Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
July 9th, 2014

Review of @KregelAcademic’s “Interpreting the General Letters: An Exegetical Handbook”

If I were to survey the current state of hermeneutical exegesis, I would get the strong sense of a blathering mess of chaotic interpretation fostered upon Holy Writ by people who simple have no idea what they are doing. Perhaps I would then seek to find ways of helping them to bring order to chaos and engineer something of a return to sound dogmatic portrayals of Scripture. To assist me, I would need to turn to easy-to-understand books appealing to both the trained and untrained. I believe Herbert W. Bateman’s book, Interpreting the General Letters: An Exegetical Handbook, is easily one of the volumes I would use.

Un/fortunately, there is little in the way of telling the reader why this book should be used so I’ll fill in the gaps. There is a constant urge among us proudly post-modern members of our species to interpret everything according to our own experiences. This has led to an increase in biblical illiteracy and a terrible mess of practical theology. Thus, we need books that will train us to think biblically — in the sense that our interpretative strategies should be rooted in what lays before us rather than what we see. Further, unlike other books that give a broad stroke approach to biblical exegesis, this book (and this series) breaks down the various components of the New Testament and focuses on them. Thus, you will get a focused approach, and extended examples, to interpreting Scripture according to standard practices.

Interpreting the General Letters is divided into 8 chapters. Let me further offer a division of these chapters. The first three chapters provides the basic setting of the letters, including genre (ch 1), context (2), and theology (3). Chapters 4 and 5 deal with the working out of interpretation. It is a pleasant surprise to see that step one (in chapter 4) is actually creating a translation and attempts to help the reader avoid common pitfalls. Only then can the reader move into English translations. The final portion of the book, chapters 6 and 7, deal more with extending what you have done in chapter 5 to a general audience, such as preaching. Communication (ch 6) and Exposition (ch 7) not only carry your work off the page, but puts it into a realm where it will be challenged, and hopefully, where it will challenge others. Finally, chapter 8 serves almost like a substantial appendix where the author gives sources for everything discussed in the book — sources that will propel the reader, and exegete, to better exegesis. A very helpful chart is given on commentary selection, although the use of “liberal” in describing some of them (Hermeneia) seems a bit pejorative.

When I went to seminary, one of the books we were required to purchase was one on general biblical exegesis. You probably know it. It was helpful in many ways, but having a book like Bateman’s helps to really focus the skills we are trying build. While Bateman may easily reveal his hermeneutic tendencies (hint, read the Preface), I do not see any such restrictions placed upon his readers.In fact, I believe his work will give great freedom, within proper boundaries, to those earnestly attempting to read and communicate the Sacred Text.

May 5th, 2014

Review of @KregelBook’s “Zombie Church, Breathing Life Back into the Body of Christ” (Fritzsche)

Be sure to check out Zombie Church on Kregel’s website.

Zombie Church, at first glance seems to be nothing more than the same tired observations presented in a way that might appeal to those who enjoy horror (a bonus!) or an old complaint presented in a more socially relevant manner. To dismiss the book as only that is to do a great disservice to Tyler Edwards, but also, and most importantly to yourself. While it is true that he observes of the struggles the church currently faces, the true joy of the book is in the solutions he offers.

While reading the book you cannot help but be slowly convicted of many of the behaviors that are listed. This is incredibly useful as knowledge of said behaviors brings about the ability to change them. The admittance of the author of being guilty, in the past, of many of the behaviors is both refreshingly honest and encouraging as well. The problems are honestly and fairly pointed out, but the true joy of the book is in the solutions that are offered.

zombie church

Many works have been published about the problems the church faces and the solutions that must be employed, but Zombie Church is the first that I have read that actually points out the only solution that can work.  The problems of the church may be institutional, but the solutions are individual. Zombie Church gets to the root of the problem that it is not only action that matters, but the motivation of that action. It is not only faith that makes a church alive and vibrant, it is the love that accompanies it. As Tyler points out, “Without love, service means nothing. Without love, faith means nothing.” As the book points out well, if the church is a zombie, then the solution is that it’s people must experience resurrection.

Part of the enjoyment of reading Zombie Church is that it is full of good one-liners. In a sound bite culture, the truth is that we need these one-liners to stick with us and solidify the meaning of what we are reading. Observations like, “God’s call is not to enslave you with laws and regulations, but to send you out like an arsonist to a flammable world,” cannot help but stick in the back of your mind and constantly remind you of what the mission is. Observations like, “passion has been replaced with cowardice and reason,” cannot help but ring true and spur you forward toward a better future for the church. Truths like, “The darkness that we see is not an indication of the strength of our enemy; it is a result of our own inaction,” lovingly convict us not toward oppressing guilt, but to better action and behavior for the sake of the church that we love.  Statements like, “The church is ever, only, always about Jesus,” challenge us to be the same. The church is not a decaying corpse, but she is sick with a disease. Zombie church reminds and encourages us that we, as individuals, can be the cure.

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April 25th, 2014

in the (e)mail from @KregelAcademic, Interpreting the General Letters An Exegetical Handbook (Handbooks for New Testament Exegesis)

Thanks to Sarah for sending this along… even if I had missed the sign-up deadline. From Kregel,

This handbook is designed as a step-by-step approach for analyzing and communicating eight letters of the New Testament: Hebrews, James, the Petrine Letters, the Johannine Letters, and Jude. Interpreting the General Letters provides important background material for these books’ interpretation by exploring the types and component parts of letter writing, the importance of an amanuensis; the historical background of the Greco-Roman world, and implications of each of these factors for interpreting the general letters.

This foundation is followed by a discussion of the theology of the general letters. Specific consideration is given to the era of promise in Hebrew Scriptures, the era of fulfillment as underscored in the general letters, and how the theology of each letter contributes to the overall canon of Scripture.

Finally, Bateman provides nine steps that move from interpretation to communication: three steps for preparing to interpret the letters, three for interpreting, and finally three for communicating the letters. All explanations include examples in order to develop a student’s or pastor’s skills for accurate interpretation and convicting communication of God’s Word.

April 23rd, 2014

In the (e)Mail from @KregelBooks: Zombie Church

From Kregel,

There are Zombies among us

Liars. Hypocrites. Men, women, and children who attend church because it’s what they are supposed to do. Just going through the motions. These are the undead–people who are disconnected from the Spirit of God–who are spreading a virus of passivity, or worse. No one is completely immune.

Zombies can live. But they will have to fight. Fight for their lives.

zombie churchIn this challenging, culturally relevant book, Tyler Edwards spotlights the very real but often ignored lackluster attitude of today’s believers. An attitude that can infect an entire church. Using examples from popular zombie movies, Edwards will help you recognize the symptoms and show what you can do to awaken the undead. Your mission is to take life to a dying world by demonstrating what it means to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30 niv).

The bride of Christ isn’t dead. But she is terribly sick. Zombie Church offers the keys to survival.

Tyler Edwards graduated from Ozark Christian College in Missouri and is now the senior pastor at Cornerstone Christian Church. He speaks at various campus ministry events and has served overseas. This is his first book.

Expect a review soon…

February 10th, 2014

Book Notice – @KregelAcademic’s “Seeking the City: Wealth, Poverty, and Political Economy in Christian Perspective”

This is huge book – 900+ pages. It does look interesting, however… You can see the table of contents and read a chapter, here. See it on the Kregel Academic page as well.

A biblical, historical, and practical examination of wealth and social justice

People of faith have always been in search of a homeland—from God’s first calling-out of Abraham to the Pilgrims who came to America to establish the “city upon a hill”. Fundamental to this quest for a just, holy civilization—and one of the critical questions facing us today—has been the progress of humankind on the earth When has human progress served the vision of “seeking the [heavenly] city which is to come” (Hebrews 13:14) and God’s mandate for humanity to fill and rule over the earth? And in what ways has progress undermined that vision?

In Seeking the City, Chad Brand and Tom Pratt sketch out a biblical vision for how God providentially works throughout history as well as through society’s structures of politics and economy to cause His kingdom, the City of God, to come on earth. Complicating the pursuit of the ideal city is the fact that the ability to make a living is threatened and new pressures to conform to the rising world system will mount as Jesus has warned us. This book will help Christians to understand the times through the trifocal lens of the Bible, history, and theology and then to respond with wisdom to the many pressing issues of the day, including work, wealth, the size of government, taxation, welfare, the environment, and social justice.

I follow Chad on Twitter. He and I are known to disagree pretty heartily over certain issues, but he seems like a solid guy. He is wrong, of course, on that particular issue, but… (I don’t know what it is like to be wrong)

If you get a chance, check out this book.

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