I'm a graphic designer turned pastor (or vice versa) living in Blacksburg, Virginia. Fantasy footballer, husband, dad, tech geek, blogger (www.journeyguy.com) and author.
Once again, Patrick Lencioni's formula for communicating simple management and sociological truths works. In Three Signs, he spins a believable tale about a manager whom Lecioni makes personal for the reader. It's such an engaging story that before you're done, you're nodding in agreement as he says the three signs are:
in the last short section of the book, he unpacks each sign and explains why even a high salary or prestigious job can be miserable if these are present.
This is an easy and quick read. But it does a great job of pointing out the need for Christians to live in true obedience and relationship to God 24/7, rather than simply attending church services on Sunday. The sad fact is, as Jeff pointed out, that our communitites would be impacted more by the closing of Wal-Mart than by the closing of a church. The book was witty and easy to relate to (I've had days that resulted in several trips to Wal-Mart and I have my favorite sections). By the end of the book, I was challenged to examine my relationships, activities and priorities in an effort to make sure I am living as I should.
Each year, I try to do research and reading related to the ongoing
conversation debate between proponents of evolutionary theory and those of biblical creationism. I can easily say that it is a constantly evolving dialogue battle. John Walton's 2009 release of The Lost World of Genesis One steps into that fray attempting to reconcile the scientific community with the metaphysical/spiritual community.
One of the reviewers of Walton's book said it was very readable. I'd like to add a caveat. While it attempts to provide an accessible understanding of the overall debate over origins and translation of the creation account in Genesis 1, it is dry. He does offer a few helpful and creative analogies throughout the book that seem to place the book on a "lower shelf" for those who may not read much in this area, but I'm not sure if he was really successful.
With that said, Walton's basic premise goes like this:
"If God were intent on making His revelation correspond to science, we have to ask which science. We are well aware that science is dynamic rather than static. By its very nature science is in a state of flux. If we were to say that God's revelation corresponds to "true science" we adopt an idea contrary to the very nature of science. What is accepted as true today, may not be accepted as true tomorrow, because what science provides is the best explanation of data at the time. This "best explanation" is accepted by consensus, and often with a few detractors... We gain nothing by bringing God's revelation into accordance with today's science. In contrast, it makes perfect sense that God communicated His revelation to His immediate audience in terms they understood."
Public education should be neutral regarding purpose of origins. Much of the animosity and ugliness of the warfare between idealogies is unnecessary, Walton says. If we could fairly admit when we are trying to teach/coerce about purpose behind origins - whether that evolution shows all is chance or intelligent design proves designer, we could better dialogue.
My overall assessment of the book goes like this: I didn't like the first half of the book - at all, but I thoroughly enjoyed the second half of the book.
The first half of the book is when Walton offers his novel interpretation of Genesis 1 as being a functional creation intended to culminate in God's cosmic temple. Walton spends far too much time comparing the biblical audience and culture with other ancient near Eastern cultures. His interpretation of Genesis 1 is thus weighted heavily toward how other cultures - and decidedly not biblical ones - thought about creation. He uses ancient creation documents to prove his point. My point, however, is that God was rewiring the Jews all along to think different (Steve Jobs should have been a big fan of that.) How an ancient culture thought is thoroughly difficult for us to interpret, but Walton has no problem doing so and then reading this interpretation into the biblical account of creation.
"I am not suggesting that the Israelites are borrowing from these ancient literatures." p78
His occasional statements like the one above can not account for the amount of authority that he gives to these other non-biblical sources. So, I was unconvinced with his reasoning and interpretation that he offered in the first half of the book.
However, the second half of the book, beginning with the chapter titled "Other Theories of Genesis 1 Either Go Too Far or Not Far Enough" is truly good. I'd encourage anyone to read from there to the end of the book. It is there that - regardless of his own interpretation of Genesis 1 - he offers extremely helpful thoughts and principles that could dramatically reshape the current angst over origins - both in the scientific community and in faith community (and they don't have to have a dichotomy).
He includes a chapter about how public educators should handle the teaching of origins that is sound, balanced and though it will make each opposing viewpoint uncomfortable, it does offer a way forward. Before offering five resolutions intended to provide a way forward, Walton says:
"...empirical science is not an education unto itself that can serve all the needs of society or that can serve as the sum of one's education. The physical sciences are only one branch of education, and we dare not isolate them from the humanities or elevate them as self-contained."
I was grateful for Walton's attempt to offer a work that brings together two worlds that seem diametrically opposed so often in the origins debate. He is unabashedly clear that whatever means God used for creation, God was the Creator, and He is the Sustainer of His creation. He believes in a literal Adam and Eve. If you buy into his interpretation, his work offers a way to read Genesis without casting aside the authority of scripture. I appreciated his final comments:
"We must not let our interpretations stand in place of Scripture's authority and thus risk misrepresenting God's revelation. We are willing to bind reason if our faith calls for belief where reason fails. But we are also people who in faith seek understanding."
My first book project came out in December as a self-published work through CrossBooks. It's had great reception - though among a very limited audience. You can click on the Amazon link and see the reviews there.
I'm looking for folks who might be willing to read and write a blog review and then post a portion of their review on the product page of Amazon, B&N and other book sites.
In a nut shell, the book is a Christian genre work that is a challenging yet light-hearted analogy of the American Christian church to Walmart. What can the church learn from Walmart - both positive and negative? Using wit, wisdom, and yes, stories from Walmart, the reader is encouraged to live a life of faith between Sundays - not just on special religious days.
Thanks in advance!
This is the third and final review of Paul Copan’s book Is God a Moral Monster? You can find the first two parts here and here. To sum it up, I can easily recommend Copan’s book to you. It’s chock full of helpful insights and context for some of the most stringent objections to the teachings, culture and imagined contradictions that most skeptics level against the Old Testament.
Copan deals in depth responding to criticisms of the Old Testament in areas like:
These are just a few of the topics Copan addresses. He does so by examining scripture in depth and in context. I was deeply appreciate of how he covered so much biblical material in a way that is both easily readable and understandable. His responses to critics were gracious, well-reasoned and constantly centered on the teachings of scripture. His sense of humor also shows through consistently in little comments here and there.
However, I was bothered by his consistent use of apologetic terms for the law of the Old Testament, known as the Mosaic law. Though the Old and New Testaments view of the scriptures is that they are inspired by God and “perfect,” Copan finds fault with the Old Testament law calling it “inferior,” “not ideal,” and “not perfect.”
Take these references:
- By the Old Testament’s own admission, the Mosaic law was inferior and future looking. (59)
- The law of Moses, though not ideal, presents a remarkable improvement when it comes to punishments. (121)
- Israel’s laws weren’t perfect, to be sure. But when we compare them to other ancient Near Eastern law codes…, the general impression noted by scholars is a range of… improvements in Israel.
To his credit, he did qualify these statements by saying the the Mosaic law was put in place to prepare humanity for the coming of Christ. It was only a babysitter, so to speak. However, Copan’s consistent use of terminology like the above erodes many of his arguments and appeals to the context of the scriptures.
It’s interesting that I read Copan’s book while I was in the process of reading through the Bible in a year. When read in context and chronologically, one can see the beauty, grace and perfection of God’s Word in the Old Testament. I agree with Copan that it is not the final word, but I am not willing to say it’s inferior or not ideal. It was the perfect Word for an imperfect people and culture that served perfectly to lead them to faith in a perfect God.
There were some sections that just radiated with power and brilliance. I found the section titled An Untamable God in chapter 17 particularly good.
"We sensitized Westerners wonder why God gets so angry with Israel… We live in a time when we’re very alert to racial discrimination and intolerance, but we aren’t as sensitized to sexual sin as past generations were. We live in a time that sees death as the ultimate evil. Perhaps, we need to be more open to the fact that some of our moral intuitions aren’t as finely tuned as they ought to be." (192)
I totally agree. I also think Copan should apply this idea of being overly sensitized to his own material when at times he seems too quick to apologize for the laws of Israel. It’s interesting that he quotes C.S. Lewis on the idea of chronological snobbery earlier in the book and then seems to set himself up to judge the Mosaic law (though not nearly as harshly as the critics he responds to) as inferior by modern culture’s own standard of morality.
Lewis said “the uncriticial acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that count discredited.”
There should be no need for us to apologize how God works in the past. There are many issues about God’s work that we simply can’t explain in a tidy, logical package. We don’t understand how His mysterious ways in our lives today, much less the past.
On the whole, Copan’s book is an excellent resources to respond to critics and provide believers with more understanding about difficult issues related to the Old Testament.
"Maybe the ideal “God” in the Westerner’s mind is just too nice. We’ve lost sight of good and just while focusing on nice, tame, and manageable. We’ve ignored sternness and severity (which makes us squirm; consider Romans 11.22), latching on to our own ideals of comfort and convenience. We’ve gotten rid of the God who presents a cosmic authority problem and substituted controllable gods of our own devising. We’ve focused on divine love at the expense of God’s anger at what ultimately destroys us or undermines our fundamental well-being." (193)