Archive for July, 2021

Book Review: Indonesia, Etc.

July 26, 2021

Indonesia, Etc.: Exploring the Improbably Nation by Elizabeth Pisani

If you (like me) don’t know anything about Indonesia, this is a good introduction to not just the history but the region and culture. Pisani has spent many years in Indonesia and is articulate and entertaining as she chronicles her 13-month intentional re-exploring of the island nation in the early 2000’s in preparation for this book. Her experience in the country began in the 1980’s as a writer for Reuters and continued with a stint as an epidemiologist working with sex workers in Indonesia.

It’s also clear from reading this book she has an incredibly adventurous spirit, a willingness to embrace a philosophy of “just say yes” and actually follow through on it. This affords her amazing opportunities to be with everyday people and experience what their lives are like, albeit at a cost of personal privation and with an endurance that is truly remarkable.

Pisani isn’t shy about sharing her opinions, and only with further exploration will I know how much to trust her political observations and historical interpretations. Admittedly, writing about these topics even in passing is a dangerous activity as the truth is elusive as well as oftentimes deliberately hidden or rewritten to suit the preferences of those in power.

One of the great resources of this book is her bibliography of other books, films, and websites on Indonesia. She doesn’t claim it’s comprehensive but it’s helpful for those (like me) who intend to study further. Further, there’s a website with more up-to-date observations as well as the ability to access the e-book as well as some photos (which are not part of the print book).

Reading Ramblings – August 1, 2021

July 25, 2021

Date: Tenth Sunday after Pentecost ~ August 1, 2021

Texts: Exodus 16:2-15; Psalm 145:10-21; Ephesians 4:1-16; John 6:22-35

Context: In 2012 I noted how switching the Gospel readings to John 6 for the next three weeks provided a more in-depth reflection on the feeding of the 5000 we read a few weeks ago in Mark. While I still find it odd to take this sudden swerve out of Mark and focus for so long on this piece of Jesus’ life and ministry, it does have advantages. What, after all, were the disciples supposed to make of Jesus’ feeding of the 5000, which Mark indicates they didn’t understand? For that matter, what are we? Jesus’ teaching then in John 6 is very helpful here, moving us beyond a momentary obsession with the miraculous or the delicious and focusing our sight where it needs to be, on the eternal which is present in Jesus. Of course God has a long history of providing food for his people, so we have the reading from Exodus 2. The psalm takes up this reality and calls us to continue passing the story of God’s provision down to the next generations. Ephesians reminds us God continues to feed us as He raises up servants and pours his gifts upon them to call them to service – apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, teachers.

Exodus 16:2-15 – It might be easy for Christians today, much-divorced from our Jewish roots and often dull and ignorant of the Old Testament of our own Bible to miss what the crowds (and certainly Jesus’ disciples!) should not have – in miraculously providing bread and meat to thousands of people, Jesus was echoing the gifts of God in bread and meat to his Old Testament people. Further, this leads us to consider once again how Jesus is the embodiment of all God’s people, and as such is also a retelling of God’s relationship with his people. God provided for the Israelites as He led them towards the land He prepared for them to settle in and care for, where their needs would be provided for from the land which was God’s means for blessing them. Now Jesus feeds the people, providing for them as He leads them to himself, the living Promised Land who will be the means of God’s grace and forgiveness which will, in turn, allow his people to return to our eternal Promised Land in the City of God. We should give thanks daily for the First Article gifts of God the Father in sustaining us both physically (bread and meat) as well as spiritually (Word and Sacrament).

Psalm 145:10-21 – In our hyper-individualized American culture even the communal experience in faith becomes more oriented towards ourselves. What has God done for me? How do I feel about my relationship with God? The antidote to this spiritual navel-gazing is the firm reminder that God is the Creator in ongoing relationship with his creation. As such, our individual experiences are contextualized against the larger story of God’s work of redemption. We are not each an individual story or beginning, but rather part of the one story of God with one In the beginning and one conclusion as foreshadowed in Revelation. Even when we cannot find the strength or joy to praise God for what is happening in our lives at the moment, we are able to give him thanks and praise for all He has done not only for us but for his creation as a whole and his covenant people. It is this larger context that gives us a realistic hope for the future. Passing through an airport recently I noticed a large brightly lit sign with a picture of someone with arms upraised at the exit of a tunnel, a blinding brightness of sunlight and green enveloping this person who, presumably, had recently been encased in darkness. The caption simply encouraged people to hold on because things will get better. But on what basis can such a claim be made? Simple, naive or even foolish optimism? This is not the case for the people of God! We are called to hope, and that hope is real and true. That hope has a basis – in our own lives as well as in the lives of God’s people through history – and it also has a firm promise to sustain it. For those in Christ, truly things will get better, even if they are wonderful at the moment.

Ephesians 4:1-16 – Having prayed the Ephesians would be strengthened in power and rooted and grounded in love (3:14-19) Paul encourages and exhorts them to live as those who have indeed received these blessings. This is not a generic or vague call to being “good”, but Paul is very specific and detailed about what this should look like. Humility, gentleness and patience are to characterize their loving interactions with one another as believers. Their goal should be to maintain unity in peace through God the Holy Spirit who dwells in their midst. They who have been united in one confession of faith and one baptism are to live out this reality of unity in their daily dealings with one another. We who have been graced in Christ with all good things are to press on in this life towards our eternal life to come. This will anchor us against the shifting tides and sands around us of culture and contemporary concerns. Our groundedness in Christ should be an anchor against being tossed about, and in the larger context this may imply tossed about against each other in conflict or anything unbecoming brothers and sisters in Christ.

John 6:22-35 – The crowds who were fed miraculously by Jesus are quite hard-working when it comes to figuring out where He now was! He didn’t get into the boat with his disciples, so presumably they searched and inquired about the region where He was the night before. But to no avail! So when boats came who could take them farther afield, they jumped on board and headed for the place Jesus used as a home base for his ministry – Capernaum. Their sleuthing pays off and they find Jesus, at which point are they embarrassed when they find him? Is their eagerness and endeavoring suddenly awkward to them, so that they try to engage Jesus in preliminary small talk? Or are they genuinely curious as to how He could come so far so quickly without a boat? Are they probing for more miraculous signs to be entertained by?

Regardless, Jesus is not in the mood for small talk. He calls out the crowd for their motivation – full stomachs rather than spiritually enlightened minds. Like his disciples they didn’t understand why Jesus had fed them – perhaps they too missed the connection with God’s feeding of his people in the wilderness in Exodus? Hardly surprising if so! But if they’re going to work that hard just hoping for another free lunch, how much better that they apply themselves to things that matter, to eternal life and the Son of Man who alone can provide it to them!

They miss this last point – eternal life is the gift given by the Son of Man. Who is able and willing to do so because of God the Father’s intentions through him. Instead, they pick up on the idea of work. You think we’re hard working? Just tell us what to do and we’ll do it! We’ll work for that eternal life! We’ll work for God! But that’s not the point either, otherwise Jesus might have commanded them to bake bread instead of miraculously providing it to them! They have nothing to contribute, however. The work of God is entirely the free gift of God’s love. They can either receive it (believe) or ignore or reject it.

Note the crowd clearly understands what Jesus is getting at – they know He’s calling them to faith and belief in him. The only reasonable context and setting for this is in terms of being the Messiah. If that’s what Jesus is getting at, they want to see his credentials. Ironically they bring up the manna God provided the Israelites as an example of what they want to see from Jesus, completely missing that this is exactly what He did the night before!

Jesus knows they’re missing the point, in part because they assume Moses is who provided the manna, and Jesus is equating himself to Moses and therefore needs to prove his case. But Jesus isn’t comparing himself to Moses at all. Moses didn’t provide the manna, God did! And Jesus provided bread for them last night, showing himself to be God who has come down from heaven to give not just bread but life to the world.

This time, however, God is not merely providing bread. The most important food God is giving to his people is not mere manna, but Jesus himself, the Son of God come down from heaven. Simple bread is impressive but it doesn’t last. But what Jesus gives to them in himself will last forever. Jesus is the essential thing they need more than daily bread itself, and when Jesus gives himself up to be broken on their behalf, they will be filled to the fullest forever.

Reading Ramblings – July 25, 2021

July 18, 2021

Date: Ninth Sunday after Pentecost ~ July 25, 2021

Texts: Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 136:1-9; Ephesians 3:14-21; Mark 6:45-66

Context: God is the Creator of all things.  This means God is master of all things.  There is nothing that happens without God’s either direct will (the Flood) or permission (Job).  This is how we are to see everything that happens in this world and in our lives, acknowledging God’s presence and power and wisdom, trusting that He will work all things for good, even if it must be in spite of and through the sin and brokenness and pain and suffering our sin inflicts on ourselves, one another, and the rest of creation.  To say we trust in God is one thing.  To fall back on that trust when our own plans and preferences have come to nothing is quite another.  Elie Wiesel, who survived the Nazi Holocaust, talks in his book Night about how he lost faith in God during that time, because he could not reconcile the suffering and death all around him with a good and loving God.  Wiesel could not imagine that God could use even this blackest sin as ultimately a demonstration of his power, wisdom, glory, and love.  We must resolve ourselves through daily meditation and prayer on our baptismal grace, so that if and when we are faced with similar catastrophe, we might stand faithful in the gifts of our loving God, even if it means the end of our lives.

Genesis 9:8-17 – Noah and his family have just witnessed the destruction of human and animal life on the planet by the floodwaters unleashed by God.  Now they are called to place their trust in God’s promise to never again do such a thing.  Noah’s life prior to the flood was marked with obedience to God, so that he was deemed by God to be righteous (6:9).  Now Noah and his family had to decide if they would continue to be obedient to God, trusting his promise of mercy and grace just as much as they trusted his message to them of coming destruction and short-term instruction (6:9-22).  Like Noah we are called to trust God in all things, even when things don’t seem to be working out in a way we would consider pleasing to God.  Faith is not just a feeling, it is a decision as well, an insistence on persisting in a certain way of thinking or living even when alternate options are more desirable or even appear to be safer or better by worldly standards.  Noah serves as a powerful example to us when things are difficult to remain anchored in the promises of the God who also brought us every blessing we have ever experienced, and promised us eternally more in his perfect will and timing, through faith in the sacrifice of his Incarnate Son, Jesus the Christ.

Psalm 136:1-9 – These verses are what the insistence of faith I just referred to looks like.  We give thanks to God in all situations, insisting that God truly is good and loving and holds all power over all things and situations.  This requires we admit that we are not gods ourselves, and that it was not our understanding that made the heavens or spread the earth above the waters.  God alone has that perspective on time and creation, and God alone is able to know what is best and how to work in and with and through and despite our flawed and sinful natures to bring about his greatest glory.  There is nothing subjective in these verses – the power and glory of God and therefore the just and proper recipient of praise is based in creation, not in our subjective experience of that creation in an incredibly finite time and place.  We are called here, in a sense, to acknowledge our finite experience of creation, and perhaps to ponder briefly the absurdity that we should find God at fault for a particular event or sequence of events considering how limited our field of vision is!  We are called to trust that the eternal Creator of the finite and limited truly does love us and intend the best for us even if our particular moment of time is not what we would want for ourselves or others. 

Ephesians 3:14-21 – To best appreciate the beauty of Paul’s words here, we should also include v.13 in the reading.  The Ephesians are concerned for Paul because of his struggles and suffering.  This suffering might include the riot at Ephesus that might easily have cost Paul and his companions their lives (Acts 19).  It might include Paul’s words to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 about how they would never see him again.  But perhaps most likely this suffering is Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem in Chapters 21 and following.  Yet despite this suffering, Paul bows his knees in prayer not regarding himself but on behalf of the Ephesians (and all the other Christians he has nurtured).  Paul no doubt is unhappy about his suffering, but also can recognize there is a larger picture at play, in which his suffering is in fact for the glory of the Ephesians and Christians down to you and I today.  That is not a perspective possible not only with a god, but without the God of Scripture who is the loving Father seeking constantly after all of his wayward and rebellious sheep. 

Mark 6:45-66 – The final words are instructive here.  The disciples are astounded by Jesus walking across the water to them and calming the raging winds.  This is because they didn’t understand what Jesus had done in the feeding of the 5000 because their hearts were hardened.  I don’t interpret that to mean God the Holy Spirit was hardening their hearts, but rather their hearts were hardened by their own ideas and assumptions and interpretations.  They could not yet acknowledge that Jesus might be the promised Messiah.  They were still working to explain his incredible actions by some other means.  Jesus in his loving patience continues to demonstrate his power and authority to them, leading their hearts to eventually soften so that Peter can proclaim him the Messiah (Mark 8:27-29).  But they aren’t there yet.  It isn’t that they aren’t seeing miraculous things, but that they can’t accept those events for what they are and interpret them properly.

So still today people misunderstand (or just miss) God’s workings in the world around us.  They presume that just because a surgery or a medicine healed a serious illness or injury it wasn’t God at work – as though God was not the provider of the skill and wisdom and ingredients!  Many (Christians, even!) are more apt to talk about coincidence than they are to daily remind themselves God is not absent, sleeping, or silent.  When we remind ourselves daily that God is the source of all things in creation, we are better able to see his hand in all things, even when mediated by human involvement.  All of this should be towards the glory of God, and our thankful and faithful hearts that not only appreciate his love here and now, but actively look towards the return of his Son and our Lord to usher in an eternity of joy together.

Friday & Worship

July 16, 2021

Parts of the Roman Catholic world are abuzz today over a declaration issued by Pope Francis. The Pope issued a mortu propio, essentially a directive directly from himself as the Pope, without necessary consultation with other Church leadership or authority. These are apparently issued relatively infrequently (the first in the 15th century) and can have profound impact on Church practice.

This one – entitled TRADITIONIS CUSTODES, essentially curtails the use of the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), also referred to as the Tridentine Mass. This was the form of worship the Roman Catholic Church made use of almost exclusively for nearly 400 years – up until the reforms of Vatican II. In issuing this pronouncement, Pope Francis appears to be making it more difficult, though not completely impossible, for parishes to offer TLM, encouraging them instead to move towards worship in the vernacular.

From my denomination’s perspective, this would be the equivalent of the Synodical President effectively banning a particular form of worship. Pope Francis’ directive requires local bishops to make determination of whether or not TLM is necessary or appropriate within their jurisdiction, the equivalent of making every individual congregation in our denomination get special permission from their District President to celebrate a particular form of worship. One can imagine the challenges in this rather easily, from the logistical perspective to say the least. And if your bishop doesn’t wish to see TLM observed? I guess you’re out of luck.

Our denomination has struggled for years over the issue of worship, so this isn’t exactly a foreign subject. Thus far at least there have been no definitive pronouncements on the topic of traditional vs. contemporary worship, though more than a few would have done so if given the opportunity or they thought they could get away with it without splintering our denomination.

The Pope’s orders are effective immediately, and allow for no period of consideration, questioning and the like. For those attached to TLM (and apparently there are many) this is a particularly brutal, insensitive and rash decision. I can empathize with them. I hurt for those whose desired form of worship has now been made more elusive or even unavailable. And I pray this will not be a wedge between the faithful and the Church. While I’m not Roman Catholic, anything that drives people away from the communion of the saints is a bad thing, even if it originates from within the Church. I pray those who are hurt and angry will – by the grace of God – be granted peace and the ability to forgive these decisions they vehemently disagree with, and that their faith might in the process grow rather than diminish.

What About Judas?

July 15, 2021

If you want to probe someone’s concepts of grace, ask them about Judas Iscariot. Is it possible the grace of God the Father in Jesus Christ is extended even to the betrayer of Christ? It’s a fascinating question that has occupied theologians for roughly 2000 years. I don’t expect people to have the final answer on the question, but I like to see if they’re willing to conceded of the possibility. Some don’t, as they feel Scripture (Matthew 26:24; Mark 14:21)speaks pretty clearly to Judas’ eternal as well as temporal punishment. The Apostle John in particular has nothing good to say of Judas. However such passages don’t have to be interpreted in terms of Judas’ eternal condition.

Here’s a good little read, with a beautiful introduction regarding Greek Orthodox depictions of Judas and what might have been. You might also be interested in Googling images of Orthodox iconography and Judas. He routinely is depicted at the Last Supper without a halo, in contrast to the other eleven apostles.

I know I won’t have the answer to this question prior to Jesus’ return or my own death but I continue to hold out the possibility that even Judas repented before taking his own life.

What say you?

Pool Hall – The Rack Lounge, Scottsdale, AZ

July 14, 2021

This is not a pool hall. It’s not even a pool bar, despite the fact it has over a half-dozen seven and eight foot pool tables and a well-stocked bar. It’s a pool club, really. Like a dance club, but instead of a dance floor there are pool tables. It’s a club for people who either don’t want to dance, are preparing to go dancing, have just come back from dancing, or otherwise want to see and be seen.

That being said, this is probably if not definitely the closest thing Scottsdale has to a pool hall. But it’s a lot different than your typical pool hall! There was another place called Stardust 30-some years ago located just a short ways south of here but that’s been closed and gone for a long time. Tables are all right. The felt on mine was decent but well-worn. Spacing between tables is good overall but at times you need to wait for the person on the other table to finish their shot. Drinks were good – the bartender knows how to do more than squirt Coca Cola into a glass with rum. I had a La Paloma and the bartender did a very admirable job with it.

The place is very noisy with the thumping music you’d associate with a club. The clientele is somewhat varied but at least when I arrived was heavy on the overly-made up, skin tight outfits for women and the well-muscled, good-looking club boys. The vibe overall seemed customized for people looking to meet up, and pool was secondary. The double-entendre of a place called The Rack is not lost here. Like a club drinks are pricey but you have a better selection than you do in many bars.

I won’t go back to this place. I knew that’s how I would feel about it and I wasn’t wrong. Located in the trendy Old Town Scottsdale area, right off Scottsdale Road, I can’t imagine how much they’re paying in rent! They’ve been around since at least 2017 though, which is impressive for that area of town.

Slow Dating and Demisexuality

July 13, 2021

Of course we can’t have any “puritanical sensibility” in the realm of dating and sexuality, but the idea that sex isn’t best as something freely distributed to anyone and everyone at any time is making a comeback, though of course without any religious baggage.

Multiple surveys and studies for years have indicated young people are having less sex than previous generations (assuming we trust the answers of those sorts of surveys). Slow dating is one practice being promoted or defended as a better way to deeper, longer-lasting relationships. If this isn’t hip sounding enough there’s a newer slang term for people who want to build a deep relationship with someone before becoming sexually active with them – demisexuals. It can’t be common sense and it certainly can’t be that Biblical precepts (and the Bible isn’t the only religious text to stress the importance/value/benefit of monogamy and a non-libertine approach to sexuality) have been right all along. We just have to come up with a cooler way to describe people who don’t bed-hop.

Of course both slow dating and the demisexual tag both assume you’ll have multiple sexual relationships, you’ll just have them slower and one at a time, similar to the old joke about serial monogamy. At least people don’t have to feel ashamed any longer because they aren’t following our culture’s obsessive drive about sexual activity. Instead of risking being classified (and dismissed) as just religious, they can now claim to be hip and cool like everyone else.

What a relief.

In the meantime, the Biblical Word on this topic remains unchanged. God who created us knows best about how sexuality can be expressed, even when we’d like to think we know better.

Pool Hall – Big Willies, Salt Lake City, UT

July 12, 2021

After the disappointment of my stop in Clearfield, I decided to make the drive down to Salt Lake City. It’s all freeway and only about a half an hour away. I was grateful I did. The first place I tried to go, a place close to downtown called The Spot was inexplicably closed until the following evening. However just a few blocks away is one of the only legitimate pool halls in Salt Lake City (as far as I can tell) – Big Willies.

This place has the distinction of having at least six Diamond bar-boxes (coin-op or by the hour) as well as a snooker table. It’s a full bar and restaurant with real food. I distinguish actual food from the typical microwave or toaster oven/deep fryer faire many pool bars are limited to. The pool tables are located in one room, while the restaurant and bar are in another. This is very convenient as they were having some sort of amateur comedy night in the restaurant that I didn’t have to listen to, and I’m sure it makes karaoke much less painful than many other bars with pool tables!

Tables were in good shape, there were plenty of straight house cues with decent tips. The place was clean and orderly (a sign as you entered strictly forbids drugs and fighting, which is a nice touch I suppose!). The waitress was attentive without being annoying and there a variety of TV screens to watch games, etc. I highly recommend this place if you’re in the SLC area and looking to shoot some pool. It was pretty quiet on a Monday night.

Pool Hall – Crown Billiards, Clearfield, UT

July 12, 2021

The only pool hall proper in the greater Ogden area, this is definitely a place you can skip. Pictures would not do it justice, in that they couldn’t adequately convey the disarray and general disheveled nature of this place. I think I saw someone with a glass of draft beer but I’d be hard pressed to tell you where they obtained it. There was nothing identifiable as a bar in the traditional sense of taps, wells, etc.

There are two rooms, and perhaps the difference is one room is smaller coin-op bar boxes and the other room (the one you’re likely to enter into) has bigger tables for rent by the hour. It’s clearly a family place as there were couples with small children or infants hanging around.

I’ve played in a lot of pool bars and I pride myself on trying to be fairly conciliatory about reviewing them. This one appears safe, and the tables are in better condition than in other more traditional bars. House cues appeared to be straight and tipped which is not always the case! But in terms of ambiance, this place lacks a lot. More like playing in someone’s garage (albeit with air conditioning). If you go there with that expectation you’ll probably do just fine.

Book Review: The Apostles’ Creed for Today

July 12, 2021

The Apostles’ Creed for Today by Justo L. Gonzalez

The tone of this book begins markedly different than the previous two I’ve read and reviewed, and while that tone diminishes somewhat through the book, it still is an underlying assumption throughout.

First off, this book is fantastic for the depth of history it provides. Given that Gonzalez was the youngest recipient of Yale’s Ph.D in historical theology, this should come as no surprise. He does a good job of tracing the history of the Creed back as far as textual sources will allow – the middle 2nd century and a baptismal creedal formula in use in Rome very similar to what we know as the Apostles’ Creed, though not exactly the same. Thus Gonzalez also effectively denies apostolic authorship of the Creed, at least in the way referenced by Augustine in the 4th century and later writers. But Gonzalez’ work clearly demonstrates a strong assertion that the Creed is old, very old, and may well be rooted in the words of the Apostles’ themselves and the first century Church.

Gonzalez also provides helpful distinctions in the difference in use of the Apostles’ Creed in the West and the Nicene Creed in the East, while also casting some aspersions on the former as perhaps a later political and theological tool, a claim to an older Creedal formulae than the Nicene Creed. However the scholarship Gonzalez refers to in this short book clearly refutes such an interpretation. The Apostles’ Creed is likely older, but was not developed to bulwark claims of greater legitimacy by the Western Church.

Finally Gonzalez goes to great pains to distinguish how the Apostles’ Creed would likely be interpreted by early Christians as opposed to today’s Church. Sometimes this is very helpful, sometimes it is speculative to the point of being unhelpful. While we definitely have an overly-emotionalized spiritual climate in much of the Church today, this does not mean there were no emotional elements in the early Church. And the glaringly political overtones of some of the Creed should not be lost on the Church today, particularly in America where political affiliations now increasingly divide and shatter congregations.

However Gonzalez does not presume what Dr. Mohler asserts in his book, that the Creed represents the bare minimum of belief for someone to call themselves a Christian in any meaningful or definable way. Gonzalez states on p.7 …it would be helpful to think of the Creed not so much as a personal statement of faith but rather as a statement of what it is that makes the church be the church, and of our allegiance to the essence of the gospel and therefore to the church that proclaims it. Gonzalez seems wary of challenging or catechizing readers who may not accept certain statements in the Creed, and more interested in helping them to understand what it says. While understanding is important, this single statement on p.7 perpetuates an underlying theme of permissiveness throughout the book. You may or may not believe any one (or more) of the particular statements in the Creed. That’s the beauty of the Church – it can encompass many different theological stances, Gonzalez asserts later on. Given Gonzalez’ emphasis on ecumenism this isn’t surprising, but denying any of the statements in the Creed is a direct assault on the Bible itself. While Gonzalez never goes this far overtly, it seems clear he would rather agree to disagree while undermining the authority of Scripture. What is left is a vacuum devoid of any authority, and therefore devoid of any meaningful way of either agreeing or disagreeing. This is the crux of conflict in modern Christianity in Europe and America. If the Bible is not authoritative, there is no authority left other than personal opinion.

Gonzalez displays typical modern sensitivity to matters of gender and race, and it is clear that his theology is strongly influenced by concepts of social justice as foundational Biblical mandates. He is openly supportive of alternative, non-gender specific references to both God the Father and God the Son that once again undermine Biblical authority by ignoring what the Bible actually says in favor of something more personally appealing.

Finally, as evidence of Gonzalez’ suspicion of Biblical authority, he quotes it very rarely, referring far more often to the writings of Church Fathers. Again this isn’t surprising given his doctoral emphasis, but it does display less of a concern for the Bible as the source of the Creed. It isn’t that Gonzalez never refers to Scripture in this book, it’s just that often he rationalizes from other sources and causes. For example, on his discussion of the final statement of the Creed regarding the resurrection of the body and life everlasting, Gonzalez cites two reasons why these statements are important. The first is his assertion the early Church wanted to emphasize the ongoing work of God’s creative powers in Christian hope, and the second was as an affirmation of the innate goodness of the material, contra prevailing philosophical theories of the day which denigrated anything physical and glorified spirit as our true nature imprisoned in our decaying flesh.

Both of these may well be true, but there’s the other glaring reason these assertions are in the Creed – it’s what God has told us in his Word! The opening verses of John 14 should be reason enough to include statements regarding resurrection and eternal life, let alone Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4:13ff!

This is a good book overall, particularly if you desire a bit more historical background on the Creed. But it should also be read cautiously. The Creed depends upon and is drawn from the Word of God. As such, what the Creed asserts should not be juggled so lightly. Those who sincerely question and are seeking greater faith should be encouraged towards such, not told that they are free to accept or reject aspects of the Creed – and therefore the Bible – based on their own personal opinions. This is not a means of unifying the Church but undermining it.