Book Notes (July-Aug 2010)

By Matt Dabbs

by Edward Fudge
June 29, 2010

June 30, 2010 — Following are my brief comments concerning some recent books in which I think you might have an interest. All are available through www.amazon.com as well as from the publishers.


Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ, by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola (Thomas Nelson, 2010), 206 pages.

One cannot think of a goal more admirable and essential than that expressed by the subtitle of thisbook, and we should all pray that God will use the Jesus Manifesto mightily to that end. The two authors represent an interesting pairing. Viola is a successful conference speaker, author, and quasi-apostle of an international house-church movement; Sweet chairs the department of Evangelism at Drew University and is an acclaimed speaker and author as well. As I read, I wondered if Viola wrote the major draft, combining his best speeches over the years, with Sweet then tweaking and adding endnotes. (That is 100% speculation!)

The book is chock full of aphorisms (catchy sayings, alliterative or otherwise) reminiscent of a rousing banquet speech, many worthy of posting on a church marquee. The authors praise Jesus from first to last (wonderful!) but don’t say much about why he is to be praised (unfortunate). If the authors presented this material orally rather than in writing, the event would be a pep talk and not a Bible class. That is also very worthwhile, but prospective readers deserve to know the distinction.


Divine Correction for Distraction–The Remedial Impact of Focus: A Commentary on the Epistle to theColossians, by Given O. Blakely (self-published through Xlibris.com, 2010). Two volumes, 954 + xcvpages.

Many gracEmail subscribers will recognize the name of this author, for whom the year 2010 marks 57 years of preaching Christ and teaching the Bible. If you want technical comments about original languages and anacademic tone on the one hand, or catchy phrases and “how-to” applications on the other, these are not the books for you. However, if you are looking for a commentator as comfortable in his text as a fish is in water, who is so full of Scripture that almost every word he writes either quotes or paraphrases biblical language, so centered on Christ that he can barely speak of anything else, so attached to heavenly interests and “things above” that he seems a misfit in typical earthly society, then Given O. Blakely is your man.

His writing style is neither academic nor simplistic but is intended for serious and thoughtful readers. He describes his own purpose and approach as follows: “It is my desire to ‘serve’ my generation, as David did his. … That service has to do with providing some advantage to my peers in strict accord with the grace that has been given to me. Of course this means not extending myself beyond the perimeter of my own understanding–not venturing into the dark room of philosophy or the stormy sea of human speculation. It … also involves not thrusting into the background things I have been given to see or allowing any form of human wisdom to supersede or obscure what God has revealed through the scriptures” (p. xv). Blakely’s voluminous website is http://wotruth.com .


Understanding English Bible Translation: The Case for an Essentially Literal Approach, by Leland Ryken(Crossway, 2009), 208 pages.

If you ever wondered why there are so many Bible translations and how they differ from each other, this book will answer most if not all of your questions. The author is a long-time professor at Wheaton College (and the father of its new president), and served as Literary Features Editor for the ESV Study Bible. As such, he is not a disinterested observer of the struggle between “literal” (essentially “word for word”; examples are KJV, RSV, ESV)and “dynamic equivalent” (supposedly “thought for thought”; examples are GNB, NIV, TLB) approaches to translation but is a major player in that struggle. As the subtitle to this book makes plain, Ryken argues for a “literal” translation approach, leaving it to the readers to interpret and apply what the original text actually said.


The Christ Code: Finding God in Unexplored Places, and Unrelenting Faith, Book 1: A Divine Secret,by Gary D. Collier (Cloverdale, Ind.: CWP Press, 2010), 200 pages and 220 pages.

These two volumes represent the culmination of years of work by the author, creator of the Coffee With Paul approach to Bible study mentioned previously in gracEmail family notes. The first title, The Christ Code, is foundational to the entire program. It explains the need for Bible study materials that bless both the mind (with solid scholarly information) and the heart (with practical inspiration and ultimately transformation), and describes step-by-step how Gary created what he calls the Coffee With Paul program (a conversational approach to Scripture) to meet that need. The second title, Unrelenting Faith, Book 1: A Divine Secret, is the first of three interactive guides through First Thessalonians in the Coffee With Paul Reading Library, covering the first chapter of the epistle. Donald A.Hagner, New Testament Professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, calls Gary “an extremely gifted Bible scholar and at the same time an especially exciting and effective teacher.” Hagner says he knows of “nothing comparable” to this program and he recommends it “with the highest enthusiasm.” For more information, go to www.biblestudytips.com.


After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters, by N. T. Wright (Harper One, 2010), 308pages.

This is the most recent book from the pen of the ever-prolific Bishop of Durham, England (see www.ntwrightpage.com for an illustration), who will be vacating the cathedral within weeks to become Research Professor at St. Andrews University in Scotland, in which he both compares and contrasts Christian character and classical Greek “virtues.” Wright tells the January 2009 story of the U.S. Airways pilot who successfully landed his passenger plane in the Hudson River after a flock of birds flew into the jet engines and disabled the plane. Captain”Sully” was able to accomplish a feat instinctively within minutes that would have required hours of conscious decision-making by anyone else, says Wright, because he had spent many years making those separate decisions over and over again until they became second nature.

That is the way with Christian character, Wright says, which is the progressive result of conscious, determined and repeated right choices when nobody else is looking. I appreciated

this book very much, not only because it is helping me live in a way that is more pleasing to Christ, but also because it makes plain the purpose of our lives from the time we believe in Jesus and thereafter — a gap in Wright’s previous teaching which he commendably recognized and now fills most admirably.


Longing for God: Seven Paths of Christian Devotion, by Richard J. Foster and Gayle D. Beebe (IVP Books,2009), 366 pages.

This book traces the ways many different individuals and groups have “come alive to God” — from John of the Cross to John Wesley, from Thomas Aquinas to Thomas Merton, plus twenty-two others who stretched their souls toward heaven. Beebe discusses the “seven paths of Christian devotion,” each illustrated by three or four examples,followed by a brief section of Foster’s “Reflecting and Responding.” The “seven paths” are “the right ordering of our love for God,” “the spiritual life as journey,” “the recovery of knowledge of God lost in the fall,” “intimacy with Jesus Christ,” “the right ordering of our experiences of God,” “action and contemplation,” and “divine ascent.” Not everyone relates to this whole approach to godliness. Those who do are called “contemplatives” by Gary Thomas (SacredPathways, Zondervan, 2000), and they live alongside the “naturalists,” “sensates,” “traditionalists,” “ascetics,””caregivers,” “enthusiasts” and “intellectuals,” all equally spiritual in their own ways. Those who do travel this pathway will want to read, mark and digest what Beebe and Foster say here.


What’s With Paul and Women? Unlocking the Cultural Background to 1 Timothy 2, by Jon Zens(www.EkklesiaPress.com), 2010, 136 pages.

The Apostle Paul is often accused of misogyny, a charge that overlooks most of his comments regarding specific women and also women in general. In fact, as Jon Zens powerfully illustrates in the beginning ofWhat’s With Paul and Women?, Paul belonged to the rabbinic school most congenial to the Jewish sisters –although anti-women quotes from some other rabbis practically scorch the ears. However, Jesus exceeded even Paul by defying the “political correctness” of his day, welcoming Mary as his student-disciple, by speaking openly with a multi-married Samaritan woman (three strikes and she was out in the popular opinion), and by choosing a woman as the first “apostle” — sending her to tell the male Apostles that he was alive again.

Zens reads the New Testament as expecting all believers to exercise their various grace-gifts without regard to gender. There are only two passages that limit that principle (1 Cor. 14:34-35 and 1 Tim. 2:11-12), and Zens investigates the second of the two texts to discover what is going on. Behind 1 Timothy 2, he discovers certain false teachers who are misleading some Christian women at Ephesus. Paul’s choice of topics and words in this chapter strongly suggest that the false teaching was coming from the cult of the goddess Artemis (also called Diana).

For example, Artemis was the goddess of fertility and of protection during childbirth (background to 2:15), and female devotees sought her favor by donning expensive garments and ornate hair (background to 2:9). The Artemis cult was ruled by women who seemingly dominated over their people without question (background to 2:12, where the word sometimes translated “exercise authority over” really means “to dominate”). According to Zens, the instructions to men (2:8) and to women (2:9) both concern prayer and both amplify 2:1-2 by explaining the manner in which men and women alike are to pray in public. Paul actually calls for quietness and not silence. The word used in 2:11 of women is also used in 2:2 of all believers.

This is a most enlightening book which sheds much light on the circumstances surrounding the believers at Ephesus –circumstances that go far in helping us understand what the Apostle is saying in 1 Timothy 2 and why he says it.


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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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