Future Israel: Book Review

I wi46275_1_ftc_dpsh to premise this review with the disclosure that I have long been convinced of a Dispensational hermeneutic. While I would label myself a Progressive dispy (with a small “d”), I recognize many readers of this review are not of the same conviction and hold to the traditional Reformed views. I chose this book, as it is a topic of interest – and for my desire to continually re-examine my position to assess the weaknesses and strengths.

I have long caught flack from many holding to a Covenantal position, likening all Dispensationalists to John Hagee or tenets akin to Christian Zionism. I enter in this discussion of the review with the hopes of being able to navigate what tends to be a rather heated, yet ignorant debate. Far too often, false characterizations take place, exegetical arguments are dismissed, and jokes are made to deflect a probing question. We are dealing with a serious topic, and I hope to give this book a fair shake, yet also usher a gentle plea for my Covenantal brothers and sisters to simply think further about this.

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Rather than break the book down by specific chapter contents, it seems pertinent to divide the book into two portions containing these. The first, which I would break from chapters 1-7 detail an extensive look through the historical development of supercessionism. The second, chapters 8-12, detail Horner’s thesis exegetically, closing the book with a pastoral plea in chapter 12.

While I appreciated Horner’s careful consideration to the historical development of anti-Judaic tendencies, I feel as if this portion of the book could have been condensed. However, this is not a detriment to the overall thesis of his work, in consideration of the content within the following chapters. It seems as if the first seven chapters deal with setting the cause of re-examination to an age-old hermeneutic. When challenging long-standing interpretations, we ought to have good reason; this is precisely what Horner does in laying the historical roots of these theological presuppositions.

The fruit of this work is displayed especially in his treatment of Romans 11 in chapters 10-11. This is the passage seemingly overlooked by many, or distorted in favor of a spiritualization of the text. Beyond this, many often preclude an historical interpretation of the text (accordingly to the original audience) in favor of personal interpretation. This is not to say we cannot personalize the text – but the litmus of any interpretation is based in what the author intended to say and how that applies. Here is where I feel Horner does an excellent job treating Paul fairly – and while many may disagree with that sentiment, I would simply ask consideration of the argument presented in the remaining half of this book.

It is in this last half of the book that Horner deals with the more problematic inferences to a Covenantal view. He argues for the irrevocability of the promises to national Israel on the basis of God’s immutability, distinguishes between the unilateral and bilateral covenant, and takes careful consideration of supercessionist arguments against these as well. Here you will see Horner interact with common passages used to refute his position, namely Galatians 6:16, Ephesians 2:11-22, Philippians 3:2-3, and 1 Peter 2:9-10. Beyond this, Horner advocates those Jews who remain in unbelief are yet enemies of God needing to be reconciled to Him through faith in Christ. Though, he argues, national Israel has affection upon them from the Lord on the basis of God’s irrevocable covenant and the fulfillment of it, no man gets a “free pass” simply because of their ethnicity.

In closing, we must remember that the abuse of a doctrinal position does not disqualify the exegetical argument. Rather, the basis of exegesis is simply what the text lays out. More plainly, simply because anti-Judaism has been a common result from supercessionism, does not adequately refute the doctrine. Here is where I would simply ask my Reformed brethren to caution. Regardless of where you land on this – know that there is the potential to shift toward an unhealthy view of the Jewish people.

This is the precise thing that can happen in areas of Christian liberty, or even other doctrines. Calvinism, for example, can lead one to a faulty security in their salvation. In that same vein – I would also caution Dispys of taking the argument to an illogical conclusion. Holding to an economy of God’s redemptive plan disregarding Covenantal hermeneutics can lead one to an unhealthy obsession with Israel, eschatological prophecy, and even antinomianism. However, I would see this to be an indication of faulty reasoning and study method, rather than the doctrine itself.

Whether you are Covenantal or Dispensational, I would recommend reading this book. It is good to read books you agree with and disagree with simply to develop your understanding – yet most importantly, assess whether your hermeneutic is adequately reflecting the exegetical basis and salvific economy of the Bible. This is incredibly important – and we ought not deflect simply because we feel overwhelmed or we already have a predisposition to reject the argument. Read this book with an open bible, prayerfully, and thoughtfully. If you do so and still disagree with his thesis – good for you. You have at least done some legwork and been challenged adequately.

Disclosure: I received this book free from B & H Academic through the media reviewer program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Praying the Bible: Book Review

9781433547843 I wish to start by saying that I’ve read a lot of books on prayer. Some have been helpful and some I wish I didn’t even take the time to finish them. For Don Whitney’s book, Praying the Bible, I can faithfully say this is a book that has been incredibly helpful.

The book is short and can be digested within a day if one truly wanted to – yet I would recommend slowing down and taking stock in what is written. It is an incredibly accessible book, organized well, and clearly articulated. Better yet, he advocates a simple methodology to enhance and revitalize your prayer life.

If you are anything like me, prayer can be a difficult thing to be enthralled with some days. We have hordes of literature giving ten easy steps to a better prayer life that impose upon the reader that if they neglect step 7, their prayer life will go unfulfilled. Beyond this, the repetitious task of completing such steps often removes the joy of prayer and places upon one’s self the yoke of burdensome prayer. Prayer should never be a burden.

Instead of tasking the reader with multiple steps to a better prayer life, Whitney simply advocates a simple approach: you pray using scripture as your source, namely, the Psalms. The reason being: we can avoid vain repetition in our prayers, use inspired text that covers a wide range of emotions, doctrines, and troubles, and initiate the conversation of prayer with God freely. It focuses our minds to keep us from wandering during prayer and is incredibly easy to implement. All one must do is open up the Psalms, pick a passage, and pray through it.

The task is not one in which we must pray every single line found within that Psalm; it is content driven, utilizing the text as a means to follow the paradigm of praise given in the Psalter. Thus, one can praise God’s character, give thanksgiving, express lament, petition Him to act, and close again in praise and thanksgiving.

In this, Whitney advocates that we allow our minds to bring certain things to light as we pray through the Psalm. Thus, an easy example from Psalm 23:1 would be as follows:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. I praise You in Your provisions and leadership in all aspects of my life. You bring forth food for even the birds of the air – let me not be concerned with provision as the Gentiles are, but instead trust that You will be faithful in all things and uphold your beloved children. I thank you, as my shepherd, that You guide me. May You continue to guide me in righteousness, that I may display the richness of Your grace to all who see me. May You guide my children upon this path that they might fear you and come to see wisdom in Your Law – for it is good, and holy, and righteous. May You provide for them the way of salvation. Open their eyes to see and ears to hear of Your great mercy, so that they too shall see what it means to not be in want.

One verse can prompt content-rich, biblical prayer. Imagine what you can do with the rest of a Psalm that has been repeated throughout the church so much that most can recite it without hesitation – yet don’t meditate on what it means. In this, you not only meditate on what the passage is saying, but you take directly inspired words of God back to Him in prayer. You are speaking to the Lord using His language. In more simple words: you are seeing the Lord initiate the conversation through the scriptures, and you are simply responding to them.

I can promise you that if you struggle with prayer – and you read and faithfully implement the practice he lays out, you will have an enriched prayer life. It is so simple, yet so effective. Buy the book, read it, and put it into practice. Use what time you have, whether it be a few minutes or an hour (which before I felt was daunting, but if you have the time and want to continue – simply turn to the next Psalm. If you don’t know how to pray from that Psalm, turn to the next).

It really is that simple.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Crossway Books through the Beyond the Page book reviewer program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic?

9780805446548_cvr_webIn reading Michael Rydelnik’s The Messianic Hope, one can’t quite help but see the effect of Enlightenment ideals upon modern critical scholarship. Interestingly, the primary concern isn’t liberal scholarship, but the growing tendency within conservative Evangelical scholarship to deny a strictly Messianic interpretation of many key Old Testament texts. While this does not indicate all of these scholars are denying a Messianic understanding of the text, Rydelnik’s concern is the detraction from a clear Messianic understanding to the original audience: the prophet delivering oracular (and later, written) revelation to God’s covenant people.

The Content:

Chapter 1 introduces the reader to the purpose of why Messianic prophecy is important. What is unique to this chapter is not simply the admonition of Rydelnik from Luke 24:44, but the perspective he brings to this study as a Messianic Jew. For Rydelnik, understanding the role of direct Messianic fulfillment is deeply personal. Growing up in an Orthodox Jewish home, he witnessed his father divorce his mother over her conversion to the Christian faith. Rydelnik, seeking to disprove his mother’s newfound faith, went to the Hebrew Scriptures, only to find they indeed spoke of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Chapter 2 addresses how modern interpreters approach the Old Testament’s Messianic prophecy. In this section, he deals respectively with Historical Fulfillment, Dual Fulfillment, Typical Fulfillment, Progressive Fulfillment, Relecture Fulfillment, “Midrash” or “Peshur” Fulfillment. While he acknowledges there are various other interpretive methods, these are the most common found in Evangelical scholarship.

Chapters 3-7 yield evidence to defending his thesis that direct prophetic fulfillment of the Messiah is the most frequent form of interpretation that should be seen. Chapter 3 deals with text-critical evidence, espousing that variant texts supporting the Messianic reading are to be preferred over the MT. Chapter 4 builds the case by examining innerbiblical evidence, namely, to display that later biblical authors read the former as Messianic.

Chapter 5 present canonical evidence to display the united theme of the closed Hebrew canon to reveal a Messianic understanding in the specific shaping of the canon, as well as the books included. Chapter 6 brings New Testament evidence to display that the NT writers and Christ believed the OT writers knew they were writing about the coming Messiah, rather than the NT authors adding a more full, inspired Messianic meaning to OT prophecy. Chapter 7 explores the hermeneutical principles of the NT in regard to understanding messianic prophecy; not all examples are direct fulfillment – thus, it is important for us to take note of these principles in order to see Christ in the OT.

Chapter 8 is devoted to trace the influence of Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (otherwise known as Rashi) from his own time, the Reformers, and our current day. Most notably, Rydelnik builds the case that Rashi intentionally interpreted direct messianic passages in an anti-messianic fashion in order to dissuade Jews from believing in Yeshua.

Chapters 9-11 focus on key messianic texts, including Gen. 3:15, Isa. 7:14, 52:13-53:12, and the book of Psalms (namely Psalm 110). Genesis 3:15 he regards as Protoevangelium, that is, the “first gospel” account between the promised seed of the woman who will crush the head of the snake. From the prophets (Isa.) he critically defends reading the Hebrew almah as “virgin”, rather than “young maiden” and for the messianic interpretation of the passage rather than historical fulfillment. In using Psalm 110, Rydelnik again views this to be a messianic passage referring to the future King who will reign forever upon the throne of David.

Finally, in chapter 12 Rydelnik issues a plea to return to a messianic understanding of the Hebrew Bible, as this is the intended, historic meaning of the text.

Why Does This All Matter?

In anything we are studying, we ought to ask the simple question: what impact does this have upon the church? What are the natural consequences of rejecting a Messianic interpretation outright (Historical Fulfillment), holding to a Sensus Plenior interpretation (Dual Fulfillment), a Progressive Fulfillment, and so forth? Are there weaknesses for the argument of a Direct Fulfillment interpretation of these passages?

While I have generally viewed the discussed passages as inherently Messianic, it is troublesome for more than a few reasons to see many leaving these interpretations behind. One of the most problematic inferences to this would seem to pose an unintended detriment to scripture’s perspicuity. If the scriptures are clear in matters of Messianic expectation to us, it would seem self-evident that they should be so for those whom first heard the promises of God regarding Christ. The potential drawback to refraining from understanding the direct fulfillment of Isaiah 7 can easily lead to a slippery slope, failing to uphold the virgin birth of Christ. Many may claim this to be an overstatement – yet hermeneutically, we have seen this departure take place in more than one account of scholars who have espoused this view.

Beyond this, to assume the NT authors utilized creative exegesis to arrive at their conclusions emphasizes the inability for one to understand the text as it should be understood. I understand there are difficulties in arriving at the same conclusions regarding some of the NT usage of OT texts as messianic fulfillment, yet it would seem that this is not a hermeneutical problem of the NT authors. The problem of understanding is within us.

Final Thoughts on the Book:

While there were some things I could not fully get behind in Rydelnik’s treatment (such as Isa. 7:13-15 and v. 16 depicting another child other than the Messiah), the book was absolutely phenomenal. Within the footnotes is a treasure trove of information that the reader would be foolish to bypass; they are there for a reason. The format of the chapters and overall layout of the book is excellent and easy to follow, thus, it made for pleasurable reading.

There are difficult parts to follow if one doesn’t have a thorough background in the original languages (especially in dealing with text critical issues in why the MT should not be followed in certain passages) – yet it is not detrimental to understanding the breadth of his argument. I feel this work is pertinent to our time, as some Evangelical scholars are embracing more liberal treatments of the text and supplanting their own definition to particular doctrines (take for example, Blomberg’s current stance on inerrancy). It is an incredibly important topic, especially with regard to how we understand the revelation of Christ in the focus of redemptive history.

I would fully recommend this book.

Disclosure: I received this book free from B & H Academic through the media reviewer program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

The content of this review was also posted on another site I contribute to: http://www.chorusinthechaos.com/

Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom

9781433525025In similar accord to Bonhoeffer and Lewis, Luther is often marginalized by the appeal to a broader evangelical context than he would fit within during his own lifetime. Trueman, recognizing the weaknesses of this approach, argues for a more sensible reading in moving beyond the modernly-evangelicalized Luther by studying the real Luther; the systematic thinking, often bombastic, Christian man, in his own historical context (22).

The reason for moving beyond this one-dimensional study of Luther is painfully obvious: we can never be challenged with a shallow reading focusing only upon areas of agreement. In the scope of many other works on Luther, Trueman devotes time discussing Luther’s high sacramentology, his post-1525 writings, the historical/personal context shaping his theological advancements, and the distinction to being a “theologian of the cross” as opposed to a “theologian of glory.”

Trueman’s basic framework draws mainly from Table Talk publications (among other notable works) in the following structure. Chapter one describes Luther’s biographical life, particularly linking Luther’s early life experiences to his existential crises, leading to the dominating shift into a Law-Gospel theology. Beyond this, Trueman highlights specific events shaping Luther’s theology, for example: The Bondage of the Will being not only a response to Erasmus, but undermining the authority of the Papacy. The second and third chapters deal more extensively with Luther’s understanding of the “theologian of the cross,” and subsequently, the power of the Word preached. Thus, the true “theologian of the cross” will be dominated by the idea of the scripture’s supremacy and power to effectively change the hearts of hearers.

The fourth and fifth chapters respectively deal with Luther’s liturgical values and how the Word addresses individual souls. Thus, maturation in the Christian life is not simply one of rote memorization and catechesis, but a profoundly moral exercise intended to grip our affections for God by the knowledge of scripture. Chapter 6 draws out Luther’s sacramentology on the effectiveness and importance of baptism and the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. Chapter seven draws upon Luther’s response to the “long-haul,” recognizing the Immanent Return of Christ was delayed beyond his expectations, thus forcing a structured response to Christian living in lieu of licentiousness and antinomian tendencies. Finally, in chapter 8, Trueman reveals Luther’s pastoral nature, specifically with the ordinary aspects of every day life and common struggles of believers.

Trueman fairly reveals Luther, warts and all, as a sinner justified in Christ, mastered by the ideals of being a “theologian of the cross.” This was evidenced in seemingly small ways, such as a tract written on prayer for a barber, yet ultimately, in his ability to effectively point to the cross as a source of perseverance through doubt, trial, the pain of death, and the common struggles of man. Personally, what resonated most deeply was the pastoral devotion Luther had for his congregants, sparing time for hospitality, developing catechisms for the maturation of their faith, and utilizing the cross as the means by which we grow to love God. For the clarity with which Trueman writes and this brief, yet illuminating work upon the life of Luther, I would wholeheartedly recommend this book.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Crossway Books through the Beyond the Page book reviewer program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

Can You Believe It’s True?

CanYouBelieve While I disagree with Feinberg in respect to his approach to apologetics (he is evidential, I subscribe to presuppositional), I nonetheless appreciated reading this book. In the post-modern epoch, Feinberg seeks to build a defense in proposal of being able to definitively and qualitatively proclaim truth. Whether we agree on initial premises of apologetic approach, it was nonetheless beneficial for me to understand why he disagrees with presuppositional apologetics, yet also, glean from his understanding of post-modernism and his framework in dealing with the evidences he puts forth.

The book itself stands with much to merit. Feinberg splits the book into three sections, the first being an introduction to modernity and postmodernity. This is truly the point in which I think Feinberg does an excellent job, as he respectively moves through each of these intellectual fields. In this, he highlights both strengths and weaknesses associated with these post-enlightenment ideals, namely demonstrating how post-modernism displays a healthy skepticism of blind appeals to authority, yet on the far other end of the spectrum, casts doubts on the credibility of anything. In this, he rightfully attributes the folly behind the unequivocal, “there is no truth but what is true for you and what is true for me, even if they don’t coincide.”

Once we move beyond this point of the book, he introduces a section devoted to approaching Christian apologetics. While it is clear that Feinberg does not agree with the presuppositional stance, he does note five significant contributions to the field of apologetics.

  1. Everyone has presuppositions and this figures in to our worldview.
  2. The Holy Spirit is needed within apologetics for it to be successful.
  3. Human reason is finite and subjected to the affect of sin.
  4. Scripture does teach that God has been made apparent to everyone.
  5. The strategy of exposing contradictions and demonstrating absurdities in contrary worldviews.

In the third portion of the book, Feinberg moves on to giving defense to particular areas in debate from secular sources:

  • The problem of evil.
  • The reliability of the gospels.
  • The resurrection of Christ.
  • The issue of religious pluralism.

In either case, those looking to read on apologetics will stand to benefit from this section as well.

On the whole, while I disagree on a foundational level – I would recommend reading this book. Feinberg is charitable in his disagreements with presuppositional apologetics and argues winsomely for his case. Yet ultimately, I feel he falls short of the true nature of man in respect to their ability to know truth. If we factor in the ministry of Satan upon the earth to keep unbelievers in their respective blindness, their predisposed, utter inability to understand God in their darkened minds, and the devastating affect sin has upon our intellect, it would seem evident that mankind, apart from the illuminating work of the Spirit, cannot agree even on the relative bodies of Christian truth to their fullness. Instead, they suppress the truth in unrighteousness, leaving any evidences for God to be rejected along with the foundational truths of the scriptures.

Though common revelation is given to man on the basis of natural revelation, ultimately, this is only sufficient to condemn. For true agreement to be reached between a non-Christian and Christian, the common basis is found in the root of truth: the God of all truth. If one does not believe in God, the route by which they come to adhere to any Christian truth is not due to intellectual ability or logical deduction – it is revelatory.

While these truths can lead one to accept the probability of there being a god, it does not necessitate that they believe in the One true God. Hence, it is still an under-girded presupposition on the basis of their own intellectual ability and preconceived ways they are able to study/view the world and how it functions. These presuppositions, namely from a darkened soul that does not understand or seek God (Romans 3:11), gird how they view and explain the evidence. Even if consistent agreement is found, it does not indicate that they are any closer to believing it to be evidence for God than when they first started. Apart from the saving grace of God, they cannot come to believe the foundational truths, which lead one to salvation.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Crossway Books through the Beyond the Page book reviewer program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

The First Time We Saw Him

9780801016301Matt Mikalatos sets out with a noble goal in his book, The First Time We Saw Him. The intended purpose of the book appeals to understanding the scriptures with fresh eyes, namely, the eyes we once saw them with at the initial point of salvation. In these early months of receiving the gift of faith, we read with veracity, having scales fall off of our eyes due to the cleansing effect of His word upon our souls.

While he never goes into an in depth description of what discipleship is, Matt aptly points out that discipleship is not simply a body of information that needs dissemination to new converts. Rather, it is modeling this behavior in light of having the correct information from scripture. Thus, it is akin to Paul saying, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Orthodoxy meets and informs Orthopraxy. Though we don’t know the principles by which Mikalatos informs his understanding of Orthodoxy – this statement is incredibly solid.

His writing is clear and articulates what he desires to within the text. Simply stated, this book is easily accessible to those who have difficulty reading and maintaining focus. However, Matt takes liberty with common parables of scripture by rewriting them. Many convey a similar intended meaning yet ultimately fail to do justice to the text.

One specific example is in respect to the parable of the Good Samaritan. However, instead of the Samaritan being a Samaritan, Mikalatos changes the character to a practicing Muslim. Surely, Matt displays the “Good Samaritan-Muslim” as the one who exhibits compassion upon the needy soul as others whom we would expect to act pass by unflinchingly. However, the context of this parable is in reference to salvation.

Remember, the expert in the law asks Christ, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” This parable hinges off of the premise that saving faith is one that understands not only the facts of salvation, but puts them into practice. Matt specifically writes in his dialogue of the parable, “Could the teacher be saying that a man like this is closer to eternal life than a respected pastor or seminary student [who do not respond accordingly]?”

The intended point in this passage is not to diminish a proper understanding of the Law – but that a true understanding of it brings about a heart of compassion. In other words, Matt’s “Muslim Samaritan” is not closer to eternal life, as his beliefs are still damnable. The illustration used asks that if one has poor or false teaching and is still merciful – how might the one who understands what the Law requires reconcile deliberate disobedience to it?

Beyond this, we see Christ portrayed on the cross in the manner of a kicking and struggling, unwilling participant in the crucifixion. This is horribly inadequate and against what scripture teaches. Christ went willingly to the cross, enduring the punishment and despising the shame of it – however, He did so with full intentionality and without complaint, bowing in submission to the Father to accomplish His will.

While Matt aptly highlights some of the costs associated with following Christ, and respectively, not following Him – one of them is not eternal separation. Beyond this, he treats the cost of following Christ without particular clarity. Part of this is obedience to the scriptures, another, losing one’s life (as Piper so eloquently puts it, “picking up the means of your execution and carrying it to the place of execution). Following Christ requires a large cost – yet not following Christ requires a large debt that cannot be satiated by those who are not in Christ. It is more than missing out on a transformed life – it is missing out on restored fellowship to your Creator and subsequently being damned to eternal punishment.

The larger problems in this book are not theological premises, but attitudinal. Namely, Matt never addresses the heart behind one’s lack of desire for scripture and how to read it, nor plainly, the sin in this. What is paraded instead is an appeal to emotion – ultimately implying that there is something wrong with the person who picks up their bible in the morning to be faithful, and doesn’t feel anything when they read it. In other words, when we read the scripture (especially the words of Christ – seemingly, displaying more of the red-letter preference nonsense) we ought to be touched in our hearts every single time.

To be clear – I am not saying that one ought not feel anything in the midst of reading scripture. However, I will emphatically argue that being faithful to dive deeply into the recesses of God’s revelation to mankind is not about getting the fuzzy-duzzies. For an excellent treatment of this, read this link.

The attitude with which one ought to bring to reading the scriptures is not one of sensationalism, but of desiring to know the Lord and His active plan in redemptive history and how that affects those whom are called. Moreover, ask questions like the following (and more): What do the scriptures teach about the condition of man? In what ways is the gospel applicable to my current situation? In what ways do I need to repent? In what ways can I further understand God, His purpose for the church, and His sanctifying work in my life? In what ways do I need to understand how to share this with others? How does this particular passage fit within its context – and how then does it apply to the church? What does the passage teach is the proper response to the truth I am reading? How then, do I practically respond in obedience to the truth that I am confronted with in order to please God?

Overall, I would not recommend this book. Another title I would recommend in its place would be: How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers http://www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

Dynamic Women of the Bible

dynamic-women-of-the-bible-picI set out to read Ruth A. Tucker’s Dynamic Women of the Bible with the hopes of being able to find a decent resource to encourage women with. I had no idea of whom Ruth Tucker was until I read this book. That will be important later. For now, let’s examine this book under it’s own merit.

Within the first chapter, it was readily apparent that much of what this book was going to offer was pure, idle speculation on the nature of the women of the Bible. Interestingly enough, the authors who penned the scriptures were not moved by the Spirit to write much about many of these women. Truthfully, there is a ridiculous amount left open for speculation. However, I do not find such speculation profitable for the reader or the maturation of their faith.

The really interesting thing that I found was that through the midst of this, Tucker acknowledges that the point of the scriptures was not to highlight these women. Not necessarily, anyhow. The primary focus of the scriptures is redemptive history through the patriarchal lineage tracing to Christ, what His specific ministry was here on earth (yet also now, being seated at the right hand of the Father, and His eschatological purpose), and what implications this redemptive history has for those who confess Christ as Savior and Lord.

While these narratives are given in scripture, Tucker admits to being curious as to what their attitudes were. Surely, they were real women, as she writes. However, this is seemingly where Ruth Tucker lands: some strange middle ground where she asks a ton of questions that the reader is left to postulate upon.

The chapters move from character to character, speculating large chunks of narrative, such as, “There have been so many monthly periods she cannot begin to count them. Cramps and PMS sometimes lasting for days. And what a mess! No corner drugstore where she could stock up on tampons and sanitary napkins or buy a bottle of Midol. If she were like most women, she would have begun ‘the change’ in her late forties or fifties, bleeding at times like a stuck pig. Then would come the near fainting spells and what could only be described as grand-mal hot flashes—never-ending menopause. How long has it been since she made love with Abraham? Years? She doesn’t keep track.”

Granted, I am a man, and beyond the biological aspects of menstrual cycles and menopause, I don’t get it. However, to speculate on this simply seems to be trying to relate much more to the story than we have. Did she have this in commonality with all women? Of course. Do we need to speculate on the heaviness of Sarah’s period, her menopause experience, or her sex life with Abraham? Not really. It does nothing to substantiate Sarah’s character nor does it add particular value to this discussion.

Tucker does move beyond menstruation in this chapter, but to more and more speculation in the midst of the legitimate Genesis narrative. She presents some of what the text says, and then elaborates with mere speculation.

Through what I did read in this book, I was overwhelmed by the vast majority of biblical gossip Tucker purported to make her points. I decided to give the book 150 pages (the halfway point) to see if it would get any better – I made it to page 65 and skimmed some other chapters remaining.

What I got out of it was that the Patriarchs are viewed too positively and that modern biblical scholars comment too negatively on the sins of these women; Priscilla wrote the book of Hebrews; Lot’s wife got a bad rap (Sapphira possibly, too); and a whole boatload of other hypotheticals.

I have mentioned this before, and I will do it again here: research the author for a minimum of one hour and see what you can dig up.

For what I found on Ruth Tucker in 15 min:

  • She is egalitarian.
  • She is a biblical feminist.
  • She has about 10 blogs devoted to slamming her previous employer (again, I don’t know everything that happened in this situation – but surely there is a more mature way to handle these things).
  • She has other blogs where she spends more time speculating and asking questions than she ever formulates biblical answer to.

My point is not to slam her in any way. My point is simply to show that she has developed a set of presuppositions by which she operates under as she approaches the scriptures. We all do this – however, some just do it in a poor, unbiblical way. What you read in their books will evidence this, always. It is far more valuable to read from authors who want to be mastered by what the scripture dictates. They may make mistakes in their hermeneutic, but it will not be altogether unprofitable.

You know you find a good author when you can see their desire is to be mastered by the text. They don’t spend tons of time positing on the details they don’t have – they unpack what they do have and seek to make it applicable for their readers. I have been growing more and more in my appreciation of these types of men and women because they have an earnest desire to show others what God’s Word evidences and what He desires for us.

 

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html