Tag Archives: narrative

Book Review: Divided: When the Head and Heart Don’t Agree, by Bill Delvaux

Divided: When the Head and Heart Don’t AgreeWhen I requested a review copy of Bill Delvaux’s Divided: When the Head and Heart Don’t Agree I thought to myself, “How does one successfully solve the long debated ‘head vs. heart’ dilemma in under two hundred pages?” I went in with an assumption about what Delvaux was attempting to accomplish, but by the time I got to the final two chapters I realized why the reader was being taken on this journey that never seems to land anywhere. What’s the point, you ask? I don’t know about other reviewers and how they’ll approach this one, but answering that would be akin to spoiling a good movie. This book will catch you off guard—in a good way—if you’re willing to stick with the journey.

Divided is presented in three sections:

  1. “Viewing the Divide: How it Began and What It Destroys” — If you don’t connect and relate at the start of this section, just keep reading. Eventually one of the many anecdotes will strike a chord and you’ll find yourself acknowledging your own divide.
  2. “Tackling the Divide: Three Terrains to Navigate” — This is where the reader is forced to consider more holistically one’s own story and listening to others in order to better understand the person. Great stuff. Yes, but how does this tackle the divide? It doesn’t matter; just keep reading.
  3. “Closing the Divide: What the Journey Feels Like” — So this is where it’s wrapped up in a nice package, right? Notice the subtitle is not “How to Fix It.” Once you get this far, you’re too invested to turn back, you’re not sure why you’re reading but know you need to keep going, and then *wham!* it hits you. “What the Journey Feels Like” is an appropriate description, and it’s only after journeying with Delvaux to the end will you realize the necessity of the journey.

If, like Paul, you struggle with doing the things you know not to do and not doing the things you know to do; if you put on a façade to hide the real you that you think others will hate; if you act and react out of an unknown position that lies in the darkest parts of you that you’re afraid to explore or may not even know exists, then Divided may be what helps you work through it. Don’t expect to be fixed along the way, but expect to be called out and called to action in taking steps toward your own journey through your own divide.

There were some points at which I disagreed with Delvaux’s handling of Scripture (particularly his use of Job), but these aren’t serious enough to affect the larger purpose of the book.

Recommended.

 

*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.”

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Book Review: The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission, by Christopher J. H. Wright

The Mission of God's PeopleFor those who’ve read the latter, Christopher J. H. Wright’s The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission should not be thought of as a sequel to his larger and quite dense work, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (my review here); rather, it might be seen as an elaborated point of that work written to be more accessible for a book series (Biblical Theology for Life), the writing of which Wright was asked to be a part. Do not, however, let that lessen your interest! Though there is certainly overlap—even quoting of MoG—this is incredibly insightful and convicting, even for those of us who have been preaching and teaching the same things for years. Since I deal mostly with students in these kinds of recommendations, my order of recommendation would be to read first MoGP and then MoG, with a few exceptions. For the more advanced, MoG would naturally provide a greater foundation for MoGP—and, yes, I’d still recommend reading both.

In Wright’s own words:
“If the basic argument of my earlier book, The Mission of God, was that we need to read the whole Bible in all its parts comprehensively to discern and describe God’s great mission of cosmic redemption, then the argument of this book, The Mission of God’s People, is that we likewise need to read the whole Bible comprehensively to discern and describe what the implications are for us, the people whom God has loved, chosen, called, redeemed, shaped and sent into the world in the name of Christ” (267).

Keep in mind that this is not a how-to book, but one of A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission. If in search for a “what to do when my mission program fails and no one is being converted,” then one should probably read this book for a number of reasons, though it certainly won’t provide the specific answer anticipated. Wright looks to answer, by way of several avenues within a truly holistic picture of mission, “Who are we and what are we here for?” A detailed outline is provided at the beginning of the book, making it easy for one to locate sections for specific material and lesson planning, though I still recommend reading it through in its entirety.

As I have read others’ reviews of this book, one concern that is sorely misguided and needs correcting is that Wright does not deal with our mission as expressed in the New Testament, specifically Jesus’ “Great Commission.” Not only does he address this tree (perhaps these readers/reviewers didn’t make it all the way through the book), but he does so by looking at the forest of the Bible in its entirety to better understand what that means. The reader certainly benefits from Wright’s scholarship in Hebrew and the Old Testament as he makes the narrative come alive and become practical and applicable for us all by understanding our storythe story. The mission of God’s people is the same from the beginning ‘til now. It would help to better understand our past in order to better understand and appreciate this great truth of Scripture!

Here’s yet another book added to my “must read” list!

Book Review: Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today, by N. T. Wright

Scripture and the Authority of GodIn typical, well-articulated fashion, N. T. Wright, in this updated, 2013 edition of Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today, tackles questions concerning the nature of Scripture (the Bible) and how it is authoritative, going well beyond the simplistic “it’s the Word of God” statements by addressing deeper application and important questions with much needed nuance. It is impossible to consistently and effectively take Scripture at “face value” without any method of interpretation—even the old adage “let Scripture interpret itself” will fail on a number of levels to withstand our interpretive interaction with passages we hope will help interpret others. So, if “because the Bible says so” isn’t very helpful when the Bible appears to disagree with itself in such superficial readings and the same “obvious” reference is equally used for opposing views, how do we use the text?

Wright fundamentally approaches the Bible as narrative, the story within which we find ourselves, that which has in a number of ways been handed down to us. We must then read everything within its larger context (e.g., verse, chapter, book, style, genre, history, culture, etc.) in order to understand what it meant and what it means. This requires diligent study and scholarship. To ignore this fact is to ignorantly and/or arrogantly dismiss generations of careful work through language translation alone—translation is inherently interpretive—not to mention the centuries (millennia!) of dialogue and debate that have lead to where one may find him/herself in one’s walk with God. (Again, statements like, “I only use the Bible,” and, “If the Bible says it, that settles it,” are not quite that simple, belittle the Godly work of others, and assume one has cornered the hermeneutical [interpretive] market.)

In this edition, Wright includes two case studies at the end of the book to demonstrate the argued biblical interpretation and how he views Scripture as being authoritative on the issues: Sabbath and Monogamy. These are quite helpful in working through some of the pragmatics of Wright’s work.

This only scratches the surface, and I highly recommend this read. For some, keeping a dictionary of theological terms and an encyclopedia of historical moments and movements within Christianity may be help, per Wright’s depth and style, but I suggest the reader allow this to be an opportunity to learn rather than become a barrier or distraction.

Book Review: Enter the Water, Come to the Table: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper in Scripture’s Story of New Creation, by John Mark Hicks

Enter the Water, Come to the TableJohn Mark Hicks has been a brother, mentor, and one-time travel companion of mine since my time at Lipscomb University.  Few academics impress me as much as John Mark in their ability to retain so much information, recollect it without aid, and express it in a way that is fitting for any given audience. (In the loving words of a fellow professor, “We hate him because we all know he can teach all of our classes and probably do it better.”) His website, johnmarkhicks.com, hosts a wealth of information, and I’m not sure where he finds the time to blog as much as he does!

Enter the Water, Come to the Table: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper in Scripture’s Story of New Creation is indicative of John Mark Hicks’ ability to unify differing perspectives by way of addressing their preferred semantics and expressing them in a more cohesive and understandable manner. Some themes and terms specific to this book that fall into this practice are baptism, communion (the Lord’s Supper), sacraments, and eschatology. No matter where you fall on the Christian theological spectrum, there is something to be gained by reading Hicks’ perspective; you may even discover similarities with others that were once thought to be differences over which separation was worth the fight!

In his latest book, Hicks aptly pulls his readers into the biblical narrative and shows them how both baptism and the Lord’s Supper have been and are expressed from the beginning of creation to the renewal of all things in the new creation (the new heavens and the new earth), demonstrating their far reaching influence and importance in and on the lives of God’s people. Rather than summarize or provide bullet points that may be found therein, I simply encourage you to get a copy and read without any preconceived notions as to that with which you may or may not agree.

For readers of this blog in my more immediate geographical location, what Hicks extensively describes as “bringing back the table” has been demonstrated in our house church (Durough House Communion), with fewer specific formalities, since January 2012. For those interested in learning and experiencing more about bringing back the table in communion, feel free to contact us!

 

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from ACU Press/Leafwood Publishers as part of their ACU Press Bookclub 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: The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative, by Christopher J. H. Wright

The Mission of GodAfter a lecture given in 1998, Christopher J. H. Wright was approached by Anthony Billington and questioned “about the validity of using a missiological framework as a hermeneutical approach to reading the Bible. Is it possible, is it legitimate, is it helpful for Christians to read the whole Bible from the angle of mission? And what happens if they do?” (531). Thorough and dense, though still not exhaustive in its 535 pages, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative is the result of Wright’s journey in attempting to answer those questions. Just as it changed Wright in the process, I believe the journey will aid its readers in understanding what it means to be part of the mission of God, that which Scripture exclaims in its entirety.

Divided into four parts (The Bible and Mission, The God of Mission, The People of Mission, and The Arena of Mission), The Mission of God progressively brings the reader into the biblical narrative and a better understanding of what it means to be a fellow pilgrim in God’s creation as intended by our Creator, recalibrating our posture from one of self-focus to God-focused participants in the continued narrative of God’s mission. I strongly recommend reading through the book in its entirety—it’ll take a while—in order to fully appreciate the journey as intended, but there is a detailed outline at the beginning and lengthy index at the end for those wishing to jump to particular sections for personal study and/or research.

As a proponent of reading the Bible in its narrative context and encouraging others to find and live out their place within this continued narrative, I appreciate Wright’s work and the result of his efforts in wrestling with this hermeneutical quest. It is a “must read” in my opinion, especially for those teaching, promoting, or looking for a particular method, form, and mode of “doing missions,” as it is often described. A proper reorienting of one’s perspective on what it is to be on God’s mission will better (rightly!) enable one to address the pragmatics of living out that mission in one’s own (or “target”) context.