Book Reviews

This category contains 331 posts

Book Review: “Bloody, Brutal, and Barbaric? Wrestling with Troubling War Texts” by William J. Webb and Gordon K. Oeste

The question of genocide in the Bible is a serious one, and one which frequently is brought up in discussions with non-Christians. Christians who think seriously about the question no doubt also feel severe discomfort as they attempt to understand these war texts. William J. Webb and Gordon K. Oeste address the most difficult questions presented by the biblical texts in their book Bloody, Brutal, and Barbaric? Wresting with Troubling War Texts.

The book has disturbing content related to violence, sexual violence, torture, and violence against children. For this review, I will not be delving deeply into the content in these parts, but it is important to note that there are graphic descriptions from the ANE related to these horrific acts. They are relevant to the point of the book. 

After an introduction providing an overview for the course of the book, the authors turn to the hard questions found in the biblical text: questions related to genocide and war rape. The authors are refreshingly honest when it comes to the text, showing how the traditional answers given to the question of genocide in the war texts often fail. The traditional answers are answers like “God as source of holy war commands”–just having God command something makes it justice. Another traditional answer is the good purposes for holy wars. Along with this, the non-innocent status of the Canaanites and their own atrocities are often given as one of the traditional answers–these wars were God dispensing justice against the wickedness of the Canaanites. A final answer is that the wars are a foreshadowing the eschatological war. The problems with these traditional answers are provided in brief discussions of each. For example, the answer of the wickedness of the Canaanites cannot account for the awfulness of genocide and war rape: “The evil nature of any crime, no matter how insidiously evil it is, does not legitimize any and every sort of punishment action taken against the perpetrator” (42). 

The authors do note, however, that the traditional answers can do some of the heavy lifting regarding questions of the war texts, but it depends on the type of question being asked. The questions being asked in the texts aren’t about military ethics but rather about the justice of various acts in question–such as driving others out of a land. Those questions are questions the traditional answers can do work on, but they don’t work for many contemporary ethical questions. In order to answer questions of modern ethical concern, one must approach Scripture holistically and also seeing how better answers can come from reading the Bible redemptively in conjunction with other answers.

Reading the Bible redemptively implies that there is movement within the biblical text that directs readers towards drawing ethical conclusions in the future. This isn’t a reductionist approach that says this is all there is to the war texts (82) but rather an argument that movement is a crucial meaning for the text. Alongside this, the authors focus quite a bit both on the argument that the “genocide” aspect of the texts includes quite a bit of hyperbole (and answering objections to this thesis). The most obvious argument in favor of the notion of hyperbole in the text is that in the texts themselves one sees statements that none were left alive set right alongside statements of people being left alive. Accompanying this, there is broad evidence from the Ancient Near East that hyperbole regarding military conquest and victories was the norm rather than a modern invention. But these answers still don’t quite get at the heart of the push for real ethical responses to questions on things like war rape.

To answer the awful questions related to war rape, the authors explore the broad evidence for the practice in the Ancient Near East alongside the way that Israel was not allowed to engage in the practices typical for their time and region. Along with this, the authors closely examine the texts noting that arguments for implied war rape don’t seem to align with the evidence from the entire stories. Deuteronomy 21:10-14 [the book references this as Deuteronomy 21:4-10 on more than one point, but that reference is contextually not what they meant] is one of the most awful passages in the Bible. Webb and Oeste note the many ways this diverges from the broad ANE behavior regarding war rape, and how it provided for time to grieve, acknowledging the intensity of grief, providing rights, and protecting the woman’s honor. None of these, of course, undermines how brutal and awful this text still is, but the providing of strictures that go well beyond anything in the ANE shows a counter-cultural, surprising ethic for its time. Combining answers like this with the argument that the Bible shows a redemptive movement towards a better ethical standard provides a more holistic approach to the text that both acknowledges its horrors while also not downplaying its counter-cultural standards.

There is much, much more detail related to the biblical text, as well as examination of counter-proposals and evidence found throughout the book. Webb and Oeste do a better job than almost any book I’ve seen that tries to provide an answer to the questions of genocide and war rape from a position that does not simply write off the passages as irredeemable. They don’t completely ignore the texts, nor do they try to say nothing in them is awful. The redemptive-movement hermeneutic allows them to do this while also arguing for a cohesive text. 

A final part of the authors’ argument is to argue that God is uneasy with war and that several verses show that God is uneasy with war and moving towards redemption. The crown of this argument is, of course, Christ. The authors argue against others who have strong discontinuity between the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. Their own approach sees Jesus as apocalyptic warrior who brings the Kingdom of God.

Bloody, Brutal, and Barbaric? is a challenging book that will force readers to think about some of the most terrifying topics in the Bible. The authors do an admirable job of not shrinking from the horrors in Scripture while also seeking a holistic understanding that honors the notion that the text is God’s Word.  

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

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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: “Including the Stranger: Foreigners in the Former Prophets” by David G. Firth

What does the Bible have to say about the “stranger” or the “foreigner”? It’s an expansive question, but one that should inform Christians as they explore modern issues of immigration or refugees. David G. Firth, in Including the Stranger: Foreigners in the Former Prophets, examines texts related to these questions as found in the Former Prophets–Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings.

Firth’s brief introduction argues that we can use narrative texts for normative values. Reading the text as such requires being attentive to the ways the narrator speaks of the events being narrated, as well as being aware of the ANE context in which the texts were written that comes with different expectations about how to read a text. The reader must also be aware of the assumptions they are bringing to the text and work to see how their own preconceptions can shape the way they interpret the text (3).

The next four chapters go over each of the former prophets in turn, giving an orientation to the reader for the text and then diving into the major questions of foreigners in the text. Joshua is a fascinating place to start here, because most would expect the book’s view of the foreigner to be universally negative, given the conquest narratives therein. However, Firth points out the fact that even upon entering the land, the first kindness was shown by a stranger (Rahab). Going from there, other texts invite larger examination of the notion of the “foreigner” in Joshua, as, for example, a threefold view of foreigner/stranger is found in the text: strangers as neutral/threat/positive. This means, argues Firth, that “Ethnicity itself is not the issue. Rather, the concern is with the possible religious impact of these peoples…” (38). The setting up of cities of refuge helps reinforce this impression. 

Judges is one of this reader’s own favorite books of the Bible, and Firth highlighted some aspects of great interest. For example, Shamgar (Judges 3:31) appears to be little more than a sidenote in Judges, and is not, in fact, even listed as having judged! But Firth notes there is more to Shamgar’s story than a single verse may seem to convey. First is the fact that Shamgar’s name is not an Israelite name, being composed of four root letters rather than three. Second, it seems clear Shamgar was not a Yahwist, for the denotation as “Son of Anath” suggests Shamgar followed the Canaanite goddess of the same name. And this, then, could explain why Shamgar is not given the title of “judge,” for the book’s concern with enforcing Yahwist worship leads the author not to give that title to Shamgar. And, moreover, this highlights the significance of Shamgar’s inclusion, for it shows that God has “no problem in using a foreigner to deliver Israel… but he does not grant them positions of leadership” (72). Along with other examples, Shamgar highlights a theme in Judges that God uses foreigners for God’s will as well, and that the Israelites’ own divisions among themselves (Judges 17-21) raises questions of “how Israel can function as the people of God” (92). 

Samuel’s central theme related to foreigners, argues Firth, is seeing them as means for assessing Israel. For example, in Samuel, David’s legitimacy as ruler is mediated through an Amalekite rather than an Israelite (113-114). Time and again, foreigners are used as examples to highlight the actions of Israelites, often as a contrast–a foreigner being more true to God/word than an Israelite. The book also shows how encounters with foreigners can lead to integration rather than devastation. Kings deals more with foreigners beyond the borders of Israel, and shows once more that the central value was not about ethnicity or nation, but rather about worship of Yahweh (172). 

Firth’s closing words, in a summary and concluding chapter about including the stranger, are words that call readers to action. “In a world that builds walls between communities, or makes the environment hostile for foreigners, this was an example of what the people of God can be: a community that does not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, because we serve a God who does not do so. This is an ethic that is easily talked down in political discourse, but therefore one that is more important for the church, as the people of God, to live out and show a different way of life” (185-186).

David G. Firth’s exploration of the place of the “stranger” or “foreigner” in Including the Stranger will provide readers with a wealth of resources for learning about the biblical view of those from elsewhere. 

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: “Reading Buechner” by Jeffrey Munroe

Reading Buechner is a call to engage with the writings and thought of Frederick Buechner. I have to admit, I was somewhat skeptical of the project. I’d heard Buechner’s name occasionally, but nothing from or about him had ever stuck. Munroe’s introduction, however, grabbed me from the beginning, and his impassioned call to engage with this Christian thinker has me going to the library to find at least one book to read.

What was it that Munroe managed to do in this book? Simply put, he offered a genuine, enthusiastic look at the breadth and depth of work of Frederick Buechner. Four parts divide the book into looking at Buechner as a memoirist, a novelist, a popular theologian, and preacher. Each section has its own intriguing way of introducing Buechner’s thought to readers, along with a guide for suggested reading from Munroe. It’s a simply fantastic way to introduce an author with such a broad array of works while also letting readers in on his own love of the subject and his personal reflections on the works. It’s nearly impossible to not pick up on at least some of Munroe’s enthusiasm.

Reading Buechner was a surprising read for me. Something about the way Munroe called to me as a reader, and it is hard to completely ignore his enthusiasm for his subject. 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: “Beyond Hashtag Activism: Comprehensive Justice in a Complicated Age” by Mae Elise Cannon

How can we best actually practice activism and seek justice beyond the hashtags? It’s a question that seems loaded–possibly discounting the fact that social media has been used to highlight a great deal of injustice which had not been spotlighted before. But Mae Elise Cannon, in Beyond Hashtag Activism: Comprehensive Justice in a Complicated Age, isn’t downplaying those important acts; instead, she presents a way to learn about major issues of social justice in today’s world and how to combat injustice. 

The topics discussed in the book are quite broad. It’s divided into 5 Parts: Biblical Justice and the Gospel, which highlights passages in the Bible about justice and how politics might become involved in the same; Poverty, in which Cannon notes both global and domestic questions of poverty and how we might faithfully combat it; Race, in which Cannon highlights a number of current issues both in the United States and across the globe; Gender, which discusses the many ways gender is used divisively while looking for healing in the body of Christ; and Twenty-First-Century Divides, which addresses issues of sexuality, Israel/Palestine, and religious freedom.

Cannon, as noted before, isn’t dismissive of the notion of “Hashtag Activism.” Instead, she writes “These movements have accomplished much in raising awareness about important justice issues like global poverty and gender discrimination… Hashtag activism is a great place to start, but our social justice advocacy must move beyond the limits of likes, sharing, and click rates” (1). Where to go from there is through the parts discussed above, wherein real world solutions and activism are outlined related to many differing topics. Each part has chapters that both highlight the exact issues that are being discussed while ultimately presenting ways for both individuals and churches to be involved in bringing real-world justice related to the topic. 

There are different types of advocacy, and at the beginning of the book, Cannon draws these out. Protest and resistance is a direct way to fight against injustice, whether through things like sit-ins and marches or directly identifying laws or acts as unjust. Prophetic advocacy is the work to “transform… attitudes, hearts, and behaviors on an individual level as well as on a systemic level” (16). Spiritual advocacy seeks out God’s will in behalf of others and the world (17, paraphrased). “Social advocacy is the process of standing with, walking with, and accompanying those who are victims of injustice…” along with “speaking up when someone in your presence makes a comment that is offensive…” (18). This reader has seen the benefit of the latter approach, as it can lead to greater conversations about justice and the use of language. Legal advocacy is working within the legal system to bring about change or justice for individuals. Political advocacy “seeks to shift regional, state, and national policies” in order change unjust policies and practice. Economic advocacy includes seeking to make investments that better align with just use of resources, boycotting unjust businesses, and the like (20ff). Along with these various approaches, Cannon notes that there are four best practices for making a difference: having a clearly defined goal; being pragmatic in efforts to accomplish the goal; getting the facts right; and having fortitude, persistence, and longevity in the pursuit of justice (22ff). 

One of the best parts of the book is that Cannon presents evidence in an evenhanded way on a surprising topic: Christianity and homosexuality. Moving past the polemics that are often involved in such discussions, she presents factual arguments in a way that lets readers evaluate each position. Cannon presents direct quotes from major scholars on both sides of the debate, concluding that “Well-meaning, intelligent, and godly men and women disagree strongly about the question of whether or not same-sex monogamous relationships are biblical… Regardless of what we each conclude as individuals… I believe the study of the Word of God and the wrestling with the possible interpretations and relevant implications is critical work that must be done within the body of Christ” (209-210). What is important about this is that Cannon gives an opportunity for people on each side to actually read and try to understand what the “other side” is saying in their own words. However brief that is, it is good for people to know why people disagree.

There is so much content in the book that it is impossible to even give an adequate survey over the course of a review. There are recommended additional readings at the end of each chapter for those wishing to pursue a topic further. There are questions for discussion so the book can be used in small groups–though many of the questions would work well for individuals to reflect upon as well. There is a wealth of content in this book, to the point it could become a reference for readers who want to explore many topics more broadly while also trying to work against many forms of injustice.

Beyond Hashtag Activism is a fantastic read. It presents a huge amount of factual information about injustice while also providing a way forward–something many books don’t do–to combat those same injustices. Christians will be invigorated to work for biblical justice across the world by this book. It could be used in small groups, for individuals, for college courses, and more. It is highly recommended.

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

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: “Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing, Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery” by Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah

Unsettling Truths is an examination of the impact of the “Doctrine of Discovery” that goes beyond a survey and into the consequences of this doctrine across theological sociological, and historical lines. 

The Doctrine of Discovery is a deeply problematic idea in the history of the world, and Mark Charles, a Navajo/Dutch man notes at the beginning that the problems start with the name. “You cannot discovery lands already inhabited” (13). The Doctrine of Discovery itself as a historical reality emerged from European powers as they sought to consolidate power overseas. Tied with a number of papal bulls, this doctrine provided legal precedents that continue to govern in some ways how we view native rights (15). Of course, the doctrine is also deeply rooted in views that see Europeans as superior to other peoples, for it undermines the rights of native peoples and implies that their claims to the land and even life are not germane to the “discovery” of those same lands by European powers. 

Discovery as a kind of founding belief in the United States helped guide the shape of the country, from the Constitution to current court cases as well. This may seem a sweeping claim, but the authors support it with data. For example, the Doctrine of Discovery is cited in court cases from 1954, 1985, and 2005. In the latter, City of Sherrill, New York v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York, the doctrine of discovery is explicitly cited as reason to deny the Oneida Indian Nation sovereignty over land they had purchased, despite it being land that was, in part, to have been given to their people by treaty with the United States. Moreover, the 2005 opinion cited precedent from an 1823 opinion in which the Native tribes were called “savages” (though the 2005 opinion omitted the term) and said that the increased value of the land because it was converted from “wilderness” into cities was another reason cited to rule against the Oneida Indian Nation of New York (126-127). The implication is, of course, that when Native groups owned the land, it was “wilderness” ( = not civilized/savage) but now that it has been turned into cities ( = civilization/Western), it is more valuable and, more importantly, able to be determined by U.S. courts instead of treaties. The repeated breaking of treaties and use of courts to bolster non-Native American ownership of land and property should be something to alarm any American, especially Christians who are taught to treat others as they would be treated.

The authors also bring to light many practical applications that are derived from the historical and modern background in the book. For example, one early chapter on “The Power of Narratives and the Imagination” goes over how false narratives of discovery can help construct realities of institutional, internalized, and externalized power imbalances. These power imbalances play out in our prison systems, in our courts, and in everyday life, as the authors demonstrate time and again throughout the book. 

Unsettling Truths is a good introduction to the problems with the Doctrine of Discovery and, more importantly, how that doctrine has impacted society to this day. 

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: “A Multitude of All Peoples: Engaging Ancient Christianity’s Global Identity” by Vince L. Bantu

Christianity has always been a global religion, but awareness of those global roots and the impact across the world is not high. Vince L. Bantu, in A Multitude of All Peoples, demonstrates the eclectic, beautiful, global vision of Christianity across the world.

After an introduction looking at Christianity as a global religion, Bantu examines the “roots of Western Christianity Identity Politics. Here, Bantu argues that Christianity as a Hellenistic Latin/Greek religion has its origins in the 3rd/4th century with the rise of Constantine and the sometimes rewriting of church history. With the enshrinement of Christianity as state religion, it became all too easy to see the faith indelibly tied to the state, and specifically the construct of the “West.” This view didn’t entirely come from “Western” sources, either. Bantu shows that Persian Christians, for example, saw the ties of Christianity and Rome and viewed it with some suspicion, seeing the ties of church and state as making Christians loyal to the nation rather than God (21-22). The Hellenization of theology occurred in this period too, despite some of the most important Christian thinking happening outside of the global West. The Council of Chalcedon, long seen as a standard of Orthodoxy, itself used Hellenistic terminology and ended up causing division in the church. Such divisions were exacerbated by political schisms as borders changed (31-33). Bantu traces the history of these through more serious schisms and Christianity’s earliest encounters with Islam.

The next chapter gives an overview of Christianity’s roots in Africa. Egypt was a major part of the growth of Christianity and Christians there trace their lineage through St. Mark. The religious roots of Egypt itself shaped Christianity there, as Bantu argues Cyril explicitly developed Christian theology as a counter to worship of Isis and Horus. Nubia is another major area of growth in Africa, and the conflict between Christianity and Islam there ultimately led to a peace that lasted for centuries. Due to this peace, Nubian Christianity was able to thrive and encounter other cultures that it integrated into Nubian identity (90-93). Ethiopia was noher place of significant growth and development of early Christianity. King Ezana helped integrate Christianity into the area of his domain, and he continued some of his pre-Christian religion as well, forming a kind of syncretism that in some ways lasted for centuries afterwards (100-102). Ethiopian Christianity would go on to influence global Christianity to the extent that seeing Christianity as solely “white man’s religion” instead of a part of African culture is an untenable description (103). North African Christianity also made contributions to global faith and practice, which Bantu traces through Carthage and many other places.

The Middle East also experienced massive growth of Christianity and cannot be ignored when it comes to historical Christianity or the history of the church. Syria was a huge part of this global growth as Antioch became a center of Christianity. Syriac theology and poetry has been formative for Christianity since the outset, though that influence was downplayed throughout long periods of time. Thankfully, a recovery of Syrian Christian traditions and theology is continuing into today (124ff). Lebanon, Arabia, and Armenia also had massive surges of Christanity as it spread across the globe. In Armenia, Christianity confronted Zoroastrianism in complex ways (148ff). The Armenian church continues into today as one of the ancient traditions of Christianity. In Georgia, we find another ancient Christian tradition that reaches back into the fourth century CE. Georgian Christianity continues into today with an identity that is at least “synonymous with the Georgian identity that began in Late Antiquity” (164).

The Silk Road provided a fertile missions field for early Christians as well, and Bantu traces the spread of Christianity through Asia. Persia’s first Christians were largely identified with the Jewish community that had lived there since the Babylonian Captivity in the sixth century BCE. Persian Christians, however, had to encounter a kind of ancient identity politics that demanded they become servants of Caesar in order to be truly Christian. Bantu draws some parallels to today’s own challenges for non-white/non-Western people and Christianity from this (169-170). The origins of Christianity in India have been commonly attributed to the work of the Apostle Judas Thomas, and some interesting historical (and ahistorical) debate over the apocryphal Acts of Thomas and stories therein do not take away from the broader fact that Christianity came to India at a fairly early time (180ff). Christianity also spread across central Asia. Some of this spread was through areas controled by the Mongolian civilization which was generally tolerant for Christianity. China encountered Christianity during the Tang dynasty (618-907CE) and the opening of trade that accompanied it. Contextualization was central to the Christian faith in China, and various symbols were adopted (204ff). Christianity flourised under a tolerant rule of the Mongolians in china but later declined due to persecution and direct anti-Christian campaigns in China and elsewhere (215-217).

A Multitude of Peoples is a necessary read for anyone interested in global Christianity, and, in particular, interested in Christianity beyond what has been called the “West.” It’s an exciting book that makes readers think about the ancient roots of Christian faith even while tracing the successes and failures of the same. Bantu demonstrates unquestionably that Christianity, from its earliest periods, reached across the globe and shaped–and was shaped by–cultures across the world. May it ever be so.

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: “Thomas Cochrane and the Dragon Throne” by Andrew Adam

A while ago, I read a fascinating duology of graphic novels about the Boxer Rebellion that showed it from both the side of missionaries and from the side of the Boxers. They were entitled Boxers and Saints and moved me very deeply. I still think about them qutie a bit, and how the interplay of mission work, thoughtful Christianity, colonialism, imperialism, and more all got jumbled together in a mess that makes it difficult to discern any goodness at all. When I saw Thomas Cochrane and the Dragon Throne, I knew I wanted to read it to learn more about this fascinating, awful time. 

The book is largely biographical, following the time Thomas Cochrane spent in China as a doctor and a missionary, which overlapped with the Boxer Rebellion and other key developments in Peking. It also features a large amount of fantastic background information for anyone who wants to learn about many different topics. For example, there’s a lot here about the medical practices in China in the early 20th century. There’s also no small amount of discussions of how colonialism from European powers combined with political maneuvering on the part of the Empress Dowager Cixi and others. And, of course, there are more historical details about the Boxer Rebellion. The book is not always for the faint of heart. Both medical information and historical information about the Boxer Rebellion is conveyed in an almost matter-of-fact style that includes graphic descriptions of things like foot binding, torture, and castration. These are all extremely important details, but, again, readers should be aware that they’re not glossed over.

Thomas Cochrane ended up in China at a young age with his wife, Grace, after being inspired by Dwight Moody to become a missionary. He wanted to go where he was needed most, and he truly had a passion for healing the sick, providing his service free of charge and, eventually, delivering a top of the line medical school to help train doctors in modern medicine in China. Throughout the section of his life outlined in this biography, he repeatedly felt like a failure as various ventures collapsed, but it is hard to see his work as not having a deeply positive impact on those with whom he lived. As he worked to both heal and convert people, the Boxer Rebellion broke out, and the Cochrane family was forced to flee. Adam reports this and other harrowing episodes with fascinating details that show the reality of the situation, both from Cochrane’s own writings and from his own firsthand knowledge as the son of Thomas Cochrane’s stepdaughter. 

Eventually, Cochrane confronted a cholera epidemic in the Imperial City, managing to gain allies in court as he did so. This opened up new avenues and even allowed him to get help from the chief eunuch and the Empress Dowager. This, in turn, lead to his establishment of the Union Medical College in Peking, China. His vision was for this school to churn out doctors who also would be able to spread knowledge of Christ across the interior of China, but although the school became immensely prestigious, it ultimately became a major graduate school that departed from his vision. Cochrane’s legacy, like that of mission work in general, is complex. It would be hard to question whether his heart was in the right place, and fascinating details like how Cochrane adapted biblical stories to Chinese contexts show his avoidance of the major pitfalls of colonialism (see p. 47, for example, and how Cochrane added Chinese details to biblical stories). Adam has presented a portrait of a man who made a difference in many people’s lives, both temporal and eternal. 

Andrew Adam has written a fascinating biography/historical piece that helps shed light on a terrible piece of history. I very highly recommend Thomas Cochrane and the Dragon Throne to any reader. It’s of interest to those who like history, want to learn about Christianity, are interested in China, in medicine, in politics, and more. It’s fantastic. 

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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——

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: “Keys to Bonhoeffer’s Haus: Exploring the World and Wisdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer” by Laura M. Fabrycky

The intersection of the scholarly and the intimate is a rare gift. At first, some readers may think that scholarly works simply cannot be intimate. How can someone be so closely associated with a topic while also writing in a serious, academic way? Laura M. Fabrycky’s work, Keys to Bonhoeffer’s Haus: Exploring the World and Wisdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer shows how that can be done related to Dietrich Bonhoeffer. By integrating her personal experiences of leading tours at the Bonhoeffer Haus and in Germany with insights into the background of Bonhoeffer’s life, Fabrycky manages to create a unique read in the field of Bonhoeffer scholarship.

Keys to Bonhoeffer’s Haus is a kind of memoir, exploring Fabrycky’s own interaction with Bonhoeffer through her time in Germany. Because of this, it offers a deeply personal look at many aspects of Bonhoeffer’s life. But alongside that, Fabrycky also offers scholarly details to go along with her reflections such that a compelling narrative-driven exploration of Bonhoeffer. But the book provides more than that–it is much more a kind of look at Bonhoeffer’s place and how that impacted his life and decisions. Seeing how locations in Germany were set up helped to understand certain points in Bonhoeffer’s life more thoroughly. 

Fabrycky’s style is excellent. The chapter on learning to ride bikes and finding locations related to Bonhoeffer’s life while navigating the strange world (to Americans) of European rules regarding bikes was an absolutely fascinating read. Time and again, Fabrycky’s style drew this reader in to the extent that it truly felt like riding along the streets with her while exploring the interior of Bonhoeffer’s life through buildings and places. Another example of this was her note of the roadside crucifixions, which, contextually, were used by the Nazis to bolster anti-Semitism in portraying the Jews as those to fully blame for killing Christ. 

But a strong sense of place and personal reflection are not all that is offered in this fascinating work. Fabrycky continually draws readers’ eyes and imaginations to reading alongside and experiencing alongside Bonhoeffer, examining concepts of friendship, how Bonhoeffer read Scripture, and concepts of loyalty and nationalism. Because these are integrated into a broader, personal narrative, it once again presents readers with a feeling of sitting next to Fabrycky and exploring and experiencing these things oneself. One example is related to Bonhoeffer’s use of Moravian watchwords, called Die Losungen (see Kindle locations 1718ff). Fabrycky writes, “These were, and are, daily Scripture meditations published every year by the Moravian Brethern, a Protestant group that traces its religious heritage to a pre-Reformation movement of pietists who were committed to Scripture, prayer, an evangelism… Bonhoeffer and many others used their so-called watchwords… as a daily devotional practice, and it was one he commended to others as well” (ibid). After reading this, this reviewer looked it up, and it turns out one can subscribe to these to this day via email, and it has been edifying practicing a religious discipline Bonhoeffer himself commended. After reading this from Fabrycky, moreover, this reviewer was reading in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s works and noticed several times these very watchwords were mentioned in letters and elsewhere. It was a fascinating insight that let this reader focus more on aspects of Bonhoeffer’s works that had been missed before. These kind of insights are found in abundance throughout Keys… and make it an invaluable look at Bonhoeffer’s thought life.

One critique I have is of the portrayal of church and state in Lutheran theology. Fabrycky writes, for example, that Bonhoeffer’s pacifism challenged Lutheran ideals in German society. She also writes that “Being a good Lutheran and a good German meant inhabiting two worlds at the same time… the spiritual… and the secular…but these worlds were fully compartmentalized from one another” (Kindle Location 3922). Much debate has gone into Bonhoeffer scholarship regarding Two Kingdoms theology, and Fabrycky here aligns herself with those who read as Lutheran what others read as distortions of Luther. This may be semantics, but many (such as Trey Palmisano in Peace and Violence in the Ethics of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, review here) have argued that Bonhoeffer’s stance on church and state is the genuine Lutheran position. Further, several have argued that Bonhoeffer’s position is both consistent and draws directly from Luther to offer a corrective to the notion of Volk that turned the Two Kingdoms doctrine into a justification of essentially any state action (see Michael P. DeJonge’s Bonhoeffer’s Reception of Luther, review here). I also favor an approach that sees Bonhoeffer’s theology of church and state–the Two Kingdoms doctrine–both as genuinely Lutheran and consistent, such that his view of pacifism would have challenged those Lutherans who had effectively ceded the Two Kingdoms doctrine to a carte blanche for the state. 

Keys to Bonhoeffer’s Haus is an enthralling, captivating read. It reads as though one is exploring Bonhoeffer’s world through the mind of one who has been deeply impacted by close connection with his physical world, even decades removed. It will give readers insights into Bonhoeffer that this reader, at least, hasn’t found elsewhere. It’s the kind of unique work that even the most thorough reader of Bonhoeffer’s life and related works will likely find fresh and insightful. Highly recommended. 

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

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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: “But What About God’s Wrath? The Compelling Love Story of Divine Anger” by Kevin Kinghorn with Stephen Travis

God’s Wrath is a question that often comes up when people talk about the attributes of God. But What About God’s Wrath? by Kevin Kinghorn with Stephen Travis attempts to address many of the issues related to God’s wrath and Christian life, as well as several questions about interpretation and reconciling various passages in the Bible.

Kinghorn begins by highlighting some key questions and answers related to God’s wrath. These include pointing towards God’s intentional action in the world. He argues that God’s wrath “typically involves a pattern of action” (19). Such patterns of action typically are related to goals and purposes, and so the question of why God should act in wrath is intricately woven into the question of why God acts in such a way. God’s wrath, he argues, is focused on accomplishing certain purposes within individuals’ lives.

A central aspect of rightly understanding wrath is to see its place in the overall picture of divine act and character. As such, Kinghorn argues that there is a difference between essential attributes of God which entail necessary acts and facts and contingent attributes or acts of God (23-24). The Trinity is essentially love/loving, and this essential attribute can lead to patterns of action that express themselves in different ways (38-39).

God, argues Kinghorn, is committed to the well-being of God’s people, which also means that God will act with benevolence towards all people, having a commitment to seeking human flourishing. This doesn’t cancel all other commitments (eg, to justice), but it does say much about how God acts towards us. But Kinghorn further argues that these other commitments don’t compete with or cancel the commitment to benevolence, they are instead subsumed under that broader category (79-80). God’s wrath, on this view, is a kind of last resort that is intended to press truths about ourselves on us from God (98-99, see also 117ff).

Ultimately, Kinghorn’s conclusion is that while God is a God of love and wrath, God is not such in a “sense that God’s wrath could ever compete with God’s love. God’s wrath and God’s love are not twin, equal pillars…” (154). Using wrath to trump God’s love is moving in the wrong direction.

But What About God’s Wrath? provides thoughtful, challenging arguments to commonly held conceptions about the wrath of God and its important for Christian living and biblical interpretation. Kinghorn argues against many common assumptions related to God’s wrath and shows that there are deeper considerations to be made before making blithe assertions about the wrath of God. Recommended.

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

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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: “Weathering Climate Change” by Hugh Ross

Hugh Ross is the founder of Reasons to Believe, a science-faith think-tank that approaches the topics from an Old Earth Creationist perspective. Ross’s latest book, Weathering Climate Change, presents a view of climate change from that same perspective. Ross, however, does not succumb to the pitfalls of denying climate change or trying to sugarcoat humanity’s impact on it. Instead, the book provides an in-depth look at the factors causing climate change, its potential impact, on ways that humanity might mitigate some of the impact, all set alongside a perspective that sees humanity as called by God to care for creation.

The majority of the book is occupied by presenting readers with the data. This is surely intentional, given the vast array of misinformation available a click away online. Ross presents chart after chart with data from reputable sources, showing the clear fact that what we’re experiencing now is irregular and not simply part of a broader pattern of Earth’s climate change. However, he also notes the historical data and how the Earth has undergone severe climate changes, and notes that our current period of relative stability is an exception.

That said, Ross doesn’t use that climate change to dismiss our current situation–time and again, he notes the severe nature of human impact on the climate and demonstrates that it is much more than another part of Earth’s natural cycle. This care for approaching the data, both modern and ancient, means that Ross is able to present readers with a fuller picture, hopefully leading them to grasp more accurately the state of the climate today.

Ross also analyzes several paths forward to combat climate change. What’s interesting is that he offers these while recognizing human’s sinful propensity to avoid long term problems and continue harmful behaviors that make them comfortable. Many of these solutions are outside of the box. For example, ending all consumption of red meat would make a huge impact, but it would also drive black markets for red meat and many likely would rebel against restrictions on such consumption. So an alternative solution, offers Ross, is to switch the kind of red meat consumed. In a surprising turn, he argues that ostriches could provide a middle way, allowing people to consume red meat (apparently similar to beef), while also mitigating much of the methane (and other) problem(s) related to wide consumption of beef.

Other, more enormous solutions, are also proposed. Re-planting parts of the Sahara, creating massive solar panels that can both block some sunlight while using it for energy, and more are analyzed both for the potential impact they could have and also for their practicality. It’s a quite refreshing turn, and certainly not what skeptics of creationism (honestly, including myself), might expect from someone who’s avowedly a creationist (of the Old Earth variety). The presentation of the data, analysis of solutions, and look at long-term trends are all, so far as this reviewer can tell (as someone who reads science texts but is by no means an expert), quite accurate and informative.

Ross also offers all of this alongside comments that the trends are part of God’s plan for humanity, allowing for humans to be–on his view–created at just the right moment for use of fossil fuels, for climate stability, and more. While some readers may balk at this, it is imperative to underscore the importance of a work like this, that introduces audiences who might otherwise not interact with the climate change data to hard science that backs up broader scientific consensus.

Weathering Climate Change is an unexpected delight. Ross offers a thorough look at the evidence for climate change, the recent history of Earth’s climate (in geologic terms), and potential solutions from the perspective of a creationist, without ever balking at the scientific challenges to his own perspective. He also offers it alongside his characteristic grace with competing views and his heart for speaking about God to those who will hear. I recommend it, even if you (like me), do not necessarily agree with all of his position. It will inform you and maybe even surprise you, as it did me.

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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