As the publishing arm of the ecumenical Community of Jesus, Paraclete has published a number of books from a range of theological traditions. Their Ho...moreAs the publishing arm of the ecumenical Community of Jesus, Paraclete has published a number of books from a range of theological traditions. Their Holy Spirit series boasts books from the Jewish, Orthodox, Protestant and Pentecostal traditions. I have reviewed a number of these books here before and have found them immensely helpful. A few of these books are downright fabulous! Jack Levison’s Fresh Air and Amos Yong’s Who is the Holy Spirit? are standout volumes but every single volume is good. Each book manages to illuminate the Spirit in a way that honors their peculiar denominational tradition. These are lay-friendly books, but they are theologically astute.
The Gift: Discovering the Holy Spirit in the Catholic Tradition lives up to the quality of other books in this series. Alan Schreck, professor of theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville is a specialist in Catholic doctrine, church history and the teachings of Vatican II; however this is not just a book about Catholic dogma. Schreck has an eye for how we can deepen our spiritual experience by praying for the Spirit to do his work in our lives.
In seven chapters, Schreck synthesizes the wisdom of the Catholic understanding of the the Spirit. In chapter one he describes the person of the Holy Spirit as presented in Holy Scripture and in the Tradition. He describes what the Old and New Testament say about the Spirit, what the Councils and Creeds came to declare about the personhood of the Spirit and the Augustinian understanding which was most influential in the Western Church. Chapter two examines the history of Catholic devotion to the Spirit. Schreck describes various orthodox movements which sought to emphasize the Spirit.
Chapters three though five describe the ministry of the Spirit. Chapter three focuses on truth, chapter four focuses on holiness and sanctification and chapter five expounds on gifts of the Holy Spirit. While every Christian would agree that the Spirit leads us into all truth, convicts us of sin and leads us to be transformed in the image of Christ and gifts us for ministry and mission. Schreck illuminates a Catholic understanding of the Spirit’s role in each of these. The Spirit leads us into truth and empowers us to speak it boldly, but ecumenism that denies or downplays truth revealed to the church should be questioned. Holiness is the goal of the Christian life, but in the Catholic understanding, this is described by our cooperation with God in the grace he has given us through the Spirit. The Spirit gives gifts to individuals and orders of the church, but Schreck demonstrates how we are to understand this in relationship to the institutional church.
In chapter six, Schreck describes the relationship between the Spirit, the church and Mary. Church was birthed at Pentecost and is constituted by the Spirit and his work. Mary is the first disciple and member of the church. In the Catholic tradition, Mary intercedes for us to the Father, but whatever grace is in her is derivative. She is the recipient of God’s grace and exemplary for her fiat to the incarnation (her ‘yes’ to God). Like the Spirit, Mary points us to Jesus, the Divine Son of God. Mary is not to be understood as the Third person of the Trinity or someone who usurps the Spirit’s role, but as the prime example of someone who cooperates with God and reveals the maternal aspects of God’s character.
In the final chapter Schreck discusses the Spirit in the Catholic church today. He focuses on the Catholic charismatic movement and the emphasis of Vatican II on the Spirit’s work. Schreck gives a generous and a positive assessment of these while acknowledging that many Catholics will not feel called to join up with movements devoted to the Spirit’s work. Nevertheless all Catholics should appreciate how the Spirit enables, enlivens and empowers the Christian life.
An appendix collects several prayers and reflections on the Holy Spirit which can be incorporated into your daily prayer time.
I appreciate Schreck’s articulation of Catholic teaching. Throughout this book Schreck comments on the Catechism, Vatican II and Catholic theologians live Hans Urs von Balthasar, Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) , Yves Conger, John Paul II, and Vatican II. He gives a careful and reasoned defense of Catholic teaching on the Spirit and draws out the implications for our lives.
As a non-Catholic reading this book, there are areas where I disagree with Schreck rather sharply. However I appreciated Schreck’s description of Catholic teaching and practice. In addition to having a good grasp on Catholic dogma, he seems to also be an apt apologist, anticipating many of the difficulties protestants like me face. I found Schreck generous and evenhanded in his presentation and do not hesitate to commend this book to you. Catholics will obviously benefit most directly from this book. As a non-Catholic I gained a greater appreciation for Catholic teaching and the insights of the theologians that Schreck culls together. This is a great short book on the Spirit in Catholicism. I give it four-and-a-half stars.
Thank you to Paraclete Press for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.(less)
Who doesn’t love a good story? And we got one! Greatest story ever told! But how does the Bible’s story ‘shape’ our worship? This is a question I am d...moreWho doesn’t love a good story? And we got one! Greatest story ever told! But how does the Bible’s story ‘shape’ our worship? This is a question I am deeply invested in and I am grateful for Story Shaped Worship: Following Patterns from the Bible and History for exploring the biblical story with an eye for what it tells us about how we worship God. I have reviewed Castleman’s previous volume, Parenting in the Pew and found it helpful. In that book, Castleman has her ‘parent’ hat on as she talks about how children are formed in worship. In this book, she wears her scholar hat and presents a thoroughly researched look at worship in the Bible (with a couple of historical vignettes). Castleman teaches biblical studies and theology at John Brown University and has served on staff with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (my first exposure to her was at Urbana ’96).
Castleman proposes a canonical-theological approach to liturgical studies. By attending to the biblical story, she is countering trends in some contemporary contexts where the worship experience has been commodified. Castleman writes:
There is no question that the often historically anemic ecclesiology of some Christian congregations has often resulted in Sunday morning programs that are focused on the subjective experience of the individual rather than true worship that is mediated by and focused on the blessing of the triune God of grace. The necessity of worship as a service mediated by the Spirit, through the Son and for the Father is often lost in the pragmatism of the commodified liturgies of many services of worship. Sunday mornings too often have become storefront windows designed to attract and keep shoppers in the store in order to buy congregational programs. The grace of the Word and Sacrament have been sacrificed on the altar of a subtle self-help theology which actually seeks to control the divine encounter with the ultimate intention of feeling at least a little bit better about oneself and life circumstances (20).
Castleman counters the ‘personal therapeutic approach’ by rooting her vision of worship in the biblical story. She is also informed in her quest by the Church’s theological reflection on the nature of the sacraments. In the pages that follow, Castleman unfolds what the Bible tells us about worship (chapters 1-7) and examines some historic patterns from the life of the church (chapters 8-10). At the end of the chapter are ‘workshops’ which enable readers to delve deeper into the theology of each chapter with an eye towards how the Bible and theology can inform (and form) our practice of worship.
In chapter one she explores the first four chapters of Genesis and examines what they tell us about God’s character. The story of Cain and Abel illustrate the first ever ‘worship war.’ Abel understood that worship was all about God and brought his best whereas Cain’s offering (and angry reaction when it was rejected) evidences a preoccupation with himself (29). Also within these ‘texts of origins’ we hear foreshadowing of future redemption and get a sense that ‘worship is a response to God’s grace and favor(38).
Chapter two unfolds the meaning of Sabbath and the particularity of the worship of Yahweh in the Pentateuch. Worshiping God meant for Israel (and for us) that they worship Him only. There were certain practices excluded from their worship (i.e. divination, sooth-saying, making idols, etc.) and there were certain practices commended (i.e. the celebration of passover, sacrifices, holy days like the Day of Atonement, and sabbath keeping). While the pentateuch pattern cannot be completely mapped out on our experience, many of the characteristics of worship remain significant. Like the Ancient Israelites we are called to worship God exclusively, keep Sabbath (though we’ve shifted it to ‘the Lord’s day), and worship-through-reenactment (i.e. the ancient Israelites had passover and sacrifices, we reenact Jesus’s sacrifice through communion) (57-58).
Biblical worship does more than sanctify time, it also creates sacred space. In the building of the Tabernacle, people, buildings and rooms, and objects were set aside for sacred purposes. In our age, the distinction between the sacred and the profane is obscured but we can learn from the Biblical story to drawn into God’s presence with expectancy and preparedness. Going to church on a Sunday morning is to go and meet God. Castleman urges that we see this as ‘holy ground’ and make the necessary preparations for divine encounter.
In chapter four, Castleman describes the ‘shape of biblical worship.’ She describes seven-fold sequence of biblical liturgy call–>praise–>confession–>forgiveness–>hearing God’s word–>responding to God’s word–>blessing. This is a rich chapter and I believe has something to say to those of us in a ‘free church’ context about how we are to fashion our liturgies.
Chapter five discusses the importance of attending to scripture in our worship and the ‘dangerous ambiguity’ when we use worship for our own ends. By examining the story of David bringing the Ark to Jerusalem and Uzzah’s death (2 Sam. 6), Castleman argues that David first tried to use the ark (and worship of Yahweh) to reinforce his reign and how Uzzah’s carelessness reveals an inattention to biblical instructions concerning the Ark. Uzzah’s death called into question David’s motives and purified his worship of God. Chapter six explores the nature of holiness and how it relates to worship. The God of the Bible is the holy God and those who worship him in Spirit and Truth are called to be like Him. As we worship this God, we allow ourselves to be transformed into His likeness. Chapter seven explores how worship in the synagogues informed the practices of the early church.
The final three chapters form a ‘part two’ and look at historic and contemporary patterns of worship. Castleman explores three different eras: the early church, the Reformation response to late medieval corruption of worship, and our contemporary context. Certainly there is a lot of church history that is overlooked in her account and more that could be said, but her historic vignettes are instructive. By exploring the early church (especially in the Didache) and describing the theology of the Reformers, Castleman challenges us to have a more robust theology of the sacraments. She also urges more purposeful liturgical practices informed by the Bible and theology.
This is a great book for anyone interested in worship. Certainly it will be instructive for anyone who has a hand in planning weekly liturgies (i.e. pastors, worship leaders, etc.) but Castleman’s writing will be accessible to lay readers as well. These pages will help us recover the biblical shape for our worship. Maybe our current congregations are not as anemic as the ones that Castleman describes (mine is not!). But the therapeutic-consumerist approach to worship has infected us all and we all will benefit from delving deeper into what the Bible tells us about the worship of the one true God. I highly recommend this! My one criticism is that her historic examples (early church and Reformation) makes this a peculiarly protestant book, while many of her insights have a broader eccumenical appeal. I give it ★★★★½
Thank you to IVP Academic for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.(less)
I'm glad I finally got around to reading this one. This is an important friendly critique of the 'white captivity' of Evangelicalism. As the locus of...moreI'm glad I finally got around to reading this one. This is an important friendly critique of the 'white captivity' of Evangelicalism. As the locus of Christianity shifts toward the East and the global south we need to re-evaluate the way American-style evangelism and ecclessiology has demeaned our Asian, Latin American, African and African American brothers and sisters. I highly recommend this book. Soong-chan Rah is passionate about proclaiming the gospel of reconcilation with justice. (less)
This book was free for Kindle when I got. Devoured it quickly. It is written by Chris Smith pastor of Englewood Christian Church, brainchild behind En...moreThis book was free for Kindle when I got. Devoured it quickly. It is written by Chris Smith pastor of Englewood Christian Church, brainchild behind Englewood Review of Books (one of the best Christian book reviews around) and leader in the Slow Church Movement. In this book Smith shares 50 ideas which church can implement to foster deeper community as a church, to connect missionally with their community and impact their world for the Kingdom of God.
As far as 'ideas,' Smith doesn't say anything revolutionary. The revolution would be if churches enacted these suggestions, which range from sharing of meals, to talking about money, to greater involvement with neighborhoods and with the world.
The Missional Apostle: a book review When Robert Plummer and John Mark Terry started gathering contributors for Paul’s Missionary Methods: In His Time...moreThe Missional Apostle: a book review When Robert Plummer and John Mark Terry started gathering contributors for Paul’s Missionary Methods: In His Time and Ours, two figures loomed large in their collective imagination. The first was Paul of Tarsus whose mission and writings helped shape the early Christian movement. The other figure was Roland Allen, the 20th Century Anglican missionary to China. One Hundred years ago Allen wrote Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? (1912). Allen had been a missionary to China and critiqued the missionary culture of his day for being too closely linked to imperialism. From a fresh reading of Paul’s mission, Allen emphasized church planting, indigenous leadership of national churches, and reliance on the Holy Spirit.
Paul’s Missionary Methods: In His Time and Ours edited by Robert L. Plummer & John Mark Terry Published on the centennial of Allen’s original publication, Paul’s Missionary Methods: In His Time and Ours provides a detailed reading of Paul’s Missionary activity and build on Allen’s insights for a contemporary context. While various contributors critique Allen’s work in several respects, generally they all see Allen’s book as justly influential and seek to carry some of his emphases forward.
The book divides into two sections: part one focuses on Paul’s message while part two focuses on the implications of Paul’s mission for today. These sections were written by two complementary sets of scholars. Part one is written by Biblical scholars; part two is composed by missiologists, church planters and practitioners. Thus while each author tries to suggest what the implications of their topic are for today, the second section is more practical and the first section remains more theological.
In Part 1, Michael Bird sketches the cultural and historic milieu of Paul’s mission, placing it in context. Eckhard Schnabel examines what we know of Paul’s missionary journeys. Robert Plummer discusses the nature of Pauls gospel (especially in reference to 1 Cor. 15:1-8). Benjamin Merkle ‘s and Christoph Stenschke‘s chapters explore Paul’s ecclesiology and the nature of his mission for the life of the church. Don Howell explores Paul’s theology of suffering while Craig Keener looks at Paul’s understanding of Spiritual warfare. Each of these authors presents their topic in conversation with Allen’s work.
In Part 2, David Hesselgrave and Michael Pocock flesh out Paul’s missional strategy and discuss its value for today, John Mark Terry explore Allen’s reading of Paul’s mission and the implications for the indigenous church, Ed Stetzer and Lizette Beard write about Paul’s emphasis on church planting. M. David Sills discusses contextualization and Chuck Lawless explores Paul’s ongoing emphasis on leadership development in the churches he planted.
Finally J.D. Payne has a postscript on the legacy of Allen’s work and its abiding influence 100 years after its original publication.
This collection of essays provides a good introduction to Roland Allen and his influence on missiology. Aspects of Allen’s work are critiqued in these pages (see especially Hesselgrave’s chapter), but each of the authors displays deep admiration for Allen and follow his summons to conduct missions in the Spirit of Paul’s mission.
As with all multi-author works, some essays are stronger than others and there is a certain amount of topical overlap between chapters. However each chapter stands on its own merit. Too much of the modern missional literature is rootless and lacks Biblical grounding. These authors (and Roland Allen) call us to see Paul’s mission as integral to proper missional theology and praxis. I am inclined to think they are right and would recommend this book to a broad range of pastors, church planters.
Thank you to IVP for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.(less)
Henry Scougal, the 17th Century Scottish theologian penned a book called The Life of God in the Soul of Man. That book was instrumental in George Whit...moreHenry Scougal, the 17th Century Scottish theologian penned a book called The Life of God in the Soul of Man. That book was instrumental in George Whitefield’s conversion and influential on the Methodist revival in Great Britain and the First Great Awakening in America. Scougal took union with God seriously and urged his readers to pursue union with God and forsake false notions of religion; nevertheless Scougal’s vision of union with Christ in an explicitly Christ centered way (J.I. Packer’s critique) and his vision of union with Christ was individualistic.
In The Life of God in the Soul of the Church, Thabiti Anyabwile expands on Scougal’s theme by examining the corporate, public character of union with Christ through the lens of involvement with a local church. Anyabwile is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman (Cayman Islands). He is passionate about communicating both the nature of the church as a spiritual fellowship and what the practical implications of our shared union with Christ and one another. The book is a collection of sermons Anyabwile preached at First Baptist which explore this theme (expository sermons, mostly from Paul’s letters but two are based in texts from 1 John).
Anyabwile’s sermons are organized into two sections. In Part 1, Anyabwile describes our union with Christ and spiritual fellowship. Like Scougal he stresses the vital necessity of union with Christ in the Christian life, but he takes great care to make sure that the Christian life is not conceived in privatized, individualistic terms. Rather our growing up in the image of Christ necessarily takes place within the context of the Body of Christ, his church.
In part two, Anyabwile explores what this looks through sermons about how we ‘apply’ our union with one another. Loving one another forms an inclusio of all his material here. He also has sermons on fellowship and the nature of Spiritual gifts, what it means to partner in the gospel, the ministry of restoration and encouragement, suffering with one another and offering comfort, forgiving one another, singing to one another, giving and mutual acceptance.
I appreciate Anyabwile’s treatment of his theme and the careful exposition he offers. Anyabwile’s ecclesiology is biblically rooted and these sermons are meaty. There is a lot to chew on here. Anyabwile does not simply describe what your church should be (but probably isn’t), but gives sound, biblical advice to his readers/hearers on what it means to be the church. It is impossible to grasp the message that Anyabwile is saying here and be a passive observer. In Christ we have fellowship with God and with one another. In Christ we have been invited into a whole way of life which is characterized by mutual sharing, love and sacrificial care for the church and for the world. This book may enlarge your vision about what it means to be ‘in Christ’ and what it means to be in the church.
My biggest criticism of this book is that it should have been edited to reflect the print medium. Sermons are meant to be heard, and at times this book reads like a transcript of a Sunday sermon (I don’t know if these sermons come from Anyabwile’s manuscripts or are transcribed from his delivery). Occasionally a sermon refers to ‘this morning’ or describes what we do ‘here at First Baptist.’ I found these rhetoric devices a little distracting. But my critique is more for its style rather than it’s substance. I can appreciate that these sermons came out of a context, and do like that Anyabwile isn’t just spouting timeless truth but presenting the gospel with in a context.
I recommend this book to anyone who is seeking to deepen their fellowship with other believers and to those who wonder why church matters. This is a short accessible treatment on the theme.
Thank you to Cross Focused Reviews and Christian Focus Publications for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for this review.(less)
Dale Brown's study and apologetic for Pietism offers some wonderful insights into the theology of Spener, Francke and other Pietists. He examines Piet...moreDale Brown's study and apologetic for Pietism offers some wonderful insights into the theology of Spener, Francke and other Pietists. He examines Pietist ecclesiology, their doctrine of scripture and proper interpretation of it, the centrality of regeneration, the experience of new birth in the Spirit, their 'otherworldliness' and the ways in which it was tempered by their activism. He concludes with a contemporary critique of where Pietism has run amok into ethics, individualism but he also explores the gifts Pietism has to teach us in our day (namely as a reform/renewal movement it called people beyond doctrinal formulations to an experiential faith.
Brown's research into the Pietists began while he was working on his doctorate and heard many criticisms and dismissals launched at the Pietists in academia. His own heritage is Brethren so he had a vested interest in exploring the teaching of the Pietists (the Brethren are heirs of Pietism). What he discovered is that many of their so-called weaknesses are offset by their strengths. Pietism calls those who experience new birth to live lives characterized by faithfulness. Such a prophetic challenge remains important.(less)
This is a documentary history so not particularly exciting, but does provide an interesting look at Covenant self understanding in the first couple of...moreThis is a documentary history so not particularly exciting, but does provide an interesting look at Covenant self understanding in the first couple of generations. Included here are the official minutes from the organizational meeting, and three other reports on the event, early articulations of Covenant history and and principles, influential voices such as P.P. Waldenstrom and David Nyvall, Alex Mellander and others. Don't read while tired.(less)
[Women are] the one groups whose loyalty the church can least afford to lose. The people who for the most part run the church, attend church and pray and serve at significantly higher rates than their male counterparts. Women(23).
Henderson wants to see women given more opportunities to lead and serve than they have in many churches. Women are who run the church they just aren't able to lead the church and yet most women are happy with what their church teaches about gender (according to the Barna Group). Henderson wants more. He wants women to feel the freedom to use whatever gifts God has given them in whatever sphere He calls them. As may tell from this photo, Henderson, is a man and therefore incompetent when it comes providing a comprehensive understanding of the fairer sex. He compensates for this by utilizing a qualitative approach, interviewing women about their 'resignation' from church. As an evangelical pastor type, Henderson can't help but engage in tripartite wordplay with the term 'resigned'. When he says resigned, he means the following:
In speaking to women from fundamentalist and conservative evangelical backgrounds Henderson discovers women who happily toe the line regarding the hierarchical gender roles. They are not allowed to teach or have any authority over a man. They need to submit, and they are 'resigned to' their secondary role in the church. Some of these women never really gave the gender inequity in their church much thought (why would they want to be a pastor anyway?); others see men as bringing the appropriate competencies to spiritual leadership in church and society.
On the other side are women who quit the church, in part, because they have more opportunities EVERYWHERE ELSE BUT THE CHURCH. Many conservative denominations do not ordain women, so if women want to actually have responsibility or get paid for leadership, they have to do it elsewhere. Other denominations affirm women in ministry, but women pastors rarely get hired (especially as senior pastor). Henderson talked to accomplished professional women who disengaged from their church culture because of this gender inequity. A couple of the women he spoke with, left the faith altogether.
By 're-signing' Henderson has in mind women who despite the risks, limitations and the church's slowness to change, re-engage, lead and affect influence from within the church. The women Henderson speaks to in this section all have strong leadership gifts, which have sometimes been stymied by patriarchy in the church. But they have pressed through and are finding a way to fulfill God's call in their life.
Along the way, Henderson combines his interviews with evaluative comments and combines his qualitative approach with the quantitative approach of Barna Group. Statistical data peppers each section and he includes Barna survey data at the end.
What I appreciated most about the book was encouraging tone. Henderson wants women to feel like they can pursue where God's calling Henderson speaks to a number of women with an array of different views on gender roles. He manages to be respectful and affable with each person and their position, though I think he does seem to reserve his hard biblical questions for the rank complementarians. I loved that Henderson engaged with a variety of women with varying views on the subject of gender roles in the church. Even some of the 're-signers' are theological complementarians but long for and work for greater equality in ministry.
I do not fault Henderson for using and integrating the Barna data with his own findings (it is after all a Barna Group publication); however I didn't find the data particularly helpful or illuminating. Most of the data is probably accurate, but I am suspicious and would have preferred data from Gallup or Baylor (Rodney Stark and Byron Johnson are quite critical of some Barna findings). But Henderson uses these stats to augment his own research rather than to substantiate it, so I think he used it well.
I would recommend this book for women who feel slighted by their church's views about gender, women who never really thought about it and Christian guys who just don't understand women (this book may not help you, but hey you need all the help you can get). There are no discussion questions provided in the book, but it might be a useful catalyst for a small group or ministry team wrestling with this issue.
Thanks to Tyndale for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for this review.
As one who grew up cradled by evangelicalism, the Pietists have exerted their influence on my religious understanding; however, the denomination I now...moreAs one who grew up cradled by evangelicalism, the Pietists have exerted their influence on my religious understanding; however, the denomination I now find myself in (Evangelical Covenant Church) is more explicit about its Pietist heritage. And so, I read to understand.
First a word about this edition. The Harper Collins Spiritual Classic Library series basically prints the same 'classic literature' that you find in Paulist Press's Classics of Western Spirituality, including the same translation for a great price. What is missing that the Paulist Press volumes have, is the lengthy critical introduction. Harper Collins substitutes for this by providing their own forwards for the series, written by people who have an appreciation for the contents of the book. Sometimes, these forwards are brilliant, like Marilynne Robinson's reflections on John Calvin, other times they are not, like Phyllis Trickle's reflections here.
This book presents selections from the writings of 8 pietists. They are in order, Phillip Jakob Spener, August Hermann Francke, Johan Anastasius Freylinghausen, Johann Friedrich Strack, Gottfried Arnold, Gerhard Tersteegen, Friedrich Christoph Oetinger, and Nicolas Ludwig von Zinzendorf. Spener was my favorite, followed by Francke. The rest of these essays and hymns were hit and miss for me, especially because they tend to dip and dive into the otherworldly mysticism of radical pietism rather than the early real world engagement of the movement's founders (and Zinzendorf, got to give Hernnhut some props!). (less)
I haven't read Radical (though I will read it soon). My impression is that that is a better book (I'll let you know). Basically this is a book with so...moreI haven't read Radical (though I will read it soon). My impression is that that is a better book (I'll let you know). Basically this is a book with some good advice for churches and church leaders about making a difference in the world. Platt is an evangelical deeply committed to the Great Commission, but also in moving his 4000 person church to tangilbly care for those in need. He advocates that churches eveluate their programs in light of the Great commission and see what is helping them do that. He argues that Christians need to do works in response to God's grace, that the word of God is central, that the church functions by its membership (not just the beautiful people on stage), we are responsible to evangelize the whole world so that Jesus will come back, and God is passionate for his glory.
I disagree with him on several points, but the thrust of Platt's book seems good. Evangelicals have sometimes ignore taking up any responsibility for God's kingdom. And I share Platt's concern for justice and making a difference in the world.
So why does this book make me so tired? This book really emphasizes the activist dimension to the Christian life. Good in as far as it describes this well (okay not super well, this book lacks a little in the beauty department). But it would be sad if this dimension to the Christian life was all there was.(less)
I am reviewing the updated version of this book elsewhere (now titled, "Why Church Matters") so will not provide a full review here, but here are some...moreI am reviewing the updated version of this book elsewhere (now titled, "Why Church Matters") so will not provide a full review here, but here are some of criticisms:
1. This book is addressed to people who have intellectual doubts about why the church is important and does not address pastoral concerns of those who have been seriously wounded by the church. As I read this book I thought of people I know with 'Church Angst' and found that Harris either is unaware of the ways in which churches can wound people, or he doesn't think that the emotional part of this is important enough to address.
2. This book criticizes church 'daters' as being too individualistic and me-centered but fails to provide a compelling ecclesiology. In the end it says you should join a church because that is how you will grow and get the most out of your spiritual life. Sounds individualistic and me-centered to me. Perhaps it is because this book has a low view of sacraments (the sacraments are there to demonstrate your commitment to Jesus and thus the church).
3. God's mission for the church is given lip-service but is not unpacked and only stated a few times. Thus Harris provides anecdotes of people getting serious about church and leaving their hobbies behind (clubs, special interest groups). It made me wonder, what is the purpose of church if you real advocate that the individual Christians in your group pull back from commitments to non-Christians? Be committed to church, sure, but can the church reach the world?
4. The book is written by a pastor from a pastors perspective and so the exhortations to serve in church, tithe at church and make your pastor's life a joy, seem a little self serving.
My other review, for another venue needs to extol the virtues of this book a little more (and there are some), so I am using my goodreads to gripe a little. (less)
I would rate this really high in the category of books on Baptist Identity, but it deserves a middle of the road rating when compared with normal book...moreI would rate this really high in the category of books on Baptist Identity, but it deserves a middle of the road rating when compared with normal books. Paul Fiddes is a good Trinitarian theologian and there are many beautiful passages. I also like that as a Baptist, he doesn't just present bastardized ordinances but conceives of the Lord's supper and Baptism sacramentally. (less)
I read this book because my much smarter and better looking friend Jeremy did a thesis on John Zizioulas. Zizioulas is one of the leading Eastern Ort...more I read this book because my much smarter and better looking friend Jeremy did a thesis on John Zizioulas. Zizioulas is one of the leading Eastern Orthodox theologians today. But this was a difficult book. Zizioulas is much easier to read if you have a good working knowledge of the Christian tradition in the Patristic period (particularly in the East), knowledge of doctrinal development and a workign knowledge of philosophy. I possess these in a small measure so I was able to work my way through this book, though it was not a quick read.
However it was delightful. I found this book tremendously helpful in thinking through my thoughts about what the Church is. He actually has a lot to say about the development of ontology from the ancient Greeks, until the Cappadocian Fathers and how the latter came to understand their ontology in light of the personhood of the Father in the Godhead. By this he, he argues relatationship is at the very core of all being (Father relating with the Son and Spirit). The Church, is a body instituted by Christ and constituted by the Spirit which participates in Communion with the Father. Thus those who have been baptized into the Church are constituted not only biologically but also ecclesially.
If the previous paragraph was incomprehensible, know that I was attempting to dumb down Metropolitan John a lot. There is much more in the book than I have described (i.e. The role of the bishop, Apostolic succession, the Eucharist, etc.). Suffice to say, this was a challenging book, which I found fruitful and will likely return to.(less)
This book is grounded in a sacramental understanding of the church as communion. Tillard surveys the witness of the New Testament understanding of the...moreThis book is grounded in a sacramental understanding of the church as communion. Tillard surveys the witness of the New Testament understanding of the Church, culminating with 1 Corinthians 10-12 and its focus on the Eucharist and argues for an ecclesiology shaped by the Sacrament, where members are in true communion, one with another. He then examines several theologians from the common Catholic era (before the split with the Orthodox and the protestants) and shows how this Communion ecclesiology is grounded in the Christian tradition. Finally he approaches the topic from the language of sacrifice as used in both the New Testament and the Church tradition.
This is a beautiful book, and its picture of the interconnection between the members of the Church is inspiring. This book is good medicine to individualistic privatistic Christianity. (less)
A little book that should be read slowly. Not all that Bonhoeffer says could be universally applied to every form of Christian community. But he is th...moreA little book that should be read slowly. Not all that Bonhoeffer says could be universally applied to every form of Christian community. But he is thoughtful and certain things he says makes you aware that he has walked with Christ in community into deep waters. (less)