Monday, April 29, 2019

Book Write-Up: Eat Your Ps, by William Carter, Jr.

William Carter, Jr. Eat Your Ps. Crosslink, 2018. See here to buy the book.

William Carter, Jr. is a pastor and has worked in the Christian music industry. This book discusses seven “P”s of the Christian life: praises, purging, prayers, promises, persecution, proverbs, and purpose. Carter artfully ties each “P” to a variety of pea, using a characteristic of that pea to make a homiletical point about the “P.” At the end of the book, he gives a recipe for black eyed peas and rice.

This book stood out to me because Oprah’s Dad recommends it. You hear about Oprah’s book club. Well, here is a book that Oprah’s Dad likes!

Also recommending this book is the President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a group that was instrumental in the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement.

But what especially made me want to read this book is the author’s multidenominational background: his father was a Methodist, and his mother was a Holiness/Pentecostal. People’s religious journeys interest me. Maybe that is because I enjoy reading about different beliefs and have myself traversed the wild world of religion in my own searches for churches.

One of the endorsements on the back cover says, “It’s hard not to feel like you’re walking with a friend when you read his words.” I found that to be true in reading this book. It has its shares of anecdotes and insights, along with a friendly tone.

There were two parts of the book that I especially enjoyed. First, there was Carter’s delineation of the differences between the Methodist and the Holiness churches of his upbringing. The Methodist church was accepting, whereas the Holiness Church was intense. Carter appears to gravitate towards the Holiness view. Second, there was Carter’s story about the co-worker who mocked his frequent church attendance, and how that co-worker came to accept Christ. That story made me want to keep reading, wondering what would happen next.

The book tends to stress what we can do for God, rather than what God in Christ has done for us. I tend to lean more towards the latter, thinking that it glorifies God more. This book, however, has a “do more, do more” attitude. Still, Carter conveys a thirst for God and a devotion to God, and to what he believes God is doing in the world. That is edifying to read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Bookcrash. My review is honest.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Church Write-Up: Willfully Doubting Thomas; Hosea 1:10

Here are some items from today’s church activities:

A. The main text was John 21, which contains the story of Doubting Thomas. The youth pastor said that, when we doubt God, that is a good time to come to church, for God and God’s Spirit are at work there. Doubting Thomas found Jesus when he gathered with the other disciples, who were in hiding.

B. The pastor said that Thomas had faith, for Thomas in John 11:16 is willing to go with Jesus to Jerusalem and to die there with him. The pastor presented Thomas’s “doubt” in John 21 as a reluctance to forgive. Jesus had just commissioned his disciples to go out and spread forgiveness. The pastor speculated that Thomas did not want to forgive those who crucified Jesus and were forcing the disciples into hiding. We, similarly, are reluctant to forgive, but God can fill us with his forgiveness and thereby motivate us to spread forgiveness to others. According to the pastor, when the risen Jesus appeared to Thomas and blessed those who do not see but believe, Jesus was not rebuking Thomas but rather was pronouncing a blessing on those who will believe thereafter. They are the beneficiaries of Jesus’s work.

C. The Sunday school class focused on Hosea 1 and the interpretation of Hosea 1:10 (2:1) in II Peter 2:10. Due to Northern Israel’s idolatry, God plans to strip her of her identity as God’s people, to withdraw mercy, and to sow judgment. The names of Hosea’s children—-Lo-Ammi (“not my people”), Lo-Ruchama (“no mercy”), and Jezreel (which relates to sowing)—-reflect this. God promises eventually to reverse this judgment: Israel and Judah once more will become God’s people, they will receive mercy, and they will be sown in their land. Jezreel was known as a place of judgment, for that was where Jehu slaughtered Ahab’s line, the priests of Baal, and Jezebel (II Kings 8-10); the pastor drew a parallel with “Ground Zero” and “Columbine,” names that have come to be associated with tragedy. God promises that “Jezreel” will come to be associated with God’s restoration of Israel. In II Peter 2:10, God takes Gentiles, who lack an identity as God’s people and as recipients of God’s mercy, and makes them God’s people through Christ.

D. Hosea 1:10 (2:1) states: “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God” (KJV). What is the place where the Israelites were told that they are not God’s people, and where they will be called sons of the living God? The pastor referred to two possible solutions. One solution is that the “place” is the land of Israel; Hosea 2:25 seems to depict God affirming that the Israelites are his people after God sows them into their land. Another solution is that the “place” is the wilderness, for Hosea 2:14 presents God luring the Israelites into the wilderness and speaking tenderly to them before restoring them to their land; the pastor said that it was in the Sinai wilderness that God proclaimed the Israelites (and the mixed multitude with them) to be his people, and the LORD to be their God. It seems, though, that Israel is affirmed as God’s people in a variety of contexts, not just at Sinai (see this helpful list). Looking at commentaries, I saw still other solutions. One view is that God is saying that, instead of the Israelites not being God’s people, they will be God’s people; checking HALOT and BDB, however, I see no explicit indication that “maqom” means “instead,” for it predominantly refers to a physical place. Another solution, advanced in a targum, is that the place is Israel’s place of exile: the place of Israel’s punishment and scattering as a people will become the place where God will affirm her once more as God’s people. Yet another solution is that the “place” is wherever the Jews and Gentiles are seen as “not God’s people”: Jews and Gentiles who receive Christ become God’s people, wherever they may be. I think the most sensible solution is that Israel is affirmed as God’s people in the land of Israel, but that is a culmination of a process of God reaching out to Israel in love (i.e., in exile, in the wilderness).

E. The pastor said that Northern Israel never was historically returned to her land, for she disappeared from history after the Assyrians conquered her and took her into exile. Judah, by contrast, did return to her land. I was going to ask how the pastor envisions the promised restoration of Northern Israel taking place. I did not get to ask my question, but the pastor still addressed it, in some form. He seemed to say that it will be fulfilled in Christ. Perhaps he means that the Northern Israelites will be resurrected and then will be returned to their land.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Book Write-Up: The Revelation Mandate, by Todd Lewis

Todd Lewis. The Revelation Mandate: The Foundations of the Priesthood of Every Believer. WestBow, 2012. See here to purchase the book.

This book mixes preterist and idealist approaches to the Book of Revelation. The book is preterist in that it holds that the Book of Revelation primarily concerns events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. It still seems to hold that God will judge the powers-that-be in the future. It is rather idealist in that it interprets several details in the Book of Revelation as general spiritual truths about the church, such as the idea that the church perseveres amidst a hostile world.

The book is not exactly a verse-by-verse commentary, but it does go through the Book of Revelation sequentially. The author is familiar with the Bible and brings in other biblical references.

The author also holds to a rather “Lordship” view of salvation: that mere intellectual assent to the Gospel is not enough, for one needs to obey God.

Some might see preterism as a bit of a stretch, thinking that it artificially forces the Book of Revelation into the events of 70 CE Jerusalem. That critique is valid. Some may not receive a lot of spiritual encouragement from a “Lordship” view of salvation, recognizing that they fall short.

This book is still a pleasure to read. The prose is elegant and also weighty. The paragraphs could get rather long, in places, and that was not always necessary. The author presents his views in a convincing manner: not so much in the sense that his arguments reflect the only legitimate way to interpret the Book of Revelation, but in the sense that readers could get inside his mind and see how he arrives at his conclusions.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through BookLook Bloggers. My review is honest.

Church Write-Up: And the Evening and the Morning Were the Seventh Day

In his Easter Sunday sermon, the pastor shared a conclusion that he drew during his personal morning devotional time.

In Genesis 2:1-3, God rests on the seventh day after creating the heavens and the earth. The seventh day is the only day in this creation account that is not punctuated with “and the evening and the morning was the Xth day.”

We finally find the completion of the Sabbath in Luke 23:56. Speaking of the women who were following Jesus’s dead body to the tomb, the passage states: “And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment” (KJV). The very next verse, Luke 24:1, refers to the first day of the week, when the women encountered the empty tomb.

The point here, according to the pastor, is that Jesus’s resurrection marks the beginning of a new week, even a new creation.

The question that the pastor raised was how this can be true, when people’s dismal lives of death, dysfunction, disappointment, alienation, and even tragedy (such as that in Sri Lanka) continue. We will wake up the morning after Easter, and our lives will remain the same.

The difference is that Jesus is with us in those lives and offers us hope in the midst of them. The pastor engaged Luke 24:12, which states that Peter marveled after seeing the empty tomb. He was baffled and confused. But his later encounter with the risen Christ led to a joyful certainty.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Church Write-Up: Good Friday 2019

Here are items from today’s Good Friday service.

A. We sang the song, “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted.” One of the stanzas said:
You who think of sin but lightly nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed; see who bears the awful load;
It’s the Word, the Lord’s Anointed, Son of Man and Son of God.
This reminded me of something I read last night. I was going through Jonathan Edwards’s History of the Work of Redemption, and Edwards was talking about how arrogant it is for people to try to be their own saviors: to think that their mere religious activities can earn them God’s favor. It took the very death of the Son of God to save us, so how can the thought even enter our minds that our own paltry “goodness” can save us? If our good works can save us, why did Christ even go to the effort of coming to earth, living a righteous life, and dying for our sins? That is a good point. At the same time, I find myself thinking: “I hope God notices my church attendance, or my praying, or my Bible reading.” It is not that I think those things by themselves are meritorious. I just hope that God recognizes and respects them as attempts to seek him.

B. In John 19:25-27, Jesus instructs the beloved disciple to take care of Jesus’s mother, Mary. The pastor read: “Lord Jesus, while You suffered the agony of the cross, You remembered, in love, Your sorrowing mother. With that same love and pity, bless all who love others, especially those whose hearts are torn by loss or burdened with worry. In Your mercy, gather all within the peace of Your cross, so that all may love each other as they love you.”

Jesus on the cross took care of his sorrowful mother. Good Friday should not just be about how we are sinful, but it is also about how Jesus is good. That passage also stood out to me because my own extended family is dealing with looming loss.

C. The liturgy said: “Lord God, may we learn by Christ’s example to love others as we love ourselves; forgiving the worst we find in others and in ourselves; rejoicing in the best we know of others and ourselves.”

Love the good in ourselves and others? But are we not all sinners? I suppose that it can be humbling to realize that we are all sinners in need of forgiveness. How can I look down on somebody else, when I myself am flawed? But I think that part of appreciating people is acknowledging the good that they do, or at least try to do.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Church Write-Up: Maundy Thursday 2019

Here are items from today’s Maundy Thursday service.

A. The pastor said that Luke foreshadows Christ’s death and resurrection, as if those were the reasons that Christ came. Luke 2:7 states that Jesus, as an infant, was wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in the manger because there was no room in the inn, or “kataluma” in Greek. Luke 23:53 uses “kataluma” for the place where Jesus and his disciples ate the last supper. There was no room at the inn when Jesus was born, but there is room at the Lord’s supper. Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes as an infant, and he was wrapped in linen as a corpse in Luke 23:53 (though the Greek word for “wrap” is different in those passages).

B. This is a fallen world. Our dysfunction attests to that, and we can become so preoccupied with our dying bodies that we do not rejoice in eternal life. Fallenness weighs us down.

C. The Lord’s supper was to be a supper of remembrance: Jesus said “Do this in remembrance of me.” “Remember” in Hebrew is richer than mere recollection: it means to re-experience, or relive. Israelites relived the Exodus at the Passover. Christians at the Lord’s supper re-experience Christ’s last supper, but also get a taste of the banquet that Christ will eat with the saints in the eschaton. The pastor talked about how his grandmother used to make him meringues cooked in Mexican vanilla because he liked them, and, anytime he smells Mexican vanilla, he is transported into his grandmother’s kitchen.

D. The pastor talked about God meeting people amidst disaster. After the Columbine massacre, it was “Good Shepherd” Sunday at the Lutheran church that he pastored. After 9/11, there was a cross amidst the rubble, which many took as a sign. When Lutheran churches burned down in fires, the cross still stood. This is a testimony that God meets people amidst disaster, which is what the cross itself is about.

E. On “D.”, the pastor seemed to imply that God arranged for Good Shepherd Sunday to follow Columbine, even though he did not want to say that God caused Columbine. God was working providentially to meet people in the midst of disaster. The pastor does not believe that God causes disasters but meets people in the midst of them. Indeed, saying that God caused Columbine then comforted people is a troubling idea: it is like running a person over and then taking him to the emergency room. Some may argue, though, that God permitted Columbine to provide an opportunity for people to turn their attention to God, which is important in its own right. But I doubt that God decided to schedule Good Shepherd Sunday in response to when he foresaw that the Columbine massacre would occur. That is quite a bit of micromanaging. Yet, I can understand people looking at that and concluding that what happened is more than a coincidence.

F. A convicting item from the liturgy: “When others need mercy and kindness, we often fail to acknowledge or fulfill their earnest needs.”

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Book Write-Up: Thy Kingdom Come, by J. Dwight Pentecost

J. Dwight Pentecost. Thy Kingdom Come: Tracing God’s Kingdom Program and Covenant Promises Throughout History. SB Publications, 1990. See here to buy a later edition of this book.

J. Dwight Pentecost was a professor of Bible at Dallas Theological Seminary. This book, Thy Kingdom Comes, traces the Kingdom of God from creation through the millennial reign of Christ.
For Pentecost, God ruled before creating Adam, and God has always been and always will be sovereign. But God created Adam to rule the earth on God’s behalf. Adam forfeited that mission through his disobedience, however, and God’s subsequent preservation of a committed people, the nation of Israel, and the Davidic dynasty are all continuations of God’s desire to rule the earth through human beings. This goal will find its culmination in the millennial reign of Jesus Christ on earth. Christ offered to set up such an earthly kingdom at his first coming, but the nation of Israel rejected him. Consequently, the Kingdom of God is currently in a different phase. Presently, it is a spiritual kingdom in which God rules individual Christians and the church. After the rapture of the church, God will once more offer an earthly kingdom to Israel, and Christ will rule on earth after the Tribulation.

I wanted to read this book to understand classic dispensational rationales for God’s policies in the different dispensations. I had read dispensational attempts to identify the dispensations, but little effort to explain why God acted as God did in those dispensations. Pentecost’s book did not meet my hopes in this area. Pentecost indeed is a dispensationalist, in that Pentecost distinguishes between Israel and the church and between Christ’s reign as the Davidic king and his present reign at God’s right hand. But Pentecost does not appear to distinguish God’s modus operandi throughout the various dispensations, at least not radically. In each dispensation, people are right with God by faith, but that faith is worked out and made evident through obedience to God (i.e., law, good works). Citing Galatians 3:21, Pentecost contends that the law does not contradict the promises of God but coexists with them. As far as this particular book is concerned, I did not see a model in which people were saved by works in Old Testament times, then they were saved solely by God’s free grace in New Testament times, but then people will have to add obedience and perseverance to their faith to be saved after the rapture of the church. Pentecost does acknowledge, though, that the new covenant entails God giving the Spirit, which enables people to obey the law. That means that the new covenant brings something new.

This book was still worth my time and effort, even if it fell short of my expectations. Pentecost attempts to explain biblical passages as he goes through the history of God’s kingdom. Prominent in his scenario is his interpretation of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. For Pentecost, the Israelite generation that rejected Christ reached a point where they could not be forgiven. Individuals could still save themselves from that sinful generation, but God’s judgment of that generation was set, no turning back. God will restore Israel in the future, but not that specific generation, since it has forfeited forgiveness. Incidentally, Pentecost thinks that generation sealed its fate prior to Matthew 13, which marks when Jesus’s parables began to highlight a spiritual kingdom; Pentecost disagrees with dispensationalists who argue that God re-offered the earthly Kingdom to Israel in the Book of Acts.

On a related note, Pentecost argues that God’s covenant with Israel is unconditional, yet Israel’s experience of God’s blessings within that covenant was conditional on her obedience to the Torah. God will never forsake God’s commitment to Israel, yet Israel’s enjoyment of covenant blessings—-life, abiding in the land, prosperity—-depends on her obedience to God. This is helpful and unhelpful at the same time, for where does the covenant end and the blessings of the covenant begin?

Some of Pentecost’s points are intriguing but could have used more development. He interprets the Parable of the Talents, for example, in terms of Jesus judging the latter-day remnant of Israel, not God’s judgment of Christians. This caught my attention because I remembered talking with a Dallas Theological Seminary student who said that her professors dismissed the idea that the Parable of the Talents contradicts once-saved-always-saved, since the Parable concerns Israel, not the church. I am putting Pentecost’s view on my mental shelf for future reference, even though he could have supported it more effectively.

Occasionally, Pentecost tossed in his social and political opinions, as when he spoke against feminism and labor unions. I think this is a one-sided approach to the Bible, but Pentecost’s anti-feminist stance played a significant role in his interpretation of Genesis 3:16, where God tells Eve that her husband will rule over her. For Pentecost, God there reaffirms hierarchy rather than instituting it for the first time, since Adam had violated the hierarchy by listening to his wife and eating the fruit rather than being the spiritual leader.

Pentecost was able to explain passages that non-dispensationalists could advance against his position. Was James in Acts 15 saying that that particular time was when Christ was reigning as Davidic king and including Gentiles? No, says Pentecost. Christ is not reigning as Davidic king now but will only do so after his second coming. James is saying that, because the Gentiles will worship God as Gentiles during the millennium, God accepts their worship in his time, as well, without requiring them to become Jews. Such a solution is genius, even if some may think it a stretch.

Pentecost also offered in-depth proposals in response to questions, such as the question of why God gave the law, and why Jesus was baptized even though he was without sin. His solutions were edifying and made a degree of sense.

I am open to reading other Pentecost books in the future.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Church Write-Up: Hosea 13:14

The LCMS Bible study this morning looked at Hosea 13:11-14. I will post Hosea 13:9-16 for reference, then I will mention items from the study. After that, I will say what I got out of the church service.

9 O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.
10 I will be thy king: where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes?
11 I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath.
12 The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid.
13 The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him: he is an unwise son; for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children.
14 I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.
15 Though he be fruitful among his brethren, an east wind shall come, the wind of the LORD shall come up from the wilderness, and his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up: he shall spoil the treasure of all pleasant vessels.
16 Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up. (KJV)

A. Vv. 9-11 refer to Israel’s request for a king in I Samuel 8, but they also concern the rapid succession of kings in Northern Israel when Hosea prophesied. Hosea prophesied during a time of political instability. Hosea in vv. 9-11 seems to echo the concern of I Samuel 8 that Israel looks to her kings for security rather than trusting and revering God as her king. Israel’s trust of her kings is not panning out well, as is evidenced by the political instability.

B. The pastor said that, in a sense, Israel’s request for a king was idolatrous, yet God worked that out for good by giving Israel David, from whom came the Messiah. That brought to mind my reading of I Samuel 8 earlier this week. In I Samuel 8:7-8, God says to Samuel: “Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee” (KJV). God does appear to liken Israel’s request for a king to idolatry. Was God equating the request to idolatry? Would that imply that God condoned idolatry (Israel having a king) for centuries and even brought good out of it? I had a similar thought when I was contemplating Matthew 5:31-32 last week. In Matthew 5:31-32, Jesus says that divorce and remarriage, except in cases of fornication, is adultery. Does that mean that God permitted adultery during the centuries that God allowed divorce and remarriage?

C. Returning to Hosea 13, the pastor interpreted v. 12 to mean that God is storing up Northern Israel’s sin rather than forgetting about it: God will punish it eventually, even if Israel may not feel that she is suffering God’s punishment right now. The sin is stored up, waiting to be punished. Hosea here echoes Deuteronomy 32:34-35, which states that God stores up Israel’s sin and her feet will slip in due time. The pastor argued that Paul in Romans 3:25 takes this thought in a Jesus-direction. Romans 3:25-26 states that God “put forward [Jesus] as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus” (NRSV). According to the pastor, Paul acknowledged that God stored up humanity’s sin and saved the punishment for later, but God ultimately punishes, not humanity, but Jesus in its place. Christians may still suffer the consequences of their sins, but their suffering will not separate them from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8:38-39).

D. V. 14 has been translated in different ways, and I encountered even more interpretations after I came home and checked out commentaries. The pastor prefers what the KJV has: Israel is unwilling to be born (repent), so God will step in and do for Israel what she cannot do for herself. God affirms that God will ransom and redeem her from the grave. Repentance will be hidden from God’s eyes, meaning that God will not change God’s mind about redeeming Israel: God will do it, period. Other translations, however, treat v. 14 as a reaffirmation of God’s judgment. God asks if he will redeem Israel from death, implying that the answer is “no,” and God then states that compassion for Israel is hidden from his eyes. The commentaries that I read seemed to mix the two extremes: God wants to redeem Israel or has a record of redeeming Israel in the past, but God refuses now to have compassion on Israel because she will not repent.

E. Which interpretation of v. 14 makes most sense, in my mind? This is difficult to answer. V. 9 appears to affirm that God is Israel’s helper, which would coincide with the KJV and the pastor’s interpretation: that v. 14 depicts God as generously stepping forward to redeem Israel. The thing is, v. 9 can be translated in ways that do not depict God as Israel’s helper but rather the opposite: “I will destroy you, O Israel; who can help you?” (NRSV). Against the pastor’s interpretation of v. 14 is that the immediately following verses, vv. 15-16, reaffirm judgment; as the pastor said, Assyria is likened to the east wind, which comes from the desert and dries up all life. The pastor interprets the end of v. 14 to mean that God will not repent from his goal to redeem of Israel from the grave, whereas other translations hold that God will not have compassion towards Israel. My problem with the pastor’s interpretation is that n-ch-m often has pathos, connoting not just a change of mind but sadness or regret. Why would God need to say that God will not be saddened about redeeming Israel? Of course God would not be saddened about redeeming Israel: God is only punishing Israel reluctantly. Interpreting n-ch-m in v. 14 as a regretful or sad repentance makes little sense, in my opinion. The view that v. 14 reaffirms judgment also has problems, though. Why is God even bringing up the scenario of redeeming Israel from the grave? Simply to deny that God will do so? Why bring redemption up, only to knock it down? It looks unnecessary to the passage. The “mixture” interpretation sits best with me: God desires to redeem Israel, as he has been her historical helper, but God reluctantly decides not to do so because of her refusal to repent.

F. Hosea 13:14 does not make much sense in the Septuagint. NETS has: “I shall rescue them from the hand of Hades and shall redeem them from Death. O Death, where is your sentence? O Hades, where is your goad? Comfort is hidden from my eyes.” Here, God affirms that he shall redeem Israel from death, then he goes on to say that comfort is hidden from his eyes. Is God unhappy about redeeming Israel from death? Maybe commentators have offered explanations as to what the LXX means here.

G. Hosea 13:14 is quoted in I Corinthians 15:55, as Paul quotes it to taunt death that Jesus has defeated it. Death was believed to swallow everything up, but Christ through his resurrection has swallowed death up. A good question would be how Christians can view Paul’s treatment of Hosea 13:14, in light of the debate over whether Hosea 13:14 affirms redemption or judgment. The pastor’s interpretation, of course, holds that I Corinthians 15:55 is consistent with the original meaning of Hosea 13:14, while going beyond it: Hosea 13:14 is about God redeeming Israel from the grave, whereas I Corinthians 15:55 goes further than that and affirms that God in Christ has defeated death, period. On the other hand, if Hosea 13:14 reaffirms judgment, then it can be a foil for Christ’s redemption. A student in the class was suggesting this: Hosea 13 does not leave Israel with much hope, but Christ brings hope because Christ has defeated death.

H. The pastor said at the beginning that there was a time when critical scholars posited thirteen authors of the Book of Hosea. He says that has been discarded because there are intact manuscripts dating as early as the fourth century B.C.E. The pastor said that Hosea wrote the book that bears his name years after he orally spoke the prophecies. He did so as his prophecies came back to him in memory through divine inspiration. I could not find anything about the dates of the earliest surviving Hosea manuscripts. Even if they were complete, that would not disprove that the Book of Hosea was written by different people, for source criticism is not really based on text criticism: rather, source criticism is based on tensions within a book that may point to multiple authorship. The book could have come together centuries before its earliest surviving manuscript. Looking at different commentaries (i.e., Word, Anchor Bible) and other scholarly sources (i.e., Anchor Bible Dictionary), though, I notice that there are debates. Some scholars do posit stages of the Book of Hosea (i.e., a northern stage, a Judahite stage) or later additions, whereas others are more willing to believe that the “later additions” are not that at all but are original to Hosea himself. What is more, because Hosea appears rather unintelligible or elliptical, many scholars view that as a sign of its authenticity: it is unintelligible or elliptical because it comes from Northern Israel, whose Hebrew differs in areas from the Hebrew to which we are accustomed (i.e., Judahite). See here for a discussion.

I. In the church service, the pastor asked if we would have accepted Jesus as a suffering Messiah had we lived in the first century C.E. They did not have their smart-phones telling them what Scriptures were relevant as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Rather, they had in mind David and Solomon, and they hoped Jesus would inaugurate a glorious reign like theirs.

J. The pastor criticized Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. People want to be seen as nice and to see themselves as nice. This idol is shot down when disaster comes, and people wonder how it can happen to them, when they are so nice. Yet, God meets us when we have reached the end of our rope. This reminded me of how tragic life can be. The pastor told a story about a church he pastored decades ago. The church secretary of fifteen years fell asleep at the wheel of her car and was killed. The next Sunday, the Scripture text was Isaiah 25:8, which affirms that death shall be swallowed up. The church did not include that passage as a deliberate response to the secretary’s death. Rather, that was the passage that was scheduled to read on that Sunday. The pastor sees that as God’s comfort and provision in that shocking and difficult time.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Book Write-Up: Children of God, by Lars Petter Sveen

Lars Petter Sveen. Children of God. Trans. Guy Puzey. Graywolf, 2018. See here to purchase the book.

Lars Petter Sveen is a Norwegian author, who has received literary awards. Children of God is set in first century C.E. Israel, the time of the historical Jesus. It consists of short stories, many of which overlap with each other in characters. Looming throughout the book is a blind old man, a sinister presence who still appeals to people’s desire for purpose and meaning.

I found this book to be rather dull, to be honest, but I may like it if I were to read it years in the future. Plus, you may find it interesting. The book is a translation from the original Norwegian, yet the prose is neat and clean. Perhaps the prose could have had more feeling in it, though.

People in the book struggle with profound issues. One person desires healing and receives it yet finds his faith tested when his illness returns. A revolutionary struggles with Roman oppression due to the pacifistic teachings of Jesus.

Jesus appears rather human in this book. He does not exude an enormous amount of warmth, but neither is he cold. He responds like one would expect a lot of people to respond: with guarded tentativeness. There are people who believe that they are healed by Jesus yet their diseases remain, and Sveen may have been trying to make some profound point here: they were healed within, even if they were not healed without. Still, Jesus seems to accomplish real outward healings. The book is somewhat nebulous about whether Jesus rose from the dead or was a failed idealist. One character remarks that many versions of Jesus emerged after the claims that Jesus rose from the dead.

This book is not exactly preachy, but people still wrestle with the teachings of Jesus.

I checked this book out from the library. My review is honest.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Church Write-Up: Warped Karma and Christ’s Sacrifice

At the LCMS church’s Lenten service, the main text was Micah 6:8. There, God exhorts the Israelites to “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (KJV).

Some items:

A. The pastor said that many people are outraged when they do not get the good things that they justly deserve: if one’s brother gets a larger piece of cake, for example, they are upset. Meanwhile, people are equally outraged when others do not get the negative karma that they think those others should receive for their bad deeds. In their view, justice means good things for themselves and bad things for others. I can see such a double standard within myself. I desire good things for myself. I am told by Christianity, however, that I am supposed to desire good things for those I cannot stand, but my negative emotions get in the way of me doing that, at least authentically. Does Christianity ask the impossible of me when it instructs me to sincerely desire good for those I cannot stand? Perhaps. At the same time, is it logical for me to say that I deserve good things while those I cannot stand do not? We are both humans. I am not better than them.

B. The pastor said that Jesus willingly took our punishment in our place. Looking back at our childhood, he asked, would we be willing to take a spanking for somebody else’s misdeed, or to go to bed without supper, or to go to the principal’s office, all for something that somebody else did? The pastor asked this to get us to appreciate the love behind Jesus’s self-sacrifice. He asked a good question. I would be unwilling to experience punishment that someone else deserves, not only because it inconveniences me, but also because I can picture others gobbling that up as if it is their due, failing to appreciate my sacrifice.

C. The pastor said that we should see others as people for whom Jesus died, even if we do not like them or consider them friends.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Church Write-Up: Hosea 5:12-6:6; the Trial Concludes

For my Church Write-Up today, I will start with items from the Sunday School class, which is about the Book of Hosea. Then I will talk about the LCMS worship service.

A. Hosea 5:12 states: “Therefore I am like maggots to Ephraim, and like rottenness to the house of Judah” (NRSV). The pastor said that the “rottenness” is gangrene. Northern Israel and Judah were dead spiritually, and it is on the dead that maggots and gangrene feed. The economy has been booming, so Israel has thought that she is okay in her relationship with God. But things are starting to take a downturn. Assyria is on the rise and is expanding. An earthquake occurs in Samaria in the eighth century B.C.E. The Israelites are experiencing the symptoms of their sins but do not recognize that they are sinners. The prophet is trying to get the people to realize that they need help.

B. The class discussed God’s judgment. One student said that he does not believe that God directly and actively punishes people but rather withdraws and lets them experience the consequences of their sin. The pastor replied that such a view is consistent with Hosea 5:14, in which God withdraws from Israel until she seeks him, yet v. 13 presents God as a lion who will tear Israel in pieces, which is active punishment.

C. The class then talked about whether God punishes people in the world. The pastor said the Israel experienced God’s judgment, but that God’s judgment was fully experienced by Jesus Christ on the cross. Therefore, God does not punish people here and now. People will suffer in a fallen world, but that is not God punishing them, for that is not God’s heart. The pastor mentioned how some Christians saw AIDS as God’s punishment for homosexuals, which makes no sense, since it also took the lives of numerous heterosexuals in Africa. Without a prophet to tell us, we cannot definitively say that a person’s suffering is God’s punishment for a sin. Questions arise in my mind. First of all, according to the New Testament, did Jesus’s death on the cross eliminate God’s punishment of sin? Paul expresses hope that God will repay evildoers for their sin (Romans 12:19; II Timothy 4:14). The Gospels seem to present the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. as divine punishment of Israel, and 70 C.E. is decades after the death of Jesus. Second, the idea that God has changed his M.O. does not entirely set right with me. God hates sin in the Old Testament and punishes Israel for it, but in the New Testament God lets people off the hook because God punishes someone else in their place. Does God no longer hate sin?

D. In Hosea 6:1-2, God has killed Israel but will raise her up on the third day. The pastor said that the Jews believed that the soul hung around the body for the first three days but left on the fourth day (cp. John 11:17). Elijah and Elisha raised the dead on the very day that those people died, when the soul was still around. God, however, promises to raise Israel when the soul is about to depart, when all seems lost. This will be as certain as the sun coming up and the arrival of the winter and spring rains (Hosea 6:3). Ultimately, this is fulfilled in Jesus, for God killed Jesus with God’s wrath and raised him from the dead. The pastor challenged the view that the Old Testament lacks the notion of an eschatological resurrection from the dead, for resurrection appears here in Hosea, in Ezekiel 37, and in Job 19:26. Deuteronomy 32:39, I Samuel 2:6, and Job 5:18 also affirm that God kills and makes alive. The pastor said that Hosea 6:1-2 is not merely using resurrection as a metaphor for Israel’s national restoration, but I am not clear what he meant by that. Hosea 6:1-2 appears to speak about Israel’s restoration, not a literal resurrection of dead bodies. In the handout, the pastor says that Hosea 6:1-2 at least makes clear that God is able to raise the dead.

E. After Israel returns to God in Hosea 6:1-3, God appears to question her repentance in vv. 4-6. Is God saying that her repentance is not good enough, so judgment is still coming? Or is God continuing God’s lament at Israel’s disobedience? According to the handout, scholars debate this. The pastor prefers the latter view because our repentance can never be good enough.

F. Hosea 6:4-6 states that Israel’s love for God is transient, like fog that passes away once the morning comes. In Oregon, fog lingers throughout the day, but it vanishes by morning in Israel. According to v. 5, God’s judgments go forth like the light, which could mean that, as the sun erases the fog, so does God’s judgment see through our fake and transient love for God. God wants more than sacrifice but also desires chesed: for people’s response to God’s love to be on the same level as God’s unconditional love for them.

G. Hosea 6:6 states that God desires mercy and not sacrifice, and Jesus quotes that passage in Matthew 9:13 and 12:7. Jesus was accusing the Pharisees of lacking God’s mercy in their heart, notwithstanding their scrupulous outward performance of the law. In Matthew 9:13, he exhorts them to go and learn that God desires mercy: he invites them to take to heart God’s heart for people. In Matthew 12:7, Jesus is past invitation and speaks judgment.

H. Throughout Lent, the worship service has featured a mock trial, in which a prosecutor questions witnesses to Jesus. Today’s worship service concluded that trial. The prosecutor questioned the apostle John. Before this, John made a cameo appearance in the children’s part of the service. The youth pastor asked why John refers to himself as the disciple Jesus loved. Is John saying that Jesus loved him more than he loved others? John answered “no,” but Jesus made him feel special. Jesus took Peter, James, and John up the mountain to see the transfiguration as well as asked John to take care of Mary, Jesus’s mother. Yet, John said that Jesus makes everyone feel special. Jesus’s apparent favoritism to Peter, James, and John disturbs me, somewhat. I one time heard a Bible study leader suggest, however, that Jesus kept them closer to him, not because they were the best in the class, but because they were the worst in the class and thus needed more guidance.

I. John told the story about how he and James sought to be more exalted than the other disciples by sitting on Jesus’s left and right hand in the kingdom. Jesus asked them if they were willing to drink his cup (Matthew 20:22; Mark 10:38), and they misunderstood that as an invitation to be his cupbearers, rather than as a reference to suffering. The prosecutor replied by asking if they were seeking to establish an earthly kingdom.

J. The prosecutor ended by saying that he has long believed that devotion to the law is what keeps society together, but now he is questioning that. The prosecutor wonders if he can obey the law enough, and he personally hungers for more than obedience to the law, in light of John’s statement that Jesus is the bread of life who can satisfy people’s hunger (John 6). Moreover, the prosecutor has talked with people whom Jesus helped, and Jesus helped them solely out of the kindness of his heart, without them deserving it. Unlike other rabbis, whose students decided to follow them after hearing them teach in different settings, Jesus went out and proactively selected disciples, and a rag-tag bunch they were! The prosecutor concluded by saying, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!”

Friday, April 5, 2019

Book Write-Up: Architects of Conspiracy, by William P. Hoar

William P. Hoar. Architects of Conspiracy: An Intriguing History. Western Islands, 1984. See here to buy the book.

Architects of Conspiracy is a collection of William P. Hoar’s articles that appeared from 1975 to 1984 in American Opinion magazine. American Opinion is now called the New American, and it was a periodical that was published by the ultra-conservative John Birch Society. The John Birch Society maintains that there is a conspiracy to create a one-world government. Those involved in the conspiracy include wealthy financiers, Communists, and the Council on Foreign Relations and Trilateral Commission. The John Birch Society also holds to a laissez-faire stance on economics. In its view, federal government intervention in the economy constricts freedom and undermines competition, thereby protecting and benefitting the wealthy.

The articles are arranged chronologically. The book starts with the French Revolution and its impact on the newly-created United States of America. It then goes through the Industrial Revolution in England, Manifest Destiny in the United States, post-Civil War Reconstruction, and the Robber Barons. Then it moves into the early twentieth century, covering Anarchism, Andrew Carnegie, Populism, and World War I and its aftermath. Afterwards, Hoar proceeds to the 1920’s-1940’s, with chapters concerning Henry Ford, the Great Depression, the New Deal, World War II, and Nazism and Fascism. Hoar then turns his attention to post-World War II events, including the Truman Administration, the Korean War, the aftermath of the Vietnam War, and U.S. summits with the Soviet Union. There is also a chapter about how there were corrupt U.S. President prior to Richard Nixon, echoing conservative Victor Lasky’s claim that “It didn’t start with Watergate.” The final two chapters concern the plans to create a New World Order.

Here are some thoughts:

A. The book is a collection of articles, so it is not very cohesive in explaining what the conspiracy is and how it seeks to effect its goals. Is the conspiracy an attempt to overthrow the Establishment (like the Jacobins), or is it part of the Establishment? The “conspiracy” also does not look monolithic: for example, you have wealthy financier Bernard Baruch criticizing Herbert Hoover for being a socialist. Should they not be on the same side? Hoar seems to contradict himself on what the stances of the conspiracy actually were. Did it favor the expansion of the British Empire or seek to undermine said Empire? Did it support or oppose American intervention into World War II? Then there is the question of the motives of the so-called conspiracy. In some cases, the motives are rather obvious: the wealthy are on the take and seek to influence government to their own ends. Woodrow Wilson, according to Hoar, sought to be President of the world. Regarding the “conspiracy’s” stance towards Communism, Hoar accepts the McCarthyite narrative that there were Communists in the U.S. Government. Overall, though, Hoar, or at least the quotations that he presents, appear to depict the figures (i.e., Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, even the Trilateral Commission) as naive about the Communist threat rather than as deliberate supporters of it.

B. Hoar’s comments on racial issues stood out to me. He seems to be mildly sympathetic towards the “Black Codes” that white southerners enacted after the Civil War, seeing them as understandable attempts by whites to protect their property and lives. This stood out to me, since a number of conservatives criticize the “Black Codes” as gun control measures that were enacted to oppress African-Americans. Hoar also sees the need, for some reason, to note that Abraham Lincoln did not believe in social and political equality among the races. Elsewhere in the book, however, Hoar is critical of racism. He criticizes the racism of populists, both in the early twentieth century and among later right-wingers who adopt the label of populism. Hoar also praises Henry Ford for hiring a large number of African-Americans.

C. I recently rewatched an episode of the Cosby Show entitled “Mrs. Huxtable Goes to Kindergarten.” On this episode, Claire goes on TV and debates the Great Depression with a conservative intellectual. The conservative argued that the Depression was a mere economic downturn and that the economy would have corrected itself in time, without FDR’s help. FDR’s New Deal only exasperated the problem. Banking had nothing to do with the Depression, the conservative argued, nor did the stock market crash directly cause it. How did Hoar’s analysis compare with this? Hoar, too, treats the Depression as an economic downturn that would have self-corrected. He believes that both Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt exasperated it, with their high taxes and government spending; Hoar also criticizes the Smoot-Hawley tariffs that occurred during Hoover’s Presidency. Hoar also views the stock market crash as the result of the economic downturn rather than the cause. Unlike that conservative intellectual, however, Hoar assigns a great deal of blame to the Federal Reserve for the Great Depression. The Federal Reserve eased credit during the 1920’s, resulting in bad loans, then it suddenly tightened credit. For Hoar, the Federal Reserve manipulates the economy for private financial interests, and depressions can actually help rather than hurt some of the wealthy, so the Federal Reserve has no problem causing depressions.

D. The book may fail in presenting a coherent picture of a “conspiracy,” but most of the chapters by themselves are fine pieces of revisionist history. Hoar depicts Louis XVI as a rather progressive ruler of France, overthrown due to an induced economic crisis. Hoar’s claim in the introduction that what people say publicly and what they do privately are different is borne out throughout this book: for instance, FDR was preparing for war even as he publicly affirmed that the U.S. would stay out of it. Hoar draws from numerous secondary sources as well as includes primary quotes, such as Andrew Jackson’s critique of the Bank of the United States, and the fears that the League of Nations would undermine American sovereignty. The book is one-sided, and other books will offer a different perspectives on the stances historical figures took and the decisions that they made. Hoar still asks legitimate questions.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Church Write-Up: Broken Promises

The pastor’s sermon at this week’s Lenten service was about broken promises. He opened by talking about American poetry. He said that he enjoys the intense poems of Walt Whitman but also the calm poems of Robert Frost. Robert Frost wrote a poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” in which the poet wrestles between his desire to remain in the enchanted woods, and his obligation to his promises. Peter affirmed that he would never deny Christ and would even die for him, but Peter at Jesus’s trial would find himself caught between his devotion to Christ and his desire to be anywhere else than there at that moment. Peter was so emphatic in his denials of knowing Jesus that, according to Martin Luther, Peter had abandoned the faith at that moment. Peter in John 20 goes to Jesus’s empty tomb and is hesitant to go in, and the pastor speculated that Peter deep down knew that Jesus was risen and was afraid to encounter the one he had betrayed. When we break our promises to others, it is often difficult for us to fix the problem, for the feelings of betrayal are there. What is more, we tend to be outraged at people’s broken promises to us but to excuse or rationalize our broken promises to others. In the case of Peter, Jesus stepped in and restored him, exhorting him to feed his sheep.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Book Write-Up: The Rapture, the Tribulation, and Beyond, by B.D. Hyman

B.D. Hyman. The Rapture, the Tribulation, and Beyond. 2002. See here to buy the book.

B.D. Hyman is the daughter of actress Bette Davis. Hyman is a Christian minister. I first learned of her from the 2017 miniseries Feud, which is about the conflict between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. After watching Feud, I went through Hyman’s testimony on her YouTube channel as well as several of her teaching videos.

I cannot say that I found her teaching videos to be uplifting. They seemed to be saying that unless one is a Christian as she defines it, one is susceptible to demons and the disaster that demons can bring. Hyman also argued that a person should not fellowship with non-Christians, and that tithing only brings divine blessing if it goes to a church that fully teaches the word of God (by implication, her church, though she may deny that she is saying that). Hyman also appeared to suggest that one needed to believe the exact right things to be saved: believing that the church is the body of Christ rather than the bride of Christ seemed to be more than a question about theological accuracy, for her. Rather, it was a salvation issue.

Yet, there were elements of her teaching that intrigued me. She said that there are seven raptures. She claimed that the demons are not the fallen angels but the souls of those who perished in the Flood, desperately seeking bodies to inhabit. She embraced the gap theory and argued that passages in Isaiah depict the pre-Adamic world that had dinosaurs and mammoths. What is more, while one might think that she teaches that one either believes her way or goes to hell, her eschatological scenario seemed more complex than that, as it posited more categories than “saved” and “lost.” There were also the millennial nations and the eternal nations. I was curious to learn more, but several of her prophecy videos made the same points over and over and advertised this book. I figured that I should read her book to get a fuller picture of what she believes.

Here are some points:

A. Hyman argues that Christians should not fellowship with non-Christians, but she fails in this book to define fellowship. Is she suggesting that Christians should have nothing to do with non-Christians? She has said things to the contrary. In her videos, she assumes that Christians in her audience will have non-Christian relatives in their lives. In the book, she affirms that Christians are to be kind to all people, non-believers included. Is she saying that Christians should keep their relationships with non-Christians at a distant or superficial level? Indeed, Paul in II Corinthians 6:14 discourages believers from having fellowship with darkness or being unequally yoked with non-believers. At the same time, Paul in I Corinthians 7 instructs Christians with non-believing spouses to remain married to their non-believing spouses. I Peter 3:1 does the same. If intimacy with non-believers attracts demons, why would Paul and Peter permit it in these cases?

B. Hyman argues on the basis of Mark 16:17-18 that true believers speak in tongues and heal people miraculously. One problem with this argument, of course, is that Mark 16:17-18 is probably not authentic to the Gospel of Mark but is a later addition. Another problem is that it contradicts what Scripture says elsewhere. Paul in I Corinthians 12:30 states: “Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?” (KJV). His point is “no”: the Spirit gifts different Christians in different ways.

C. Hyman promotes a sort of prosperity Gospel. She applies to Christians Old Testament statements about the eschatological prosperity of Israel. God prospers Christians in terms of wealth and health, and Christians use that wealth to help fellow Christians and outsiders. They can give people their cloaks, a la Matthew 5:30 and Luke 6:29, because they have plenty, through God’s provision. Their health and their wealth attract outsiders to them and encourage outsiders to follow God. Hyman acknowledges that believers may still encounter struggles; her testimony videos talk candidly about her own hard times. But she is emphatic that God is not the one causing those struggles, for it is the enemy who seeks to destroy (John 10:10). Believers can triumph over their adversity through obedience to God and resistance to demons. On the one hand, one can cite Scriptures in favor of such a message. Jesus healed people when he was on earth, James 5:14-15 presents a healing ritual, and II Corinthians 9:8 appears to suggest that God will provide enough for believers to help others. On the other hand, there is an acknowledgement that Christians can be materially poor (II Corinthians 8:2; James 2:5; Revelation 2:9), or even sick (Philippians 2:26-27; II Timothy 4:20).

D. There is a “name-it-claim-it” or “Word of Faith” dimension to Hyman’s teaching. The reason that she insists that Christians regard the church as Christ’s body, not his bride, is that their words of confession are important. She remarks that Christians who believe the saints will go through the Great Tribulation will receive according to their words. Did not Jesus stress the efficacy of one’s words (e.g., Matthew 12:37)? Hyman sees the “church as body, not bride” issue as crucial. For Hyman, Christ is marrying the New Jerusalem, not the church. What exactly is at stake here is not entirely clear, for Hyman acknowledges that the church will inhabit the New Jerusalem. In II Corinthians 11:2, Paul talks about presenting the Corinthian church as a chaste virgin to Christ, her one husband. Hyman could respond that this is a metaphor, but she seems to hyper-literalize the church being Christ’s body and Christ’s bride, as if the two are utterly irreconcilable.

E. Her argument for seven raptures is effective, overall. Not all of the raptures are eschatological, for they include the translation of Enoch to heaven. But she contends that there will be a pre-tribulational rapture, but also a later rapture of the 144,000. That conclusion is reasonable, for John beholds the 144,000 standing with the Lamb (Revelation 14:1ff.).

F. Hyman believes that Christ will return soon after the year 2000. There were 2,000 years from Adam to Abraham, and 2,000 years from Abraham to Jesus. She thinks there will be 2,000 years between Jesus’s first and second comings. She also bases her timetable on typology: events in Scripture foreshadow the end. She argues, for example, that Jesus’s residence on earth for forty days between his resurrection and ascension foreshadows that Christians will have glorified bodies (i.e., walking through walls) on earth for forty days before their pre-tribulational rapture to heaven. They will testify to the unsaved before their rapture, walking through walls to show that they have the truth of God. Such calculations are interesting, but there have been so many through the years by other Christians, and they have failed.

G. Hyman argues that not believing in the charismatic gifts is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. If there is a healing, it can only be from God, or from the devil. If one denies it is from God, one is saying it is from the devil. For Hyman, those who say those gifts are from the devil are like the Pharisees who attributed Christ’s works to Satan. That is an interesting point, but does she accept every miracle or miracle claim as divine in origin? She is critical of several charismatic leaders (though she mentions no names). Another observation: she seems ambivalent about whether blasphemers against the Holy Spirit will go to hell. On the one hand, she says they are eternally condemned. On the other hand, she denies that the Lake of Fire is their necessary destination.

H. Hyman raises interesting points about there being more categories than “saved” and “lost,” but she is unclear about how her scenario holds together consistently. On the one hand, the tone of her book is that people need to believe like her, or they are damned. That means they need to be true believers, baptized with the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, she acknowledges that heaven will include believers who were not baptized with the Holy Spirit, albeit they will not be glorified. On the one hand, she states that the millennium will be a time of peace and the worship of God: the millennial nations, even the unrighteous ones, will worship God at an earthly sanctuary. On the other hand, she contends that the unrighteous in the millennium are those who hold on to their sins (i.e., idolatry, murder, sorcery) and are thus barred from the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:5). Are idolatry, sorcery, and murder present in the millennium or not? She is unclear about whether righteous people in the millennial nations will be saved: she seems to say that they will be, yet she also places them in the “eternal nations,” who are righteous but not exactly “saved.” She says that the millennial nations will include those who did not receive the Mark of the Beast yet are unsaved: they are survivalists, among the people who hide in mountains and rocks (Revelation 6:15-16). How would she address the claim of Revelation 13:8 and 17:8 that those whose names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will worship the Beast? Could one say that those who worship the Beast are those whose names are absent from the Book of Life, but not everyone absent from the Book of Life will worship the Beast?

I. Hyman is critical of Harry Potter and Disney movies because they desensitize people to magic and the occult. She is also critical of martial arts. I tend to recoil from this sort of perspective, since I prefer a Christianity that engages art. Still, Hyman may have a point: Satan tries to influence people through what is pleasing, not always what is obviously ugly.

J. The format of this book was pesher-like. Hyman would quote a verse and comment on it. In some cases, the connection between her interpretation and the verse was unclear: how was she getting from here to there? In certain cases, she perhaps could have made a stronger case for the point she was making. She claimed that the Antichrist will be a homosexual, for example, yet she failed to cite Daniel 11:37, which states that the wicked king will lack a desire for women. I am not saying Daniel 11:37 means that the Antichrist will be a homosexual, for the point there is that the wicked king will be consumed with his own glory, not sexual desire. Still, if Hyman wanted to make the case that she did, one would think that Daniel 11:37 would be cited.

I am giving this book four stars on account of its intriguing interpretations of the Bible, and also because its prose is fairly clear. It could have done a better job, however, in presenting Hyman’s prophetic scenario in a cohesive manner.

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