Friday, December 31, 2010

Hiestand, Raising Purity: A Book Review

My thanks to the author Gerald Hiestand for a review copy of his book.  The book's website is here and you are able to download the first two chapters as well as listen to some of the related seminar material. Gerald is also a contributor to the SAET blog.

Well, the book has a smart cover, is well presented and has a nice modern crisp feel to it.  This is going to be a mixed review and I am never sure with such things whether to give the good news or the bad news first, so I am going to be nice, then nasty, then nice again, just to warn you. 

A nice bit
The first thing to say is that I liked the author, he has clearly given the issue at hand plenty of thought, has a pastoral heart and is concerned to give practical real life help to parents.  His analysis of contemporary trends in romantic relationships in chs. 3 & 4 is excellent, insightful and helpful.  It is clear that when he is talking about the sturggles different people face in these areas he knows what he is talking about and wants to empower people to a better way of doing things.  In fact whenever Hiestand is talking about practical pastoral issues I find myself either in agreement or at least sympathy (not everything will translate culturally from USA to NZ/UK). 

The nasty bit
I do how ever have a number of reservations regarding this book and the first and most serious perhaps stems inevitably from the subtitle, "Helping Parents Understand The Bible's Perpsective On Sex, Dating, And Relationships."  The book turns to the Bible to find a "perspective" on North American relationship culture and inexorably, because the Bible contains no such thing, there are a number of points where the exegesis/interpretation of the texts that are brought into action acheives the status of Biblical Theology Train Wreck.  This is a shame because I think his practical conclusions are essentially sound, it is merely a case of "why do it that way?"  For example with both Ephesians 5:24-32 (p17-20) and Song of Songs 2:7 (p77-79) Hiestand takes a debatable interpretation of a single verse and then proceeds to build unwieldy theological edifices on top of them which then are constantly referred back to in order to support his arguments.  In ch. 8  Hiestand does demonstrate that he is capable of doing more than prooftext by bringing a useful discussion of legalism in Galatians to bear, but unfortunately this is not the primary M.O. of the book.  The extent to which some of the more peculiar theological equations are woven through the book also means that Hiestand produces a text that is rather strained and at times not appropriately "readable" for the intended audience, e.g. "when a man looks with desire upon the nakedness of his wife, he images forth accurately the desire that Christ has for his bride" (p125).  A book aimed at regular folks should aim to be more conversational and clear, I feel a bit churlish pointing this out, but it is a significant enough problem that I feel in honesty I must.

Another nice bit
However, as I have already said, despite a methodology and writing style in need of a thorough tune up, Hiestands advice makes good common sense.  He doesn't just critique, but in ch.7 lays out a constructive and helpful solution to the issue at hand.  Hiestand is also to be commended for the way he exhorts parents not to give into fear or a fortress mentality but to teach young people discernment and enable them to function in a world which has very different standards of sexual purity (p118ff).  This is a call which needs to be heard loud and clear and is applicable to many other areas of cultural engagement.

A Fourth Edition
As this book is already in its 3rd edition I see no harm in a 4th, and I would like to suggest a couple of ways in which it could be positively expanded. 

1. I think Hiestrand is aware, as the book progresses, that sexuality is really a subset of discipleship to Christ, or holiness, and that the best way to help young people live to a biblical standard of sexual purity is to first teach them to live wholly for Christ.  Sexual purity is not, therefore, an end in itself.  I think the book would be stronger if this point was made sooner and clearer, that unless your kids are following Christ the whole thing is just going to be an exercise in trying to force your own sexual hangups on your kids.  Although this does come through the book, I'd like to see the dog wagging the tail more than the other way round.

2. While parents do have a role to play, the book is in danger of suggesting it is all about them. I'd like to see some account taken of the role of the church and the child's peers in the process of character formation, especially the church.  Relatedly there should be some acknowledgment in the book of issues for single parents and for those in religiously divided marriages, as it is the book runs the danger of addressing an idealised family world that doesn't exist.

There is more I could say, both positive and negative, but I think I have said enough.  If you want to do some serious thinking about this subject than Hiestand's book is not a bad place to go for the practical side of things, but for the biblical and theological I would look elsewhere, at least until the next edition.  As a critique of current practice chapters 3&4 are well worth a read by any concerned pastor.  Hiestand is to be commended for an ambitious attempt to bring a much needed theological and pastoral treatement to an issue about which there is so much confusion.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Brick-a-brack 30/12/10

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Hezekiah: New Manuscript Discovered

Well I am pleased to be able to bring, what I think may be the first review in the biblioblog top 50 of the recently discovered manuscript of the Book of Hezekiah.  You know, the one you always look for somewhere in the minor prophets but cannot find.  As much as I hate to contradict the sagely and saintly Claude Mariottini on the origins and content of this important document it is clear that his project to reconstruct this document from oral fragments has failed to result in anything resembling an actual book.  By contrast Ian Kammann, a much neglected and misunderstood scholar of the first order, has produced what can only be described as the most convincing reconstruction of the Hezekiah tradition this century, or ever, and it is an actual book.  Not only so but it contains a limited reconstruction of the pseudopopapocryphal document, the Book of Hesitations, fitted within a radical new interpretational structure and alongside a helpful excursus on the relationship between the two traditions. 

Contrary to the misguided thoughts of some what really sets this edition of Hezekiah apart from any other edition someone might hypothetically produce is the foot notes and helpful introductory sections, concordance and other essential textual aparatus.  This book essentially combines the novelty and excitment of cutting edge textual reconstruction with the accessibility of a Thomas Nelson "your-own-peculiar-niche-of-beligerant-Christianity" Study Bible.  So don't miss it, available at Amazon or Kammann's own website.  This could be the late Christmas present for the pastor or scholar you love that you have been looking for.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Links

This will be my last post till after Christmas, and I have to say the blogosphere is very seasonal this year, enjoy these and don't forget to turn the computer off and have some quality time with Jesus and some other real people, perhaps your family.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas and Q

Doug Chaplin shows us why nothing is more Christmassy than than the gospel according to Q. ;-)

Thesis Now Online

Discovering Paul’s Theological Ethic in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

My MTh thesis is now available as a PDF online. Read and enjoy! If you are new to the blog why not add me to your feed reader, you never know, you might like it and you can always delete me if you don't. 

My thesis conclusion is here and my examiners' comments are here if you want to do some research before diving right in. 

PS. If you do read it and find any mistakes or bones of contention !

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dr Platypus on Becoming An Angel When You Die

Darrell has done a fascinating study bringing biblical, intertestamental, rabbinical and pop-cutural research togther in a very interesting post.  Don't miss it.

No Such Thing as Evangelicalism?

Yet as soon as evangelicalism becomes a subject, it splinters and splits. Indeed, taken together, recent studies by more-or-less outsiders show there is no such thing as evangelicalism. The term represents a broad range of significantly different theologies, practices, and religious movements within Christianity, and there are often tensions among and within them. Which is no revelation at all to most more-or-less insiders, who call themselves evangelicals, however qualified, and who argue as much with others who do the same as with those of us who don't.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Popes and Bankers

OK, I have been sweating about how to review this book,

But now I don't have to, Paul Burkhart has written the review that frankly I wasn't man enough to do, and he does it so much more intelligently and gracefully than I would have.  So please read his review, because this endorsement of his review is the most I can bring myself to do towards reviewing this book.  I'm sorry to say.  Also don't miss his analysis of the author in question, he has cleared up a lot of questions for me.  It remains however that this was a brilliant idea for a book, and I'd love to see this done well.

Is Evangelicalism a Mental Disease?

At a biblical studies conference last week I was having fun asking the politically incorrect question of the people I met as to whether or not they were a Christian.  To me, one's religious committments are bound to have a big affect on your scholarship (no matter what you say about "objectivity") and so I'm always keen to know, and at least I do it in person rather than public.  Well one very civilised chap I spoke to answered my question with a scowl and the statement "well, i'm not an evangelical" which was interesting, because I do self identify as such, but the way he said it I wasn't sure we would use the word in the same way.

But then reading about street preachers on Stuart's blog it occurred to me that for many evangelical is code for intolerance, bigotry, irrationality, right wing politics, emotional instability and public outbursts of hatred.  And this is the problem, I know lots and lots of evanglicals and they are by and large open minded, compassionate, polite, intelligent and a little shy.  How is it that such a huge majority has its reputation determined by a tiny excentric minority?

So really there are two meanings for this one word, and I wonder if like "fundamentalist" what was originally coined as a positive self descriptor will soon become an irreparably pejorative slur.  What do you think, is it a word you use of yourself?  To stand in the tradition of such conversionist and social activist examplars as Wesley and Wilberforce, for example, is no small thing, but then neither is being lumped in with every illiterate street preacher or free marketeering hawkish US politician.  Has the term reached the limit of it's usefulness?  Has it's broadness ceased to be useful for unity and become a liability to misunderstanding?

Let me know what you think.

brick-a-brack 14/12/10

Nicole on Biblical Egalitariansim

Roger Nicole, reformed Baptist theologian has passed on.  One thing that serparated him from many of those now extolling his virtues was his outspoken egalitarianism.
Since biblical egalitarianism is still viewed by many as inconsistent with biblical inerrancy, it is desirable to state in a very brief manner my position on this subject.
The matter of the place of women in the home, in society, and in the church is not an issue that can be conclusively determined by a few apparently restrictive passages that are often advanced by those who think that subordination represents God’s will for women.
The starting point must be at the creation of humanity, as our Lord himself exemplified by quoting Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 in response to a question by the Pharisees (Matt. 19:4-5, Mark 10:6-7). The climactic point must be at the consummation of the redemptive plan in the wedding supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9, 21-22), as St. Paul notes in discussing marriage in Ephesians 5:22-33. These two moments are the only ones in which sin has not damaged the institution. Thus, the line that connects creation and the eschaton of redemption represents the relationship of males and females in its unadulterated form. What comes in between may include factors due to human “hardness of heart” (Matt. 19:8).
Rest of his article on this subject available here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

brick-a-brack 10/12/10

Don't expect much from me for the next week or so, but always glad to furnish you with some fascinating reading from around the biblioblogosphere!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

brick-a-brack 8/12/10

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's Snow Joke

I'm away today and tomorrow at ANZABS and the next couple of weeks are my last at Carey so I will probably be doing some real work rather than getting to blog as much as i'd like, but just so you don't feel totally neglected here is something for my friends in the northern hemisphere, keep an eye on your snowmen , the BBC have even provided the audio of the 999 call! (thanks Matti)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Justice is Served

Finally the OED weighs in on the long running fight, and there seems to be little uncertainty about this vital cultural matter.

The Oxford English Dictionary may have settled a long-running argument between Australia and New Zealand over who invented the pavlova.  The dessert - meringue with fruit and cream - was named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, who visited both countries in the 1920s.  Australians and New Zealanders agree on that, but not on who invented it.

In its relaunched online edition, the OED says the first recorded pavlova recipe appeared in New Zealand in 1927.  This was in a book called Davis Dainty Dishes, published by the Davis Gelatine company, and it was a multi-coloured jelly dish.  But New Zealanders claim the meringue version also originated there, with recipes for it appearing in publications in 1928 and 1929.  Dr Helen Leach from New Zealand's University of Otago is something of a pavlova expert.  "I can find at least 21 pavlova recipes in New Zealand cookbooks by 1940, which was the year the first Australian ones appeared," the author of The Pavlova Story told the Daily Telegraph.

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it Ali, Mark, Mike and Roland!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Three Vids of Distinction

How to talk Christianese, HT

Brian McClaren talks about the life span of a listener, HT

Mike Bird gives us some insight into the brand new SBL GNT! 


Xenos hits new highs

Now at number 13, I think it might have been higher but all those peeps who went to SBL have been going crazy in a massive north american biblical studies blog love fest and generated a lot of traffic that i didn't tap into. 

November Carnival is Up


OK, now I am embarrassed, Deane has gone the extra mile with his carnival, making mine look rather puny by comparison! But I'm surprised to hear he is now a woman. (update: others are also giving away personal information)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Brick-A-Brack 01/12/10

  • Claude Mariottini gives a concise and very helpful argument that God did not command genocide in Joshua and Judges
  • Loren Rossen cites three historical Jesus scholars on why the non-canonical gospels are not admissible for historical Jesus research, "Two of them are secular liberals, so it's not as if plain sense flows only from Christian bias." 
  • TVNZ reports on "a former atheist who found God and like many Christians he's trying to make the world a better place."
  • Darrell on the modern and hypothetical ancient Greek word for blog.
And something to get you in the Christmas mood,