My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Review: Scripture First

Scripture First Scripture First by Daniel B. Oden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a curated selection of six (6) academic essays from the Stone-Campbell Restoration tradition that tries to re-examine how and why the moment failed to bring about the Christian unity it was looking for. Having grown up within the Disciples of Christ wing of this movement, I came to this book with a certain perspective that colors how I understood the material.

1. Creedal Expressions and Their Development in the Hebrew Bible: One of the tenants of the Restoration movement is that scripture should be read without the "lens" of creeds or traditions which was thought to have contributed to erroneous interpretations. The problem with that approach comes from the fact that "the canon of scripture has come to us through and within community - through the same community that also preserved tradition." In other words, we all use some form of a "lens" to interpret what we read ... and we can find examples of such [proto-creedal concepts] used within scripture itself.

2. Understanding Scripture through the Apostolic Proclamation: I struggled with this material ... as it was way more academic that I was prepared for. The author explores some of the theology of Paul and how he views sin, death and the resurrection. I did pick up a few gems here, but for most of it I was fighting to finish it (and I am sure I didn't understand most of it).

3. Ecclesial Unity, Biblical Interpretation, and the Rule of Faith: Perhaps to must accessible of the six for me, I got quite a bit out of this essay that explored how divisive creeds and tradition could become after centuries of accretions and inculturation. This paper explores how these divisions/schisms exploded in the 16th century and has continued apace since then. In an attempt to restore unity within and between Christian confessions, the American Restoration movement tried to return to traditions found within the "primitive" church and build upon sola scriptura with limited success. Unfortunately, by rejecting the accumulated body of tradition and creeds, the "flattening of Scripture" has the effect of making each element of faith as important as another despite an obvious hierarchy. There is obviously a tension here when defining the correct Rule of Faith to foster a "properly Christian lens" through which to interpret Scripture while maintaining unity.

4. Resisting the Primitivist Temptation: The Restoration movement seeks to return to the "primitive" church; but how far back do you go? And what do you do with all of the competing "primitive" churches that were competing within the early church? Unfortunately, without any reference to creed or tradition, what you eventually get is a "pristine, primitive church remade into the image of the seeker." Perhaps the greatest flaw with primitivism is the narrative that requires a "falling away" from perfect original. The author here counters with an observation that "the truth arrives through time" indicating that our understanding of "main event" took centuries to figure out. This essay is a good follow on from the previous essay and more clearly outlines the problems encountered with this approach.

5. Reading Scripture Baptismally: After a quick review of what baptism is/means, the author then lays out how to use baptism (and the submission to Christ) to interpret scripture by outlining six(6) ways to shift our perspective: pyramid, gospel, Passover, Jordan, fingers and ones ... interesting, but probably not universally efficacious.

6. Beyond Sola Scriptura: An Expanded View of the Textual Inspiration: This essay covers a rough outline of how Protestants have historically used sola scriptura before recommending a way forward using a process more "oriented by communal reflection upon Scripture." The process of discerning meaning through the "experiences of diverse people and the narrative of those experiences" is key; however, in doing so, we must acknowledge something of an iterative approach that is "something akin to a trail-and-error, hit-or-miss strategy."

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
#ScriptureFirst #NetGalley

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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.