Daniel Rice – #Gospel : Life, Hope, and Truth for Generation Now

Using a hashtag (#) or meme aims to gain the attention of interested readers. A short span of attention, looking for keywords lead us to focus on what’s interesting. Daniel Rice tries the same with #Gospel: Life, Hope, and Truth for Generation Now. The good old gospel of God’s plan to restore the relationship with people cursed with sin and in need of a Saviour. God knows us and wants us to know Him, To that end, He provided His Word to make clear some very specific things that He wants us to know. The grand story of the Bible is packed with illustrations like Disney’s Frozen, the 2010 Copiaopó mining accident, and Robert Scott’s failed Antartic expedition.

Our self-centeredness, the idea of self-importance and admiration is challenged. We blame God for the mess we have made as a collective human race. God’s law ultimately exposes our undeniable need for a Savior. With the letter to the Romans as guidance, Daniel Rice explains our state of being, atonement, the need to be born again, and get embedded in a local church. It’s not a happily ever after because the author also copies Christ’s warnings of persecution and suffering while following the Way.

Rice succeeds to present the #Gospel in an accessible way, Hopefully, it stimulates to action and further reading in the Bible.

About the author

Daniel Rice is the founder of #Gospel, an organization created to bring the gospel to the current generation in a way that syncs with their culture and uniqueness. Before #Gospel, Daniel spent 10 years on staff with Calvary Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, working with small groups, young adults, and students. He and his wife Melissa have 5 children.

I received a free review copy from Barbour Publishing through Netgalley in exchange for my personal, unbiased review upon reading.

Kent Dobson – Bitten by a Camel: Leaving Church, Finding God

Kent Dobson climbed Mount Sinai in search of a sign or spoken word by God. Instead, his arm was bitten by a camel. It led in 2015 to step down from megachurch Mars Hill Bible Church, the one that founder Rob Bell left before Kent. Undoing and unlearning the way a particular group of evangelicals was born and bred in America, Dobson went on a path to leave the church, unload his spiritual camel in order to pass the needle’s eye and reconstruct a new kind of faith, settled in mystic and knowledge of not knowing God.

Bitten by a Camel: Leaving Church, Finding God may read like a shocking coming of age if preacher and pastor, youth minister and worship leader Kent Dobson was your example and poster child for your type of Christianity. His flirts with Judaism, Eastern Orthodox churches, and mystics may well be way off your comfort zone. The book can also serve as comfort for wanderers, fellow faithful Christians looking for God in unexpected places. For Dobson it meant not throwing everything away he learned as a Christian, although he perceives concepts like Trinity, literal resurrection, Rapture, End Times predictions, Moral Majority, 4-parts Bible Grand Story, and a Creation in 6 days as heavy packages in need to unload from his own camelback.

Life cannot be divided into a secular and spiritual life. God is everywhere and willing to dwell in everyone. Dobson recommends learning to trust your real life again. That may mean enjoying Radiohead’s OK Computer album more than the book of Psalms at times. “God will not show up if we’re good enough, right enough, spiritual enough, or somehow have the moral fortitude to ward off all ambiguity and messiness. God will not meet us on the top of a mountain, just because we make a big deal about going there,”

A lighter camel to ride on, traveling unknown paths, unbound by church perimeters or doctrines. On one hand, it sounds like a true liberation. On the other hand, accountability, trust to care for spiritual sheep, joining Christ’s body as living stones instead of walking away pondering the thought of the need for churches – even without a building or institutionalized organization – are core to faith and religion too.

About the author

Kent Dobson is the former teaching pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he initially served as the worship director. He’s also been a Religion teacher, scholar and has been featured on Biblical programs for the History Channel and the Discovery Channel. Kent lived and studied in Israel which expanded his world and helped unravel parts of his faith. He currently leads retreats and wilderness programs designed to cultivate human wholeness and pursue the perennial questions of the soul. He also guides pilgrimage adventures to Israel and occasionally speaks and lectures. Kent lives in Ada, Michigan, with his wife and three children. Bitten by a Camel reveals some behind-the-scenes of Mars Hill, and the true reason for him to step down as pastor in 2015.

I got a free review copy from the Fortress Press through Edelweiss in exchange for my personal, unbiased review upon reading.

Veli-Matti Karkkainen – Christian Understandings of the Trinity: The Historical Trajectory

Author Veli-Matti Karkkainen leads theology students and interested lay people along the trajectory that the doctrine of the divine Trinity made in Church history. It’s what basically distinguishes the Christian understanding of God as a Christian from the Jew, Muslim, Hindu, etc. in their respective religions or concepts of revelation. In Christian Understandings of the Trinity: The Historical Trajectory a three-part journey starts with the bishops and theologians that figuring out how to express as detailed possible the teaching of the New Testament and their experiences in the Spirit-led churches, where supernatural gifts, signs, and wonders were practices.

Is God, the Father of Jesus Christ, the same as JHWH that manifested himself in the Jewish scriptures? Is Jesus Christ God? And the Holy Spirit? Do Christians actually believe in three Gods or One? Is there some kind of hierarchy or procession with Father, Son, Holy Spirit? Every Christian should have a basic mastery of meaning, content, and significance of the doctrine of the Trinity.

The bishops in the first three centuries after Christ’s death and resurrection accomplished a lot. The rebutted heretics and unified the Orthodox point of view in the Nicene (325) and Constantinople (381) creed. In the second part, the doctrine further developed. The ‘filioque’ clause (that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son) was revised. In both the Latin (Western) and Greek (Eastern) branches of Christianity theologians worked on better formulas to get a grip of the Trinity.

In the Reformation (both leading to the Protestant Church, as well as within the Roman Catholic Church) less emphasis was laid on the precise formula, although the classic creeds were adhered to, and restated to help the Christians of that era. This third part of the book investigates the way Enlightenment and modern theology influences the perspective on the Trinity. Karkkainen end with the contemporary feminist theology and liberal streams, plus contemporary genuine and innovative ways to reach conclusions on the doctrine of the Trinity. This primer is information rich and accessible.

About the author

Veli-Matti Karkkainen is a professor of Systematic Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He also holds a teaching position at the University of Helsinki as Docent of Ecumenics. Prior to coming to Fuller, Karkkainen served as president and professor at IsoKirja College in Keuruu, Finland. Prolific and widely published, Karkkainen has authored or edited over twenty books in English.

I received a free review copy from the publisher Fortress Press through Edelweiss in exchange for my personal, unbiased review upon reading.

Michael Graves – Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church

How did Christians in the first four centuries after Jesus Christ’s life read and interpret both the Bible and extra-biblical sources? Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church is part of Ad Fontes: Early Christian Sources, a series designed to present ancient Christian texts essential to an understanding of Christian theology, ecclesiology, and practice. Christianity has been inescapably ritualistic, uncompromisingly moral, and apologetically intellectual. A large and diverse company of thinkers and personalities from both the western and Eastern part of the Christian church is presented in this book.

An introduction to each of the Church fathers, theologians, practitioners and thinkers from AD 100-700 like Justin Martyr, Origen of Alexandria , John Chrysostom, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Jerome. A selection from their texts in English introduces you to their works, and line of thinking. If you’re interested in more of one or more authors, you’ll need to dig for good translations of complete works.

About the author
Michael Graves is Armerding Professor of Biblical Studies at Wheaton College, where he teaches courses in Hebrew Bible and Old Testament. He has done extensive research in patristic and rabbinic biblical interpretations. His many publications include, The Inspiration and Interpretation of Scripture: What the Early Church Can Teach Us and the translation of Jerome: Commentary on Jeremiah.

I received a free review copy from publisher Fortress Press via Edelweiss in exchange for my personal, unbiased review upon reading.

Robert Hutchison – Dawn of Christianity

Other than a chronological ordered Bible, The Dawn of Christianity draws heavily on recent archeological discoveries in retelling Jesus Christ’s life on Earth, and an initial couple of decennia of his Kingdom movement, that became Christianity. Hutchison is convinced of the facts backing up the facts the authors of the gospels, Acts, and the letters to the churches write about. To counter skeptics, the author shares a lot of support to bust myths like simple fishermen following Jesus barely able to express themselves in another language than their thick Galilean Aramaic accent, the crucifixion of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and doubts of characters like Pontius Pilate and Paul.

Rendering from modern Bible translations the compelling storyline throughout the first twenty years of Jesus’ Kingdom movement really comes to life. Yes, the recent discoveries also turn the traditional understanding of Pilate questioning Jesus and the location of the Via Dolorosa obsolete. The book guides you along Jesus’ and his disciples’ wanderings across Israel, the locations of places were miracle works were done, and where Paul and Barnabas traveled. Up to the important decision to not hinder former pagans too much with Jewish Torah and customs once they became followers of the Way too, Christianity’s initial years are covered. A who is who in the early history of Christianity, and a timeline of important events, are included as an appendix. Dawn of Christianity is an important piece of work, helping both students of religious studies, Christians, and not Christians, to better understand the birth of the world’s #1 religion.

About the author

Robert J. Hutchinson is an award-winning writer and author who studied philosophy as an undergraduate, moved to Israel to learn Hebrew, and earned a graduate degree in New Testament. Hutchinson’s most recent book is “The Dawn of Christianity: How God Used Simple Fishermen, Soldiers and Prostitutes to Transform the World” (Nelson Books, 2017). It’s an attempt to retell the founding of Christianity, in a journalistic way, by taking advantage of recent discoveries in archaeology and New Testament studies that shed light on the first 20 years of the Jesus movement.

Hutchinson is also the author of “Searching for Jesus: New Discoveries in the Quest for Jesus of Nazareth” — an overview of recent archaeological finds and new developments in Biblical scholarship that are calling into question much of what skeptical scholars have assumed and asserted about Jesus over the past two centuries; “The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Bible,” which demonstrates how the ideas embedded in the ancient Biblical texts helped give rise to modern science, the development of democratic government, and the global recognition of human rights; “When in Rome: A Journal of Life in Vatican City,” a Book of the Month Club and Quality Paperback Book Club Selection about life in the Vatican; and “The Book of Vices: A Collection of Classic Immoral Tales,” a parody of William Bennett’s bestseller, The Book of Virtues.

An avid traveler, Hutchinson was once the managing editor of Hawaii Magazine and the Hawaii Bureau Chief for The Hollywood Reporter. He blogs regularly at www.RobertHutchinson.com

I received a free review copy from the publisher Zondervan through Booklookbloggers in exchange for my personal, unbiased opinion upon reading.