Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Inductive Bible Study - Richard Alan Fuhr, Jr. and Andreas J. Kostenberger

Looking for a book that will give you good guidelines for studying the Bible well? Inductive Bible Study by Richard Alan Fuhr Jr. and Andreas J. Kostenberger is a good resource on the topic. As the authors of this book explain, God chose to reveal His will to us through His written Word, rather than through personal revelation/new revelation.  He chose that it would be learned progressively with effort rather than instantly without any work on our part. We should revere God's choice method of conveying the knowledge of Him that He wants us to have and His will that is revealed through this collection of holy documents.  Fuhr and Kostenberger take you through a series of steps that will assist you in reverently discovering and handling what God's Word says with accuracy and reverence.

The steps you are taken through range from: comparing English Bible translations, Asking the right questions of the text, using commentaries, word studies, practicing discernment and of course, one of the most important steps of all, recognizing the importance of context and authorial intent.  It is pointed out that, "Those who read the Bible with little awareness of surrounding context often do so because they have been trained (by example) to think through Scripture in terms of devotional nuggets, memorizing verses and reading for inspirational insight rather than interpretive understanding."  Context is emphasized strongly, and related to that, I very much appreciate the cautions about word studies (though they are still encouraged),  where it is made clear that when studying individual words or phrases in a passage, it should be remembered that the meaning of those words will ultimately be discerned through the surrounding context of the phrase, not just their bare lexical meaning, "contextual meaning will always take precedence over lexical meaning."

The authors write very well, are easy to understand and the steps in each section are outlined in charts, which helps with remembering and simplifying what one has learned.  They give illustrations to demonstrate hermeneutical errors, some of which I found sadly amusing. For example, Fuhr talks about a missionary conference that he once attended where the theme verse was Joel 3:14, the verse was used as a reference to people ready to make a decision for Christ, but when one looks at the surrounding context of the verse, the 'decision' referenced in the verse is referring to God's decision to bring judgment on the nations, not salvation! 

They recommend many study resources (look for these in the footnotes as well), and also provide demonstrations of the inductive method by using it on various texts of the Scripture.  Being 'doers of the Word' and not merely 'hearers' of it is also stressed.  They make the interesting argument that, "While the Holy Spirit is certainly capable of providing interpretive insight, we'd suggest that illumination has more to do with appropriation than interpretation."  In other words, the work of the Holy Spirit is more seen in the Christian's personal application of the truths of Scripture to their life than by their coming to the correct conclusion as to the meaning of any given section of Scripture (though this is very important of course).  They do clarify that not all texts of the Scripture are necessarily directed at 'doing', some texts give us more knowledge about the God whom we serve by obedience to His will (by the enablement of the Spirit).  But both are a part of what we glean from our Bible study: knowledge of God and His will, and then living in light of the revealed truth. 

I want to mention two more things, first, ironically I must admit that I disagreed with some of their conclusions on the interpretation of some example texts (I will probably take another look at them), but the authors themselves encourage the reader to not be afraid to disagree with a Bible commentator if one thinks (by means of correct hermeneutics of course) that a they are not interpreting a text correctly.  Also, the authors kept using female pronouns when speaking of any given Bible studier, which terminology was rather tough to get used to (despite being a female myself) and was rather distracting.  I think that using male pronouns would be more in keeping with the Bible's teaching of male headship and of woman being taken from man in the creation rather than vice-versa. it simply seems more biblical to have any given person referred to with masculine pronouns rather than having a male read feminine pronouns and apply them to himself.  I understand that our culture is very concerned about gender inclusiveness, but this book is primarily directed at Christians, most of whom would (or at least should) have already come to grips with the primarily masculine pronouns of the Bible, especially those that, though masculine, refer to both male and females. To me it's like someone using the term "womankind" to refer to both males and females, instead of 'mankind'.  I am just not comfortable with it.

But overall, I really liked this resource, and would recommend it to pretty much Christian looking for an aid to accurately studying the Word of God.


Many thanks to the folks at B&H publishers for sending me a free review copy of this book (My review did not have to be favorable).

My Rating:  *****
Five out of Five Stars

Here are a couple of the websites where this book may be purchased:  Amazon.com and christianbook.com

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Good Place to Hide - Peter Grose

A Good place to Hide:  How One French Community Saved Thousands of Lives During World War II by Peter Grose is quite an interesting account.  This French Community, mainly of Le Chambon but also other communities around the same area, was made up of various unique people, many (perhaps most) of whom helped saved Jews in one way or another.  One of the most intriguing things about this rescue operation is that it was apparently not organized into one big operation, and no one was ultimately in charge. 

Generally, I have focused on reading biographies, and have found that focusing on the life of one person was more interesting to me than general history.  But more recently I have become very intrigued with histories that deal with historical events from the perspective of many of the people who experienced and participated in those events.  Take a group of people and stick them in a particular tragic event or perilous time and what do they do? How do they act? Will they be brave or cowardly? Will they be selfish or selfless?

This book focuses on people living ,working in or through  "the upper reaches of the Loire Valley", a plateau in France.  The time period is that of world war ii, with Nazi Germany ultimately taking over France, at first, only ruling half of France (though in reality they ruled the other half by means of the French Vichy government which gave into Nazi ideals) and eventually ruling the whole.   The people on the Plateau end up being known as those who would take in Jews and other people fleeing the ramifications of Nazi rule.    Many of these people were not natives of that part of France (and some were not Frenchmen at all), but they all end up in that particular spot.

  There are multiple characters in this history:  Andre Trocme is a protestant pastor and ardent pacifist who ends up very involved in the saving of Jewish refugees, all while trying to keep the community from using violent means to attack the enemy.  Simone Mairesse loses her husband in the war, and instead of giving in to grief and despair desires to be active in opposing the enemy.  Andre Trocme and his wife provide her with an occupation (non-violent by the way):  helping to save (particularly Jewish) refugees, which she agrees to do and becomes a key source in finding safe houses that would take in Jews.  Oscar Rosowsky, a young Jewish man who wants to be a doctor but who is denied that occupation because of his Jewishness, and ends up becoming a document forger instead (doing his work while also having a false identity himself of course). These are just a few of the individuals who make up a part of this history.

There are joyful moments, such as when raids on houses are foiled in their attempts to round up Jews.  There are funny moments, such as when a lady who is about to be arrested pretends to be insane, or when you find out that one of the methods used to disguise Jews  and get them to safety was to dress them up as boy scouts…even older men!  And there are also sad moments, and ironic moments, one of those being when you learn that a Jewish mother and her son are hidden separately in the same village without those who are hiding them knowing that they are related to each other.  The neat thing about all of this is that this is that all of these things really happened, these were real people, not actors, these were truly scary times dealt with in real time, in real situations.

Reading history as a Christian makes it even more intriguing for me, especially as I am a premillennialist (believe that the Bible teaches that there is a future mass salvation of Jews and that all of those Jews will end up back in the promised land), and so I think that it is exciting to see how God sovereignty used various people, places and events to thwart Hitler's plan to exterminate all Jews.   The people working on and through this French Plateau were some of those means, and their 'story' is quite enthralling.

Many Thanks to the folks at Pegasus Books for sending me a free review copy of this book!  - My review did not have  to be positive, I truly did like this book.  

My Rating:  5 out of 5 stars 
*****

Just a quick note:  Being a book of history, there is a little bit of foul language (as of course, people swore and blasphemed back then too).  But it is easily scribbled out and/or passed over while reading out loud (as I did when I read it with my younger sister).

Here are a couple (there are more of course) of websites where this book may be purchased:  Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

When a Nation Forgets God - By Erwin Lutzer

When a Nation Forgets God: 7 Lessons We Must Learn From Nazi Germany by Erwin Lutzer, compares the things that started Germany on the path to becoming Nazi Germany to things that are happening in America.  The path that Germany took  turns  out to be eerily similar to the one America is taking. 

The Germans wanted a political savior.  Along came Hitler to fix the economy, take care of their children, and protect them from  dangerous things and people(which in their view included Jews). They wanted someone who would make them feel patriotic again and proud of their country rather than humiliated as they felt after World War one.  Hitler came along and did just that. 

Many Christian went right along with it, and patriotism began to be substituted for Christianity, especially as Hitler couched patriotism in a Christian light.  There was "positive Christianity" and a movement called, "God believers" where people could find that the state could be a good substitute for the church in many (or all) aspects of life.

I think that the parallels between the Germany of the 1930s-40s and America today are fascinating and instructive, and that we truly can learn lessons from the past.  I just have a bit of a problem with Lutzer saying that, "We need to develop a 'theology of civil disobedience' ; that is, we need to think through this question:  When do we tolerate the curtailment of our freedoms and at what point should we speak and act? "  To me that statement seems along the lines of saying that wives need to develop a "theology of disobedience to husbands", or saying that children need to develop a "theology of disobedience to parents".  I wish that Lutzer had worded that differently.  Though I agree, of course, that there is a place for disobeying government if that government tells us to deny Christ, worship other gods, or have abortions to control the numbers of the population…etc.  these things go against God's Word.   

Also, Lutzer seems to view Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a martyr for the cause of Christianity. Though I do believe he was a Christian, I do not see historical evidence that he was killed because he was a Christian.  Lutzer himself says that Bonhoeffer would, "eventually become a martyr for his part in a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler."  I do not know if one can make a legitimate biblical case for assassinating a leader whom God has put over you.  We need to remember that Nero (who was a pretty horrible and murderous man) was in charge when Paul wrote, "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God." (Romans 13:1).  We know that this does not mean that we obey them when they go against God's law, but I do not see that we can gain a biblical validation for making the murder of any political governor whom God has placed over us into a Christian act- no matter how bad the man is.  This is probably not the idea that Lutzer meant to convey, I just felt as though I needed to address it. 

Anyway, I do think that this is an interesting book overall, and I especially like how Lutzer points out that we do not need to "win" the ideological battles with our culture (thought we certainly do try), our homeland isn't here anyway. God's ultimate rule and victory is sure, though we need not see it now.  We need to stand firm and obey God rather than man if man tells us to disobey God. 

To me this book seemed like an abridgment of Lutzer's other book, "Hitler's Cross", which I liked quite well.  I would recommend reading that book if you would like a fuller look into the Nazi Germany and modern America comparison, especially in its dealing in more detail with how corrupt churches became in Nazi Germany and how politicized, eventually losing any of the true Christianity they ever exhibited.


Many thanks to the folks at Moody Publishers for sending me a free review copy of this book (My review did not have to be favorable).

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars 
****

A couple of the websites (there are more of course) where you may purchase this book are christianbook.com and Amazon.com

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

KJV Journal the Word Bible (Large Print)

The KJV Journal the Word Bible (Large Print) is a Bible designed for those who like to write notes in their Bibles.  The text is laid out in one column on each page and next to the column of text is a ruled margin for writing  (or as is also advertised: for creating art - but I don't necessarily recommend that). 

The paper is very easy to write on with pen and pencil (I like how the pen just glides along the page).  The Bible when opened really does lay quite flat, which also helps in writing neatly.  It would be useful in writing particular exegetical comments down, noting insights from your pastor and perhaps noting other translations of particular verses.  I don't think that there is enough room to write notes on each verse on any given page,  but one normally doesn't write a lot when noting things in a regular Bible, just the things that really capture our attention and that we want to remember to associate with the text.

 I kind of wish that they would have put the writing space at the bottom of the page (as study Bibles do with commentary) instead of next to the Biblical text.  It would help with organization: one could just write a tiny number next to whatever verse a particular note pertains to and place the same number next to the handwritten commentary below for reference sake.  It  wouldn't be quite as distracting as having one's own notes right next to the text that do not necessarily pertain to the verses one is reading at the moment (as one's notes can take several lines down the side of the page and thus seem to encompass several verses). 

But I still think that this is a pretty handy Bible to have if you like taking notes in your Bible already, and you could just do the drawing arrows to the verse method of pointing out which particular verse you are commenting on. Or I suppose the numbers reference method might still work in this format as well.

The version I have is a hardcover, but there are several other editions as well (including leather), and also other translations.

 My Rating: four out of five stars
**** 


I received a free review copy of this book from The BookLook Bloggers Program (My review did not have to be favorable). 

A couple  (of the many) websites where you may purchase this Bible are Amazon.com and Christianbook.com