Book Reviews

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Book Review: “The Everlasting People: G.K. Chesterton and the First Nations” by Matthew J. Milliner

The Everlasting People: G.K. Chesterton and the First Nations is a book I picked to read because the premise seems so utterly strange. I admittedly avoid Chesterton somewhat actively, in part because of his extreme anti-Protestantism, and in part because of his misogynistic comments about women. I’m also wary of colonialism and the title smacked of that as a possibility. But something about the description got to me, and I gave it a try. I’m glad I did, because what I found was Matthew J. Milliner’s fascinating study that looks at individual places, their First Nations heritage, and Christianity.

The book is a series of lectures with responses from different scholars. The first lecture, the Sign of Jonah, discusses cave art, the ways in which myths about “savages” have been perpetuated, Chesterton’s own counter words about how cave art should correct some of the myths, other art, Turtle Island, and more. The second lecture is largely about Chicago and the First Nations heritage that was displaced and destroyed there and elsewhere. In this lecture, he offers alternate meanings for the stars on the Chicago flag. The third lecture turns to Chesterton’s poetry and the Byzantine imagery of “Our Lady of Perpetual Help” while uniting it with discussion of white expansion and warfare against First Nations people.

Throughout, G.K. Chesterton is used as a backdrop; whether quotes that speak to Milliner’s specific focus or with more extended discussion. Milliner doesn’t cover up Chesterton’s ills, but rather seeks to offer correction where needed and elucidation when possible.

Each chapter has a response from a different scholar to Milliner, and though these are short, they often offer their own insights and discussion of First Nations culture and the richness of humanity. In almost every section there is some kind of new delight, fascinating detail, or new avenue to explore that is initially unexpected. Milliner and those responding to him offer a wealth of knowledge. The unexpected way they manage to discuss Christianity, First Nations people, First Nations artists, and more (some of the responses themselves are by people from First Nations groups) make the book a wonderful read from front to back.

I don’t really know what I expected when I started The Everlasting People. I also don’t know how to adequately describe it. It’s a fairly slim volume with a rather massive amount of content and encouragement for further reflection and learning. It’s one of those books that makes you think about it long afterwards, and flip it open to a random page to see what might be found. 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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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: “From Plato to Christ” by Louis Markos

What has Jerusalem to do with Athens? Quite a lot, if one reads Louis Markos’s From Plato to Christ. The work is a partly a look into Plato’s thought, and partly a survey of how Plato’s thought impacted Christianity through its early history.

Markos wastes little time essentially baptizing Plato after the fact. The first page of the preface has Markos claiming that Plato’s writings can be read “as inspired writings used by the God of the Bible to prepare the ancient world for the coming of Christ and the New Testament” (ix). On the same page, he says that Plato is the “culmination of the best of the pagan (Pre-Christian) wisdom” (ibid). One might wonder how, say, the Hebrew Scriptures fit into this scheme, and whether Markos lumps Judaism in with “paganism” as it is pre-Christian or whether he simply dismisses it as being capable of preparing the ancient world for the coming of Christ. Markos’s fervor to recommend Plato to his readers seemingly has no limits, as he quickly navigates through chapters that analyze several of Plato’s writings and argue that he offers a kind of vision for Christianity in the future. I may indeed be understating how eagerly Markos endorses Plato, as he later quotes C.S. Lewis approvingly stating that “Prophets and holy men… do not so much teach us morality as remind us of it” (57). This quote is then applied, at least by implication, to Plato.

Those looking for a critical analysis will need to look elsewhere. Markos’s enthusiasm knows few bounds. Even the very occasional time in which he points out something problematic in Plato’s thought are steeped in explanations about why that might have been part of Plato’s belief system. There is also little by way of critiquing Plato’s system itself, something with a long and storied tradition within Christian philosophy and theology. One might forgive the book for this, as it clearly isn’t intended to be a total look at Christian Platonism, but it seems worth mentioning given that readers without background knowledge on the subject may walk away from reading the book thinking that Christians generally have no problem with Platonism despite there being entire systems of thoughts developed to circumvent or deny Platonism in Christianity.

One example is in the chapter outlining The Republic. Markos outlines the way the republic is built by noting it is Socrates presenting all of these ideas. In a way, this shields Plato from criticism, but allows Markos to pour on praise when he agrees with Plato (see the shift from Socrates to Plato on page 27, for example). There is little about the awful way the city is set up to essentially force young adults into sexual relationships to produce offspring as dictated by the city’s leaders. Markos, having shifted before to claiming that these parts of the text reflect a more mature Plato using Socrates as a mouthpiece, in a footnote directly and singularly assigns Socrates the blame for this eugenic and ethical quagmire (45n9). Plato, it appears, can actually do no wrong.

Markos’s survey of Christian history and influence from Platonism is of interest, though not without problems of its own. He questions Origen’s orthodoxy due to his universalism, which fails to account for the lengthy stream of orthodox Christians (some of whom, as Origen, were condemned much later as heretical for their beliefs) who held to universalism or at least something similar. These sections provide insight into at least the range of Christians who were influenced by Plato, however.

From Plato to Christ is an enthusiastic endorsement of Plato and Platonism for Christians to explore. It’s difficult for this reader to wholly endorse the work, as it presents so uneven a picture both of Platonic thought and early Christian history that it could lead to a skewed view going forward. However, it could serve as an introduction to Christian Platonism for those interested who read it with a critical eye.

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: “Postmortem Opportunity” by James Beilby

Questions about eternity abound, but one of the most complex is the question of what happens to people who never heard the Gospel. If, the question goes, people who don’t believe in Jesus Christ are condemned, what about people who never even had the chance to decide for themselves? James Beilby’s book, Postmortem Opportunity: A Biblical and Theological Assessment of Salvation After Death is, in part, an answer to that question.

Put simply, Beilby here defends Postmortem Opportunity (hereafter PO in my text), which has the core claim (using his terminology) that: “those who die without receiving a genuine opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel will receive a Postmortem Opportunity to do so” (35, emphasis removed). Of course, there’s quite a bit to unpack even in this claim, such as what constitutes a “genuine opportunity.” Beilby does a commendable job of drawing out definitions and carefully moving readers through each step of the argument.

Beilby starts with a chapter that goes over common views on the destiny of the unevangelized, whether it’s universal salvation, predestination, or any number of other possibilities. In the chapter in which he defines PO, he outlines ways his version may differ from others, such as when it will occur and to whom it will be given. Throughout this and other sections, he uses thought experiments to explain situations. One example was the very helpful and challenging thought experiment regarding the fate of believers who either were on the way to disbelief or non-believers who were very close to believing before they died. It was helpful to clarify that faith and belief is not a kind of black-and-white, all-or-nothing situation, and that robust soteriology must deal with that fact.

Next, Beilby goes over arguments for and against PO, surveying both biblical, historical, and theological arguments. Beilby musters numerous verses to support each aspect of affirmative points he affirms in his view of PO, while also raising some of the objections that immediately come up in any discussion of PO. Interestingly, Beilby has a chapter to explicitly reject inclusivism as a conjunction with his PO, noting that his version basically makes affirmations that would preclude inclusivism and perhaps even make it unnecessary.

Beilby’s argument is interesting and certainly presents the most robust case for PO I have ever encountered. Though, to be fair, some of that may be my own lack of research into the topic. Nevertheless, Beilby’s modest conclusions that PO is, minimally, a possibility based on Scripture and broader theological concerns seem supported by his arguments here.

There are a few critiques I want to point out, however. First, the way Beilby treats biblical texts as data points to be collated as pros and cons for theological argument may call into question some of his interpretations thereof. For example, in the chapter entitled “Scriptural Evidence for Postmortem Opportunity,” he supports one aspect of his PO theory, that people are only condemned for explicit rejection of Christ, by mustering John 3:18, Matthew 10:32-33, and more verses to show that it is a theme found in Scripture. I am tempted to read scripture this same way, as it is what appeals most to my analytical mind.* However, I’m not convinced that this is the best way to read and interpret Scripture. Instead, I believe that the verses cited have contexts that are pointing to entirely different purposes of the entire thought happening. That doesn’t preclude that some kind of tangential points can be found in individual verses, including what Beilby argues is there, but I think more caution regarding interpretation and appealing to broader contexts for these verses would make the argument much stronger. I’m not fully convinced proof texting is a necessarily mistaken way of reading the text, but I am convinced that using the text in that way can and does frequently significantly damage the text. Such a critique can hardly be limited to Beilby, but can certainly be applied to myself and many others.

Another critique is that Beilby unnecessarily limits the scope of his argument fairly early on by saying his version of PO “assumes an explicitly Arminian soteriology” (75). His reasoning behind this appears to be that PO assumes a kind of synergistic view of salvation (75ff). However, to this reader, who is Lutheran and so neither Calvinist or Arminian in soteriology, Beilby’s self-imposed limitation is premature. I suspect this limitation was on purpose for the sake of not having to adjust his PO model to account for other soteriological views. I, however, think that his view of PO could be adjusted without losing too much to match different theological systems. From my own Lutheran upbringing, while many I know would reject PO out of hand, the teaching and affirmation about Christ descending to Hell/the dead was always explicit and strong. From there, it’s not much of a stretch to ask what Christ was doing there, and a kind of PO could flow out from an historic/credal background.

Postmortem Opportunity is a fascinating read on a number of important topics. I admit it has challenged my own views on several topics, and certainly has me going to scripture to read it more fully. I recommend the book for any readers interested in soteriological positions, and those interested in challenging their views.

*My thanks to a friend for pointing out this aspect of reading verses out of context and as data points.

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.

“The Mystery of Julia Episcopa” by John I. Rigoli and Diane Cummings- Historical fiction about the early church and women

What if there had been a woman who was a bishop in the earliest parts of Christian history? What would her life have been like? And, if we found out about her now, what would that entail? These are the questions raised by John I. Rigoli and Diane Cummings in their historical fiction novel, The Mystery of Julia Episcopa.

The Mystery of Julia Episcopa has two primary storylines: the first, set in modern times, follows Valentina Vella and Erika Simone, two archaeologists who come across a tantalizing discovery. The second plot follows Julia Episcopa’s life in the first century as she encounters Christianity and navigates her household life.

The story of Valentina and Erika starts off with a bang: the discovery of a document case that had some intentional damage done to remove the evidence that it was from Julia Episcopa, the last syllable indicating the person involved was a woman. It’s found at the Vatican during the tenure of a pope who is working to make reforms to the Roman Catholic church. These scholars have been, in part, charged with seeing whether there is any evidence of women in leadership in the earliest periods of the church. Their discovery launches them on a quest to attempt to find more information about Julia’s life and position in the church. To that end, readers are taken on an archaeological quest enlisting a few other experts as Valentina and Erika work against the clock and church leaders who are less interested in finding women in leadership than in suppressing them. It’s got the makings of a thriller, and at its best, it delivers the goods.

It’s difficult as a non-expert to assess how accurate the representation of Julia’s life is historically. As a reader, however, these sections delving into her life are among the strongest in the novel. Julia is a complex character with a difficult life, despite being born into wealth in the Roman world. No small amount of reflection on household dynamics and paterfamilias is built into this part of the story. But the concepts the author’s put forward in these sections never overtake the character of Julia and her own tale. It’s a spellbinding story, and strong enough to stand upon its own.

These two stories intertwine as Valentina and Erika come closer and closer to discovering the truth of Julia even as they try to hide the massive significance of their discovery from church authorities who are determined to prevent women from having authoritative roles in the church. Forced to conceal their findings for fear of losing funding in retribution due to others not liking the implications of their discovery, they continue on, using whatever resources they can find and their wit to keep the investigation going. It leads to some surprising discoveries.

One difficulty with the novel is twofold: things happen either too easily or with too much difficulty. For example, when Valentina and Erika decide to try to track down Julia’s tomb, they are convinced they’ll be able to find it. They simply enlist another expert and go to find it. However, archaeological finds, to my knowledge, don’t work that way. Picking a name and then going to try to find that specific person’s tomb from 2000 years ago is not how such finds usually happen. Though there are some pointers to help locate the tomb, the sheer confidence of Valentina and Erika that they can easily find the tomb made it difficult to suspend disbelief. On the flip side, when discoveries are made that include languages like Greek, at least one of our two main characters is unable to read it. It does not seem possible that anyone could become a renowned classical scholar and work with archaeological finds in the ancient world around the Mediterranean and not know a language like Greek.

The novel stumbles a bit in the last third. The following includes major spoilers. The archaeological expedition manages to discover Julia Episcopa’s tomb. Rigoli and Cummings here start to introduce a number of fantastic discoveries all at once. Not only do they find the tomb and therefore strong evidence of a woman who was a bishop in the early church, but they also find her mostly intact diary. The discovery of the tomb alone pushes on plausibility a bit, but adding in ancient texts starts to stretch credulity. Then, however, it truly starts to hit home how much is being packed into this novel at the end. They also find ensconced there a letter revealing the origins of a strong hierarchy for the papacy. If that’s not enough, they also find the Holy Grail! Then, at the end, additional events twist and turn so rapidly it’s hard to keep up. It’s a clear set up for a second novel, but by the end I was left wondering if I thought the whole thing was plausible enough to dive in to the next volume. I will, of course, because the premise alone was enough to sell me into the next book, but I was disappointed by this stumble towards the end.

All of that aside, The Mystery of Julia Episcopa is a refreshing read. More and more real world evidence turns up showing that women did have a much stronger role in the church than has been known for some time. This historical fiction novel, despite some flaws, delivers a compelling tale that lets readers wonder what it might have been like–and what it could be like–if huge discoveries to that end turn up.

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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: “Resisiting the Marriage Plot: Faith and Female Agency in Austen, Brontë, Gaskell, and Wollstonecraft” by Dalene Joy Fisher

Darlene Joy Fisher’s Resisting the Marriage Plot analyzes the works of Jane Austen, Anne Brontë, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Elizabeth Gaskell to see how each had features that actively went against societal expectations for women. Specifically, the authors Fisher examines used the novel to create dialogues and put forward frameworks for women to have agency within their faith life and society.

Fisher sets these novels within their contemporary context. She notes the pushback many, including pastors, had against novels. This included calling those who read novels “prostitutes” who committed “treason against Virture” (17). However, the novel’s popularity had already been solidified, and some women saw it as a way to expand the way women could influence and interact in society. After an introduction and a chapter that shows how women authors began to “leverage the novel form” (ibid), Fisher turns to examination of individual works by the authors listed. The first chapter is essential reading, though, as Fisher shows how novels can be used for ideology, how women authors challenged coverture, analyzes the authors she looks at for their different faith lives (including questions of orthodoxy, etc.), and shows a preliminary look at the examinations to follow.

Each chapter has an inset providing crucial information about the novel being examined, such as major characters and a summary. This means that readers who have no familiarity with the texts can still easily read along with the book. And Fisher presents quite a bit of analysis on each work. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen is the one I was familiar with, and my understanding of that novel was reshaped in many ways by Fisher’s astute analysis. What Fisher focuses on in each chapter is focused on how each woman resisted the marriage plot–the notion that women needed to get married and stay under their husbands’ protection in unquestioning subservience and obedience. What’s fascinating is how each author challenged this “marriage plot” in different ways. Whether it’s resisting the pressure to marry someone who had abused them in the past or through prioritizing one’s faith, the authors present different ways to challenge their cultural understandings of marriage.

The chapter on Wollstonecraft’s unfinished novel shows how the author valued freedom of agency in order to follow God in an unmediated fashion (61-63). Wollstonecraft also resisted the “romantic delusions” novelists often created, instead using her characters to pursue true virtue instead of simply conforming to romantic expectations (71ff). Austen’s Mansfield Park shows how Fanny, often reviled as a simple or foolish character, is actually using her faith to have resistance to societal expectations (155-156). Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall features questions of abuse, women’s need to be able to leave, and the question of romance and obligations to reform partners. Not only does Brontë connect women’s capacity for moral reform with their intellect, she also showed how faith can be liberative rather than constrictive (182-187). Elizabeth Gaskell’s Ruth would be a challenging read for many to this day, as it rejects a kind of “fallen woman” narrative while also using her faith to persevere.

Fisher ultimately shows that the authors she examines presented a challenge to societal norms that remained faithful to a Christian life. While there are questions of the orthodoxy of some of these authors, Fisher’s point is that they showed one need not abandon Christianity as an oppressive religion. Instead, these authors show that Christianity can instead empower and bring freedom to women through countercultural choices (246-247).

Resisting the Marriage Plot is a fascinating read. Fisher thoroughly examines the authors she presents and puts forth a vision of their works that can bring not just new enjoyment to them but also lead readers to living better and more fulfilling lives. 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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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: “Permission to Be Black: My Journey with Jay-Z and Jesus” by A.D. “Lumkile” Thomason

Permission to Be Black: My Journey with Jay-Z and Jesus by A.D. “Lumkile” Thomason is a fascinating read that explores the intersections of race, gender, and Christianity.

Thomason writes with a sometimes stream of consciousness exuberance that nevertheless grounds itself in lived reality. He talks about how Jay-Z’s lyrics gave him a kind of honest form of expression, while in the gospel of Christ, he found hope. Each chapter includes what he calls “cheat codes” about how to live life that include personal advice about blackness, masculinity, and more.

The book is at times hopeful, at times challenging, and all the time piercing in its analysis and thoughts. As a reader, I’m not sure I feel qualified to evaluate it. Thomason comes in like a whirlwind of energy and thought, and this pithy volume will force readers to think. Permission to Be Black is 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.

All Links to Amazon are Affiliates links

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Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

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

Book Review: “Discovering Biblical Equality” Third Edition edited by Ronald W . Pierce, Cynthia Long Westfall, and Christa L. McKirland

Discovering Biblical Equality: Biblical Theological, Cultural, & Practical Perspectives is a massive tome defending the equality of women in the church and home from a Christian standpoint.

The book is organized around 31 chapters plus an introduction and conclusion. The chapters are broken up into four parts: Looking to Scripture: The Biblical Texts; Thinking it Through: Theological and Logical Perspectives; Addressing the Issues: Interpretive and Cultural Perspectives; Living it Out: Practical Applications. There are highlights in each section, and each essays has its own strengths. Linda Belville’s “Women Leaders in the Bible” goes through many names readers might be familiar with, but also dives into details about some of the specifics, such as the background info we can see in the text for the importance of Huldah (p. 73) and some surprising examples readers might be unfamiliar with (74-75). The discussion of both marriage and singleness with regards to mutuality in Ronald W. Pierce and Elizabeth A. Kay’s chapter (“Mutuality in Marriage and Singleness: 1 Corinthians 7:1-40) is refreshing because so often the discussion centers entirely around marriage. The so-called “clobber passages” of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 each get their own passage, as do many other related passages.

Kevin Giles’s chapter on “The Trinity Argument for Women’s Subordination” shows the lengths to which some have gone to try to ground women’s inequality. Jeffrey D. Miller’s chapter on gender accurate Bible translation was fascinating and shows how the issues that are often dismissed regarding translation issues can have real, spiritual implications. Mimi Haddad’s chapter on global perspectives and why gender equality matters helps demonstrate the real-life applications of theology.

The book is the third edition of this collection. I own the second edition, which I read some years ago. I compared the table of contents for the two editions, and there is in the third edition a significant overhaul of the included essays. There are 31 chapters in the new edition vs. 29 in the previous one. Several chapters have been entirely replaced, and several new topics are introduced in the third edition. For example a chapter on “Gender Equality and Homosexuality” by William J. Webb in the second edition appears to have been replaced by “Biblical Equality and Same-Sex Marriage” by Ronald W. Pierce in this third edition. The third edition also addresses race and gender, a topic that I don’t recall or see a chapter dedicated to in the second edition. In other words, readers interested in knowing whether it’s worth re-purchasing should rest assured that it very much is. This new edition has a huge amount of new content. I cannot comment on whether essays that appear in each are revised in any way from the original.

The chapter on “Biblical Equality and Same-Sex Marriage” is written by Piece, who is non-affirming in his stance on same-sex marriage. The thrust of the chapter seems to be that one can be a fully committed egalitarian while not affirming same-sex marriage. Such a topic is certainly of interest to the many people who are caught in the middle on these issues. For my part, I’d have liked to see another chapter from an affirming perspective, though I wonder if it wasn’t included because that’s a less controversial pairing. The chapter on race and gender is fascinating and shows how these topics often intersect and overlap.

Discovering Biblical Equality is unquestionably the standard text for those wishing to explore the basics of egalitarian theology on a scholarly level that remains accessible. Every chapter has something to add to the discussion. The depth and breadth of some of the chapters is truly remarkable. I recommend it extremely highly as among the best books on the topic.

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: “First Nations Version: An Indigenous Translation of the New Testament”

When I saw the First Nations Version: An Indigenous Translation of the New Testament was coming out, I was intrigued. What kind of new things might it bring to the table? The editors of this version provide some explanation of choices made in the brief introduction. For example, they translated names while leaving the Anglicized version of the name in parentheticals in smaller font. Thus, Jesus is “Creator Sets Free (Jesus)” whenever the name appears. The editors tried to bring as many First Nations peoples into the process as possible, but of course there are so many that it wasn’t possible.

Even small things like the decision made about names made for some fascinating reading as I saw so many names with meanings I would have known if I’d sat and thought about them (or consulted my Hebrew or Greek Lexicons if I couldn’t remember the roots), but that I never had done the work for. It was amazing time and again to see these names with their meanings right in front of the reader.

The editors also added occasional italicized texts to help the story get told in a more oral fashion. Thus, there are occasional places in the text where an italicized portion (which the editors make very clear are not part of the original text, but there to help emphasize the oral recitation/hearing aspect of the text) adds some flare, such as Jesus “turning powerfully” to do something or confront someone. There are also some explanatory notes, italicized and set apart from the text that offer either context for passages or additional insight into reasoning behind some of the passages. For example, 1 Peter 3, with its discussion of the Flood and Baptism (translated as “purification ceremony”), has a brief explanatory note about the Flood so hearers unfamiliar with it may know what’s happening. These italicized portions are a remarkable addition that makes the text more readable and which give key insights into some passages.

I was driven near to tears time and again by the beauty of the text. I knew that “Jesus” meant “He Saves,” but to see Jesus’s name time and again translated as “Creator Sets Free” really drove the point home in a way that knowing it abstractly didn’t do. Headings occasionally made me sit back and think, such as the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13) having the heading “He Talks to the Ancestors.” Growing up and hearing how “ancestor worship/veneration” would be seen as syncretism and bad, I had never thought of this particular passage as a species of the same. It’s just a fascinating and challenging way to put the passage, an this happens many times throughout the NT (another example is the Temptation of Christ being called in Mark, “His Vision Quest”). Parables are sometimes reworded entirely, such as substituting horses for talents (the coins) in some parables. These are examples of contextualizing the NT and I found them to be quite beautiful.

One way I analyze a translation of the Bible is by looking up some specific passages and seeing how they are translated. One I look at is Romans 16:7. This passage has a history of obstruction, as some biblical scholars have attempted to turn Junia into a man due to her being listed as an apostle. I was gratified to see the FNV translation: “I send greetings also to Victory Man (Andronicus) and Younger One (Junia), my fellow Tribal Members and fellow prisoners, who have a good reputation as message bearers. They walked with the Chosen One before I did.” The translation as “message bearers” is interesting, as the same term is used occasionally for the disciples (eg. Matthew 10:1). Thus, the FNV does a good job noting that Junia was both a woman and among the apostles/disciples/etc. Of course, this study shows that some of our theological interests aren’t necessarily shared by the translators of the FNV, as they are more free with using varied terms for offices than some other translators are. Again, the equivalence between “disciples” (translated in various way) as “message bearers” and “apostles” as the same suggests this.

Other passages are 1 Timothy 3, in which many translations add masculine pronouns where the are none. The FNV reads naturally on this section, speaking of spiritual leaders. Problematic passages like 1 Corinthians 11:5-6 have explanatory notes (see above) that show how the cultural expectations may be applied here, and contextualizing it for First Nations believers (in this specific passage, with a reference to women not sitting around the drum).

Overall, time and again I found some of the more difficult passages translated in ways I thought caught the meaning of the text. Some were given explanatory notes, while others were not. It’s clear the text provides one of the more egalitarian readings of the New Testament in any translation. Additionally, discussions of Baptism (called the “Purification Ceremony”) and the Lord’s Supper are well done.

The First Nations Version is a phenomenal work. It is poetic, beautiful, and striking time and again. It captures the feel of hearing God’s word spoken, and it corrects some mistakes other translations make. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I honestly might start using it as my preferred version for personal reading. It’s that wonderful.

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.

Bonhoeffer’s Life in Fiction- Critical Review of “My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love” by Amanda Barratt

Amanda Barratt offers an historical novel based on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer with My Dearest Dietrich. As the subtitle states, it is “A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love.” Specifically, Barratt delves into Bonhoeffer’s letters and writings and builds a narrative around them focused on his relationship with Maria von Wedemeyer.

Barratt does a fine job of weaving that narrative around Bonhoeffer’s letters. I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on Bonhoeffer, but having read many books about him as well as his collected works, the narrative seems to at least largely follow the course of his life. Bonhoeffer’s close relationship with Ruth von Kleist-Retzow, Maria’s grandmother, is highlighted. Interestingly, Bonhoeffer’s first meeting with Maria is only presented in the briefest type of flashbacks. Historically, Maria’s grandmother had tried to get Bonhoeffer to accept Maria into his confirmation class, but he refused after seeing her as “too immature” to do so. In the novel, she’s upset about having embarrassed herself in front of him some years before.

In a sense, My Dearest Dietrich is a reframing of Bonhoeffer’s life. Essentially, Barratt turns many of his encounters with Maria or others into a kind of building of and reflecting upon growing love in order to make the plot work. However, much of this is done inside Bonhoeffer’s head rather than being drawn from historical documents. This is, of course, the way historical novels must work. Barratt’s goal of showing Bonhoeffer’s growing relationship and love for Maria requires this kind of internal monologue throughout in order to make sense. Thus, it has to be invented for the sake of the story.

Those who have studied Bonhoeffer extensively know that there is some question about his sexuality and more specifically his relationship with Eberhard Bethge. The most thorough look at these questions may be found in The Doubled Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Diane Reynolds. Reynolds argues extensively that Bonhoeffer was in love with Bethge. Moreover, she argues that Bonhoeffer’s relationship with Maria von Wedemeyer was a kind of cover as his imprisonment loomed. His relationship with the much younger Maria would solidify him as a “masculine” German–something emphasized in Nazi propaganda–while also providing a cover for any hints of homosexuality. Gay people were one of the oppressed classes of the Nazis who were rounded up and murdered by them (homosexuality remained outlawed in Germany for sometime after, as well). Thus, Maria would serve as a kind of double cover for any questions about Bonhoeffer’s conforming to cultural expectations.

Reynolds’s book presents a strong, thoughtful argument with which any scholarship related to Bonhoeffer must contend (see my full review of the book here). Barratt’s novel ignores that and essentially offers a counter-narrative in which Bonhoeffer is struck almost immediately by the thoughtfulness of young Maria and eventually comes to fall in love with her and get engaged with the intent to marry. For Barratt, none of these questions about sexuality arise. The absence of Bonhoeffer’s growing love and thoughts of love in some of his other works is explained largely through having no time to reflect upon it and actively resisting reflecting on it because he believed, in Barratt’s account, that other things were more important.

My Dearest Dietrich, then, is not just a novel about Bonhoeffer’s life. It is a retelling of the events and framing them in a way that cuts away some of the more intriguing questions about his sexuality and love for Maria. Bonhoeffer’s relationship to Maria, and the age difference between them (he was her senior by 18 years) has perplexed some Bonhoeffer scholars. Reynolds’s exploration helps make sense of some of these questions. Indeed, even setting aside his sexuality, simply offering the explanation that he saw Maria as a way to show his German virility to the Nazi interrogators is plausible enough.

What one makes of My Dearest Dietrich, then, is what one may. Barratt’s clear influence from Eric Metaxas’s pseudo-biography of Bonhoeffer is found in her acknowledgements, where she makes it clear that she was most influenced by that work. Metaxas’s biography, however, is largely ignored or rejected by broader Bonhoeffer scholarship due to its transformation of Bonhoeffer into a character of Metaxas’s own choosing. That Barratt was so deeply influenced by this biography and then wrote a novel of Bonhoeffer’s life with virtually no reference to any of the possible controversies it may raise is an interesting detail.

Barratt does make a compelling narrative, though, and one which, if she’s right about Bonhoeffer’s relationship, does a good job explaining those historical anomalies she does acknowledge. For example, Maria’s constant theme of doubting Bonhoeffer’s love is partially balanced by Bonhoeffer actively resisting the same for the sake of what he sees in the novel as his more important work of resistance. If Barratt’s view of Bonhoeffer’s love and sexuality (again, the latter being wholly ignored as a topic here) are correct, then her novel at least offers a way to make more sense of it all.

My Dearest Dietrich, then, is not merely an historical fiction. Rather, it is a kind of apologetic for one vision of Bonhoeffer. One that stretches the man in ways that go beyond the historical record, his own writings, and perhaps even the deepest parts of his character. As Stephen R. Haynes put it, the “battle for Bonhoeffer” continues. This novelization of his life is another battle front offering an alternate narrative of the man’s life and legacy.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer– read all my posts related to Bonhoeffer and his theology.

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: “Winsome Conviction” by Tim Muehlhoff and Richard Langer

Winsome Conviction: Disagreeing Without Dividing the Church by Tim Muehlhoff and Richard Langer provides readers with a way to analyze conviction and acknowledge differences of opinion even on deeply held beliefs without causing undue division.

The book is divided into three sections. The first provides biblical foundations for analyzing conviction, along with several historical examples. The second section discusses how to communicate convictions, including questions about division and divisiveness, fellowship, echo chambers, and more. The third section provides five chapters on how to discuss convictions–even differing ones–in a more winsome way.

I especially enjoyed the authors using historical examples to highlight some of the problems we still face today regarding convictions. The first chapter, a “historical prelude,” used the example of Roger Williams and the formation of New England with its history of religious freedom. It’s fascinating to see how, historically, some of the people most concerned with separating church and state were those who had the most deeply held religious convictions. More recent examples, such as religious symbolism in the crest of a city, help to bring these discussions into modern light. This chapter alone makes the book well-worth reading, because it sets up a way to look at some neutral examples in history and other places and to use them in discussing convictions in one’s own setting.

The final five chapters on applying what the authors have case studies, such as differing opinions on how to read the book of Genesis, intermixed with advice on how to hold to sincere convictions while still maintaining unity in church. The book is therefore a valuable resource for those seeking to unite while allowing for significant disagreements. Not only that, it also provides a way forward in understanding how people with similar background ideologies may differ significantly on what seem like basic issues.

Winsome Conviction would make an excellent group read for churches, especially those looking to welcome people from many different backgrounds and beliefs.

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

All Links to Amazon are Affiliates links

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Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

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

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