Book Review: “Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: Acts” L. Scott Kellum

L. Scott Kellum, Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: Acts (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2020), 340 pages.

Introduction and Overview

For those unfamiliar with this series, the EGGNT is a series working through each book of the New Testament in Greek. This volume focuses on the book of Acts. In this work, Kellum goes verse by verse and word by word through the entire book of Acts. The series, and this book in particular, focuses on exegesis, and does so with respect to major scholarly works (eight commentaries and a few other works cited on pages 12-13).

The overall structure of the book is as follows. The “Introduction” provides a brief but detailed overview of the authorship, date of the book, provenance, purpose and audience, and general notes to the reader of the book. A brief discussion is offered surrounding the “so-called western text of Acts” (10). In addition, an outline of the book is provided at the beginning, allowing ease of reference and clear representation of the materials (3-12).

Following the outline, each section has a heading (e.g., “I. Foundations for the Church and Her Mission (1:1-2:47).”[1] After the main heading is offered with a brief comment, the exegesis focuses on words and phrases. For example, Acts 1:1-2 begins with an exegesis of Μἐν.[2] After each subsection is completed (in the example above, 1:1-2, a “For Further Study” section provides the reader with references to other significant works regarding the words, phrases, and theological subjects discussed in each section. In addition, “Homiletical Suggestions” are offered, giving the teacher and preacher additional thoughts to consider.[3] These general points provide the structure for the entire volume.

Strengths of this Work

There are many strengths in this work. To begin with, and perhaps the most important strength, is the exegesis. The work discusses every word of the book of Acts. While this may seem to be overwhelming, the work only contains 340 pages (which includes an exegetical outline, a grammar index, and a Scripture index). Thus, the work offers detailed exegesis without wordiness or unnecessary materials. It is to the point, offering information that is necessary to understand the passage. In addition to this, the exegesis is further enhanced by discussing points of division regarding certain words or phrases.

For example, most are familiar with the variety of opinions regarding Acts 2:38. The author provides a brief discussion (three paragraphs) which presents the two main views (i.e., baptismal salvation or baptism because of salvation).[4] This provides the reader with enough information to grasp the various opinions without overwhelming the reader with the enormous amount of literature available.

The fact that one does not have to know Greek to utilize this resource is another significant contribution to the study of Acts. Though I would not recommend someone who did not know Greek to use it, one could navigate the book of Acts and enhance their understanding of Luke’s history of the early church. For example, for Acts 8:29, Kellum writes, “The theme of supernatural leading continues with the Spirit’s direction to Philip. The instruction is in the form of a compound imp. Πρὀσλθε (2nd sg. aor. act. impv. Of προςἐρχομαι) and κολλἠθητι (2nd sg. aor. pass. impv. of κολλἀω, ‘be joined’).”[5] One can use the abbreviation helps on pages xxix-xxxviii to figure out the parts of speech. Kellum provides the definitions, and with the reference to Scripture one’s knowledge of how the Holy Spirit lead Philip.

The way Kellum compares the English translations also provides an addition help. On Acts 11:20, while discussing the word “Ησαν,” Kellum notes the RSV, NASB, and NET’s rendering. Further in the verse Kellum also discusses another word, “Ελαλουν,” where he cites the translations of the NASB, NET, TNIV, NLT, NIV, and CEB. This provides the reader with a slim, comparative study of the various ways in which translation teams render words and phrases.

Though there are many more, I would end with what I believe to be another asset of this work is the material presented. One could easily spend pages discussing the various issues present in the work. For example, in Acts 2 alone the following topics are present: the baptism of the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, and large revival. Books have been written on these subjects. Kellum, however, sticks to the work of exegesis, only presenting what is necessary for understanding the text. This frees up space in the work and allows the student to seek other resources addressing the particularities of certain passages.

Weaknesses of this Work

I hesitate to offer any “weaknesses” because of how impressed I am with this work. Though I label these as “weaknesses,” I would rather use the phrase “suggestions to improve a great work.”

Though I mentioned this as a strength (see above), I believe the succinctness can, at times, limit the appropriate discussion. I cited the reference to Acts 2:38 as a strength because Kellum offers the two main views and briefly discusses them. However, I include this as an area for improvement because it is a significant verse. Many theological systems are built on the idea of baptismal regeneration, and this is one of the key texts used to defend said positions. Would it have hindered the flow of the work to include a more thorough discussion, focusing primarily on the exegetical? If the editors were attempting to “stay the course,” I think an appendix would have been a helpful alternative.

Another area that I would love to see bolstered is the theological implications distilled from the exegetical work. Again, this may be out of the scope of the publisher, but an important passage like Acts 13:48 needs more attention. Kellum provides the necessary exegesis, with citations from other works.[6] The verse, however, has enormous theological implications and one’s own theological views may hinder one’s interpretation. Kellum notes, “No word of a double-predestination is stated. Luke clearly saw no contradiction between human responsibility and divine sovereignty (Keener 2.2102).”[7] While that is true, it may be helpful to the church to discuss why this is the case.

Who would benefit from this Work?

According to the general editors, this work “aims to close the gap between the Greek text and the available tools.”[8] Later in the general introduction, Köstenberger and Yarbrough note this work would be profitable for students beginning Greek, intermediate students, and advanced students. I concur with their assessments, with the addition of those who are involved in the ministry of the Word. Whether they are preaching, teaching, or leading small groups, this work will yield many fruits. Though it would require additional preparation time, the individual seeking to truly know God’s Word will enjoy the benefits of hard work.

I also maintain that teachers involved with biblical or linguistical studies will benefit from this work. For the teacher working through the book of Acts specifically, or the works of Luke generally, this book will present a complete exegesis (including references to current scholarship) in aiding the progression of the class. This work could also serve graduate studies if the class focused on this book.

Considering the nature of the work, I would not recommend it to the average individual with no knowledge of Greek and little desire to study the Word of God on any deep level. The difficulty of working through a dense book like this may cause discouragement on behalf of the apathetic individual.

With that said, anyone who wants to know the book of Acts better should purchase this book. It may require intense effort and more hours than most, but in the end, the individual who perseveres will be rewarded with a deep understanding of the Greek New Testament.


[1] L. Scott Kellum, Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: Acts (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2020), 15.

[2] Kellum, Acts, 16.

[3] Ibid., 19.

[4] Ibid., 42.

[5] Kellum, Acts, 105.

[6] Ibid., 166.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., xxv.

Book Review: “Counseling the Hard Cases,” edited by Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert

Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert, eds, Counseling the Hard Cases: True Stories Illustrating the Sufficiency of God’s Resources in Scripture (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2015), 318 pages.

Overview

In Counseling the Hard Cases one finds the sufficiency of Scripture displayed on almost every page. Whether directly addressed (as in chapter one), or indirectly displayed in the various case studies (a total of ten), there is no doubt in the respective authors’ or editors’ minds that God’s Word “is sufficient because Christ is sufficient, and God shows us in his Word how to encounter him in all of life’s complexities.” (13)

The first chapter seeks to provide an overview of the counseling debate within the church. This involves different worldviews as well as differences in one’s view of Scripture. The chapter is a helpful history of the development and extent of biblical counseling. Chapters 2-11 are written by individuals actively involved in biblical counseling. As the authors note, the cases may be actual individuals (whose names have been changed), or a conglomeration of individuals that, taken together, provide an overview of the issues and solutions. (xiii) These case studies follow a general structure:

  • An introduction to the individual(s) and their problems
  • A presentation of the help they have received from others
  • A reorientation of the problem from a biblical worldview
  • A discussion of the progress and changes throughout the counseling period
  • A summary of the help and growth in the counselee(s)
  • A concluding section discussing the strengths, weaknesses, and differences each counselor would take at the present

While these are not found in every chapter, they do provide a highlight into the general structure of the book.

The editors end the book summarizing the reasons why biblical counseling is the means by which God has equipped believers to address the complexities and problems of life within a biblical worldview.

Strengths

For a book on the topic of biblical counseling in general, and one that addresses complex issues such as bipolar disorder, addictions, dissociative identify disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, to name a few), I was shocked at the preciseness (the book is only 307 pages in length, with an accompanying contributor, name, and Scripture index adding 9 pages).

The book deals with a deep subject (counseling in general), but does so that the average Christian can pick it up with little difficulty. They define terms (see page 3 for example) in a way that individuals with little to no experience in counseling can grasp. The limit the case studies to pertinent topics, only including what is pertinent in that particular counseling setting (for example, “Jackie” in chapter 8 only brings in additional details that help the counseling sessions progress).

Another strength is the notable, consistent application of biblical counseling norms. Without being exhaustive, I found the following consistently represented:

Counseling Methods
Journaling41, 69, 72, 134, 150, 157, 243, 263
Reading Books39, 109 (in footnote), 131, 158, 179, 230, 249, 254, 262-263, 264, 279
Gathering Information69, 112, 125, 143, 176, 179, 207
The Gospel in Counseling73, 123, 126
Confession & Repentance74, 106, 128, 158, 272
Progressive Sanctification42-44, 74, 160
Scripture41, 75-76, 93, 101-102, 127, 214-215, 262, 265, 278
Gospel Indicatives & Imperatives77, 214, 218, 244, 253-254, 264
Accountability51, 80, 178, 196, 222, 265, 277
Hope67-69, 113, 146, 148, 207, 234-235, 243-246
Homework114, 139, 151, 223

 Again, one can see that this list is not exhaustive. However, it does provide an overview of the normal practices of biblical counselors. In many instances, additional examples could be provided. However, this strength demonstrates the didactic nature of the book without being purposeful. That is, you begin to learn the ins and outs of biblical counseling without being aware of it.

Another strength of this book is the rawness presented in the case studies. These are real people with significant problems (though their names have been changed). Consider the depth of this introduction to Mariana, “Mariana’s father, an alcoholic, molested her for the first time when she was four years old.” (26) “In her adolescent years Mariana started cutting, turned to anorexic and bulimic behaviors, and struggled with depression…She habitually stayed awake all night to avoid having nightmares in a room with others and avoided showering or dressing in anyone’s presence.” (26) These are heartbreaking issues, and they are found with each one of the counselees. It is graphic emotion and real pain. I see this as a strength because Christians too often separate life from life. That is, we deal with the pleasantries of Sunday morning church while ignoring the evilness of sin and the despair that afflicts many. When asked, “How are you?” we customarily reply, “Fine!” Though inside a war may be raging, though our marriages may be on the rocks, though our health may be bad.

A final strength is the way in which the authors present the sufficiency of Scripture in contrast with the methods and ideologies of modern, secular psychology and psychiatry. Though examples could be provided from each case study, I want to focus on Dan Wickert’s section. After presenting the background of his counselee, Mary, Dan offers a brief treatment of medication and counseling. Without dismissing medication completely, Dan balances the extremes with two carefully worded questions that, in my estimation, will greatly benefit any biblical counselor. He asks, “Why do you want to stop [i.e., taking medication]?” (120) Unfortunately, many churches, pastors, and Christians look down upon those who utilize medication for mental and physical issues. This question addresses the ease to which counselees can often give into the fear of man. The result, of course, is not only sinful fear but also a potential medical problem. Another question he asks is, “How are you handling life on the medication?” (121) This is such a helpful way to look at this delicate situation. He goes on to write, “Are they handling the normal problems of life in a biblical, God-honoring way while they are on the medication? If not, then taking them off the medication usually will not help the counselee to please God.” (121) In the rest of that section and the following section, Dan provides more insightful comments balancing a particularly tough topic.

Weaknesses

While I have elaborated on the strengths (though certainly not in any exhaustive way), I would like to discuss two weaknesses. Though not directly stated, I think the book can imply that any Christian can pick up the Bible and address the complex issues presented through these hard cases. While that statement is not necessarily false, I think it can give the impression that if one is a Christian and can read the Bible then they are equipped to counsel any situation. I know that the authors would deny this. They would encourage a deep study of the Scriptures as well as an active faith. However, some who read this book may do more damage than good if they are not watchful for their own lives and doctrines (cf. 1 Tim. 4:16).

A second, though small, weakness is the failure to include an organize structure of the counseling process. While it is presented general (as evidenced by the table above), I think they book would be further strengthened if the authors provided a bullet-point summary of the counseling process. Obviously, this could be overwhelming to the reader, so discretion would need be applied. However, for many counselors this would prove to be an additional benefit.

Who should read it?

The book is written to a Christian audience, and I think it should be read primarily by Christians. I also think anyone involved with counseling (secular, integrationist, or biblical) would do well to read the book. For the secular counselor, this book may help present the foundational principles of biblical counseling in a language they speak. It also may alleviate any unnecessary objections to biblical counseling. The integrationist should read this work as well. Unfortunately, we often speak past one another in our discussions of counseling. This book serves to clear up some confusion on part of the biblical counseling movement. It also presents an often-distorted view of biblical counseling’s understanding of medication (see, for example, chapter 5). Finally, any biblical counseling (lay or professional) would benefit greatly from this work. It is written, as I have already mentioned, in clear and precise language. It provides insight into the process of biblical counseling. It also encourages the counselor that these hard cases, though certainly not easy, are within the realm of the sufficiency of God’s Word.

Book Review: “Removing the Stain of Racism From the Southern Baptist Convention”

Jarvis J. Williams and Kevin M. Jones, Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2017), 179 pages.

Overview

Removing the Stain of Racism is a timely book for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). It is also a timely book for the Church at large. Racial division and civil unrest remain elevated in our current climate. The Church should lead in the work of reconciliation, and Williams and Jones (and other contributors) provide a helpful tool for that purpose.

The book begins with a presentation of the various resolutions on race from 1845-2007 (pages xxxv-lix). After providing those resolutions, two white authors (Al Mohler and Matthew Hall) offer a brief discussion of what contributed to racism in the SBC and the historical “causes” of racism (chapters 1-2). Jarvis Williams then delivers a wonderful treatment of the “biblical steps toward removing the stain,” including a word study that would benefit all readers (chapter 3). Walter Strickland dissects the “theological steps” of overcoming the racist sins of the past, providing insights into the contributions of the entire body of Christ, including minorities. Craig Mitchell discusses the role that ethics play, examining a few leaders in the work of reconciliation as well as the recent contributions to reconciliation in various resolutions (chapter 5). Kevin Smith challenges pastors to preach against racism and the pursuit of reconciliation on three levels (personal life, corporate preaching, and each particular ecclesiastical context, all in chapter 6). Mark Croston examines the administrative steps necessary for the removal of the wicked stain as well as ways to progress the work of reconciliation (chapter 7). Kevin Jones discusses the educational aspects for progression, often returning to experiences endured by our African American brothers and sisters (chapter 8). Toby Jennings takes on the task of publishing and the ways we can advance minority scholarship (chapter 9). Curtis Woods wraps up the work by describing his own experiences as an African American (particularly in Kentucky), rejoicing in the advancement made while acknowledging the need for continued perseverance (chapter 10). There are two epilogues, one written by an African American and the other by an Anglo American. Dwight McKissic examines five reasons the stain of racism remains in the SBC, while Daniel Akin provides four reasons why he believes the stain endures. The postscript by T. Vaughn Walker offers a word of hope for reconciliation in the SBC and her churches. The book ends with two appendixes, one offers a “Suggested Reading List on Race and Race Relations” (comprising 10 pages) and a “sample Syllabus for Introduction to African-American History.”

Strengths

I think the demeanor from which this work was written is its greatest strength. Considering the horrific history African Americans have experienced in this country, it would not be shocking to see bitterness develop and express itself. However, these brothers communicated their message in a spirit of love, respect, and patience. Several of these men experienced firsthand (or through an immediate family member) racism. Yet, in their work, there is never a hint of bitterness. This, I think, is a remarkable testament both to their character and to the grace of God! Several quotes highlight these experiences, and I challenge you to find a more gracious depiction.

“I grew up in a small and racist town in eastern Kentucky…Growing up, I heard both blacks and whites call me all sorts of racists slurs….But this small and predominately white Southern Baptist church became my spiritual family, and God used it mightily to transform my life.”—Jarvis Williams, 17-18

“In a dialogue with a high-ranking administrator of a Southern Baptist seminary, I was asked the inevitable question, ‘What are you currently researching and writing about?’ As a study writing a dissertation, I began to explain that I was writing about the relationship between theology and culture among three African-American theologians at the end of the Civil Rights Movement….The response I received was disappointing. Instead the administrator responded, ‘When are you going to do ‘real’ theology, and what will you write about when you do so?’”—Walter Strickland II, 53-54

“Because of racism, a key segment of Christ’s body in America was inhibited from obeying fully the command to learn God’s commands and teach them diligently to their children. To the contrary, I have an entirely different experience on a daily basis when I open up the Bible and teach it to my family.”—Kevin Jones, 90

“In light of the lack of color [as a campus minister at Kentucky State University], I automatically assumed tokenism. It seemed the convention needed to house an African-American campus minister at the commonwealth’s only historically black college or university….I could hardly believe King’s critiques easily fit my situation well over four decades later…Nevertheless, I remained faithful to my campus-ministry role…”—Curtis Woods, 116

It breaks my heart to learn of their experiences, but my heart is encouraged because these brothers are moving ahead through the grace of God and ministering in their particular contexts as well as the entire body of Christ.

Another strength of this book is the focus on the power, love, and grace of God. For example, in the foreword K. Marshall Williams Sr. writes, “Apart from regeneration no one has the capacity to be in right relationship with his neighbor (Rom. 7:18; 14-15; Eph. 4-5).” (xxiii) Al Mohler ends his chapter by stating, “’In sin did my mother conceive me’ (Ps. 51:5 ESV). How can anything good or righteous or true to the gospel follow those words? The answer is only by the power of Almighty God.” (6) Jarvis Williams wraps up a lengthy treatment of the Gospel in Scripture in this summary fashion, “The incalculable riches of Christ refer to the totality of what God has done in Christ for Jews and Gentiles to unify all things in Christ (Eph. 1:3-3:21). This unification includes racial reconciliation insofar as race refers to Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:11-22).” (43) Other examples could be provided, but this centers the discussion of the sin of racism within the larger framework of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Weaknesses

Perhaps due to the publisher’s limit, I think there were a few sections I would like to have seen more treatment. The chapters on ethics (chapter 5), preaching (chapter 6), and administration (chapter 7) could have used more examples and treatment. While the chapters are not lacking anything, I would have benefited from a thorough treatment of each of those topics.

I also think having a chapter where African American experiences during the formation and history of the SBC could have opened eyes further. As I mentioned earlier, I was astounded, and saddened, by these experiences endured by my brothers. However, their experiences are just a few in a history of racial discrimination endured by our African American brothers and sisters.

Who should read this book?

Every Southern Baptist should read this book. Though many may not be familiar with the history of the Convention, this book helps explain the creation and underpinnings of what is the largest Protestant denomination in the world. Furthermore, it may also help open eyes to the current state of the SBC with the recent passing of Resolution 9 “On Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality” and its subsequent rejection by the six presidents of the Convention’s seminaries and resulting backfire.

Christians in the United States who are not Southern Baptists should also read this. Our country has a history of racism and slavery, and unfortunately, the Church has too often been a part of it. Reading this book will open eyes to the truth of racism, but it will also encourage hearts as the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a reconciling Gospel.

Book Review: “Cultural Intelligence” by Darrell L. Bock

Darrell L. Bock, Cultural Intelligence: Living for God In a Diverse, Pluralistic World (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2020), 128 pages.

Introduction

In one of the most famous passages from the book bearing Esther’s name, Mordecai quips, “It may very well be that you have achieved royal status for such a time as this!” (Esther 4:14, NET)

Bock’s book is a book for such a time as this. His book touches upon something the Church desperately needs: cultural intelligence. Before discussing the meat of the book, I want to provide a brief description of why this book is such a gift to the Church.

We are living in uncertain times. At this point, we are still awaiting the votes of the Electoral College. Many news organizations have proclaimed Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the winners of the 2020 Presidential Election. However, many Republicans are challenging this announcement through legislative action. The Church, filled with those who identify as both Republicans and Democrats, are at each other’s necks. Besides, there are a variety of views regarding sexuality, immigration, and other “hot topics.” In the midst of this, the Church has damaged her witness by her interactions with those in the world. Bock’s book is a reminder of the Church’s mission and how she can engage in that mission in a way that glorifies God and bridges divides. His book also contributes to how the Church engages the world and for what purpose.

Personally, this book came at a needed time. I have struggled with the various responses of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I have wondered how our faith relates to the public square. In this book, based on Scripture, Bock provides guidance.

Overview of the Book

The book is comprised of five chapters. The first chapter builds a theology of cultural intelligence. That is, Bock uses six passages of Scripture that believers need to know their mission, identify the enemy, and engage in spiritual rescue. One of the prominent contributions of this chapter is how believers are to engage in conversation. Contrasted with the vitriol of the political section, believers are to communicate with grace and love.

In chapter two, Bock works with two passages of Scripture written by Paul. In Romans 1:18-32, Paul provides an in-depth look at humanity. This is written to the Church for the Church’s benefit. Bock also examines Acts 17:16-34 to describe how Paul related to the people he describes in Romans 1:18-32. Again, this provides a biblical example of how believers are to engage with the differences in culture and views today.

Chapter three opens the door to conversation. In a time in which discussion and communication are difficult in general, it seems the Church has failed to continue growing in interacting with individuals holding different views. Bock discusses what a conversation is. He also identifies ways that the Church can develop the skills needed to engage in helpful conversation.

Bock then moves onto salvation and the fruit of that in believers’ lives in chapter four. While present-day Americans tend to view salvation through an individualistic lens, Bock connects Scripture with the greater work of God in His children. It is not simply individualistic salvation (though Bock does not dismiss this), it is much more. It moves on to the whole of creation. One manifestation of this is the love believers are to extend to all others, what he refers to collectively as “the ethical triangle.”[1]

Chapter five wraps everything up by providing specific examples of how believers can and should engage the various cultures and worldviews that are present today. He provides helpful breakdowns of implementing the discussions of chapters 1-4 that enable believers to take action. Ironically, one of the primary actions believers should take is to listen.

Strengths of the Book

The book is incredibly helpful for many reasons. I will offer a few highlights in the hope that it will stir your hearts to purchase the book.

  • The reminder of the main mission of the Church.

    Bock does a great job of reminding believers of the mission of the Church. In our highly politicized society, we have equivocated politics with our walk with God. Unfortunately, this has harmed not only her witness but also her mission. God is not God of the Republican or the Democrat party. However, Christians can become caught up in this political identity. Bock writes, “For decades the church fought a culture war where we often made other people the enemy. But this core biblical text [referring to Ephesians 6:10-18] reminds us that our real battle is spiritual….Our mission is not to defeat or crush people. It is to stand with spiritual resources against an unseen enemy.”[2] We can see how destructive this confusion is on any social media platform. This, I think, is one of the most helpful aspects of Bock’s book.

  • The art of engaging in conversation.

    While building on the theology of cultural intelligence, Bock provides an incredible gift to the Church by describing how to engage in conversation. Primarily found in chapter three, Bock examines what occurs during a conversation (what he refers to as “triphonics”).[3] He also briefly discusses the ways we can end conversations through our actions, what he refers to as “sabotage.”[4] He offers five ways we can develop conversations, of which the last is, in my opinion, the most helpful. He writes, “I often tell my students that they need a scale on which to rather their level of conviction.”[5] Discerning the level of one’s conviction is important in our interactions within and without the Church.

  • The last contribution that I would like to highlight (though I admit it was hard to narrow it!) is his discussion of “from life to the Bible.”[6] Building upon a significant discussion on the change our culture has experienced, Bock provides a helpful way to connect Scripture to the lives of people. While previous generations enjoyed a certain base understanding and acceptance of Judeo-Christian values (see page 85-89), present-day believers do not, particularly in the United States. However, Bock describes this way to connect life to Scripture with several suggestions. To begin with, we need to evaluate culture through Scripture and praise its good qualities while pointing out the faults.[7] It also “requires listening.”[8] The third and fourth elements tie into theology and communication. He states, “Theological translation involves putting terms that we understand (but that someone else may not) into more mutually transparent language.”[9] That is, believers must learn to communicate clearly without using theological terms that people may not understand. Finally, from life to the Bible also requires a deep understanding of the whole of Scripture. This prohibits us from cherry-picking Scripture and engaging in imbalances.

Weaknesses of the Book

The only weakness of the book is the limited treatment of the thesis. That is, I would have liked to see Bock provide more examples and materials on those examples. He does include tough topics (e.g., immigration, gun rights, and sexuality). I found this helpful, but I would love to see further discussion and perhaps even presentations of actual interactions with comments.

Who should purchase this Book?

Every single Christian should read and implement this book, particularly Christians who reside in the United States. With the volatile atmosphere and the divide in the US, Christians should not withdraw and disappear from the public square. However, when engaging in conversation, Christians cannot continue as they have previously. We must acknowledge our sins of previous and even present engagement, learn what the Scriptures teach, and then engage in the cultures to which God has called us.


[1] Darrell L. Bock, Cultural Intelligence: Living for God In a Diverse, Pluralistic World (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2020), 76.

[2] Bock, Cultural Intelligence, 12-13.

[3] Ibid., 54.

[4] Ibid., 62-65.

[5] Ibid., 67.

[6] Ibid., 98-101.

[7] Ibid., 108.

[8] Ibid., 109.

[9] Ibid.

Book Review: “We Love You, But You’re Going to Hell”

Dr. Kim O’Reilly, We Love You, But You’re Going to Hell: Christians and Homosexuality Agree, Disagree, Take a Look (Nashville, TN: Elm Hill, 2018), 199 pages.

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An Overview of the Book

In her prologue, Dr. O’Reilly writes,

There is a growing divide between individuals and groups who hold different and contrasting beliefs about homosexuality. Dialogue is too often rare, and getting more so. People have little contact with those who hold differing opinions. Real progress can be made if we sit across the table, in the Church, or public meeting places to talk through our differences—in safety and respect. This book is an attempt to launch that dialogue.[1]

I appreciated the demeanor Dr. O’Reilly takes in her work. Her goal is to open a dialogue in which individuals can discuss their views of homosexuality, hoping to create dialogue and, at the least, to remove the judgmental attitude many Christians take against homosexuals.

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Dr. O’Reilly sets out her goals in Chapter One. She begins by writing, “I have written this book out of love and compassion.”[2] I found this attitude throughout the entire book. Though as a lesbian, she does not agree with conservative Christianity’s approach to homosexuality, she never expresses any hateful speech. Her approach is one of question. She seeks to ensure a proper understanding of the passages of Scripture that concern homosexual behavior is understood within a modern-day context. She also discusses the reason she wrote the book. In response to Phil Robertson’s comments and book Happy, Happy, Happy, Dr. O’Reilly sought to provide a compassionate rebuttal to the negative views towards homosexuals. She ends the chapter with an outline and purpose of the remainder of the book

Chapter Two provides a glimpse into Dr. O’Reilly’s conservative upbringing, her coming out, and the struggles she had with friends and family, particularly her father. She describes her coming out experience concerning the Ninth Commandment, writing, “I chose to focus that on myself, asking whether I was bearing false witness against myself AND others if I wasn’t honest about who I was.”[3] This experience took place over seven years. Her experiences with coming out to her family varied from acceptance to rejection.

Chapter Three details how Christians used the Bible to promote and condone slavery and segregation. It seems odd to find this chapter in a discussion on homosexuality, but Dr. O’Reilly points out several passages of Scripture that Christians used. She writes, “It is obvious to most now that the Bible was misused and misinterpreted to promote the interests of slave owners. Over time, enough people began to criticize the Scriptures and question the interpretations in the face of such an ugly and abusive practice as owning fellow human beings.”[4] Dr. O’Reilly provides quotes from leaders supporting slavery/segregation, as well as court cases in which segregation was supported, not only by Scripture but also by American Law.

In Chapter Four, Dr. O’Reilly shifts gears to examine the seven passages of Scripture used to condemn homosexual lifestyles. She acknowledges two important points at the beginning of the chapter. First, she writes, “At the surface of this observation, there can be little debate. The Bible nowhere condones same-sex relations and, in a few places, explicitly censures them.”[5] And, secondly, “Biblical scribes, or anyone else writing in those centuries, had no idea or concept of homosexual orientation—a lifelong attraction, fixed early, toward people of the same sex.”[6] Dr. O’Reilly walks through the seven passages, offering counter interpretations, cultural contexts, and word studies to demonstrate that individuals today have incorrectly interpreted these Scriptures.

Chapter Five brings about the discussion of sexual orientation, writing that “New information about sexual orientation, emotional and physical attraction, and identity emerged after over a century of research.”[7] She distinguishes the sex act from sexual orientation, admitting that researchers have no idea how sexual orientation develops, nor when.[8] She also notes that no one can choose their sexual orientation and that sexual orientation is not “inherently moral or immoral.”[9] Dr. O’Reilly then works through the supposed Reparative Therapy. She finishes the chapter with individual stories of homosexuals or reparative proponents, detailing the damages and pain that accompanied each one.

Dr. O’Reilly discusses Stereotypes and Myths about homosexuality in Chapter Six. These myths and stereotypes are:

  • Bad Marriages Lead to Lesbianism
  • Homosexuality Is A Sinful Lifestyle
  • Gays and Lesbians Are Promiscuous
  • Gay Men Are Child Molesters
  • Homosexuals Are Emotionally Unhealthy
  • Homosexuals Cannot Sustain Long-Term Relationships
  • Homosexuality Is Demonic and a Curse
  • Homosexuality Can Be Compared to Alcoholism
  • Homosexuality is Unnatural
  • Gays Recruit
  • There Is a Homosexual Agenda
  • Homosexuality Threatens Family Values

In Chapter Seven, Dr. O’Reilly offers a compilation of sorts. She begins with quotations of prominent leaders who oppose homosexuality. She then discusses “Lesser-Known Ministers” who are outspoken against homosexuality.[10] Interestingly, she also brings up billboards. Moving from individuals, she discusses Churches, Denominations, and other religions’ desire to see individuals leave homosexuality. These include the Southern Baptist Convention, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormon Church, and the Roman Catholic Church. She ends the chapter with individuals from various denominations and religions who support homosexuality.

Marriage is the topic of discussion for Chapter Eight. In this chapter, Dr. O’Reilly provides examples of the religious and civil views of marriage. She discusses court cases and definitions. She also provides a brief examination of the purpose of marriage. The remainder of the chapter provides arguments for and against gay marriage. [11]

In Chapter Nine, Dr. O’Reilly spends time discussing the importance of religious freedom, particularly “the right to refuse service to gays and lesbians when it runs contrary to beliefs about homosexuality and same-sex marriage.” The majority of this chapter focuses on that nationally recognized case Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

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Chapter Ten summarizes the main thrust of the entire book. In it, Dr. O’Reilly addresses the importance of one’s views regarding homosexuality and why it matters. She writes, “When individuals believe, and Churches preach, that homosexuality is an abomination, it matters.”[12] She discusses why from the perspectives of homosexual marriage, homosexuals generally speaking, and personal loss.

In Chapter Eleven, Dr. O’Reilly offers several steps that individuals can take in this ongoing discussion. They are:

  1. “Read the Seven Scriptures.”
  2. “Look at Sexual Orientation.”
  3. “Reevaluate Reparative Therapy.”
  4. “Challenge Stereotypes.”
  5. “Agree to Disagree on Gay Marriage.”
  6. “Recognize the Pain Inflicted.”
  7. “Contribute to the Healing.”[13]

After offering these steps, she also provides additional issues that should be addressed, whether from a leader’s perspective or the individual.

Strengths of the Book

I believe the most helpful contribution of this book is the openness to dialogue. It is unfortunate, but as Dr. O’Reilly remarks, people are unable to talk about divisive issues. Whether it is political, religious, or sexual, people are unable (or, unwilling) to engage in dialogue. Her book is written “out of love and compassion,” and that comes forward through her work.[14] In my own experience, I have engaged in dialogue with homosexuals and though we do not agree on issues, we can still experience a conversation.

Another strength of Dr. O’Reilly’s book is her focus on the stereotypes and myths. She mentions that the first stereotype, bad marriages lead to lesbianism, is “more lighthearted and not as damaging as other stereotypes and myths.”[15] Unfortunately, these stereotypes are all-too-common. Though I do not agree with all of her statements in this section, I think it is helpful to consider how viewing individuals through a collective, and often ill-informed, lens discourages thoughtful dialogue.

Weaknesses of the Book

Dr. Kim O’Reilly was open to the fact that she is a lesbian. I feel that it is only fair to state at the beginning of this section that I believe homosexuality is a sin. However, I want to offer a few critiques to her arguments and reasoning. I encourage anyone interested to read her book to find out if my concerns are fair.

First, the main premise of the book is that homosexuality, in its present-day form, has not existed until recently. Thus, the traditionally-held view that homosexuality is a sin is not up-to-date. She concludes that Christians today, while not necessarily abandoning their beliefs, would live and let live. She writes, “Leave the judgment to God. We won’t know for certain this side of Heaven. If you err, err on the side of compassion.”[16] I see a major problem with this line of thought.

As even Dr. O’Reilly admits, “At the surface of this observation, there can be little debate. The Bible nowhere condones same-sex relations and, in a few places, explicitly censures them.”[17] At the very outset of that chapter, Dr. O’Reilly acknowledges the Scriptures’ face value as condemning homosexual behavior. For millennia, the Church (in the widest description as possible) has stood against homosexuality. If the Scriptures condemn homosexuality, the faithful follower of Jesus Christ should as well. Now, this does not mean the believer should treat homosexuals with any form of judgmentalism or inhumanely. The call for the believer to live in love stands firm.[18] However, it would be unloving not to tell someone of their sin. It is the very essence of the Gospel, that Jesus Christ came to save sinners, that we should point out sin. It would be unloving not to do so.

Another issue I take with Dr. O’Reilly’s work is that she makes fallacious arguments. She makes the red herring fallacy when she compares the acceptance and defense of slavery and segregation to homosexuality. There is no connection to the two, logically or biblically. Unfortunately, she included it in her book, because, in my opinion, it weakens the strength of her argument. Another fallacious argument she makes is the appeal to pity. It is important to state, once again, that believers should never physically hurt, mentally, or emotionally abuse another human being. That being said, Dr. O’Reilly seems to suggest that you cannot condemn homosexuals because it hurts them. She writes, “It was a condemnation that was well-meaning and expressed in love, but nonetheless a condemnation.”[19] A third fallacious argument Dr. O’Reilly makes the equivocation of the word homosexual orientation with an acceptable form of sexual life. She writes, “Biblical scribes, or anyone else writing in those centuries, had no idea or concept of homosexual orientation—a life-long attraction, fixed early, toward people of the same sex.”[20] Later on in her book, though, she writes, “Many Christians who condemn homosexuality argue that there is no such thing as sexual orientation…. I have never understood the basis for that argument—biblically, historically, scientifically, or psychologically. There is evidence of human homosexuality across all cultures and across time.”[21] So, did they have a concept, or not? Furthermore, she goes on to say, “The widespread acceptance of “same-sex behavior” among the ancient Greeks has been cited as an example of increased numbers of homosexuals leading to the fall of an empire.”[22] Again I ask, did they have a concept, or not? It seems that this argument is used in two ways for Dr. O’Reilly.

The reason this is important lies in her reinterpretation of Scripture, which is the fourth weakness of the book. Concerning Sodom and Gomorrah, Dr. O’Reilly simply brushes by the fact that all the men of Sodom wanted to rape Lot’s visitors.[23] Because other Scripture mentions Sodom and Gomorrah’s other sins, she concludes with the silent argument that homosexuality, as we understand it today, was not meant. Of course, if the act of homosexuality is sinful, then it is only logical (and biblical) to conclude that the orientation is sinful as well. Dr. O’Reilly also dismisses the two passages from Leviticus because “Christian tradition has viewed the purity concerns and regulations in Leviticus as irrelevant.”[24] It appears that Dr. O’Reilly equivocates dietary restrictions with sexual issues related to Israel. I could argue that the marital union between one man and one woman existed before, during, and after the Law (see Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6; and Ephesians 5:22-32), but I would imagine this would be brushed aside with similar dismissal of normal interpretation.

Who Should Read This Book?

I think it would be helpful for anyone interested to read this book. I think Dr. O’Reilly’s demeanor throughout the book is helpful. I think one should keep in mind the logical fallacies she presents. Additionally, I am looking forward to seeing how this issue progresses.

____________________

[1] Dr. Kim O’Reilly, We Love You, But You’re Going to Hell: Christians and Homosexuality Agree, Disagree, Take a Look (Nashville, TN: Elm Hill, 2018), xi.

[2] O’Reilly, We Love You, 1.

[3] Ibid., 11, emphasis hers.

[4] Ibid., 22.

[5] Ibid., 30.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., 44.

[8] Ibid., 45.

[9] Ibid., 48.

[10] Ibid., 83-84.

[11] Ibid., 129.

[12] Ibid., 149.

[13] Ibid., 169-179.

[14] Ibid., 1.

[15] Ibid., 60.

[16] Ibid., 3.

[17] Ibid., 30.

[18] John 11:34-35.

[19] Ibid., 185.

[20] Ibid., 30. It is ironic that she makes this statement, which is an argument from silence.

[21] Ibid., 47.

[22] Ibid., 77.

[23] See Genesis 19:4-5.

[24] O’Reilly, We Love You, 33; see Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

Book Review: “On Satan, Demons, and Psychiatry”

Ragy R. Girgis, M.D., On Satan, Demons, and Psychiatry: Exploring Mental Illness in the Bible (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2020), 112 pages.

Overview and Purpose of the Book

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On Satan, Demons, and Psychiatry by Ragy Girgis, MD

When I received a copy of Dr. Girgis’ book, I was eager to read it. I am fascinated by the connection of body and soul, and I was excited to see a Christian’s perspective on mental illness in the Bible.[1]

Dr. Girgis clearly states his goal on page 3, writing, “Therefore, the goal of this book is to help change misconceptions that have historically pervaded Christianity by educating both laity and clergy about serious mental illness.” In order to accomplish this goal, Dr. Girgis sets out to perform an “exegetic examination of Biblical accounts of what may have been untreated serious mental illness,” to see the biblical worldview of mental health as represented in a variety of passages of Scripture.[2]

After mentioning a few books that have sought to accomplish this goal, Dr. Girgis sets his work apart as reading the Scriptures through a “post-Enlightenment narrative,” changing the way the Scriptures are interpreted to reflect a modern understanding of the

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The chapters of the book follow a primarily exegetically-driven focus.

mental illness.[3] Without denying the accounts recorded in Scripture, he desires to view them in light of modern, medical advancements. He writes that the reader will “gain an appreciation of the non-morality and non-spirituality-based, biological nature and timelessness of available treatments.”[4]

Finally, Dr. Girgis ends the Preface and Introduction with a reminder that his book is written: “to be a resource for any Christian, including both the lay believer as well as clergy and Christian academicians.”[5] He wants his readers to see that “mental illness” is not a spiritual issue but a physical one.

Chapter two provides a wonderfully succinct overview of mental illness. Chapters 3-9 are exegetical examinations of individuals who may have struggled with mental illness. These include Moses and the children of Israel (Ch. 3), King Saul (Ch. 4), King David (Ch. 5), Jonah (Ch. 6), Nebuchadnezzar (Ch. 7), the Gadarene Demoniac (Ch. 8), and the demon-possessed man (Ch. 9). In chapter 10, Dr. Girgis performs an overview of the various teachings regarding witchcraft and sorcery. Chapter 11 seeks to describe the power and limits Satan (and demons) have on the creation and human beings. He provides his own assessment of end-times views in connection with a demonic activity in Chapter 12. In Chapter 13, Dr. Girgis brings the book to an end with a message of hope and encouragement.

Strengths of the Book

This book is helpful for its contributions to the field. Dr. Girgis is an experienced psychiatrist. Additionally, he has published many articles in peer-reviewed journals and has contributed to several scientific books. His professional experience alone provides a wealth of wisdom. Added to this fact is his faith in God.

Another strength of Dr. Girgis’ book is his heart. Repeatedly you read phrases like “I find that many Christian believers, including both laity and clergy, have misconceptions about serious mental illness, such as that it is related to morals weakness, bad parenting, and/or volition.”[6] Dr. Girgis seeks to help believers understand that mental illnesses are biological in nature, not necessarily a result of sin on behalf of the individual.

A third strength of the book is its accessibility. I am about a month away from completing a Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling, and in the coursework,  we are required to read many works in the fields of psychology and counseling. Thus, I was familiar with the terms and literature connected with Dr. Girgis’ field. However, the average layman (or, woman) would be able to pick up his book and read it with comprehension. He provides helpful definitions of a variety of terms and illnesses. For example, on page 17, he provides this definition of disorganized speech, as “is an abnormal thought process.” He then proceeds to provide several clarifying statements. He follows this method throughout his book.

A fourth strength is his inclusion of biblical references. In his 112-page book, Dr. Girgis devotes eight chapters to examining specific passages of Scripture. Then, two other chapters have many references to the Word of God.

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This work offers several examinations of the Biblical texts.

A fifth and final strength is his desire to help individuals understand that mental illnesses are not the result of sin but are biological phenomena. He writes, “These misconceptions often prevent Christian believers with serious mental illness and their families from seeking professional mental health treatment when it is most needed. In many cases, they do not accept psychiatric medications as they would medications for non-psychiatric conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.” Many Christians completely reject this thesis, and this ultimately harms many who have biological problems causing mental disorders.

Weaknesses of the Book

While I thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Girgis’ book, and as a whole, found it helpful, there are a few issues I have. First, Dr. Girgis, in his effort to reexamine Scripture, ultimately questions it. To his credit, he frequently reminds his readers that his view does not deny the miracle, it merely enhances it. He writes, “I would suggest that this additional understanding [i.e., that mental illness was the problem afflicting individuals that are described as ‘demon-possessed’] actually enhances our understanding of these miracles and, more importantly, of how we would understand serious mental illness.”[7] He routinely returns to this idea.[8] Why is this a weakness?

I see it as a weakness because it denies the literal understanding of the Bible. The authors of Scripture know what mental illness is (which Dr. Girgis acknowledges in chapter 3).[9] Thus, the writers of the Bible were familiar with it, and if the individuals possessed by demons, or individuals afflicted with depression (such as Saul), our response should be to believe them, to take them at their word. By seeking to view the Scriptures through post-Enlightenment eyes, he inadvertently, regardless of claims otherwise, calls doubt to God’s Word.

A second weakness is a failure to acknowledge the effects of sin on the mind. I agree that Christians must change the way they view mental illness. In fact, this is a strength. However, it appears that he dismisses the potential that spiritual issues can cause mental illness. For example, in Saul’s case, he routinely rejected God’s Word. After a terrible verdict of judgment, he begins to experience the afflictions of “an evil spirit.”[10] Saul’s rebellion brought about this tormenting spirit. This, no doubt, increased his hatred for David as well as contributed to his psychotic behavior. Likewise, the curses pronounced in Deuteronomy 28:28, God uses these distresses as judgments against sin.

A third weakness is an inconsistent and honest exegesis of Scripture. I mentioned one part of this in the first weakness, but I want to address another aspect of that. Dr. Girgis sets out to perform an overview of angelic power and abilities in the Scripture. After examining or referencing five passages, he concludes, “Therefore, Satan, or any angel or other spiritual being, has no power over Creation, or humankind, who was actually given dominion over Creation by God…These statements indicate that angels, in general, do not have power over Creation and have barely more power than humans.”[11] This is simply not true. Angels are incredibly powerful beings. A look at most systematic theologies will provide ample references to prove this. The writer of Kings dismisses this by writing, “That night the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp.”[12] This does not sound like they “have barely more power than humans.” Along the same lines, Dr. Girgis completely dismisses the clarify of Scripture concerning the possession of Judas.[13]

A fourth weakness, though similar to weaknesses one and three, is that he fails to interpret Scripture in a cohesive manner. For example, the Bible clearly teaches mental illness exists (see Deuteronomy 28:27-28, 34). However, in the Gospels something changes. This is a weakness.

Who should read this book?

Pastors and church leaders should read this book. It is helpful because he brings awareness to the biological issues related to mental illnesses. I think it will help open their eyes to the fact that we live in fallen bodies, and many in our churches are afflicted, not with spiritual issues, but with the physical fallenness of life.

I think Christians, in general, should read this book. It is accessible and clear. Keep in mind the weaknesses, and you will enjoy this book and expand your view of mental illness.

[1] Dr. Girgis declares his faith on page 11.

[2] Girgis, On Satan, Demons, and Psychiatry, 3.

[3] Ibid., 5.

[4] Ibid., 7.

[5] Ibid., 13.

[6] Ibid., 13.

[7] Ibid., 8.

[8] See, for example, pages 30, 45, 46, 48-49, just to name a few.

[9] See Deuteronomy 28:27-28, 34.

[10] 1 Samuel 16:14, NIV.

[11] Exodus 17, Job, Genesis 3, Revelation 12:7-9, and Hebrews 2:5, 7-8; Girgis, On Satan, 81.

[12] 2 Kings 19:35, NIV.

[13] Girgis, On Satan, 86.

 

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

Book Review: “The Faithful Spy” by John Hendrix

John Hendrix, The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler (Amulet Books, 2018), 172 pages.

 

I first heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer while driving home from work one evening. His story intrigued me, so I went and purchased my first biography of him. It was written by Eberhard Bethge, one of Bonhoeffer’s students and close friend. The massive work was thoroughly enjoyable! I wanted to learn more, so I purchased some more biographies, books written by Bonhoeffer, and even works that address his theological views.

With that said, Bonhoeffer can be an overwhelming figure. Regardless of your agreements with his theological views, the man was blessed with an incredible intellect. His entire family stood at the top of most of their fields. Add to that the enormous conflict that was World War II, and Bonhoeffer becomes similar to Mt. Everest, only a few brave people can climb its height.

That is where John Hendrix’s work comes in. He writes at the end of the work, “This story is not primarily a work of scholarship but a work of art.” (170) He is right. It is a work of art. The graphic pictures, stark color contrasts, and handwritten font all give a glimpse at his ability. More than simply a work of art, however, is the story of one of the most influential pastor-theologians of our time. Add to this the discussions of world events, particularly within Germany, and you have Hendrix’s work.

Several positive aspects are worth noting. First, I love the art work. Many of the pictures display exquisite detail. Hendrix uses 3-4 shades of colors, which is easy on the eyes. The story of Hitler’s rise to power, Bonhoeffer’s inner conflict, and the actions of many Germans can be read from the artwork alone. Another great asset to the work is the font. It is handwritten, which I loved! It changes from all capitals to regular print. The colors, size, and placement of the font is varied as well. Each page provides a new layout for the reader’s eyes, and yet the consistent use of color schemes and font give a holistic feel to the book. One final aspect worth mentioning is the story itself. I am amazed at how Hendrix gives such an excellent overview of Germany, WWII, and Bonhoeffer. I could never author such a work! After reading Bethge’s 933 pages, I cannot imagine dwindling it down to 167 pages! Yet, Hendrix does so without leaving out any key details.

This work would be excellent for the average individual. It is also helpful for the scholar. Most importantly, it is great for anyone wanting to know history and how pastors can have influence in the community at large.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

Book Review: “Whole Identity: A Brain-Based Enneagram Model for (W)Holistic Human Thriving”

Dr. Jerome D. Lubbe, Whole-Identity: A Brain-Based Enneagram Model for (W)Holistic Human Thriving (Dr. Jerome D. Lubbe, 2019), 101 pages.

I have spent the past few days working through Dr. Jerome D. Lubbe’s work Whole-Identity: A Brain-Based Enneagram Model for (W)Holistic Human Thriving. I was intrigued to receive the name of the work, and having dabbled in personality tests for a few years (thanks to a dear friend and mentor), I thought I would give it a read.

OVERVIEW

The work seeks to build upon the Enneagram model from a neuroscience perspective. The goal is to utilize the Enneagram model for “integrating physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual growth through the universal common denominator of brain function.” (under disclaimer) The overarching idea, weaved throughout the entire work, is to achieve wholeness. That goal is kept at the forefront, as Dr. Lubbe discusses the historical development of the Enneagram, its functions, its tests, and its practical applications.

The basic structure of the work follows under seven headlines (there are actually eight, but the final section is for suggested resources). The first section addresses the acknowledgements and disclaimers that any work of this type would necessitate. The second section explains and develops the history and growth of the Enneagram. The third section provides an explanation of the nine numbers, their natures, their wings, and their relative descriptions. The fourth section provides a practical example of how to figure one’s scores and understand their meaning. The fifth section provides incredibly practical ways to develop and enhance the individual’s nine numbers. The sixth section illustrates the lifelong development as a whole individual. The seventh section encourages further research for the Brain-Based Enneagram model and understanding.

STRENGTHS

  1. The first strength of the work is its accessibility.

    I do not have a science degree, yet I found the descriptions completely within my grasp. There are times when I read academic works, and it is an intense labor. Dr. Lubbe provides the language and understanding for the average individual to grasp.

  2. The second strength is its beauty.

    There is an inherent beauty to the work. The book itself displays varied pictures and icons for understanding It is graphically pleasing. But more than that, there is a beauty for self-improvement. I always strive to be better, and this book helps break down the Enneagram model in a way that provides an encouraging push in that direction.

  3. The third strength is its practicality.

    Many times, works such as Dr. Lubbe’s exist in a heavenly realm, unreachable to the average person. There is a difficulty when producing works as academics. The difficulty comes with bringing the knowledge to a level on which the average individual can consume it, but also with regards to how one can use that information for one’s life. Dr. Lubbe provides a step-by-step guide, giving examples and even providing a blank template to develop one’s Enneagram’s identity. The action steps he offers (section five) are all practical.

WEAKNESSES

Perhaps the greatest weakness of Dr. Lubbe’s work is its lack of Christian foundation. As a Christian, I seek to bring every thought under the Lordship of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). I understand that Dr. Lubbe is not writing from a conservative Christian standpoint, but I am evaluating his work upon it. Thus, the failure to include a treatment of one’s standing before God limits the wholeness that is sought.

Another weakness of the work is its view of the history of the Enneagram model. Though it is certainly not written from an academic standpoint, it would be nice for there to be more and clearer information regarding the development of the Enneagram. (For a treatment of this from a conservative Christian standpoint, see Kevin DeYoung’s blog post on the topic.)

LAST WORDS

With the strengths and weaknesses briefly evaluated, I think it is a fascinating tool. I have personally benefited from studying my own and others’ personalities. This, as I see its usefulness, helps bridge out that study into the way the brain relates to the personality. If you are interested, grab a copy of it. Let me know what you think, what you found helpful and/or dangerous, and how you would use it in your life.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

Atonement and the New Perspective: A Review

Atonement and the New Perspective: The God of Israel, Covenant, and the Cross by Stephen Burnhope, published by Pickwick Publications, Eugene, OR: 2018; 245 pages

Who should read it?

Burnhope’s work is highly technical, so it may not be for the average reader. However, for the individual desiring a broad treatment of the main contributors to the discussion of the atonement, particularly from the evangelical perspective (see pages xiii-xv). Burnhope also works within a reformed worldview (though he does not clarify this in detail, see page ix), so it appeals to that audience as well.

Overall, the pastors who consider theology a vital component of their work would do well to read it. Though they may not agree with all of Burnhope’s conclusions (I myself do not), Burnhope presents an excellent overview of a variety of contributors to the discussion of atonement.

Physical Book

The book is laid out in a readable manner. The type and spacing provide ease on the eyes. The size of the text is perfect. It is not too large, nor is it too small. The footnote size is excellent as well. The book also includes a margin in which many notes can be marked. The binding allows it to lay flat, which enables easier study.

The Contents of the Book

Stephen Burnhope begins the book by discussing, at some length (xi-xxx), the atonement and the accompanying issues. By presenting an argument for a kaleidoscopic view, Burnhope attempts to broaden current scholarship’s understanding while not neglecting the Scriptures.

Chapter one covers the doctrine of the atonement (pages 1-53). Burnhope provides many materials, quotes, and questions on the past and present understanding of the atonement. He offers attention to the main contributors. I personally found this section very informative (I underlined on almost every page!).

Chapter two addresses the NPP concerning first century Judaism. This section requires a little more focus due to the broadness and unspecified descriptions of the NPP. As with his treatment of the atonement at large, Burnhope provides an airplane view of the main contributors of the NPP. Perhaps the most significant part of this chapter begins on 137 when Burnhope asks, “At what point, ten, can it be said that ‘everything changed’ and an identifiable ‘Christianity’ becomes separate and distinct from an identifiable ‘Judaism’?”

Chapter three focuses on the atonement in the NPP. This section, at least to me, is the hardest to read because of the technicality as well as the refocus. Dealing the election, the covenant, and supersessionist/non-supersessionist

The final chapter provides a way to maintain a conversation with the variety of atonement views. By emphasizing the atonement, sin and the reinterpretation of them all.

Concluding Thoughts

I do not agree with Burnhope’s conclusions, but I appreciate the peaceful nature and discussion I could have with Burnhope through his work. I also think pastors should read this because it covers a wide spectrum concerning atonement.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

“The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke” Review

“The father never found his daughter or laid eyes on his granddaughter again. They, and the entire colony for which he was responsible, vanished from history.” (xx)

Such is the beginning of The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and The Search for The Lost Colony of Roanoke, written by Andrew Lawler. Historians and researchers have long pondered the disappearance of the Colony of Roanoke. Lawler details the events and figures leading up to the founding of the colony in part one of the book (chapters 1-4). Lawler’s research and footnotes are balanced with a winsome depiction of the events leading up to the Colony of Roanoke. While following the conquests of European and Spanish conquistadors, Lawler focuses his attention on the famous (or infamous) Sir Walter Raleigh. He also paints beautiful landscapes in the minds of the readers as they embark on their own voyagers. Lawler also contrasts the generosity of the Native Americans with the greediness of the colonists.

Part two shifts from a look at history to a National Treasure search for the lost colony. Lawler tracks his research for seven chapters. From conversations to fellow-researchers, to voyages to strange towns, Lawler weaves his own search on the backs of White and others. Part three continues the trek through this search, where Lawler continues to meet new people, getting more clues and seemingly no closer to the answer. Does Andrew Lawler discover the Lost Colony of Roanoke? Does all his research pay-off? You will have to buy the book and learn for yourself!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.