Friday, July 27, 2012

Book Review - A Theology of Luke and Acts

A Theology of Luke and Acts, by Darrell Bock, is the second installment (of eight planned) in Zondervan's Biblical Theology of the New Testament series. As the publisher's website states,
The Biblical Theology of the New Testament (BTNT) series provides upper college and seminary-level textbooks for students of New Testament theology, interpretation, and exegesis. Pastors and discerning theology readers alike will also benefit from this series. Written at the highest level of academic excellence by recognized experts in the field, the BTNT series not only offers a comprehensive exploration of the theology of every book of the New Testament, including introductory issues and major themes, but also shows how each book relates to the broad picture of New Testament theology.
Bock, having spent over three decades studying and writing about both Luke and Acts, is certainly qualified for the task, and his volume is a suitable contribution to the BTNT series. A closer examination of a representative chapter demonstrates both the overall format and the intended goals of the book and series.

Chapter 3 presents "The Case for the Unity of Luke-Acts and Reading the Volumes as Luke-Acts and as Luke and Acts." As Bock states from the chapter's outset, "Before one can work with Luke and Acts and present their theology as a unified whole, one must make the case that these volumes were intended to be seen as a literary unit and can be read as such."  Since Bock's work contains 17 chapters worth of discussion on various theological themes appearing in Luke and Acts, there's a good bit riding on his case that Luke and Acts present a unified theology!

The chapter begins with a bibliography of sources relevant to the discussion. One noteworthy feature is that Bock interacts with sources which were published predominantly within the last 5-10 years, in keeping with the BTNT's goal of providing a survey of recent scholarship. In Chapter 3, Bock presents the case that Luke and Acts were originally designed and written to tell one basic story. As various scholars have observed, the two books correspond at several important points, such as the similarities of their respective prologues, the description of Israel's tragic rejection of their Messiah, the portrayal of Jesus' interaction with the main characters of each book (i.e., Peter and Paul), and the emphasis on the Gentile mission (hinted at in Luke but coming to fruition in Acts) - not to mention structural details linking Luke 24 with Acts 1. The preponderance of these features strongly indicate that Luke and Acts should be read not merely as two books by the same author, but as a literary unity.

However, not all scholars have accepted this position, and Bock surveys the two major categories of objections: one, that certain tensions between the two books challenge a unified reading, and two, that the early church's use of the books (especially in the ordering of the canon) indicate that they were not viewed as a single unit. Bock treats these objections evenhandedly, but also responding to each point from additional relevant scholarship. To the first objection, Bock concludes that the sheer amount of similarities and connections between the two books far outweighs the purported tensions. As to the second objection, he argues that the early church's treatment of the books as separate ends up being a matter of nuance, and not a factor which undermines the literary unity of Luke-Acts. Ultimately, he allows for the value that can come from reading Luke and Acts as separate units on their own terms, but holds firm to the case that the two are best seen as a unified work. In the end, the suitability of the two different perspectives depends on the intended use: in terms of developing a biblical theology, Luke-Acts should be seen as a whole, whereas the church's canonical division between Luke and Acts serves as a reminder of the drastic new-ness of the faithful community created after the death and resurrection of Christ.

Having set the stage in Chapter 3 with this argument for the unity of Luke-Acts, Bock then spends the rest of the book surveying the text to discuss several theological themes, examples of which include the Person and Work of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Israel, the Gentiles, Discipleship, Ethics, Ecclesiology, and Eschatology. In each chapter, he interacts with applicable scholarship, and provides plenty of bibliographical material for further study.

Overall, Bock succeeds in providing a useful overview of the major themes of Luke-Acts. The interaction with scholarly literature allows for a nuanced discussion, although Bock never intends his work to be a mere compendium of scholarship - that is, he presents his own assessment of the topic of hand. As expected in a book of this sort (and one whose primary object of study presents such a wide range of topics for discussion!), Bock often has to greatly summarize the positions with which he is dialoguing, but the detailed bibliography gives plenty of entry-points for these wishing to go deeper. Anyone seeking to study the theology of Luke-Acts would be well advised to consult A Theology of Luke and Acts by Darrell Bock.

(Disclaimer: the publisher provided me with a copy of the book in exchange for writing a review. I was and am under no obligation to provide a favorable review.)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

On Order and Wonder

"Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."
—G.K. Chesterton,
The above quote is from this article from Art House America, and the following is a reader's response, if you will.

This time last summer, when we were eagerly waiting the birth of our third son, I foolishly thought to myself, "Now's not the time to set schedules, to be confined to a routine. I need to be flexible, spontaneous! I'll have a newborn, after all!"

And so, our world was pretty topsy-turvy. (And has been for a long time.) There was no set order, no pattern, no day-to-day schedule or ritual. Of course, I knew where we needed to be and what we needed to do, but my kids did not. (Thank goodness for electronic calendars.) There were playdates and well-checks,  Mother's Morning Out and church affairs and meetings and park excursions, a mid-semester decision to join a homeschool co-op, a myriad of field trips and holiday parties with various like-minded groups, and about the only constant was that on Wednesday mornings we went to CBS and on Sundays we went to church. I felt scattered, they felt scattered, and I had no idea how to get out of it all. I tried setting up daily routines, but of course, they almost never were followed. Why, you ask?

I woke up one Friday morning, about mid-November, about to head out to yet another "planned" event, and realized that I wasn't enjoying my time at home. In fact, I was never AT home. That week, I had planned five "good" events, one for each morning. Church circle, two days of mother's morning out, Bible study, and co-op. My kids, not socialized? Ha! Our problem was that we never actually stayed at home. And the fact that my home was and is a disorganized mess of paper and clutter and toys and clothes only fueled the desire to stay away. I have been running away now for a long, long, time.

It has taken me an entire year, okay, make that five years -- or more-- to realize the importance of structure. When I was a student, or later, a teacher, I thrived on those hourly bells and the expectation of "this is when I eat lunch," even if it was at 10:30 in the morning. Ten years ago, when I became a young wife and homemaker and apartment ministry organizer, and later, after teaching, when I became a stay-at-home mom, I realized I had never been a person of order, no matter how much I might have enjoyed alphabetizing my music collection. My days have never been "well-planned."

This is my "command center." In shambles.
So now, slowly, I am reforming our daily life around ritual, habits, and an expectation that these are the basic building blocks of our days: breakfast, chores, school, playtime, lunch, quiet time, playtime, cleanup, dinner, baths, books, bed. It seems so simple when I write it like that -- so monotonous-- and a part of me stiffens and wants to rebel. "But a schedule is so BORING! So predictable! I am creative! I can't be contained or confined!"

And then, an article like the one above, a word fitly spoken, comes along and wakes me up! Ritual, remembrance-- THIS is where I need to be, in this daily rhythm, at HOME, not jet-setting from one errand to another, from one playdate to the next, from school to home to store to church and back. No matter how "good" and "beneficial" and "necessary" I may think these things are, there is NOTHING more important than being with my children, being with my family.

The best advice I've ever heard on this idea comes from Auntie Leila's blog, of whom I much admire but have yet, until now, to take her full advice. The most important thing for a home to have, she says, is Order and Wonder. She writes:

Think about it: if you can't get dinner under control, how can you help your children explore the world with delight? I keep wanting to say to these questioning ladies: are you peaceful with your own duties? Do you see how many amazing things there are for your children to learn? Have you fed them recently? Washed their faces? Gotten up on time? Read a book?

Order and wonder. Too much of one, and we are out of balance, burning out and convinced we can't do any of it!

The important thing is to try.

So, here we go. I'm trying! What is my first step in establishing the patterns and places I want my children to remember? Staying at home. Real-life friends, if I refuse a playdate or turn down what you think is a very reasonable request, please understand. I tend toward busyness, toward chaos. This is my weakness. So, I'm going to swing the pendulum back a bit and add in more routine.  I'm going to say "No!" more. We are going to stay home more. I am choosing what is valuable over what is fleeting. It may take me an entire year to actually stick to a written schedule for an entire day. "Mrs. Redd's Academy for Boys" may not be the epitome of a perfect, rigid, clockwork organization, but at least I hope our children will know that when the schedule says "lunch," we will be eating lunch! My oldest in particular, the organized one, will thrive in this type of environment. So I am changing for them. I am developing new habits for myself, but everyone will benefit. I want my children to remember their home as a happy place, where they can revel in the familiar and the routine, with enough wonder thrown in that their sweet minds have plenty of room to grow.

I only expose you to this in hopes that I can add the "after" photo to this "before" picture in a future post.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Some friends' little boys had their birthday party at the ballpark on Saturday night. It was, I'm a bit ashamed to say, the first baseball game of any kind the boys have ever seen. But it was awesome. Even the rain held off for us!

This is my attempt at getting rid of clutter by taking photos of ticket stubs.

We drove up to Coolray Field to see the Gwinnett Braves play. I don't think I'd ever driven by the place, much less been to a game there. Just from my limited experience, it was well laid-out with good views even from the concession areas, a nice lawn past the outfield, convenient restrooms, and the largest screen I've seen outside Turner Field. I've been to two Atlanta Braves games in my entire life and both were before I went to college. (Don't hate on me. I know I live in Atlanta, we're just not baseball people.)

We watched the opening with wide-eyes: I couldn't believe my kids had never seen a real, live marching band before! Apparently, I haven't taken them to any parades in their recent memory. We will have to rectify this soon! But there were lots of other things we enjoyed that were just as exciting, though perhaps not as new to us.

For the kids, there was a party package with classic ballpark dinner food: hot dogs, chips, Cracker Jacks, and lemonade. And off past the outfield fence, bounce houses and inflatable games decorated the lawn, perfect for getting kids to burn off some of that extra energy while the adults "watched" the game. Ahem. Despite the threat of thunderstorms, we DID get to enjoy some batting practice...and pitching...

He is READY. Look at that stance!

Yes, we have a lefty. He's still figuring it all out.

I promise he did hit a few -- I just never captured it on film.

Direct hit! Yay!

Did you notice the number on the board? That was his previous pitch -- 35 mph is decent for a 5 yr old, right?!

My baby's first baseball game!

My big boy's first baseball game!

My middle child (L) with the birthday boy, doing what he does best -- eating!

 It took Jacob a while to actually want to watch the game, but he finally warmed up to the rhythm and by the third inning we had to drag him home despite the crushing loss of the home team already in progress.

We had a great time, and would've stayed longer, but we had already been through long week of late nights (evening VBS -- a post to itself) and both Gaines and I had to teach Sunday School the next morning.

We do plan to go back as a family -- they have made it quite the family-friendly venue. It almost reminded me of a fancier, much more crowded version of going down to the baseball fields in my hometown to watch the high school boys play (minus those painful metal bleachers). And it was SO much easier (and cheaper!) than trying to go downtown to Turner Field and find parking and fight the crowds....if we want to watch live baseball, this is the place for us.

Thank you, friends who invited us to the Gwinnett Braves! And thank you to all the folks at Coolray Field for a great evening! We'll be back!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bedtime Stories

Tonight at bedtime, while the storms raged outside, Ethan, the almost three-and-a-half-year old, told the most fabulous story about all sorts of mythical creatures, a rabbit named Peter, a boy, and a rainstorm. My favorite part, though, was when he described an epic battle:

"And then, a bear came up. And then, a dragon came up to them. And then, a monster came. And a scarrry ghost. And then, a DINOSAUR came. And they all got into this huge fight. And then, the Dinosaur WON!"

He then repeated almost verbatim parts of a story I had just made up about a bunny named Harold and a little boy, and how on the third night he petted the bunny "so gently." Of course, then there was another battle, later on, and Ethan ended it with this pronouncement: "And the car won. And he ate all the other bodies up."

I love that kid.

Ethan, ecstatic at a recent party, on left. Calvin, right, seems perplexed.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Boy on a String

We met some homeschooling friends this morning at the Roswell Cultural Arts Center for their summer puppet series, which I've always heard is fantastic. It was our first-ever trip to a puppet show! This week they are showing Rumplestiltzkin, and I didn't realize they are doing multiple shows, so if you have a chance you should go! They characters are all marionettes, which for some reason makes me think of Mr. Rogers neighborhood, even though his were hand puppets. I think it's the wooden faces. The master puppeteer himself today, when introducing the play, actually acknowledged that when a puppet stares at you, "it can be creepy," so I don't feel so bad for being weird-ed out by puppets all these years. Gaines refuses to see them at all.

The performance by the Frisch Marionette Company was excellent, though slightly odd. Truth be told, the story of Rumplestiltzkin itself is a bit strange anyway. We read two different versions at bedtime, and one ended with the traditional splitting in two by saying "all Rumplestiltzkins are, of course, made out of gingerbread." (What the...?!) The play added some additional elements (like a queen and a prince), though I realized afterward it was due to the fact that there were only two puppeteers -- a man and a woman -- so of course they needed more female roles! In the original stories the king was a greedy, vile, evil man and if I was the miller's daughter I think I'd rather face death than marry him, much less have his baby. They soften it up a bit for the play, using the Queen as the fall guy who inflicts punishment and having the Miller's daughter marry her son, the Prince. They also add the Miller himself as a larger character in the narrative, using his foolish boasting as an object lesson.

In this puppeted version, they add a scene which might be troubling to some youngsters -- a visit by the Miller to "Goblin's Hollow" to find Rumplestiltzkin's name. I think the scenery and the musical interlude and dancing goblins confused the kids as to WHY they were in the play, more than the fright factor. Ethan kept asking about the "ghosts," though neither of my boys seemed to be scared by the marionette monsters, and there were even some humorous part where the monsters bump into each other or get spooked themselves that brought out some laughs. Jacob watched quietly and intently the whole show, while Ethan clapped along and laughed loudly at the funny parts. I was so glad to see him enjoying himself! Calvin was a literal handful, squirming and wiggling in my arms the entire show, but it was a darkened theater and thankfully we knew the people sitting directly behind us. I even changed his diaper on the floor in the middle of the play, but I'm not sure anyone would have known if I hadn't just told you that, since it was quite dark.

Overall, I would say we had a most excellent time! If you have children between the ages of 3-8 and are looking for something more affordable that the Center for Puppetry Arts, I would heartily recommend the Roswell summer series. Next week they are showing Hansel & Gretel, by the same troupe of puppeteers. Also, outside the cultural center, if you cross the bridge and walk over towards the gazebo, there is a shady area with excellent climbing trees. See?
Jacob, age 5

The List

Things I've been meaning to blog about:
  • the boys' February and March
  • that music series I promised you 6 months ago
  • our trip to the beach in June
  • various field trips I've almost forgotten about except I have pictures
  • my birthday
  • a karate free-trial lesson the boys went to with a friend last week
  • 4th of July parade
  • awesome food I've made recently
  • stone mountain park
  • free-range parenting
  • Christian virtues
  • a review of a fiction book I read last month
  • homeschooling

Though it's the week before our church's VBS and I'm in charge of crafts, I am feeling the need to write something. We'll see how far I get, eh?!