When the guitarist for Scale The Summit released his solo project this past summer (Lightbox), he utilized several guys from The Reign of Kindo. I hadn’t heard of them, but now I’m glad I have. This song is off their most recent album, Play With Fire, which also comes in an 8-bit remix version, Play (which they also did for the previous album, This is What Happens and its remix, This is Also What Happens).
Authors Paul Copan and Kenneth Litwak offer readers an extended analysis and exposition of Paul’s message on Mars Hill in Acts 17. Since Litwak is a professor of NT studies at Azusa Pacific University and Copan is professor of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic, they make a great team. They cover both the ancient setting and contemporary equivalents (chapters 1, 3, 4). They also challenge F. F. Bruce’s contention that Paul’s message was a mistake (chapter 2). They then give an overview of Paul’s speeches in Acts (chapter 5), before offering analysis of Paul’s audience (chapter 6) and gospel (chapter 7). Then, the final three chapters draw insights on persuasion, as well as how we can further apply the wisdom in Paul’s message. For readers interested in apologetics, and specifically mode and manner rather than content, this is a great resource.
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Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!
Michael Graves tackles both an interesting and important topic in his recent book. He does so by specifically looking at what we can learn from the early church’s attitudes on the topic as evidenced in their writings. Broadly, his book is divided into 7 chapters. He begins with understandings of “usefulness” and then moves to the spiritual/supernatural dimension of Scripture. Next, he covers mode of expression, historicity/factuality, and finally agreement with truth. The final chapter draws conclusions from the study. Since these are rather broad divisions, Graves very helpfully includes numbered subdivision within each chapter that present theses derived from his study. So for instance, under “usefulness” one thesis s is “Scripture solves every problem that we might put to it,” while under “mode of expression,” another is “Scripture speaks in riddles and enigmas.” There are a total of 20 of these, after presenting them all, Graves discusses what we might glean from them, as well as ways we need to respect the differences. The result is a fine study in both historical and practical theology. The worst thing I can say about this book is that endnotes were chosen instead of footnotes, but given lengthy nature of some of them, I can somewhat understand why. In the end, the book is probably more accessible, and hopefully that will lead to a wider audience.
Michael Graves, The Inspiration and Interpretation of Scripture: What The Early Church Can Teach Us. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, February 2014. 224 pp. Paperback, $24.00.
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Thanks to Eerdmans for the review copy!
Authors David P. Setran and Chris A. Kiesling offer readers “a window into the very meaning of adulthood in Christian perspective and also provide wisdom for emerging adult mentors in college, church, and world” (10). Setran is associate professor of Christian formation and ministry at Wheaton while Kieling is professor of human development and Christian discipleship at Asbury Theological Seminary. Together, they guide readers through both “important scholarship, a Christian theological vision, and attentiveness to concrete ministry applications” (7). They begin with two chapters specifically on spiritual formation for young adults, the latter of which more specifically focuses on how one might reverse the trend of moral therapeutic deism. In the remaining chapters readers are taken from a focus on identity to church, vocation, morality, sexuality, relationships and finally mentoring as windows into young adult development and how Christian ministry can best address spiritual growth in those areas. Given my own context, this is a valuable resource. If you are similarly engaged with college ministry or even high school ministry, this book offers practical guidance for mentoring those transitioning into adulthood.
David P. Setran & Chris A. Kiesling, Spiritual Formation in Emerging Adulthood: A Practical Theology for College and Young Adult Ministry. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, September 2013. 288 pp. Paperback, $21.99
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Thanks to Baker Academic for the review copy!
Co-written by pastor Daniel Montgomery and professor Timothy Paul Jones, PROOF is a fresh way of explaining the doctrines of grace. The acronym stands for Planned Grace, Resurrecting Grace, Outrageous Grace, Overcoming Grace, and Forever Grace. For readers perhaps more familiar with TULIP, this way of conceiving of the doctrines is as if you rearranged the letters LUTIP and then framed them all in the context of grace. After on opening chapter explaining grace, readers are guided through the doctrines chapter by chapter. A final chapter tacklesliving in light of this grace, the connections between PROOF and TULIP, and how to not be a cage-stage Calvinist. If this weren’t enough, five appendices provide further Biblical foundations for the doctrines, as well as answer perennial questions like, “For whom did Jesus die?” “What’s the point of predestination?” and “What about free will?” The final result is my new favorite book explaining Calvinist theology. It is excellent for anyone wanting understand the doctrines of grace as well as those who might be put off by the way they are usually presented (either because of how they are framed or because of who was doing the framing). All of this to say, I would highly recommend this book to you, and even more so if you are frequently asked by high school students, “Hey, what’s your position on predestination vs. free will?”
Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Jones, PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, May 2014. 224 pp. Paperback, $16.99.
Visit the publisher’s page
Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy!
John Goldingay is David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary. He has written a three volume Old Testament theology, a three volume commentary on the Psalms, and many, many other books related to the study of theology and the Old Testament. Most recently, he has written The Theology of The Book of Isaiah, which offers readers a short (but not light) treatment of the theological message of Isaiah.
He opens the book clarifying, “my aim for this book is first, to articulate the theology in the book called Isaiah.” Additionally, he aims to “articulate the theology of the book called Isaiah as a whole” (11). To carryout this plan, Goldingay first surveys Isaiah section by section. He begins with chapters 1-12, then 13-27, 28-39, 40-55, and finally 56-66. Those familiar with critical studies of the book of Isaiah will recognize the divisions of 40-55 and 56-66. Thankfully, Goldingay chose to deal with 1-39 in three sections instead of one fell swoop.
Having done his section by section survey (aimed at articulating the theology in Isaiah), Goldingray moves to a more thematic overview of the book as a whole. These chapters are relatively short (compared to the survey chapters) and cover topics like “The God of Israel the Holy One, Yahweh Armies” (chapter 7) and “Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility” (chapter 15). The focus is on the theological themes that properly fall under the category of the title of the this book.
This volume was a quick read for me, but a book I’ll come back to as I do more teaching prep on Isaiah. I liked that Goldingay combines a theological survey with a thematic survey. The thematic chapters don’t need to be read in order and can be returned to as interest dictates. As for the survey chapters, I don’t know of a better theological overview in under 75 pages (this one is right about 67 or so). If you’re particularly interested Isaiah, I would recommend checking out Goldingay’s take on it. For more aggressive reader, it’s a great weekend read. For those intimidated by studying Isaiah, this is a great way to get started without feeling overwhelmed.
Buy it: Amazon
Visit the publisher’s page
Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!
A friend of mine on Facebook posted a cover of this song recently, so I ran it to ground to get the original. Jon Gomm is singer/songwriter with some very impressive guitar magic:
If you’re interested, like I was, you can get the tab for this song here. This video is about 3 years old, so here is his most recent song, Everything:
There’s not a ton of metal bands that have a vocalist only doing clean vocals, but this just works. I wish more instrumental metal acts would make the jump to adding a clean vocalist like Intervals did.
For all you visual learners out there, you can now pick up a collection of minimalist graphics illustrating schools of thought in philosophy. Appropriately called Philographics, it is a way to grasp big ideas in simple shapes (hence the subtitle of the book). All of this comes to you from Genis Carreras, who put 95 movements in philosophy into visual form. If you’re into math, that’s at least 95,000 words you don’t need to read.
You can read more about the book and see larger visuals over at Brain Pickings.
One of my favorite bands, Animals as Leaders released a new album back in March, The Joy of Motion. Earlier in the summer, they played a few of the songs live at Guitar Center in Hollywood. Here is the first cut from the album, Kascade:
As well as the first single, Tooth and Claw:
If you’re curious, those are 8-string guitars and the tuning they use is EBEADGBE. Because the low E on this guitar is the same pitch as a low E on a standard bass, the band doesn’t have a bass player. The guy speaking at the beginning, Tosin Abasi, is a Nigerian-American guitar virtuoso who is the mastermind behind the band. He has an instructional video called Prog-Gnosis you can check out if you wanting to learn how to play somewhat like him. You’ll need at least a 7 string to follow along.
Nietzsche is both a complicated and fascinating thinker. I think this video does a good job of explaining a concept of his (the eternal return) in a way that does justice to what he actually said/meant.
Last week, we continued our review series on N. T. Wright’s Paul and The Faithfulness of God. 1 Today, we’ll finish Part II of the book, which is also the end of the first volume. You might think that means we’re halfway through with Wright’s take on Paul, but you’d be wrong. You can refer back to the table of contents to see where we’re headed after this.
Five Signposts to the Apostolic Mindset
The final chapter of Part II is more or less a summary of Wright thinking Paul’s thoughts after him. Or, at the very least, it is Wright view on Paul’s worldview. Wright does this using a worldview analysis that readers familiar with him have come to know and love (or know and grow weary of). He previously did this for the Pharisees as a whole in New Testament and The People of God, for Jesus in Jesus and The Victory of God, and for ancient understandings of the afterlife in The Resurrection of The Son of God. Now, it’s Paul’s turn.
Wright sketches the worldview by answering the following questions:
- Who are we?
- Where are we?
- What’s wrong?
- What’s the solution?
- What time is it? (which act of the story are we in)
Here is what Wright says for Paul:
First, Paul’s “central answer to the question, ‘Who are we?’, is: ‘We are the Messiah’s people, defined by our membership “in” him, marked out by our sharing of his pistis, celebrating our status as having died and been raised “with” him, living in the “age to come” which he has inaugurated.’” (544)
Second, Paul’s “ultimate answer to ‘Where are we?’ has to do, for Paul, with the whole created order, the entire cosmos, and the belief that God created it through the agency of the same Messiah, Jesus, to whom the ekklēsia belongs. Jesus’ followers do not live in the created world as aliens, however much it may feel like that when surrounded by the murky muddle of so much street-level paganism and the arrogance of power. They live there as the rightful citizens of the coming kingdom, the subjects of the king who has already been enthroned and will one day complete his work of restorative justice.” (547)
Third and fourth, Wright combines problem and solution because “They dovetail into one another, since Paul’s vision of the future world set free from corruption and decay affects the way he analyzes the remaining problems. The first thing to say is that, for Paul, part of the astonishment of the gospel, generating this whole renewed worldview, is that what was wrong before has in principle (there it is again) been put right through the Messiah’s death and resurrection. That is where Paul starts. The victory he believes to be already won by the Messiah remains the ultimate answer, the source of the victory which is yet to come.” (547-548)
Fifth and little more expansive,
The fifth question, ‘When?’, is perhaps the most revealing. Dovetailing with all the others, of course, it nevertheless determines the shape of much of Paul’s explicit thought. It emerges on the edge of an argument, as worldview-hints usually do, indicating once more what Paul takes for granted rather than that for which he has to argue. It should be no surprise to find that Paul insists, again and again, on two things: first, that something has happened through which the ‘present evil age’ has lost its power to hold people captive, and the ‘age to come’ has broken in to rescue them; second, that this work is as yet incomplete, so that both in cosmic and in personal terms there remains a further step, a different level of fulfilment and victory, with Messiah-people poised between the one and the other. In the now hackneyed language, Paul emphasizes both the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’ of the messianic narrative. (550)
Wright then enters into a discussion of the importance of Sabbath, specifically, it’s place in Paul’s thought in reference to this question. He explains:
My proposal here is that his emphasis on ‘the now time’, the time when the Messiah is ruling in heaven over all things in heaven and on earth, implies within the Jewish mindset at least that the new creation has been accomplished, and that the ‘Sabbath’, not in terms of cessation of work but in terms of God’s dwelling in, and ruling within, the new world he has made, has been inaugurated. Just as the promise relating to the land has been translated into the promise relating to the whole creation (to be fulfilled by the worldwide mission of the church), so the gift of a different sort of time in which, celebrating the completion of heaven and earth, God now ‘rests’ in the sense of ‘taking up residence’, is utterly appropriate for Paul’s worldview in which Jesus, having completed his work, is now in himself the foundation stone of the new creation. All the divine fullness ‘was pleased to dwell’ in the Messiah as he reconciled all things in heaven and on earth to God the creator. As with sacred space, so with sacred time. He was in himself the new Temple; now he has inaugurated, through his cosmic triumph, the new Time, the great Jubilee, the messianic Sabbath. (559-560)
Summary of Parts I and II
Though part of the preceding chapter, I’ll let summarize himself the ground he thinks he has covered up to this point in the book:
We have now studied three things: (1) the symbolic praxis which takes us to the heart of Paul’s implicit worldview, (2) the complex implicit interlocking narratives upon which he can draw to make sense of those symbols and that praxis and (3) the worldview-questions which enable us to put under the microscope the tell-tale indications of things which Paul took for granted and wanted his fellow believers to take for granted also. Throughout this we have seen that Paul’s worldview is a variant on the more generalized early Christian worldview we surveyed in Part IV of The New Testament and the People of God, which was itself a radicalization and reorientation of the overall worldview we found within second-Temple Judaism (recognizing fully the rich, dense and sometimes mutually contradictory variations within that latter entity). (562-563)
Then looking a bit ahead he says:
Symbol and praxis, story and questions are surrounded by habits of the heart (worship and prayer, which Paul again took for granted), and habits of life (the cultural assumptions about travel, lodging, what to do when arriving in a strange city, and so on). On the latter: how we wish we knew what sort of inns Paul stayed in, how he transported the Collection-money, whether he did indeed travel with animals as beasts of burden, what he liked to eat for breakfast … so much of his own ‘culture’ is hidden from us, and we can only guess. But, importantly, there are two things which emerge from any worldview: ‘theology’, in terms of ‘basic beliefs’ and ‘consequent beliefs’; and ‘aims’ and ‘intentions’, the motivations which energize and direct action. Part III of this book will look at Paul’s ‘theology’. Part IV, especially the final chapter, will examine his aims and intentions, and how they led to and energized the things he actually did. A word or two, in concluding the present Part II, on how all this fits together. (564)
Now, from my perspective, the first two parts are essentially one long introduction to Part III. Part IV on the other hand, was originally intended to be concluding discussions to the chapters in Part III. In that case, the whole book climaxes in Part III and our journey has only really just begun.
As far as the ground covered to this point, I found it interesting reading. It felt like in many ways Wright was continuously trying to outflank potential objections and instead of saying things in passing about background context, he actually went to the sources and made a case for it. In that sense, much of the first two parts of the book are Wright using historical research in the service of theology. Whether or not you agree with his conclusions about this or that aspect, I think he models the kind of excellent scholarship Christians should be known for.
On the other hand, the length of what is essentially an introduction to Paul’s thought is longer than most books the average person reads (unless its fiction). As I was reading the book, it was on the one hand, helpful to have Wright clarify, but his exhaustive explanations eventually became exhausting. Not as much with the first volume, but definitely so with the second. We’ll get to that later. In the meantime, I’ll just say that if you’re interested in getting a really good handle on the first century context of Christianity, you could read Wright’s New Testament and The People of God, or you could read the first volume of this book. Extra interested readers will want to do both (I did over the summer), but for many, this first volume is not only an introduction to Paul’s thought, but to the world of the first century as well.
There are many theological questions today. At the base of all of them is the question, “Can I really trust the Bible?” Until you’ve really settled that in your mind, all other questions really are up for debate. Without an outside authority in which you can trust, everything’s pretty speculative in the theological realm.
Thankfully, there are many good books on the subject. Few however are under 100 pages and could be easily digested in a single sitting. Able to accomplish both those standards is Barry Cooper’s Can I really trust the Bible? And other questions about Scripture, truth and how God speaks. Part of The Good Book Company’s Questions Christians Ask series 1 this book, like all the others, is a little meatier than a booklet, but still pretty compact. If you want a significant theological question answered in short order, this is the book for you.
Cooper’s book is split into 5 chapters. At first, I was confused looking at the table of contents because it looks like chapters 1 and 2 share the same title (“Does the Bible claim to be God’s Word?”). This is also true of chapters 3 and 4 (“Does the Bible seem to be God’s Word?”). Upon closer inspection, the subtitles of each chapter is what actually sets them apart.
Chapter 1 is focused on what Jesus thought about the Old Testament, as well as what New Testament writers thought about it. Chapter 2 on the other hand is focused more on the nature of truth and the Bible’s claims to it. Chapter 3 is focused more on the writing of the Bible, particularly the New Testament, whereas chapter 4 is focused on issues of the collection of New Testament documents. The final chapter, “Does the Bible prove to be God’s Word?” focuses on how the Bible proves itself true in your life as you trust it is God’s Word.
Along the way, Cooper devotes time to side bar questions like:
- What’s inside the Bible?
- Isn’t the argument for Scripture circular?
- Isn’t the Bible socially, culturally, and sexually out of date?
- Hasn’t the Bible been used to justify terrible things?
- Isn’t reported/oral information unreliable?
- How can I trust in the Bible when it has miracles in it?
- Are there any non-biblical documents which support biblical history?
- Aren’t some of the stories from Jesus’ life just legends and later additions?
- Who’s to say the Qu’ran isn’t also God’s Word?
- Aren’t the stories in the Bible about Jesus just re-hashes of pre-biblical myths?
- If God really wants to speak to us through the Bible, why is some of it so hard to understand?
Seems like a lot of ground to cover right? It is, but I think Cooper does a fine job of answering questions concisely based on solid evidence. His answers certainly aren’t exhaustive and some readers may want far more detail. However, it is key to keep in mind that this book is primarily for believers who are already on-board with Christianity. I would suggest this book is good for inquisitive high school or college students in the context of youth group or Bible class. I wouldn’t necessarily suggest this book for really perplexed skeptics who are asking one tough question after another and have done their homework on atheistic rebuttals. This might be a good conversation started in that case, but I imagine the answers here might seem to “neat.”
For younger Christians who are asking some good, yet tough questions about how and why we should trust the Bible, this is a great little resource. It’s definitely something I think a high school student could easily read through on their own. Ideally, reading through this book with a friend as part of an on-going conversation is the way to go. If that’s what you’re looking for in your discipleship endeavors, consider giving this book a try!
Barry Cooper, Can I really trust the Bible? And other questions about Scripture, truth and how God speaks. Epsom, Surrey, UK. The Good Book Company, July 2014. 81 pp. Paperback, $7.99.
Read an excerpt
Visit the publisher’s page
Thanks to The Good Book Company for the review copy!
Here’s a promo video for the book: