Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: Patmos

book-coverPatmos walks the thin line of narrative and theological contemplation quite well.

“With storytelling reminiscent of The Shack in its bewilderment, urgency, and epiphany, legendary independent theologian (and fishing lure designer) C. Baxter Kruger weaves a contemporary parable of truth and lies, revelation and deception, sorrow and joy.”

As the story unfolds, compelling theological insight is introduced in quite persuasive ways. For instance, it is one thing to look at theological issues from a purely academic view. The brilliance of this book is that it not only breaks these issues down to a more palatable size, but it also engages the characters in such a way that the issue becomes more real and relational. In short, the manner in which the topics are brought up allows for a more objective observation of them, which in turn results in a more compelling presentation of the point of view is being suggested.

The main idea of “union with or separation from God” is revealed throughout the book along with several other themes that, in the end, create quite a fresh way to look at and read the Gospel of John. One can’t help but want to dive back into John’s writings after reading Patmos because it seems as if you know him now as a brother…and that is the genius of the book!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story! It was one of those books you don’t want to end, and then you realize that it doesn’t end, really, it can continue on in each one of us!

Highly recommended!

Links:
Book site: Patmos
Patmos at Perichoresis
C. Baxter Kruger on Facebook
C. Baxter Kruger on Twitter

#SpeakeasyPatmos

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

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Book Review: Rewilding The Way by Todd Wynward

rewilding

I knew I had to read this book when it got rave reviews from three of my virtual mentors: Ched Myers, Richard Rohr, and Brian McLaren. It did not disappoint.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. So much so, that I read it twice before reviewing it!

Christianity in America is changing, and for the better. For this reason, we need a guide. This book is such a guide that can show us how to live out our faith in a more complete and active manner, not simply focusing on things such as dogmatic theology or worship, but getting us out into our community and world to seek, refocus, and wrestle with how to live our faith daily.

Written in three parts, Wynward describes our situation, gives practical examples of how to change, then outlines what to do next. Both highly practical and accessible to a general audience, the book would be great for the classroom or in a small group study.

I have to admit, chapter 4 was my favorite! The author’s take on “rewilding” The Lord’s Prayer is worth the price of the book alone. Indeed, it has become too familiar to us and has lost its edge. This rewilding of the prayer makes it truly revolutionary…it encourages us to meditate on the change Jesus sought and cuts to the heart.

The book is, in fact, all about “rewilding.” Taking a comfortable narrative and throwing it back out in a manner that challenges our relaxed perspective and causing us once again the reconsider the truth of the message.

It became quite exciting every time Wynward “rewilded” something, including The Pentateuch, or at least the naming of the first five books of the Bible. But the coup de grace was seeing The Beatitudes in a completely new light. We have to ask, just what was the point of the Beatitudes. According to the author, it was Jesus’ way of giving out a job description for those who would majorly disrupt the “business as usual” mentality. This take was both thoroughly mind blowing and encouraging at the same time!

Indeed, Todd Wynward has written a gem of a book that so many today need to read to enliven their faith to a literal world’s worth of work to attend to.

Buy this book…it will revitalize and deepen your journey.

Link-Love for Rewilding The Way: 
Todd Wynward’s website
Rewilding the Way website
Rewilding the Way on Amazon
Rewilding the Way on Goodreads
Todd on Facebook

#SpeakeasyRewildingtheWay

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

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Book Review: “The Homebrewed Christianity Guide to Jesus” by Tripp Fuller

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I was so excited to hear about Tripp Fuller’s new book! The topic of Christology has shifted from the halls of academia to individuals and small groups and as such, needs to be accessible to a wider audience.

I had hoped that this book would do so, since so much of the content on The Homebrewed Christianity web site and podcast is so helpful. Yet, for some reason, I found the book more confusing than clear, and I am guessing it had more to do with editors than Tripp’s content, because he is typically such a vibrant speaker. For Pete’s sake, the guy has been a Youth Pastor for years, so I know he can break down the incredibly profound to its essence and make it understandable.

Unfortunately, that isn’t what happened in this book. I hope the rest of the HBC series fares better!

Though, I super-highly recommend the HBC Podcast on iTunes!

Nonetheless, here is my full review on Amazon.

And more links:

Homebrewed Christianity Guide to Jesuson Amazon | B&N | BAM | IndieBound |Powells | CBD
Homebrewed Chrisitanity – the website, the family of podcasts, the phenomenon.

 

 

Book Review: “Pray Like a Gourmet” by David Brazzeal

2015-08-02 12.08.55I loved this book!

So practical, so inventive, so real.

I have never been one to follow a liturgy or method of prayer. If it is a conversation and a relationship, it should be real. Yet, so many Christians either fall back on rote prayers or ask, “How do I pray…How do you pray?”

Get them this book…seriously! Very readable and entirely ready to put into practice. I was even bummed when I finished the book…it grew on me and I loved it!

Check out my full Amazon review here!

And check out more about the author here:

David’s blog: http://davidbrazzeal.com/
David’s book site: http://praylikeagourmet.com/
Pray Like a Gourmet on Amazon
Pray Like a Gourmet on Goodreads
Pray Like a Gourmet on Facebook

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Book Review: “A More Christlike God” by Bradley Jersak

What is God like? A punishing judge? A doting grandfather? A deadbeat dad? A vengeful warrior?

Jersak

Jersak contends, if Christ is “the image of the invisible God, the radiance of God’s glory and exact representation of God’s likeness,” what if we conceived of God as completely Christlike—the perfect Incarnation of self-giving, radically forgiving, co-suffering love? A More Christlike God suggests that such a God would be very good news indeed—a God who Jesus “unwrathed” from dead religion, a Love that is always toward us, and a Grace that pours into this suffering world through willing, human partners.

A friend of mine and Theo–Mentor Tripp Fuller often says,

“God must be at least as nice as Jesus.”

I really think that this “Tripps” people up a lot (pun intended) because they don’t really understand how angry or mean their God is. And if they do make the connection, they are soon to be in a deep struggle with the concept on a daily basis as it relates to their everyday life and experiences. This book directly confronts some of the most pertinent and engaging questions Christians are asking today of some very established and long held theological beliefs. Those brave enough to take this journey will gain much needed insight and options necessary to continue the journey forward.

The format of the book is very user friendly. Terms are well defined throughout, and the style is fluid and conversational with questions and a prayer finishing out each chapter making this a great resource for a small group study. In fact, this would be a perfect resource for a youth or college group.

Some of the most compelling concepts Jersak brings up center around alternative ways of looking at scripture and how God is perceived by both the writers of scripture and Christians throughout the ages. Anyone asking the hard questions like, “How can a loving God allow evil to happen” seriously and without haste need to read this book. And don’t expect the same fare served up in Evangelical camps. Expect a whole new vision and a God more loving and present than ever before.

This book is beyond a welcome addition to my library and I will highly recommend it to anyone beginning to think outside the traditional theological box.

Oh, and did I mention what Richard Rohr had to say about it???

“This excellent and much-needed book confronts with both open heart and very good mind the major obstacles that we have created for people in their journey toward God! “Why didn’t people teach us this many years ago?” so many of us are saying. I am so very grateful that Brad Jersak is re-opening the door that Jesus had already opened 2000 years ago. It is so terribly sad that it was ever closed.”
– Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M. Center for Action and Contemplation

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

#SpeakeasyAMoreChristlikeGod

Links: 
Brad Jersak’s website
A More Christlike God website
A More Christlike God on Amazon
Review on The Imperfect Pastor
Review on Faith Meets World
Review on Redeeming God
Interview of Jersak by Peter Enns
Foreword by Brian Zahnd

 

 

A Staggering Blow of a Book That Insists On Being Read

Made in the U.S.A. by Alisa Jordheim

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This book is outside the scope of what I traditionally read but when I noticed what the book was about I picked it up for a few different reasons. The primary reason was because I feel that this is an issue that American Christians can and should be knowledgeable about and reacting to in a positive, loving and compassionate way.

 

You should know up front that his book was both incredibly easy to read and incredibly difficult to read. The writers and the story tellers do an incredible job of pulling you into the story and that is what makes it easy to read. What makes it incredibly difficult to read is the subject matter itself – knowing that this is no mere story, but a string of events that actually happened, and continue to happen daily right here in the good ‘ol USA.

 

Yet, that is why this book is so important and why I would highly recommend it – especially to leaders in the church. The bottom line is that the more people understand the signs and symptoms of sexual abuse, the more readily able they will be to initiate help, the one thing that was lacking in each of the stories in this book.

 

As a Christian leader and pastor, I believe that this issue is something that the church can immediately begin to acknowledge. Reading this book has opened my eyes to the gravity and depth of the situation as well as the immediacy and the locality of it among our own families, neighborhoods and communities.

 

I will be honest, I really didn’t want to read this book but I felt compelled to do so…I’m glad that I did.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

 

 

Justice Society – Alisa Jordheim’s anti-trafficking organization
Made in the USA — Amazon
A
lisa Jordheim – Twitter

 

#SpeakeasyUSATrafficking

 

 

Pastoral Epistles – A Short Bibliography

46 is the earliest (nearly) complete manuscrip...

46 is the earliest (nearly) complete manuscript of the Epistles written by Paul in the new testament. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here are several of the sources I am working through and will cite:

Colloquium Oecumenicum Paulinum, and Karl P Donfried.  “1 Timothy Reconsidered.”  Peeters, 2008.

  • Well balanced, recent scholarship, excellent chapters from Margaret M. Mitchell and Luke Timothy Johnson,  Karl Donfried’s comments are both commanding and centering.

Guthrie, Donald.  “The Pastoral Epistles and the Mind of Paul.”  Website.  BiblicalStudies.org.uk, n.d..

  • Older article available as a PDF, good introduction to the issue, holds to a Pauline writing of the letters.

Hylen, Susan.  “The Paradox of Women in the Early Church: 1 Timothy and the Acts of Paul and Thecla.”  Website.  as.vanderbilt.edu, April 2012. (JBL?)

  • Seeks to break current/basic mindset regarding the roles of women in the early church, pursuasively contends that 1 Timothy and the Acts of Paul and Thecla do not portray opposite perspecives with regard to the portrayal of women.

James, M. R.  The Acts of Paul and Thecla.  Website.  earlychristianwritings.com, Trans. 1924.

  • Believed to be a second century document written by a Christian bishop who was later removed from his position for having written it, Tertullian’s comments about it promote the possibility that it was popular oral tradition among the early churches.

Knight, George William.  The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text.  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1992.

  • One of the first in the NIGNT series, surprisingly conservative, more surprisingly lacks insight at pivotal points, holds to Pauline authorship.

MacDonald, Dennis Ronald.  The Legend and the Apostle: The Battle for Paul in Story and Canon.  1st ed. Philadelphia: Westminister, 1983.

  • The book that got me thinking, compares & contrasts The Acts of Paul and Thecla to the Pastorals, holds to a purposeful second century pseudonymous authorship as a corrective to Christian asceticism.

MacDonald, Margaret Y.   The Pauline Churches: A Socio-Historical Study of Institutionalization in the Pauline and Deutrero-Pauline Writings.   Cambridge University Press, 2004.

  • Out the gate states the Pastorals are deutero-Pauline, looks at the issue sociologically with a view to the institutionalization of the church.

Miller, James D.  The Pastoral Letters as Composite Documents.  Cambridge University Press, 1997.

  • The second book that got me thinking ( I am currently on my second read), sees the Pastorals as composite documents much like The Gospel of Thomas was believed to be collected and distributed as a whole most likely in the late first or early second century.

Misselbrook, Peter.  Paul’s Letters to Timothy and Titus.  Website.  Misselbrook’s Musings, 2002.

  • From his notes on the Greek New Testament and downloadable as a PDF, an excellent resource to read as a commentary as you read the Greek, typically quotes conservative scholarship, portrays a Pauline authorship in his notes.

Rumney, Gavin.  “Issues Surrounding the Authorship and Dating of The Pastoral Epistles”  Blog.  Otagosh, May 6, 2008.

  • Another good introduction available as a PDF from a fellow New Zealand blogger.
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Silva On Interpreting Scripture – A Critique

Cover of "Interpreting Galatians: Explora...

Cover via Amazon

I recently re-read an old text I read years ago entitled, Explorations In Exegetical Method: Galatians As A Test Case by Moisés Silva – Grand Rapids, Baker, 1996.  It is now available as Interpreting Galatians: Explorations In Exegetical Method. (As best I can tell, the pages I am about to work from are still in the current edition.)

The one thing I really admire and enjoy about Silva’s work is his candid approach and his ability to mellow out the rough edges often produced in academia, in this case, specifically regarding exegesis.  He has an intriguing ability to “pull back the curtain and reveal the Wizard” while still valuing the process of academic study of the Bible.

However, one set of comments struck me as particularly unsatisfactory.

In the Epilogue: Reader and Relevance, Silva is outlining the relationship of exegesis and systematic theology and makes the following claim:

…my systematic theology should actually inform my exegesis…my theological system should tell me how to exegete..[this is] indeed the only real option.  (207)

Here I think he has gotten the cart before the horse.  In fact, compare what he wrote to the definition of the word eisegesis:

– an interpretation, especially of Scripture, that expresses the interpreter’s own ideas, bias, or the like, rather than the meaning of the text.

One’s theology is based upon interpretation (good or bad) of the necessary events, communication and texts.  As such, a theologian (and that covers anyone from novice to professional who intends to utilize or put into practice what they read in the scriptures) formulates and systematizes his or her ideas based upon their understanding of what they have seen, what they have been told and what they have read.  Additionally, one’s culture, experiences and proclivities  further dictate the conclusions made.  All of this allows them to form their belief system, their theology, for better or for worse.

Silva gives three reasons in defense of his statement above (pgs. 208-210):

1.  Systematic theology is the attempt to reformulate the teaching of Scripture in ways that are meaningful and understandable to us in our present context…the very process of organizing the biblical data – to say nothing of the use of a different language in a different cultural setting – brings to bear the theologian’s own context.

2. Our evangelical view of the unity of Scripture demands that we see the whole Bible as the context of any one part…the whole of Scripture as having come from one Author, therefore, to that extent a systematic understanding of the Bible contributes to the exegesis of individual passages.

3. Everyone does it anyway.  Whether we mean to or not, and whether we like it or not, all of us read the text as interpreted by our own theological presuppositions.

As I have already stated, my biggest problem with Silva’s first statement is that he has placed the cart before the horse.  If we consciously bring our theological grid to the table, we will force what we read through that grid.  A classic example of this is the debate around Romans 1:16-17:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” (NASB)

The typical historic protestant interpretation of this takes faith as that of the individual, and consequently, the rest of the letter is interpreted with a view to “the human predicament” as Stendahl rightly observes in Paul Among Jews and Gentiles.  So, just as Silva describes it, everyone keeps following that same trail of viewing Romans as dealing with the grand theological and protestant scheme of the fall of man and God’s answer to that theological problem.  Have you heard of The Romans Road?  This is a classic example, but I digress.

In comparison, here is my translation of Romans 1:16-17:

For I am not ashamed of the good news, for it is the power of God, saving everyone who believes – “both the Jew first and the Greek.”  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed though faithfulness to the faithful, as it has been written, “The righteous One by faith will live.”

I offer this simply as an example of a different view, and there are many others.  Here, I am considering that Paul did not intend to write “The Romans Road” but instead, to quote Stendahl, “Paul is seeking clarification, understanding and support.”  (Final Account, pg. 13)

All this to say that I believe that while it is true that we all “bring our theological baggage to the table” to paraphrase Silva, it is important to not simply accept this and run with it, but to expand our horizons by asking quite simply what this meant to the original audience.  In doing so, we set aside our predisposed theology as much as possible in order to gain insight and understanding that we have not previously or already taken hold of or appropriated.

Silva’s second statement is a perfect illustration of his first.  He brings his “evangelical  view of the unity of Scripture” to the table quite forcefully , as he states that this theological grid “demands” the unity of Scripture, that it came from “one Author” – God.

While I understand that God inspired scripture, I don’t know that this demands that we force all of the authors experiences written over hundreds and hundreds of years and all of the different literary genres into one pre-determined mold.  Doing so simply makes more of a statement about our enlightenment heritage than it gives credence to the original setting and storyline of the texts in the Bible.  In short, Silva, and many evangelicals, have swung too far to the right on this interpretive pendulum and are seeking to grasp a comfort that is literarily and historically unattainable.

We can hold lightly to the fact that all of scripture reveals God’s desire to relate to us without having to use this theme as a rigid guide to interpreting scripture.  In doing so, we are able to see more objectively what these texts say and how they relate o us today.

Silva’s third point is classic!  The first thing I thought was that old saying we probably all heard as kids,

If Jimmy jumped off of a cliff would you?

Simply stating that everyone does it is lame – pure and simple.  So, just because everyone does it we can too? I don’t see how this lemming mentality makes for a strong case.  In fact, it basically allows for a status quo interpretation.  Well, what if the popular interpretation is lacking?  What if it is completely wrong?

Yes, we all bring our “theologies” to the table.  So what!  Learn to set them aside and think more objectively.  See what others have to say, yes, even those who you disagree with.  Then return to the table, compare it to your own system and make good adjustments based on good interpretive principles.

In short, don’t be afraid to think outside the box because that is exactly what most of the writers of scripture were in fact doing – challenging their current beliefs and ideologies.

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Book Review: Love Wins by Rob Bell

Let’s get the big questions out of the way first:

  1. Is Rob Bell teaching Universalism?  No.
  2. Is Rob Bell teaching Annihilationism?  No.
  3. Is Rob Bell a heretic?  No.
  4. Does the book Love Wins challenge traditional views of Hell?  Absolutely!

“What we have here…is a failure to communicate.” – Cool Hand Luke

There has been a lot of hooplah over this book and I am happy about that…it is about time!

Indeed, what we are seeing is a failure to communicate, and in this case the communication has to do with the gospel and the essential truths of the Christian faith.

The church has over the centuries seemingly perfected an odd yet compelling sense of interpreting and explaining what is found in scripture.  And just like all of the reformations and revolutions that have gone on throughout those centuries we are seeing yet another in Rob Bell’s Love Wins. [If you haven’t already done so…go get it and read it!]

It seems to me that those most upset about this are also the most out of touch with the reality that the very questions Bell raises in this book are those being asked by people both in and out of the church.

As one who spends a lot of time working and talking with those who do not attend church on a regular basis, I can testify that these questions need to be answered…and the typical fare served up in the form of confessions and dogmas in Protestant and Evangelical circles is not doing the job.

There needs to be a fair amount of objectivity when reading this book.  Those who consider themselves conservative Christians can all too easily see conflict with what they have been taught.  Those outside the church also need to be objective, for Bell’s message is not one that issues a free ticket to heaven.

I strongly believe that we need to be able to visualize the stories and teachings of the early church to better understand how they affected their life together and their ministry to the world.  When it came to heaven and hell, the early church lived in the midst of paradox out of necessity. They simply did not have the systematic professional set of tools that we have today to carve out definitive answers.  Yet, they seemed to both thrive and succeed in living out the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Such well defined answers as we have them today seem to be detrimental in at least two main ways:

  1. They cause unnecessary division among Christians
  2. They promote an incomplete picture of the narrative of the New Testament

Bell’s book seeks to look past the accepted beliefs, in effect, opening up the box and expanding our thoughts regarding the scriptures.

If Rob Bell is on the right track here, and I believe he is,  Christians all the more should lead the way to heaven.  According to his accounting those who protest the most will champion systems of belief but those who are living the faith now get the point.  Faith alone is enough, but it isn’t the end…there is more…much more.

In case you missed it, I heartily recommend this book and look forward to the dialogue that will follow.

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The Problem With Old School Theology

I knew there was a problem with the old school Protestant System of theology!  I knew it!

For years I have said that this system, in various forms, essentially turns back to the old covenant for its foundation.  It is as though Christ is not enough.

Now, as I am reading Doug Campbell’s Deliverance of God, I see the arguments laid out with an incredible depth and clarity.  This old school system is bankrupt and lacks clear biblical warrant.  Indeed in some ways, it promotes another gospel.

I know this may sound shocking, but I challenge anyone to read/study/discuss this book along with me and come away with a hearty approval of the fundamental Protestant system.  Now, that does not at all mean that I am endorsing or approving Roman Catholicism either.  No, the issues are far deeper than an “either this or that” conclusion.

Indeed, there is nothing new in trying to grasp the truth and depth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Read Galatians or Hebrews and we see the early church struggled with how truly liberating it is.

But, those who know me recall my Reformed phase not too many years ago, and how I walked away from that system for one primary reason: it is grounded in the old covenant.  It affirms Christ, yet reaches back for the chains of the old system.  And let’s be honest, folks, that denies Christ in many, many ways.

I still have quite a bit of respect for the Reformers.  But, Campbell’s book certainly lays out a solid argument that this system of thought should at least be questioned and at best be replaced.

I read on…and will post more as I go!

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