Book Review: The Inkblots: Hermann Rorshach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing, by Damion Searls

The InkblotsDamion Searls’ The Inkblots: Hermann Rorshach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing is a beautiful work of narrative non-fiction about which the title makes quite clear. This is Searls’ first book of this type and it is fabulous. Well-researched and well-written, I found it both intellectually and artistically engaging.

The first half of the book is primarily biographical, through which we discover the development and true intent of Rorshach’s famous (or infamous, as some may perceive it) inkblots test. The latter half chronicles further development and use (or misuse) of the test from the Swiss doctor’s death in 1922 to present day, a fantastic journey of controversy that had me questioning, evaluating, and empathizing with both testers and test-takers throughout. The reader will eventually discover that the real take away from this book is, again, right there in the title: the power of seeing. We all perceive differently, and Rorshach, being both an artist and doctor, tapped into the possibilities of what we may discover about others and ourselves based on perceptions of just ten cards of symmetrical inkblots. One can only speculate what Rorshach could and would have further done with it had he not tragically died at such an early age.

Aesthetically, two sections of glossy pages that include photos of Rorashach, family, and artwork are welcomed and helpful additions. Kudos to Elena Giavaldi for the striking dust jacket that will surely catch both eye and hand of many potential readers.

 

I highly recommend this book, especially for those the least bit interested in art and/or psychology. It will not disappoint.

 

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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Book Review: The Jesus Bible, by Zondervan

The Jesus BibleMarketed as a Louie Giglio/Passion product, Zondervan’s The Jesus Bible claims “sixty-six books. one story. all about one name.” (As printed on the cover page.) I usually find gimmick and niche Bibles forced, unhelpful, and a rehashing of material (sometimes not even relevant to the gimmick) from previously published books. This one is better than many of those in one sense: there is a LOT of material trying to connect passages throughout the Bible to Jesus, and it took me quite a while to read every bit of it (I think I’ve reviewed five other books since I started this one). There are about thirty contributing writers in one fashion or another, but only the major essays note the authors. Those essays aren’t very helpful, but the authors’ names will likely help sales. General additional content is typically from a Reformed and Evangelical perspective, although I did find one contribution in Revelation that does not agree with the rest of the incomplete “faith only” comments through the text and rightly stated, “Believers today can take note: faith and works should go hand in hand. The relationship between faith and works is natural, and neither one should be overemphasized at the expense of the other” (p.1973). All additions in the Old Testament imply a conditional immortality stance on the afterlife, whereas additions in the New Testament hint at what many call the “traditional” view of hell. There are also hints of dispensationalism multiple eschatologies. So, there are inconsistencies that are often found with many contributors. Of course, the biggest problem is that every book in the Bible is not “about” Jesus, as is the central claim of this specialty Bible. Much “points to” Jesus, but little is “about” him. Some of the commentary is spot on, but much is a stretch, forced connection, or outright incorrect. So, overall, it’s better than many of these types of specialty Bibles, but I’d still recommend getting a proper study Bible if one wants commentary and the Bible in one collection.

 

Aesthetically, I will say that the gray cotton hardcover looks and feels great, and the black and white lettering accent well. However, the cotton dirties quite easily and the cover printing is paint that appears to be easily scratched off and will chip in time. The formatting of content within the text was done well, including side bars and pertinent timeline placement.

 

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King, by Matthew W. Bates

Salvation by Allegiance AloneIt’s no secret in scholarship that the English language does not have words that carry the same meaning and connotation of the Greek word pistis and its various forms and conjugations; however, that doesn’t stop most from using “faith” in its place wherever found. The driving force of Matthew W Bates’ Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King is the reevaluation of pistis as “allegiance” rather than “faith” in its greater context. I do not doubt that many will find Bates convincing in this regard, especially those already aware of the political context of Scripture; however, there are several major points I find in need of revision in this thought-provoking work.

First, Bates argues that the oft used arguments for “salvation by faith alone” have not only been theologically wanting but also damaging to the way in which hearers may then perceive and read Scripture and live (or not) as citizens of the kingdom of God. Studying in both Presbyterian and Catholic contexts, Bates feels he is uniquely positioned to speak in a bridging manner for Protestants and Catholics, particularly regarding the place of “works” or “living out one’s faith,” as some describe it, in conjunction with faith—or, as he argues, one’s allegiance to Jesus as Lord. His arguments are sound and point out philosophical, theological, and practical flaws on both sides of the traditional arguments that overemphasize faith or works in such a way that diminishes the other. However, after so doing, he comes back to “allegiance alone” (hence the title), perceivably unable to escape his traditional Evangelical roots, even after arguing for a much deeper understanding of an holistic life actively aligned with the king in mind, heart, and action. Perhaps this new phrase is intended to imply this holistic life, but his arguments against “faith alone” can be used against the reevaluated pistis phrase since “allegiance” may be easily misinterpreted and misused in time, as he has demonstrated the case to be with “faith.” I would encourage an holistic understanding and teaching of pistis, as does Bates, but without the wholesale removal of “faith” terminology, arduous as the task may be.

Second, Bates attempts to define the “gospel message” in its entirety according to eight foundational statements found in the Apostles’ Creed:

“Jesus the King
1. preexisted with the Father,
2. took on human flesh, fulfilling God’s promises to David,
3. died for sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
4. was buried,
5. was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
6. appeared to many,
7. is seated at the right hand of God as Lord, and
8. will come again as judge.” (p# unavailable, emphasis original)

There’s no doubt that these statements are either explicitly or implicitly made by Jesus and/or the apostles; however, I find his argument utterly unconvincing, stemming more from creedal theology rather than an holistic approach to the New Testament’s use of euangelion and its varied forms—basileia (kingdom) isn’t even included in Bates’ gospel message, that which is most associated with “gospel” in the New Testament.

Third, Bates argues that we are “idols of God” solely based on characteristic similarities between “image” and “idol” and the nature of idols in ancient Egypt as articulated by John Walton. No linguistic evidence is provided—contrary to the positive evidence for the pistis/allegiance argument—for a shift from “image” to “idol” in his desire to “restore the idol of God” (humans who properly reflect God, Jesus noted as being the prime and only perfect example this side of the new heavens and earth), but that does not stop him from making the switch and henceforth referring to those aligned with Jesus as idols. Not only is it unconvincing, I find no positive or helpful reason for its inclusion in the book. It simply appears to be an attempt to cram into the book a second linguistic wrench of controversy for the academy and ends up detracting from the greater message.

Finally, pairing “allegiance” and his “gospel” creed, Bates encourages Christians to use and recite the current form of the Apostle’s Creed as the true and proper “Pledge of Allegiance” with ever-increasing frequency in order to proclaim, teach, and remind people of the gospel (as defined by Bates) and with whom they are aligned. Certainly reciting and affirming creeds is not my dispute. They may proclaim truth and serve a purpose, and it’s the purpose and degree of complete truth claimed by the authors and perpetuators that I question. Bates is not the first to put forth an alternative pledge that counters those nationalistic in nature (Shane Claiborne being one of the most recent), and it sounds like a good idea. Jesus is lord; Caesar is not. We (well, some of us) get that. My reservations for using at least this pledge in particular (or really anything as the pledge) should be apparent in my questioning of Bates’ presentation of the holistic gospel message above.

Given the aforementioned observations and reservations, I find the overarching thesis to be an important one in need of further discussion within the academy and local churches alike. A proper understanding of the political context within and with which Scripture is written can only help us more fully understand whose we are, for whom we live, and what a life lived with that perspective may and ought to look like.

*I received a temporary, pre-published digital copy for review from Baker Academic via NetGalley.