Archives For Reviews

Jesus Untangled: Crucifying our Politics to Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb

A.W. Tozer once remarked: “Christianity is so entangled with the world that millions never guess how radically they have missed the New Testament pattern. Compromise is everywhere.”

Reader beware: Keith Giles is out to change that. In his new book, Jesus Untangled, Keith cuts through the fog of our collective Christian ignorance with furious passion. In all the years I have known Keith he has appeared to me as a man on a mission, and this book is no exception; his critique of “Christian” nationalism, while scathing, is also bursting with grace.

What a shocking story to begin the book from Philip Yancey, set in the battlefield of World War II. A special unit Christian soldier has been dispatched to kill wounded Germans left in the field, and upon finding a healthy German who begs a moment to pray before being put down, the Christian spends a delightful moment praying and reading scripture with him. Sadly, he then turns the gun on his brother and shoots him in the head out of allegiance to one earthly kingdom over another. Behold, with shocking clarity, our problem.

Keith then breezes through a narrative with which I am very familiar, and perhaps you are too: The purity of the early church regarding her disentanglement with religious and political powers, followed by the onslaught of persecution, waning commitment to the way of Jesus, and the ultimate compromise following the emperor Constantine’s alleged conversion. It wasn’t long before Church and State were wed in the most unholy of all alliances, the fallout from which we have been dealing with ever since. Fast forward to the Moral Majority’s effort in America to blend free market economics with Christian values during the late 1970’s and early 80’s. Keith shares interesting history from behind the scenes of that movement, urging the reader to turn his or her faith from political power back to the weakness of the cross and the third way of Jesus.

Also intriguing is the little-known history concerning the illicit connections between American corporations and the German and Japanese war machines during World War II. This chapter will have you looking for footnotes, I assure you. If the connections are as explicit as Keith affirms, these are facts that everybody needs to know.

The most powerful point is found in Keith’s discussion of Christian identity. With great conviction he urges the question of who “we” are upon the reader. Many western Christians will throw this word around in regards to the State, as in the typical retort toward nonviolence, “Well then, what should we have done about Hitler?” But the very language reveals our confusion. As followers of Jesus, are we American patriots or “strangers and aliens” in a foreign land? The way a person uses the word “we” will tell you what they believe.

Jesus Untangled is a powerful primer on how to live the Way of Jesus within the shadow of the Empire. Keith’s book will lift you up, knock you out, and leave you thirsting for more. Either that or it will make you so mad you’ll want to spit nails. Either way, it will not leave you indifferent, and that is what I love most about Keith’s writing.

Photo Credit: Don Pino Esposito Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Don Pino Esposito Flickr via Compfight cc

I’ve been a fan of Shane Claiborne since I read his first book, The Irresistible Revolution, way back in 2006. It’s been ten years since I discovered his work and I can tell he’s been busy since then. Lately his focus has fallen on the death penalty, in particular on abolishing it. As he says in his latest book, Executing Grace, “Death is the problem, not the solution.”

The death penalty has been with us for a long time and has existed in many different forms. In fact, it is so historic and common place that most people just take it for granted as a necessary evil in society. At least that was the notion I took toward capital punishment whenever it crossed my radar as a young Christian. At first I didn’t think about it at all; when I did, I just kind of accepted it as part of the fabric of life in a fallen world.  Continue Reading…

Photo Credit: Mimadeo Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Mimadeo Flickr via Compfight cc

Lately I’ve been reading Edith Hamilton’s classic book on mythology, in particular her chapter on Norse mythology. I was struck by what she describes as the dominating characteristic of the Norse mythos:

The world of Norse mythology is a strange world. Asgard, the home of the gods, is unlike any other heaven men have dreamed of. No radiance of joy is in it, no assurance of bliss. It is a grave and solemn place, over which hangs the threat of an inevitable doom. The gods know that a day will come when they will be destroyed. Sometime they will meet their enemies and go down beneath them to defeat and death. (314)

The only consolation for the Norse people in the face of ultimate defeat (the inevitability of death) was to face it with unrelenting courage. Despite being aware of their mortality, the gods were committed to resist their demise to the bitter end. Humans took their cue accordingly and sought to attain a place in Valhalla (one of the halls in Asgard) through similar acts of bravery, though even Valhalla was destined to perish all the same. Hamilton continues: Continue Reading…

Photo Credit: Patxi Arsa via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Patxi Arsa via Compfight cc

The most significant discovery of my life has been the indwelling presence of Christ. I see that my entire calling in life is simply to enjoy this Presence and walk in its Light, to cultivate fellowship with God just as the Master did with His Father, until everything I do or do not do springs directly from this inner well.

Did you know that this is your entire life’s calling, too?

I’ve written a number of posts over the years dealing with our walk in the Spirit, though at best I consider myself an infant-in-arms at the practice of God’s presence. Continue Reading…

Photo Credit: dougclemens via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: dougclemens via Compfight cc

Years ago I worked at a garden center, where one of our best-selling items was a stone statue of Francis of Assisi. Surrounded by all manner of woodland creatures, the statue was true to the legends surrounding Francis. In fact, Francis felt a certain kinship to the birds of the air, and for that matter, to all living creatures. He would refer to the sparrow as “brother bird.” One story even tells of him taming a ravenous wolf through nothing but the gentle spirit of Christ he exuded toward the poor animal.

My God & My All: The Life Story of Saint Francis of AssisiSo I’ve always been intrigued by Francis. When I was offered a copy of Elizabeth Goudge’s My God and My All: The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi, I couldn’t resist.

First, the negatives: The author is obviously enamored with Francis. She has nothing but arduous and flowery praise for all of Francis’ ways, even when those ways border on legalism or silly medieval superstition. I also would have liked more clarity on what is acknowledged, or at least believed to be, historical facts about Francis’ life, as opposed to what passes for legend. Some of the tales in this book seem obviously legendary (such as the taming of the wolf I mentioned above), yet Goudge recounts them as history. At least a disclaimer would have been nice. Continue Reading…

Dr. Michael Heiser of the Naked Bible blog & podcast

Dr. Michael Heiser of the Naked Bible blog & podcast

Today I’d like to introduce you to a few new resources for study, starting with the work of Mike Heiser. Mike is a scholar in the field of biblical studies and the ancient Near East and the “scholar-in-residence” of Logos Bible Software.

Mike’s podcast, The Naked Bible, has been a recent source of valuable information that I happened upon through a friend’s recommendation. Currently I am thirty-five episodes in and I must say the content has only gotten richer with each episode.  Continue Reading…

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Photo Credit: nekiy via Compfight cc

I recently read Peter Hoover’s book The Secret of the Strength, a unique expose on the early Anabaptist movement that took place in the shadow of the Reformation in the 16th century.

Peter grew up as a Mennonite who traced his spiritual lineage back to the Anabaptists, and in particular to Menno Simons, a prominent teacher and preacher who became a disciple of Christ after years of being a priest in the Roman Catholic Church. Like most of us have done, Peter began to question why his tradition had departed so far from its roots. This led him to study the original movement from which his group sprang. Continue Reading…

The Day I Met Jesus by Frank Viola & Mary Demuth

The Day I Met Jesus by Frank Viola & Mary Demuth

Frank Viola and Mary DeMuth have co-written a new book called The Day I Met Jesus which tells the tale of five women from the gospels: Mary of Bethany, the Samaritan woman, the woman with an issue of blood, Mary Magdalene, and the adulterous woman.

As you probably surmise from the title, the stories revolve around each woman’s encounter(s) with Jesus Christ. The narratives, while being true to Scripture, are rich with additional historical and cultural detail not included by the Gospel writers. Continue Reading…

What’s next?

January 26, 2015 — 7 Comments
Photo Credit: Cbeck527 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Cbeck527 via Compfight cc

Back in the spring I posted a few excerpts from a study I was putting together for the people I was meeting with at the time. That meeting ended, but the study was completed and the final PDF version will soon be available free of charge to all subscribers and anyone else who would like a copy.

Unquenchable Flame is the title of the study. It is a brief overview of first century history, including a chronological ordering of the New Testament writings in the context in which they may have originally been composed. This study is a primer on a larger project I hope to begin soon with Bill Heroman, a brother from Arlington, Texas who has devoted the last nine years of his life to research on New Testament history and a slew of other subjects which will form what I believe will be the most valuable treatment of first century history that is currently availableContinue Reading…

A.N. Groves & the early Brethren movement

A.N. Groves & the early Brethren movement

I’m currently reading Anthony Norris Groves: Saint & Pioneer by G.H. Lang, and after only three chapters into the book I have already been enriched. A.N. Groves was an early and powerful factor in the “Brethren” movement of the late 1800’s, and he is undoubtedly one of my favorite players in the entire drama of Church history.

I say that simply by way of recommendation: If you are unfamiliar with the early Brethren and the testimony of A.N. Groves, you are certainly missing out. Grab a copy of this book and get to reading.

Here are a few snippets from my reading so far: Continue Reading…