I have come to believe that a healthy dose of academic and Christian living books is a good thing, but to neglect other literature, such as fiction, is a shame. We should be able to enjoy the created works of other people, granted not all the created works of everyone are good for you, but there is good fiction in the world that is a joy to read. Yes, this is a way to soften the impact of my dorkiness upon my readers. I like science fiction and fantasy literature and this month I succumbed and enjoyed one of my favorite authors of all time.
R.A. Salvatore is great fantasy writer, and it is due, primarily to his work, that I read and write. I had always enjoyed reading, but I never found anything I could devour until I began reading him. This month I read a large tome, titled Transcendence. It is good fantasy fiction, with plenty of action, political intrigue and well wrought character development. If you are interested in good fantasy, start with Salvatore, but not this book because it is in the middle of the series. Ok, enough with my dork-side. (Yep, a StarWars allusion).
Steve Moyise has written a book concerning Jesus’s use of the Old Testament as recounted in the Gospels by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John titled, Jesus and Scripture. In this book, Moyise approaches his entire argument based on assumption and theory relegating his conclusions to the realm of doubtful. To better understand what I am saying it may help to have a quick historical criticism lesson. It is believed in certain scholarly circles that Mark was written first, then Matthew second. It is also assumed that because Mark and Matthew have so much in common they must have used the same source in writing their Gospels. This mysterious document no one has ever found, not even a scrap of, is titled Q. So the assumption is Mark and Matthew were able to compile their Gospels because they used Q (an older version of the Gospel). Moyise believes in Q and I believe it is to the detriment of his argument. He takes a look at Matthew, Mark, and Luke, finds the similarities, assumes which quotations of Jesus were original and discounts the rest as added editorial material. Moyise concludes John’s Gospel by doubting that the historical Jesus said much of what John recounts, but rather John uses Jesus for his own purposes neglecting the historicity involved. Moyise assumes much, he even writes about this Q document as though it actually existed by pulling quotes from it.
In Moyise’s view, I am a maximalist when it comes to Scripture because I believe that what it says to be true. He says this, in a sense, is a wrong belief because it is full of assumptions based on the historical Jesus. But, when thought about, his minimalist view is skewed because he bases it on the assumption of a nonexistent document. His approach also neglects the rest of Scripture and what it has to say concerning itself, namely,
20knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21For no prophecy was ever produced by
the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1.20-21
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man
of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3.16-17
Having been asked to lead a small group at church, I figured I better learn as much as I can beforehand concerning leadership in such a dynamic. In Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s book, Making Small Groups Work, you will find chapters devoted to pretty much everything that could crop up in a small group session. They even go into detail on how to handle those who are perpetually late, or how to guide and control the jabber-jaw. This is not only a good resource to sit and read through, but it is also a handy reference for when the leader of the group is confused or wondering what to do next. To show you the extent of their research and writing in this book I will list the headings for each part of the book: How Small Groups Help People Grow, What Happens In A Good Group, Starting A Small Group, The Responsibilities Of Group Facilitators, The Responsibilities of Group Members, and How To Deal With Problems In Groups, making for a total of 55 chapters with an appendix on further study material for leaders and suggested curricula for small groups. This book is handy to have indeed.
In the academic realm there is ongoing discussion about justification in Paul’s theology. In this little book, The New Perspective on Paul: An Introduction, by Kent Yinger, you will be exposed, strongly, to the New Perspective, which is held by such people as James Dunn, and N.T. Wright. The issue is rather complicated to dig into in a book review, so if you are interested in it, pick this little book up. Most pastors, theologians, and other scholars rest on the traditional view of justification, so do not worry. What you have believed, that Jesus’s death and resurrection has atoned for your sins and made you spotless in the eyes of the Father, is still true.
This book is written with slight bias, which is unavoidable, toward the New Perspective, which was actually very enlightening as I hold to the traditional view. A big bonus to this book is that Yinger provides a lengthy bibliography concerning the proponents of the New Perspective and the those who are taking a stance against it. A well written, engaging text, but not convincing.
Wayne Grudem, in his book, Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism?, writes with bravado and daring that I have not seen in a while. Though this book was published in 2006, it is still relevant for today. Grudem tackles the cultural and ecclesial shift to ordain women as ministers. He boldly goes after many eminent scholars and publishers for leading people to this conclusion, which he writes, is unbiblical. He sees the ordination of women leading to theological liberalism, which he defines as, “a system of thinking that denies the complete truthfulness of the Bible as the Word of God and denies the unique and absolute authority of the Bible in our lives” 15. He fears that evangelicals are being drawn in on this issue which will lead to the downfall of biblical authority and truth. Grudem systematically goes through the opposition on this issue showing how the Bible teaches that evangelical feminism is not allowed in churches. He takes many arguments and shows their error, he then, at the end of the book gives a glimpse into the future as to where denominations are headed if they allow the ordination of women. He says that one of the next steps of the liberating movement will be to include practicing homosexuals into church leadership by supporting a life of sin, instead of calling it what the Bible calls it. Eventually, he says, this slide to liberalism will throw the authority of the Bible out, and the authority of sinful man will take its place. His real plea is to believe that what the Bible says is truth, even when culture, and your feelings, want to argue against it, because Scripture is above both.