Can We Trust the Gospels? by Peter Williams, Free for CAPC Members
This book is great short read on the trustworthiness of the Gospels, and perhaps a good read to share as Advent turns our culture’s attention to these same documents.
Across the spectrum of cultures around the world, story-telling will always remain a practice that connects the human experience. We construct stories every day out of various experiences. We tell stories and write thousands of words about everything from ketchup to sports. It’s how we’re fashioned, because our Maker is a story-teller.
So it only makes sense to write a story about God’s people. Obviously, that story has already been written (the Bible); however, the narrative is not always provided in an easy-to-follow flow. There are verse and chapter numbers that can cause us to pause subconsciously and ponder one particular sentence, distracting us from the overarching story. Those methods are beneficial for biblical and spiritual meditation on God’s Word, but it can become difficult when trying to take into account the full scope and context of the scriptures.The way Ramsey sets up each of Paul’s letters—with characters, place, time, and social conditions—offers a new and captivating way to understand Scripture.
Fortunately, author Russ Ramsey understands these difficulties and has written a helpful story for the Church. Part of the Retelling the Story series, Ramsey writes the story of the early Church as recorded in the book of Acts in his book The Mission of the Body of Christ. It is not an overly complicated narration, as the book is broken up into four parts with easy-to-read chapters of about six to eight pages for each chapter.
In the preface, Ramsey is forthcoming about the way he wrote the book. For example, for many of the events and reactions recorded in Acts, he draws his material from speculation, using his imagination to infer a character’s probable reaction. The benefit of this approach—if you’re concerned about accuracy or wanting to know what’s speculative and what’s factual—is that it will force you to open a Bible and read it for yourself. Although this approach could also become a point of contention (especially when reading with others), hopefully it will instead create robust consideration and conversation around the Word of God.
This book shines in its ability to help the average Christian use his or her imagination. Reading the Bible without context can become confusing, bleak, and dull. But the way Ramsey sets up each of Paul’s letters—with characters, place, time, and social conditions—offers a new and captivating way to understand Scripture. For example, Ramsey restructures Paul’s letter to Philemon so that it can be more easily imagined by modern-day readers:
The servant who answered the door wore a look of disbelief. The last person she expected to find when she heard the knock was Onesimus, who stood there with his traveling companion Tychicus.
Tychicus was the first to speak. “Please tell the master of the house that we come bearing letters from the apostle Paul, who is in Rome. One is for the church that meets in this house. The other is for him personally; it concerns my brother Onesimus here.” (7)
This imaginative approach is one that engages new and long-time Bible readers in a refreshing way. The Mission of the Body of Christ is an invigorating addition to your reading list and would make a great gift for new converts and seasoned saints alike.
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