Book Reviews

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Book Review: “All Things New: Revelation as Canonical Capstone” by Brian J. Tabb

Revelation inspires extremes of opinions. Today, people heatedly argue over its meaning, what is to be taken literally, when its events will/have/should happen. It was challenged on its canonicity in the Reformation and before. What can be done to bring some light to this mysterious, complex book? Brian J. Tabb attempts, in All Things New, to provide a way forward in reading Revelation not as an obscure, impenetrable text, nor as a newspaper to tell us about the end times, but rather as a capstone of Scripture that highlights theological themes throughout the whole Bible.

Tabb notes in the introduction the disputed nature of Revelation. Rather than trying to refute all the positions with which he disagrees, he instead seeks from the beginning to build a reading of Revelation that makes sense of its place in Scripture.

First, Tabb turns to how Revelation reveals the Triune God, highlighting the use of language throughout the Bible to demonstrate how the book reveals God’s Triuine nature. This first part is a fascinating section as Tabb draws on broad swathes of Scripture to show that the author of Revelation drew from all over the Bible to demonstrate the Trinity as well as the work of the divine Persons. Next, Tabb turns to themes in Revelation of suffering for God, witnessing, and worship. The third part focuses on judgment, salvation, and restoration. Here again Tabb’s argument is holistic, seeking to show how the author of Revelation drew from Biblical imagery to make their argument about these themes. It is important to note the way that the author of Revelation uses this language, which seems to work against the notion that they took everything literally themselves, picking and choosing from throughout the canon to make their points. Finally, part four shows Revelation’s view of the word of God as trustworthy, prophetic, and true.

Tabb’s work here is admirable in that he has written a book that could benefit readers of many different views related to the book of Revelation and its meaning. All Things New is a helpful book in clarifying the meaning and purpose of one of the most debated and confusing books in the canon.

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!

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SDG.

——

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

Book Review: “The Lost World of the Torah” by John H. Walton and J. Harvey Walton

The series John H. Walton (with others along the way) has written on “The Lost World of…” serves to shine light from studies on the Ancient Near East (ANE) onto questions of interpretation of Scripture. In The Lost World of the Torah: Law as Covenant and Wisdom in Ancient Context, John H. Walton and J. Harvey Walton tackle questions about the meaning of the Torah and Old Testament Law for us today. Specifically, they examine what the Torah would have meant in its Ancient Near Eastern context to those who wrote it down and passed it along to us.

First, the authors outline their methodology. Specifically, they note that the Old Testament is an ancient document, and so we ought to be aware of its ancient context and the background beliefs of those who read it in its own time and how that could impact its meaning for us as well. It is also the case that our own cultural background influences the way that we think law and legislation work. Specifically, we tend to think of law and legislation as rigid and unbreakable, but even into today some societies see law less as legal code than as a way to show the regulation of society through social norms and customs (19).

The Torah, then, is best understood as expressions of wisdom rather than legislation, which itself means that instead of seeing the Torah as a sense of “you ought,” it is better understood as “you will know” or something similar (45). The Torah is a “collection of examples that combine to form a description of the desired established order” (ibid). Trying to make the Torah acontextual is a potentially dangerous path that undermines its meaning (100).

Understanding the Torah in its ancient context frees Christian interpreters from the constant battle of trying to sort which parts of Torah are required legislation and which are not. “It is neither a question… about the unchanging law of an unchanging God nor a presumption that morality is relative” (100). Thus, “when people try to sort out which parts of the Old Testament ‘law’ are still relevant and which parts are not, they are really trying to determine which sayings are culturally relative and which are not” (ibid). It is actually this very approach that yields a relativistic response to Scripture, because as interpreters attempt to lock down the Torah into inflexible, unchanging legislation for all time, they are forcing their own view of morality onto God’s Word. “[I]f we have to be selective about which passages we mine for moral guidance and which we reject, it is not Scripture that is guiding us but our own preconceived notions of what is right and wrong. As a corollary, then, whatever is producing our sense of right and wrong, which we are using to filter and evaluate Scripture, is not Scripture” (171).

Christian interpreters who insist on divisions like ceremonial, civil, and moral for the Torah are once again imposing a foreign context onto the Scripture itself. Effectively, they have made their own view of which laws fall into which categories the determining factor for what ought to determine morality for all people for all time. There are no labels in the text that demonstrate which of the alleged legislation falls into which preconceived category, so the categories themselves are sorted by the interpreter based on their own biases and understanding of what it ought to be saying. This is extremely clear when specific issue are raised. For example, why take laws about eating of shellfish as “ceremonial” but not laws about what people wear? Essentially, it is the interpreter who then turns and says one is ceremonial and the other is moral. Understanding the Torah as being concerned with God’s covenant with the people also helps illuminate the meaning of certain difficult passages. It is often suggested, for example, that the legislation regarding cross-dressing is moral because it refers back to homosexuality which it is then argued is a moral law and specifically sinful. But the Waltons note that the ANE context of the text includes the disruption of order found in ceremonies of Ishtar (186). Though this may not have been the exact reason these prohibitions existed in the Torah, the Waltons note that “the practice of cross-dressing in the ancient world operated under different premises than it does in modern society. Most importantly, it is not demonstrably associated with homosexuality. Blurring of boundaries violates order, but that sense of order is inherent in the ideology of the society” (187). So again, it is important not to proof text from the Torah and remove it from its original context because that may result in misapplying Scripture.

The Waltons address the question of objective morality in an inset (206-207). They note that objective morality probably does exist as do moral obligations and that they very well may be grounded in God, but our own moral systems are very much products of our cultural contexts and understandings. It is very easy to assume one’s own morality or beliefs about moral codes are objective and binding for all people

The Walton’s arguments are sure to be controversial, but have weighty evidence behind them. Moreover, their arguments, as noted above, help to solve some of the greatest difficulties for Christians in questions of dealing with Torah from a Christian perspective. Rather than dismissing the Torah or picking and choosing which parts to obey based on a superimposed interpretive grid, the Waltons here present a compelling argument for seeing the Torah in its context as it was: evidence of the covenant between God and humanity.

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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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: “Old Testament Ethics: A Guided Tour” by John Goldingay

There are many questions that arise for Christians as we read the Old Testament. There are almost as many different answers to each question as there are questions. John Goldingay, in Old Testament Ethics: A Guided Tour attempts to answer some of these questions by giving Christians concrete ways forward in addressing the Old Testament and ethics.

After a brief introduction outlining the meaning of ethics and how one might look at the Old Testament for guidance, Goldingay dives directly into questions of what guidance the Old Testament might offer for Christians regarding ethics. Specifically, he divides the questions into qualities, aspects of life, and relationships. Then, he looks at some specific texts and people in the Old Testament and how one might derive ethical guidance from them.

There are many broad topics in a book like this, which addresses ethical questions from how we ought to act in Godlikeness to how animals ought to be treated. Mostly, he follows a format that draws from numerous OT texts in order to try to show a specific direction for ethical inquiry and answers. Among the most difficult questions Goldingay approaches are those to do with sexuality–who are people allowed to have sex with–and questions about wealth and family. He tends to fall in the moderately conservative realm in the answer to all of these questions.

Goldingay’s approach to ethical questions in the Old Testament leaves many questions untouched. That is a necessity, of course, because only a massive tome could truly address many of the topics related to ethics in the Old Testament in any meaningful way. Nevertheless, readers may wonder about how Goldingay specifically derives his ethical standards. He does, of course, bring texts to the forefront in order to argue for each point, but he does little to address some of the more difficult passages in the Old Testament. Additionally, others have argued that an approach to the Old Testament that treats its laws like a kind of codified rule of ethics is indeed mistaken (eg. John Walton). These are highly relevant questions–especially when an answer to them may undermine the very basis for Goldingay’s project to begin with. Goldingay, I believe, has gone into these questions elsewhere in more detail, but for this book it mostly just serves as a straight up guide to how Goldingay believes the Old Testament ought to be viewed ethically.

Old Testament Ethics: A Guided Tour is an intriguing book that, like many works on the topic, will generate much discussion for those engaged in the topic. Those looking to try to determine some ethical outlook from the Old Testament will be rewarded, but some questions about the method and theory itself remain unanswered.

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: “Disability and the Way of Jesus” by Bethany McKinney Fox

The question of what it means to be “healed” is one of those that seems simple on first glance, but upon closer examination becomes extremely complex quite swiftly. Bethany McKinney Fox’s Disability and the Way of Jesus: Holistic Healing in the Gospels and the Church is an exploration of many of these complex questions. Fox brings light to these questions by surveying many perspectives in sometimes surprising and challenging ways.

Fox challenges assumptions from the get-go, pushing readers to look beyond their assumptions about what it means to experience healing or even to desire it. Too often, people assume that someone with a disability wants to be “healed” so that they can be “normal”–but this itself smuggles in a number of perceptions and assumptions about what the person who has a disability is feeling or thinking. Fox even notes the ways our language can change these perceptions.

The bulk of the book, though, deals with biblical texts related to healing and brings a number of perspectives to bear on these texts. After a look at the context in the First Century of Jesus as healer, Fox brings the perspectives of physicians, people with disabilities, and pastors to bear on various healing texts in the Bible. These often bring very different ideas to the text and come away with surprising readings. For example, do the texts suggest healing is something everyone ought to seek? Do they demand Christians pray for healing? What does it mean to be healed? These questions get very different answers depending upon who is reflecting upon them.

Finally,the book turns to what it means to be healed in the Bible, as well as practices of the church that can help assist healing. Here, there is a stirring call to the church to break the structures that bind those with disabilities in addition to trying to bring healing and holistic care to all people.

Disability and the Way of Jesus is a fascinating read that will force readers to rethink assumptions and examine Scripture texts anew while also looking for new applications to their personal lives. 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: “Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theologians for a Post-Christian World” by Wolf Krötke

Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theologians for a Post-Christian World by Wolf Krötke is a formidable interpretation of both Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Specifically, this collection focuses on how each of these theologians sought to relate to what they viewed as a post-Christian world.

Karl Barth is the subject of the first half of the book, and Krötke offers a range of topics engaging with Barth’s theology at multiple points. Krötke begins with an essay that highlights the challenges of engaging with Karl Barth to begin with. Then, he moves into Barth’s attack on “religion” itself as unbelief. Of course, what is meant by “religion” is key in this and many other essays, and the exact meaning of the term is notoriously difficult to pin down. Thus, much of the discussion here and elsewhere is spent drawing out what is being critiqued as “religion” vs. how Christianity can offer a better way forward.

Election, for Barth, is the “sum of the gospel,” and Krötke spends one essay discussing what is meant by Barth’s doctrine of election. In this doctrine, Barth sees that many major theological problems can be reconciled through Christ’s “Yes” to humanity (86).

Krötke’s interactions with Bonhoeffer are insightful and sometimes surprising, even to the point of being stunning (a word this reviewer used when taking notes on a few of the pages). In particular, the final essay on Bonhoeffer about Bonhoeffer’s “Nonreligious Interpretation of Biblical Concepts” alongside the “Missionary Challenge of the Church” was fascinating. Therein, Krötke notes that Bonhoeffer was extremely against any concept of God as a God available to us at our whim. God is not the kind of being who is available at the push of a button. Additionally, Krötke interprets Bonhoeffer’s religionless Christianity as putting forth the idea that God in Christ chooses to become powerless for us, such that in Christ, God leads us to the suffering of the cross (242-244). Rather than a God who could right all wrongs and does not, or one who cannot do so, the God of religionless Christianity, as Krötke reads it, is God in Christ who enters the world and, in doing so, intentionally gives up power in order to lead humanity to God. It’s a fascinating look at Bonhoeffer’s work, and a somewhat alarming interpretation in some ways, but also one that takes the notion of deity and makes it squarely within Christian theology.

Other essays on Bonhoeffer are equally fascinating, whether its when Krötke notes that Bonhoeffer’s life itself has become a theological resources for his interpreters or when he turns to the question of Bonhoeffer’s letters to his fiancee. On the latter point, Krötke reflects on his own attempts to look at Bonhoeffer’s letters to Maria von Wedermeyer. Ultimately, he found himself deciding that it was a kind of voyeurism–the theologian moving into an intensely personal scene in order to try to find any resource. It was a kind of question about biography and finding the past that this reader hadn’t considered before.

Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theologians for a Post-Christian World is a fascinating, engaging, and challenging read. I highly recommend it to those interested in the legacy of either one (or both) of these fascinating individuals. Krötke consistently presents startling insights and fascinating ways to move research forward. 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.

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: “Doing Theology with the Reformers” by Gerald L. Bray

The theology of the Reformation is a deep, complex issue. Gerald L. Bray is the editor of a number of commentaries, including Reformation Commentaries on Scripture and numerous other books. He brings much experience to the questions related to bringing the theology of the Reformers to light for modern readers. Bray’s book Doing Theology with the Reformers is an excellent place for readers to start gaining an understanding of the questions, controversies, and ongoing conclusions of the Reformation.

Bray divides the book into six major topics, each with a chapter dedicated to it: the education of a reformer, the sources of theological authority, the interpretation of the Bible, the work of the Holy Spirit, the Godly commonwealth, and the emergence of confessional theology. Each of these chapters has several subdivisions that help readers learn about each major topic.

The book excels at bringing to the forefront topics that will challenge readers to be careful in their interpretation of the Reformers’ theology. The Reformers clearly situated within their own cultural contexts (often with theology tailored to speak to then-current events), and those contexts are important for understanding how to read them and why their thoughts developed in the directions they did. The chapter on education is a great example of this, demonstrating that the Reformers’ had their own academic experiences that are far different from those of today.

The chapter on the sources of theology was fascinating, showing how the Reformers sought to go back to the source—the Scriptures–while also acknowledging the difficulties presented by attempting such an approach. The following chapter on the interpretation of the Bible in the Reformers’ thought is enlightening, as it shows that the modern debates over the same often experience similar difficulties to those of today. Bray argues that the Reformation Hermeneutic, however, is intensely personal in the sense that it is primarily about transformation: the Reformation hermeneutic demanded the work of the Spirit in the hearts and minds of believers and the Bible could not be rightly understood outside of that experience (103-104).

The work of the Holy Spirit was taken in different ways by many Reformers and led to some of the greatest rifts theologically both then and today. Such issues as the Sacraments and the Christian life served as dividing lines for the Reformers. These issues continue to divide Christians today. Additionally, the question of what it means to have church and state is dramatically divisive, just as it was in the time of the Reformation. During the Reformation, there was also a revitalized interest in confessionalism, proclaiming the specifics of different faith traditions as they emerged. Bray ties the book together with an attempt to show some of the core theological emphases of the Reformation. These are the radical character of the Fall, salvation, the church, and spiritual authority.

Doing Theology with the Reformers is a fascinating introduction to the Reformers’ thought. The exploration of the Reformers’ emergent and emerging thought–along with how it developed and its origins–makes the book a valuable resource for those interested in Reformation theology today.

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 Fires of Heaven” 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, we continue the series with Book 5, The Fires of Heaven. There will be SPOILERS in this post for the series.

Power Corrupts, and Politics and Religion? 

In The Fires of Heaven, we are introduced to the Prophet of the Dragon, Masema. He has used Rand’s name to build himself a power base, and it is unclear yet whether he actually believes the things he says about the Dragon Reborn or not. What does seem clear is that this is a case of power corrupting. Masema goes mad over violations of protocol, he believes he has the right and the need to restrict even what people wear, how they act, and the like. His unification of religious belief and political power has become a corruption that is dangerous even for those who are trying to help Rand. In our own history, the unity of political and religious power has often played out in totalitarian ways as well, with absolute power corrupting and leading to danger for any who disagree.

The question of how the church and state ought to interact is an ancient one, and one heavily tinged by cultural referents. In the United States, it has become influenced greatly by the notion of “separation of church and state,” a dogma repeated so often it has become enshrined in the political sphere. There are many, many perspectives on the question, and my own preferred one is that of the Lutheran view of the Two Kingdoms–that the Kingdom of God is able to offer correction to the Kingdom of the World, but that the Kingdom of the World must not interfere with the Kingdom of God. Similarly, the realm of the world is generally to be left to the governance of human reason, only called upon to repent when needed.

With The Fires of Heaven, one might ask what kind of divisions of the political and religious are being suggested. There is certainly a sense of unease about Masema and his policies, but what will happen going forward? What kind of commentary might Robert Jordan be offering here?

Sacrifice

Moiraine gives her life up (maybe?) to defeat Lanfear. Birgitte nearly does the same to fight another Forsaken. Here we have the theme of sacrifice playing out rather clearly, though the implications of these sacrifices won’t be found out for some time yet. In Birgitte’s case, it leads to a linking of Birgitte with Elayne as a Warder. The theme of sacrifice hasn’t played prominently so far in the series, and it is clear Moiraine’s sacrifice is totally unexpected to Rand, who was blindsided by it.

Actions have Consequences

Balefire gets much discussion in this book, with its possibility of burning away threads of time and altering the past in unpredictable, terrifying ways. This ties into a broader sense of consequence throughout the series, in which actions have consequences that tend to be far ranging. Whether its simply walking through a town as a Ta’veran and causing weddings, accidents, and more or burning away an enemy permanently, there are serious repercussions for actions in the world. One can’t help but think of our own world, in which some of the smallest actions can have wide ranges of impact.

Conclusion

I have to say I thought The Fires of Heaven was a bit slower moving than the previous books. Despite its massive length, there also didn’t seem to me to be as much to discuss from a worldview perspective. What did you think of this novel? What worldview issues did you notice on reading it? Let me know in the comments.

Links

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.

Book Review: “Priscilla” by Ben Witherington III

Priscilla: The Life of an Early Christian is an exploration of early Christianity using an integration of fiction and fact, specifically centered on the biblical person, Priscilla. The book is written as an historical fiction account of her life looking back on various stages in early Christianity in Ephesus, Rome, and Corinth. We know from the Bible her importance and that she interacted with Paul and others. Ben Witherington III uses this information alongside a wealth of data about the early Christian world to construct an insightful look at early Christianity.

As a reader, I’ve enjoyed many of these works from InterVarsity Press bringing the early Christian world to life. This one is different from some of the other entries like A Week in the Life of Rome in that it focuses more on a specific biblical individual than on a broader look at early Christianity. In the process, though, Witherington highlights several of the early theological controversies in the church and uses Priscilla and those who knew her to answer some of these questions. For example, another biblical person who shows up is Junia (Romans 16:7), who Witherington points out is likely the same woman as Joanna (Luke 8:3) due to the way names translated between languages (97). Junia, Witherington notes, would have truly been an apostle, because in the Pauline usage, unless qualified, the term did indeed mean ones commissioned by the risen Christ himself (98).

These introductions to broader theological controversies within their first century context are important for readers looking to learn more about theology. At times, they feel a little bit contrived (eg, would there really need to be such detailed explanations about how Hebrew names translated into Latin or Greek for those who were familiar with the languages?) but the importance of the topics raised cannot be understated.

Readers are introduced to a great number of details about life in the first century, as well. Arranged marriages, the importance of places like Caesarea, arrangements in theaters and controversies about them, and many more historically relevant topics are raised throughout the text.

Priscilla: The Life of an Early Christian is a good introduction both to the world of the early Christians and to many related theological topics in the early church.

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: “Seasoned Speech: Rhetoric in the Life of the Church” by James E. Beitler III

Rhetoric is a discipline that is rarely taught or even discussed anymore, even in scholarly circles. James E. Beitler III attempts to show the importance of rhetoric not just to Christian witness but to a full Christian life in Seasoned Speech: Rhetoric in the Life of the Church. He does this by outlining how five major Christian voices used rhetoric in their lives: C.S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Desmond Tutu, and Marilynne Robinson.

C.S. Lewis is discussed in light of how he used rhetoric and worship to see the goodwill of Advent. His persuasive style and study of rhetoric helped him to become one of the most revered thinkers of the 20th century. C.S. Lewis addresses audiences on their own terms, adopted a humble stance, and cultivated communities. Again, this was centered around goodwill–the ultimate well-being of humanity through resurrection life with God (36-37). Dorothy Sayers used rhetoric and credal worship to emphasize the “energy of Christmastide” as Beitler puts it. Through vivid depictions and tranquil scenes, she made a rhetoric-filled argument for Christianity. Sayers’s He That Should come stirred up controversy in her own time, and Beitler quotes a remarkable defense Sayers offered of her portrayal of Christmas in which she talks about Christ being born “into this confused, coarse, and indifferent world… He was a real person, born in blood and pain like any other child, and dying in blood and pain, like the commonest thief…” The lifelike depictions of Sayers language comes through in the chapter dedicated to her, and shows how the persuasive rhetoric of her Christian witness played out.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is used by Beitler to exemplify the use of preaching the Word and epiphanic identification–the hiddenness and reality of Christ the God-man. The “strange glory” of epiphany is that Christ comes to be identified with us–to be a human person. Even more radically, Bonhoeffer’s rhetoric led to the identification with Jewish Christians and taking a stand against those who would refuse to do so in Nazi Germany. Preaching, for Bonhoeffer, involved bringing the Word to the hearers ears, which would itself lead to identification with the Word. The word of God itself “is the exclamation point that we do not need to add,” said Bonhoeffer (115-116).

The chapter on Desmond Tutu was particularly fascinating, both in noting how Tutu’s wholly religious rhetoric led to calls for repentance and reconciliation and also how that same religious fervor led to accusations of divisiveness and triumphalism during the end of Apartheid in South Africa. Tutu’s prophetic rhetoric issued a stirring call for repentance from racial division and unity of the body of Christ. Marilynne Robinson has become a significant voice in Christianity through her fiction, which, through the Gilead Trilogy, uses rhetoric to make “faith’s unseen realities more believable and faith’s central questions more significant for unbelievers” and believers (162-163). Beitler notes the use of themes in the trilogy that help usher in a sense of ethos of Easter that makes sense of Christianity in real-world ways.

Throughout the book, Beitler does a good job of putting forward the ideas of those speakers/writers he wishes to highlight while allowing his own narrative and writing to take a back seat. Seasoned Speech is itself an execise in rhetoric, calling readers to a better appreciation of and for both the content of the writings and speeches of the people highlighted but also to go forth and learn more. I, for one, ended up putting holds on a number of works about and by several of the authors discussed, and I look forward to continuing to learn about their “seasoned speech” (a reference to Colossians 4:6).

Seasoned Speech: Rhetoric in the Life of the Church is a remarkable call to enjoy and learn from several fascinating thinkers in recent Christian history. It is the kind of book that calls for reading and re-reading and absorbing. 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.

Book Review: “Listening to Sexual Minorities: A Study of Faith and Sexual Identity on Christian College Campuses” by Yarhouse, Dean, Stratton, and Lastoria

Listening to Sexual Minorities: A Study of Faith and Sexual Identity on Christian College Campuses is an eye-opening book in many ways. The work is essentially a report on several studies of college students on Christian campuses related to sexuality. The book is thus a treasure trove for those interested in seeing how college students–those who self-select for Christian schools–approach and experience sexuality. For anyone interested in that topic, it’s a gold mine.

The first chapter reflects on the tension between faith and sexuality. The authors observe that there are effectively three lenses through which to view sexuality and gender: the integrity, disability, and diversity lenses. The integrity lens offers a religious and theological reading of sex and gender that effectively sees male/female identity as “stamped on one’s body” (9, quoting Robert Gagnon, a Christian theologian). Thus, same-sex behavior and transgender identity are seen as something which will “threaten the integrity of male/female distinctions” (9). The disability framework views sex and gender as a kind of disability, something to be worked through or struggled with. Such a lens effectively agrees with the integrity framework about what is considered “normal” but acknowledges divergence from the same exists. However, such divergence is seen as something reflecting “fallenness” of created order or a kind of disability to be challenged (ibid). The third lens is the “diversity framework” that affirms LGB+ (the umbrella acronym the authors use) as an identity and a community “to be recognized, celebrated, and honored” (9). Among these lenses, of course, there is a range of perspectives about how each lens plays out in practical terms. The authors use these “lenses” to show throughout the book how differing perspectives relate to LGB+ people and questions.

The first chapter also offers some insight into the tension between LGB+ people and communities of faith and how some of that tension has played out, such as Title IX exemptions for schools based on various stands on LGB+ people. Those Title IX exemptions–which allow for discrimination based on sexual identity–are viewed quite differently depending upon one’s lens. For example, one with the integrity lens may see a Title IX exemption as allowing for freedom of religious practice, while one with the disability framework may argue that it excludes some people from being able to explore their questions about sexuality in settings that could be helpful. The first chapter ends with an overview of the demographics of the studies.

The second chapter looks much more closely at the people involved in the studies. It’s somewhat of a given that they are young. What may surprise some is that these sexual minorities (the study participants all report at least some experience of same-sex attraction or behavior (31)) also self-report as very religious, with 90% viewing themselves as moderately to very spiritual, and “a full 62% rating themselves as a nine or ten on a ten-point scale of spirituality” (31). Additionally, 80% reported experiencing the presence of God in their daily lives. Throughout this and other chapters, insets help people who may not be as familiar with the terminology or studies to understand what’s being said. For example in Chapter 2 there is an inset going over various terminology.The studies involved include one longitudinal study, which allowed the authors to see how students’ perceived and identified sexually over time.

The third chapter, “Milestones and Identity,” features information about milestones in sexual-identity development (their phrase, 68). For example, the mean age at which students reported awareness of same-sex feelings was 12.92 years old, while the adoption of the label “gay” was the oldest milestone, at 19.47. Interestingly, this adoption of the label had a mean age more than a year older than the first same-sex relationship. Throughout this and other chapters, excerpts from individual students are provided, allowing some greater insight than just numbers into how students perceived themselves sexually. The fourth chapter is about the development of identity over time, and, among other things, shows how students who reported as being same-sex attracted generally only increased their certainty of that attraction over time (89). Yet, as that identity strengthened, few students were willing or desired to abandon spiritual or religious identity.

The fifth chapter is about faith and sexuality. Among the things it discusses, the authors report on how students view sexual identity–whether it is a choice or something that can be changed, for example. Another chart shows how students viewed sexual behaviors. Some examples: whether same-sex attraction is morally acceptable (most reported yes); whether a celibate life is possible (overwhelmingly yes); and whether same-sex behavior is acceptable (between 3-4 out of 5). It also shows how much distress LGB+ people felt with their attraction alongside their degree of intrinsic religiosity. The sixth chapter reports on how same-sex attracted persons fit into their Christian campus, including how same-sex attraction was viewed on campus. Support from others is clearly important, and the church was seen as the least supportive of all organizations when it came to same-sex attracted people (208-209). The seventh chapter discusses the move out of college, and shows how often a nostalgic view of college developed, such that students viewed their campus as more supportive once they graduated (242).

The authors close the book with a summary of results along with recommendations and conclusions. Intrinsic religiosity “appears to be a major contributor to a sense of fit for sexual minorities at faith-based colleges and universities” (273). The level of distress aligned generally with other students. The strength of same-sex attraction was not linked to emotional health, but campus climate impacted a wide range of life for sexual-minority students (274).

Listening to Sexual Minorities is a book with appeal to a specific audience. If one happens to be interested in how sexuality is perceived and experienced on Christian college campuses, this is a book for that reader. Other readers may want to see what Christian youths are saying about their sexuality, and this book certainly would give insight there as well.

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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