Book Review: Political Church (Jonathan Leeman)


What is the local church? Or, perhaps, what is the church? Is it a body of believing Christians? Is it all of God’s people, his temple? Do we “go to church” or are we “the church”? How does the church live within the political sphere? Are they truly separate entities? In Political Church, Jonathan Leeman makes a case for the political nature of the local church and argues that it is possible to be political and a Christian. In fact, everything we do is political. “The local church and its members constitute a political community that exists according to Jesus’ explicit authorization in Matthew 16, 18 and 28… The purpose of this political community, then, is to publicly represent King Jesus, display the justice and righteousness of the triune God, and pronounce that all the world belongs to this King. His claim is universal” (294). 

Jonathan Leeman is the editorial director for 9Marks. He is an adjunct teacher for The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and currently serves as an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. He has both an MDiv and PhD in theology, both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science, and began his journalism career as an editor for an international economics magazine. Political Church is the third (?) volume in the Studies in Christian Doctrine and Scripture, edited by Daniel Treier and Kevin Vanhoozer, which brings together Scripture, Christian doctrine, and the issues of our day. Leeman, using biblical theology (here, the flow of the Bible’s storyline), looks at the overall storyline to understand how Christians should think about the political sphere, something which touches every sphere of life (just turn on the news or get on Facebook or Twitter).

The first two chapters asks what “politics” and “institutions” are. Because these two chapters are the most technical, Leeman gives his readers a “get out of jail free” card and tells them that they should “feel free to skip them” (32). They are technical, and I certainly didn’t understand a lot of the political language, but I was stretched and I think I have underlines on almost every page. “Politics” is “public-wide and coercive governance,” an “order-enforcing agency” (60, 61). The local church’s institutional authority is the keys of the kingdom (Matthew 16, 18, 28), and the state’s institutional authority is found in “the sword” (since they are, as Leeman argues above, an “order-enforcing agency”). Putting it another way,

institutions tell you how to act, and they give you opportunities to act. They help to define relationships, giving them purpose and direction. They even shape aspects of your identity. Consider just a few examples listed by the sociologists: marriage, the contract, wage labor, the handshake, insurance, the army, academic tenure, the presidency, the vacation, attending college, the corporation, the motel and voting.46 These are very different kinds of institutions, but all of them, in various ways, contain rules and opportunities for action, shape a relationship, and impinge upon identity. (108)

The state builds the platforms of peace and justice so that the church can “hang signs with Jesus’ name over right beliefs, right practices, and right people—the repenting and believing citizens of Christ’s kingdom” (15).

Chapter three looks at the politics of Creations, particularly that as governed and ruled by the triune God. The Christian’s Godthe Father, Son, and Holy Spiritis one of a unified relationship and provides the basis for people to be committed to care for their close neighbors. Husband/wife, parent/child, employer/employee, and neighbor-to-neighbor are the relationships that make up the fabric of society. There are relationships of affirmation and submission. “Good government works according to principles of righteousness, justice and love; and good government works best when ruler and ruled are perfectly in sync” (153).

Chapters 4-6 cover the Politics of the Fall, the New Covenant, and the Kingdom. The “the local church is a political institution because it has been authorized by a King to borrow and wield his own office keys for declaring who is and who is not a citizen in the ‘age of new covenant’” (295). The local church is an extension of God’s kingdom; it is not God’s kingdom, but an embassy for it. It “represents one nation inside of another nation… and it protects the citizens of the home nation living in the host nation. Embassies do not make people citizens of a home nation, but they do formally affirm who is and who is not a citizen of the home nation” (296).

Just as Jesus was ‘under’ the authority of Pilate and submitted to his decrees, Christians are not higher than their governments and must submit to their decrees. However, just as Jesus’ kingdom was elsewhere, Christians are members of the Creator’s kingdom, and he has given them a particular authority to preach the gospel, make disciples, and display love, peace, justice and righteousness. Everyone worships something—either God or idols. Christians are ambassadors for God (2 Cor 5.20); they mediate his covenantal rule to the world around them and call them to submit to Christ the King. 

Recommended?

The volumes in this series are more advanced than what I usually review, and one should have some knowledge of the political sphere to get the most out of this book. But yes, I do recommend it, especially because Leeman works through the Bible’s covenantal storyline. “The church’s life is held together by justification by faith alone, the most powerful political force in the world today for flattening hierarchies and uniting one-time enemies” (14). You may not be a political expert, but you will benefit from reading Leeman’s work. It is slow work, but it is a rewarding read.

Lagniappe

  • Series: Studies in Christian Doctrine and Scripture
  • Author: Jonathan Leeman
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (March 26, 2016)

Buy it on Amazon or from IVP Academic!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Lexham Press. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

Book Review: Old Testament Wisdom Literature (Bartholomew and O’Dowd)

Old Testament Wisdom Literature Bartholomew O'Dowd

What does the Bible have to say about wisdom? Can pithy poetics really form character? In their new book Old Testament Wisdom Literature, Craig Bartholomew and Ryan O’Dowd present a theological introduction to the Bible’s wisdom books—Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes. Proverbs 3.19 says God created the world by wisdom, yet most 21st century Westerners have lost the wonder of creation. Christians are saved through the blood of Christ, what do we need to understand about the world? Being in a real covenantal relationship with Yahweh brought Israel together with the God who both created the universe and who redeemed Israel out of Egypt. Knowing his law meant knowing how to life. It meant wisdom and understanding (Deut 4.6). How can man expect to find it, and how can 21st century Christians apply 3,000-year-old Old Testament wisdom to their lives?

Summary

Chapters 1-3 bring us into (1) Israel’s world of wisdom—they believed that they were in covenant with the one God who created all of reality and who was the source of knowledge. Yet, as Job expresses, they knew their knowledge was limited. Next (2), the authors take a tour through Egyptian and Mesopotamian wisdom to bring us into the flow of thought around Israel. Chapter 3 makes a plea for poetry, which “gives us a nuanced understanding of people, language and culture” (51). Stating a mere proposition such as “God is omnipotent” is very different than “declaring that God rules ‘the raging sea'” or that he can “draw in Leviathan with a hook” (69). Poetry brings imagery to the stories which make up our life. 

At 160 pages, Chapters 4-9 make up the core of the book. The authors spend two chapters on each of Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes. In the first chapter on each book, rather than rehearsing the main gist of each book, they describe the book’s theological function. Each book’s second chapter (“Chapter B” as I call it) explores a particular theme in that book.

Proverbs

Proverbs 1-9 develops a character-consequence scheme. Here, your character (wise/foolish) determines the consequences in your life (life/ruin). Proverbs 10-30 nuance this idea and bring exceptions to the rule. These proverbs are not categorized by topic, but seem to be written chaotically and at random, just the way life is. In chapter B, the authors examine how wisdom is embodied in the Proverbs 31 woman, though she is not a real person for no one person could do what she does. Rather, that figure represents the extent to which wisdom reaches and the practical ways of living in which wisdom is required.

Unlike Proverbs 1-9, Job and Ecclesiastes “focus on profound experiences of apparent contradictions to the character-consequence theme,” which deepen our faith and our wisdom and form our character (285). The authors note, “Ecclesiastes is performatively enigmatic, just like suffering, and Job is long, at times tedious, with all those speeches, just like suffering” (318). Sometimes the text’s form is just as important as what it says.

Job

Job asks “Where can wisdom be found?” (28.20). His friends think they know it all, yet in the end Job is to make sacrifices for their foolish words. Job replies like a human being—he gives strong responses, fears, worries, and contradictions. Just like the process of suffering, all people learn as the conversation of suffering goes on. They change their answers from one idea to another, even being hopeful at points (Job 28), before plunging back into suffering again, and still yet before God shows up in a revealing way. Chapter B examines Job 28 and how we, limited in our understanding of all things, must go to the One who stands outside of creation to obtain wisdom.

Ecclesiastes

Similarly, Qohelet in Ecclesiastes looks for meaning in the world through his own autonomous wisdom—which is actually “folly” because Qohelet’s search occurs apart from God. The book “ultimately affirms life and joy… but only as the end result of a ferocious struggle with the brokenness of life” (189). Job presents bodily suffering; Ecclesiastes presents mental anguish. It’s not enough to have a high IQ. Job had money. Qohelet asked difficult philosophical questions. But wisdom requires us to admit our finite creatureliness before the infinite Creator. We, like the woman in Proverbs 31, can embody wisdom and image God. Chapter B takes up the topic of time, seeing the larger story, and using our time well.

Chapters 10 looks at wisdom in the NT through the coming of Jesus. Chapter 11 gives an OT theology of wisdom. The chapter both summarizes and expands on what has been said previously. Wisdom is related to creation and how the world works. It is brought about by the Creator who is also Israel’s Redeemer. God’s good creation links his wisdom with his law/covenant with the prophets. Chapter 12 applies wisdom to our present life concerning education, politics, spirituality, the ordinary, and the dark night of the soul. For example, even after we receive salvation, we still want to be the captains of our souls. We have “false selves” that we want to put on to protect ourselves, and God uses suffering to dismantle those false selves. The authors refer to C.S. Lewis’ image of someone buying a small cabin in the woods. She thinks it’s great to have God come live with her… until he begins to tear down walls and change out the stairs. He wants to revamp the whole house, and it hurts. But believing that he is great and good will help carry us to the end of the darkness that feels like our closest friend.

Recommended?

I greatly appreciated Bartholomew and O’Dowd’s theological interpretation. According to Ecclesiastes, how can we know if we truly have wisdom? Job 28 tells us that man searches high and low for treasure, yet even Abaddon and death themselves do not have wisdom (v. 22). God doesn’t come out and give us all the answers we need. How can man expect to find it, and how can a 21st century person apply 3,000 year old wisdom to their lives? The authors look at the meaning of the texts and what is really going on. Teacher and pastors would do well to read this book. Hopefully more people will grasp the importance of these important, often ignored Old Testament books. All people of all statuses everywhere can receive wisdom and they can use it, but it starts with fearing the Lord who both calms the raging seas, who condescends to know us, and who has descended and ascended to save us.

Lagniappe

Buy it on Amazon

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

Book Review: The Decalogue (Baker), Theologygrams (Wyld)

Decalogue David Baker

We’ve come along way from the giving of the Ten Commandments (AKA, the Decalogue or the Ten Words).  Do we still need them? Are they still relevant? Who doesn’t know that murder is wrong? If so many don’t believe in God, why have them around anyway? Should we enforce them as laws?

The Decalogue consists of two groups of five commandments concerned with loving God (1-5) and loving one’s neighbor (6-10). In his book, the Decalogue, David Baker believes the Decalogue “expresses the essence of the covenant but is not a treaty document in itself” (12). There are strong parallels between the commandments of the Decalogue and that of other ANE treaties (e.g., not to commit murder, adultery, theft, etc.). However, other ANE texts are not “as comprehensive in scope as the Decalogue” (19). The ethical appeals of the Decalogue are grounding in God’s character and how he says his “holy nation” should live to be holy as he is holy.

The Decalogue was spoken by God to all of Israel, the “whole people of God” (32). Baker believes it is Israel’s constitution. Far from being a burden to slog through life under, it (and the Book of the Covenant in the following chapters of Exodus) is their “charter of freedom to be embraced and celebrated,” as Psalms 19 and 119 point out (35).

After his introduction, Baker gives a chapter to each commandment, setting each of the ten commandments against their surrounding ancient Near Eastern cultures to compare and contrast the uniqueness of God’s instructions to his people. He then reflects on how that commandment was (or wasn’t) lived out through examples in the OT and NT. Baker makes comparisons with the Decalogue that is repeated in Deuteronomy 5, noting any changes and why they might have been made.

In his final section he looks at how we, as Christians, the people of God, should live in light of Jesus’ death and resurrection. He says that the Decalogue is the basis for Old and New Testament ethics. It reveals the character of God to us, and from there we can explore the rest of the Bible to see what he is like.

Lagniappe

Buy it from Amazon

.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and often a picture is easier to look at than 1,000 words. Rich Wyld has created a host of diagrams to help distill some of theology’s deeper points into forms that visual people can digest. Until I get permission to share some pictures, I’ll share some links to his blog. Some of these from his blog are found in his book, others are not. Wyld begins with (1) the Old Testament, then moves to (2) the Gospels, (3) the rest of the NT, (4) the life of the church, and he ends on (5) the life of the church.

In section 4, Wyld, an Anglican, uses references mostly from the Anglican church, but tries to be fair when representing other churches too. Some sections found here are:

  • A “breakdown of time spent during a hymn”
  • “Ministry in the church” (those being pastors and teachers, evangelists, prophets, apostles, and people who hoover and make tea).
  • And the very humorous looks at “what’s going on in the mind of the person reading the Gospel in church,” which, if you’ve ever had to read in front of a crowd, you can very well relate.

In section 5, Wyld asks where wisdom can be found, and looks at Proverbs, Jesus, James…and Mr. T.

Mr. T, Theologygrams Wyld

Some examples which can be found on his blog are:

Bible references are provided for most pictures. The intention isn’t only to be silly, but to provoke thought and have the reader go back to the Bible to read that verse or section again. The intention isn’t to mock or belittle God, his creative works, nor his redeemed people.

Lagniappe

Buy it from Amazon

Disclosure: I received these books free from IVP Academic and IVP Books. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

Book Review: Beauty, Order, and Mystery (Hiestand and Wilson)

Beauty, Order, Mystery

In the beginning God made an ordered creation. All things were good, good, and very good. “God created mankind in his own image… male and female he created them.” He created man and placed him in a garden, and then created women for the man. What happens after that gets complicated, convoluted, and disturbing. What do we do with marriage, sex, and sexuality in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of the “profound mystery” found in the relationship between husband and wife.

In Beauty, Order, and Mystery, editors Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson—senior associate pastor and senior pastor, respectively, at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, IL—bring together essays from the 2016 Center for Pastor Theologians 2016 conference on the themes of human sexuality. Not all of the contributors agree on every point, but they all do agree on the “historic Christian consensus on sexuality,” which is centered around the importance of “biological sexuality” (3).

The books has three sections. 

Part one—a theological vision for sexuality

Part two—the beauty and brokenness of sexuality

Part three—biblical and historical reflections on gender and sexuality

To summarize each of the fourteen chapters below would be too much, so I’ll comment on a few that stood out to me.

Summary

Both Beth Jones and Matthew Mason emphasize that the bodies we have now will be the ones that are resurrected. Our bodies touch the core of our existence. This is why Paul says that the “fornicator sins against the body itself” (1 Cor 6.18). “Sex matters because it goes to the very heart of what it means to be human” (29). We can’t simply change our bodies to the way we think they should be. It is becoming increasingly difficult to say that maleness and femaleness are “created goods” (23). But that’s because we have fallen natures, and it is mistaken to think that the consequences of sin in the now created (dis)order are normal and good. As Mason points out, redemption involves both Christians and the whole created order (137). Our genders are shaped by our culture (e.g., different cultures and different eras have different standards on length of hair, style of dress, mannerisms), but “inscribed in our bodies” is our biological sex (139). Looking at 1 Corinthians 25.38, God has given each of us a body as he has chosen, and our resurrection body will correspond with our earthly body. To undergo reassignment surgery is to say humans—or each individual—are autonomous Creators.

In the same vein, Denny Burk’s “The Transgender Test” acknowledges that we should feel compassion for those who feel like they are living in two worlds, but his main point is the authority of Scripture. It is “nothing less than a shorthand for the authority of God” (91). What if someone has a “female” mind but a “male” body? iIs the Bible insufficient to deal with a situation like this? Popular opinion says God’s word is harmful to those dealing with these issues, but if that isn’t how Jesus tells us to love people, then it’s wrong. If we diminish Scripture’s authority, we’re hurting those we minister to.

Marriage is a “unity-in-difference,” says Wesley Hill (41). It represents the “other-oriented love of the Trinity” (208). The “trinitarian God gives himself in love to the other”—that is, the Son (who is not the Father) and the Holy Spirit (who is neither the son nor the Father). Jesus shares the perspective that marriage is between a man and a woman. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the picture of marriage—the Bridegroom with his Bride. The Christian who has homosexual tendencies cannot marry, but he/she can find love in Christ’s body. Similarly, single people can live well without a spouse, just as the married can live poorly with their own spouse. Within the body of Christ, deep, closely-knit friendships need to be encouraged. For that is how we will all survive.

Both my wife and I thought Daniel Brendsel’s chapter was an odd duck. About half of the chapter was spent talking about the selfie and where it came from. The other half talks about what the selfie portrays—I have a body that I can show off but is somehow separate from me, you can know “me” just through a picture and a paragraph, we are performers who can be someone else to different groups of people. We reap what we so, somehow. He says “we should consider what we as churches have been sowing and watering by way of our cultural practices and postures,” but doesn’t really say what church have been doing or what they should change beyond sharing meals with one another and confessing our sins—growing in our relationships with each other in order to know the real “me.” It wasn’t a bad chapter, it merely seemed out of place from all the rest.

Gerald Hiestand’s chapter took a very good look at the power inequality that exists between male and female. He examines third-wave feminist Camille Paglia’s argument on the relationship between biology and tyranny. Following the argument was difficult, and probably would have been better relayed if he had summarized it (though I understand it was part of his lecture). Also, compared to the other essays, Hiestand’s reads as though he is a PhD candidate. That being the case, men have more physical power, but we are to lay our lives down for our wives, the weaker vessel (1 Pet 3.7), as Christ laid his life down for his bride and continues to serve her.

Finally, Joel Willitt’s essay, “Bent Sexuality and the Pastor,” looks at “the pervasiveness of sexual trauma” and “the denial of our [pastors, specifically, but all people generally] own trauma around sexuality” (119). Being sexually bent comes as a result of a traumatic experience, often in the form of sexual abuse as a child. As a result, people try to survive snd work through it in different ways, often incorrectly (e.g., being paranoid, fatalistic, heroic, and optimistic). It often can lead them to have sexual difficulties (e.g., self-abuse, abusing others, porn addiction, not wanting sex, etc.). Willitts emphasized the difficulty that many go through as to how difficult it is to break through the trauma warfare. It “often… comes in fits and starts; it is the result of a long, painful process; and likely, it will not be completed until Christ’s return” (129).

I’m not sure, though, how to take his ending. Wanting to be careful about his essay, but he mentions having a hard time desiring sex with his wife (due to his childhood abuse), mentions having a porn addiction, but then doesn’t talk about how those two things work together. In the end, Willitts isn’t saying not to fight the trauma. Those who have been abused do need to fight through it with the power of the Spirit and know that they will be free in the resurrection, but the rest of us need to be gracious, empathetic, patient, and long-suffering. His essay gave me the most thought.

Recommended?

Yes, get this book. It is a great resource and will help you to think through these issues that are knocking on our doors. The contributors do not always agree (Mouw seems to have some reservations about how to apply the OT law to homosexuality, while Burk is for using the OT law). But Beauty, Order, and Mystery provided my wife and I with some good talking material, and with some excellent advice when we do face people who feel uncomfortable in their own bodies.

Lagniappe

  • Series: Center for Pastor Theologians
  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (October 24, 2017)
  • Press Kit available here

Buy it from Amazon

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

Book Review: Echoes of Exodus (Bryan Estelle)

Echoes of Exodus Bryan Estelle

Why does Luke 9:31 describe Jesus’ crucifixion as his ἔξοδον (“exodov”)? Why does Peter describe Christians as a “holy” and “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2.5, 9), redeemed by the blood of Christ the lamb (1.19)? What is the “new song” sung in Revelation 5:9 and 14:3? What is the old song? How does the idea of the exodus stretch from the book of Exodus to Luke? 1 Peter? Revelation? How is it carried along in the Old Testament?

Bryan Estelle, professor of Old Testament at Westminster Seminary California, provides a book on intertextuality on how the whole Bible develops a major theme: the exodus. Estelle traces this biblical motif throughout the Bible. Remember that when you read this. He doesn’t spend much time exegeting passages or drawing out how each line looks back on an exodus event. Rather, he looks at a passage and states how it broadly uses or reinterprets an idea from the exodus.

After a technical (but important) chapter on intertextuality, allusions, and echoes (see also the book’s appendix), Estelle moves on to the exodus motif. The exodus was when Yahweh delivered his people from the grip of Egypt. He brings his people to the cosmic mountain, the mountain of his presence, Mt. Sinai, gives Israel his instructions and has them build a tabernacle where he will dwell among them- just as he dwelt among Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Estelle defines the exodus motif in this way: “both the deliverance from the enemies of Israel in Egypt and the wilderness wanderings as described in the Sinai pilgrimage, which culminate in the arrival at the foot of the mountain of God” (102).

Estelle then takes his readers through the Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Ezra and Nehemiah, Mark and Matthew, Luke and Acts, Paul, 1 Peter, and Revelation. Often throughout the Old Testament texts Estelle includes his own translation, often including Hebrew transliterations of key words that allude to the exodus. Estelle wants his readers to feel confident when they read their Bibles to be able to ‘hear’ the Bible’s own allusions to different events, specifically the exodus, even if they don’t know the biblical languages themselves.

The Spoiled Milk

In chapter two, “The Past is Prologue,” Estelle brings the reader back to creation, the problem of human plight, and how it all relates to the exodus. He discusses the idea of two kingdoms and how God’s “covenantal family” (running through the Adamic line of Seth) “lives in the midst of the common-grace city of man” (76). Surveying Genesis 6-9, with a focus on 8:20-9:17, Estelle examines how the covenant to Noah (6:18) relates to the Noahic covenant. The Abrahamic covenant was redemptive while the Noahic covenant was not. This will run throughout history as God’s people live in the midst of other governments and forms of power. The “kingdom of God and the civil kingdom, will help us understand the exodus motif, guiding our interpretation of the exodus along spiritual lines rather than merely political ones” (90).

Primarily, the discussion of the two kingdoms along with the emphasis on God’s common grace seems to be out of place with the rest of the book. First, much of the discussion had little to do with the exodus until the end of the chapter (see the above quote). This is fine except that these two subjects don’t occur after page 118 (in a 351 page book), which causes me to wonder why they were mentioned in the first place.

Recommended?

One upside to the book is also a downside. Tracing a theme throughout the whole of Scripture means that each section/allusion gets a short shrift. There is not much exegesis, translations of particular sections (e.g., Isaiah 40:1-11) take up a lot of space, and at least one text (Psalm 23) didn’t refer to an exodus text at all. But for those who are new to the Bible’s own intertextuality and the theme of the exodus, this would be a great book to get. To know who to recommend this to is iffy though. If you have Carson and Beale’s Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, if you’ve read Beale’s Revelation commentary, anything by Richard Hays, or Rikk Watts, then some (or all) of this won’t be new. But if you haven’t read some of those guys, or if you’re brand new to this, then pick up this book and see one of the Bible’s greatest themes and how it runs from the beginning of the Bible through our salvation and up to the new creation.

Lagniappe

  • Authors: Bryan D. Estelle
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (January 30, 2018)

Buy it on Amazon

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

Book Review: The Lost World of the Flood (Longman and Walton)

The Lost World of the Flood Longman Walton

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. (Matthew 4.8)

…And distributed among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed, each to his house. (2 Sam 6.19)

And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. (Gen 7.19)

Was the Flood a local flood or a global flood? Does the Bible every use hyperbole? If so, can we still consider it inerrant? Does the physical earth show proof of a global flood? If it doesn’t, does the Bible remain trustworthy? Can it be possible that a local flood is hyperbolically represented as covering the whole earth to represent God cleansing the whole earth and starting over? That is what Tremper Longman and John Walton argue for in The Lost World of the Flood: Mythology, Theology, and the Deluge Debate.

The authors argue that rather than using Mesopotamian flood sources, the Israelites sat within a “cultural river” of beliefs on the flood. The authors believe a flood really did happen, as can be seen in the writings of many cultures (e.g., the Epic of Gilgamesh). However, they don’t believe in a worldwide flood, and we can’t know which flood lays behind the Noah story.

Yet doesn’t Genesis 7–8 state that the whole world was covered by water (7.21; 8.9). Enter part one (method): “perspectives in interpretation.” The Bible is an “ancient document,” which means very old. This is obvious, but it is easy to forget that people thousands of years ago thought differently than us moderns. When it comes to storytelling and history, since nobody wants to hear every detail, certain aspects must be carried along while others are left behind. Genesis uses rhetorical devices to interpret history for us. God shaped and fashioned an ordered creation; man corrupted it and brought disorder.

But the way this is told is put into a story, one that, according to the authors, uses hyperbole. This will be the most contentious part of this section, since the thought of the Bible using exaggeration seems out of the bounds of a literal interpretation. However, Longman and Walton seek to place the Bible in its historical context, and exaggeration was common among other ancient writings (just as it is today: “But, Mom, everyone is going to the concert. I will be the only one stuck at home all night long!”).

Though which details are actually exaggerated will be debated, exaggeration emphasizes the authors point. The teenager above may have different reasons for wanting to go to the concert (fitting in, having something to talk about at school, favorite band, not wanting to be bored at home while playing cards with Aunt Tina), but Mom knows exaggeration is being used. Readers 1,000 years from now might not know this is exaggeration unless they have read other writings from our time. For the authors, the exaggeration lies primarily in the (over)size of the ark and the extent of the (global) flood. 

In part two (background) the authors looks at the flood stories in other ANE texts to understand the similarities and differences between them and the Genesis text. Part three (text) provides five chapters/propositions on what the flood story (Gen 7-9) and the surrounding texts (6; 10-11) tell us about God and man and that no matter how many times man undermines his ordered presence, God will set his ordered presence among his people (cf. Rev 21-22). Examples are seen through the events of the sons of God intermingling with women, the flood, and the tower of Babel.

Starry Night Van Gogh

Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” represents a real starry night, but it would be madness for us to try to figure out which part of the night sky Van Gogh was looking at for inspiration. In part four (world), the authors write that while the flood story is based on a real event, it was local flood that is not supported by the world’s geology (a chapter written by geologist Stephen Moshier). The fact that there are other flood stories does not prove that there was a worldwide flood, but rather that many lived within the cultural river of knowing there was a great flood. (See Michael Heiser’s post on how to argue biblically for a local flood).

What if there really was only a local flood? The authors argue in the final chapter that science can purify religion and religion can purify science. What they mean is that the Bible was not written to teach us about science but about God and how we can come to know him through Jesus Christ. Galileo taught us that the earth revolves around the sun, and science should not conflict with the Bible. As with Galileo, the authors argue we should go back to the Bible to see if we understood it correctly. On the other side, science is not “the sole arbiter of truth” (175). Not all scientists think it is, but both Dawkins and Hawking spoke incorrectly about religion, embarrassingly so.

I appreciated the authors’ short discussion on the clarity of Scripture. The Bible is clear as to the way of salvation, but that does not mean that all Christian can understand all parts of Scripture just by simply reading the Bible. Even our translations disagree on how to translate certain verses of the Bible. This should not put us into a tizzy. We must mine the Scriptures for wisdom and knowledge to know the God who created and saved us.

The Spoiled Milk

In the preface the authors say that they aren’t trying to offer the “single ‘correct’ interpretation” of the flood. There is much more that could be said than what they say in their book. They aim to relay to the reader what the Bible is speaking. Their goal is not to “convert” nor even to “persuade” their readers to their view. Rather, they want to bring this information to the reader to show them another perspective, or perhaps more information about a perspective they already hold.

However, three times in their book the authors are reveal their hands and play the card of condescension. They say that those who try to rationalize the size of the ark make “rather stretched (to be kind) explanations” and “only the most gullible can possibly believe all of the exceptional conditions that are needed to understand the description of the flood story as anything but hyperbolic” (39, emphasis mine). They later argue “that the New Testament authors (and Jesus himself) were sophisticated enough to understand that [the Genesis story refers to a hyperbolically worldwide flood] (even if some modern readers are not)” (99). If the authors are only presenting their side, then why the dig? (See also page 26 where the authors mention intelligent people who believe in the literal seven days even when there were no celestial bodies, but how they may be “too intelligent (or clever)).”

This does only happen a few times, but the authors may “hope that at least [they] have shown how [their] particular interpretation is the result of faithful interpretation,” those small digs will only serve to distance those “readers who cannot accept our [Longman and Walton’s] findings” (viii).

Recommended?

Is this book dangerous or unorthodox? No. The authors make a good attempt to reconcile the Bible with science, but I don’t think they will convince many unless those readers are already heading in that direction. If this is the first book you read in the “Lost World” series, 180 pages won’t be long enough to convince you of the authors’ view of biblical inspiration and authority. One ought to read Walton’s The Lost World of Scripture for a more complete work. If you’re interested to read a book on the local flood by two well informed scholars, or if you’ve been following the “Lost World” series, then you should start here. If you hold to a global flood and aren’t bothered by a few digs, this book is a good discussion tool and will still help you to see the theological point of the flood and of Genesis 1-11.

Lagniappe

Buy it on Amazon

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

Review: Mark (TNTC), Eckhard Schnabel

Mark (Tyndale New Testament Commentary) Review

The first commentary on the Gospel of Mark was written in the sixth century, and between “AD 650 and 1000, thirteen major commentaries were written on Matthew, but only four on Mark” (Strauss, 20). Despite the long neglect, much study has been done over Mark’s short Gospel for more than the last century.

Eckhard Schnabel, Professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell and author of Acts (ZECNT), Early Christian Mission (2 volumes), and 40 Questions on the End Times, replaces Alan Cole’s Mark volume in the Tyndale New Testament Commentary (TNTC) series with a Christmas meal—441 pages of commentary on the shortest Gospel. While adding to the growing list of commentaries, Schnabel (who is also the TNTC’s series editor) did not write a commentary of commentaries on Mark. Instead, writing for pastors, students, and laypeople, he comments on the meaning of Mark through theological reflection, historical points of reference, the meanings of words, and the literary development of the characters.

Summary

Schnabel gives very little attention to Markan priority (whether Mark’s Gospel was written first), saying that Markan priority “continues to be plausible,” but that “these questions are more significant for commentaries on the Gospels of Matthew and Luke” (4). Thankfully, Schnabel examines the text and not a possible Markan community behind the text, though he does acknowledge future Mark’s clarifications for Gentile readers (14, 162).

He takes Mark to be the actual author (12), probably writing from Rome for various churches (14) anywhere between 50–64 AD. We don’t know what Mark’s sources are, but if Papias is correct, Mark’s “most significant — and perhaps the only — source” was Peter (18). Mark ends his Gospel at 16.8. Abrupt endings are attested in antiquity, and within the Bible Jonah ends abruptly and Acts ends with Paul still alive and his legal case unresolved. To paraphrase Demetrius (whom Schnabel quotes), some points need to be worked out be the hearers themselves (22-23).

Schnabel disregards William Wrede’s hypothesis of Mark’s “Messianic secret.” If there is nothing messianic about Jesus or his ministry, then there is no explanation for his death, nor is there any explanation as to how his disciples transformed their “unmessianic master into the Messiah after Easter” (25).

Mark does not have a “vendetta” against the disciples (29), but merely gives an “unvarnished” (aka, authentic) look at their pre-resurrection responses to Jesus (30). Nobody imagined a Messiah who would die, and though on occasion Jesus does rebuke the disciples, he often explains himself to them.

Schnabel divines Mark into four pairs of three’s:

  1. The Beginning of the Gospel (1.1–13)
    1. Heading (1.1)
    2. Jesus and John the Baptist (1.2–8)
    3. Jesus declared Son of God and conflict with Satan (1.9–13)
  2. Jesus’ Messianic Authority (1.14–8.21)
    1. The kingdom of God and Jesus’ authority (1.14–3.6)
    2. The Twelve and the kingdom of God (3.7–6.6)
    3. The Mission of Jesus Messiah and the Twelve (6.6–8.21)
  3. Jesus’ Messianic Suffering (8.22–15.47)
    1. The revelation of the Messiah’s suffering (8.22–10.52)
    2. The confrontation in Jerusalem (11.1–13.37)
    3. The suffering and death of Jesus Messiah (14.1–15.47)
  4. Jesus’ Resurrection Announced (16.1–8)
    1. The women at Jesus’ tomb (16.1–5)
    2. The announcement of Jesus’ resurrection (16.6–7)
    3. The reaction of the women (16.8)

Interpretations

4:10–12: Jesus tells parables to conceal the kingdom of God from outsiders. They are intentionally veiled. Many cannot see or hear the kingdom of God in Jesus’ miracles, exorcisms, and through his teachings. Judgement will come because they do not want to truly listen to God (13.1–37). Schnabel interprets through the lens of the kingdom of God that has come in Jesus (1.14–15).

6:49–50: Jesus’ “I am” statement (see also 14.62) is not a declaration of divinity.

7:24–30: Having just taught his disciples about what is clean and unclean (vv. 14–23), Jesus enters “unclean” Gentile territory. Jesus doesn’t “change his mind” when the Syro-Phoenician woman gives the right answer; rather, she passes his test. She (a Gentile “dog”) can eat the crumbs under the table simultaneously while the children (Israel) are eating. Though Jews generally saw dogs as unclean, “dog” (kynarion) here is a pet “present at a meal in the house” (173). This Gentile woman has more spiritual discernment than the Jewish leaders.

8:1–10: Mark is not repeating himself here; this is not the same event as in 6.30–44. Jesus is in Gentile territory (Isa 25.6; 49.6; Acts 1.8; 2.39).

13:24–27: Jesus’ second coming is at a separate, indeterminate time from 13.1–23. Jesus no longer focuses on the city of Jerusalem, the local councils, or even the seasons (winter, v. 18), but on “the sun, the moon, the stars, the clouds, the ends of the earth and the ends of heavens” (330).

14:35–36: Jesus “does not have inner doubts about the value of his death. Jesus’ prayer to be spared death conveys the excruciating anguish that senses the terrible reality of suffering the judgment of God, dying as a ransom for the many (10:45), shedding his blood to seal the new covenant (14:24), dying as a sin offering (Rom 8:3), becoming the place of God’s atoning presence (Rom 3:25), becoming a curse for us (Gal 3:13) ” (364).

14:51–52: Whoever this young man is, he shows that all have forsaken Jesus. In terror, the young lad would prefer to be shamefully naked and save his own skin than to be caught being with Jesus.

Schnabel provides much good historical and factual information on various people (Pilate, p. 394-95; the Sanhedrin, p. 373), places (Jerusalem, p. 261), and the timing of the Passover (350-51). Some of these details seem a bit much, such as the possible “House of Peter (1.29–31), heights of various mountains in Israel, and how a clay lamp was made in Galilean workshops (4.21). It can make the text seem too busy, and I personally think some of these details would work better as footnotes. Still, his points on why people go “up” to Jerusalem (247), just how the friends could dig their way through the roof of a house (65), or who Barabbas was (400), help make sense of the text. Schnabel is a careful exegete and historian. 

Unfortunately, there are no indices in this volume (or in any of the Old and New Testament series).

Recommended?

I’ve read (chunks of) quite a few Markan commentaries. Schnabel’s volume isn’t going to break new ground, but he is trustworthy when it comes to biblical exegesis and exposition. He keeps the Gospel’s context in view in his theology sections, making sure that he doesn’t interpret something apart from anything else Mark has said, and points to Christ as our one and true Savior whose death ransomed sinners and inaugurated the new covenant. The pastor, student, Bible college teacher, and layperson would be filled with this huge 441 page meal.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Eckhard J. Schnabel
  • Series: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (June 6, 2017)

Buy it on Amazon 

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

Book Review: Paradoxology (Krish Kandiah)

Paradoxology Kandiah Review 

What if this ancient faith we call Christianity has survived so long not in spite of but precisely because of its apparent contradictions? . . . What if it is in the difficult parts of the Bible that God is most clearly revealed? What if it is in and through our doubts that we learn the meaning of true relationship with the God who created us — of true worship? What if Christianity was never meant to be simple? (5)

In the introduction to his book Paradoxology, Krish Kandiah begins with a personal story etched into his life. Sitting in the hospital with a family whose one-year-old son was suffering after a routine surgery, the elephant in the room is the question: Why does God allow such meaningless suffering? How do we understand an omnipresent God who we can’t see or feel? How can we love a God who needs nothing but asks everything from us? How can he be so inactive while equally actively holding up the world? Who speaks silently? Who “wins as he loses”? Just who is this God whom we serve?

Kandiah doesn’t try to guard anyone from the Bible’s own questions and difficulties. If God needs no sacrifices, why did he ask Abraham to sacrifice his own promised son? Does he determine our free will? Is he really so compassionate when we consider the wars in Joshua? For Kandiah, working through these difficulties instead of shying away grows our faith. It requires us to pay attention to the Bible to see God’s just and righteous character. Kandiah looks at the Bible characters (such as Abraham, Job, Habbakkuk, Esther, and Jesus!) and how they remained obedient and faithful to God even in the midst of despair.

Overview

Kandiah structures each chapter in the same way. First there is a current story or circumstance. Why, after having already lost his wife and baby, did poor Geyoung’s father decide to return to North Korea to preach the gospel, only to be arrested and never heard from again? Second, the story brings up problems. Why does God require so much from us? Was it correct for Geyoung’s father to leave her to preach the gospel in North Korea? Does God want to watch us struggle? If he has everything, is he greedy for wanting more? Third, there is the biblical story. Abraham and Sarah are barren, God promises Abraham many descendants, and they believe him. Sometime after Isaac is born, God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.

Looking at the broader story, Kandiah draws out a few points of reference for the reader over how Abraham could have trusted this God. I don’t want to give too much away, but Abraham’s belief in God was not a leap of faith. Abraham had already spent years seeing that God is true, just (“shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” Gen 18.25), and worthy to be praised.

God is not an idol who is here to give us the good and prosperous. No relationship should work like that on earth, and neither does our relationship with God work like that. God smashes our idols and wants us to know him. Abraham had already experienced the miraculous life of Isaac coming from the deadness of himself and Sarah (Heb 11.12). Abraham knew that God could bring life out of death (11.19). There was a relationship between Abraham and Yahweh. Abraham had seen that Yahweh was just and righteous time and time again.

Fourth, Kandiah closes with some concluding concluding thoughts, sometimes tying them in with his opening story.

The Chocolate Milk

Every chapter pretty much follows this structure, which means you know what to expect with each chapter. He brings up the challenges that many people think when they read the bible, and shows how God is trustworthy, just, and faithful.

Some paradoxes have to remain as paradoxes and simply be held together. For example, scientists have one theory for how light consists of solid particles that can hit objects, and they have a separate theory on how it is a wave and can be in two separate places at the same time (219). Scientists have to acknowledge that their brains are not wired to put these two theories together, so, rather than emphasizing one theory over the other, they hold them together. Similarly, when it comes to the Trinity, how Jesus is both man and God, and how God’s divine sovereignty and man’s free will correspond to each other, these things must be held together. We work through them, read books about them, and understand and explain their nuances, but we will never completely understand these paradoxes in this life. And that is OK.

If there was one addition I would appreciate seeing, it would be a section on recommended resources either after every chapter or at the end of the book. Some of the chapters here summarized ideas that I’ve read in other books. For instance, because I’ve read quite a few books on God’s sovereignty and man’s free will (chapter 10), there wasn’t much new here for me. It’s a similar case with chapters 3 (the Joshua Paradox) and 4 (the Job Paradox). These chapters weren’t intended to cover every detail, but having a reference tool to point readers to other books would be helpful. And though we have Amazon at our fingertips, recommendations for further reading from an author are always warmly welcomed. 

Recommended?

For the high school or university student, to the layman, Bible teacher, and pastor, this book provides a helping comfort to know that the Bible’s paradoxes aren’t a problem—but a gift to be received, wrestled with, befuddled over, and a cause to rejoice. The God we serve has hidden himself in plain sight, and because we have his Spirit, we can read his word and we can understand him.

Lagniappe

    • Author: Krish Kandiah
    • Paperback: 320 pages
    • Publisher: IVP Books (February 14, 2017)

Buy it from Amazon

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.


Table of Contents

The Preface (paradox)
Introduction

1. The Abraham Paradox: The God who needs nothing but asks for everything
2. The Moses Paradox: The God who is far away, so close
3. The Joshua Paradox: The God who is terribly compassionate
4. The Job Paradox: The God who is actively inactive
5. The Hosea Paradox: The God who is faithful to the unfaithful
6. The Habakkuk Paradox: The God who is consistently unpredictable
7. The Jonah Paradox: The God who is indiscriminately selective
8. The Esther Paradox: The God who speaks silently 

Interlude at the Border

9. The Jesus Paradox: The God who is divinely human
10. The Judas Paradox: The God who determines our free will
11. The Cross Paradox: The God who wins as he loses
12. The Roman Paradox: The God who is effectively ineffective
13. The Corinthian Paradox: The God who fails to disappoint

Epilogue: Living with Paradox

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Book Review: Introverts in the Church (McHugh)

Introverts in the Church McHugh Review

Introverts have been quietly making their entrance into the reaches of society, as introverts tend to do. We’ve always been here, but not everyone has taken notice. Susan Cains’ book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Amazon’s #1 seller in their “Behavioral Psychology” section) has been a big success. Movies with introverted characters, such as It’s Kind of a Funny Story, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Donnie Darko, She’s All That are nothing new. But introverts are not topics only for books and movies. They are real people, and they are in (or they lead) your churches.

In the revised edition of his book Introverts and the Church, Adam McHugh explains the general personality of an introvert, how they are often perceived and understood in church, how they ought to be perceived and understood in church, and how introverts can minister to others given through their unique personalities.

Summary

“The extrovert God of John 3:16 does not beget an introvert people,”

-Richard Halverson, The Timelessness of Jesus Christ

I was quite introverted as a teenager, though I didn’t know there was a title to it. I’ve heard plenty of quotes and ideas like the one above and always felt like there was something wrong with me. In his first chapter, McHugh “paint[s] with broad strokes” features of evangelical churches which are unnatural for introverts: equating spirituality for sociability, “chatty” churches before and after the service, and personal evangelism (at least the emphasis to always be “on” and ready to talk to anybody and everybody).

After covering the church’s extroverted roots and introverted ancestors, McHugh (chapter 2) defines the “introvert” (talking briefly about the Meyers Briggs Type Indicator) and the general differences between introverts and extroverts so that, by reading this, the extroverts can understand their quiet friends better and the introverts can understand themselves better. McHugh says, “While extroverts may gauge their day by the quality of interactions and experiences they had, introverts often gauge their day by the thoughts and reflections they had” (45). He lists seventeen of the most common introverted attributes, most of them I embodied all too well at one point or another.

“Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves,”

-Susan Cain

The third chapter is about healing, mostly figuring out life knowing it is not bad to be introverted. We should be careful not to make our introversion an excuse to avoid sacrificially loving others around us. Chapter four looks at an introverted (or ‘contemplative’) spirituality. We enter into solitude to set our eyes on the God whose ways are higher than ours so that we might be transformed. Since introverts “live in their heads,” McHugh’s suggests we go about our day paying attention to our inner thoughts and desires to see what God is doing in our lives. Because much of the western world is taken up in living a maximum-efficiency lifestyle, introverts need time to recharge. When ministering to others, it is often the case that there is always someone who needs ministering to whether it be inside or outside your home. McHugh provides a few questions for you to ask yourself to figure out the best times when you have the most energy. He suggests developing a daily/weekly schedule so you know what to expect in your day and can plan for the times you will need to recharge.

Within community, introverts can find it difficult to say ‘no.’ If this continues, they may find themselves in the “introvert spiral” where they use a lot of social energy and then “spiral out” to recharge for a period of days or weeks (a form of “burning out”). Introverts have plenty of gifts to offer, one of them being the ability to listen and give space. Certainly there are extroverts who are good at listening, but for an internal processor as myself, if someone wants my advice on a matter, I appreciate when they give me as much information to work with as they can. I sit back and let them talk so I can take the whole gamut and give my opinion.

On the flip side, we need to be available to our community. We need to ask questions, over-express ourselves, and reveal the inner workings of our minds to people. For myself, I don’t like when people look over to read an email (or a sermon) I am writing. I may want them to read through my finished rough draft, but I don’t want them to see my poor thinking in my rough rough draft! We need to be able to be vulnerable before our family in Christ and share with them who we really are.

“Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God.
Without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self,”

-John Calvin, The Institute of the Christian Religion

One big question I had throughout high school and college was: as an introvert, how can I lead? My wife? A congregation? A field trip? Anyone? McHugh spends two chapters dealing with the misconception that introverts can’t lead. Period. But what is a leader? McHugh says, “Leaders give people a lens and a language for understanding their work and experiences in light of larger purposes” (134). As Christians, we are living lives of “day-to-day monotony and ordinariness.” We living in the kingdom of God under the resurrected and ascended divine Son who redeemed us through our sins through his death and poured out his Spirit into us. God’s presence is always with us. That is not ordinary.

To know God, you must know who you are. Extroverted or introverted, you are a redeemed sinner. To lead as an introvert, you should have a good understanding of yourself too and what introversion is. I can’t rehearse all that McHugh says here (though I wish I could), but in leading, teaching, evangelism, and communal life, you will be operating out of weakness and relying on the sacrificial Son we serve.

Recommended?

McHugh’s first edition came out 10 yeas ago, right around when I would have graduated high school. I wish I would have known about it then. Not only is it not wrong to be an introvert, it is actually a good thing! There are traits that I have that come more naturally and more easily than they do to extroverts (in general). If you’ve taken the Myers Briggs test you’re certainly aware of the many personalities people can have, yet still we are more complex than merely 16 personalities. People of all personalities ought to sit back, listen, and relax as they humbly figure out and acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of others and yourself. Christ’s body needs one another. The extroverts certainly need the introverts, and the introverts certainly need the extroverts.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Adam S. McHugh
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books; Expanded, Revised edition (August 1, 2017)

Buy it from Amazon

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

Book Review: Liturgy of the Ordinary (Tish Warren)

Liturgy of the Ordinary Tish Warren Review

How is one to be devoted to Christ in a world full of chores, showers, cooking, and cleaning? Doesn’t he know how long it takes us to get up in the morning (or worse, our kids)? How are we to be faithful witnesses of the gospel when so much of our days are taken up by work, menial, constant chores, and another household item breaking (either on its own, or, again, because children)?

Tish Harrison Warren is a priest in the Anglican Church in North America and currently serves as Co-Associate Rector at Church of the Ascension in Pittsburgh, PA. She writes regularly for The Well, CT Women, and Christianity Today.

Summary

In her book, Warren takes us from the moment we wake up down to the moment we go to sleep. Everybody starts their day the same way—tired, hair a mess, the look of having just woken up, and the hope that they don’t have to begin the day just yet. Yet for the Christian, “Jesus knows me and declares me his own. On this day he is redeeming the world, advancing his kingdom, calling us to repent and grow, teaching his church to worship, drawing near to us, and making a people all his own” (23).

We make our beds—creating order and beauty out of chaos. We monotonously brush our teeth and take care of our bodies—just as God the Son did in his own physical body (well, I don’t know what he did with his teeth). We are living sacrifices and we act out our worship; it is embodied. We lose out keys and realize we rely too much on small things. How can we say we’ll suffer for the Gospel if we can even keep our cool when we lose our keys? Warren says that we need to “cultivate the practice of meeting Christ in these small moments of grief, frustration, and anger, of encountering Christ’s death and resurrection…in a… Tuesday morning” (56). Why?

She responds,

Otherwise, I’ll spend my life imagining and hoping (and preaching and teaching about how) to share in the sufferings of Christ in persecution, momentous suffering, and death, while I spend my actual days in grumbling, discontentment, and low-grade despair (56).

Even with the flood of food pictures we get on Instagram and Pinterest, all of us eat leftovers. Sometimes that’s great, most times it’s fine, but it’s never remarkable. Eating leftovers for your birthday is convenient, but it’s not special. In fact, most meals we eat are not Pinterest-worthy, nor are they even worthy to tell our neighbors (because who loves hearing “Hey, I made new meat loaf last night”?).

Similarly, Bible reading is not usually a very scintillating experience. But just as our non-enthusiastic leftovers provide nourishment to us, and most of those meals—even the fresh ones—are long forgotten, they all have provided some kind of nourishment to us. We are still alive. So it is with the Bible. We read it. We don’t understand it. But it nourishes us. We continue reading. Day after day. Warren says, “Word and sacrament sustain my life, and yet they often do not seem life changing. Quietly, even forgettably, they feed me” (67).

I’ve only covered the first five chapters. We fight with our spouses (or loved ones), and God calls us to be peacemakers (Matt 5.9; cf. Rom 5.1). We check a flood of email and daily work at our jobs (some we like, others we loathe), and we worship God with our efforts. We sit in traffic, and we hate it because it reminds us that we are not masters of our time. As much as we despise it, waiting is a gift and patience a virtue. We call trusted friends, and lay ourselves bare to them. We drink tea, or coffee, or hot chocolate, and rest and savor the world God has created and the creations his creations have created as well.

Warren ends the book with sleeping. Rest is necessary. In fact, it is one of the most spiritual things we can do, for not sleeping will kill us (and our relationships with others). It is a taste of future death, but in it we lay aside our worries and trust that God is at work. He doesn’t need us, but he loves to have us partner with him. He holds us fast, and “gives his beloved sleep” (153; cf. Ps 127.2).

Other Matters

If you can’t tell from the title and the fact that Warren is an Anglican, there is a lot of talk about liturgy in this book. And reading this book through a Baptist lens, that has both it’s pro’s and con’s. Before coming to Norway I had never been in a church that had an ordered liturgy, so there were some aspects of what Warren said that I couldn’t relate to (such as her never really having a “sense” of time until she discovered the liturgical calendar). For myself, I never gave much thought at all about advent until I came to Norway (a prominently Lutheran country). This isn’t a criticism against Warren, but only a note for other readers (i.e., Baptists). Keep reading. For myself, reading through Warren’s book provided me a bit of insight into seeing how other Christian live out their ecclesiology, even if I found some parts odd (and interesting).

I would like to have seen more written about these heady concepts, specifically justification, pneumatology, Christology, and eschatology, topics Warren “can get drunk on” (23). Why does one’s eschatology matter? Pre-, post-, a-, panmillennial—do they make a difference, or are they mere fodder for pointless arguments? How should our view of the Spirit, who he is, and his work in our lives shape our outlook on today? More of this would have been appreciated, but I am happy with what I was given.

Recommended?

Books that bring the heady concepts of the Bible into the warp and woof of our daily lives ought to be read. More often than we’d like to admit, too many of us probably walk around having the biblical concepts in our heads, but when it comes to living out our days, we think we simply need to live as good people. Warren guides her readers through one day—one day out of so many—and shows them a way to think about their day under God’s purposes and loving designs. Whether you are a Presbyterian, a Lutheran, a Methodist, a Pentecostal, or, dare I say it, a Baptist, there is much here that is beneficial.

Lagniappe

Buy it from Amazon

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

Book Review: Jeremiah (BST), Christopher Wright

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

Jeremiah Message Speaks Today Christopher Wright book review

The Bible Speaks Today (BST) series has a threefold ideal:

  • to expound the biblical text with accuracy
  • to relate it to contemporary life, and
  • to be readable.

While it is not exactly a “commentary,” this is not a sermon series either (a la Preaching the Word). In his volume, Wright writes specifically to pastors and preachers, those called to fill God’s people with his word and a solid, biblical knowledge of him. Wright is an ideal person to write on Jeremiah. He is an OT theologian who has been writing on the Old Testament and OT commentaries for years (e.g., Deuteronomy, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel). Having written so much about the OT, Wright is able to keeps the entire story and canon of the Bible in mind as he fills in the details about the suffering prophet.

The weeping prophet, who weeps God’s tears for his people and relays God’s anger against his people. Jeremiah images God’s relationship with Israel in two primary ways: one of a husband and his bride, the other of a father and his son. God is a “betrayed husband” and a “rejected father” (29). Thus, “God and his prophet suffer together in the anticipation and the actuality of the disaster” (30).

Structure and Content

Unfortunately, Wright doesn’t provide an outline. Instead his volume is made up of 34 chapters, with Jeremiah 25 as the “hinge” chapter. He says, “Chapter 25 is clearly a ‘hinge’ chapter that first looks back to all that has gone before in chapters 1–24 (25:1–7). Then it effectively ‘programmes’ the rest of the book by looking forward to the inevitable judgment on Judah that God will bring through the agency of Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon (25:8–11), followed by God’s promised judgment on Babylon itself and indeed on all the earth (25:12–38)” (27).

Chapters end with a section on “theological and expository reflections” which present short thoughts for the reader (paster/congregation) to consider. For example, Wright says, “Jeremiah highlights biblical standards for human governments,” and then asks why Christians are more vocal over the new sexual agenda than they are about government policies which keep the poor and the vulnerable confined in their present state (246). To know God is “to practice steadfast love, justice, and righteousness” in this life now (Jer 9.23–24).

Wright sees wordplays, alliteration, OT allusions, the repetition of words and themes all throughout Jeremiah. He draws together Jeremiah’s messages throughout the book and shows his unified message. In commenting on the abrupt, jarring verses of 30:23–24, Wright says, “Why is that past oracle of doom repeated here? For the purpose of wrapping it in the smothering embrace of the core covenant promise that Israel had known from their origins” (311).

Wright has rhetoric and uses imagery well, saying that Jeremiah and his message “stick out like a funeral director at a wedding,” which is very true (51). Considering all the false prophets who cried, “Peace, peace,” Jeremiah wept that Jerusalem would be overtaken by Babylon. The false prophets preached a wedding; Jeremiah preached a funeral.

Wright is not only sensitive to OT themes, but to NT themes and references as well. God’s promise in Jeremiah 30–33 and 35–37 that nothing could separate him from his people is echoed in Romans 8.38–39.

The Spoiled Milks

My two disappointments with this volume concern the lack of an outline and a lack of indexes, specifically a Scripture index (my same complaint with Lalleman’s and Kidner’s volumes). With so many NT Scriptures referenced, this volume would have been even more resourceful if one could easily see all of the Bible verses used.

Recommended?

Wright is a highly trusted exegete who has written numerous books and commentaries. Get this one, and don’t stop there. Wright, like Lalleman, is good to have for all Bible teaching settings. His chapters are longer than Lalleman’s (only Mackay’s are longer), but are packed with exegetical and expositional insights. I would use his volume if I taught a Bible study, a Bible college class, or preparation for a sermon. Good to be paired with Lalleman’s volume.

Lagniappe

Buy this on Amazon

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

Book Reviews: Paul’s New Perspective (Anderson) & The Earliest Christologies (Papandrea)

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paul's new perspective garwood anderson book review

IVP graciously sent me Garwood Anderson’s new book Paul’s New Perspective: Charting a Soteriological Journey. Is this just another book on the New Perspective of Paul (NPP)? No, not quite. “To put it simply, the argument of this book insists that both ‘camps’ are right, but not all the time,” or at least, not at the same time (5). Anderson actually thinks that the “New Perspective” was Paul’s old/earliest perspective, and the “Old/Lutheran/Reformed Perspective” was Paul’s new perspective. Anderson means to say that Paul’s early letters (e.g., Galatians), with their use of such terms as “works of the law,” reflect what the NPP says is wholly Paul. But Paul’s later letters (e.g., the prison epistles) reflect what the OPP says is wholly Pauline. And Anderson says, yes.

“Paul’s discourse [in Galatians] is conditioned by an urgent, on-the-ground crisis of how, against apparent scriptural testimony to the contrary and overcoming the skepticism of Jerusalem apostles, Gentiles can be admitted to covenantal membership apart from Torah observance, especially circumcision” (12).

But, like all people, Paul’s theology developed. Anderson in no way says or means to say that Paul’s earlier theology was wrong. But as new situations arose, Paul, like all people, had to think through these new issues with a gospel worldview, one that believed Jesus was the Son of God who died for our sins, rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, rules and reigns at the right hand of God, and will return to save his people and vanquish his foes. Anderson says that Romans was Paul’s turning point, and that Paul’s argument has a transformation of its own. Basically, what began with the crisis of Gentiles being included into membership apart from the law would eventually move to having a “vertical” reconciliation with God, by faith, apart from works of any kind.

“In particular, the question has become not how Gentiles gain a place in the covenant but how, the Gentiles’ place in the covenant being assumed, the unity of Jew and Gentile can be preserved without subverting the salvation-historical priority of Israel. And that question, salient in its own right, is ultimately tributary to the even larger question of God’s own rectitude in the outworking of the divine plan” (13).

Why write a book like this? Garwood says, “The project originates in the sobering observation that Paul’s students too frequently nourish contention, not least in the learned study of their mentor’s accounts of how enmity and its causes have been overcome” (3). And, unfortunately, this is true. Paul taught reconciliation with God and from God, and it should be received and given by his people to each other. Yet, looking at the different Pauline schools, there does not seem to be nearly as much fence-mending going on as Paul would have liked to have seen.

Outline

Before we can get to the real meat (chapters 6-8), some real work needs to be done. Anderson’s first five chapters take us through the gritty debates, but it takes some grit to get through them. Anderson examines some of the issues of the NPP (ch1), gives three examples of how Paul is uncooperative in either “camp”: Phil 3.1-11, Rom 3.21-4.8, and Eph 2.1-22 (ch2), and examines the theology of Dunn and Wright, Watson, Campbell, Bird, and Barclay to see if there’s a way through the NPP (ch3). In chs 4-5 Anderson lay out his “itinerary” on the dates of Paul’s letters, and he argues against the deutero-Pauline hypothesis and for Pauline authorship of all thirteen of Paul’s letters. The problem here will be that if some of Anderson’s arguments don’t work (e.g., a pre-Acts 15 date; a southern Galatian provinence), his theory will have a harder time holding together. It’s not impossible, but a bridge becomes harder to hold up without some of its suspension cables.

Chapters 6-7 deal with Paul’s movement from works of the law to works and his movement from justification language to salvation. Important topics that are hit are also grace, salvation (again), and reconciliation. In chapter 8 Anderson shows the similarities and, more importantly here, the distinctions between Galatians and Romans. Romans is not just an extended edition of Galatians. The second half of the chapter looks how impotent works are redeemed and become “good” in Paul’s later theology.

The Spoiled Milk

My main complaint is that it takes a long time (225 pages) to get to the meat of the book’s main argument, and the language in those first five chapters is very clunky. Anderson uses imagery and metaphor to draw pictures in his language, but sometimes it’s too confusing and makes for a slow read. I often asked myself if it was worth it working through the first five chapters of this book. Chapter 6-8 are definitely worth a read, but only those who are skilled in the discussions of the NPP & OPP will really find chapters 1-5 worth their while.

Recommended?

Unfortunately, this might be the first book I’ve read that specifically deals with the NPP. So for me, though I knew aspects of the NPP and OPP, I haven’t read much at all to begin working through the issues. I taught 2 Corinthians twice in Bible college, and besides Wright’s article on 2 Cor 5.21, there’s not much discussion (that I know of) on the letter from the NPP side. However, for those who are looking to go deeper into the N/OPP debates, Anderson’s book is a must read. His nuanced arguments shows that he has read both sides carefully (from what I can tell) as he tries to refrain from making grand, sweeping allegations. I too must agree with Anderson’s wife, he “should write more” (x).

Lagniappe

  • Author: Garwood P. Anderson
  • Hardcover: 457 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (October 28, 2016)

Buy it on Amazon


Earliest christologies papandrea book review

What did the early church believe about Jesus Christ? Were there really competing views over who Jesus was? Did the view that Jesus was both human and divine (what Papandrea calls “Logos Christology”) become the mainstream view through silence and oppression? Or was this the mainstream view because it was truly what his followers believed about him? In his short book The Earliest Christologies, James Papandrea introduces his readers to the five most common views of Christ with in the post-apostolic age and why Logos Christology won the day. This book focuses on each groups’ “christologies—drawing out what they believed about the person of Jesus Christ, as far as we can know. Then we will address the relationship of christology with soteriology (salvation) and also its relation to [their] lifestyle” (13). What we believe has a profound impact on how we live, and our lifestyle shows what we really believe.

The five christologies are:

  1. Angel Adoptionism: Jesus was a human anointed by God but indwelt by an angel.
  2. Spirit Adoptionism: Jesus was a human who, like the OT prophets, was inspired by the Holy Spirit who left him while he hung on the cross.
  3. Docetism and Docetic Gnosticism: Christ was a phantom who took on the appearance of a human.
  4. Hybrid Gnosticism: “The one who appears as Jesus is not really human but rather a semitangible being posing as a human” (69).
  5. Logos Christology: Jesus Christ is both fully human and fully divine.

The book ends with a continuum chart comparing the aberrant views with Logos Christology. The chart moves from the views which emphasize Christ’s humanity (to the neglect of his divinity) to Logos Christology (in the center) to those views which emphasize his divinity (to the neglect of his humanity).

Recommended?

Papandrea does a good job introducing the reader to the other aberrant views that skewed important aspects of Jesus Christ at the end of the first century and into the second century. As he points out, there’s not much to go on with some of these views. Unlike Christianity which wrote extensively (a la the New Testament, copies of the New Testament, and other helpful letters to the churches), the other views wrote very little, and much of what remains of their writings are only fragments. Because of this it is difficult to know with certainty what these other views precisely believed.

Lagniappe

  • Author: James L. Papandrea
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (April 24, 2016)

Buy it on Amazon

Disclosure: I received these books free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

Book Review: Representing Christ

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

rep-jc

Thank goodness that Luther guy came along and re-gave us the priesthood of believers (though not in those exact words). In his writings, Luther referred to believers as priests hundreds of times (18). “The doctrine, according to Luther, denotes the believer’s sharing in Christ’s royal priesthood through faith and baptism. It’s primary implications are every believer’s access to the Father through Christ and responsibility to minister to other believers, especially through the proclamation of the Word” (18).

Uche Anizor (PhD, Wheaton College) is associate professor of biblical and theological studies at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University and an instructor at Los Angeles Bible Training School. He is the author of Kings and Priests. Hank Voss (PhD, Wheaton College) is national director of church planting at World Impact and senior national staff with The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI). He is the author of The Priesthood of All Believers and the Missio Dei. Anizor and Voss locate God’s calling of his people as a kingdom of priests (Exod 19.6; 1 Pet 2.5, 9) within the context of Scripture and show how those who are part of God’s royal priesthood are to respond to God as his witnesses in the world.

Outline

 

In Chapter 1 Anizor look at how the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Protestants define the idea of the priesthood of believers. In this book they’ll seek to define what a priest is, and show that it is all who are in Christ. Speaking in terms of the Trinity, in Christ the baptized believer has access to the Father, we have the privilege of serving one another in Christ, and we have all received the Holy Spirit’s anointing for this service to one another and to the world (19).

The argument is developed in four stages:

  1. Biblical
  2. Historical
  3. Theological
  4. Practical

In Chapter 2, the biblical argument, Anizor outlines the story of the priesthood of believers as seen in the Scriptures. Beginning in Eden, our story ends at the New Jerusalem, the new creation. He gives a brief, pointed look at a few texts in the Pentateuch, in Psalm 110, Isaiah 52–66, the life if Jesus, 1 Peter 2, pieces of Pau’s letters, and Revelation.

In Chapter 3, the historical argument, Anizor “details Martin Luther’s theology … and presents it  as a fruitful  and concrete attempt to integrate and develop Scripture’s teaching on priesthood—both ordained and universal” (22). After looking at Cyprian and the Gregorian reforms, Anizor looks at the seven “priestly practices” Luther believed Christians had.

  1. Preaching and teaching the Word
  2. Baptizing
  3. Administering the Lord’s Supper
  4. Binding and loosing sins
  5. Prayer
  6. Sacrifice
  7. Judging doctrine

“Christians have access to God and his Word in order that they might minister the latter in its many forms to one another” (82).

We become like what we worship, and Christians worship the triune God. In Chapter 4, the theological argument, Voss shows “what it means for the royal priesthood to worship, work and witness with a Christocentric-Trinitarian vision” (86). This is important, for, as Fred Sanders’s Trinitarian axiom goes, “The more Trinity-centered we become, the more Christ-centered we become, and vice versa” (88). Voss examines what a Christocentric-Trinitarian royal priesthood is, what it looks like in real life, and a few inadequate versions of a Protestant priesthood of all believers. This chapter asks, “Who is the God the priesthood of all believers serves?”

In Chapter 5, the theological argument, Voss asks, “How do we as members of the royal priesthood faithfully and fruitfully respond to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?” Voss lays out seven central practices (which are basically the same as the list in ch 3 but in a different order):

  1. Baptism
  2. Prayer
  3. Lectio divina (divine reading)
  4. Ministry
  5. Church discipline
  6. Proclamation
  7. The Lord’s Supper

To give one example, lectio divina means to listen for God’s voice as it speaks through Scripture. Looking at Psalm 119, four markers of covenant loyalty are:

  1. Fear of the Lord – the living God, the maker of heaven and earth, speaks through Scripture. Not us.
  2. Humility – We are not Christ. We are polluted by sin.
  3. Delight – God’s priests delight in God’s word more than a pile of gold. It is wisdom, it is joy, ir brings us closer to the living God who has made us his “sons and daughters” (2 Cor 6:18).
  4. Holy obedience – lectio divina is dangerous (134). We will suffer and we will grow if we listen to God’s voice. We will continually learn how to be unselfish and to care for and love others as Christ has loved us.

In Chapter 6, Voss wraps up, summarizes the book, and asks, “So what?” If believers (myself included) took our ministries before God seriously, what difference would this doctrine make? How could Christians transform society? There will always be unbelievers, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work to make the world better, to use wisdom to implement new ideas, technologies, and care and concern for our next-door neighbor and our third world neighbor. We do it all to the glory of the beautiful Lord who adorns his bride with jewels (Is 61:10).

Recommended?

Anizor and Voss have done excellent work in writing Representing Christ. It’s clear and easy to read. I hope to see more books out on this particular topic, along with more by these two authors. Some parts will be more difficult to read, not because of the style of language used, but because of subject matter. My favorite chapter was chapter 2 as it dealt with the biblical argument for the priesthood of all believers and took me through pivotal texts in the Bible. The historical argument (ch 3), though good and important, was more difficult for me to read. Regardless, the authors write in such a way that they don’t load you down with details, but they only give you what you need to know. It’s easier to read through some parts because you know it’s going to be important to the argument. This is a book that all believers should read, with the hopes that we will be humbled and will see our responsibility before the triune God who rules from heaven and has bestowed his people with great honor.

Lagniappe

  • Authors: Uche Anizor and Hank Voss
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (June 6, 2016)

Buy it on Amazon or from IVP Academic!

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

Review: Psalms 73-150

Psalms

Derek Kidner was a brilliant British Old Testament scholar. He taught at Oak Hill Theological College before becoming Warden of Tyndale House. He wrote many commentaries in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (TOTC) series and The Bible Speaks Today (BST) series. He has written volumes on the books of Genesis, Ezra–Nehemiah, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Jeremiah, and Hosea.

Here I’ll review his commentary on Psalms 73-150 (Books III to V) in the Kidner Classic Commentaries series. At just over 240 pages this serves as a nice, thick completion to his commentaries on the Psalms. Each Psalm is given between 3-6 pages. Kidner doesn’t treat the Psalms as just words on a page. They are life.

Examples

In Psalm 93 the Psalmist proclaims that “The Lord is king!” And Kidner insightfully reminds us that “It confronts us afresh with a fact whose impact on us may have weakened; and further, its decisive tense points on to the day when the King will come in power…” (370). Neither does Kidner forget to read the Psalms in context as he recognizes that the “King who will come to power” is a prominent theme in the surrounding psalms, especially 96 to 99.

In Ps 113, who is like the Lord? No one. “It is here that God’s glory most sharply differs from man’s: a glory that is equally at home ‘above the heavens’ (4) and at the side of one forlorn person” (437). God’s glory is seen in “giving the childless woman a family, making her a happy mother” (v9).

The next Psalm (114) also begins in a tremendous fashion and ends in a whispered wonder: The whole earth trembles before God’s majesty, and He directs his power “to the point of need, transforming what is least promising [a desert] into a place of plenty and a source of joy,” a place to water and feed His people (438).

The Chocolate Milk

He doesn’t allow himself to fall into the mire of despair, that swamp of gritty details and mindless facts. Kidner is brief and crisp. He takes conservative views on the Psalms. Discussions about the Hebrew text are usually placed in the footnotes.

You’ll have to look elsewhere if you want in-depth word studies, structure of the psalm(s), literary analysis, reading the Psalms as a canonical unit, or opposing views. Although some will want to look for other commentaries on the Psalms, not everyone wants all of the extra analyses. These volumes are especially helpful for the pastor, the student, and as a morning devotional (with some extra details).

Kidner’s volume works best if you have both volumes. Volume 1 has the Introduction and exegesis of Books I and II. Volume 2 continues on the page number where Vol 1 left off (so Vol 2 starts on page 285). So a reference back to “page 12” means page 12 in Vol 1. There is no Bibliography in Vol 2, so I assume its in Vol 1. Nevertheless, you really ought to own both.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Derek Kidner
  • Series: Kidner Classic Commentaries (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 242 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (October 5, 2014)

Buy it on Amazon or from IVP!

(Special thanks to IVP Academic for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book).

Book Review: Delighting in the Trinity (Michael Reeves)


Why is God love? 
 Because God is a Trinity.
Why can we be saved?  Because God is a Trinity.
How are we able to live the Christian life?  Through the Trinity.

In Reeves’s book he brings us an introduction to Christianity and our daily living that is rooted in the triune God who we worship, Father, Son, and Spirit. Through the Trinity we understand the person and work of Christ, along with prayer, the church, and every aspect of our faith. His book isn’t a point-by-point basis of ‘who/what’ the Trinity is, but why Christians should rejoice in the Trinity. We can have comfort and joy in knowing that our triune God is beyond comparison with any other god made up by man.

“Is there a God besides Me? There is no Rock; I know not any,” Isaiah 44:8b.

Altogether there are 7 chapters:

  1. Introduction: Here Be Dragons? 
  2. What Was God Doing Before Creation?
  3. Creation: The Father’s Love Overflows
  4. Salvation: The Son Shares What Is His
  5. The Christian Life: The Spirit Beautifies
  6. “Who Among the Gods Is Like You, O Lord?”
  7. Conclusion: No Other Choice

Reeves’s basis is: What is the point of the Trinity? Why does it matter if we have one or not? How does what I know about the Trinity affect my daily living?

When we look at Michelangelo’s painting “The Creation of Adam” in the Sistine Chapel, we see Adam limply holding his hand out, being supported by his knee. But to whom? As we continue to scan the painting, we see that he is barely holding his hand out to God who is reaching out, almost straining, to make contact with Adam.

All of humankind has this kind of meager attitude (less actually) toward God. But the Father, overflowing in love, created us and sent His Son to die and share in what He has so that we could be co-inheritors with Christ and be reunited with God who then gives us even more: His Spirit, who “not only enables us to know and love Christ; he also gives us the mind of Christ, making us like him” (pg. 95). And the best we can do is lift up a finger, as if even pointing to God is going too far.

This book is about the love of the Trinity for mankind and how it is so unexpected, undeserved, unmerited, and how God continues to show His mercy on us even still.

The Chocolate Milk

He says that the Trinity isn’t an oddity (for it is who God is, and God isn’t odd), but many of the images people use to describe God (eggs, water, a shamrock, even bacon) make the Trinity seem anything but ‘normal.’ Reeves then goes on to show how we can begin to view the Trinity as something normal.

At 121 pages it is a short and simple read.

It’s a deep read. But simple doesn’t equal childish. This book can be understood by high schoolers, scholars, pastors, teachers, and moms and dads. It’s not a book on being able to spit out facts on the omniscience of the Holy Spirit and how Christ’s hypostatic union works. It’s about a true relationship, and the more we see how much God loves us (though we’ll never scratch the surface), the more we want to be enveloped in that love and spend time with Him and live in a way that pleases Him.

In Chapter 2 (Creation), Reeves brings up a contrast between Babylon’s Marduk, Allah, and the God of Christianity. What makes creation through our eyes any different from theirs? How could the Father be loving if He were by Himself before creation? How could He be the Father? Was He just loving Himself? That’s a bit selfish.+

“Think of God the Father: he is, by his very nature, life-giving. He is a father. One has to wonder if a barren god, who is not a father, is capable of giving life and so birthing creation. But one can have no such doubts with the Father: for eternity he has been fruitful, potent, vitalizing. For such a God (and only for such a God) it seems very natural and entirely unsurprising that he should bring about more life and so create” (pg. 41-42).

Not all gods are the same. Not all religions are the same. Not all beliefs are the same. And to disagree with Oprah, my God, the Christian God, is a jealous God because He is so loving. 

The Spoiled Milk

  • I have no qualms with this book. I only wish it had more pages (a mere 121 pgs!) or a sequel.

Recommended?

Exceedingly so.

Too often we hear the word “Trinity,” sigh, roll our eyes, and don’t even bother because God is ‘too big and unknowable’ that we might as well not even try.

Granted, this book can’t do everything. The doctrine of the Trinity is a huge concept. You won’t understand everything about the Trinity after you read this book. But you will understand and appreciate the Trinity much more after reading this book. Life changing? This book isn’t salvation, but you’ll look differently at God and all He has done.
+
This book has a lot of good points and quotes; you’ll want to have a highlighter (or two), a pen, and a pencil on hand. It’s no replacement for the Bible, but a (great) supplement and help. This book is written with warmth and humor, and you will enjoy every moment of it.

Who would benefit from this book?

Everyone. Anyone. While I would say high school on up, Reeves writes in such a way that makes it easy to teach the principles to children. All would benefit from this book.

Lagniappe

  • Paperback: 135 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (July 18, 2012)

Buy it on Amazon!