Previous Book Blogs

Faith’s BookBlog: June 2016

Capsule
reviews of books in Faith’s library, which is open whenever the church
is open, and from which any Faith member may borrow any book.

3:16 Bible Texts Illuminated, by Donald E. Knuth, A-R Editions, Inc. 1991

Reviewed by David Kullman 

Given
the prompt: John 3:16, most of us would probably respond with something
like, “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that
everyone who believes in Him can escape destruction and live forever.” 
But what about Romans 3:16 or Ezekiel 3:16?  Without opening our Bibles,
we would probably have a tough time recalling these verses. Donald
Knuth, a prominent computer science professor at Stanford University and
inventor of the TEX typesetting system, once taught a Bible study class
(in a Lutheran congregation) that focused on the sixteenth verse of the
third chapter of nearly every book of the Bible.  (Seven of the
sixty-six books have fewer than three chapters.)  In this way, an
unbiased statistical sample of the approximately 30,000 verses of the
Bible can be studied in some depth to give an overview of the entire
Bible.  Each of the 59 selections begins with a summary of the Biblical
book as a whole.  Next there is Knuth’s own translation of the 3:16
verse, interpreted visually by a calligrapher.  This is followed by two
more pages of commentary, examining the verse and its context in some
depth.  Here is a small sample of the verses themselves:   Genesis
3:16.  Turning to the Woman, God said: “Great will be your troubles
during pregnancy and your labors during childbirth; yet you will be
filled with desire for your husband, and he will dominate you.” 1 Samuel
3:16.  Eli called him, saying “Samuel my son.”  And he answered, “Here I
am.” Matthew 3:16.  As soon as Jesus was baptized, he came up out of
the water, and an amazing thing happened:  The heavens opened, and he
saw the Spirit of God coming down like a dove, to rest on him.
Revelation 3:16.  Since you are merely lukewarm – neither cold nor hot –
I’m going to spit you out of my mouth! 
You’ll have to read the
book (or your Bible) to appreciate the other fifty-five 3:16s.  Better
yet, why not use Knuth’s book as a resource for a small group Bible
study?  

All
members of Faith are invited to write capsule reviews of books from
Faith’s library for this book blog. The blog is moderated by Ruth
Sanders; if you would like to schedule your reviews or ask any questions
about the reviews, please e-mail her at sanderrh@miamioh.edu, call her
at 523-8111, or just talk to her before or after the Sunday service.

Faith's Book Blog, May 2016

Capsule reviews of books in Faith’s library, which is open whenever the church is open, and from which any Faith member may borrow any book.  This month’s reviews by Ruth H. Sanders 

The Compact Survey of the Bible, by John Balcini et al. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1985.  A handy guide for the Bible reader who wants to be reminded what is in some of the lesserquoted books like Habakkuk or Zephaniah, this book is suitable for ‘fortuitous’ reading—just pick a chapter and see what’s there. The table of contents consists of a list of all the books of both Testaments and a Twitter-like summary for each. Examples: Genesis: “Everything starts here,” Ecclesiastes: “What is life all about?” Titus: “The call for practical Christian living,” and Revelation: “What the future holds.”  About Matthew (“The fullest of the Gospels”), we learn a little bit about: 1. why the Gospel was written (to show the connection between Jesus and the Old Testament; to record the extensive teaching of Christ; to set out how Christ expected his disciples to behave; to answer questions about the early life of Jesus; to speak about the way the church should be run); 2. the author (by tradition, Matthew, a tax collector who was personally called by Jesus, whose name means ‘gift of God’, and was elsewhere called Levi; 3. the readers (probably mostly Jews, but maybe also some Christians); 4. when it was written (probably between AD 50 and 90); and, most interesting, 5. special features (very frequent—i.e., 65 times—quotation of the Old Testament; and alone among the Gospels, mentions the church itself). Some things I learned about the Book of Mark (“the Christian teacher’s handbook”) that I found particularly appealing: Mark was named ‘John Mark’ (my brother’s name!—did Mother know?); it’s probably the earliest gospel; shows us “Jesus-with-a-secret” (demons are commanded to keep silent, as are people healed by Jesus; Jesus’s followers told not to reveal that he is the Messiah). Not a very deep book, but one full of interesting information.   Fire from Heaven: the Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Religion in the TwentyFirst Century, by Harvey Cox. Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley, 1995.  Harvey Cox, Victor Thomas Professor of Religion at Harvard, thirty years ago in his book, The Secular City, worked out a theology for the postreligious age that virtually all sociologists assumed was coming. In 1995 he wrote this study when it seemed clear that instead of the extinction of religion, the twenty-first century would see a widespread revival of religion—at least, a revival of some kinds of religion.  In the West, this revival has not centered on the traditional kinds of Christianity, but rather on Pentecostal Christianity, which is growing fast and now accounts for one of every four Christians. What might this bring? “We may or may not be entering a new ‘age of the Spirit’ as some more sanguine observers hope. But we are definitely in a period of renewed religious vitality, another ‘great awakening,’ with all the promise and peril religious revivals bring…this time on a world scale,” Cox writes. Pentecostals take their name from the story in Chapter Two of Acts, when the Holy Spirit comes upon the gathered Christians like the rush of a mighty wind, and tongues “as of fire” crown their heads. “The story of the Pentecost has always served as an inspiration for people who are discontented with the way religion and the world in general is going…it is packed with promise,” Cox writes, “Pentacostalism has become a global vehicle for the restoration of primal hope.” However, he cautions that fixation on end times and ignoring of present pollution and resource exhaustion on earth is both morally irrresponsible and unbiblical. Yet he finds hope in those Pentecostal preachers who teach that the Bible envisions not the fiery dissolution of this world, but its transformation into the promised Kingdom, and that the scripture warns against dates and timetables. Perhaps these younger ones will prevail.

All members of Faith are invited to write capsule reviews of books from Faith’s library for this book blog. The blog is moderated by Ruth Sanders; if you would like to schedule your reviews or ask any questions about the reviews, please e-mail her at sanderrh@miamioh.edu, call her at 523-8111, or just talk to her before or after the Sunday service.

Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas, by Elaine Pagels. New York: Random House, 2005.

The
Gospel of Thomas, written in about  200 B.C., was discovered in Nag
Hammadi, Upper Egypt, in 1945. It was not included by the early Church
among the scriptures (‘writings’) that make up what we know today as the
Bible, yet it is clearly a gospel (‘good news’) of Jesus Christ and his
teachings. It delivers a somewhat different message than do the Gospels
of Mark, Matthew, and Luke. For example, according to Mark, Jesus
teaches that the kingdom of God is to come, and that “signs of the
times” such as wars, earthquakes, and famine, will signal it. By
contrast, in the Gospels of both Thomas and John, Jesus reveals that the
kingdom of God, “the day of the Lord,” is now; and in Thomas, when the
disciples ask Jesus when the resurrection of the dead will come, Jesus
answers, “What you look forward to has already come, but you do not
recognize it.” This different view of eternity may not shock a Christian
in the twenty-first century, but in the Roman Empire of early
Christendom, when belief in Jesus Christ and conversion to Christianity
might cost the believer his or her life, theological arguments were
taken very seriously. The Gospel of John was enshrined within the New
Testament; the Gospel of Thomas was declared a heresy. The book contains
a translation of the Gospel of Thomas so that you can judge for
yourself. 

The One and the Many: America’s Struggle for the
Common Good, by Martin E. Marty.  Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard
University Press, 1997.

The Latin motto on the Great Seal of the
U.S. since 1776: E pluribus unum ‘one from many’, according to Martin
Marty, is the center of what has become a troubling national division:
what ‘one’? which ‘many’? The division, signaled by words and phrases
such as multiculturalism, the radical left or radical right, tenured
radicals, hegemony, patriarchal oppressors, radical feminists, or gay
rights, is not new.  Marty discusses history as storytelling; but here
too the question is, a universal story, or story of a particular group,
an immigrant group, a racial group, a gender? He describes these
conflicts under the rubric, “Storytelling between the Totalists and the
Tribalists.” Totalism, according to Marty, is the idea that a
nation-state should be organized around a single and easily definable
ideology, giving priority to particular doctrines and enforcing
conformity to them. Totalism may show a smiling face, wishing only for
shared goals and values; or it may show a meaner side, one that does not
care about minorities, newcomers, or those who feel outside mainstream
values. Tribalism, on the other hand, asserts that nations should not
provide ideologies for the varied peoples within them, and claims that
coherence comes only from groups to which one naturally belongs.
Tribalism can take the form of benign encouragement for those who resist
submerging what they see as their true identity into a large and varied
nation such as the U.S.; but it can also take the form of exclusionary
groupings that reject all those outside the tribe; and it can mutate
into terrorist extremisms. “In the face of an ever more urgent need to
pool the world’s resources and its powers, human society is splitting
itself into smaller and smaller fragments,” Marty writes. He has done a
terrific job of analyzing the problem. Unfortunately solutions seem to
be less available, even to this analytical and beneficent Christian
author.

Faith’s Book Blog, November 2015

Capsule reviews of books in Faith’s library, which is open whenever the church is open, and from which any Faith member may borrow any book.

Review by Patricia A Willeke:

Renew Your Life: Discovering the wellspring of God's energy, by Kai Mark
Nilsen, has been added to the church library. Kai is my former pastor
at Peace Lutheran Church in Gahanna. Ohio. The chapters are 1) The
Energy of the Holy Spirit 2) The Energy of Grace 3) The Energy of
Possibility 4) The Energy of Paradox 5) The Energy of the Natural World
6) The Energy of Rela-tionships 7) The Energy of Faithful Work 8) The
Energy of Rest and Conclusions. The back of the book states: “ say no to
addiction and yes to life “,” gain new insight into how we are designed
and linked to the web of creation”, forgive others and reconnect
relationships,” “ participate in loving service with and for others.”

This is Kai's own story. He asks us to question our thoughts and our
choices, and tells us how he renewed his energy when it was depleted.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Reviews by Gene Willeke:

Go Set a Watchman, novel by Harper Lee, published this July by
HarperCollins. Although it was written before her 1960 novel To Kill a
Mockingbird,, the publisher recommended writing anoth-er book, which she
did. It was a good decision, as the older book was more appropriate to
the times. The book ends with a strong suggestion of what a subsequent
book might be, one she will never write as she has serious health
problems.

The new book has been commented on by many, with emphasis on
signs of racism, evidenced by Atticus’s membership in the KKK and a
white Citizens Council. In reality, the revelation of why he does these
things is what makes this book so good. In my estimation, Go Set a
Watchman is the better book, because it is more nuanced and there is a
more complete picture of each character. Traces of what we would call
racism still exist.The Mocking Bird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee by
Marja Mills was published this May by Penguin Books. It fills in gaps of
information about Lee, her family, friends, and her surroundings. The
author is a journalist for the Chicago Tribune. Over several years, she
interviews Nelle Harper Lee and participates in many community events.
The result is a rich portrayal of Lee, her older sister, and many
friends. We find a deeply religious person who characterizes her
hometown with a keen sense of the richness of the community.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Renew Your Life (Nilsen), The Mockingbird Next Door (Lee; Mills)
and Go Set a Watchman (Lee) have been donated to the library by Pat and
Gene Willeke.

All members of Faith are invited to write capsule reviews of books from
Faith’s library for this book blog. The blog is moderated by Ruth
Sanders; if you would like to schedule your reviews or ask any questions
about the reviews, please e-mail her at sanderrh@miamioh.edu, call her
at 523-8111, or just talk to her before or after the Sunday service.

Faith’s Book Blog, September 2015

~Member Reviews of Books in Faith’s Library~

Reviews by Connie Wilkins:

Home By Another Way by Barbara Brown Taylor 

Pastor Logan recently added this book to our library after hearing the author speak at a conference.  Taylor is an Episcopal priest and professor of religion, philosophy and Christian spirituality.  Called one of the most effective preachers in the English language, she is also a great storyteller who writes in an informal, often humorous way.  The book is a six-part collection of her sermons that follow the church year.  It begins with Advent and Christmas, then Epiphany, Lent, Good Friday, Easter and the Great Fifty Days, and The Season after Pentecost.  It would be impossible for me to pick my favorite sermon:  how about the first one, God’s Beloved Thief (Jesus), or the last, God’s Handkerchiefs (all Saints)?  Writing about the power of stories and why we keep coming back to them, Taylor says:  “A good story does not just tell you about something that happened once upon a time.  It brings that time back to life so that you can walk around in it and experience it for yourself. … Scripture is the message our ancestors rolled up and put in a bottle for us, because they wanted us to experience the person of Jesus---if not in the flesh, then in the word.” (p. 117).  Straight on, without looking for easy answers or “churchy” platitudes, Taylor faces some of the biggest questions of life and faith, such as doubt, grace, seemingly unanswered prayer, resurrection, saints, and when Jesus will return.

The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary On The Bible 

I began using this excellent commentary soon after its publication in 1971. Since most reviewers find it far superior to the more condensed and less informative 2010 edition, my review will focus on the 1971 edition, which is the date of my copy and of the one in the church library.  The book is divided into four major sections, commentary book by book on the Hebrew Testament, the Apocrypha, and the Christian Testament, and the fourth section, General Articles. There are also brief sections including a Chronology, Maps, and Indexes.  It is an excellent reference for anyone studying the bible, with a good balance of historical and theological commentary. The 70 scholar commentators provide the main biblical interpretations in a concise and easy to understand way.

Evolution of the Word: The New Testament in the Order the Books Were Written,  by Marcus J. Borg, Harper One, 2012 

The first things written about Jesus are not in the gospels, but in Paul’s letters.  Reading the New Testament in the order the contents were written makes the historical context clearer and helps the reader understand how the basic ideas of Christianity developed over time.  The three chapters of Borg’s introduction deal with A Chronology of the New Testament, Before Anything Was Written and Paul and His Letters. The volume contains the full text of the New Testament according to the New Revised Standard edition, plus annotations.  Fairly brief, but useful explanatory introductions to each book of the Bible usually include historical context and, at times, discussion of the main ideas, audience, or style.  It is a little hard to understand why reading such familiar material in a different order makes an important, significant change in understanding, but it does. Marcus Borg died in January, 2015.  The editor of Harper One wrote:  “His life and his work have been a challenge, a comfort and an inspiration to literally millions of readers and students over the years.” 

All members of Faith are invited to write capsule reviews of books from Faith’s library for this book blog. The blog is moderated by Ruth Sanders; if you would like to schedule your reviews or ask any questions about the reviews, please e-mail her at sanderrh@miamioh.edu, call her at 523-8111, or just talk to her before or after the Sunday service

Faith’s Book Blog, August 2015

Member Reviews of Books in Faith’s Library 

Reviews by Terry Schuurmann

THE WEDNESDAY WARS (Newberry Honor Book), by Gary D. Schmidt

Age level: Middle School up to 109 years old Mix of these ideas in a fun filled novel:
  • 7th grade English class
  • Cream Puffs
  • 2 long-toothed rats
  • Shakespeare
  • Peer pressure
  • Parent Expectations
  • Baseball
  • Vietnam refugee
  • Vietnam War
  • Atomic Bomb Drills
  • 1967

Question to ponder:   During the atomic bomb drill, did Mrs. Baker purposely spill the hardened cider she found in the coat closet or was it an accident?

Note from Terry: I promise you many great laughs and some sad moments as Holling Hoodhood tries to make it through his 7th grade year.

OKAY FOR NOW (National Book Award Finalist), by Gary D. Schmidt

Age level:     Middle School up to 109 years old

It’s 1968. The Apollo Space Mission is getting ready to put a man on the moon. Joe Pepitone is playing for the New York Yankees. Vietnam is in the news. Doug, the 3rd son in a poor dysfunctional family, has moved to Marysville. One brother is in Vietnam and the other seems to be a small time hoodlum. Doug tries to deal with the towns folk by being cool but everyone is quick to judge his character.

Note from Terry: This is an engaging, tough, funny, sad story.

LIZZIE BRIGHT AND THE BUCKMINSTER BOY, another prize-winning book by Gary D. Schmidt

Not currently available in Faith’s library.   All members of Faith are invited to write capsule reviews of books from Faith’s library for this book blog. The blog is moderated by Ruth Sanders; if you would like to schedule your reviews or ask any questions about the reviews, please e-mail her at sanderrh@miamioh.edu, call her at 523-8111, or just talk to her before or after the Sunday service!

Faith’s Book Blog, July 2015

Reviews by Ruth H. Sanders 

The Infidel: Freethought and American Religion, by Martin E. Marty, 1961

'Infidel' is the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century name for atheists. For the most part intellectuals who opposed state-supported religion, the Infidels played a central part in American public discussion of religion. Distinguished Lutheran theologian Martin Marty notes that much of the steam went out of the Infidels’ arguments, and they disappeared from public discourse, after nineteenth-century Christianity began to agree that religion ought not to be supported by the state. One prominent Christian leader wrote that “The idea of a Christian nation is a shocking monster—government must embrace Pagans, Jews, Mohammedans, and Christians.” Marty predicted in this book that the Infidels would return only if religion began speaking with one voice on political subjects. Sure enough, Infidels have returned in our century, ranging from high-level intellectuals like evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins to ill-informed Internet trolls who write nasty bits about a Christianity of their own imaginations. In 2015 it looks as if politically active fundamentalism has had the unintended consequence of nourishing the Infidels.

The Anchor Bible. Ruth. A New Translation with Introduction, Notes, and Commentary,  by Edward F. Campbell, Jr. 1975.

The Anchor Bible began to appear as a series in 1956, each volume on one book of the Bible. For obvious reasons, I chose the Book of Ruth. Its story, which has been dated to 950-700 B.C.,  is simple: Naomi, a widow with two daughters-in-law, widows of her only two sons, prepares to leave Moabit where all of them live and return to her native Bethlehem, and advises her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, to return to their mothers’ houses in Moabit. But Ruth refuses to go, in the famous lines, “Wherever you go, I will go, your people shall be my people, your God shall be my God.” In Bethlehem, Boaz sees Ruth as she gleans the grain in his fields, falls in love, marries her, and the two have a son, who is welcomed by Naomi as the continuation of her family line. It turns out that this will be the line of Jesse, David, and—Jesus! Campbell calls the story “basically about extraordinary caring and concern, kindness that is above and beyond the call of duty…a style of living which can be blessed by the God who would have it so among his people.” Why not check out the volume with your favorite book of the Bible?

Members of Faith are invited to contribute capsule reviews of books from Faith’s library to this column. If you wish to do this, please contact Ruth Sanders at 523-8111 or sanderrh@miamioh.edu to schedule your reviews.

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