Saturday, March 30, 2013

God's Good Design: A Book Review

The subtitle summarizes the book: What the Bible Really Says about Men and Women. The author, Claire Smith, has a Ph.D. in New Testament. Her goal in this book is to examine the key passages, primarily in the New Testament, that deal with the role relationships between men and women. The preface summarizes the effect that feminism has had on the church, particularly in the West. That effect has been primarily to erase the differences between men and women, particularly in the home and in the church. Hence, her question for the reader is, "Are your views on these things determined by the Bible, or by the current cultural consensus?"

The first part of the book is devoted to issues within the church. She spends a chapter each on 1 Timothy 2, 1 Corinthians 11, and 1 Corinthians 14. This book is not written for the New Testament specialist, but for the general reader. Thus, whenever "what the Greek says" comes up, she is very careful to clarify the definitions and the issues. She deals carefully with all problems in the passages, and when there are divergent views, she presents them fairly. In brief, she demonstrates that the meaning of each passage is sufficiently clear in itself. The real problems are introduced by our cultural views. So the question comes down to which guides our practice: the clear teaching of the Bible, or the current cultural consensus?

The second part of the book deals with issues in the home. Here, she deals with Ephesians 5, 1 Peter 3, Genesis 1-3, and Proverbs 31. She carefully unpacks the meaning of each passage, again fairly presenting differing views. All of the discussion is quite valuable, but two sections in particular stuck out to me. First, her discussion of "mutual submission" (pp 124-27). Second, the separate chapter on abuse. Both are sensitive and careful treatments of sensitive, sometimes painful, subjects.

This is a book I highly recommend. It demonstrates first of all that many of our current "gender-role" issues in the church are a result of our attempting to subjugate the biblical teaching to current cultural norms. Second, it provides excellent examples of close, careful interpretation of biblical passages. Third, it presents this all in clear, concise prose that is easily accessible to the attentive reader. I will say that I am not convinced of her view on New Testament prophesying, but that is a small quibble in a book that many should read.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Gospels and Acts in Chunks

Nothing particularly original here. Just some suggestions for how you might break down the gospels into half-hour or shorter reading sections.

Matthew 1-9: Birth, Baptism, Sermon on the Mount, and Healing; 10-16 Second Teaching section and the turning point of the Gospel, which is Peter’s confession in ch 16; 17-23 Jesus in Conflict; 24-28 Olivet Discourse, Last Supper, Trial, Crucifixion, and Resurrection.

Mark 1-8 The first half of the story, up through Peter’s confession in ch 8; 9-16 the rest of the story.

Luke 1-5, 6-11, 12-18, 19-24

John 1-7, 8-14, 15-21

Acts 1-7 Pentecost through Stephen’s speech; 8-14, From the evangelization of the Samaritans through Paul’s first missionary journey; 15-21 Paul’s second and third journeys; 22-28 Paul on trial.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Prophets in Chunks

Finishing up the Old Testament portion of Reading Through the Bible in Chunks, we deal with the Prophets. Following the time table in the first post in this series, we see that Isaiah should take about five sessions to read. So I suggest the following:
1-12 The Books of Judgment and Messiah
13-23 The Oracles Against the Nations
24-35 The Little Apocalypse and Hope for the Future
36-48 The Historical Section, and the Book of Comfort
49-66 The Servant Songs and Book of Judgment

For Jeremiah (six half-hour segments) the following, noting that it is not as easy to divide up Jeremiah topically as in  Isaiah:
1-9, 10-18, 19-27, 28-36, 37-45, 45-52.

Lamentations: All five chapters may be read in one sitting

For Ezekiel, again a topical division:
1-11 The first and second visions of Ezekiel
12-24 The Book of Judgment (this might take a bit more than half an hour, because some of the chapters are quite long).
25-36 Oracles Against the Nations and Comfort for Israel
37-48 Dry Bones, Gog & Magog, and the New Temple Vision (again, probably longer than half an hour)
Or,as an alternative:
1-11 as above
12-17 and 18-24
25-32 Oracles against the Nations
33-39 Comfort, Dry Bones, Gog & Magog)
40-48 The New Temple

Daniel: 1-6, 7-12 (or all at once, if you're feeling adventurous)

Each of the minor prophets may be read in one sitting.