Book Review: The Mystery of Suffering and the Meaning of God

e4c54eda-8376-434b-b8a2-7a44c2b117abAnson Hugh Laytner is a retired Jewish rabbi. One’s initial reaction might be “This is not Christian theology.” Firstly, Laytner anticipates a Jewish and Christian audience. He describes himself as a skeptical but spiritual person thus the intended audience may go beyond Christian or Jewish to include anyone struggling with questions and looking for answers. More to the point in this context, Christian theology grew out of Hebrew history, ritual, literature and Jewish theology in the first century. Laytner is aware of the relationship. As he begins a section describing Radical Monotheism he mentions the Tanakh and then inserts in parenthesis “the Jewish Bible, similar to the Christian Old Testament.” The search for meaning and understanding is practically universal among people everywhere and Laytner’s process may benefit any reader wrestling with the same issues. Continue reading

Book Review: Worship as Community Drama

Screenshot 2019-09-07 at 9.11.44 AMI understand the significance of high production value. Our desire is to bring the very best before God in his house. A congregation expects, as well they should, for the preacher to be prepared. Sermon prep begins on Monday or Tuesday (and sometimes weeks or even months in advance) not on Saturday evening or before church on Sunday morning. Bible teachers and worship leaders, soloists, music directors, choirs and praise band members are all expected to put in time working together and practicing. And in this day and age you need the crew in sound, projection and lighting to go over the program, discussing transitions and the order of service. There is nothing wrong and in fact there is a lot right about devoting time and energy to prepare for worship. But what has slowly happened over the past 20 or 30 years, from my point of view, is that worship has morphed into a spectator sport. Authentic worship is not something we are to sit and watch. I don’t know who said it first but the term I like to use for that activity is worshiptainment. I do not believe that is what God desires. Continue reading

Book Review: The Illustrated Holy Bible for Kids

Screenshot 2019-08-15 at 7.38.01 PMMy first impression when the UPS driver handed me the box was that of a big heavy book. The dimensions are not particularly large but it is thick, a hardcover book coming in at over 1,500 pages. The cover is filled with illustrations and brightly colored to attract children’s attention and advertises over 750 images. The NIrV Illustrated Holy Bible for Kids leaves out many features that adults would find helpful, like center column references and footnotes on each page. The complete Bible text, in the New International Reader’s Version, is included but not too much other stuff. There are illustrations with captions on roughly every other page but verse numbers and superscript letters indicating footnotes can be a distraction to children. The format is single column so it looks a lot like a chapter book that elementary students are just being introduced to. The target demographic is 4 – 8 years of age but I’m hopeful my 10-year-old will be interested and give it some time and attention. Continue reading

Book Review: The Gospel of Self

Screenshot 2018-03-08 at 10.42.51 AMThe Gospel of Self, How Jesus Joined the GOP is written by Terry Heaton and details his role at CBN and The 700 Club. Before we used terms like fake news and every single person had a voice via social media, the Christian Broadcast Network entered a new frontier of sorts by not only reporting the news but by shaping the way people thought. CBN in general, and Pat Robertson’s 700 Club in particular, played a profound role in shifting the Republican Party to the right back in the 1980’s. While Robertson was in front of the camera Terry Heaton was behind the scenes and very much involved in making the things Robertson talked about a reality. Heaton believes today’s Christian Right is the end result of work they did together back then. Continue reading

SpeakEasy Book Reviews

Screenshot 2018-02-08 at 8.26.13 PMEvery now and then I post a book review (expect one during the next few days) that has a disclaimer at the bottom. That disclaimer explains that I received the book free of charge in exchange for publishing a fair and honest review. It doesn’t have to be a positive review but I choose to receive books based on title and description that I expect to enjoy or learn something from. I’m not trying to brag; I’m here to extend you the same offer. Continue reading

Book Review: Jesus Untangled

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Click image to view on Amazon.com

Jesus Untangled: Crucifying our Politics to Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb by Keith Giles

Giles is an intelligent writer that has done his homework and presents his case well. He is right in saying that Americans have their politics wrapped up in their Christianity. There is no morally right political party and pinning all of your hopes and dreams on any party platform will leave Christian believers disappointed. Let’s begin by analyzing what he does a good job of in this book. Continue reading

Book Review: Parenting Without Regret

parentingI know what some of you must be thinking by now: Clark Bunch lauds the praises of every book he reviews. Between pastoring, seminary classes, raising a family and so forth I don’t have a lot of “extra time” for reviewing books. The truth of the matter is that I’m very selective. If the title or short description seems New Agey, short on theology or otherwise flaky, I don’t accept that book for review. With very few exceptions, the books I have chosen to review on The Master’s Table are ones that I expected to get something out of and would have enjoyed anyway. I’m not a professional reviewer and don’t waste my time reading books I don’t like. Continue reading