Monday, October 14, 2013

Book Review of Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults by Richard R. Dunn and Jana Sundene

Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults Sundene, Jana L./ Dunn, Richard R. 1 of 1
Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults: Life Giving Rhythms of Spiritual Transformation
by Richard R. Dunn and Jana Sundene
ISBN 978-0-8308-3469-3
Intervarsity Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Before I go much further, I have to say that when it comes to speaking about the work of Rick Dunn and Jana Sundene I am a little prejudiced. I spent my first year in college at Trinity College, where they were both youth ministry professors.

It was in those youth ministry classes where I first sensed God working on my heart to go into full-time Christian service, and it is in those classes my freshman year where I surrendered to God's call to ministry. I left Trinity after my freshman year for a number of reasons, but I will always be grateful for Rick and Jana's Spirit-led ministry, and their willingness to model what is taught here with me as a young adult as well.

Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults begins by setting the scene for where we are in our culture with young adult ministry. Included in this section are topics such as a discussion of extended adolescence, as well as unique cultural challenges to emerging adults in the twenty-first century.

True to their philosophy of ministry that is written about in other books, and that they have taught in their classrooms, their model of helping emerging adults grow spiritually is completely and utterly relational, and life-on-life. Eschewing gimmicks and flashy programs, Rick and Jana encourage people to be grounded in a deep faith, and then as they grow to walk with others (especially young adults) through the highs and lows of their spiritual journeys.

Through this book you will hear the authors discuss opportunities to seize and pitfalls to avoid in the discipleship journey. It will be helpful for ministers of any generation to not just read this information once, but to spend time with this text over and over again.

Most importantly, however, as you read this book you will sense the passion and love of Dunn and Sundene leaping off of the pages of this book. Grab this book, read it, highlight it, and ponder it over and over again. It is good stuff.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Book Review of Corporal Punishment in the Bible by William Webb

By William J. Webb

ISBN 978-0-8308-2761-9

Intervarsity Press

Reviewed by Clint Walker


I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home. Every so often there would be classes, discussions, or seminars about child care. In these services, for instance the Sunday evening service, there would be discussions about discipline, usually from Proverbs. These discussions would always initiate a dialogue about how parents needed to beat their children more if they truly loved them. I knew within the next week that I was going to get a vigorous spanking. I hated those sermons.


William Webb, in his well-written book CorporalPunishment in the Bible, argues via a Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic that God in Scripture meets people where they are at, and moves them by his grace toward a new place as his will is progressively communicated. In his previous book, William Webb tests this method of interpretation out in a book called Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals. In that book, he argued that the trajectory of the Bible leans in favor of equality for women, against slavery, and that the method applies less to homosexuality. In this book, Webb argues that the trajectory of Scripture may begin in a violent place, but moves toward non-violence. This is especially true, argues Webb, when it comes to using physical violence as a form of discipline with children.


Being a person that leans toward non-violent living as a part of my witness and discipleship as a Christian, I have sympathy with Webb’s arguments. However, I do not think his arguments hold enough weight to cancel out both my experience and the experience of many others regarding the importance and efficacy of corporal punishment. I think very strict boundaries need to be used with the use of physical force as a form of discipline with children, however, I don’t have a problem with this form of discipline being a rarely used form of discipline in a parent’s toolbox. A parent should not use it often, should not leave bruises or marks, but occasionally a good swat on the hind end is just what a child needs. I agree with the Proverbs on this I guess, and there is scant discussion of parenting as a whole in the New Testament.


Nevertheless, Webb makes a fine argument. It is an argument I will consider and respect, even if, at this point, I do not agree with and follow. A great read for anyone who is interested either in the topic of corporal punishment, or the method of a Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic.



Friday, October 11, 2013

If I were visiting the Black Hills...

I was looking at friends travelling around the country, and began to think. If I had a family vacation to plan for someone else for a week, what would I recommend they do. Here is my effort at doing that.

I have often said that there is more to do in the Black Hills than one could get to in one trip. Certainly this effort to draw up a potential family vacation for visitors furthers this point.  This has camping, hiking, half of the caves, any visits to the reservation, and many other tourist traps left out.

Day One--Hot Springs
Breakfast--Dale's Restaurant   
Morning--Mammoth Site
Afternoon--Evans Plunge
Evening--Drive through Wind Cave National Park
Dinner--Buglin Bull in Custer, SD

Day 2--The Parks and Monuments
Breakfast--The Wrangler
Morning--drive the pigtail highway to Mt. Rushmore. Stop at park on top of the hill on the way.
Lunch--along the boardwalk in Keystone
Afternoon--Crazy Horse National Monument
                   Sylvan Lake

Day Three--The Caves
Morning--Jewel Cave National Monument
Afternoon--Wind Cave National Park Cave Tours
                    Drive through Custer State Park to Hermosa
Dinner--Linsky's Pizza in Hermosa

Day Four--The Tourist Traps
Breakfast--Chuckwagon?--Cheap Pancakes
Morning--Bear Country USA
Afternoon--Reptile Gardens
Lunch--Pizza Ranch
Afternoon--Black Hills Caverns
Evening--Walk around Downtown Rapid

Day Five--
Morning--Get Breakfast in Rapid
Visit Wall Drug
Lunch at Wall Drug
Badlands National Park
Missle Silo National Monument
Return to Rapid

Day Six--Devil's Tower (all day)
Leave Rapid
Stay Belle Fouche

Day Seven--Spearfish, Lead, Deadwood Sturgis Loop
Morning--Drive to Spearfish, begin loop, take in a hike or two
Afternoon--Look around Deadwood/Lead. Learn history of area.
Evening--Stay in a casino, eat well, and swim

Book Review of The Land Is Mine by Norman C. Habel

By Norman C. Habel

ISBN 0-8006-2664-8

Fortress Press



Building off of the fine work that Walter Bruggemann did in The Land, Norman Habel goes in depth in his study of the Israelite people’s relationship to the land, and discovers six ideologies of land and its meaning to the Israelite people in the Hebrew Testament.


The ideologies are as follows:

·         The Land as the Source of Wealth (for the nation)

o   Views land as trust of the king (as representative of the nation)

o   Land is given to build nation as empire

o   Wealth trickles down to people

o   Scriptures: I Kings 3-10

·         The Land as Conditional Grant

o   God has conquered the land for Israel

o   He gives it to the Israelites on an indefinite loan

o   Israel needs to obey God and do his will in order to keep the land and be blessed by it

o   Scripture: Book of Deuteronomy

·         Land as Family Lots

o   Land assigned by God

o   Up to each tribe to subdue the land and claim it for God’s people

o   The tribe is central then, to Israelite land claims and loyalty

o   Scripture: Book of Joshua (especially the end)

·         The Land as God’s inheritance

o   God, Israel and Land are bound together

o   The land suffers because of Israel’s sin

o   The land, ultimately, is God’s

o   The healing of the land is coming

o   Scriptures: prophets, especially Jeremiah

·         The Land as Sabbath Bound

o   God is owner of the land

o   Israelites are tenant farmers

o   Land is promised Sabbath, including Sabbath years and jubilee

o   The health of the people and land is tied to this Sabbath practice

o   Priests are accountable to keep this land ethic before the people

o   Scriptures: Leviticus 25-27

·         The Land as Host Country

o   People of God came from another place

o   The land existed before the people

o   The people of God are responsible for remembering that they were immigrants and wanderers

o   Scriptures: Exodus, Abraham narratives


                This is such a fun, thoughtful book. It is academic and deep as well. It carefully scours to discover the multiple threads of people’s understanding their land in relationship to the God of the Bible. As one reads this fine book, it is not long before one realizes that the Israelite understanding of land formed their identity, changed and evolved over time, and at the same time was a layered, multivalent ideology filled with power and conflict. For me, and my interests in land and spirituality, this is a must have on my desk. For others, it would be an interesting way to understand Hebrew througt from a new and enlightening perspective.

Star Rating (out of 5 stars):

Five stars

Best Audience:

Pastors who like to think, academics, and those interested in Middle-Eastern politics.



Thursday, October 03, 2013

Book Review of Dakota: A Spiritual Geography by Kathleen Norris

Dakota: A Spiritual Geography
by Kathleen Norris
ISBN 0-395-71091-X
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I have been doing a study on the theology and spirituality of place with some time I have been given by the church to study. Although, as you may see with some of the reviews on my blog, a little bit of the study is related to Biblical and historical matters, I have also included a number of reflections on how landscape and location influences spiritual development.

About 20 years ago, in Lemmon, SD, a woman named Kathleen Norris wrote a book about her spiritual journey and how it was influenced by her return home to the rural plains in the West River region on South Dakota (Lemmon also borders North Dakota, and her writing reflects this fact).

As a person who recently moved to South Dakota, I found her book rather interesting. I live in the Black Hills, which is in many ways a different landscape and culture than the rural northern plains, however, some of the folks I know come from places similar to Lemmon. And there is a lot that she shares about Dakota culture that might apply here too.

What is even more interesting than the specifics about Dakota is the process that she is using to understand how the land influenced her spiritual awakening and development. At risk of overusing a pun, she speaks highly of the "grounding" power of the Plains and the earthy nature of the people that inhabit these lands. At times, I felt like she was overly critical of small town culture. Overall, the book had a certain ring of truth and beauty.

One of the things that Norris does in this book is to draw lines between the power and beauty of plains spirituality, and in many ways compare it to the desert spirituality of the ancients, as well as comparing it to Benedictine spirituality. What these locations share in common is the ability to challenge folks to strip away all of the window dressing of faith, and challenges us to get back to the basics of the spiritual life. In all of these places, there is a simplicity required, ample space for solitude, and the challenge of working through difficulties with those you share in community instead of hiding from or running away from people.

This is a quick, nice and fun read, and I hope it will find its way into my study of the spirituality of place.

Book Overview (or Review) of Jesus and the Land

Jesus and the Land: The New Testament Challenge to "Holy Land" Theology
by Gary M. Burge
ISBN 978-0-8010-3898-3
Baker Academic
Reviewed by Clint Walker

What does it mean to call the geography that includes both Palestine and Israel "The Holy Land"? What did it mean to the people in Bible times? Did Jesus look at the Holy Land differently than the traditionalists of his time and ours? How did New Testament believers understand the land of Judea and Galilee in relation to their faith in Gentile regions? These are some of the questions Gary Burge attempts to help explain in his excellent book Jesus and the Land.

Burge a little time summarizing the commitments of the Hebrew people both of ancient times, and even today to the what is called the Holy Land. He agrees with many Old Testament scholars as they summarize God's unique purposes and lessons to be taught through the Jewish people and their relationship to the land. Whether understanding land as promise, as gift (received promise), or as a blessing squandered and gift lost, the land of Israel was central to its identity as a people (as was true for almost every ancient culture).

Although the prophets, especially in the exile, were able to teach people that the God of Israel was the God of the whole world, and his potency not just limited and tied with the Holy Land, after the Israelites returned from exile, most of Hebrew theology and thought held a strong "land theology". This relationship between land and faith, however modified for Diaspora Jews in ancient times as well as modern ones, has always remained a strong one. There has always been a Jewish presence, however small, in the land of promise, and beginning in the late 1800s, the migration of Jews to the holy land was seen as an act of faith and a sign of renewed blessing by the Jewish people.

Even in the intertestamental period, however, their was also a large Diaspora Jewish population that was less tied to the land. At the time before Jesus and at the time of Jesus, there were more Jews living outside of Judea and Galilee than there were in this region. Burge reports that some estimates put Jews as making up 10 percent of the entire Roman Empire at the time of Jesus and the early church (p.18)

In the New Testament Jesus' ministry is grounded almost entirely within the land claimed by the twelve tribes of Israel. He expresses love for the natives of Israel, and ministers completely within that context. He does not, however, embrace the zealot movement (contra the claims of Reza Aslan), and says that it is not revolutionaries, warriors, or statesmen that will inherit the holy land, but the "meek". Yes, the work for the "earth" in the beatitudes can refer to all the planet, but many scholars believes it instead refers to the holy land. They come to this conclusion by understanding of common word usage as well as context. Jesus studiously avoids debates over Jewish claim to the land, implying that Biblical faith in God is not uniquely tied to the land.

Furthermore, while the gospel writers clearly communicate Jesus' ties with a historic place and people, they also wisely avoid a tie of faithfulness to Christ with the land. Over and over again, in different ways, the gospel writers ground the hopes and promises placed in land in the person of Jesus Christ.

One of the most interesting ways that John does this is in his famous discourse of the vine and the branches in John 15. Throughout the Old Testament the land of Israel is referred to as a vineyard, and the people of God (the Hebrews) as fruit of that vineyard. In John 15, Jesus refers to himself as the vine, and states that life and vitality as persons of faith is born out of being connected with him, not the land.(p.55)

In Acts, what Burge shares about Stephen and his sermon in Acts 7 is particularly interesting. He is accused of speaking against "this holy place" and against the law. As a Hellenistic Diaspora Jew converted to Jesus as Savior, his understanding of Israel is different that a Judean patriot or zealot. He "challenges the nature of provincial faith in Jerusalem" (p. 65). So he was killed. And the land of promise, in the book of Acts, begins in Jerusalem, but extends to the uttermost parts of the earth (1:8).

Paul has some deference and love for Jerusalem, but he never refers to Israel as a place, but exclusively as a people, a person, or a nation (p. 74). For Paul, the church and the believer is the Temple of God, not a building in Jerusalem. While Paul holds that the people of Israel have a special place in God's redemptive plan through history (Romans 9-11), he does not place any value in a theology of Jewish territorialism.

All of this and more leads one to a profound conclusion. While Israel may indeed be Holy Ground in the sense that we as people are historically tied to it through the stories of God's people that we claim as our own, Christian teaching in the New Testament in no way merits a commitment to a 'Christian Zionism' espoused by groups such as Christians United for Israel, Pat Robertson, John Hagee and the like. Instead, as Burge says, "This is a divinely appointed task to bring that which the Temple and the land once held--the presence of God--into the nations of the world" (p. 131).

Christians are to love Jews, but to stand on the side of justice for all people, including the Palestinians that currently inhabit the land as well. As Burge goes on to say, "When Christian theology serves at the behest of political or historical forces of any generation--be it ancient crusades, religiously fueled nationalism, or the call of Christian Zionists--it loses its supreme mission in the world." (p. 131)

Full of helpful teaching, good research, and wise insight, I recommend this book to anyone wanting to understand the importance of the Holy Land, and the Christian's place in such discussions and conflicts.

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