Review: Adam Hamilton’s Making Sense of the Bible

There’s no denying that the Bible contains things that are hard to understand; there are issues that not only non-Christians and new believers wrestle with, but issues on which even “professional” Bible scholars disagree (as can be evidenced by multi-view books on topics such as the Canaanite genocide, the historical Adam, etc.). And the difficulties aren’t just with seemingly theoretical issues that largely do not affect our daily lives—issues such as the biblical view on gender, sexuality and marriage are in the heat of debate in our day, with profound societal ramifications.

Adam Hamilton, founding pastor of the largest United Methodist Church in the U.S., has written Making Sense of the Bible – Rediscovering the Power of Scripture Today to help the average person in the pew make sense of the Bible.

Read More

Review: Alistair C. Stewart’s The Original Bishops

Alistair Stewart has written a behemoth in The Original Bishops. Let me be frank up front, Stewart’s level of writing is fairly beyond me. Theology is my specialty. This is a scholarly evaluation of church history, extra-Biblical documents, and Biblical texts concerned with church authority and leadership. The end result, The Original Bishops is an overwhelming amount of condensed information to challenge long held presuppositions concerning church leadership and how this authority developed historically.

In light of my limited knowledge, I chose to focus on Stewart’s contention that most scholarly works “repeat the same ‘facts’” (23) in defense of their ecclesiology. These “facts” are the basis of most evangelical and conservative works that I have read and dealt more directly with the Biblical text. The major (and familiar) points Stewart strives to show as “baseless” include “the synonymy of episkopos and presbyteros, the emergence of a monepiskopos from a collective presbyterate, and the origin of presbyteroi in the synagogues” (23).

Read More

Review: Mark Branson & Nicholas Warnes’ Starting Missional Churches

“The church is a sign, foretaste, witness and instrument of the in-breaking of God” (182).

American church planting has reached its zenith. An industry in itself, church planting has become the mission statement of some denominations present in North America (e.g. the Southern Baptist Convention). In anticipation of the many methods practiced by these church planters, Starting Missional Churches: Life with God in the Neighborhood (henceforth Missional Churches) offers an important vocalization of a new missions-minded church planting movement. Instead of treating America as a field of harvesting, the authors of Missional Churches demonstrate a story of American church planting that places “missions” at the front of the church’s worldview. Based on the presupposition that America is a mission field in which God is already at work (9-10;), the “collection of stories” (11) constituting Missional Churches focuses on addressing the neighborhood as the church’s mission field.

Read More

Review: Bruce Ellis Benson’s Liturgy as a Way of Life

Liturgy as a Way of Life is part of “The Church and Postmodern Culture” series from Baker Academic under the editorship of James K. A. Smith. The aim of this series is to “bring together high-profile theorists in continental philosophy and contemporary theology to write for a broad, nonspecialist audience interested in the impact of postmodern theory on the faith and practice of the church” (from series preface). I was drawn to this particular title because the arts have always been a huge part of my life – from playing classical piano and participating in choirs, plays, and musicals throughout my youth (all prior to my Christian conversion) to leading musical worship and participating in a performing arts ministry as a Christian. However, this book is not specifically aimed at people like me; it was written for everyone, not just artists in the usual/technical sense.

Read More