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Showing posts from March, 2011

Good Survey of Protestant Thought on the Holy Spirit

Edmund Rybarczyk, professor of Historic and Systematics at Vanguard University in California has written a well researched, concise but informative work on Protestant understandings of the Holy Spirit. Being an ordained Assemblies of God minister, Rybarczyk has a good handle on the various Pentecostal views of the Spirit but goes into good detail here in surveying modern Protestant views on the Spirit. Rybarczyk believes upfront that a general survey without attention to the details of a theologian's ideas about the Spirit is damaging. He says in the introduction, "A theologian myself, I believe specificity and nuance of thought is of great importance. If "the devil is in the details," so also are the beauty, truth, and meaning of an idea or position" (ix). The idea of digging into the details of person's theology is so important because general surveys time and time again fail at locating an author's point of view in relation to his historical situatio…

Good Questions, Shaky Logic

Scot McKnight, professor in Religious Studies at North Park University has written a provocative, engaging, and winsome book about how we apply and study the Bible. At the beginning of the book, McKnight drives home the point that believers are always engaging the bible by adopting and adapting some portion of Scripture at the expense of other sections (12-13). He goes onto give examples of biblical material including tithing and footwashing that offer some explicit commands that many Christians fail to follow. Admittedly, some of these examples do not prove their point, as in the case of footwashing being a normative activity (McKnight references John 13:14 as his basis). Yet, McKnight's questions are on the right track when he states, "I've learned that it is time to think about why and how we pick what we pick and why and how we choose what we choose" (19). In other words, our picking selected passages and themes in the Scripture over against others, or our failin…

Ascension Shaped Life

Tim and Aaron Perry have just written a wonderful and thought provoking book on the place of the ascension in our understanding and practice of the Christian faith. In the opening chapter of the book, the author writes, "We only know and understand the Ascension when we are owned by the ascended Jesus" (4). That is to say that those who Jesus as Lord, as dying, rising, and ascending are those who will care to follow the path of an ascension shaped life. The ascension seems to be in church and in seminary a doctrinal statement tacked onto the creeds without much explanation. Yet, as the authors indicate, it is integral to Luke's narrative and to the shaping of our lives. How? For one, the ascension if fueled with the idea of divine victory (16). The authors make a startling statement by saying, "The birth of a baby is the decisive and ultimately victorious act of God" (17). We usually think that the death and resurrection are God's final declaration of victo…

The Sacred Meal?

I was excited about this new book entitled The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher because the Lord's Supper is such an integral in the service of worship. Having read through the book, I was rather disappointed in the material presented. First, there was an overwhelming amount of writing about how the people around the church and herself's thinking and feeling while taking communion, before and after. I can understand how the Lord's Supper is a sacrament for the whole body of Christ and no one should be left out, but why the ramblings on our feelings waiting in line. Secondly, I found little to none interatction with the historical record of have Christians have viewed the Supper and little Biblical background of the Lord's Supper (some interaction connecting the Passover would have been one of the connections). Yet, I did find a few things that were worth mentioning in a postive manner.


One, Gallagher indicates that the Eucharist 'is a way of saying thanks' (78) w…

Unique and Disappointing (Charlatan's Boy by Jonathan Rogers)

I was interested in this book mainly because I wanted to read a fiction book through the Waterbrook/Multnomah bloggers program. Thanks to Waterbrook/Multnomah for providing this book to review. I was however sorely disappointed after reading the work. The main character, Grady is an orphan who has be taken in by a man named Professor Floyd. Floyd is not really a professor at all, but a man given over to senationalism and money making schemes. He starts a show called the He-Feechie show in which Grady hides in a container covered all over with various materials, hiding his human skin and then causes a ruckus. Throughout the book, Floyd gets interested in phrenology, card playing, and other various games to make a quick buck. I sort of felt sympathetic at one point for Grady because he was shown such abuse by Floyd. At one point in the book, Grady was labeled the ugliest boy in the world and was put up to show others his ugliness. Rogers does go onto to sympathize with Grady's chara…

The Power of Consumerism

Mark Powley in his new book entitled Consumer Detox has written a provocative and poignant work about the overwhelming need for people to take a look at consumerism. After reliving a story about his desire for a new pair of running shoes early on, Powley makes the claim that the first step in recognizing the gripping reality of consumerism on your life is to name it (17). There is a certain fundamental recognition of our need for change only when we name it and take it as our own. Secondly, Powley goes on to aptly comment that, "The reality is: unless we can find some deeper roots for our identity, we'll never be able to break out of consumerism" (44). It is not that things are inherently evil, but the temptation of consumerism is that we should people who are always wholly unsatisfied with the things that we have, so much so that we have to reach for the next big thing.




One of my favorite parts of the book is Powley's understanding of how publicity webs work (75). …

The Land in Waiting

While many books on the Pentateuch merely rehash the interpretive theories behind the text, Waiting for the Land seeks to bring coherence to the narrative flow of the first five books of the Bible. Arie Leder, a seasoned Professor of OT at Calvin Seminary has written a timely and narrative focused study on these Scriptures. First of all, Leder understands that to get into the narrative of Genesis through Deuteronomy one must attune to the narrative details of the text (plot, structure, vocabulary) by using the 'narrative's own vocabulary' and secondly by using the 'vocabulary typical of the church's reading of Scripture' (5). This method allows the story to stand on its own, with its own nuances, by also brigdges the gap to modern renderings of the text that serve the needs of the church. Yet, for the Christian who believes that the Pentateuch is Christian Scripture, he also reads these books with their fulfillment in mind through Christ. This kind of interpret…

Affirmation Done Well

Sam Crabtree, Executive Pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis has just written an excellent book entitled Practicing Affirmation about the necessity of affirmation in the life of every person. He begins the book by focusing on that real affirmation starts when we honor God, for he is the one who has given us 'commendable qualities' we praise others and are praised for (18). The good character that grows as a person matures in their faith is part of continuing effect of saving grace wrought by God through his Son. Secondly, praise and affirmation for the good things people do and say is to by passed onto God (24). It can be very easy to fall into the trap of hearing very good affirmation and as a result being filled with pride and vainglory. Crabtree is careful not to withold praise and affirmation of unbelievers alike, for this 'calls attention to the undeserved grace that God has bestowed upon them in the form of faint echoes of Jesus...' (32).




As Crabtre…

Finding Our Roots in a Rootless Culture

We live and work in a mobile culture, from the technology at our fingertips to the jobs we strive after. Yet, all this mobility causes us to look for the next best thing and move on from where we stand. Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove in his new book The Wisdom of Stability seeks to counter the idea of unending mobility by showing that finding our roots in stability really does make a drastic difference. Early on he says, "Christian wisdom about stability points us toward the true peace that is possible when our spirits are stilled and our feet are planted in a place we know to be holy ground" (13). Being rooted in the love of God, Christians are able to build roots in a specific place and begin ministering out of those firmly laid anchors. Hartgrove goes onto point out that being rooted in the love of God is closely connected to being rooted in community. In fact, it is unthinkable to understand life in the Spirit, life as a practicing believer apart from other believers (21). Th…