Category Archives: Theology

Book Review – Jesus Untangled by Keith Giles

Jesus Untangled Review

In these days of political mayhem, it seems most Christians take one of two routes: check in and report for duty as a good Christian conservative or liberal or check out and watch cat videos instead of the news. Well Keith Giles shows us a better way.
A way that involves untangling Jesus from the madness that constrains Him…and us.
A way that recenters us on the Kingdom of God.
A way that encourages us to live for what really matters.
How in the world the church got wrapped up into politics is beyond the scope of Keith’s book. But I found a couple topics he addressed to be absolutely crucial to getting untangled.
The Flat approach to the Bible – Over and over again in Christian circles I am seeing a recurring theme of challenging the way we look at the bible. Keith’s take on a flat reading/approach was central to the theme of his book as it gives pause to pop interpretations that are in vogue today. The bible (I know it is typically capitalized) is far more dynamic than we will ever be able to discover. So, a simple “this means that” view does more harm to one’s faith than good…especially in relation to entangling faith with politics. Further, as Keith observes, a flat approach sees all of the scriptures as on par with one another…equally valid and in need to adherence. This goes a long way to putting empire back into the faith. The flat approach allows us to easily adopt a nationalistic view of our faith because that’s how it looks in the old testament. Yet, the scriptures of the new testament incredibly and increasingly challenge empire and warn against it. Keith does an excellent job of sifting through this and helping the reader see the nuanced differences in the ways we approach the bible.
The Sacral Society – Here Keith follows up what he started with the approach to reading the bible. The issue of a sacral society is more often than not assumed than it is challenged. Case in point, I grew up in a church that had both an American flag and a Christian flag to the left and right of the altar. I never questioned or challenged that until at least 30 years into my faith. Keith tackles this head on in chapter eleven and handles it quite well. The whole argument of legislating morality vs. the power of the gospel is laid out quite well by Keith and it becomes clear to the reader that one must at least question the association of the two. At best, we come to realize that the way of Jesus was never meant to be the way of empire.
So, I highly recommend this book. It was incredibly insightful and would be helpful to anyone enmeshed in both faith and politics. We can only serve one master…choose carefully, and with eyes wide open.

Check out the FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/JesusUntangled/

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.

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

 

 

Professor April DeConick On Studying The Transgressors

OK, I freely admit that football season here in the states has slowed down my progress on 1 Timothy.

In one sense, this is good. It takes time to think through the project and come up with more questions to ask and more options to consider.

As an aside, I happened to listen to a video today and just had to post up the quote because it seems to apply to the 1 Timothy study quite well!

Starting at about 8:29  in the video, Professor DeConick states that she likes to study “the transgressors”…those “on the edges” and states that one of her professors told her,
“If you want to understand the really early traditions look at the people on the edges about a hundred years later because as the tradition norms, as it becomes more normal and less radical, those radical people in the beginning are pushed toward the outside and so are their ideas.”
Further, she asks, “Why did they become outsiders? Because at some point they were insiders.”
Very good questions to ask in an examination of a letter that appears to have been a power play to create just such an insider/outsider division.
A little something to tease the mind and consider as we look at the early church, who was in, who was out, etc…
You can peruse her most excellent site direct at:  AprilDeConick.com
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Mark – What does this mean???

…just as the prophet Isaiah had written:

“Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
and he will prepare your way.
He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
Clear the road for him!’

Exodus 23:20

“See, I am sending an angel before you to protect you on your journey and lead you safely to the place I have prepared for you.

Malachi 3:1

“Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. (NLT)

Isaiah 40:3

Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,
“Clear the way through the wilderness
for the Lord!
Make a straight highway through the wasteland
for our God! (NLT)

“All four Gospels include a quotation of Isaiah 40:3 (Mk. 1:3; Mt. 3:3; Lk. 3:4; Jn. 1:23) but only Mark combine this with words taken from Exodus 23:20 and Malachi 3:1”[1]

The importance of the composite quote:

  1. It is located at the beginning of the Gospel, even before John and Jesus have been introduced.
  2. This is the only editorial quotation from Mark – all the other quotations (about 20) appear on the lips of Jesus or other characters in the story.
  3. The composite quotation of Ex. 23:20/Mal. 3:1 [cf. Mt. 11:10 and Lk. 7:27] is included before the citation of Is. 40:3, even though it clashes with the introductory formula (‘As it is written in the prophet Isaiah’)[2]

There have been two main ways of interpreting this…

“we need an ideology that can explain how Mark can both appropriate Isaiah’s promise of exodus (itself a development of the original exodus tradition), while offering, in Marcus’s words, a ‘radical, cross-centred adaptation of it’ (1992: 36). In terms of this debate, what we need is a more sophisticated biblical theology that can encompass discontinuity as well as continuity, and a more sophisticated literary theory that can combine insights from narrative criticism with insights from intertextuality (taking ‘texts’ in its broadest sense).”[3]

France, quoting Myers states the following:

“by omitting that part of Mal. 3:1 which envisages the Lord appearing in the temple and linking the passage instead to the wilderness location, Mark is already signalling the dismissal of the institutional life of Israel which will be a recurrent theme of his gospel.”[4]

There is more to unpack here, but what seems clear to me is the following:

  1. This being the only editorial quotation is highly relevant to the author’s purpose.
  2. The author did not feel compelled to use literal quotes, but instead took no small amount of liberty in combining texts to prepare his readers for the story.
  3. The quote is both a nod in the direction of the past prophetic tradition as well as a nod to a clear and present change in the thinking and life of the reader/hearer.

I’ll have more on this later.

Meanwhile, let me know what you think!


[1] Steve Moyise, Evoking Scripture: Seeing the Old Testament in the New (London: T & T Clark, 2008), 6.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Steve Moyise, “How Deep is the Wilderness in Mark 1:1-13,” 2005, 86, http://74.125.155.132/search?q=cache:RyfmYOYFfK8J:www.chiuni.ac.uk/theology/documents/TheWildernessQuotation.doc+mark+1:2-3&cd=23&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a.

[4] R. T France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2002), 63.

 

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On New Testament Ministry

23: Daily Inspirational Bible Verse

23: Daily Inspirational Bible Verse (Photo credit: [Share the Word])

Professor Black posted this up on his blog this week.

Looks like he has made an addition or two, but nonetheless, I really like these convictions.

Someday, I’ll add a few of my own…

  • I am convinced that the house church rather than the sanctuary church was the New Testament norm.

  • I am convinced of the normalcy of tent-making leadership.

  • I am convinced that the church exists in part to equip all of its members for ministry.

  • I am convinced that the leadership of the church should be shared for the health of the congregation.

  • I am convinced that top-down structures of leadership are unquestionably more efficient. Efficient in doing almost everything other than equipping, which is the primary task of leadership.

  • I am convinced that the process of appointing new elders is best done on the basis of recognizing who is already serving as an elder in the church.

  • I am convinced that any local church that takes seriously Jesus as the Senior Pastor will not permit one man to become the titular head of the church.

  • I am convinced that the essential qualifications for ministry in the church have little or nothing to do with formal education and everything to do with spiritual maturity.

  • I am convinced that the church is a multi-generational family, and hence one of the things that makes the church the church is the presence of children, parents, and other adults.

  • I am convinced that because every local church has all the spiritual gifts it needs to be complete in Christ, believers should be exposed to the full expression of the charisms (grace-gifts) when they gather, in contrast to specialized ministries that center around singularly gifted people.

  • I am convinced that the local church is the scriptural locus for growing to maturity in Christ, and that no other training agency is absolutely needed.

  • I am convinced that the local church ought to be the best Bible school going.

  • I am convinced that Paul’s letters were not intended to be studied by ordinands (a candidate for ordination) in a theological college but were intended to be read and studied in the midst of the noisy life of the church.

  • I am convinced that the church is a theocracy directly under its Head (Jesus Christ), and that the will of the Head is not mediated through various levels of church government but comes directly to all His subjects.

  • I am convinced that the goal of leadership is not to make people dependent upon its leaders but dependent upon the Head.

  • I am convinced that since all believers are “joints” in the body, ministry is every believer’s task.

  • I am convinced that pastor-teachers, as precious gifts of Christ to His church, are to tend the flock of God by both personal care and biblical instruction, equipping God’s people for works of service both in the church and in the world.

  • I am convinced that the role of pastor-teacher is a settled ministry in a local congregation.

  • I am convinced that leaders should communicate that every part of the body is interrelated to the other parts and indispensable; every member will be appreciated, every charism will be treasured.

  • I am convinced that the whole church, the community of all the saints together, is the clergy appointed by God for ministry.

  • I am convinced that everyone needs to be equipped for his or her own ministry both in the church and in the world. If the church is to become what God intended it to be, it must become a ministerium of all who have placed their faith in Christ. The whole people of God must be transformed into a ministering people. Nothing short of this will restore the church to its proper role in the kingdom of God.

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Paul and the Pastorals – J. R. Daniel Kirk Responds

I just saw this today while perusing J. R. Daniel Kirk’s site Storied Theology (one of my favorite blogs by the way) and thought it appropriate to post up since I am in the midst of this topic myself.

His take on it here is brief, but he makes a few really good points on both the rationale and methodology behind even asking such a question – Did Paul write Timothy/Titus? – and the reasons why he came to the conclusion that Paul did not.

This is a much bigger study than I originally anticipated, but has been very insightful and has challenged me in a number of ways.

So, since some of my readers are waiting for more on this from me, I thought this post might get some thoughts flowing.

Cheers!

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