Now and then we like to share about some of the books we’ve been reading. Here’s a gathering of reviews by our staff member Sparky Strickler:
Greg Carey Sinners: Jesus and His Earliest Followers. Baylor University Press, 2009.
This book is about how the early church understood themselves, and what the surrounding dominate cultures thought of them. It’s an important identification to retrieve, especially in an age of gilded and sterile crosses. This book helps us get an understanding of how an early follower understood the shame of the cross, and how unsavory this new mystery religion from the east was typically received. “These followers are crazy, especially in light of their weird, secret gatherings. They’re cannibals who drink blood and follow a leader who was killed on a cross as a seditionist.”
I found this a provocative read.
John Howard Yoder Nonviolence: A Brief History, The Warsaw Lectures. Baylor University Press, 2010.
A great series of lectures offering, as the subtitle claims, a short history into the nonviolent movement. What I found refreshing was that Yoder didn’t have anything to say regarding the Mennonite or Anabaptist traditions. He nonetheless offers a widespread, ecumenical approach to the history he presents. He recognizes Tolstoy’s importance as well as Gandhi’s and Martin Luther King Jr.’s (and offers perhaps his fullest dealing with King). But he goes further recognizing Jewish nonviolence; deals with Jesus’ witness to nonviolence; and ends with several lectures that deal with the Catholic Church’s reinvestment into the issue of nonviolence. The last couple generations have seen this reinvestment rise with Dorothy Day, the Berrrigans , and James Douglass. But Yoder also recognizes that nonviolence has been present in Catholic scholarly works even longer than the more popular movements just mentioned. His last lecture deals with the nonviolent movement in Latin America.
Richard E Oster Jr. Seven Congregations In A Roman Crucible: A Commentary on Revelation 1-3. Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2013.
A very insightful and necessary historical commentary on the first three chapters of Revelation. Oster Jr. has the background to interpret the chapters historically by using historical, archeological, and cultural data to help one enter John’s world of first century Asia Minor. He thinks, and I agree with him (specifically concerning the first three chapters), that Rev. 1-3 must be understood historically. That is that the chapters (and Revelation as a whole) were understandable to the addressed congregations in chapter 2 & 3.
However, I also think that he understates the importance of the mindset (which was also historical in the churches of Asia Minor) that Paul captures for us in Eph. 1:10 and Col. 1:15-20. Not to mention the thinking on the pre-history captured for us in John 1:1-4, and that the prophecy is to be understood to speak to the church in its present setting. Oster’s insights are nonetheless important to understand when dealing with the prophecy of John’s Revelation.
Richard Twiss One Church Many Tribes. Regal, 2000.
Richard was a Lokota/Sioux. His captivating book weaves through myths, legends, vignettes from history, Biblical principles, and intriguing personal stories in offering the church guidance in cross-cultural applications for a diversified and global world. And he does so in a reconciling manner that fully honors the diversity throughout the first nations of a post-colonial world. His vision is one that understands the importance and necessity of dialogue between Christianity and the ancestral religions/philosophies of first nation people. Not just the first nations of North America but for peoples throughout the world. Such dialogues can be informative for both the church and the first nation people.
Koo Dong Yun. The Holy Spirit and Ch’i (Qi): A Chiological Approach to Pneumatology [Princeton Theological Monograph series] Pickwick Publications, 2012.
This book continues the first nations dialogue with Christianity (see the above review of Richard Twiss’ One Church Many Tribes). Yun offers a dialogue on Pneumatology from an East Asian point of view. He (as a Korean) understands the Spirit from the East Asian point of view that is that is rooted in I Ching and Tai Ch’I. He dialogues with Barth, Pannenberg, Moltmann, and Harvey Cox, and offers a good introduction into the filioque debate and traditional Western theological perspectives on the Holy Spirit. The result is an exciting interaction between the Bible, traditions of the West, and experiences of the Spirit rooted in East Asian cultures. He argues that the formal, universally equivocal, and archetypical manifestations of the Holy Spirit (the Spirit’s general patterns and tendencies) are present and active in all cultures. However, he observes that the material dimensions of the Holy Spirit only became embodied through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and only became fully embodied for Christians at Pentecost (and continues to be embodied through the charisms given to the church). In making his case, he mediates a creative balance between countercultural and exclusivist models on the one hand and pluralistic and anthropocentric models on the other.
Robin Wall Kimmerer Braiding Sweetgrass Milkweed Editions, 2013
An interesting, fun, and informative read. Kimmerer has a PhD in Botany and teaches plant ecology. She is also a Potawamomi Indian (natives from around the Detroit area). She is a poet who weaves traditional Native American knowledge and scientific knowledge into wonderful and informative stories. I also recommend the book as it of offers a good representative introduction into traditional Native American culture and thought from which we must learn.
Jurgen Moltmann. The Spirit of Life. Fortress Press, 2001
An excellent study of the Spirit that goes beyond the static thinking of traditional approaches to the subject. He makes an interesting study of Yahweh’s ruach (tempest, wind, breath; which is feminine) and Yahweh’s debar (word; which is masculine). This opens up a whole new partnership between the two concepts, for both are necessary to bring creation into existence. As Moltmann suggests this is more of a description of Yahweh’s life-energy force. This resembles what Robin Ward Kimmerer in Braiding Sweetgrass (see above critique) writes about. This life-energy force goes way beyond the human realm.