be oriented towards not just punishment but also bringing people back into community. He argues this through an analysis of biblical justice and showing that restoration is a major theme. One of the major ways we can help to cut down on the system of mass incarceration is to educate rather than resort to exclusion and punishment every single time.

Rethinking Incarceration: Advocating for Justice that Restores is a fascinating, heart-rending, and immediately applicable book. Agree or disagree with Dominique DuBois Gilliard’s positions, it should be read by Christians who wish to think discerningly about our penal system. I highly recommend it.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

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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!)

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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Book Review: “Faith Across the Multiverse” by Andy Walsh

Faith Across the Multiverse is a difficult book for me to categorize. Based on the title and cover blurb, it seemed a bit like another entry in the crowded field of basic science-faith works. It’s an interesting field, but one that has many, many entry points. Yet as I continued to read the book, I discovered an appreciation for the unique style and depth of discussion that definitely separates it from the pack.

Walsh separates the book into four parts: The Language of Mathematics, The Language of Physics, The Language of Biology, and The Language of Computer Science. These titles might lead one to assume that this is (again) yet another book arguing for design or intelligent design. It is not. So it isn’t a broad introduction to faith-science issues, and it isn’t an entry level book on ID theory. What is it? It’s a kind of stream of consciousness look at several deep science-faith topics with some nerdy anecdotes and Biblical interpretation sprinkled in. That’s a mouthful, and that’s because this book is heady, much headier than one may expect. It grew on me more and more as I read it.

Each chapter has some kind of theme woven through it, typically drawn from some part of nerd culture. For example, in chapter 7 Orphan Black, a Canadian science fiction drama that I’m currently watching myself, is used to talk about nature vs. nurture, DNA coding, the church body, and denominations. It should be easy for readers to see why the book deserves a careful reading. Yes, many, many topics are raised all at once, but Walsh does an admirable job tying them all together and relating them back to Christianity in realistic ways. It’s fascinating to read about Walsh’s thoughts on mathematics and see how he applies them to the Bible and Christian doctrine. This isn’t a kind of 1-to-1 correlation as if Walsh is arguing for some kind of biblical numerology–far from it. Instead, he uses physics, math, biology, and computer science to highlight reasons to believe as we do–and sometimes to challenge those beliefs.

I noted already that the titles of the parts in the book make it sound like it’s arguing for Intelligent Design. It isn’t. Indeed, Walsh actually argues against the theory (though it doesn’t appear in the index) by noting how mathematical models can create seemingly infinite complexity without needing informational input. One example he uses is the Koch Curve, which is a phenomenally complex early look at a fractal that seems to create massive complexity through a very simple form (225ff). The Bible itself speaks to God using seemingly random things to generate information or to work for God’s ends (eg. the casting of lots) (p. 251-252). Evolution, he argues, doesn’t threaten God’s sovereignty any more than a seemingly unknowable outcome on our end (the rolling of dice) means God can’t design or control the process.

The book is truly a monument of imagination, while being grounded in real outcomes, science, and math. It’s fascinating to see Walsh tie Ms. Marvel, the X-Men, or Mark Watney, the star of The Martian into real life scenarios and biblical examples. By my count, Walsh managed to reference 65 books of the Bible in the text, while also drawing in nerd references, Francis Collins, discussions of the soul, and more. I can’t really overstate how remarkable I find the fact that there is unity in a text like this, but Walsh somehow pulls it off and delivers a rather fascinating science-faith work.

Andy Walsh’s Faith Across the Multiverse manages to distinguish itself by both the depth of its science and the fun of its references. It’s a surprising, thought-provoking work worthy of a careful read. I recommend it. Incidentally, I also found the book’s website as I wrote this review, if you’d like to explore further.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback 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!)

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.

“1 Corinthians 14:33B-38, 1 Timothy 2:11-14, and the Ordination of Women” by Peter Kriewaldt and Geelong North, Part 2, in “Women Pastors?” edited by Matthew C. Harrison and John T. Pless

I grew up as a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a church body which rejects the ordination of women to the role of pastor. The publishing branch of that denomination, Concordia Publishing House, put out a book entitled Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective edited by Matthew C. Harrison (who is the current President of the LCMS) and John T. Pless. I have decided to take the book on, chapter-by-chapter, for two reasons. 1) I am frequently asked why I support women pastors by friends, family, and people online who do not share my position, and I hope to show that the best arguments my former denomination can bring forward against women pastors fail. 2) I believe the position of the LCMS and other groups like it is deeply mistaken on this, and so it warrants interaction to show that they are wrong. I will, as I said, be tackling this book chapter-by-chapter, sometimes dividing chapters into multiple posts. Finally, I should note I am reviewing the first edition published in 2008. I have been informed that at least some changes were made shortly thereafter, including in particular the section on the Trinity which is, in the edition I own, disturbingly mistaken. I will continue with the edition I have at hand because, frankly, I don’t have a lot of money to use to get another edition. Yes, I’m aware the picture I used is for the third edition.

“1 Corinthians 14:33B-38, 1 Timothy 2:11-14, and the Ordination of Women” by Peter Kriewaldt and Geelong North Part 2

1 Timothy 2:11-15

It is interesting to note that in this subheading (in the first edition, anyway), the verses noted are different from those in the chapter title, though the authors don’t actually address verse 15 in their verse-by-verse analysis.

Kriewaldt and North begin by noting the context of the letter- “to Timothy in Ephesus, the economic, political, and religious center of Asia Minor. In that region, the social position of women was well developed. There were numerous female doctors there. In politics, women were thoroughly involved in leadership. Female philosophers were known to teach…” (50). Moreover, they state that “In Paul’s day the Greek and Roman world was awash with priestesses” (ibid). With this context in mind, the authors here argue that Paul is going against the cultural norms of the surrounding environment. They also note that “False teaching had invaded the church in Ephesus…” and “sowed dissension…” According to them, “One of its features led women to discard traditional roles…” (51). They allege that part of the problem was that women “were endeavoring to teach the apostolic word…” (51-52), which is taken to be a bad thing (“false teaching”). Women, they argue, were to learn in full submission, which they take to mean “submit to Christ’s Word and those who teach it. Paul is not saying that all women are to be submissive to all males” (52).

1 Timothy 2:12 is taken to mean that a woman ought not teach or exercise authority over a man. Kriewaldt and North argue that Paul’s saying “I do not permit” cannot suggest a personal opinion because the letter “bristles with apostolic authority” which “suggests that apostolic authority underlies and pervades this whole section…” (52). Specifically, however, women are “not permitted to teach the apostolic doctrine or engage in apostolic ministry of the Word in the worship assembly” (ibid). Verse 13 is taken to mean that “God’s will” is “revealed through the priority of Adam’s Creation… Adam was created first. ‘First’ is not merely first in time, but carries with it a position of leadership, authority, and responsibility (1 Cor. 12:28…)” (53). In response to those who say that making this argument means animals are are masters, the authors dismiss it by saying “That is really scraping the barrel!” (ibid). Verse 14, they argue, shows that the man “who was meant to be the leader and head, fell down on the job… He deliberately and knowingly chose to listen to the woman and thereby sinned by following her teaching” (54).

There are several issues with Kriewaldt and North’s analysis of 1 Timothy 2:11-15. First, and most obviously, though the section heading says they take it to go through verse 15, as almost every commentator does that I have read, they fail to so much as remark on verse 15. Yet verse 15 may be a pivotal verse in the understanding of the whole passage, though it is generally acknowledged as an extraordinarily difficult passage to interpret. What does it mean to say that the woman is saved through [the?] childbirth? Is it a reference to Christ? Is it a note that women do indeed have some kind of power? Is it a bringing women back into equality with men by noting no man exists without a woman? We don’t know Kriewaldt and North’s own opinion because they excluded the verse from their comments and utterly ignored what seem to be the closing remarks of Paul in the section they are trying to interpret properly.

The cultural context is quite interesting because Kriewaldt and North emphasize false teaching over the cultural context. That is, they use the context briefly to frame it as Paul going against the context, but don’t tie context and false teaching together. When we do tie them together, it seems to be sensible to think that perhaps women were teaching in the churches (a cultural norm in the area) but were the ones teaching falsely. Thus, Paul’s teaching for women to be silenced would be directed at this false teaching, which Kriewaldt and North explicitly mention as a major issue in the church in Ephesus (51). Thus, Paul’s silencing of women ought to be understood as localized, but normative. Localized, because it applies to the Ephesian church in the specific case of women spreading false teaching. Normative, because it allows a rule where an entire group of people may be silenced in order to stop false teaching. If, for example, a number of elderly people had imbibed false teaching and continued to spread it, it may be appropriate to call for their silence such that the false teaching does not continue to spread.

Another issue in just the first few pages is why Kriewaldt and North take women “endeavoring to teach the apostolic word” as a bad thing. After all, would they not agree that if it is true women are to be silenced from public teaching, they ought to teach that very apostolic teaching to others? Is it not a strange situation in which anyone is considered a false teacher for wishing to teach the apostolic word? Yet that is exactly what Kriewaldt and North charge women with in the Ephesian Church! The false teaching isn’t actually a teaching on their view; rather, the false teaching is related simply to which chromosomes those people doing the teaching have! This nonsensical reduction of false teaching to actually teaching the apostolic word as a woman shows, frankly, the lengths to which some are willing to go to silence women. The preconception that women ought not teach is what is dominating the interpretation here, not the text itself. Think about it abstractly: is it really false teaching for anyone to teach the apostolic word? Really, truly? But Kriewaldt and North come back later and once again insist women are not to “teach the apostolic doctrine.” I find this doubling down astonishing. Imagine actually using the Bible to insist that about 50% of all humans on the planet may not actually teach that which the apostles do, or that they ought not even endeavor to teach the apostolic word. Incredible.

Kriewaldt and North also seem to contradict Henry Hamann in the same volume, who himself argues that women should not hold political office or other positions of authority over men. Yet in this chapter, Kriewaldt and North suggest submission is not to all men everywhere, just in the specific instance of teaching apostolic word (strange as that is). Thus, despite the fact that this book tries to present what is seen as the unified teaching of the Bible and church, its authors can’t even agree on how much women ought to be submissive.

It is odd for Kriewaldt and North to take other verses in the same letter to mean that the entire section must be explicitly apostolic teaching that persist for all time. Do they use the same reasoning in 1 Timothy 5:23 and insist no one drinks water but rather imbibes wine for stomach illness? That goes a bit against what my doctor has advised, but the authors of our chapter insist that the entire section takes on the authority of eternal commands because Paul’s claim of apostolic authority is scattered throughout the letter. But, as we’ve noted with other authors in this same book, it becomes clear Kriewaldt and North don’t actually mean that. Rather, they mean it when it suits their own theological perspectives.

I am so pleased that Kriewaldt and North take 1 Corinthians 12:28 as a clear example of a list of authority. As I’ve noted before, if they do acknowledge this, they’ve already conceded women hold more authority than pastors, which clearly undermines their entire argument. As every other author has done at some point so far in the book, Kriewaldt and North fail to actually counter the arguments of their theological opponents. When it is noted that Paul’s appeal actually is to the temporal order of the creation of male and female, they dismiss the clear point that animals were created before people as an argument that “scrapes the bottom of the barrel!” Truly? If so, it ought to be simple enough to refute. But they don’t engage it, apparently hoping their readers will quickly dismiss arguments that show the absurdity of their position simply because they do so. Their disdain for women is once again shown by the lurid language of the first man stumbling and falling down on the job and indeed sinning simply by listening to his wife! This position has absolutely nothing redemptive to offer women and it contradicts itself.

Kriewaldt and North fail completely to show that the passages they address exclude women from the ministry. Their selective editing of the text to exclude passages that may be difficult to fit with their reading is just one issue. Far more problematic are their simplistic dismissal of opponents’ arguments without engagement, the self-contradiction inherent in their views, the failure to actually address the totality of the culture to which the letters were addressed, inconsistent literalism, their poisoning of the well, lack of knowledge or engagement with textual critical issues, and many more serious difficulties demonstrate that the complementarian perspective does not adequately address these texts. This is particularly important, because these two passages are the most powerful ones typically mustered by complementarians.

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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!)

Interpretations and Applications of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35– Those wondering about egalitarian interpretations of this same passage can check out this post for brief looks at some of the major interpretations of the passage from an Egalitarian viewpoint.

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: “Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ” by Cynthia Long Westfall

[U]ntil very recently (ca. 1980s), traditional readings [of Bible passages related to women] have assumed the ontological inferiority of women through the entire history of interpretation, and it is implausible to think that an interpreter can effectively shed the foundational assumptions of the traditional view and still coherently maintain the remainder of interpretations and applications virtually intact. (4)

[T]raditional readings of the texts have been used and are being used overtly in a social construction of a theology of power and control that privileges one group over another (males over females), and those readings are controlled by the privileged group (males). (4)

Cynthia Long Westfall’s Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ brings forward insights from hermeneutics, linguistics, sociology, history, and insight into the ancient world to present a consistent reading of the Pauline corpus in regards to gender. Westfall contends that the traditional reading of the text must face the challenge that it does not consistently read the Pauline corpus, but rather tends to prioritize certain readings of texts over other texts, rather than trying to unify them. A lack of consistent methodology is also a problem, as hermeneutic method changes depending upon what the text is taken to defend (3). Moreover, traditional readings of the texts are “problematic,” she argues, for several reasons: first, the traditional readings of the texts “have not resulted in making sense of Paul’s Letters” (ibid); second, these readings of the texts are making a theology of power (4); third, the ontological basis for the traditional reading has largely been acknowledged as mistaken (see the first quote, above); fourth, both the individual and the group can make significant contributions to and impact on interpretation. For these reasons, Westfall suggests a return to the texts to see what they actually mean in context, again, drawing on linguistics, contemporary cultural studies, and many more disciplines.

Westfall organizes the book topically, looking at how various topics relate to Paul and gender. These topics are culture, stereotypes, creation, the Fall, eschatology, the body, calling, authority, and an extended look at 1 Timothy 2:11-15. By organizing the book largely around these important topics in Paul’s thought, Westfall avoids the somewhat common theme of books about sexuality in Christianity of looking at one proof text after another to come down on one side or the other. Instead, Westfall presents a cohesive, rational way for looking at the whole of the Pauline corpus, yes, through looking at individual texts, but also by uniting Paul’s thought and bringing in insights from various fields.

Time and again throughout Paul and Gender, I came upon a way of looking at things I hadn’t considered before. Westfall’s use of linguistics and deep knowledge of the cultural context of the New Testament leads to arguments and conclusions that are powerful and compelling. Some of her points seem obvious on reflection, but were points I have rarely if ever seen discussed in literature related to men and women in Christ. For example, regarding 1 Timothy 2:13, she notes that in Genesis, from which Paul is drawing his point, primogeniture is constantly reversed. That theme is one I had learned and put forward myself, but I hadn’t thought about how it could be applicable to understanding Paul’s use of Adam first/Eve next in 1 Timothy. Why is it that complementarians repeatedly make a bald assumption that primogeniture is seen by Paul as an inherent hierarchy between man and woman when Paul is specifically using an example from a book where primogeniture is consistently overthrown by God? Her extensive look at 1 Corinthians 11 helps to make it even more clear how difficult it is to adequately understand some of these texts as English speakers. Through conversation with many contemporary sources, she conclusively demonstrates that the notion of the man being “head” is not a hierarchy. Moreover, her reading of what is meant by calling woman the glory of man as well as her interpretation of why women should have a kind of covering over their heads is one that answers many, many questions for me as a reader. By showing what, culturally, was going on in Corinth and the church in general, she presents readings that explain the text rather than obscure it further–or turn it into a proof text for a specific position.

The greatest strength of Westfall’s approach is that it truly does present a unified look at the Pauline corpus. Rather than having to look at texts piecemeal and form a series of doctrinal theses therefrom, Westfall’s reading of the texts related to gender present a consistent, holistic view of Paul’s teaching on gender. It is a truly remarkable book that deserves careful reading. I spent several hours on the chapter on “culture” alone, finding many deep insights both in the main text and the footnotes. As a reader, I feel as though I have a much deeper and more complete understanding of Paul on these topics than I did before I read it.

With Paul and Gender, Cynthia Long Westfall has created one of the most profoundly exegetical and deep challenges to the complementarian reading of the Pauline Corpus in existence. Her breadth of knowledge of many different fields of studies is effectively utilized to present a cohesive, persuading reading of Paul regarding gender. May all who are interested in finding what the New Testament teaches on gender read this book.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback 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!)

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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