Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Vacation Reading

While on vacation, I had the opportunity to read 2 books.  So I thought I'd write a quick review of them.  Oh happy day!  But first, let me express thanks to my pastor Stephen Jenks who offered these books from his own library.  Thank you, my brother!

The first book I read was We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry by G. K. Beale (fast becoming one of my favorite biblical theologians).  First, the pro's.  Beale is probably one of the most creative and best readers of the Bible in modern scholarship.  His eye for intertextual and intratextual linking is superb.  He builds a very strong case that throughout the Bible, a repeated theme is that what people revere, they resemble either for ruin or restoration.  This theme was traced from Isaiah 6 of all places, argued convincingly to use idolatry language which reached back to the Exodus of Israel and the nation's first major sin - worshiping a cow idol!  He brings to light a clear and consistent theme throughout Scripture.

However, this is also the major con of the book (and perhaps Beale).  He is nothing if not thorough.  He could have cut the book in half.  That is not to say that he wrote superfluous data.  He just dispensed a lot of information that most "lay readers" that I know would not have been able to grasp.  Which brings me to another point.  Some of his connections, especially in the NT, seemed to strain a bit.  I felt that the core of his argument was based from the OT study.  Maybe because Beale is a NT scholar (perhaps a biblical theologian is better), he felt it necessary to engage this issue through the rest of the canon.  At least the difficulty of seeing the theme of idolatry in the NT (it is there, don't get me wrong) was displayed to have morphed into a self-idolizement (minus a few places in Acts where pagan idolatry was dealt with head-on).

All in all, this book is a fantastic display of what Biblical theology should be.  I would have liked to see Beale address the practical implications more.  But that was not his intention.  The little practical application he included was, I felt, pretty weak.  He spent so much time building a case that we emulate what we worship and then only applied it to a contextualized version of modern idolatry without really bearing out the full implication of what a lifestyle like that would do.  If worshiping self leads to ruin, then explain the ruin!  But alas.  I give this book a hearty 1 1/2 thumbs up for its exegesis and biblical theology.  I give it 1 thumb down for its lack of practical application which takes it out of the hands of the non-academic, Bible student Christian.

The 2nd book, Four Views on Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology, will be discussed in a separate post.

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