Friday, June 5, 2020

Judged with Madness

I’ve been reading Scandalous Witness: A Little Political Manifesto for Christians by Lee C. Camp, after seeing the book mentioned a couple of times on Scot McKnight’s blog. It’s a challenging read and is forcing me to recognize some blind spots I have had. Other times, I find that Camp has put into words things I have felt but not taken the time to articulate thoroughly.
Rather than chapters, the book has a series of “Propositions,” which are summarized with one or two paragraphs at the start of each “chapter,” then developed and fleshed out over several pages. The fifth proposition is, “The United States is Not the Hope of the World.”
Camp recounts how various U.S. government leaders since the founding of our nation as have placed the United States in that position. Thomas Jefferson, in his inaugural address in 1801, used the words “the world’s best hope” to refer to the still-new republic. In his 1862 state of the union address, Abraham Lincoln used the phrase “the last best hope on earth” to describe our country. Following World War I, Woodrow Wilson repeatedly said that the United States would “save the world,” and in one speech said, “At last, the world knows America as the savior of the world!”

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Book Review -- Craig Keener's The Mind of the Spirit: Paul's Approach to Transformed Thinking

The Mind of the Spirit: Paul’s Approach to Transformed Thinking

by Craig S. Keener: Baker Academic 2016. 402 pages.

Paperback: $29.99 

Professor Craig Keener’s stated purpose in writing this book is to show how, for the Apostle Paul, Word and Spirit “are inextricably bound together,” and that the life of the mind is not innately opposed to the moving of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Spirit often works through the mind of the believer, not solely apart from rational cognitive processes (contra some in the Pentecostal/Charismatic camp, who emphasize the Spirit’s bypassing of human thought processes).

As with all of Dr. Keener’s works, this book is well-researched. The list of abbreviations alone occupies 22 pages, covering ancient Greek and Latin works, Jewish sources (Josephus, Philo, Dead Sea Scrolls, Mishnaic and Talmudic texts, and other rabbinical works), Christian texts (New Testament and Apostolic fathers), and other ancient, medieval, and modern sources. The bibliography runs for 46 pages, while the indices of subjects, authors and names, Scripture citations, and other ancient sources occupies another 76 pages. It is important when reading this book to read not only the main text, but also the footnotes, which provide (in addition to source references) key explanations and insights as well. Keener has done a thorough job of examining the relationship between right thinking and right living.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Why do we see everything as restricted to two options?

I recently heard a Christian brother commenting on the current political situation. He said:

You know, when we elect a president we don’t elect a pastor. So, we’re going to have an unregenerate person. ... You know, you can have a good character president, and a failed policy, or you can have a president who has a character that raises questions and still have policies that promote well-being in the citizenry.

I don’t think it was this brother’s intention to do so, but he presented a false dichotomy. It’s not that we can only have good character plus bad policies on the one hand, or bad character plus good policies on the other. There are also two feet involved: bad character plus bad policies (which I firmly believe is what we would have had under Hillary Clinton), and good character plus good policies, which I believe is what most of us actually want. The fact that we were faced in the 2016 election with the two "hands" doesn’t mean that we should just settle for that and not strive for the right "foot."

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Book Review -- Gospel Allegiance: What Faith in Jesus Misses for Salvation in Christ

In his latest book, Gospel Allegiance, Matthew W. Bates, associate professor of theology at Quincy University in Quincy, Illinois, takes the foundation laid in his previous book, Salvation by Allegiance Alone, and builds the superstructure of how these ideas can be worked out in the life of the church and Christian witness. Whereas Salvation was directed a little more toward academic students of theology (while still being accessible to informed laypersons), Gospel Allegiance brings the discussion to the local pastor and small group leader, who may or may not have advanced formal theological training. In this latest volume, Bates expands and expounds on the ideas first proffered in Salvation, adding two points to his detailed definition of the gospel message, as well as getting more into a boots-on-the-ground application of what understanding pistis (the Koine Greek word usually translated “faith”) as allegiance entails in the process of Christian discipleship.