I have been re-reading NT Wright’s chapter on the “The Surprise of Resurrection” in Jesus: the final days, where he corrects some doubtful christian ideas about the resurrection, and offers reasons why we should regard the gospel accounts as basically historical.
This is possibly the most revolutionary, revelatory and important book about the church and mission I have ever read.
If you are interested in how the 21st century church can become a missionary community in first world countries, this book can teach us new ways, and inspire us to new efforts.
If you are tired of the church life that you have inhabited for years, and want something new, effective and Jesus-focused, check out this book.
I learned so much from it. Ideas I have had were confirmed in it. I was inspired by it.
Read on to find out why.
You can find a lot of different views on the internet about the accuracy of Old Testament history and how archaeology does, or doesn’t, support the Old Testament accounts. Minimalist historians, and internet sceptics, will tell you it’s almost all invented myth, while maximalist historians and christian apologists will tell you that archaeology supports the truth of the entire Bible.
How does an honest seeker after the truth find a way between the conflicting extremes to a fair understanding?
The best way, it seems to me, is to read an expert who is as unbiased as possible, with a slight leaning towards the sceptical. That way, I can be reasonably confident that anything the expert tells me is likely to be accurate, and maybe a little more besides.
So it was with these expectations that I purchased and read William Dever’s Beyond the Texts: An Archaeological Portrait of Ancient Israel and Judah. And it lived up to my hopes.
I have learnt so much that has helped me make better sense of the gospels and of my faith (although I am certainly not claiming to be like Maria in the Counting Crows song, Round Here, who says she is “close to understanding Jesus”!)
Let me tell you why I am so enthused.
Disarming Scripture by Derek Flood
The Old Testament world was a violent place.
For a christian, the most troubling violence is surely that said to be commanded by God, whether it be Abraham being commanded to sacrifice his son and heir Isaac, Joshua commanded to exterminate Canaanites who are unfortunate enough to be living in the “Promised Land”, the command through Elisha that Jehu should kill all the family of the line of Ahab (Joram, Jezebel and all their relatives), or many other incidents.
Christians must face the challenge: if God commanded these killings, how can we say he is loving?
This book addresses the question of violence attributed to God in the Bible, and how that can be consistent with the non-violent teachings of Jesus. And it comes with recommendations from no lesser luminaries than Walter Brueggemann, Brian McLaren, Peter Enns, Jim Wallis and Brian Zahnd.
I am currently re-reading Chasing the Dragon, Jackie Pullinger’s remarkable story of “life and death in Kowloon Walled City”. It tells how the lives of thousands of poor and addicted Hong Kong residents were dramatically changed as they were miraculously healed of heroin addiction.
It also speaks to me of how God can use an unusual person who is willing to risk following the way of Jesus.
Some books on Jesus and the New Testament are clearly apologetic in nature, seeking to argue or defend a certain viewpoint, whether it be sceptical or believing.
Other books clearly aim at being academic, impartial, seeking to advance academic opinion.
This book, which is almost a decade old, is kind of both. I have only recently read it, and I think it is worthy of a review.
You wouldn’t even try to count the number of books written about Jesus. Most of them would have value, I guess, but some are long and scholarly, others lack a good historical basis.
But here’s one that is short, written by a respected historian and is encouraging to faith. What’s not to like?
It is the best introductory book about Jesus I have read. I think you’ll find it helpful and stimulating, and you’ll want to lend it out. Here’s why.
I wonder what comes into your mind when you read the word “Anabaptist”? Or the word “Mennonite”?
Perhaps, like me until a few years ago, you might remember these words from the time of the Reformation, when Anabaptists were a loose collection of idealistic “fringe” christians persecuted by Catholics and Protestants alike for the “sin” of baptising adult converts. And weren’t Mennonites serious people wearing funny clothes who appeared in a film with Harrison Ford ? No wait, they were Amish.
In fact the Mennonites are a denomination that is often very contemporary, and Anabaptist thinking is being seen by many as cutting edge and very relevant to today’s word, as this book, A Living Alternative, shows.