Book Notice: God’s Design for Man and Woman (by Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger)

God's Design picMany of the influencers in the West are working to blur the lines between genders, and apparently now are enjoying a significant amount of popular approval. Even the notion of gender is up for grabs. (Witness Facebook’s recent announcement that its users can select from over 50 gender options.) The culture is awash with “gender questioning” (one of Facebook’s new options). We are naïve if we think that we, or our churches, will not be affected by this cultural shift. Responsible resources are needed to equip Christians living in this gender-neutral culture.

For this reason, we are grateful to Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger for writing an excellent book that presents Scripture’s witness to God’s design for man and woman, God’s Design for Man and Woman: A Biblical-Theological Survey (Crossway). They address God’s intentions for man and woman in the home, but also in church and society. They are clear about the importance of the topic: “Biblical manhood and womanhood is too important a subject not to think through carefully as a Christian. While it is undeniable that there’s no current consensus on this issue in the church, the probable reason isn’t that Scripture is inconclusive or conflicted.” (14-15) The authors believe, instead, that Scripture is clear and consistent on the topic. Thus, they see Scripture as the source and guide for clear thinking and loving application on what it says about man and woman, individually and in their relationships together.

In the book, the Köstenbergers seek to provide a biblical-theological treatment of God’s design for man and woman. That is, they trace the biblical storyline to see what God has said about man and woman throughout the ages. The structure of the book illustrates this helpful approach:

Introduction

Chapter 1: God’s Original Design and Its Corruption (Genesis 1–3)

Chapter 2: Patriarchs, Kings, Priests, and Prophets (Old Testament)

Chapter 3: What Did Jesus Do? (Gospels)

Chapter 4: What Did the Early Church Do? (Acts)

Chapter 5: Pauls’ Message to the Churches (First Ten Letters)

Chapter 6: Paul’s Legacy (Letters to Timothy and Titus)

Chapter 7: The Rest of the Story (Other New Testament Teaching)

Chapter 8: God’s Design Lived Out Today

Appendix 1: The Three Waves: Women’s History Survey

Appendix 2: The Rules of the Game: Hermeneutics and Biblical Theology

Appendix 3: Proceed with Caution: Special Issues in Interpreting Gender Passages

In Chapters 1–7, then, the biblical-theological teaching on man and woman is presented. Each chapter contains discussion of key passages and the relevance of those passages for today. Controversial texts such as 1 Tim 2:15 (“she will be saved through childbearing”) receive special attention. On this text they conclude that “save” refers not to religious salvation but to spiritual preservation from falling into error, namely Satan’s deception (pp. 212–19). Chapter 8 contains a summary of the key points from the book and application points for churches, married and single men and women, including the biblical roles and activities for men and women. The three appendices provide interested readers with resources and arguments for further study into this important and controversial topic.

Since this book is about God’s design for men and women, nearly everyone will benefit by reading it. Pastors, small-groups, married couples, singles, and students pursuing clarity on this topic will especially benefit. The Köstenbergers begin their introduction with a testimony of God’s grace to them through the lives of faithful men and women who, in their relationships together, showed the power and beauty of the gospel (pp. 15–16). We can be helped by this book to do likewise.

Daniel Heimbach gives us a Manual for Defending Marriage against Radical Deconstruction

Why Not Same SexSEBTS Senior Professor of Christian Ethics Daniel Heimbach has recently published a unique book in the vast literature about same-sex marriage. Why Not Same-Sex Marriage: A Manual for Defending Marriage against Radical Deconstruction. Is a thorough and comprehensive treatment of the subject from an evangelical Christian viewpoint, but it is not written for an evangelical audience. Instead, it is written to persuade those who are “on the fence.”

The rapid rise of the same-sex marriage movement has left many Christians with the sense that there is something wrong with the arguments for homosexuality, but without the time or ability to research and articulate defenses for the arguments. Contributing to this, the broad and varied stream of arguments used to support normalization of homosexuality and same-sex marriage are being broadcast as an incessant barrage in an attempt to sweep away all opposition to same-sex marriage.

This book is offers a reasonable argument in the midst of many hostile and emotional appeals for redefining the basic social institution of marriage. Heimbach writes,

Truth is the first casualty in political contests where one or both sides rely chiefly on emotion, on making good impressions, and on grabbing favorable attention at all costs. When this occurs, contests degenerate into emotional rhetoric severed from objective reality. Opponents are blackened beyond recognition, and champions become larger than life. This book enters a fray in which both sides are passionate, but it does so clinging to objective reality while resisting mischaracterization and distortion. (xiii)

In support of this goal, Heimbach presents 101 arguments, with a paragraph length statement for each argument, for the redefinition of marriage. Heimbach then offers a page-long response to the argument posed in firm, but charitable terms. Next comes a single-sentence statement of the main objection to the argument. Finally, each section includes a representative bibliography of popular and academic sources that weigh-in on both sides of the argument.

Though many conservative and evangelical blogs have helped to explain some of the arguments and counter-arguments surrounding same-sex marriage, many of those responses answer only a few of the varied attacks against traditional marriage or, sometimes, they lack the charity and careful research to make them compelling and convincing to a hostile audience.

Heimbach’s book, Why Not Same-Sex Marriage, fills the void admirably. The main substance of the volume is a collection of gracious answers to 101 false arguments for redefining civil marriage. Each of the arguments has been categorized by its type and the book arranged to reflect that. Heimbach uses categories like “Arguments Regarding the Nature of Marriage,” “Arguments Regarding Society and Social Order,” “Arguments Regarding Constitutional Law,” and “Arguments Regarding God and Theology.” The book is designed to be a reference manual for engaging in cultural dialogue.

In the back of the book, Heimbach includes two testimonies of former homosexuals who renounced their same-sex sin as they sought to live holy lives patterned after biblical norms; they were not “cured” so much as they were redeemed from their sin. He also includes two scholarly essays that provide an academically robust treatment on some of the movements that seek to redefine marriage. Finally, the book closes with a list of resources and agencies that provide assistance and information to those with questions about homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

This book, as any argument on this topic, is easy to caricature. Opponents will tend to dismiss alternate viewpoints and malign the motivations of those who stand by the traditional understanding of gender complementarity in marriage. However, anyone who picks up this book and reads a few arguments will find that the reasoning is sound, the assumptions are stated, and both viewpoints are represented fairly. Heimbach has done his readers a favor by grabbing a “third rail” in the ongoing cultural discussion and attempting to fairly answer the arguments of those who would want marriage redefined. Why Not Same-Sex Marriage is a substantive and significant contribution to the ongoing cultural debate.online games

The Church Planter’s Library (4): Global and Cultural Context

[Editor’s Note: This summer we are posting some old but good pieces from BtT. This post originally appeared on July 13, 2009.]

A good missiologist (whether North American or International) is first and foremost a theologian, but also a student of other disciplines such as world religions, cultural anthropology, history, current affairs, and anything else he can get his hands on in order to understand his context. By studying world religions, the missiologist learns to understand the core beliefs and religious practices of those to whom he will minister. From cultural anthropology, he learns to pay careful attention to the people group he is working with. He seeks to understand their beliefs, feelings, and values, as well as their patterns of behavior and material culture. From history and current affairs, he gains an understanding of the international and regional context within which he ministers.

With this in mind, this post will provide (1) a few selected introductory texts treating world religions, cultural anthropology, and contextualization, (2) a few significant books to help understand the global context, and (3) a list of select history and current affairs books for most major geographic regions of the world, including the United States.

Religious and Cultural Context

Two of the best introductions to world religions are Winfried Corduan, Neighboring Faiths and James Lewis and William Travis, Religious Traditions of the World. Each of these books includes brief introductory sketches of the major world religious traditions.

For those interested in some basic reading about contextualization, I recommend David Hesselgrave and Edwin Rommen, Contextualization: Meanings, Methods, and Models as well as David Clark’s “Theology in Cultural Context” (Chapter Three of his To Know and Love God). For a beginner’s treatment in intercultural studies, Paul Hiebert’s Anthropological Insights for Missionaries is as good as any.

Global Studies

Here are three significant books dealing with major issues in global studies. I do not recommend them because I agree with everything they say, but because they are particularly helpful at raising significant questions and attempting to answer those same questions.

1. Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations. Huntington argues that the 21st century will see increasingly deep-seated conflict between the world’s civilizations and the West will increasingly be at a disadvantage. The civilizational clashes of the 21st century will be mammoth; at the center of these clashes are religion and culture.

2. Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat 3.0. Friedman argues that we live in an almost-flat world. Since the turn of the century, a series of political, economic and technological factors have converged to produce a tidal wave of change in global culture, which will only fully begin to be seen in the next few years.

3. Fareed Zakariah. The Post-American World. Of the commentary on America’s decline, there seems to be no end. The Post-American World is Fareed Zakariah’s contribution to the subject. He chimes in with a more cheery voice than most, focusing more on the “rise of the rest” than the “decline of the West” and arguing that America’s future need not be so gloomy as some predict.

4. Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom and The New Faces of Christianity are excellent treatises on global Christianity.

North Africa & The Middle East

1. Bernard Lewis, The Crisis of Islam. Bernard Lewis is the reigning king of Middle Eastern studies. In this slim little volume, he provides the reader with a concise, level-headed, and very reasonable overview of the crisis within Islam. He gives a brief history of the rise and development of Islam, the Crusades, and of the conflict between Islam, Christianity, and modern western culture.

2. Bernard Lewis, The Arabs in History. In this book, Lewis describes the Arabs and their place in the course of human history. He focuses on their identity, achievements, and relations with the non-Arab world.

3. Vali Nasr, The Shia Revival. Nasr provides an excellent exposition of the Sunni-Shia divide within Islam, analyzing its history as well as its contemporary socio-cultural and political manifestations across the Muslim world.

4. For books on Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, see the Central Asia section below.

Central Asia

1. Peter Hopkirk, The Great Game. Hopkirk’s book is the single best history of Central Asia. It is 524 pages long, however, and one must be committed in order to make it through the book.

2. Robert Kaplan, Eastward to Tartary. Journalist Robert Kaplan provides a fascinating and depressing account of his travels in Central Asia (as well as parts of Europe and the Middle East), weaving together history, current affairs, and personal narratives.

3. Central Asian countries such as Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are the beneficiaries of an avalanche of new novels, travelogues, and histories. Here are a few that I recommend. The Ayatollah Begs to Differ by Hooman Majd is a lively interpretation of Iran. Ghost Wars by Steve Coll is a lively but lengthy history of Afghanistan in the late 20th century. The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini are masterful novels depicting life in Pakistan. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid is a novel about a young Pakistani man living in the United States, wrestling with 9/11 and its aftermath.

South Asia

1. Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, Freedom at Midnight. Collins and Lapierre provide a fast-paced and intimate account of India’s 1947 break from British rule and her subsequent partitioning into the two autonomous nations of India and Pakistan. The authors focus on India’s last British viceroy Lord Mountbatten, India’s spiritual leader Ghandi, Muslim leader Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and Hindu statesman Jawaharlal Nehru.

2. Edward Luce, In Spite of the Gods. Journalist Edward Luce provides an accurate, narrative structured, and humorous account of the rise of modern India.

East Asia

1. Philip Pan, Out of Mao’s Shadow. Pan gives us the “no holds barred” narrative of recent Chinese history, and in particular China’s attempt to balance its version of capitalism with its unique brand of authoritarianism. He does so by focusing on 11 profiles of China’s dissidents: a young entrepreneur’s open defiance of the police by attending the funeral of Chinese dissident Zhao Ziyang, a doctor arrested for blowing the whistle on the government’s handling of the SARS epidemic, a filmmaker’s documentary about a Mao-era dissidents who wrote a prison manifesto in her own blood, and others.

2. John Pomfret, Chinese Lessons. This book is a lively, witty, and intimate portrait of five Chinese nationals who the author met in 1981 during Deng Xiaoping’s cautious reopening of China to the West and China’s rise as a police state flirting with capitalism. The author, John Pomfret, was an American exchange student at Nanjing University in the 1980s, and afterwards served two stints as a journalist in China. The author has a wickedly keen sense of humor.

Sub-Saharan Africa

1. Martin Meredith, The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence is a very long, but eminently readable account of the recent history of Africa. Meredith is unsurpassed in the breadth and depth of his knowledge of the continent.

2. David Lamb, The Africans. Though slightly outdated (published in 1990), this travelogue by David Lamb is still relevant as it probes the tumultuous decades of mid-to-late 20th century Africa. Lamb’s historical footwork is interwoven with interviews and narratives gleaned from his years as a reporter on the continent.

3. Also helpful are the many travelogues and current affairs texts that deal with life in particular African contexts. One of the most significant is Martin Meredith, Mugabe. Mugabe: Power, Plunder, and the Struggle for Zimbabwe. This book, not for the faint of heart, is an account of Zimbabwe’s struggle for independence, the (culturally Christian) Mugabe’s rise to power, and his metamorphosis from responsible revolutionary into brutal dictator willing to slaughter his own people, including friends and associates. This book allows Westerners a peek into the life of millions of Africans who live under dictatorship.

Pacific Rim

1. Mary Somers Heidhues, Southeast Asia: A Concise History. Heidhues’ book is aptly named. It is a concise history of Southeast Asia. It is not a particularly exciting read, but it is helpful as an accurate and relatively easy to read account of Southeast Asian history.

2. I am unaware of any good current affairs texts or travelogues for Southeast Asia / Pacific Rim. I invite our readership to provide suggestions in the comment box.

Europe

1. Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence. Barzun’s provides an interpretive history of the past 500 years of Western Cultural Life. It is a masterfully encyclopedic, provocative, witty, and accessible history, although it is a bit long (877 pp.).

2. Philip Jenkins, God’s Continent. Jenkins provides a fairly balanced assessment of Europe’s religious condition, focusing on Islam and Christianity.

3. Central and Eastern Europe differ quite a bit from Western Europe. One of my favorite books related to the former Soviet Union is Owen Matthews, Stalin’s Children, a historical autobiography taking the reader back through three generations of life in the USSR.

The Americas

*Note: I am unable to provide good recommendations for North and South America, with the exception of the USA (below). I invite our readership to provide suggestions in the comment box.

The United States of America

1. Norman Cantor, The American Century. Cantor provides a readable and provocative overview of European and American influence on 20th century global culture. This book could just as easily fit under the “Europe” or “Global Studies” sections above.

2. Robert Remini, A Short History of the United States. Here is the best one-stop history of the United States of America.

3. Tom Wolfe, Hooking Up and I Am Charlotte Simmons. Tom Wolfe is a gimlet-eyed observer of the American cultural scene. Of his many books, I recommend these two. Hooking Up is a witty and perceptive collection of essays published in 2000, exposing “the lurid carnival actually taking place in the mightiest country on earth in the year 2000.” I Am Charlotte Simmons is the 2004 novel that follows up the essays.

What new books (since 2009) can you add to the list?