Category Archives: book reviews

Lamentations as Comfort for Trauma Victims? Consider Lamentations as a Teacher for Counselors

The book of Lamentations is one of my favorite books of the Bible. I have often thought it would make dramatic theatre to have it read with modern-day images flashing behind the reader connecting today’s crises with the cries from the destruction of Israel.

What if we read it as a lament about the problem of child sexual abuse in Christian communities and the resulting discipline of the Church for covering up and denying the problem for so many years?

Sadly, this small book of poetry (written in acrostic format) of five chapters, languishes in most churches. I cannot recall a single sermon preached from this book. It could stand to use someone extolling the virtues and values of this book.

Enter Chris Wright’s new commentary “The Message of Lamentations” (IVP, 2015). I received my copy today in the mail. It is entirely readable. He provides a good overview of the structure of the book, illustrates the heart of the poetic style yet never loses touch with the practical value of the cries as he proceeds to exposit the book.

Having read his introduction, here is why Chris says this book is for today’s suffering:

  • It is a memorial. Even though the exile ended and Israel was restored, that “does not erase the suffering of those who went through the horrors of 587 BC.” Later he tells us, “It compels readers forever afterwards to look and listen, to remember and reflect. ‘The biblical book of Lamentations refuses denial, practices truth-telling and reverses amnesia.’ (p 35, quoting Kathleen O’Connor). No cover-up, no quick reminder of heaven to erase the pain of today.
  • It is a voice. “…the poetry of Lamentations gives voice to those who were rendered voiceless in the vortex of violence.” The book lets the voiceless speak.

And that, as is well-known, is a vital part of any hope for healing from deepest trauma…. And we may want to step in with our comfort or corrections, our advice and solutions. But Lamentations simply makes us listen to the voices of the sufferers–in the profusion and confusion of their pain, the bitterness of their protest, their shafts of self-condemnation, their brief flashes of hope and long night of despair, and their plaintive pleading with God just to look and see. And if in the midst of these voices there is accusation against God, Lamentations lets us hear that too…. This book forces us to listen to every mood that the deepest suffering causes, allowing the words that emerge to have their own integrity and authenticity, whether we approve or not. We are called not to judge, but to witness. Not to speak, but to listen….”This is what really happened,” they say, “this is what we went through, and this is what we felt.” (emphasis mine; ibid)

Chris goes on to talk about the confession of sin in the book and makes it very clear that lamentations is not meant to be a theology of suffering and sin applied to every situation where people suffer. Surely there are proper times of confession and the book of Lamentations records the confession of sin for Israel’s rebellion. Chris goes on to point out that even if all of the suffering can be attributed to sin, such sin cannot erase the suffering being experienced. To do so would erase the reality of experience. I find counselors all too interested in sorting victims and sinners. At one level, it doesn’t matter. Suffering is suffering, no matter who experiences it.

  • It is a protest. No matter the cause, the immensity of suffering as found on the pages of Lamentations and in sexual abuse produces cries of protest. Chris denies that protest is blaming God. Rather, our protests assume God’s capacity to right all wrongs and confusion as to why it has not yet happened. He calls such protest evidence of spiritual “vertigo.” And he notices that such statements of faith and protest are seen together in the final verses of the book. “You, Lord, reign forever…Why do you always forget us…?” (p. 40)
  • It is our home and we share it with God. He quotes O’Connor again. Lamentations is “a house for sorrow and a school for compassion.” Lamentations is the home for our tears and a home where God too weeps for us.

We counselors bear witness to pain and suffering. Lamentations teaches us to listen. It teaches us to express spiritual vertigo with our clients and to wait for God’s answer (notice God does not answer in this book; thankfully we have other books that do give us a direct answer).


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New Resource for Men with Porn Addiction

A friend of mine, David White, published a book late last year with New Growth Press entitled, Sexual Sanity For Men: Re-creating Your Mind in a Crazy Culture. I commend you this book for several reasons.

  1. The topic is absolutely important. David doesn’t offer a white knuckle approach to dealing with sexual temptations. Nor does he gloss over the difficulties and give the simplistic bible answer as to why porn use is bad for you or that Jesus is a substitute for porn (see week 11, day 2 for how why he rightly says, “Jesus is not going to become like porn for you” and why many addicts imagine that he will.)
  2. The book design is perfect. By saying this I am not talking about its physical attributes. Ever read a book that has decent sized chapters and then a few questions at the end? If you are like me you might glance at those “for further thought” questions and then move on to the next chapter. The result is that you get lots of content quickly but make little to no application. David’s book is written in the format of daily readings (5 per week) for 14 weeks. Each reading is about 2-3 pages with specific reflection  and self-assessment questions with space to write. I suggest a reader complete on own but then meet up with a group of guys and discuss (hold accountable) what your read/wrote.
  3. The focus. The material and questions spend what may feel like an inordinate amount of time on discovering how deceived we are. You could feel like he is beating a dead horse. But I would suggest that David is intentionally helping readers peel back layer and layer of deceptions that allow sin to continue. How else could believers imbibe sin if they weren’t first deadening with deception? For example, he asks the reader to note where they wear the “fig leaf of ministry” as a way to mollify guilt.

I would encourage readers to add one question to each day/week: “What is one thing I am going to endeavor to do today, with God’s help, in light of what I just read?” If we only stay with the assessment, we can become defeated and discouraged by the amount of mess we find. But, God gives us a way of escape. Where is it today? Don’t promise yourself the world. You’ll break that promise. Endeavor to make one small, incremental change today. Tomorrow, you’ll do it again. And, don’t try to do it alone.

You can find David at

*received complimentary book from NGP but review is my own and not the result of free books. I get plenty others that never make my recommended list.

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Filed under book reviews, Christianity, pornography, Sex, sexual addiction

Escape to Timbuktu

Cover of "To Timbuktu: A Journey Down the...

Cover of To Timbuktu: A Journey Down the Niger

I’m a sucker for adventure travel writing. I love all kinds of books. I’ll dabble in a little theology, philosophy, politics, history, and of course a healthy dose of psychological literature. But, when I am full up hearing about the problem of child sexual abuse by Christian leaders, I’ll escape in adventure travel. Right now I am working on To Timbuktu: A Journey Down the Niger by Mark Jenkins. He tells the story of his trip to the source of the Niger in Guinea and then as they kayak down the Niger towards Timbuktu. Interspersed in each chapter are tidbits from early explorers who attempted to locate the source of the Niger. I haven’t a clue how it turns out since I am just to the part where they finally start kayaking.

While there are a few course words in the book, I find Mark’s writing style such that I am right there with him.

Places with no roads and no wires are bigger than other places. Distance hasn’t been distorted. People claim that world is getting smaller, as if ti were some green and blue balloon leaking air. Africans don’t buy this. To most Africans the world is enormous. Why? Because they walk. They have no choice; they are poor. If you must use your own legs–your own blood, bone, and sinew–to travel from one place to another, a mile is a mile…

Places with no roads and no wires are also more mortal than other places. They are so because you cannot escape. Can’t fly away or drive away or phone for help. If you want to leave, you must walk. If you cannot walk, you must have the help of those around you–if they will help you. Thus, kindnesses are not overlooked, mistakes not forgotten, cowardice not forgiven. In such a place, or on an expedition into such a place, what goes around comes around. (p. 56-7)

Or, describing some expats,

Like all expats in Africa, the Olafsons don’t quite live in Africa. They live inside a walled compound with guards and guard dogs and gardeners, servants and chauffeurs, flush toilets and air conditioning. …. Most expats, when they go back to their own country…find it too tame and talk ceaselessly of the drama and wildness of their life in Africa. But then back in Africa they take every precaution to make their lives just as they would be if they lived at home–except for the servants and the cases of expensive liquor …

He goes on to claim that many journalists do the same. I wonder about travel writers too. But then, I don’t care much because it is a good story.

Why do I like these kinds of books? I am amazed at the risks people are willing to take, their perseverance in the face of hardship (when I would have quit a long time ago) and the descriptions of places I might like to see but for the severe difficulty getting there. In this book, I get a front row view of a tiny village and how it operates (at least when white people are in the mix).

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Helping that hurts?

Cover of "When Helping Hurts: Alleviating...

Cover via Amazon

At the recent PCA mercy conference, I attended Steve Corbett’s seminar on rethinking benevolence practices. If you are unfamiliar with Steve, if you are involved in mercy or diaconal ministries, you absolutely should read his book, When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty without Hurting the Poor. Or, go to this site if you want to know more about asset-based benevolence and the Chalmers Institute. The book and site will give you a clearer view of different kinds of poverty (material, being, purpose), the important distinctions between relief work, rehabilitation, and development work (and why pure relief may not be all that helpful outside of very immediate crises). What I found most helpful was his differentiation between need-based development (tends to focus on what is missing and outside resources can help) and asset-based development (which focuses more on existing assets that can be mobilized…and thus likely to be more sustainable).

Counseling that hurts?

We kindly Christians care about the world and about emotional, spiritual, cultural, and economic poverty. We want to help. Counselors want to help. It is necessary to review whether the help we offer is really all that helpful in moving individuals from passivity to activity. One of the hardest things to do in benevolence and counseling is to recognize when you are working harder than the one you are trying to help–and to then stop without withdrawing emotional support. For example, you counsel a person who is stuck in an abusive marriage. You so much want to help that person get to safety. But note several problematic responses

  • Coerce. Even though what you want (safety) is good, forcing someone to safety from a violent spouse is merely replicating abuse. Yes, paternalism and control, even when done for a good cause, merely replicates inappropriate authority in the life of another adult.
  • Ascribe motivation. When we get frustrated, we may desire to apply motives to the person.She doesn’t want to get out. She isn’t willing.In fact, it may be that she if afraid and cannot imagine a future outside of her current difficulty.
  • Reject. There are times when we have to walk away from a counselee. However, even when we do so, we ought to communicate an open invitation for help in the future from ourselves or someone else. We are not God. We do not make final judgments.

One of the most important things to remember is that even if a person rejects our advice, we are still offering help. We are giving them opportunity to consider a new way of thinking. We are helping them weigh pros and cons. We are one safe place. If they reject our help, we will be sad. But we ought not feel guilty.

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Calculated high risk takers: A different breed?

Some people are willing to take far more risk with their lives than most other human beings. Now, I’m not talking about the impulsive types who take uncalculated risks. I’m speaking here of those who make very considered risk. Take mountain climbers as an example. What drives a man or a woman to climb peaks such as Everest or K2 or Annapurna? Climbing mountains over 8,000 meters is a high risk endeavor. It is considered the riskiest form of sport. More people die trying in this sport than per capita in any other sport. Why are some willing to risk climbing. We cannot attribute this to impulsivity. The planning, effort and costs associated with climbing eliminate whimsical reasons. Further, opportunities to turn back in the face of increasing hardship (cold, lack of air, isolation, etc.) also eliminate those who would be adventurous but would rather not suffer much in the process.

So, if not impulsivity and if not passivity about life…then what is it that drives calculating risk takers?

I’m reading Ed Viesturs’ The Will to Climb: Obsession and Commitment and the Quest to Climb Annapurna–The World’s Deadliest Peak.  Ed Product Detailsexplores a number of climbers who are willing to spare no expense and effort to get to the top of Annapurna as well as all 14 of the 8K plus peaks. (He’s nuts enough to do all 14 without supplemental oxygen!). You get the sense that he is (a) driven, (b) willing to turn around again and again if he thinks he cannot climb safely, (c) yet willing to take far more risks than the rest of the population by being in/near danger and by pushing his body right up to the edge of the breaking point, and (d) supremely confident in his capacity to know where that breaking point is and how to stay on the right side of it.

I think he might agree with me that many of his colleagues who didn’t make it back down the mountain (more die on the way down rather than the way up) is a large dose of luck along with his will to turn back when he meets a risk too large.

As I look at this list I see that I am not that driven. I don’t get that much rush out of doing the impossible or pushing my body beyond the breaking point. I don’t like that much pain. I don’t have that much focus or drive to do just one thing either. In addition, I not that confident in my skills of making decisions on a knife’s edge nor confident in the skills of others to help me along the way (most mountain climbers put immense trust in their partners).

How about you? Do you know any calculated risk takers? Are you one? What is the difference between those who watch and those who do? How do you calculate risk?

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What did you read this summer?

Here in Philadelphia we are preparing for whatever part of Hurricane Irene comes our way. Looks like there will be time spent in the Monroe basement fighting the onslaught of water. Wet vacs at the ready.

In the lull before the storm, this would be a good time to review the good reads of the summer. I’ll tell you what I read if you tell me what you read or listened to via CD/recorded books. Is there a theme? I read things that caught my interest which was all over the place.

  1. Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa, by Jason Stearns. Stearns has done a masterful job in collecting first person interviews from those involved. From Congolese, rebel fighters, RPF soldiers, Ethnic Tutsis who have long called the Kivus area home. If you are interested in trying to understand the complex nature of the political and humanitarian crises in this area after the Rwandan genocide, this is a good book to read. A bit depressing but helpful in prep for our October trip to the Congo and Rwanda. I also started a book about Robert Mugabe and Zimbabwe but didn’t finish it.
  2. The Anglo Saxon World, by Michael D.C. Drout. I listened to this 7 CD set. Dr. Drout (from the other Wheaton College) was eminently capable in his lectures covering the rise and fall of the Anglo Saxon world in England from 500 t0 1000 AD. I never lost interest! Helped me understand its Germanic roots, influence on English Christianity, the value of Epic poetry like Beowulf (which I have decided to read now), and some of the foundations for Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (Drout considers Tolkien one of the foremost Anglo-Saxon experts).
  3. Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, by Paul Theroux. Listened to this book as well. Paul writes a travel log of his retracing a prior travel some 33 years earlier where he takes trains across Europe to China and up Russia. Some 25,000 miles of travelling. Quite interesting if you like knowing what life is like in the countries he explores. Seems to be quite focused on the sex trade and some very heartbreaking descriptions of trafficked women in southeast Asia. But the BEST part of his book is this: read his introduction to the book here on p. 1-3. See what he says about travel writers pathology. Funny!
  4. Baseball books. I read two this summer. Knuckler: My Life with Baseball’s Most Confounding Pitch by Tim Wakefield. I’m a big Sox fan and I have a great deal of respect for Wakefield. He’s no superstar but he is absolutely willing to do whatever his team needs, whether go out and start, do long relief, or sit the bench during the playoffs because they need someone else to be on the roster. As I write this, Wake is trying for his 200th win…and getting hit around. Seems he’s stuck on 199 for a bit. The book was a nice look at his life from his own vantage point. The second book was even more interesting to read. Nobody’s Perfect tells the story and the back story on what should have been a perfect game thrown by Armando Galarraga–except for a blown call on the last out (what SHOULD have been the last out). What makes this interesting is that each chapter is written in the first person telling the inner story of the pitcher and the umpire, James Joyce. Both show their quality character. If you like baseball and understand that a perfect game is so unlikely and that umpires never admit their mistakes, you will like this book.
  5. On recommendation by someone who gets how systems work, I read, The Primes: How any Group can Solve any Problem, by Chris McGoff. Excellent business planning book that didn’t feel like business at all but how to figure out how to do the “one thing” that you just have to do. I’m reading it as I try to figure out how to devise a continuing education and consultation side of my work. If you ever dream about starting a business or solving a work problem, I’d encourage you to read this.
  6. You might be wondering if I read anything in my own domain of counseling. I did. Two books. Healing Invisible Wounds: Paths to Hope and Recovery in a Violent World, by Richard Mollica. He describes how the act of telling one’s trauma story can lead to healing. If you are working with international trauma, a must read. I also read Working with Narrative in Emotion-Focused Therapy, by Angus and Greenberg. I started blogging on the chapters but went on vacation and finished it when I didn’t have access to the Internet. I hope to get back to blogging the chapters.

I think that is it. I know I skimmed and glanced at a whole bunch more. I tend to do the 5 minute read on lots of books that might be interesting but that I know I don’t have time to read. The 5 minute read gives me the main points and conclusions without having to take so much time.

By the way, the summer isn’t over. I have an edition of Beowulf on my nightstand. Not sure I’ll get through it. Linda Polman’s The Crisis Caravan: What’s Wrong with Humanitarian Aid is waiting right beside it. I’m about to start listening to John Milton’s Paradise Lost on my drives to work and I’m listening to Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter at the gym. My new great love is listening to stuff when it would normally be wasted time. My way of not thinking about problems.

So, did you read or re-read something fun this summer? What was it?


Filed under book reviews, Good Books, Uncategorized

What’s on your nightstand?

Books that is. What books are you reading/recently read that you really enjoyed?

Here’s my list:

1. Robert Lacey’s Inside the Kingdom. A book about the royal Saudi family and the world of Saudi Arabia. Nicely done! Discusses the US/Saudi relationship, Bin Laden, the plight of women.

2. Robert Lacey’s The Year 1000. Since I liked #1 I got out this book published in 2000. Tells of what we know about life in England or Engla lond in the year 1000.

3. Janet Soskice’s Sisters in Sinai. What a great book about Scottish twins who brought to light one of the oldest Palimpsests of the Gospels. Well written and takes you right to the mid to late 1800s and how these women succeeded in a world ready to ignore them. You will not be able to put it down! Nice to see these women getting their due.

4. Mike Emlet’s CrossTalk. A great book about using the bible in personal ministry so as to connect the text to people’s lives and vice versa.

5. William Struthers’ Wired for Intimacy. Haven’t finished this one but it is about how porn impacts male brains. Written by a Wheaton College prof (not one that I have met).

6. Finally, G Campell Morgan’s The Gospel of John. Gift for my birthday. It is not dry a boring as you might expect a commentary to be. Very devotional.


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A Christian Psychology 2

Chapter 2 of Eric Johnson’s book, Foundations for Soul Care(IVP, 2007) traces the use of the bible as soul healing agent throughout the history of the church. Eric explores the work of early church fathers, medieval church, reformation, and Puritanism as examples of soul care writings based on the biblical text.

The chapter then moves to consider the historical movement of the relationship between Christianity and science. While early scientists saw their field of study as something revealing evidence of God’s handiwork, a “fracture” begins with Enlightenment thinking.

Ironically, while Christianity contributed to the development of the scientific revolution, that revolution came to be increasingly linked to an alternative worldview: modernism (p. 63)

 Eric does a nice job summarizing the transition. One moves from the use of metaphysics, tradition, and revelation (Eric’s words) to a focus on the specific object of study and the use of observation. Thus, human reason and empiricism rule the day.

At core what distinguishes modernism and Christianity as ways of thinking about human life are their different ultimate commitments. Christianity assumes a God-centered worldview in which the individual self (with its submissive reason) is seen as relatively important in relation to the rest of creation but relatively unimportant in comparison to the infinite God. In such a framework, science is a noble task done first for the glory of God and second for the benefit of humanity, a good means to a greater end. Modernism inherited the self of Christianity, but without its God to keep things in proper perspective, the self became the center of the universe (an anti-Copernican revolution!), eventually regarding its own experience, together with its autonomous reason, as the foundations of truth and morality…Consequently, individualism–and not relationship–was established at the base of the modern worldview. (p. 65)

Eric goes on to talk about how Christianity imbibed the modernistic assumptions (either trying to use empiricism to defend fundamentalism or accepting that psychology is the best way to understand human functioning).

Eric does a good job summarizing the modern pastoral care movement and capitulation to psychotherapy models. Further, he shows how a Barthian model of soul care was not quite liberalism nor evangelicalism. Finally, he reviews the postmodern turn and “postliberal recovery.”

Johnson’s take on modern pastoral care movement? It doesn’t offer much to the evangelical in the way of thinking biblically about souls. The postliberal engagement with the Bible does two things: re-engages the text of Scripture as a real dialogue partner while not dismissing the helps within positivist psychology.

If you are unfamiliar with the modern history of Christian counseling and pastoral care, this is a great chapter to start with. You can get  a quick overview plus a bibliography to point you to original sources. The next chapters deal with evangelical and fundamentalist counseling models and how they dealt with Scripture (i.e., biblical counseling or integrationism).

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The God I Don’t Understand 7: How does the Cross work?

My apologies to those waiting for the next chapter in Wright’s book. Some other writing assignments require me to put down my fun books and pick up some work-related reading these days. But enough of my excuses… In chapter 7 Chris Wright admits that one answer to the question, “How did the cross achieve salvation for us?” is simple and from Scripture: “Because it did.” But he like many others would rather not stop there. And he contends the bible doesn’t stop there either.

He reminds the reader that evangelical interpreters of the Bible regard the most helpful metaphor of the cross as judicial–substitutionary atonement. There are other metaphors used in the bible to explain the “how” but 1 Cor 15:3 underlines and emphasizes that Christ’s death on the cross was sacrificial and substitutionary. Here Wright brings up the controversy surrounding “penal substitution” and the grounds by which some reject this forensic focus to substitutionary atonement. Of the 7 reasons he lists, the primary ones (in my eyes) are the sense that penal substitution focuses too much on guilt, portrays God as mechanistic or always angry, and emphasizes the only way to deal with sin is with violence.

Wright believes the arguments for rejecting penal substitution would be good if in fact evangelicals held them. But he fears that the arguments against the penal metaphor are caricatures. From this point he looks at how the bible paints God’s love and anger. His anger and love must be, he contends, taken together as part of a whole, rather than having one negate the other. The two expressions are not contrary to each other any more than we may be angry with a loved one for bad behavior and yet still love them at the same time. He suggests the Cross satisfies both God’s love and anger.

He further rejects the conflict between God the father and Jesus the son. God is not the angry father and Jesus the loving son who steps between us. That viewpoint would destroy God’s essential unity (see John 17 for this). He uses extensive quotes from John Stott here to bolster his argument

Finally, he addresses the concepts of guilt and shame. The argument has arise that penal atonement only makes sense in cultures with a “developed sense of personal and objective guilt.” Shame cultures, it is suggested, would not be able to identify as well. Further, in a postmodern world it appears that shame is the more likely experience (of not being internally consistent with oneself). But Wright says that both shame and guilt are addressed by the cross and both are related. He points to Ezekiel who talks about being shamed and feeling shamed (36:16-32). The cross (and the forgiveness behind it) takes away the shame quality even though they still feel it when they remember what God has done. Wright suggests that ongoing feeling is healthy. He quotes from another of his books

Israel were not to feel ashamed in the presence of other nations (36:15), but they were to feel ashamed in the presence of their own memories before God (36:31-32). Similarly, there is a proper sense in which the believer may rightly hold up her head in company.

He then talks about how God in the OT and Jesus in the NT publicly affirms those who were shamed. God removes their shame, no matter what others think of them. They now hold their head high. And yet, Wright tries to articulate that this person may still feel shame when remembering past sins but he is quick to point out that this feeling does not crush but fuels “genuine repentance and humility and for joy and peace that flow from that source alone.”

While the content of this chapter seems a bit more about confronting a wrong he sees in the penal substitution debate than about answering how the cross works, nonetheless I find his writing about guilt and shame quite helpful here–especially how he distinguishes the kinds and sources of shame. I think it might be helpful for those who trust in Jesus but who struggle with shame to consider for a moment what their shame drives them to do. To hide? To be grateful for God’s restorative work?

Next week, we’ll look at his final chapter on the cross.

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Filed under anger, Biblical Reflection, book reviews, Christian Apologetics, Christianity, Doctrine/Theology, sin, Uncategorized

The God I Don’t Understand: Chapter 6

Been blogging through Christopher Wright’s book about things that are hard to understand about the Christian God. In earlier chapters he covered things that make him uncomfortable but now he gets to the third section about the cross–something that puzzles but delights him. He begins with this thought:

As I ponder the cross, three fundamental questions sum up our struggle to understand it: Why? What? and How? Why did God ever consider sending Jesus to die on the cross? Why was it necessary from our point of view? Why was he willing to do it, from his point of view? And then, What did God actually accomplish through the death of his Son? What was it all for? And finally, How did it work? How did one man’s bleeding body stretched on two pieces of wood for six hours of torture and death on a particular Friday one spring outside a city in a remote province of the Roman Empire change everything in the universe? (p.111)

In this chapter he takes up the why and the what questions.

Why?The simple answer is “Because God Loves us.” (p. 112). But he also admits that the answer is “totally inexplicable.” Wright doesn’t believe that we can really answer the question but is convinced we can deepen our understanding traipsing through the OT. Then Wright shows what is not the OT’s answer for why God loves Israel. It is not because they are special in any shape or form. In fact they may have been the unfortunate example of “all that is worst about humanity in general.” The only way to understand why God loves us, says Wright, is to accept that it is God’s character to love. And while that states the truth, “…it doesn’t explain it.”

What? Wright points to 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 and the quick summary of what happened. He then reflects on the metaphors the Bible uses to describe what the cross does for human sinners. Metaphors used to describe the atonement cannot fully capture the “what” but neither are they lacking in reality. Wright then explores these metaphors:

1. Coming home (Eph. 2:11f)
2. Mercy (Eph. 2:3-7)
3. Redemption from slavery
4. Forgiveness
5. Reconciliation with God and other
6. Justification
7. Cleansing
8. New Life

Each of these reveal that God was doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. What is not a metaphor, says Wright, is the word “substitution.” That is, he says, is what he actually did. God accepts the penalty which belonged to us alone.

This chapter, as you may see, has less discussion of mystery and more discussion of the “what” and the “why.” Next chapter will take on some more of the mystery by exploring the “how” of the cross–how it could have such cosmic impact.

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