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Book Reviews

This category contains 249 posts

Book Review: “Healing our Broken Humanity: Practices for Revitalizing the Church and Renewing the World” by Grace Ji-Sun Kim and Graham Hill

Healing our Broken Humanity: Practices for Revitalizing the Church and Renewing the World is a practical look at how to bring about change through a commitment to action in the community of Christ. The authors have created a practical work that lets readers immediately make applications to their lives, particularly if they are able to do so with a small group of other committed individuals.

The authors begin with a brief look at the brokenness of humanity. This brokenness shows that we have created false barriers between each other that are often put into structures that keep us apart. The authors propose 9 practices that are designed to heal broken humanity, and these are the subjects of the next nine chapters. These practices are: reimagine church; renew lament; repent together; relinquish power; restore justice; reactivate hospitality; reinforce agency; reconcile relationships; and recover life together.

The individual chapters on each of these practices do three primary things: 1) elucidate the meaning of the practice; 2) show how this practice can engage the “other” to restore humanity and relationships; and 3) demonstrate how to engage in the practice in a group setting. For example, the chapter on “repent together” goes over, briefly, why we need to repent, including choosing nationalism over others; worshiping freedom and choice, and the like. Then, it expands on the things we need to repent of. Finally, it gives an outline for how to practice repentance in small groups, including praying for God to convict us of our sin, going into the community to speak with those who are marginalized or to whom we ought to repent; practicing lament from the previous chapter; make personal commitments to repentance; and more.

If there is a downside to the book, it is that it almost demands being done in a small group setting. As an individual reading it, I came away with a desire to do so again with a group. This is, of course, one of the goals, but it means that its applicability is largely geared towards group settings.

Churches that truly wish to commit to making real, lasting change in their communities and healing through reconciliation ought to consider Healing our Broken Humanity necessary reading. I recommend it, particularly for use in a group setting.

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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Book Review: “Reading Mark’s Christology Under Caesar” by Adam Winn

Reading Mark’s Christology Under Caesar by Adam Winn makes the convincing argument that Mark’s Christology is largely a counter to the cult that grew up around Emperor worship in Rome. Accompanying this argument is a fantastic array of contextual evidence both from the text and from references to other ancient works about Rome and her emperors.

After an informative introduction, Winn begins his argument with a look at the cultural context of Mark and an extended analysis of the cultic practices and beliefs centered around Caesar. Emperor Vespasian was pushing his victory over Jerusalem and destruction of the temple in theological motifs, and these were seen as a major challenge, particularly to Roman Christians, to the Messiahship of Jesus Christ. Winn then argues that Mark, therefore, with his use of Christological titles, prophecies of Christ, and discussions of the Temple acts as a direct counter to Vespasian’s claims.

For Mark, Jesus is both powerful and suffering, and this shows Christians that not only is he triumphant and victorious, but also one who is willing to humble himself and lay down his life for his Kingdom. This is a direct contrast and attack on the Vespasian propaganda that made the Emperor into the ideal citizen and conqueror. By being willing to suffer and die, Jesus demonstrates his superiority over Caesar as leader and shepherd of his people.

I am personally no expert in the subject material, so it is difficult for me to judge exactly how on target Winn may be in the book. So far as I can tell, his argument is quite compelling. The appendix included at the end was welcome, noting that those who argue that Mark has a high Christology are not thwarted by the argument in the book. The thesis that Mark is writing against the Caesar cult is an independent question from how high his Christology truly is. I found Winn’s analysis fascinating and convincing, though I’d be interested in seeing what those who are less amenable to his thesis may have to say. It’s the kind of work that is sure to spur further discussion and research.

Reading Mark’s Christology Under Caesar was a book that surprised me. I had seen some making comparisons between Caesar and Christ before, but never had I seen it integrated so fully into the reading of a book of the Bible. It is a fascinating book and I 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.

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: “Early Christian Readings of Genesis One” by Craig D. Allert

The Christian church has an interesting relationship with the earliest Christians. In the United States, at least, there is a kind of distrust at times of these early Christians, who seemingly got so much wrong. But alongside that there is an attempt to appeal to them, when convenient, to make theological points, claiming that one’s own belief stretches back to the earliest Christian era. Craig D. Allert, in Early Christian Readings of Genesis One: Patristic Exegesis and Literal Interpretation, shares insights into what these early Christians believed and taught about Genesis chapter 1 and literal readings of the same.

Allert begins the book by providing some context. First, he argues for why Christians today should care about what the early Christian writers (Church Fathers) thought about anything. Second, he argues that Christians have tended to distort or appropriate the Fathers into their own view, often without warrant. He explores this through several “real world” examples, including demonstrating that Ken Ham (a young earth creationist and founder of “Answers in Genesis”) and Hugh Ross (an old earth creationist and founder of “Reasons to Believe”) are mistaken in their reading of the Fathers in aligning with their positions. Then, he goes into the meaning of “literal” in the early church and shows how the term cannot easily be unilaterally applied even to individuals.

Next, Allert surveys a few specific Fathers and topics to show how they read Genesis one. Basil of Caesarea (329-379) is one who is often taken to be a literalist, but Allert demonstrates that Basil’s reading of Genesis one, despite his argument about needing to read it as the “common reading” cannot be taken to insist upon a “literal” or young-earth reading of the text. Origen and Augustine are also prominent Fathers in the text, as the former is taken to be a prime example of an analogous or spiritualizing of the text (not always the case) and the latter is taken as an ally for both sides. There is an extended discussion on the “days” of Genesis one, which the fathers read quite differently than most anyone does today.

Early Christian Readings of Genesis One is an excellent look at the way Christians read Genesis one in the earliest periods. It helps dispel a number of incorrect views of the same, and lets readers read large portions of these early writings for themselves. It is a valuable resource.

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.

Book Review: “Faith in the Shadows” by Austin Fischer

Austin Fischer’s Faith in the Shadows is a competent introductory apologetics book in a cluttered field. As is always the case when I read any introductory level apologetics work, the question is “What makes this one different?” What is it about this work that sets it apart from others? Fischer’s book deals with the topic of doubt in greater depth than most apologetics works, creating a space for believers to deal honestly with the problem(s) of evil.

The greatest strength here is that Fischer doesn’t sidestep the problem(s) of evil, introducing multiple examples and how Christians doubt. He also looks at some examples of how Christians have dealt with evil in their own lives. Particularly poignant in this regard was Fischer’s comparison of Everett Koop and Nicholas Wolterstorff’s books on dealing with the losses of their sons. Kroop insists that God took his son, sovereignly bringing him to the Kingdom; Wolterstorff reacts strongly against this and argues that God overcomes death and God is appalled at death as the wages of sin (53-54). Fischer uses these differing perspectives as a springboard for looking at what the Bible and various theologians have said about the problem of evil and loss. These sections are sometimes heart-rending and often engaging.

Other chapters deal with science and the challenges some believe it presents to the faith, Hell, and more. Throughout, both Scripture and theologians are engaged, from Hodge to Lewis and beyond. It’s a kind of introduction to some deeper explorations, allowing readers to begin their own apologetics journeys.

Faith in the Shadows is a basic look at the problem of evil and dealing with doubts in the lives of Christians. Coming in at a pithy 164 pages of text, it is an ideal book to hand to someone interested in exploring some of the basics of apologetics.

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.

Book Review: “New Testament Christological Hymns” by Matthew E. Gordley

Christianity has a history of confessions and liturgy that goes back all the way to the New Testament. In New Testament Christological Hymns, Matthew E. Gordley, the hymnody of the New Testament is brought into the limelight.

New Testament hymnody? Are there actually hymns in the New Testament, and, if so, how might we identify them? Gordley begins with a chapter answering exactly these questions, dealing with some of the best scholarship and critical questions about the texts themselves. Having established the existence of New Testament hymns included within the text, Gordley turns to showing how these hymns might have been used in NT worship and how the hymns reflect some of the cultural struggles and theological issues the early church was dealing with.

The next several chapters deal with individual hymns included in the New Testament text. In each case, Gordlye provides a substantive analysis of the hymn, analyzes it theologically, discusses any textual critical issues that exist with the text, and draws out its implications for Christians to this day. These analyses are invaluable for anyone who is interested in the theology of the New Testament, Christology, or the beliefs of the early Christian church.

Gordley’s tone and method throughout are highly scholarly, as he engages the forefront of NT scholarship. Footnotes throughout the text direct readers both to sources and further reading, making the book valuable as a research tool as well.

The things I found most valuable in the text were Gordley’s look at the cultural context of the New Testament hymns, showing how they often paralleled and subverted things like Latin hymns for emperors or gods, and the deep concern for discerning the Christological implications of these hymns in the New Testament and their usage in the early church.

New Testament Christological Hymns is a fascinating, scholarly look at the Christology of the New Testament church. Anyone interested in seeing what the earliest Christians believed and how they worshiped should pick this book up and read it carefully.

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.

Book Review: “Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom From Slaveholder Religion” by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion is about as no-holds barred as the title seems to suggest. The book starts with a broadside from Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II: “So-called white evangelicals, who say so much about what God says so little–and so little about what God says so much–have dominated public discourse about religion in America for my entire adult life. They have insisted that faith is not political, except when it comes to prayer in school, abortion, homosexuality, and property rights… What these so-called evangelicals have done is nothing short of theological malpractice” (1). From there, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove issues a call to recognition and repentance that deserves a hearing.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part goes over the history of Christianity in America with an emphasis on both slaveholders and religion and modern anecdotes about religion in some parts of America. The second part focuses on redirecting some aspects of faith back towards true Christian perspective on justice and Gospel.

Wilson-Hartgrove’s account is at least partially autobiographical as he traces his own experiences with observing racism and living in areas steeped with a history of slaveholding religion. He also discusses how we might go about changing the narrative going forward, working to restore Christ to the church.

Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion is a difficult read. It issues a strong call to realize the alliance with racist perspectives that the church in the United States historically has participated in. Though it may not be as robust in possible solutions as some other works, it does a good job issuing a call to action for Christians everywhere.

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.

 

 

“The Count of Monte Cristo” – Faith, Vengeance, and Destiny

I have decided to mix in some classics with my constant reading of sci-fi/fantasy, philosophy, theology, and biographies. In order to pick which classics to read, I have largely crowdsourced recommendations of which classic literature they have enjoyed, combining this with lists of major classic works. So yeah, pretty subjective, but we can deal. As I read through the classics, there will be SPOILERS, because I want to actually talk about them. Maybe it will encourage you to read them, or, if you have read them already, you can join in a deeper discussion of these great works. Feel free to recommend your favorites, as well.

The Count of Monte Cristo

Several friends had recently talked about finishing this book and how much they enjoyed it. I also recalled seeing the recent-ish movie several years ago (though, having finished the book, I threw it on hold at the library, so I’ll be watching it again!). Also, there’s a delicious sandwich that I at least assume got its name from this book, which makes it even better. But other than these fleeting glimpses, I knew pretty much nothing about Alexandre Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo going in. The memory of the movie had faded, and I just recalled there was some guy who wanted revenge. Yeah, there’s a lot more to the novel than that.

The Count of Monte Cristo is, on the surface level, a novel of vindication and revenge. It’s an adventure that spans more than a thousand pages. Yet it remains a page-turner that demands to be devoured in sitting after sitting. But on the deeper level, it is a fantastically Christian look at the world and God’s action therein.

The set up for the plot involves the man who would be the count getting set up by several who wish him ill for various reasons. But throughout even that section, “Providence” is constantly in view. Providence is historically one way people talked about divine activity in the world, so the reader is led to see Dumas’s viewpoint as having a divine hand in many acts. And, indeed, as our lead character begins his quest for vindication and vengeance, bringing blessings and curses upon those who helped or hindered him, we as readers cannot help but associate his actions with those of God. We want the Count to succeed in his quest for revenge; it is so well planned, and he has become a man of almost limitless poise and focus. It is not until the count has one part of his vengeance go “too far” that he starts to have second thoughts.

These second thoughts translate into an awareness that our Count’s activity is not just the hand of God acting. Though we as readers have been rooting for him throughout, it becomes clearer that the assumptions we’ve made about how the story is going are wrong. It’s as though Dumas played into our expectations, allowing us to think that, perhaps, here is the kind of “divine vending machine” that we so often wish to turn God into. Here, in at least this story, God is working in the way that we want, dispensing a kind of hard justice on wrongdoing and giving great benefit to those who deserve it. But our Count realizes that this is not, in fact, what is happening. His own actions have been, well, his own. Has he been aided by God? Yes, in the sense that his endeavors could not have all succeeded without some acts of Providence. But he has presumed too much. Like Job in the Bible, he has questioned God; nay, he has gone farther and turned himself into the hand of God, dishing out vengeance and blessing as he wished. And his actions have led to a great wrong with the death of innocents.

So Dumas asks us to take ourselves back out of the shoes of the Count, to stop assuming that we know what is supposed to happen. Instead, he has lured us into this complacency, thinking we know how things ought to be, when instead we should be approaching the acts of God with fear and trembling, carefully avoiding the notion that we can make God act in the ways we desire. Hidden in plain sight within this apparent adventure novel, we have a serious theological commentary that forces us to re-examine who God is and how God acts. How often we make God into what we want, thinking we can control God! Yet here we see how foolish that is, and how we must once again evaluate the assumptions we have made.

So apart from this deep theological discussion, is there a good book? Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes. The novel is so well written. I found it un-put-down-able. It’s a true page turner even at its doorstop-like heft. The story is full of beautiful description and overflowing with heart and depth.

There is far more that I could say about The Count of Monte Cristo. It’s such a phenomenal achievement. It definitely stands among my favorite works of all time, and I cannot recommend it highly enough to you, dear readers.

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: “Evangelical Theological Method: Five Views” edited by Stanley E. Porter and Steven M. Studebaker

I love multiview books. I find them generally enlightening, filling in details about views I don’t hold (and sometimes didn’t even know existed) while also showing how my own view (or one like it) stacks up against others. Evangelical Theological Method: Five Views presents a multiview book on doing theology as an evangelical.* I found it to be highly informative, though I was somewhat perplexed by some aspects of the book.

The views presented here as different theological methods for evangelicals are “Bible Doctrines/Conservative Theology” presented by Sung Wook Chung, “Missional Theology” presented by John R. Franke, “Interdisciplinary Theology” presented by Telford C. Work, “Contextual Theology” presented by Victor Ifeanyi Ezigbo, and “Trinitarian Dogmatic Theology” presented by Paul Louis Metzger.

The Bible Doctrines view is essentially grounded in the notion that we use the Bible as a source to draw information from and then outline what the Bible teaches. The Bible is the data, theology is presenting and systematizing that data. Chung appeals to the historical grammatical view in support of this, arguing that while history and textual criticism may provide some correctives, the core is to ask “what does the Bible teach” and end the discussion there. The missional view does theology with a focus on the church lived/living its mission to make disciples of all nations. Thus, it is an inherently practical theology, looking to apply what the Bible teaches to the mission of Christ’s church. Interdisciplinary theology is an approach that utilizes any field of study, making theology the “queen of the sciences” while integrating insight from biology, psychology, literary studies, and more. Interestingly, Work does a case study based on homosexuality and Christianity, arguing that the question is not “Is homosexuality wrong” but rather what kind of people we ought to try to be to conform to the image of Christ. Contextual theology seeks to make the Gospel of Christ understandable and appealing to all people not by applying a one-size-fits all doctrinal mold or practice but rather by utilizing insights from cultures that exist to show the truth of Christ. The Trinitarian Dogmatic Theology chapter was the most difficult in the book, utilizing themes from Barth (along with Dietrich Bonhoeffer an Colin Gunton) to draw out a dogmatic theology for Christianity.

There is some clear overlap between a few of these views, particularly the missional/contextual view and the “Bible Doctrines”/Trinitarian views. The responses at the end of the book didn’t allow individual authors to respond back to the responses, something I did miss. It would have been nice to see, for example, I’d be curious to see how Ezigbo might respond to Chung on the challenge he offered to contextual theology and the possibility of syncretism or the authority of Scripture.

Ezigbo’s essay struck me as particularly insightful, and his responses were perhaps the best in the book. His challenge to Metzger, for example, is on point: “Clearly Metzger exhibits the characteristics of theologians whose theological reflections focus primarily on peer-driven questions… One could only wonder what Metzger’s study of Barth would like like if his aim were to discern Barth’s relevance to the contemporary christological questions that Christians with no formal theological education are asking today” (181-182). Ezigbo notes that he isn’t saying that peer-driven questions are irrelevant, “but if theologians expect their theological reflections to benefit all Christians… they should seek to develop skills and the patience required to exegete the… contexts that shape the life of Christians and their communities” (182). I found this a clear challenge for myself as well, as one who is very interested in the life and work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. How do we ensure as people doing and discussing theology that our discussions actually have relevance? Of course, one could argue more abstractly that if Barth’s dogmatics are true, then in the broadest sense they are relevant for all people, no matter how obscure, in that truth impacts reality. But that seems cold comfort when the challenge is much more personal: why should Barth’s insights matter to me? It’s food for thought, I think.

One thing that was only addressed in passing by a few of the authors was the strangeness of seeing theological method as an either/or. As a good Lutheran, I love me some ‘both-and.’ It seems to me, as a reader, that these methods could each benefit from one another, and that trying to practice one exclusively would be detrimental. Dogmatics need context. Interdisciplinary studies need some mission. The Bible Doctrines approach could probably stand to acknowledge some of the inherent concerns there (eg. a tendency to assume that one’s own presuppositions of the text or “plain sense” reading is, in fact, correct, despite possible evidence to the contrary).

I found Evangelical Theological Method: Five Views to be a very interesting book, and one which raises many avenues for further research. Those interested in systematic theology, especially, ought to pick it up to read through it. The authors provide some challenges for each of the approaches in the book, and it is important that we do not become too simplistic in our working out of theology.

*I am a Lutheran (specifically of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) and although my denomination has “evangelical” in the name, Lutherans are generally different from what is considered broadly evangelical views, particularly in regard to the sacraments. Though, to be fair, Lutherans were the first to identify “evangelical” as a term to call themselves. I give this caveat to show my own outlook on the 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.

Book Review: “The Battle for Bonhoeffer” by Stephen R. Haynes

The Battle for Bonhoeffer by Stephen R. Haynes highlights the ways that people across theological, social, and political spectrums have played tug-of-war with Bonhoeffer’s thought, words, and legacy. As Charles Marsh puts it in his Foreword, “It is understandable… that readers with different theological and ideological perspectives would desire to claim Bonhoeffer as their own. ‘Excerpting Bonhoeffer’ has become a familiar exercise in each team’s effort to win…” (ix). Yet Bonhoeffer’s legacy is far more complex than a simple Google quote mine would allow. In my own reading of Bonhoeffer’s works, it is clear that it would be simple to find conflicting messages even within the same sermons at times. Like Martin Luther, for example, reading Bonhoeffer and interpreting him is like peeling away the layers of an onion, trying to get to the core. It takes care, precision, and thought. Unfortunately, as Haynes notes throughout this book, few people are concerned with doing so.

Though the subtitle is “Debating Discipleship in the Age of Trump,” there is far more to the book than dealing with the recent Trump phenomenon. Haynes notes how people on both the right and left have distorted or ignored aspects of Bonhoeffer’s legacy to turn in him into a supporter of their own positions. Marsh sets the table well, asking: “Have you heard progressive Christians cite the passage in Ethics calling abortion ‘nothing but murder’? Or recall Bonhoeffer’s preference for monarchy over democracy?” (xii). Haynes notes how Bonhoeffer was cited on one hand by Vietnam draft resisters, peace activists, liberation theologians, death-of-God thinkers on the left, and on the right by people who oppose abortion or same-sex marriage (and, regarding the latter, Haynes notes insights from both Charles Marsh’s Strange Glory and Diane Reynolds The Doubled Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer [which I reviewed here] for reasons this may be quite inaccurate]). The baffling array of topics Bonhoeffer is alleged to have endorsed or condemned suggests that the quote mining being done through his legacy belies an inner complexity that is far deeper.

Haynes surveys the history of interpretation of Bonhoeffer, particularly in America, through the next several chapters. He places a special emphasis on seeing how evangelicals have viewed Dietrich Bonhoeffer. What is interesting in this latter topic is that, initially at least, Bonhoeffer was viewed positively but with some “warning flags” by American evangelicals who interacted with his works. Several appreciated his resistance to Nazi ideals, but were put off by his apparent lack of concern for things like “a high view of Scripture/inerrancy” and his being influenced by liberal German theologians. This portrait by the early evangelicals of Bonhoeffer is far more accurate than the one that has been passed into our own time, in part because it allowed for a multifaceted Bonhoeffer who was complex enough to resist being easily integrated into any one position.

Fairly early on, however, the complexities of Bonhoeffer’s thought and life began to be ignored in favor of seeing him as a figurehead for resistance to one’s own preferred ideas. Haynes demonstrates how Bonhoeffer was used to resist George W. Bush and the “war on terror,” and then ironically turned around to resist the “culture of death” under Barack Obama. The raising of the “Bonhoeffer flag” behind such opposed viewpoints should have served as a warning sign, but it unfortunately did not.

Enter Eric Metaxas. Metaxas’s biography, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy was an extreme departure from Bonhoeffer scholarship generally. For one thing, Metaxas himself admitted to virtually ignoring or explicitly shunning the conclusions of 70 years of Bonhoeffer scholarship both at home and abroad. The cover flap for the book features a spurious quote from Bonhoeffer “Silence in the face of evil is evil itself…” that has since been passed all over the world and even “quoted” multiple times in Congress on record. To say that using an invented quote from Bonhoeffer on the cover of a biography of the man is a bad sign is an understatement. Haynes notes many, many problems with the biography, from a lack of engagement with Bonhoeffer’s actual works (and ignoring, for example, his Letters and Papers from Prison, which is one of the most important works for understanding his developed thought) to a recasting of Bonhoeffer into an American Evangelical. Yet it is Metaxas’s biography that has become the torch-bearer for the populist Bonhoeffer, making an image of the man that is incredibly distorted. For my own part, when I read Metaxas’s work, I was struck by how entirely de-Lutheranized Metaxas had made Bonhoeffer. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a man who explicitly stated that, for example, without the Lord’s Supper there is no Christianity and who certainly supported infant baptism and regeneration, but Metaxas excised such details from his own dim look at Bonhoeffer’s theology, preferring to pull out those things which were more amenable to the typical American evangelical.

It was the populist view of Bonhoeffer which lead to notions of a “Bonhoeffer Moment” at various times before, during, and after the 2016 election cycle. Haynes spends some time noting how it was frequently said during the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court case that American Christians were facing a “Bonhoeffer Moment” in which they would need to resist the government’s tyranny. Haynes notes how many evangelicals made comparisons to previous Supreme Court rulings, conveniently ignoring those unjust rulings they supported or the just ones they opposed. More decisively, Haynes notes that after Obergefell, evangelicals rallied around a woman who was part of an anti-Trinitarian sect to be their martyr for the cause. In the time since, though, very little has been done by evangelicals in their supposed “Bonhoeffer Moment.” This kind of co-option of the man’s legacy is a disservice to all involved.

Haynes doesn’t limit his analysis of the “battle for Bonhoeffer” to just the positives of Bonhoeffer’s life. Metaxas and others have argued Bonhoeffer is a “Righteous Gentile” (Metaxas even made “righteous gentile” part of his additional subtitle to his biography). But Bonhoeffer has explicitly been turned down for that technical categorization for a few reasons: 1) he wrote or supported some things that were seemingly anti-Semitic; and 2) though he did become a martyr, it wasn’t specifically due to his efforts to help the Jews during the Holocaust, which is a criterion for being deemed a “Righteous Gentile.” Bonhoeffer certainly opposed the Nazi treatment of the Jews and did help some Jews escape Germany (though at arm’s length for the most part–simply helping get proper papers from afar); but that was not his project or his main reason for opposing Nazi Germany. And that’s okay. It is important not to lionize Bonhoeffer for things he didn’t actually do, and Haynes is careful to help readers realize that.

The Battle for Bonhoeffer isn’t very long, but its length shouldn’t be taken for a lack of depth. It’s a thoughtful, critical, and sometimes convicting read. As one who is deeply indebted to Dietrich Bonhoeffer in my own theology and thought, I found ways in which I had been distorting him in this book as well. Haynes’ book provides an invaluable correction to distortions on the man’s life, times, and thought. I very 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.

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: “Since the Beginning: Interpreting Genesis 1 and 2 through the Ages” edited by Kyle R. Greenwood

Since the Beginning: Interpreting Genesis 1 and 2 through the Ages is an invaluable resource to understanding the book of Genesis and creation. The book’s scope is impressive, encompassing not only Christian interpretations but also early Rabbinic interpretations, Second Temple Judaism, and the rediscovery of the Ancient Near East with its implications for understanding Genesis. The book is a wealth of information for anyone interested in learning about Genesis.

Each chapter in the book is full of valuable insights. Greenwood himself starts it off by tracing the impact of these creation accounts across the Old Testament. Michael Matlock’s chapter on Second Temple Jewish literature and Genesis 1 and 2 is fascinating, both for its providing a brief introduction to that body of literature and for insights into how later traditions would shape one’s reading of the text. Some Jewish interpreters (eg. Josephus) seemed comfortable expanding on the story themselves, adding whatever details they believed might add interest or even theological emphasis to the text. Of course that doesn’t undermine much careful attention to details of the texts that modern interpreters sometimes miss. Ira Brent Driggers’ chapter uses the intriguing word “appropriations” to describe the New Testament’s use of the Genesis account. Among other things of interest, this chapter leads readers to wonder exactly how NT authors used the Old Testament and what that may mean for our own interpretations. Early Rabbinic interpretation is the subject of Joel S. Allen’s chapter, in which he shows some of the ways post-destruction of the temple Judaism saw figures like Adam and Eve.

Stephen O. Presley’s chapter on the Ante-Nicene Fathers touches on a number of major early Christian thinkers and shows how the interpretation of Genesis continued to develop in sometimes divergent ways. C. Rebecca Rine’s entry on the Nicene and Post-Nicene interpretations shows how Scripture was seen as a pathway to transformation (121) and so a focus on application of the text led to some unique readings (such as creating a baseline for spiritual writings based on the 6-day pattern). Questions raised by these Nicene/Post-Nicene thinkers included wondering why days were in the narrative at all–something that some modern interpreters would be baffled by for all their own emphasis on the importance of the days. Medieval Jewish theology is the center of Jason Kalman’s chapter, which demonstrates the sometimes radical divergence Christian vs. Jewish readings of the same verses could have. Some of these readings included seeing that Genesis didn’t actually entail an order of creation whatsoever (157). Timothy Bellamah’s chapter provides the Christian Medieval contrast to the previous chapter, showing how much fruitful theology continued in this period, often dismissed. Aquinas, of course, is the giant of this era, and he gets some due attention here. The Protestant Reformers were interested in Genesis 1 and 2 in part for their own polemical purposes and in part as their project to go back to the source continued. Jennifer Powell McNutt draws from this rich Christian tradition to highlight various points of emphases by the Reformers.

Another important aspect of the book is the chapter on the Ancient Near East by David T. Tsumura. Because much of this knowledge was lost for a lengthy period of time, many interpretations of Genesis through the ages did not take into account the actual cultural milieu from which it sprang. The Protestant Reformers, for example, had no access to these materials, so their call to go ad fontes–to the source–could not actually complete the task. The interpretation of Genesis ought not to be considered a settled matter from the Reformation to today, and even allegedly literal readings of Genesis owe as much to modern discoveries as to the texts themselves. Aaron T. Smith’s chapter on Post-Darwinian interpretations shows both how yes, in some ways evolution impacted readings of Genesis, but in others it caused a true pursuit of going back to the beginning. Cosmology is central to debates over how Genesis is to be read.

If it hasn’t already become clear, it should be stated plainly that this book is an absolute treasure trove of information, with many, many strands of further research to be pursued upon its completion. Each chapter is worthy of inclusion, and each is well-written and as intriguing as the next. That in itself is an achievement because the book is consistently engrossing.

I very highly recommend Since the Beginning to you, readers. It’s a book that will have you thinking about your own reading of the text, and may even give you insight into where that reading may have its origins.

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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