Beliefs, Practices, History
David W. Kling (Oxford University Press: June 2004), 408 pages.
No one can doubt that the Bible has exerted a tremendous influence on Western civilisation since the dawn of Christianity. But few of us have considered the precise nature of that influence in particular historical contexts. In this book, David Kling traces the fascinating story of how specific biblical texts have at different times emerged to be the inspiration of movements and collective responses that have changed the course of history. Each of the seminal texts Kling considers has been understood very differently (and perhaps more correctly) at different times in history. Each of the historical episodes he examines — from the rise of the Papacy to the emergence of pentecostalism — is evident of the dynamic interplay between scripture and the social and cultural context in which it is interpreted. Kling's innovative study of this process sheds important new light on the ways in which sacred texts continue to shape our history as well as our lives. ~ Product Description
John Stott (InterVarsity Press: Jan 2004), 128 pages.
In a time when many Christian authors recommend the claims of Christian faith by descriptions of faith encounters and invitations to "dance with the mystery," Stott, author of many foundational apologetic works, offers a clear and compelling account of the theological basis for his own belief. He begins by explaining the sense of God's own pursuit of him, providing illustrations from the lives of famous Christians with similar experiences. He continues with a logical examination of the claims and character of Jesus as seen in Scripture. The last section discusses the nature and needs of human beings, explaining how those needs are fully met through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The book concludes with a simple invitation for the reader to respond to the claims of Christ personally, offering a sample prayer. For some readers, the book will seem overly structured, since Stott frequently reviews the logical points of each section. For those accustomed to arguments conducted by way of emotive stories, his reliance on logic may feel a bit dry. But readers of a more analytical temperament will find a compelling discussion of the claims of Christ in a remarkably readable, brief form. It's the sort of book that Christians who need a more reasoned, thoughtful approach to their faith will read and then pass along to skeptical friends. ~ Publishers Weekly
F.F. Bruce (Eerdmans: May 1, 2003)
This book is a fantastic guide for any person, Christian or otherwise, who would like to understand the level of historical accuracy that can be found in the New Testament documents. In that Christianity is a religion whose truth claims are allegedly rooted in historical fact, it is key that the works through which we read of those "facts" be considered reliable. Bruce does a great job of doing just that. No historical account, regardless of reliability, can prove miraculous events. However, Bruce argues, if a work can be proven to be historically and culturally accurate with respect to most of its content, that document then becomes-on the whole-more compelling. Any historian would then need to take more seriously the author's questionable claims such as the miracles, and Christ as God and savior of humanity. For if an author can be shown to be reliable in all other aspects of his work, why should he lie with respect to the documentation of miracles? This line of reasoning, and many other arguments, make Bruce's short book a compelling read for anybody interested in this topic. ~ guy-72 at Amazon.com
Hank Hanegraaff (Thomas Nelson: Feb 8, 2002), 282 pages.
In this definitive work, popular Christian apologist Hank Hanegraaff offers a detailed defense of the Resurrection, the singularly most important event in history and the foundation upon which Christianity is built. Using the acronym F.E.A.T., the author examines the four distinctive, factual evidences of Christ's resurrection-Fatal torment, Empty tomb, Appearances, and Transformation-making the case for each in a memorable way that believers can readily use in their own defense of the faith. Hanegraaff addresses a number of questions: 1) Will we really have tangible, physical bodies in the resurrection? 2) If heaven is perfect, won't it be perfectly boring? 3) Are reincarnation and resurrection mutually exclusive?
B. Netanyahu (New York Review of Books: September 2001), 1424 pages.
The Spanish Inquisition was responsible for one of the fiercest repressions in human history. It fused the triple evil of a police state, a totalitarian ideology, and racial persecution. Its terrible reverberations have been felt in our own century, and are likely to be felt in the next. Yet for all its notoriety, its origins have never been fully explored or clearly understood before now. What caused this monstrous attack upon Spain's so-called "conversos" — the Christian descendants of the Jews who had been forced to convert during the anti-Semitic riots that swept across Spain at the end of the fourteenth century? Were the thousands of conversos who died at the hands of the Inquisition in fact secretly still Jews, only pretending to be good Christians, as the inquisition charged and as most scholars continue to believe? In this magnum opus, B. Netanyahu shows us that this claim is groundless. After a lifetime of research in long-unexamined Spanish sources, he reveals that at the time of the Inquisition, almost all conversos were in fact full-fledged Christians, and that the few Judaizers among them had dwindled into insignificance. The vast machinery of the Inquisition could not have been founded to kill a dying movement. What, then, was its purpose? The Origins of the Inquisition answers this question definitively. By examining Spanish anti-Semitism from its origins, Professor Netanyahu demonstrates that the brutal anti-converso movement that led to the Inquisition was the same one responsible for the massacre of Jews in Spain in 1391 and the ensuing mass conversion of Spanish Jews (at sword-point) to Christianity. The rapid rise of the conversos to high royal offices (higher, even, than those attained by their Jewish forefathers) made them the target of the same forces that had persecuted the Jews. It was to remove the conversos from their influential positions, and to prevent their intermarriage with the Spanish people, that they were accused of being secret Judaizers and members of a "corrupt" race that would "pollute" the Spanish blood. This was the first time that extreme anti-Semitism was wedded to a theory of race — a union that would dramatically affect the course of modern history. Steering the reader through the labyrinthine politics of Church and State in fifteenth-century Spain, Professor Netanyahu develops his startling thesis within the context of a careful consideration of Spanish culture and society. The conversos, like their Jewish ancestors, were intimately linked with the Spanish monarchy, and, unlike the Jews, also with the Papacy, but by the end of the fifteenth century, both Church and State left their erstwhile allies to the mercy of the Inquisition. As Professor Netanyahu brilliantly shows, the Spanish sovereigns let the coversos be attacked in order to distract the outraged city masses and their leaders from turning against the royal establishment itself. "The Origins of the Inquisition" is a seminal work that will alter our understanding of the Spanish Inquisition and its place in the history of anti-Semitism, of Spain, and of Europe. Its is required reading for anyone who wishes to understand one of history's darkest movements, the terrible shadow of which persists to this very day. ~ Midwest Book Review
John A. T. Robinson (Wipf & Stock Publishers: Jul, 2001), 384 pages.
Bishop Robinson, a theological modernist whose "Honest to God" made him controversial within the Anglican communion, began this book as what he labels "a theological joke": "I thought I would see how far one could get with the hypothesis that the whole of the New Testament was written before 70", the year in which the Roman army sacked and burned the Temple of Jerusalem. As it turned out, he got much further than he had ever expected, a journey made more impressive by his lack of any predisposition toward a "conservative" point of view. His conclusion is that there is no compelling evidence - indeed, little evidence of any kind - that anything in the New Testament canon reflects knowledge of the Temple's destruction. Furthermore, other considerations point consistently toward early dates and away from the common assumption (a prejudice with a seriously circular foundation) that a majority of primitive Christian authors wrote in the very late First or early-to-middle Second Century under assumed names. ~ E.T. Veal at Amazon.com
The Genesis of Justice Ten Stories of Biblical Injustice That Led to the Ten Commandments and Modern Law
Alan M. Dershowitz (Warner: Mar 1, 2000), 288 pages.
Dershowitz turns to 10 stories from Genesis to demonstrate how the Bible provides a basis for contemporary ideas about justice and injustice. The narratives deal with Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Abraham, Lot, Jacob, Dina, Tamar and Joseph. Dershowitz includes a translation of each story, recounts some theological commentaries and offers his own interpretations. He acknowledges the failings of the biblical characters, pointing out that they were guilty of deception, lust, crime, incest, revenge and murder. Their problematic actions highlighted the need for the laws that appear later in the Torah, starting with Exodus and the Ten Commandments. The book concludes with four chapters on "The Genesis of Justice in the Injustice of Genesis." Dershowitz argues that the "bad actions" depicted in Genesis gave rise to the "common law of justice." He addresses the question of theodicy, claiming that the belief in the hereafter solves the problem of why evil exists on earth. Finally, he asserts that the stories he has examined explain the need for judicial codes. The book makes an important contribution by clearly validating this claim, although Dershowitz disregards the stories' significance as a basis for moral and ethical development. ~ Publishers Weekly
B. Netanyahu (Cornell University Press: January 1998), 272 pages.
One of the world's foremost scholars in the fields of Spanish and Jewish medieval history, B. Netanyahu revolutionized accepted belief concerning the causes of the Spanish Inquisition in his magisterial volume of 1995, The Origins of the Inquisition. Locating that origin not in the supposed persistence of Judaism among the New Christians but in a concession the kings were forced to make to powerfully anti-Jewish popular sentiment, he radically altered the whole landscape of Hispano-Jewish studies. Toward the Inquisition is another major contribution to this historiographic revolution. Made up of seven of Netanyahu's essays, published over the last two decades and collected here for the first time, it further illuminates Jewish and Marrano history from the mid-fourteenth century to the end of the fifteenth century. The essays throw light on such long-obscured phenomena as the rise of the Nazi-like theory of race which harassed the conversos for three full centuries, or the abandonment of Judaism by most conversos decades before the Inquisition was established. ~ Product Description
J.P. Moreland (Navpress: Jul 1, 1997) 249 pages.
Prepare Your Mind For Action. The mind plays an important role in Christianity. Unfortunately, many of us leave our minds behind when it comes to our faith. In Love Your God with All Your Mind, J. P. Moreland presents a compelling case for the role of the mind in spiritual transformation. He challenges us to develop a Christian mind and to use our intellect to further God's kingdom through evangelism, apologetics, worship, and vocation. "This exploration into the mind of evangelical Christianity is one of the most courageous books of our time. In language that is thoroughly erudite but compassionate, theological but practical, and scriptural but entirely relevant to today, the author presents the deeper significance of Paul's plea to the Christians at Phillipi: 'Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. '". ~ From the Publisher
Craig Blomberg (Broadman & Holman: Jun 1, 1997)
The intertestamental and first-century background information alone is worth the price of the book. Blomberg offers a concise treatment of critical methodologies (Historical Criticism and Literary Criticism), and then an eminently readable and interesting intro to the four gospels. Blomberg's survey of the life of Christ is as good or better than anything I have seen. What sets Blomberg's work on Jesus slightly ahead of that of Robert Stein (Jesus the Messiah) is, again, readability. Blomberg offers a chapter on the external evidence for the reliability of the gospels which seems to be basically a summary of his work from 1987 (Historical Reliability of the Gospels). He sums up this great work with a challenging look at the theology of Jesus. ~ Buddy Boone