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Book Review: “Every Leaf, Line, and Letter: Evangelicals and the Bible from the 1730s to the Present” edited by Timothy Larsen

Timothy Larsen is an author whose works have fascinated me time and again, so when I saw his edited volume on evangelicals’ reading of the Bible, I knew I had to hop in. Every Leaf, Line, and Letter: Evangelicals and the Bible from the 1730s to the Present is a superb look at some specific ways evangelicals have engaged with the Bible throughout the last several centuries.

Collections of essays are often hit-or-miss affairs, but Larsen has compiled a selection of essays full of excellent topics and insights. The essays are grouped by century, starting in the 18th and terminating in the 21st. They rnage fro mearly evangelical readings of the Bible to global evangelical mindset in today’s contexts. Instead of providing an overview of every one of these great works, I’ll highlight a few I found especially insightful.

With “British Exodus, American Empire: Evangelical Preachers and the Biblicisms of Revolution,” Kristina Benham introduces readers into the ways in which American evangelicals and their British forebears used the biblical narrative–particularly those of the Exodus–to draw parallels to their own situations in colonial and Revolutionary America. It’s a fascinating look at how one’s own context can shape how one reads Scripture. Mark A. Noll’s “Missouri, Denmark Vesey, Biblical Proslavery, and a Crisis for Sola Scriptura” engages with readings of the Bible and advocates of slavery. Indeed, at times the proslavery position claimed the high ground of reading the Bible more literally or even accurately than did those who opposed slavery. Such readings of the Bible in evangelicalism are too often ignored or skirted around.

Malcom Foley’s essay about resisting lynching, “‘The Only Way to Stop a Mob’: Francis Grimke’s Biblical Case for Lynching Resistance” seems poignant to this day, despite being part of twentieth century readings of Scripture. Catherine A. Brekus’s examination, “The American Patriot’s Bible: Evangelicals, the Bible, and American Nationalism,” shows how evangelicalism in the 21st century has so often conflated nationalism, patriotism, and theology. Her detailed analysis of what may seem an aberration also highlights how emblematic of American Evangelicalism the American Patriot’s Bible actually is.

This short sampling of just a few topics out of the 12 essays offered shows the broad array of topics available to the reader. I can’t emphasize just how refreshing this collection was. Yes, the topics are focused around a single subject: evangelical readings of the Bible; but they did so from such broad categories that each essay felt it broached new and intriguing avenues of exploration for the reader.

One drawback of collections of essays does loom here, though: there is, again, an unbalance in authors selected. I’m unsure of the racial breakdown in authorship, but the contributors are heavily weighted towards males, with at least 2/3 being men. Though each essay is excellent on its own merits, one wonders whether there couldn’t have been more attention paid to a diversity of voices.

Every Leaf, Line, and Letter gives readers a broad swathe of topics related to evangelicals’ reading of the Bible both past and present. Each essay brings a unique perspective and whole avenues of new reading and insight along with it. This volume is highly recommended.

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.

Book Review: “Worshiping with the Reformers” by Karin Maag

What did worship during the Reformation look like? Karin Maag’s Worshiping with the Reformers provides a broad look at what worship during time of the Reformers was like, what kind of singing–if any–they did, and answers a host of other questions about worship during this formative time for the Christian church.

Each chapter explores various branches of the Reformers’ churches and their practices on the topic at hand. These chapters cover: going to church, at church, preaching, prayer, baptism, communion, the visual arts and music, and worship outside church. Firsthand accounts of worship abound, along with the occasional humorous (in retrospect–certainly not at the time) reports of charges being leveled at people for improperly worshiping, not showing up, and more. Every individual chapter has some fascinating detail to take away.

What’s especially of interest to those looking to explore Reformation history is the broad areas of unity of practice along with the rather sharp distinctions between the various branches of Reformers on things like music in worship, the use of art, or how to practice sacraments–and what they ought to be called. These practices show that the Reformation, far from being a truly unified movement, was one in which Christians were exploring the meaning of worship in often unique and divergent ways. Set alongside that, however, there is unity found in the importance of Scripture, attempts to return to biblical practices, and more. Maag consistently provides a combination of firsthand accounts and third person analysis, making the book a fascinating read from cover to cover.

Worshiping with the Reformers is a fascinating glimpse into the worship practices of various branches of the Reformation during that time of societal change. Readers with interest in the Reformation, worship styles, or even European history will find this a fascinating 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.

All Links to Amazon are Affiliates links

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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!)

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: “Misreading Scripture with Individualist Eyes: Patronage, Honor, and Shame in the Biblical World” by E. Randolph Richards and Richard James

Sometimes, there are passages in Scripture that can be hard to understand. One holdup for those of us in the United States, for example, is our individualist lenses as we read the Bible. E. Randolph Richards and Richard James’s Misreading Scripture with Individualist Eyes shows readers how they might be misunderstanding the Bible–or even missing some core points–due to those lenses.

The authors split the discussion into three parts: social structures of the Biblical world; social tools: enforcing and reinforcing our values; and “Why does collectivisim really matter to me?” These sections each show different aspects of the ancient world and how those cultural norms could directly impact how certain verses and stories would have been understood. Additionally, the authors show how our modern readings could use some correction based upon understanding the cultural background of Scripture.

The social structures of the biblical world are the subject of the first chapter, and the authors make it clear fairly quickly why these social structures ought to matter to our reading of the Bible. The story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife is used to show the various ways honor, shame, and other factors played into the way the human characters acted. While it seems possible to grasp some of this without a broader understanding of Ancient Near Eastern social structures, it is also clear that such an understanding adds much to the reading of these stories.

Patronage also looms large in the Bible, and a fascinating chapter on how these relationships played out explains not just how patronage culture works today but also how we can see that very same kind of relationship throughout the Bible. For example, patronage “created new households” with the patron-client relationship, and this was behind the understanding of many of Paul’s points in his letters (106ff, see esp 109, emphasis theirs).

After reading this book, readers will come away with an understanding of honor-shame, patronage-client, and other cultural norms found in the Bible which are often obscured by our individualist lenses. Books like this, which provide insight into understanding the Bible without trying to force readers into a particular theological perspective, are extremely valuable.

Misreading Scripture with Individualist Eyes demonstrates that we can very easily misunderstand God’s word if we approach it the wrong way. It is highly recommended for both individual readers seeking to learn more about how to understand Scripture as well as for small groups.

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.

All Links to Amazon are Affiliates links

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.

“Crossroads of Twilight” by Robert Jordan- A Christian (re)reads The Wheel of Time

The Wheel of Time” is a massive fantasy series by Robert Jordan (and, later, Brandon Sanderson) that is being developed into a television show for Amazon Prime. It’s cultural impact is huge, the series having sold more than 44 million copies. Here, I continue my series exploring the books from a Christian worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS in this post for the series.

Crossroads of Twilight

I got this book a long time ago on a bargain shelf at a bookstore in hardcover. I’d only read the first two books or so but figured I liked them enough to go through the whole series. Little did I know that it would take me many years to circle back and actually read Crossroads of Twilight, as I got sidetracked by school and many other things before finally going back and reading the whole series when A Memory of Light was at last released. This time through the series, I found I enjoyed the tenth book far more than I remembered. The first couple times I read it, I thought it tedious. This time, I found I enjoyed the story of Perrin desperately trying to find Faile, the latter’s Machiavellian plots, and the many, many thoughtful asides throughout. My estimation of this book has raised significantly on a third reading. Anyway, let’s dive in to some of the worldview-level issues it raises.

Theology

Occasionally, Jordan put some discussion of theology in the books, and Crossroads of Twilight has one of the longest reflections on the core theology of the world coming from the mind of Rand, the Dragon.

“Did he think the Creator had decided to stretch out a merciful hand after three thousand years of suffering? The Creator had made the world and then left humankind to make of it what they would, a heaven or the Pit of Doom by their choosing. The Creator had made many worlds, watched each flower or die, and gone on to make endless worlds beyond. A gardener did not weep for each blossom that fell.” (558)

Rand’s theological reflection is almost self-refuting given his own circumstances. He knows that the Pattern exists, and that the Pattern itself can be broken, undone, or rewound in certain ways. So where does this almost deistic view of deity come from? I think it’s a moment of bleak hopelessness Rand experiences, and it says more about his own character than about the actual theology of the world of Wheel of Time. I could be mistaken, I admit, because even at later points in the series it does appear that nearly everything is just left up to the activities of the people or creatures of the world rather than any kind of divine intervention. But does not the existence of the Pattern itself suggest a broader plan for the world? The repetitive nature of the Pattern could suggest a clockwork world, but the Creator also seems to have set it up to heal from the attempts of the Dark One to interfere with it.

There’s certainly much to be discussed of the theology of The Wheel of Time. I think it would make a fascinating book, to be honest. Someone should write it.

Fatalism and Weaving

Perrin has a discussion with an Aes Sedai about how the Pattern weaves in Crossroads of Twilight:

“You are ta’veren, yes, but you still are only a thread in the Pattern, as am I. In the end, even the Dragon Reborn is just at thread to be woven into the Pattern. Not even a ta’veren thread chooses how it will be woven.” [Annoura–the Aes Sedai–said]
“Those threads are people,” Perrin said wearily. “Sometimes maybe people don’t want to be woven into the Pattern without any say.”
“And you think that makes a difference?” Not waiting on an answer she lifted her reins and [galloped off]. (588)

Again, though, this kind of fatalism goes against some of the evidence we have in-universe. The ta’veren themselves seem to occasionally work against fate–think Mat’s many, many discussions of the rattling dice. Though what makes this concept of fatalism especially interesting throughout the series is that it is always hard to tell exactly what the conclusion is. It is certainly possible that the Pattern encompasses efforts to thwart it into its own weaving, such that even when one appears to go against it, they cannot. It’s a fascinating thought, and one that can be applied to our own world. Many different Christian notions of providence exist, but the more comprehensive they get, the closer they become to a kind of “Pattern” in our own world. Is our every action predetermined? It’s certainly something over which much ink has been spilled, though in the end, the most important thing to realize is that Jesus is Lord.

Divided Loyalties

Striking from the beginning of the book is the way people have such divided loyalties. It honestly makes the world feel much more realistic. I was reading the section in which there are all these followers of the Dragon from all over the world, but they still have their internal allegiances, enemies, and plots. It definitely makes me think of global Christianity and how often we unfortunately find ourselves working against each other in favor of the nation state or some other cause. I think of Jesus’s words “No one can serve to masters.” He said it in relation to wealth, but it applies just as readily to any number of other things that demand our loyalty over and against God.

Conclusion

Crossroads of Twilight is full of deeper discussions even as it develops several characters much more fully than they’d gotten before. It’s certainly packed with fluff, but enough happens here to keep the plot moving while still pausing for lengthy reflections on the nature of the world the characters inhabit. I enjoyed it immensely.

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The Wheel of Time– Read all my posts on The Wheel of Time (scroll for more).

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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