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Traveling the Text Part 3: I Went Walking

Here is part 3 of my reflections on ‘traveling the text.’ Using the metaphor of various modes of travel I have explored different ways of reading the Bible. We’ve examined flying through the text where we got a bird’s eye view of the Biblical story. And we have looked at the metaphor of driving where we talked about how we drive to get somewhere (purpose), we drive on particular roadways (read the Bible in the way its meant to be read), and obey the road signs (read in community). Now I want to talk about a whole different method of travel: Feet. This includes walking, running or hiking. Obviously all these metaphors have been plundered when talking about the Spiritual life, but I want to continue with a focus on what they can tell us, specifically, about reading the Bible

I am a father of three and that means I go on walks with my family to get them out of the house; I run to get some time alone and get some exercise(and escape my family). The thing is in the U.S. people generally don’t walk to get anywhere because it is inefficient. Kenyan womenThe statistics tell us that the average American walks less than 400 yards a day. Compare that with Kenyan women who walk, on average 8 hours a day carrying 45 lbs of water. You see, Americans don’t walk anywhere because we have to, we walk (or run) because we want to. It is something we do for leisure!

I Went Walking

The first two modes of transformation pretty much spells out most of what it means to read responsibly with an eye to the wider context. But it is when we learn to slow down and walk through the text that we really get to know our Bibles. In The Unforseen Wilderness Wendell Berry reflects on having driven the freeway to a walking path along the Kentucky Red River Gorge:

In the middle of the afternoon I left off being busy at work, and drove through traffic to the freeway, and then for a solid hour or more I drove sixty or seventy miles an hour, hardly aware of the country I was passing through, because on the freeway one does not have to be. The landscape has been subdued so that one may drive over it at seventy miles an hour without any concession whatsoever to one’s whereabouts. One might as well be flying. Though one is in Kentucky, one is not experiencing Kentucky; one is experiencing the highway which might as well be in nearly any hill country east of the Mississippi(51-52).

My whole use of the travel metaphor in reading the Bible is predicated on the idea that the pace that you travel determines what you see. Berry is clear, unless you slow down, you can’t say you’ve actually been to a place:

The faster one goes the more strain there is on one’s sense, the more they fail to take in, the more confusion they must tolerate or gloss over–the longer it takes to bring the mind to a stop in the presence of anything. Though the freeway passes through the heart of the forest, the motorist remains several hours’ journey by foot from what is living at the edge of the right-of-way.(52-53)

I certainly know how slowing down has caused me to see things in a new way. For several months I have lived in a small gated community in a family owned house. Over the past several years I have stayed at this house often, but never ventured into the neighborhood. As a result, I didn’t know how the roads fit together (they wind and turn in on each other) or where any of the playgrounds were. Occasionally I used to get lost driving in endless loops. Now living here, I walk and run through the neighborhood. In the spring, I saw which neighbor has the prettiest garden and which yard had the most promising fruit trees. In the late summer, I knew where the sweetest blackberries hung. My jogs explored every roadway, footpath, hill and incline nearby. I know every loop and every dead-end. It is by slowing down, I have finally entered into a place which I have visited often.

How does this relate to Bible reading? How many of us rush through our daily ‘quiet times’ with our reading plans and devotionals and never really slow down enough to see where the Spirit of God is beckoning? If we really want to enter into the land of the Bible, to know the contours of the landscape, we can’t rely on what we see from a car window or our bird’s-eye view overhead. We must discover times of leisure to slow down and really enter into the text.

…I strut my stuff…

Part of slowing down in the text is just for the fun of it. If you want to grow in your intimacy with God, I think it is essential that we learn to play in the pages of the Bible. I think it is intriguing that as Evangelicals we have lots of advice about Homer Runningreading the Bible responsibly and working through the dynamics of Biblical interpretation. We have reading plans, devotionals, commentaries, study guides. But if we are really in a personal relationship with God and the Bible is where we hear His voice speak the clearest, maybe we should find a way to enjoy it. If I spent my entire time ‘working’ on my marriage but never took the time to enjoy my wife, my marriage would be lousy. For a deepening faith, it is crucial that we make the space for play.

So what are some of the ways we can have fun in our Bible reading? Here are somethings I enjoy

1. Walk the same path you did yesterday. You really get to know a place when you travel it lots. Do you have a favorite walking path through a park or a forest? Is there some place you go, just to experience the beauty of creation? Why not do this with the Bible!?As I have read and re-read some of the Psalms, there imagery has become more vivid. By going over the text again and again, you memorize it. Despite what you remember about cramming for exams in college, memorizing can be fun. In highschool I used to quote the Song of Songs to girls at church whose hair reminded me of goats descending down mount Gilead. As an adult, I attended a Bible study where were supposed to recite a memory verse each week. I always tried to find the most outlandish one. As a result, there are a bunch of interesting verses in my head that I know just for the fun of it. When you memorize something, it becomes a part of you and you can enter into it a whole new way. Why not walk a path until you know every tree?

2. Walk where you aren’t supposed to- When you are driving your car, you are restricted to the roads, and constrained by traffic laws. When you are walking, there are much fewer constraints. Walk across the front lawn, take shortcuts and jump fences. When talking about the metaphor of driving, I talked about the need to follow directions and traffic laws. But I think there is also a place for bending rules. When I am reading the text playfully, I am less concerned with responsible interpretation, paying attention more to what a text evokes in you, more than what it says. Of course there are boundaries, pedestrians can still be hit by cars and not all trespassing is benign. But the fact remains that some of our best spiritual insights comes when we think outside the box and let our minds and hearts wander a bit while we read. Where does your reading take you?

3. Explore new ground. Sometimes when I am running, I may notice a road or path I haven’t travelled before and just decided to take it and see where I end up. Frankly the willingness to drop your plans and go a whole new direction opens you up for the joy of discovering new things. Sometimes I become goal centered in my reading plans, wanting to read through certain sections in x number of days. Reading playfully demands that I scrap thinking about reading as work, and sometimes read just for the fun of it. This can mean paying attention to what other Biblical references are referred to in the text and taking the time to follow them back (i.e. Old Testament quotations in the New), stopping reading to research different features of the Biblical landscape in commentaries, journaling wildly about the implications of what you are reading, making your own Bible puns, etc). When you are exploring new terrain, there is freedom to run off in different directions.

4. Reading well involves finding ways to internalize what you are reading Using the text to inspire your creativity One way of slowing down and having fun with the text is doing something creative. This can be art, a poem, a song, etc. Once I lead a bible study where I read a narrative I had written on the passage and then had everyone re-read the passage to see where my story got it wrong. Another time, I assigned characters from a Bible story to people in a group and had them retell the story from that perspective. By finding ways to be creative, we each internalized the text in new ways. My friend Randall writes a haiku based on the lectionary text (read them at Lectionary Haiku). This is his playful way of internalizing what he’s reading. What is yours?

…I don’t even know why

I grew up in an Evangelical culture where there were Bible trivia games, songs sung, discussion about Biblical characters, art and poetry produced, kids crafts, etc. None of these things involve work but through them I know my Bible and my God just a little bit better. In his book on the nature of play, aptly titled Play, Stuart Brown says “Play Activities don’t seem to have any survival value. The don’t help in getting money or food. They are not done for their practical value. Play is done for its own sake. That’s why some people think of it as a waste of time. (17)” The fact is the ‘aimlessness’ of play makes it play. If you attach too firm of a of a goal to it, it ceases to be play(or only play?). This is one of the chief differences between ‘driving through the text’ and ‘walking through it,’ remember in today’s western culture, we drive to get places, we walk because we want to.

This does not mean that ‘play’ in the text does nothing. In fact it is in the playful appropriation of the text that we begin to really know and understand the Spirit who inspired these pages. Brown goes on his book to explore how play teaches both animals and people crucial skills and ways of navigating their social environment. The thing is, working on the text tackles an issue directly. Play is about indirection. You play in the Bible because it’s fun; through your play the Spirit is at work, beckoning, shaping, re-shaping. When you read for the fun of it, God plays too.

The Holy Spirit in the Orthodox Tradition: A book review of the Giver of Life

This is the third book in Paraclete Press‘s Holy Spirit series which I have reviewed. I now feel like I can say a little bit about the series and what I have appreciated about it (you can read previous reviews here or here). If you are really only interested in the orthodox tradition, skip the next few paragraphs and my review there.

First of all, each of the authors in the series embody their particular tradition. Rachel Timoner wrote Breath of Life to present a Jewish understanding of the spirit of God and she continually references the rabbinic tradition and Jewish history to explicate her points. In presenting Protestant views of the Holy Spirit, Edmund Rubarczyk describes individual thinkers, how they challenged prevailing views (protested) and their impact on our understanding of the Spirit. I didn’t see how each of their approaches embodied the traditions they were describing and representing until I read Fr. John Oliver’s description of the Holy Spirit in the Orthodox tradition. A prayer from the orthodox liturgy frames the entire structure of the book and Father Oliver’s reflections. Not only do each of these authors describe the Spirit through the lens of their tradition, but the unique spirituality of each tradition informs their approach.

Secondly, I applaud the ecumenism of each author. They write from their own spiritual tradition, and do not sacrifice their own identity. It is in offering the insights of their own traditions that each author has contributed to a deeper understanding of the Spirit for us all. Too often ecumenical dialogues and discussion of God devolve into what we can all minimally affirm and doesn’t value the unique contributions. It is so refreshing to read a series on the Holy Spirit where each author is true to their theological convictions but presents them in a winsome and engaging way, offering them to the wider church (or in the case of Timoner, beyond her own religious faith). When unique visions are offered, they are given here without polemics.

Third, all of these books are thoughtfully engaging but accessible to the general reader. This is sometimes a hard balance, but each of the author manages to convey something of substance without getting mired in academic discussions and over complicating the matter. Nor do they retreat to shallow waters. I commend the whole series to you, on to the review:

The Giver of Life: The Holy Spirit in the Orthodox Tradition

Father John Oliver is priest of St. Elizabeth Orthodox Christian Church in Murfreesboro, TN and is a graduate and (former?) faculty at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary as instructor of Old and New Testament and American Religious History. My first exposure to him was through the Hearts and Minds podcast. John Oliver Here he explores what the Orthodox church’s understanding of Spirit, exemplified by quotations and stories from the Christian East. But more than that, this book is an exercise in prayer. Maximus the Confessor (580-662 C.E.) somewhere said, “Theology is prayer and prayer is theology-Theology without prayer is demonic.” Thus it is fitting that reflection on the Spirit in the Orthodox tradition is given within the context of prayer. Each chapter begins with this epigram:

O heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things; Treasury of good things and Giver of life; come and abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity,and save our souls, O Gracious Lord.

This ancient prayer to the Holy Spirit, often uttered for Morning and Evening prayer, frames the reflections in this book with each chapter reflecting on a phrase from the prayer. Here is the table of contents which shows how Oliver breaks the prayer up:

1. O Heavenly King
2. The Comforter
3. The Spirit of Truth
4. Who Art Everywhere Present and Fillest All Things
5. Treasury of Good Things
6. Giver of Life
7. Come Abide in Us
8. Cleanse Us From Every Impurity and Save Our Souls
9 O Gracious Lord

By probing this prayer, Oliver is able to both probe Orthodox reflection on the Spirit and the grandeur of all the Spirit is and does. In these pages the Spirit emerges as creator and king, God’s comforting presence, the Spirit of Truth who exists in unity with the Father and Son, as both transcendent and immanent, as giver of gifts and God’s abiding gift, the one who brings life, as the one who cleanses our sins and brings us to perfection in God, the gracious God who leads us from our depths to new heights. Along the way, Oliver quotes some of the great saints of the eastern church, quotations and stories and shares how the sacraments nourish life in the Spirit for the faithful.

There is a lot to chew on. I personally love patristics and was pleased to read many quotations from the early church (Cappadocians and desert Christians are well represented). I am not Orthodox, at least with a capital ‘O,’ but loved the prayerful framework and the Spirt in which Oliver offered this to the wider church. There is little I would disagree with in the book, even if my own emphasis would be somewhat different. Oliver stays clear of theologically contentious matters (i.e. he discusses the Nicene Creed but doesn’t pick a fight with the West for changing it) but gives us something that is both true to his theological tradition and instructive for us all. Thus far, this is my favorite book in the series!

Next week I will review the final book (to date) in Paraclete’s Holy Spirit series: Amos Yong’s Who is the Holy Spirit? I am very excited about this because Amos Yong is one of the most well respected Pentecostal scholars and I am sure that his exploration of the Spirit will widen our vision for who the Spirit is and all he does for us!

[Thank you to Paraclete press for providing me with a review copy of Giver of Life and the other books in this series in exchange for my review. I was not instructed to write a positive review but an honest one, which I have done here.]

The Good, Bad & Ugly- A Review of Mark and Grace Driscoll’s Book, “Real Marriage

Real MarriageIn the Evangelical world, you would be hard-pressed to find a figure more polarizing than Mark Driscoll (except for maybe Rob Bell. Those crazy, Mars Hill Pastors!). Those of a more moderate or progressive bent, find Driscoll’s theology too narrow, judgmental and misogynistic; Many conservatives stand with Driscoll in his theological commitments, but find his bombastic style, insensitivity and general jerkiness, off-putting.

Personally, I have some fundamental disagreements with Driscoll and concerns with his approach. Chief among these is my commitment to Biblical Egalitarianism and I find some of his comments are damaging to women, based in antiquated gender stereotypes (generally post-industrial, pre-feminist stereotypes), and arrogant. And so when Thomas Nelson, was offering his book free in exchange for reviews, I opted in just to see where the man (and wife) go amiss in their discussion of marriage; however, I found that while I disagree with the Driscolls in important ways, much of what they had to say here, was thoughtful, balanced and helpful. So read on Driscoll fans, I promise not to smear his (ahem) good name, but nor will I let him off easy!

Real Marriage is divided into three parts. In Part 1, the Driscolls address what makes a good marriage, discussing the roles of both husband and wife, their mutual responsibility to one another and ways to nurture their relationship. In Part II, they turn their attention to sex/sexuality (this is the biggest section of the book). Part 3 of the book consists of a single chapter, addressing how to ‘reverse engineer your marriage’ which involves casting a vision for the type of marriage you want to end up with and making a plan to get there. Part 3, despite it’s brevity is quite good. Parts 1 and 2 are generally pretty good with some issues. As an outline for this review, I will explore the Good, the Bad & the Ugly (with apologies to Clint Eastwood). On to my fair and balanced review (Fox newsworthy):

The Good


For the most part, I liked this book and found myself liking Mark and Grace Driscoll a little more as I read. Mark and Grace shares vulnerablely about their relational and sexual past, their marital struggles and offers advice they personally found helpful in their own marriage together. I was pleasantly surprised that their section on marriage has a chapter which underscores mutuality (showing how a good marriage starts with a good friendship). They also have good things to say about the gift of sexuality and do not pull punches in addressing sinfulness (i.e. abuse, pornography, selfishness). Things are said carefully here; I doubt that Driscoll will feel the need to recant or apologize for anything written here (as he has humbly done on occasion when he’s shot his mouth off). Perhaps the addition of his wife, Grace, has made him more gracious in his presentation! The Driscolls dispense good advice about cultivating intimacy.

Also, while I hedge and differentiate my position from Driscoll, I respect his commitment to being Biblical in his approach. This is a commitment I share with the Driscolls and actually agree with them on good many things, though not without reservations and concerns.I am done talking about the good things. On to the bad!

The Bad

    Beyond my fundamental disagreement with the Driscolls the thing that is done badly in this book is exegesis. Mark Driscoll has a Master’s degree in exegetical theology and should be much better at this, but he’s not (and yes I am singling out Mark on this one). This book is arranged topically and so doesn’t explore any one text in-depth. Often Driscoll proof texts and occasionally just misuses passages. In the chapter entitled, “Can We ______?” Driscoll uses Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 6:12 as a taxonomy to apply to sexual questions (p.192): “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are beneficial. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” From this, Driscoll proposes three questions: 1)Is it permissible? 2) Is it helpful? 3) Is it enslaving? (192).

    I agree that this can be a useful taxonomy in assessing particular issues, but Driscoll’s employment of it fails to account for the fact that Paul, in saying “All things are lawful for me” is quoting and rhetorically dismantling a Corinthian slogan. Someone with a master’s degree in Exegetical theology, ought to take more care here. Elsewhere he handles scripture better, such as his explication of the Song of Songs, but this book is really inconsistent in regards to the Bible.

    Take for instance how he handles ‘submission.’ Driscoll argues that it is the role of the husband to provide leadership to the household (and the church), it is the role of women to submit. They do balance this by addressing the limits of submission (women should not submit to abuse, or to commit a sin), but this is generally what they argue, for all cases regardless of personality, temperament and gifting of each spouse. The basis of their case comes from their reading of the Biblical household codes, particularly the one that we read of in Ephesians 5:21-33. Wives are told to submit (vs. 22) because the husbands are their head as Christ is the head of the church; Thus women submit, men lead.

    But this is a skewed picture of this passage. The section on women submitting (5:22-24) is bracketed by two verses which the Driscolls quote but fail to adequately expound. 5:21 says “Submit yourself to one another.” This sets this whole passage in the context of mutual submission (not just wives to husbands). In fact the word used for submit in this passage (ὑποτασσόμενοι), is said here, but not in verse 22, when Paul tells wives to submit. This reads literally “Submit yourselves one to another, wives to your husbands…” The context is mutual submission, not just wives to husbands.

    The second verse they fail to properly expound is verse 25: “Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” They quote this and talk about the husband’s loving leadership, but not about what it means to love like the Jesus who laid his life down. The Driscolls and I can disagree on egalitarian/complementarian concerns, but they need to trumpet the mutuality and shared submission more than they do here.

    The Ugly

Finally, there is the ugly side of this book. The Driscoll’s spend a great deal of their section on sex, talking about sexual responsibility and what can couples do sexually. They give the green light to just about everything from anal sex, cyber-sex, mutual masturbation, roleplaying, etc. Pretty much their modus operandi is if the Bible doesn’t forbid it, and it doesn’t involve anyone else but husband and wife, go for it (yes, they also ask if it is helpful or enslaving). They did not, here say women or men had to perform certain sexual acts they feel uncomfortable with, but they do imply that within the context of marriage, you should be open to experimentation.

While I agree that sexuality is a gift to be celebrated within the context of marriage, and there is some freedom in how it can be expressed, I think the level of detail here is unnecessary and unhelpful. What you can do sexually in marriage is the wrong question if you ask me. I like the title of one of Marva Dawn’s books, Sexual Character: Beyond Technique to Intimacy. I think the Driscoll’s fetish with what you can or can’t do sexually emphasizes technique, sometimes at the expense of intimacy. Healthy Christian sexuality is about mutually sharing, more than about experimentation.

Ugly-Driscoll

The Holy Spirit in the Protestant Tradition: Book Review of The Spirit Unfettered

After reviewing Breath of Life: God as Spirit in Judaism, Paraclete Press graciously allowed me to review other books in their Holy Spirit series (You can read my original review of Breath of Life here). For my second review from the series, I read a book reflecting on protestant views of the Holy Spirit. As a Protestant, this is where I live, so some of it was familiar terrain. Yet I appreciated Edmund Rybarcyzk’s guidance in exploring the history of Protestant thought on the Spirit.

http://ep.yimg.com/ca/I/yhst-38174537758215_2191_74440273Rybarczyk

Rybarczyk, an ordained Assemblies of God minister, Associate Professor of historic and Systematic Theology at Vanguard University and former managing editor of Pneuma: The Society for Pentecostal Studies, presents here a broad overview of protestant understanding of the Holy Spirit by profiling different protestant theologians. With the exception of chapter two (which focuses on the 16th Century Anabaptists), each of the chapters profiles different protestant theologians and examines their contribution to our understanding of the Holy Spirit. The chapters are as follows:

1. Martin Luther
2. The Sixteenth Century Anabaptists
3. John Wesley
4. Friedrich Schleiermacher
5. Abraham Kuyper
6. Karl Barth
7. J. Rodman Williams
8. Jurgen Moltmann
9. Wolfhart Pannenberg
10. Clark Pinnock
11. Michael Welker

This list, though not exhaustive or comprehensive does hit many key theologians who reflected on the reality of the Spirit. Personally my list would have also included Calvin (whose understanding of the sacraments was that the Spirit mediated the presence of Christ in the ecclesia), Pietists and some Anglican theologians, and Miroslav Volf, but as a whole, Rybarczyk’s group has a nice balance between Lutherans, Reformed and free church theologians and so provides a nice balance overall.

Rybarczyk’s outline traces the history of Protestant pneumatology. In the first half of the book (Luther to Barth) traces the story from Luther’s musing on the nature of salvation, protestant accounting for subjective ‘spiritual’ experience, and reflection on God’s personhood and sovereignity. The second half of the book shows how in the late 20th Century, Pneumatology explored different avenues and directions.

The Story Rybarczyk tells begins with Luther’s musings on the nature of salvation and sanctification and the Spirit’s role. The Anabaptists, Wesley and Schleiermacher each, though in significantly different ways, talked about how the Spirit mediated the felt, subjective experience of the faith (i.e. Spirit guiding believers, sanctifying us, and ‘God-consciousness). Kuyper responded to this subjectivity by emphasizing the cosmic scope of the Spirit’s work in transforming culture for the common good. He also emphasized the historicity and objective elements of the Christian faith and argued that the Spirit made these ‘subjectively alive.’ Barth in turn, also reacted against the subjectivity of Schleiermacher by approaching theology from above, focusing on God and Trinity and God’s sovereignty in salvation. According to Barth, believers share in God’s story by being baptized by the Spirit into Jesus’s identity and story, His community and his mission.

In the late 20th Century saw the maturation of pentecostal and Charismatic scholarship as exemplified by the Reformed Charismatic theologian J. Rodman Williams who explored the experiential dimension of life in the Spirit. Moltmann further probes the cosmic and contextual understandings of the Spirit’s work in this world. Pannenberg’s approach upholds the Spirit’s creative work his approach is more rationalistic and far less subjective than any of the other theologians in this study and he cautions an over emphasis on the Spirit to the exclusion of Jesus (both are central). Pinnock’s approach blurs categories and draws an expansive vision of the Spirit’s work in creation and redemption. Welker doesn’t restrict his reflection on the Spirit to Biblical revelation (as would Barth) or theological literature, but seeks to discern the Spirit’s presence with science and philosophy. Moltmann, Pannenberg, Pinnock and Welker are all ecumenical and expansive in their exploration of the Spirit.

This book provides quite a survey of protestant visions of the Spirit! I found it helpful, even though the size of the book and accessibility of its prose, dictated that the exploration of each thinker was much more general than it was in-depth. At times I found Rybarczyk’s theological eye oversimplified historical matters (as in the case with his brief chapter on the wildly divergent 16th century Anabaptists). But in the main, he was fair and judicious in his analysis of each thinker’s theology of the Spirit. Certainly I have flagged several of these theologians to delve into more deeply as I seek to deepen my understanding and experience of the Spirit.

Text Critical Extravaganza: A Book Review of Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament

Revisiting

In his scholarly tome, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, and his more popular treatment, Misquoting Jesus Bart Ehrman has argued that the Biblical text that we have is deeply mired by tampering of scholars for theological reasons. In Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament: Manuscript, Patristic and Apocryphal Evidence, the inaugural volume of the Text and Canon of the New Testament Series (from Kregel Publications), Dan Wallace has edited a volume which takes Ehrman to task. Wallace’s introductory chapter, is an expansion of a paper he delivered in 2008 as part a dialogue with Ehrman over the Corruption of the New Testament. The subsequent chapters are each written by former academic interns and ThM students of his at Dallas Theological Seminary. Individually, each essay presents a strong case; cumulatively they systematically demolish Ehrman’s arguments. For the most part, the author’s are judicious in their analysis (I only can think of one or two places which felt like over reaching to me) and each chapter evidences copious research. While the authors are all theologically conservative and take issue with many of Ehrman’s claims, this book is not a smear-campaign either. They respect Ehrman’s scholarship and confirm his findings where they feel it’s warranted, but it is clear that they find his premise wanting.

In Chapter 1, Dan Wallace presents a brief, accessible apologetic for the reliability of the New Testament, taking specific aim at Ehrman’s arguments. Next Philip Miller examines Ehrman’s methodology and reveals that Ehrman is committed to the premise that the least orthodox readings are closer to the original text, regardless of whether the textual evidence and scholarly consensus supports him. These two chapters provide a more general overview of the issue. Matthew Morgan and Adam Messer provide a more detailed account by each examining a specific text which are asserted to be ‘corrupt’ by Ehrman and others (John 1.1c and Matthew 24:36, respectively). They each demonstrate the spurious nature of Ehrman’s claims Tim Ricchuiti examines the text-critical transmission of Thomas showcasing where theological interests effected the transmission of that text in line with the theology of the Nag Hammadi writings. In the final chapter, Brian Wright examines the textual evidence for the equation of Jesus as God in the New Testament. Wright demonstrates that such claims are not a result of corruption, but are original to the first century Christian community.

This book is written for a scholarly rather than popular level (and is endorsed by an impressive stream of theological conservative scholars). Certainly students engaged in Biblical studies or textual criticism would benefit from reading this book. Yet, this book is also of value beyond the walls of academia. Giving the ubiquity of Bart Ehrman on college campuses, the New York Times best sellers list, and numerous television appearances, serious engagement with ideas is a necessary apologetic task. A book I read by Sam Harris, one of the so-called New Atheists, recommended Misquoting Jesus because of the way it undermines Christian truth claims and casts doubt on the reliability of the Bible. This book reveals the places where Ehrman’s assertions do not stand up to examination. Some of this book, will be too technical for popular consumption, but the book would make a good addition to a pastoral library and Dan Wallace’s and Philip Miller’s essays certainly are accessible to an educated layperson. I think the arguments in this book will remain significant for the Evangelical community at large.

Thank you to Kregel Publications for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for this review.

The Monster Mash (up)-Book Review and Giveaway of Night of the Living Dead Christian

Mikalatos BookIf you don’t think that monsters are a big deal, you need not look any further than the Young Adult fiction section of your local library, prime time television or anything Twilight related. Everywhere you turn there is some fabled beast slouching toward Bethlehem. So it’s not surprising that Christian publishers have gotten into the mix (besides this book I can think of two other recent publications which explore the theme).

Matt Mikalatos has written an interesting book about Spiritual transformation using ‘monsters as a metaphor for our Spiritual maladies. Without giving the whole plot away, here is the basic premise: Matt, as the self-appointed and sole Neighborhood Watch patrol person discovers the existence of monsters in his neighborhood when he comes upon a Mad scientist (eccentric genius) and a robot (ahem…android). The mad scientist’s experiment is supposed to repel and cure werewolves but instead sends a werewolf and zombies streaking through the neighborhood. Matt joins forces with the mad scientist and robot to capture the werewolf (who is a Lutheran non-Christian named Luther Martin) who happens to be a neighbor. Their capture attempt fails but the three of them try to help Luther cure himself from being a werewolf. There attempts bring them into contact with a church full of zombies, an (almost)ex-vampire who Matt went to high school with, and horror of horrors, a psychologist.

So there you have it. Admittedly I was disappointed that though the title eludes most specifically to zombies, they are not the focus of the narrative (though certainly significant). The story instead focuses mostly on the werewolf, but the monster phenomenon in general. Mikalatos is interested in what the monsters tell us about our sinful, fallen nature. This isn’t novel to him, most great monster literature from Dracula, Frankenstein to Dr. Jeckle, Mr. Hyde reflect on human nature and the inner psychology of the monster. What Mikalatos does is explore the theme from an explicitly Christian perspective. The central theme of this book is that our own monster-like-tendencies are only overcome through a transforming encounter with Jesus Christ. This is good theology. It is only through Jesus that we are fully human (though the second Adam, he is the prototype of the new Humanity of which Adam is merely a Type). There is even a self-diagnostic inventory at the back of the book, so you could discover your own monstrous tendencies (or more likely just diagnose your friends).

But is it good fiction? Well I doubt Mikalatos will win any literary prizes this was a fun, and insightful read (in real life Mikalatos works with college students so he may have more experience with monsters than most of us). I found myself wondering at one point if the Matt Mikalatos in the story (he is a character in his own novel) had a job because he seemed to be free to just drop everything and give copious amounts of time to hunting and helping monsters. Oh well, the whole plot of the book strains credibility but it doesn’t take it self too seriously. Mikalatos fills it with self-effacing humor keeping the tone light.

SPOILER: One thing I really appreciated was the fact that Luther Martin is transformed at the end of the story, doesn’t mean that his life was necessarily easier to deal with. It would have been easy to spin this into a self-help, over come your inner demons and succeed in life sort of narrative. Mikalatos doesn’t do that, but is true to how difficult the Christian life remains for those of us who have experienced real transformation.

Tyndale Was gracious enough not only to provide me a copy of this for review, but is allowing me to offer this book as a giveaway prize. If you are interested in receiving a copy of this book, comment below (you may want to tell us what sort of mythical monster you most relate with).

Watch a video of Matt talking about his book and the meaning of monsters at Tyndale.com at the link below:

http://www.tyndale.com/player.swf?file=http://www.tyndale.com/assets/flv/mattmikalatos_nightoflivingdeadchristian_interview_tyndale.flv

Book Review: The 60 minute Money Workout

Financial Expert, Ellie Kay,from Good Money (ABC News), author and frequent guest on various news stations offers here a unique approach to personal finances in The 60 Minute Money Workout. Rather than prescribing a one-size-fits-all financial plan she presents a series of ’60 minute money workouts’ where you take the time to reflect on how you use your money.

Each chapter consists on a pretest to evaluate how you handle your money in regards to the chapter topic. Then there is the ‘work out’ which involves a five minute ‘warm up’ where you say something positive about your handling of money (or your spouse) and commit yourself to the task at hand. This is followed by ‘strength training’ for 10 minutes, which for Ellie Kay means goal setting. ‘Cardio Burn’ is where you really get to work organizing, planning, writing out steps to take, etc(20 minutes) After the Cardio Burn you ‘Take your Heart rate’ which is another 20 minutes of work, either continuing research, filling out a plan, or taking some sort of action. Finally there is the ‘Cool Down’ where you spend five minutes congratulating yourself on your progress and planning your next worko

This is not the typical read for me, but because I need to get a better hand on personal finances I thought it would be a good read. There are some helpful tips and the idea of spending 1 hour evaluating how you are handling finances and planning for your future is a good idea. Kay covers various topics related to finances: Financial Freedom, Your Money personality, Spending, Retirement and Saving, Debt, Paying less, Travel expenses, Allowances, Kid Entrepreneurs, College funds, Home Based Businesses, Couples and Giving. In each chapter there are helpful evaluative tools and insights.

The work-out format is a little cutesy for me and I find the 10 minutes of each hour devoted to positive-thinking self talk to be a little over the top. As I haven’t read many books similar to this I don’t know how it stacks up against other treatments of the topic (Ron Blue for instance) but I think Ellie Kay does have some good things to say.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for this review.EllieKay-60 Minute