I've been tagged by David Keen at St Aiden to Abbey Manor about the five books that have influenced the way I read the Bible:
Here's the crack:
- Name the five books (or scholars) that had the most immediate and lasting influence on how you read the Bible. Note that these need not be your five favorite books, or even the five with which you most strongly agree. Instead, I want to know what five books have permanently changed the way you think.
- Tag five others.
- I know that I have probably given this book a lot of mileage already but the first book which comes to mind is Gilbert Bilezikian's 'Beyond Sex Roles - What the Bible says about a woman's role in Church and family.' I had been exposed to lots of teaching which prohibited women in ordained ministry so during my process of discernment set out to read some of the arguments for and against. I read some Grudem and Piper and McCarthur and I read the Tom Wright lecture on 'Women's service in the Church:the biblical basis'. I also read Ken Bailey's work on women in 'Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes' but Bilezikian really inspired me. It was because he had purposefully set out to make up his mind on the issue over several years and alongside a whole team of people who met together to discuss the topic. There was a shortage of leaders and they wondered whether they could appoint women. A Christianity Today article, captures for me the reason why this book should be read:
Most Christians will not argue with the primacy of servanthood. But out of Bilezikian's concept of community has come another teaching, more controversial in its outworking: gender equality.
"I am not a feminist," Bilezikian says. "Feminism is about power, and I am about servanthood. I'm not pursuing equality for its own sake; there is no mandate in the Bible to pursue equality. But there is a mandate to establish community. And authentic community necessarily implies full participation of women and men on the basis of spiritual gifts, not on the basis of sex."
Bilezikian was one of the proponents of mutual submission long before it was fashionable in evangelical circles. "Mutual submission is a biblical concept," he says. "The words are used specifically in a number of texts but especially in Ephesians 5:21, where it says be mutually submitted to each other." The wife submits to the husband just as the church does to Christ, but there is a reciprocity, he says: "Christ submits himself in-depth to the church, and the church submits itself in service to Christ. But then the husband is also under submission because he has to love his wife as he loves himself, even to the point of self-sacrifice as Christ loved the church."
Both men and women, then, desire to serve the other rather than to control the other, Bilezikian says.
"Our natural tendency is to compete or take advantage of," he says. "The Bible says lay down your arms and instead extend your hands toward each other to help each other and to support each other; and for the relationship to be one of partnership and mutuality rather than one of hierarchy."
Bilezikian says he tries to live out these principles in his marriage, and they are also evident at his church. Not everyone at Willow Creek initially agreed with Bilezikian's position on women's ministry: among others, Hybels himself taught the traditional view of male headship. After months of study and debate, the church decided that it would support women in any position of leadership—teacher, preacher, elder.
There's a study guide available for "Beyond Sex Roles" McMillan, Kaye. A Study Guide for Beyond Sex Roles: Students’ Book – Questions Only. Saint Paul, Minn.: Christians for Biblical Equality, n.d.
2. The second author is Justin Martyr and I haven't read everything he wrote but I did read and think about THE FIRST APOLOGY OF JUSTIN. Justin the Martyr is one of the earliest apologists, writing c100-c165. He articulated ideas about the Logos. He uses the excellent analogy of the fire which can kindle another fire into life without the first fire being diminished, or the second fire being subordinate because it is derived from the first. Justin helped me in some ways with my apologetical urges against ESS (Eternal subordination of the Son) as espoused by Bruce and Ware. (Irenaeus is clearer in his articulation of the unity of the Father and the Son, though)
I loved reading chapter 54: The origin of Heathen Mythology in THE FIRST APOLOGY OF JUSTIN, where he described how all the things that man-kind has ever expressed to know have their origin in Wisdom, Logos: the pre-existent Christ, it's just that humanity has not for most of time and history been able to understand from where their knowledge has its origins and it has become twisted by sinfulness. I also love justin Martyr because he sees the cross everywhere:
'For the sea is not traversed except that trophy which is called a sail abide safe in the ship; and the earth is not ploughed without it: diggers and mechanics do not their work, except with tools which have this shape. And the human form differs from that of the irrational animals in nothing else than in its being erect and having the hands extended, and having on the face extending from the forehead what is called the nose, through which there is respiration for the living creature; and this shows no other form than that of the cross. And so it was said by the prophet, "The breath before our face is the Lord Christ."'
Justin is most helpful when considering John's gospel.
3. The third book of influence is 'Recovering Jesus - the witness of the New Testament'by Thomas R Yoder Neufeld. I like this book because it gave me a lot of confidence. As I was preparing to start theological college, I had to decide that Moltmann was something I could return to. I was feeling rather out of my depth, so I picked up Thomas R Yoder Neufeld instead and loved it. He has a snappy style and fueled my interest in the recovery of the historical Jesus: Christology from below. He uses the archaeological tell as a metaphor, which captures my imagination and he takes the reader on a journey of discovery and detection as we dig down to get at the 'facts'. He was the first writer to introduce me to source criticism.
He has a kind of no-nonsense approach I can relate to:
4. The fourth book is 'The Spirit Comes as part of the package' by John Leach.
This book helped me to understand the difference a Church can make to people's discipleship when it really welcomes the Spirit, confidently anticipates the work of the Spirit and expects demonstrations of the spiritual gifts. It also helped me to understand more fully some of the movements of the Spirit that I have experienced in my own life. I think in some ways, like Leach, at the beginning of my spiritual reawakening, I was a reluctant charismatic, not because I didn't welcome the Spirit but because I found articulating the Spirit's work something that could cause disagreement. When I started to study the Spirit's power in Acts, I found a new way of articulating his work so that expressions of Spirit movement in churches today are just a natural biblical phenomenon and something to be celebrated. In a sense, I have come to enjoy the same kind of freedom which Leach describes in his book. I am aware that certain aspects of worship and witness will seem other-worldly to non-Christians or seeking Christians but I also trust that because God is in control, the worshipping community can express itself both boldly and gently to fulfil God's purposes. This book has enabled me to understand better the need to pray for the development of the fruit of gentleness and to pray for courage too and to also thank God for the freedom we have to worship him. It also made the Acts 2 model of the worshipping church very powerful.
5. The last book I would like to mention is Liquid Church by Pete Ward. This book is about mission and it has helped me to articulate my own interest in mission and internet evangelism, in particular. I like the way in which Pete Ward embraces rather than fears change. 'the church is not static and cannot make permanent the forms that prove effective in any particular time and place' 'Church is something that we make with one another by communicating Christ...church happens when people are motivated to communicate with each other.' Pete Ward describes how, 'In Paul's vision of the body of Christ, unity does not arise from living in the same place; rather, it comes from a common allegiance or connection to Christ. Pete Ward does not deny that the church is the body of Christ but he also wants us to understand and make more of the idea that the body of Christ is the Church.He does not accept that church is the only way to express the corporate Christ.
Pete Ward enabled me to understand in new ways just how radical is Paul.
Pete Ward enabled me to understand in new ways just how radical is Paul.
So those are my five books and that was a really helpful exercise.
I see my sponsoring bishop today for the first time - now I've got something to talk about!