Book Review: The Devil in the Smoke

The other day I saw a post on Facebook referring to an ebook as a “prequel” to the upcoming Doctor Who Christmas Special. Since the book only cost $2.89, I immediately downloaded it. Although I don’t see how it’s really a “prequel” to the Christmas Special, it was a good, light read.

The Doctor appears nowhere in this book. The main characters are Lady Vastra (the “lizard woman” and “Great Detective”) along with her companion Jenny and a Sontaran named Strax. There is also a boy named Harry who figures centrally in the story.

There isn’t much I can say about the story itself without giving too much away. As I’ve said, the Doctor is not in it and I don’t see any direct connection to the upcoming special, other than the fact of the characters who will apparently overlap.

I read this book over the course of a couple of days, but in reality someone could easily read it through “cover to cover” in less than an hour. Good to pass a little time if you have a long wait at a doctor’s office or at an airport.

There was nothing especially spectacular about “The Devil in the Smoke,” but for the price it’s an enjoyable little book.

Book Review: Inspiration and Incarnation

“The starting point for our discussion is the following: as Christ is both God and human, so is the Bible.”

Several months ago I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Peter Enns speak at Nyack College’s campus in Manhattan. He discussed Second Temple hermeneutics and some challenges evangelicals face when attempting to hold on to their traditional view of Scripture in light of new evidence. Dr. Enns is not a “liberal” scholar in line with what I’ve seen to often, attempting to tear down faith in the reliability of canonical Scripture as God’s word. Rather, Dr. Enns takes a more positive approach in both affirming the historic Christian faith while also attempting to understand the interpretive world in which the sacred writers lived. His proposed solution is to view the Bible as God’s written word incarnate, in much the same way Jesus is the divine Word incarnate.

In “Inspiration and Incarnation"Dr. Enns elaborates on his views. Rather than run away from difficult questions surround the origins and cultural ties of Scripture, he embraces them and includes these issues in his general understanding of the Bible. Some examples are the parallels between the stories and Genesis and those of surrounding cultures and also the existence of temple and priesthood. The faith of the ancient Israelites was very much at home in its time period, even as it challenged certain standards and insisted on the supremacy of YHWH.

One could suggest that the purpose of Genesis was to contrast such ancient Near Eastern stories as Enuma Elish. The God of Genesis simply speaks things into being. It is reasonable to suggest that the Genesis story is meant to be contrasted to the reigning Babylonian ideology; that is, one could argue that an important purpose of the Genesis story is to argue that the God of Israel is truly mighty and that he is solely and fully in control of the cosmos. His creation of the world is an act of his will, not the result of a power struggle within a dysfunctional divine family. We must remember that such a contrast can be fully appreciated only when we first acknowledge that the Genesis story is firmly rooted in the worldview of its time.

Dr. Enns holds to a high Christology, in that he does not deny the divinity of Jesus or seemingly embrace any of the variations from the faith as affirmed by the church since the earliest centuries regarding his full humanity and godhood. Knowing this helps to understand Dr. Enns’ view of Scripture and realize that he is not, indeed, attempting to diminish faith in Christ.

The written word bears witness to the incarnate word, Christ. And what gives the written word its unity is not simply the words on the page, but the incarnate word who is more than simply the sum of the biblical parts. He is the one through whom heaven and earth—including the Bible itself—were created, and he is the one in whom Israel’s story reaches its climax. The Bible bears witness to Christ by Christ’s design. He is over the Bible, beyond it, separate from it, even though the Bible is his word and thus bears witness to him.

This reminds me of how George MacDonald, in his ”Unspoken Sermons,“ described the Bible as the moon and Jesus as the sun. The Bible is our means for seeing the reflected light of God’s glory that was revealed through Christ.

For me, the real meat of this book came past the halfway mark, when Enns began explaining the New Testament writings in terms of Second Temple hermeneutics. The many places where "thus fulfilled what was written” really don’t make sense to readers in our time would have made perfect sense to the original audience. Passages taken seemingly out of context from the Old Testament or else modified in some way have confused readers in our culture, but this was an accepted method of interpretation in ancient times.

More importantly, it must be understood that what happened to the New Testament writers is that, faced with the reality of the risen Christ, they then had to go back to the Old Testament and re-read everything in that light. In other words, as I read through the Bible now I am seeing the Old Testament perspectives (and there were many, not just one), but when I reach the New Testament I will see a reevaluation of the Old Testament story.

The Old Testament as a whole is about him, not a subliminal prophecy or a couple of lines tucked away in a minor prophet. Rather, Christ—who he is and what he did—is where the Old Testament has been leading all along. To see this requires that Christ open our minds as he did the minds of his disciples. In other words, to see how Christ fulfills the Old Testament—the whole story, not just some isolated prophecies—is not simply a matter of reading the Old Testament objectively, but reading it “Christianly,” which is what we see in the New Testament time and time again.

This short review does not do any justice to the book, and so I strongly recommend “Inspiration and Incarnation” to all Christians. Read it…and read the Bible. It can be an eye-opening and faith-building experience if you are willing to accept the challenge and struggle with the questions.

Still Here!

It’s been a few months since I last posted, but I’m still here! I’ve been busy with both personal and professional concerns and am looking forward to several months of intense study, so blogging may be hit-or-miss for sometime.

Recently (today, actually) I decided to go for PMP certification rather than the CAPM. I figure that I probably have the required work hours as a project manager, and a course I took this week qualifies me with the correct number of PDUs.

NOTE: If nothing in the above paragraph makes sense to you, it’s okay. It’s all just “project management stuff.” Brace yourself though, because it’s going to continue.

As I’m already a certified ScrumMaster (CSM) I have a good start. As I’ve said, next up with the PMP. After that I’m thinking I’ll go for the Linux+ (with LPIC-1) and then LPIC-2. I’d like to follow that with the ITIL (Foundation Level) and then wrap it up with a Ruby certification.

Yes, a lot to study and so many tests, but it will be worth it professionally.

Now you know what’s up.