Book Review: The Scandal Of Redemption

Edge Induced Cohesion

The Scandal Of Redemption, by Archbishop Oscar Romero

[Note:  This book was given free of charge by Net Gallery/Plough Publishing House.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

Sometimes books, like other creations (this happens a lot especially in songs and movies) suffer because of a problem of framing.  One may find a great deal that is praiseworthy in content that is presented, but one finds the framing of that content to be troublesome, and one hesitates to praise the content because the person who wrote this book is being co-opted for an unacceptable political approach that he himself rejected.  Such is the case with this book.  Insofar as my comments about this book are complementary, they are about the writing of the ostensible author of the book, an archbishop who was assassinated in 1980 during the midst of a brutal civil war in El Salvador by the military and…

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Carr-trauma, atonement, and the Jesus Jews

theoutwardquest

David M. Carr, who wrote Holy Resilience, is a Christian.  More specifically he is a Quaker.  You might like to know that as we turn to the part of his book that looks at how early Christianity dealt with trauma.

There could hardly be a more traumatic thing than crucifixion.  Carr sees the trauma of crucifixion depicted most clearly in very early Christian tradition.  He says that the passion account in the Gospel of Mark has embedded in it one of the very early stories the “Jesus Jews” told about the death of Jesus. It emphasizes the traumatic nature of the event.

Also very early is  the tradition that “he died for our sins according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3).  This means that in the first decades at least some of the disciples interpreted Jesus’ death with Isaiah 53 and the Suffering Servant as a guide.

But from…

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Book Write-Up: The Miracle Worker and the Misfits

Dixie Koch.  The Miracle Worker and the Misfits.  Revival Waves of Glory Books & Publishing, 2017.  See here to buy the book.

The characters from this book who are presently in my mind are as follows, though I realize that there were more characters in the book and that those characters were important.  Some character stuck with me more than others.

Abby: Abby suffered abuse as a child with her sister, Julie.

Julie: Julie has been murdered.  She left behind letters talking about her conversion to Christ.

Charley: Charley is Julie’s son.  He was a demoniac, and his story is similar to that of the demoniac in Luke 8.  The demons are cast out of him and go into a neighbor’s cows (rather than pigs, as occurs in Luke 8).  Psychiatrists are claiming that Charley had a psychological condition, not demon possession.

Pastor Paul Marvel: Pastor Paul preaches that miracles are possible today and that Jesus wants to set people free from what afflicts them.  He is the hero of the book.  Yet, he is accused of Julie’s murder.

Pastor Richard Staunch: Richard Staunch is a powerful minister in the community, and he does not believe that God works miracles anymore.  He despises Pastor Paul and does not believe that Charley was demon-possessed.

John and Phillip: I cannot recall much about who they are and what they did, but, on pages 164-166, they do have an interesting discussion about demon possession and how that contrasts with being led by the Spirit of God.

Jezra: Jezra is a witch who leads a coven.  She is one of the book’s villains.  The sequel to this book, The Way Maker and the Scarlet Cord, appears to be specifically about her.  I am intrigued!  A daughter of one of the characters is drawn to Jezra and wants nothing to do with God.

The book has an intriguing premise.  The theme of learning how to love when one has been unloved was certainly compelling.  I am open to reading the sequel.  But here are some of my problems with the book:

—-The book was somewhat like Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness books, and in a bad way.  Let me explain what I mean by that.  I am not saying that the plot of this book is similar to that of the Darkness books.  But the whole tone of the book is that one side is right and the other side is wrong, sinister, and conspiratorial.  Occasionally, there is acknowledgment of nuance.  Abby has her struggles to believe and to forgive.  People wonder why God does not heal everyone if God is still doing miracles.  We get a faint glimpse into what makes Jezra tick.  But these things were not developed that much.  This criticism is not intended to suggest that Dixie Koch should compromise her beliefs in writing her fiction.  This is a book that has a particular Christian worldview, and there is nothing wrong with that.  But people who believe differently have their motives for thinking as they do, right or wrong, and that should be acknowledged more.

—-At times, the characters spoke in sermons.  There is nothing wrong with characters in a Christian book talking about religion.  That is to be expected.  But perhaps they could have done so more naturally.

—-The prose was adequate.  There were no grammatical mistakes that I found.  But it did not compel me.  I think of the novels of Frank Peretti and Lynn Austin: with the exception of Peretti’s Darkness books, their works compel me.  Their works are preachy, and, as is the case in The Miracle Worker and the Misfits, their spiritual and religious message is not earth-shakingly new.  But their prose and their story are compelling.  Some of this is because they know how to get inside of a character’s mind and to unveil the character’s motivations.  They are also vivid.  The Miracle Worker and the Misfit lacked that.  At times, it seemed to be moving along just for the sake of moving along.

The premise of the book was intriguing, like I said, and I am somewhat open to reading the sequel, though I fear that it will be uninteresting: I envision it simply saying that Jezra sought an alliance with dark forces out of a desire for power.  I do think that Dixie Koch tried to write a book with suspense and characters who struggle to find hope in the midst of hopelessness.  But the book did not make much of a connection with me.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Bookcrash.  My review is honest.

 

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Fictional Characters Who Appear Even in Historical Literature

Κέλσος

This quarter I am busy teaching as part of the Humanities Core at UC Irvine. The course is inter-disciplinary, and covers literature, film, philosophy, history, and visual art. It’s a great teaching experience, especially since we have our students writing their own academic blogs about the material we cover. The theme of the curriculum is “Empire and Its Ruins,” and we are currently covering the Roman Empire, including discussion of the Roman historian Tacitus. During lecture last week, professor Andrew Zissos (who is also my dissertation advisor) discussed the speech of Calgacus, which is depicted in Tacitus’ Life of Agricola (29-32). Calgacus is described as a chieftian of the Caledonian Confederacy (which was an alliance of tribes in modern day Scotland), who fought against Rome around 83 CE. Prior to the Battle of Mons Graupius, Tacitus has Calgacus give the following speech, which voices a scathing critique of Roman imperialism:

“To us…

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Carr- the crystalization of the Bible

theoutwardquest

I am blogging about David M. Carr’s book, Holy Resilience.

Carr says that the Hasmonean monarchy

. . .though it only existed for a few decades–was the only Jewish institution of the time with the power to enforce the selection of certain biblical books as authoritative and the standardization of the manuscripts of those books.  There was no comparable Jewish institution either before or after it (p. 147).

Carr recounted how the Davidic monarchy fell to the Babylonians.  After that the Jewish state went away and was replaced during and after the exile by religious institutions alone.  But  literary works from around -200 (the Dead Sea Scriptures and the Enoch literature) show that there was no unified Judaism.

Now for biblical studies this period has become the focus of scholars who have taken the postmodern turn.  They are skeptical of the history of Israel as told in the Bible…

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Why are rural areas right wing and urban areas left wing?

Whistling In The Wind

If you look at an election results map of America, you will see an ocean of red with only a few blue dots, which might make you think the Republicans won overwhelmingly, but in fact Democrats received more votes (the daft electoral college is an issue for another time). This is because rural areas overwhelmingly vote for the right wing Republican Party while urban areas overwhelmingly vote for the left wing Democratic Party.

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Book Write-Up: Dynamics of Muslim Worlds

Evelyn A. Reisacher, ed.  Dynamics of Muslim Worlds: Regional, Theological, and Missiological Perspectives.  IVP Academic, 2017.  See here to purchase the book.

This book contains papers that were presented at the Missiology Lectures of Fuller Theological Seminary’s School of Intercultural Studies on November 3-4, 2016, along with three other chapters.

David L. Johnston’s contribution makes a point that I think summarizes the book.  On page 176, Johnston states:

“…Western Christians especially must educate themselves about the pluralistic nature of Muslim society and about Islamic law in particular.  This will provided a needed antidote to the current wave of Islamophobia that clearly contributes to the recruitment of young Muslims by terror organizations and, more importantly, dehumanizes our Muslim neighbors.”

The “pluralistic nature of Muslim society” looms large in this book, and the book does much more than make the simple observation that there are moderate Muslims.  Rather, the book highlights numerous examples and facets of Islamic diversity, including reformist movements and different trends in Quranic interpretation.  Although the book labels ideas and movements as “traditionalist” and “reformist,” it occasionally reveals where the situation is more complex than that, as when it shows that the movement that led to ISIS initially had more liberal tendencies.  The book also distinguishes between text-centered Islam and popular Islam, and it explores the question of why people join ISIS.  The book is educational in its description of Islamic diversity, and also in its analysis of Islam in different regions, including Europe, West Africa, and South Asia.

Missiology is another prominent feature of this book.  The approach of the book seems to be to help Christians to understand the perspectives and trends within Islam so that they can better love Muslims, encouraging them to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Among the missiological approaches discussed in this book are debates, service to Muslims, finding common ground (e.g., on revelatory dreams and a belief in miracles), and inductive Bible study, which encourages Muslims to read the Bible themselves and to draw their own conclusions.  The book shuns any approach that seeks to impose Western Christianity on Muslims.

In terms of critique, the book seems to suffer from the same problem that other writings about this subject face, and that is the issue of boundaries.  One paper in the book, for example, appeared to imply that Christians in reaching out to Muslims should not emphasize the technicalities of the Trinity, and should be open to Muslims believing in Jesus within the context of their Islamic faith.  Does that imply that believing in the Trinity is non-essential to being a Christian?  The book could have wrestled with this more.

The book deserves five stars on account of its vast supply of information.  It is scholarly, and it is not exactly the sort of book that spoon-feeds readers the information.  Even those who know some basics about Islam may find themselves treading water as they read about the nuances and diversity within Islam.  Still, the book is understandable and, in its own way, down-to-earth.  While it does not tell too many anecdotes as it speaks about people and movements, it depicts real people experiencing real situations.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  My review is honest.

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