Book review of Reading the Gospels Wisely by Jonathan Pennington (Baker, 2012)
If any of the following statements are true of you, then you should pick up a copy of Reading the Gospels Wisely (RGW) .
The benefits are at least three:
Did you know it’s misinformed to think of the Gospels as just biographies or a collection of Jesus vignettes? Or that we bypass the true intent of the Gospel authors (and Christ himself) when we dissect and compare pieces of Matthew with Luke or John with Mark, in order to really understand them? Are you aware of the dead German liberals, who still whisper lies from the grave like “It’s possible to interpret without applying?”
Like a trusty compass, RGW helps to orient us. Chapter 3 is all about why we need the Gospels.
This book will take some effort and engagement but will be worthwhile. Read it over Christmas break and with a friend.
Let me suggest three reading strategies:
* The last few pages of Chapter 1
* Chapters 2-4, 6
* The last six pages of Chapter 7
* Chapters 8-12
* Say to yourself “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and
* Read Chapters 8-11 along with last page of Chapter 12
* After that, you might re-visit Chapters 1-7, still skipping Chapter 5
In keeping with the triplets above, here are three warnings:
First, occasionally you’ll pass by a Latin or German phrase with no translation. Just keep going and treat them like signs that say “Speed Limit Enforced by Aircraft.”
Second, you’ll see a lot of authors you don’t recognize—it’s okay. You can’t know everything. (This summer someone asked me to name four professional basketball plays. I couldn’t.) Embrace your limitations; don’t be discouraged.
And last, you’ll notice this at various points throughout the book and especially towards the end: Pennington has an agenda. He wants to invite you “into the joy of studying the Gospels more deeply and more often.” He also desires that “readers will not be merely hearers of but responders by faith to the clarion call of the love of God in Christ as presented in the Gospels.”
In the world of theological study, Pennington is no amateur (MDiv from Trinity and PhD from St Andrews). But he's not a touring pro. He's a teaching pro: providing practical instruction for everyone looking to improve their game.
Jesus Without Religion paints a compelling portrait of Jesus and after finishing the book, the reader will clearly understand the words, works and claims of Jesus.
When one is studying a passage of Scripture, a basic but helpful pattern to follow is the threefold process of observation, interpretation, and application.
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