Agony and ecstasy—12 months of turmoil, disaster, death, rescue, victory, and celebration
I’ve read and reviewed about 10 books by evangelicals on homosexuality: The Grace of Shame, subtitled 7 Ways the Church Has Failed to Love Homosexuals (Warhorn, 2017), is unique in having two meaty chapters on “Removing the Sin of Effeminacy.” Tim Bayly, Joseph Bayly, and Jurgen von Hagen examine the word malakoi (literally “soft men,” effeminate) and show Paul’s warning that such will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Rachael Denhollander’s courage in exposing sexual abuse should make all of us review the protections in place in our churches. Tim Hein’s Understanding Sexual Abuse (IVP, 2018) is a useful guide to the psychology of the abused and to ways churches can help.
Krish Kandiah’s God Is Stranger: Finding God in Unexpected Places (IVP, 2017) describes “a God who calls us to things yet then seems to make it harder to achieve them.” That’s because “God is more interested in forming character than in forcing control … more intent on molding us than manipulating or micromanaging us.” Along these lines, Kandiah points out the Bible’s preference for fighting poverty by providing character-forming opportunity to glean: It “underlines the intrinsic value of work and the intrinsic dignity of those made in God’s image.”
Kandiah promotes challenging tasks like caring for refugees and adopting/foster-parenting children and points out apparent ironies such as those involving Lot’s daughters: “God was more able to take care of those girls than their own father, who was prepared to toss them out to be violated.” His book cuts against uniformitarianism in our own lives or in the world’s: Kandiah notes, “Instead of obeying God by ruling over creation as he’d asked them to, Adam and Eve obeyed the creation itself, overruling God’s boundaries and putting his wishes at the bottom of their priorities. This turned the order of the universe upside down.”
Clifford Goldstein’s Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity (Pacific Press, 2017) shows the Bible itself opposes the uniformitarian assumption that we can understand the distant past by looking at the present. Genesis 2 describes an ecosystem without rain, but with a mist that went up from the earth. God tells us that everything changed radically with the Fall, and then suggests a second, smaller reshaping through the violence of the flood.
Goldstein decries “the irresistible lure among so many Christians to ‘baptize the devil’ by seeking to harmonize evolution with Scripture.” He explains that “scientists can’t even know what data to look at without first having a theory that guides them in what data to look for and then, of course, in how to interpret that data once they find it.” (Journalists are the same, and that’s why all reporting comes out of a worldview of some kind.) As Goldstein notes, “Fossils don’t say, created sixty million years ago in the early Cenozoic era. … Nor do they come inscribed with the words, evolved from a Haikouichthys 550 million years ago. These are interpretations based on a web of assumptions and speculations.”
Jerry Bergman’s Evolution’s Blunders, Frauds and Forgeries (Creation, 2017) points out howlers and covers the attempts of Russia’s Ilya Ivanov to show the evolutionary closeness of man and ape by artificially inseminating chimpanzees with human sperm and African women with ape sperm, without their consent. No pregnancies resulted, and Ivanov died of a stroke in 1932. Bergman suggests that evolution-in-reverse is true: Mutations and sin are pushing us backward.
Ken Stern’s Republican Like Me (HarperCollins, 2017) tells how a liberal troubled by polarization spent a year talking with conservatives and found out they often make sense. He points out that many say conservatives lack compassion: Even though that’s not true, those seen as mean-spirited rarely win elections. Todd Sorrell’s The College Choice (Focus, 2017) offers clear advice on what to look for when choosing colleges, particularly Christian ones: Do professors affirm the sinful nature of man, the sovereignty of God, and the inerrancy of Scripture? —M.O.