For a little teaser: I name what I think is the best book I've yet found as an introduction to the Bible. Ever hear of Mike Erre? He has a few other books that are fine, but his new book on the Bible? Wow! I am just stunned by how great this is, an excellent overview for
perspective, clarity, vision, and---yeah--fun writing. For those who like the fabulously-done, brief, The True Story of the Whole World by Craig Bartholomew & Michael Goheen (which is an adapted and abridged version of their essential---essential!---The Drama of Scripture) or who appreciate N.T. Wright's vision of how the Bible stories are inter-connected. This captures that storied nature of the unfolding drama as a worldview-shaping narrative, walking us through the epic adventure of God's rescue of the planet. Sound good? Check it out. I tell about a handful of others, too, including a few you really will be glad to hear about, I'd guess. Please feel free to pass it on to anybody you know who teaches, studies, or is interested in learning about the Scriptures. I tell you a bit about each one, and I think they are reliable, fun, feisty, and helpful.
Just for instance, here is one of the books I list, Ruth: The Story of God's Unending Redemption written by my friend, Dr. Robert A. Wauzzinski (Dordt College Press) $14.00. It is the only one that I listed, I think, that isn't a full Biblical overview, but it is so very helpful, such a good example of how to read the Scriptures, that I had to list it. This book is more thorough than a typical small-group Bible study guide, but isn't as big or tedious as a full commentary. I think this is truly a helpful sort of book---meaty enough for nearly anybody to learn something (smart guys and pastors, too---trust me) but not a scholarly tome. Perfect for busy folks, for Sunday school teachers, for adult classes or book clubs or anyone wanting to dig into a particular book of the Bible.
More important than the size and format---brief and usable---is the insightful, inspiring, and at times, nearly provocative, content. As I explain below, this is a case study in a wise and faithful use of the Bible. It doesn't reduce the text to a "moral lesson" nor does it make it merely about doctrine or dogma. It draws from more evangelical/conservative readings as well as more liberal/critical scholars, while being something considerably more than a balanced approach between the extremes. No, this is a full-throated and redemptively wise telling of a full-orbed tale, a story placed in the broader Story of God's Kingdom a-coming, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Do you believe it---the gospel according to Ruth. Of course he is not the first to have this Christ-centered reading, but I think he unpacks it better than any of the other recent ones that we also commend, such as the good work of Iain Duguid, Dean Ulrich, and Carolyn Custis James, all who have recent books on Ruth.
Ruth: The Story of God's Unending Redemption Robert A. Wauzzinski (Dordt College Press) $14.00 You know of our desire to promote books about the big picture of Scripture, how to best understand the major chapters of the grand Story, our effort to help folks be faithful and fruitful with a wise and appropriate study of the whole counsel of God. Most of the books I've mentioned in the list share the conviction that the authoritative Word is one major story, with a coherent, redemptive plot that shows God's promise and fulfillment. To reject any significant tension between Old and New Testaments and to reject any reductionism or sentimentalism that fails to see the way in which God's faithfulness to creation is need of the hour. I don't know who tends to drop these balls more often, mainline liberals or conservative independent folks, Catholics or Orthodox. Nearly everyone needs a refresher, I'd say, on how best to read the Bible in coherent and realistic ways that point to God's reign coming and our role in the Story the Scripture tell. This book is exactly the kind of refresher we need.
One way to do this is to study a certain book of the Bible with a view not only of teaching that book of the Bible, but of modeling faithful and wise and fruitful engagement with the text. This book does exactly that making it very interesting and informative. I want to review this is greater detail soon so won't say much more here, except that we commend it for anyone that wants to study Ruth, and who wants to see how best to study any given book of the Bible in its place within the bigger story of God's shalom project. Wauzzinski knows this Bible book well---he's taught it in synagogues and prisons, in college Bible studies and congregations large and small. He's got a particular focus on the history of intellectual ideas, a degree in philosophical economics, and he is an ordained Presbyterian (USA) minister. This book isn't a serious, dry commentary, and it isn't a fill-in-the-blank inductive study. It is short enough to be used as an adult elective or book group, and challenging enough that nearly anyone will learn new insights---about Ruth, about the Bible, and about how to read the Bible in a way to hear God's Word to us anew. We are not the only ones who highly recommend it.
Here is what Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann graciously wrote about it:
Two important things are going on in Ruth. First, one gets the wonder of the Book of Ruth with its' 'central character,' the God of 'cascading grace' who is extravagantly displayed in this plot. Second, one gets a patient, self-aware pastoral pedagogy that keeps connecting the contemporary reader to the ancient narrative. The outcome is a narrative articulation of a vision of generous offers of unending goodness, offers that contradict the pervasive violence all around us. Readers are invited to a deep, welcome alternative, as welcome as healed humanness, as deep as the unswerving purposes of God.Here is what Calvin Seerveld, professor of aesthetics and Bible teacher, said,
Lastly, I have to tell you--among friends, here at BookNotes---that we particularly like supporting projects like this. Bob has taught in prisons, done research an been an advocate for a Pittsburgh, African-American-owned urban bank, and is quite a fellow---few things would make us happier than to have him get some credit for this gift of good work, even though that isn't his desire. And, we dig supporting faithful, little alt houses, like this small Dutch Reformed Iowa college press. Some of the bigger publishers gave Ruth very good thumbs up, but couldn't imagine a book selling that was more than a "fill in the blank" study for small groups that had some academic cred, or an evangelically-minded author citing social justice stuff, or a serious scholar being so accessible for ordinary folks. I don't know the publishing world, really, but this is a no-brainer in my book-- the very sort of book we ought to be about. We hope agree. Let us know how many you want for your next small group or class.
Bob Wauzzinski has served us well by reading the biblical book of Ruth in its full relevance for our current lives in society fraught with greed for self and lovelessness for the stranger....(he) has given us a compelling way to understand how hearing God speak in this Older Testament book may help American's today to cope not only with our evils of war and recession, but positively to reform our ways, if painfully, towards God's blessing of shalom.
...the unmistakable, powerful truth of the good news of Ruth is told with conviction.
And don't forget to check out the bigger list at the "review column" for June. Buy something over there and get an extra discount on Ruth. Almost like gleaning, eh?
Ruth: The Story of God's Unending Redemption
with the purchase of any book from the longer list
(which will get a 10% discount, too.)
takes you to the secure order form page at the website
Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street Dallastown, PA 17313 717.246.3333