Another Step Forward for the Evangelical Mind

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It’s been nearly 20 years since historian Mark Noll published his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Famous for its opening line, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind,” Noll criticized Evangelicalism for its excessive pragmatism and the scholarly embarrassment of several of its most cherished beliefs. In particular, Noll named Dispensationalism and young earth creationism as especially worthy of criticism.

Stigmatized painting by Paul Klee

(on the cover of The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind)

Noll would likely be pleased by the direction of the work of Martin Pierce. In his ambitious new volume Return to Genesis. Pierce, an independent scholar, takes on Dispensationalism, young earth creationism, and a host of other evangelical foibles while attempting positively to construct a more nuanced and consistently faithful reading of the Bible and Christian theology, and applying both to contemporary culture.

Return to Genesis is a sprawling work of over 600 pages, but it is written for the thoughtful lay reader. Perhaps the strongest and most original parts of the book are its sections on the nature of poetic language in Genesis and Pierce’s far-reaching view of the Kingdom of God as a holistic reality that encompasses all of creation and history.

The Book of Genesis, says Pierce, is divinely inspired in such a way that it conveys historical narrative within the contours of Hebrew parallelisms. The poetry and metaphors provide insights which help us understand that Genesis never depicted a six-day creation, a 10,000 year old earth, or a global flood. There can be compatibility in the deepest sense between science and Scripture. Moreover, the lens of poetry brings a depth to the reading of Genesis that engages the reader at the level of heart and emotion as well as mind.

Regarding the Kingdom of God in Scripture, Pierce thoroughly critiques Dispensationalism’s escapism, its negative and fatalistic view of history, and its uncritical Zionism. In its place, Pierce leans toward a positive, postmillennial view of history in which the Kingdom of God will be fully established on earth with the faithful acting as God’s servants in its establishment. In one place, Pierce explores the virtues of the Reconstructionist version of postmillennial thinking, but he does not buy into it fully. Indeed, a strength of Pierce’s writing is his persistent independence from theological labels. He explores, praises and critiques a variety of perspectives, but will not be subsumed completely under any label (except perhaps that of “biblical Christian”).

Return is more than just a book of theology. Throughout, Pierce makes practical application of his major insights to Christian living in contemporary culture. There are applicatory sections on the family, on relating faith to culture, on political involvement, on pursuing justice, and on the quest to find unity among Christians. One finds strong echoes here of the famed quote of the Dutch Reformed theologian and politician Abraham Kuyper, who said “There is not one square inch of the entire creation over which Jesus Christ does not cry out, ‘This is mine!’”

As one who frequently teaches in seminaries, it has been fascinating for me to observe the many scholars and leaders who have taken up Mark Noll’s call for the re-development of the evangelical mind. Return to Genesis is one man’s labor of love not only to further that quest, but to renew Christians in the process.

David Greiser is a pastor and part time seminary professor. He lives in Baltimore.

The Benefits of Reading More Selectively

 

Stop-Read-Carry-on

Photo by Cory Doctorow, Flickr

Do you prefer to read short articles or long ones? Which do you value more? These are questions I’ve wondered about since I began blogging. Almost unavoidably, I keep writing looong articles!

As you surely know already, I write about theology. This is serious “stuff” since it deals with matters of eternal significance. Thus, I feel responsible for thoroughly covering each topic that I write about while being sensitive to what readers may believe.

The most frustrating thing about it is that once I choose a topic, I never know for certain how much content I’ll have to write. My job is to study the topic and write as much as I need to in order to cover it. This includes all the essential points, along with responses to possible questions.

The problem, in terms of time and other expenses, is compounded if the article does turn out to be a lengthy one. Any experienced writer will tell you that a long article takes much longer to write than a short one. For example, I’m planning to knock this article out in only an hour or two because I only have a few points to make. On the other hand, a long article can take up to a week of writing. Undoubtedly, an article that takes 40 hours or more to write will not be 40 times as long as the one that only takes one hour!

Here’s why a longer article can take much, much longer to write:

  • It’s easy to repeat oneself, but repetitions must be found and eliminated—except for deliberate repetitions intended to emphasize the most important points.
  • It’s difficult to organize a large number of thoughts and ideas. The outline must be formulated and material rearranged in process, unless research and outlining is done first. Either way, it takes a great deal of time.
  • Long articles are more risky (and potentially rewarding) because they tend to position the writer as an authority. By contrast, a short article doesn’t have to be “serious,” and can more easily hold a reader’s attention.
  • It’s much more difficult for writers to stay on topic when writing long articles. Material that isn’t on topic must either be deleted or set aside for a different article.

I thought about these things after having spent an enormous amount of time on my PremodernWisdom blog post, How to Witness Without Compromise. I wondered, “Since I have to spend so much time writing these long posts, do readers benefit proportionally from that extra time?”

This is definitely a question that you should wonder about as a reader. After all, if you know that you have a chance to benefit from nearly one week of a writer’s time instead of only one hour, perhaps you will feel less hesitation in the future about reading lengthy, well-researched and thought-out articles.

I think the answer to the question is that without a doubt, readers do benefit in some proportion to the writer’s time. Let me give you an example…

Instead of writing about 5,200 words in How to Witness Without Compromise, I could have taken less time by using the same ideas in ten articles of about 500 words each. That content would surely have been more tempting for readers, and surely would have gotten me more Google traffic. However, would the information have been just as valuable? Surely not, because it wouldn’t have been well organized. You wouldn’t have had, arranged in one place, a comprehensive answer to the question, “How can a Christian go into the world and avoid compromising their witness?”

For the same reason, I think well-written and researched books are significantly more valuable than short blog posts and eBooks, even if you can get many of the eBooks for only 99 cents. Cheap eBooks are an easy impulse buy, but this often comes at the expense of the content’s quality, which in turn comes at the expense of your valuable time. By contrast, a full-length book is likely to cover one main topic from many different angles, thus helping you become an expert, much like the author.

I know what it’s like to write a veeerrry long article because I wrote a 686-page book, including appendices and footnotes, in a large, 7”x10” format. I would have found it much easier to write 686 one-page blog posts, but I know the book is much more valuable than that. My book, Return to Genesis adds great value by arranging all the details into a meaningful context that is organized by subheadings, tables, chapters, and parts. Readers don’t learn only from the raw facts, but also from the interrelationships. In fact, I don’t think you can find any book in print that does a better job than Return to Genesis of explaining the “big picture” issues for Christians today.

Return to Genesis has 27 chapters. Thus, it would cost nearly $27 if each chapter was sold at the price of a 99-cent eBook. However, you can’t hold eBooks in your hands, except through an electronic reader. For a limited time, you can receive a $15 discount on Return to Genesis by clicking on the book advertisement that you see on this page. This discounted price makes the book cheaper than 27 eBooks, half of which you may either regret having purchased or never read.

What kind of content do you want to see? Do you prefer a greater quantity of short articles; a lesser quantity of longer, more well thought-out articles; or some combination of these?

Note: I was able to complete this 900-word article in less than two hours, not counting the time spent on the title and the picture.

John’s Gospel: The Way It Happened

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Lee Harmon, the author of John’s Gospel, is eminently qualified to write about this topic. His specialty is in studies of Jesus, and he has previously written a book about Revelation. He understands first century Jewish and Greek culture, as well as … [Continue reading]

About Return to Genesis

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Before reading what I have to say about my book, Return to Genesis, I invite you to read this review of my book by a Mennonite pastor titled Another Step Forward for the Evangelical Mind. People have written me to ask what this book is about, even … [Continue reading]

Why You Haven’t Heard of My Book

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Return to Genesis is my first published book. It's a thick, Bible-sized book with 620 pages, not counting appendices, footnotes, and the index. Altogether, it’s 676 pages in 7"x10" format. In this post, I affirm that Return to Genesis … [Continue reading]

Dominion in Genesis

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Joseph Interpreting Pharaoh’s Dream by Arthur Reginald I recently posted a series of eight lengthy blog posts on Dominion in Genesis at PremodernWisdom.org. It amounts to a “blog book,” which can help you decide whether or not to purchase Return to … [Continue reading]

Christian Era Publishing’s Founder Issues Declaration of War!

June 18th, 2012, is a historic day in the short history of Christian Era Publishing. More importantly, it could become a historic day for Christians, and even for the world. On this date, I, Martin Pierce, declared war on biblical literalism, … [Continue reading]

Return to Genesis is Officially Published!

Yesterday, June 11th, I gave the final approval for the publication of Return to Genesis. The book is available both at CreateSpace and on Amazon. It feels as if an enormous weight has been lifted off my shoulders. You can surely imagine how this … [Continue reading]

Welcome to Christian Era Publishing!

Christian Era Publishing is a newly formed publishing company. Our first published title will be Return to Genesis: What Ancient Poetry Reveals About Christ, the Church, and the Kingdom by Martin Pierce. In the interests of full disclosure, this … [Continue reading]