Monday, February 27, 2012

Book Review of Rethinking the Trinity and Religious Pluaralism by Keith E. Johnson

Rethinking The Trinity and Religious Pluralism: An Augustinian Assesment
by Keith E. Johnson
ISBN 978-0-8308-3902-5
Published by IVP Academic
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Throughout much of the enlightenment, Christian theologians began to move away from a Trinitarian theology of the Godhead. Instead of embracing the Trinity, they often tried to reduce Christianity to an ethic for living modeled by the person of Jesus (see Schliermacher and Kant). In the 20th century, with the magisterial works of the Protestant Karl Barth, and the Catholic Theologian Karl Rahner, embrace and study of the Trinity experience a revival in Western Christian theology. This is a good thing.

What has been a negative consequence of a revival of interest in Trinitarian theology is people who use the Trinitarian language of God for their own ends. One of the ways this has been happening in recent decades is to use the language of the Trinity to promote some sort of semi-universalist Christian doctrine of salvation.

This kind of pluralism cannot be justified by any honest reading of Scripture and church tradition. Keith Johnson, in his book Rethinking the Trinity and Religious Pluralism, attempts to use logic, the teachings of Augustine, and orthodox Christian doctrine to show how a broad-based embrace of religious pluralism and the Christian doctrine of salvation are incompatable.

I think Johnson does an admirable job taking on a very tedious task. He methodically lays out his point of view, he addresses the theology of four theologians who embrace the Trinity as a tool for bringing an unbiblical theology of Christian pluralism into the church, and then he plots a future for articulating a Trinitarian evangelical theology of salvation in the context of interfaith dialogue.

This book was a challenge for me, but in a good way. The author is smart. His audience is definitely among those in academic and intellectual circles. His subject matter is tedious. To really understand what is happening in the context of this book, you need to take time to digest it and process it. It is a well-written book, but it is not for the average lay person in the pews.

This book is an excellent text for Christian pastors seeking to develop an intellectually grounded Christian apologetic. Not only will this book get its reader to get thinking about challenging issues relating to the Trinity, it will help them think more deeply about to communicate their faith in general. Which is, by the way, never a bad thing.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Book Review of the Desert Fathers and Mothers translated by Henri L. Carrigan

The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers and Mothers
translated by Henry L. Carrigan
ISBN 978-1-55725-780-2
Published by Paraclete Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

There are many books out there that contain excepts of the teaching of Desert Mothers and Fathers. I have several of them. The Desert Fathers were brilliant thinkers as well as deeply spiritual women and men. Many of them left behind collections of teaching and aphorisms that people study today.

In The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers and Mothers Henry L. Carrigan collects and translates many of these wise words for a new generation. He chooses to translate the sayings in the kind of English that is used today. He also artfully arranges and organizes the sayings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers so that they are accessible to all of us.

The first challenge of a translator of this material is choosing what sayings and people to include, and what ones to exclude. Carrigan weights his material towards those who were most prominent, which is appropriate. He also includes many other Desert Fathers after the most prominent ones.

What I enjoyed was his organization of the "lesser fathers and mothers" sayings by who said them, and by alphabetical order of the desert parents' names. This made each individual person more accessible. It also showed the diversity of thinking among the Desert Fathers and Mothers, with some being less stern and more graceful, and others being more strict and legalistic. It becomes easy to understand which teacher would have spoke to you, and which of the desert fathers would have really challenged people like you and I.

The "extras" in this book make it even more valuable.The book has a forward by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, who is a leader in what is called the "New Monastic Movement". His testimony of how the Desert Mothers and Fathers changed his life makes their teachings even more attractive for those who want to learn more about what they said. The introduction to these folks by the translator gives good historical context to these church luminaries in a way that is easy to understand.

I have several books containing the sayings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers. So far, I like this collection and Thomas Merton's the best.

Book Review of Mark: Gospel of Passion by Michael Card

Mark: The Gospel of Passion
by Michael Card
ISBN 978-0-8308-3813-4
Intervarsity Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I have long been an admirer of Michael Card. I first became familiar with him, as many Christians have, through his music. His music mixes simple acoustic melodies with lyrical profundity that touches the heart with conviction and comfort. Card's songs demonstrate what can happen when a creative mind that longs to communicate the good news of Jesus engages the Scripture and theology with intelligence and spiritual depth.

Now, Michael Card has begun to take on the task of writing commentaries on the gospel. Last year, Card released his commentary on Luke, which was very well received. This year, he is releasing Mark:The Gospel of Passion. I believe this commentary will also receive accolades and admiration for its combination of depth of thought and clarity of communication.

I am well-versed in Scripture. I have a degree in theology. Yet, as I read Michael Card's commentary on Mark each page jumps forward with a new insight and with new depth of meaning. In the introduction, Card does a good job with allowing his readers to enter into the story of the context in which the gospel of Mark is written. He notes several things about the text that many other commentaries miss. I was especially impressed with Card's discussion of the way Mark's description of Jesus puts the Lord's emotional life on his sleeve, and lets us not only hear what Jesus was saying, but how he was feeling.

Mark: The Gospel of Passion also presents an outline of the book that drives the readers understanding of the content of Mark. Through carefully expanding upon and using an outline of Mark in order to explain the gospel, he allows the reader to see the "movement" in the gospel from beginning to end. This is very helpful.

The appendices in the book are also well done and informative. Card argues well for the early ending for Mark in this section for example.

With the gospel of Mark so prominent in the lectionary this year, Card's commentary will be helpful to many Christian leaders in lesson and sermon preparation.  This book would also be helpful for someone trying to study the gospel of Mark on their own. This is a great commentary for lay persons,and should be picked up by anyone who wants to learn more about the Gospel of Mark,

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Book Review of Straight to the Heart of 1 & 2 Corinthians

Straight to the Heart of 1 & 2 Corinthians
Phil Moore
ISBN 978-0-85721-002-9
Monarch Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Lately, there have been several devotional commentaries that have tried to make their way into the Christian book market. More and more people want to do a book by book study of Scripture, having the opportunity to study the Bible passages in context and get a feel of the narrative that book is embedded within.

One of the newest of these new commentaries comes to us from a pastor in England named Phil Moore. Pastor Moore leads a church in Wimbledon and works within a leadership of innovative churches. The series, entitled the "Straight to the Heart" series, attempts to offer "bite-sized" insights of specific sections of Scripture.

The book that I was given the opportunity to review is called Straight to the Heart of 1 & 2 Corinthians. It has sixty brief teachings on 60 different passages within Paul's correspondence to the Corinthians. In addition to the nuggets of wisdom on each of the passages, Rev. Moore introduces different sections of these books, noting movements of themes and purpose. This is especially helpful in the Corinthian correspondence.

The author writes in a way that catches the readers attention. He is earthy without being crass or vulgar. For instance, his titles for different sections both summarize the content and make the reader want to know more about what he is saying. Some of these sections are entitled "Sex in the City" and "Bread, Wine, and Poison".

The catchy titles also lead to well-written devotional summaries of specific passages that get right to the heart of what is happening and deftly relate the ancient text to modern life.

Although I enjoy this book, I do a have a few disappointments. First, I would have created a cover for the book that reflects the author's biblical yet edgy voice. The current cover is far too fuddy-duddy. Also, I was disappointed that the author was not as strongly progressive on the complimentarian-egalatarian issue as I would hope.

Other than that, I think this is a great text. I would recommend it to about anyone in the church I serve as pastor.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Scenic Pics around Hot Springs, SD

This first picture is overlooking town from the VA Healthcare campus

I made my way to Chataqua park north of town. Here are a few pictures of the park I found. I tried to experiment with different things I could do with the pictures. This first one is a simple black and white. I find that the limitation of color works especially good for winter pictures, when there is very little color on the landscape anyway.

This is in the same park from the other side of the road.

I put my toes in the water at Chataqua park. It was cold. This means, from my deduction, that it is the part of the river south of Evans Plunge that stays so warm. Too bad the plunge is closed for the winter.

Another picture from the same spot, with a different function for the picture. I kind of like this old fashioned looking picture.

Overlooking Chataqua Park. I like being in the middle of the canyon.

The sandstone cliffs here follow the river bed. I wonder what this will look like once their is green grass and leaves on the trees.

This is actually a picture from the cemetery above town. I think the view from up there is just gorgeous.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Smoke on the water....

One thing I love about where we are living now is the river near our house. Now..Fall River, at the point at which it flows through Hot Springs is merely a creek really. The cool thing about the river, though, is that it is fed by the Hot Springs just up the road. 

This picture is from Centennial park, which is across the parking lot from our house. The steam rises from the river because the weather is below freezing, but the river is around 80 degrees year around. The bridge is the pedestrian bridge from the park and the church parking lot to part of the downtown area.

Tell me which picture you like best (the bottom three are slightly different)

Up the Creek in Hot Springs, SD

Here are some pictures of Fall River looking the other direction from Centennial Park. I tried some different effects with the camera on this one. Which do you like best?

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Karis' first "real" haircut and Uptown Hair

Our adventure started on on a fairly positive note

Then Karis got a little bit anxious

After the bangs got done she had a little bit of a meltdown

Deer in the front yard

Last Saturday, we got home from running around and discovered that there were deer in the yard.

Several others have appeared since.

Hot Springs SD has so much wildlife nearby, and many of the wildlife makes it through our yard

Karis at the Hot Springs Library

I really love Hot Springs' great public library. They have thought of so many things as they have put this together. And it is so much fun in there. Karis enjoyed the children's section

She also enjoyed trying to play on the children's computer. Though she did not really understand it