On Reading Well, Karen Swallow Prior

on reading well Of course with a title like “On Reading Well” this was a book I was anxious to get my hands on. I love the idea of a book that reinforces my bookish ways! This text proved to do more than just that as you will see in the review that follows. Continue reading

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The Pastor a spirituality

The Pastor Lathrop.jpeg

As a pastor, each week often looks different for me, random lunch meetings, study times, pastoral tasks and building maintenance rarely prove to be repeatable or routine. There are a few exceptions however, and one exception that I have come to treasure as a source of life, encouragment and learning is my Tuesday meetings with the Reverend Doctor Matt Rundio.  Matt and I started meeting a little over two years ago, I was interviewing for the position I currently hold as Sr  Pastor of New Hope and feeling overwhelmed I asked Matt if he would be willing to meet and talk about ministry, he agreed and two years later the meetings continue (and hopefully will for years to come). I had the pleasure of spending the early part of this week with Matt at PALCON and while there he lent me this book that I now blog about.

Thanks Matt!

I have a working theory regarding underlines in a book; often it is the case that if a book is heavily underlined in the beginning, I can guess without looking that this over-eager underliner likely did not finish the text, and in turn after the first few chapters the book will look new, untouched. I have a few ideas regarding this; first heavy underlines give me the impression that the reader was overwhelmed. Reading so many new ideas, while stimulating can also be tiring, and even if early highlights are a sign of excitement, it is a posture that can be hard to maintain– information overload.  Second, heavy underlines can also indicate confusion or need of clarity when all ideas seem to be good ideas, it may just be the case the book is not communicating to the reader what the author intended to communicate, and confusion is a frustrating experience in reading, leading one to put the book down until another time. So when I get a book off Amazon that is heavily marked early on, I can usually assuage my disappointment in this by telling myself it can’t last.

Of course my theory doesn’t always pan out, sometimes the highlighter isn’t overeager or overwhelmed, they just happen to have in their hands a book that warrants such markings. Such is the case with this text from Lathrop. Prior to my borrowing of this text it was well loved and marked by my friend Matt, and I love seeing what excited, challenged and gave him life in this book, even if at times it was “ALL THE WORDS”

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An Example of the highlighting love this book has received

Matt may have underlined more than he didn’t while reading this but it was not without warrant, Lathrop beautifully captures the role of Pastor as symbol, pastor as table server. I recommend any in ministry read this book. It is a relatively short book clocking in at about 134 pages, but where it lacks in lenght it more than makes  up for in content. Broken into two parts Lathrop first addresses “Learning the Tasks by Heart”- in which Lathrop explores the act of prayer, preaching, table fellowship and caring for the poor as the defining practices and symbols of pastoral ministry, part two then explores living from the liturgy, “A Little Cathechism for the Pastor”, in this part Lathrop dives into the pastor in sudy, daily life, and tending to death, which we all ought do more since it is a guarantee in life right along with taxes.

It would overwhelm this blog post to share all the gems and truth that Lathrop communicated in his book so I will stick to quoting from on section which I wanted to share, a section on the pastor as reader. The fact that this struck me ought not surprise many considering the title of this blog. All the same his words here proved to be more eloquent or pastorly than I have ever managed to be with my colleagues regarding my desire for them to read, or read more.

I have often thought that I might like to write a book on the pastor as reader- a piece of persuasion trying to communicate the necessity of reading for our task. I have also understood the beautiful irony that for more than one reason that book would not be read).

I first want to share this word on the delight of reading-

The reading of books ought be no grim duty. Delight is the operative word. And the study that is called for is by no means only attention to the useful subjects of immediate and pragmatic application to the next sermon, the next adult forum, or the next parish meeting. Pastors do really need to pay attention to what is—with curiosity following questions that genuinely interest them, apart from all the utility, with joy delighting in the play of words and their interesting mediating relationships with other people’s experiences of the world.

Lathrop, Pastor, 101

I told in an earlier post the story of reading becoming drab for me, and how I paradoxically overcame that season by reading books that weren’t assigned to me. Nothing can kill the joy of reading more than reading with an agenda can. Often the agenda you bring to a book is foreign to the point the author desires to communicate, so in turn you become unfairly frustrated with the author and the book. Deadlines gnaw at you and so you skim where it would be more appropriate to pause. Bringing an agenda to a book, or demanding out a book a satisfaction of a need of yours is unfair, imagine doing so to a friend or in a conversation with another. Many of you have probably felt the sting of finding out there was an agenda to an old friend reaching out to “catch up”, as miraculous as their anti-aging cream might be, you can’t help but feel used, objectified, even if this person thought they meant well by you. Don’t do this to your books! Good books were written as a gift, receive them with grace and allow them to open up the world to you.

The next quote furthers this cause of mine and does so in a pastoral and gracious way that communicates the beauty of the text and also the heart I wish I brought to this conversation.

“How can I possible (sic) do this, given my schedule” says the busy pastor. “Do you know how guilty I would feel?” Ah, dear sister or brother pastor, let the gospel of Christ deal with your guilt. Work hard indeed. You need to do so. But then let that gospel call you to rest. Take time off, sabbath tim. And let creation faith form you to pay attention to what is, take new delight in your own encounter with parts of the world beyond your immediate orgainzing responsibility. Beside you do not need to pick up the whole library of books. One book at a time– or maybe two—read even just a little every day—even just a page or two before you go to sleep—will lead you farther than you might imagine into the possibility of holding utterly new ideas together in your mind. And—the pastor may say to herself or himself—may I please let myself be open to thinking a new idea

Lathrop, Pastor, 103

Much more should be said about how beautifully Lathrop speaks of the task of pastor as co- beggar at the table, but this blog is long enough as it stands. I will say in closing that I do believe that if the Ragamuffin Priest from Bernanos’ Diary of a Country Priest were to have written a theology it would read a lot like this book does, and in my book it is hard to give it a more ringing endorsement.

Blessings,

Pastor Matthew Codd

The New Copernicans- a review

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“You know somethings happening but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones” – Bob Dylan “Ballad of a Thin Man”

Though Bob Dylan penned those lyrics in the 1960s, it is a sentiment that has proven true for many an author/ pastor/ business guru et al. that has sought to explain millenialism. Though the perspectives and reasons for trying to understand millenials have varied, there has typically been one trait common in these “Mr (and Mrs/Ms.) Jones; they aren’t millenials nor do they seem to know millenials. Continue reading

The Nazarene Pastor’s Record Player

monk record player

This post is a review of the recently released The Monk’s Record Player: Thomas Merton, Bob Dylan, and the Perilous Summer of 1966 by Robert Hudson. I feel the need to give a shout out to the Borgers and their excellent blog/ book store who first brought my attention to this work. They can be found here . It appears that they have sales pretty regularly, and they do well to blog about books that you mightwant to check out! Lastly they let you pay by check after they send the books! Who does that?!

Continue reading

I am “Inspired” by Rachel Held Evans new book!

So I have a theory. A theory that if true is very exciting; people are starting to read their Bibles again. Don’t get me wrong, sword drills, Bible Quizzes and daily tweets or emails of Scriptures have ensured that the Bible has been read in bits. Books on the Prayer of Jabez, and Reflections on Jeremiah 29:11, have abounded ensuring that we as proper Protestant Evangelicals could give lip service to our love of Scripture, our love of the Word of God– nevermind the dust on our Bible that says otherwise.

You see, the “hope for a future” while beautiful, is often robbed the context of being a promise given a people in exile a people who ignored the weeping prophet and in turn were displaced by Babylon. These people knew after all they were “God’s chosen people” and they had plenty of soothsayers encouraging them that they needed no more than to just be a better version of themselves and not worry about that whiny prophet telling them otherwise. Nevermind the hungry widow at the edge of town, the homeless orphan or the neglected foreigner; after all they had a wall to protect them!

As people are reading their Scriptures more faithfully they are noticing that these promises that hang from banners and decorate the bumper of many of their church going peers don’t seem to tell the whole story. What of Jeremiah 29:10 they might wonder, are we the people stepping into the great promises of the future or are we the people in the midst of the 70 year exile? Or perhaps we are the people ignoring the weird weeping prophet sure that we are God’s chosen people with a yuge wall on the way.

I think the newfound Scripture reading phenomena can be tied to a journey that is beautifully detailed in Rachel Held Evans book Searching For Sunday. Searching for Sunday is a book that deserves a post on its own, but it is a story that resonated with many who started feeling displaced in their home churches, longing for more, more depth, more tradition, more room for questions, ultimately more room for doubt. In this place of tension, works of Richard Rohr, Annie Dillard, and (pre-marketing) Donald Miller started finding homes on many a wanderers bookshelves. These displaced believers started reading about new practices of Scripture reading, Lectio Divina, Daily office, and the Lectionary, to name a few. For the first time in their lives they began reading Scripture on the regular, and unlike those few weeks (days) after church camp this new practice of reading had staying power.

Now if my theory is right about more people reading Scripture than I am indeed excited however I am also well aware of the “Odd World of Scripture” these people are venturing into. You see the Lectionary is not as carefully crafted as your run of the mill evangelical recommended Scripture list. You read not just about an Ark, but also about a naked drunk old man after the ark. You read about genocide, about killing people for gathering sticks on the sabbath, you read about “uncleanly discharges” (shudder). These stories can easily lead to those already feeling displaced in their homes of worship to feeling even more confused and unsettled, why hadn’t they heard these stories before, what do they do with it? How is any of this the Inspired Word of God.

Enter Rachel Held Evans (RHE) new book Inspired (Due out June of 2018). Armed with some impressive reading partners, (Brueggeman, Enns, Ellen Davis, and N.T. Wright to name a few) she brings the readers along with her own journey of doubt and frustration with Scriptures. In heartbreaking accounts, RHE tells of how her doubt was met with simple platitudes, accusations, or being snubbed by those close to her.

Platitudes aside the questions remained, what of the violence, what of the seemed endorsement of slavery?  RHE does especially well to name the portions of Scripture that seem to treat women as subhuman, whether Esther or Jephthah’s daughter. RHE doesn’t white wash these stories but rather comiserates with them, she talks about a liturgy of lament in which she and an artist friend creatively honored the female victims of Scripture, and considered the plight of many oppressed women today (Inspired p. 77). RHE wraps up her discussion on the challenging parts of Scripure that leave the reader with unanswered questions stating

I am in no rush to patch these questions up. God save me from the day when stories of rape, violence, and ethnic cleansing inpsire within me anything other than revulsion. I don’t want to become a person who is unbothered by these texts and if Jesus is who he says he is then I don’t think he wants me to be either. There are parts of the Bible that inspire, parts that perplex and parts that leave you with an open wound. I’m still wrestling, and like Jacob I will wrestle until I am blessed. God hasn’t let go of me yet.”

-Rachel Held Evans p. 81

I couldn’t say it better myself.

Recently, when talking to a friend, lamented that for too long the Bible has remained an unread resource in the church. He confessed that reality was true for him, he paused from reading it because he wasn’t sure what he believed with the Bible, and feels like he is still developing his thoughts on the matter. But ultimately he believes he should be reading it as he wrestles with these questions.

I think Inspired is for people like my friend. Rachel Held Evans does a wonderful job showing the beauty of the journey of doubt, questioning and wrestling. Through her experience, and impressively cited resource of Biblical Theologians and authors RHE opens up the possibility of falling in love with the Bible again, and for that reason alone the book is worth reading.

There is so much more I want to say in praise of this book, it is written with incredible voice, her stories of family, pregnancy, and moments of self deprecation “the legacy of valor continues”( you have to read it to get that line on p. 15) have the reader feeling they know her better than they do. I have never met her, I follow her on Twitter, and she follows me (because she likes random tweets about Colorado sports teams?) but I am glad to count her as a fellow doubter a sister in Christ and a voice of Christian sanity in a world of Falwell Jrs. and Metaxases.

As a pastor I won’t hesitate to share this book as a resource to a congregant looking to read the Bible better, more faithfully and from a place of comfort in discomfort, I am grateful to have it as a resource for just that.

I can’t close this review up without mentioning one of my favorite parts of this book, between each chapter are beautiful short stories, dramas, creative flannelgrams in writing depicting stories in Scripture from varying perspectives. They are wonderful journeys of creativity that had me laughing, and even at times a little misty eyed. I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase a compilation book of reflections just like it (so go ahead and write it whenever RHE).

TLDR: I hope you are excited for June 12th 2018 when this book will be available to all, because it is a book that should be in your library.

Blessings,

Pastor Matthew Codd

You’ll never believe the outrageous thing Rob Bell says in Chapter 7!!

WITB

A few weeks back I had a post of mine “go viral” so to speak. I had preordered a book and upon receiving it in the mail, I took a picture of the book and said simply “I am excited to read this Rob Bell book.” 80 comments later I was surprised to learn so many had an opinion of what I do or do not read, especially since most of the book reviews  on this blog average around 5 readers a post (props to my mom and my wife). Continue reading

Theology in Outline: Can these Bones Live

Jenson

A few years back, I met with a good friend over coffee to talk theology and just catch up on life. He was reading Pannenberg’s Systematic Theology at the time and had just finished Mclendon’s Systematic, shortly before that. He threw in some philosophy and Jonathan Edwards to the mix, and I felt ill prepared for this conversation. All I had read as far as Systematic Theology up until that point was Robert W. Jenson’s 2 part Systematic, a work that I loved and was rereading again at the time of our meet up. Continue reading

Dietrich Bonhoeffer A Biography

A few weeks back I had a routine Doctor appointment. I mentioned in passing a slight discomfort in my lower right abdomen. The doc pressed into said sore spot and feared the worst; appendicitis (read in same tone as the old gingivitis commercials for added affect). I went to the hospital and after many more nurses, doctors and even my own mother made it a point to poke the area of pain, it was confirmed that I did indeed have appendicitis. Pro tip to any of you that may one day in the future have appendicitis: I recommend you make a shirt or a sign that states , “Yes it hurts when you do that, so don’t!” if it prevents one unneeded prod, it’s done its job.

An appendectomy followed, and I found myself with ample free time during the healing. I decided with this free time to tackle a book that I have long hoped to read but have been intimidated by, Dietrich Bonhoeffer a Biography. Now it wasn’t the subject of said book that had me intimidated but rather the length of the book. Coming in just under 1,000 pages, it is a mammoth work,, but with ample healing time on my hands I decided now was as good a time as any.

The book was fascinating. Written by one of Bonhoeffer’s former students and closest friends it opens up the world of Germany in the turn of the century and up through World War II. Bethge seeks to tell the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a theologian from a well to do family who took a stand against Hitler during the rise of National Socialism. Bonhoeffer resisted Hitler on two fronts, first as a leader of the Confessing Church; a church that was formed after the State church adopted the Aryan clause and failed to stand against the mistreatment of Jews. Bonhoeffer spoke at conferences, wrote drafts against the church, and eventually taught a group of confessing church pastors at Finkenwalde, a preaching seminary. Along with being a leading voice in the confessing church Bonhoeffer also became part of a conspiracy to remove Hitler from power. Working with his brother in law, Dohanyi, Bonhoeffer used his role in the Abwher to pass along information regarding the conspiracy to leaders in London and Switzerland hoping that after Hitler was removed peace could be found. The plan took many forms. The conspirators gathered evidence of Hitler’s cruelty to prisoners of war and even had Karl Bonhoeffer (Dietrich’s father) draft a letter questioning the sanity of the fuhrer, hoping that a legal case could be brought against the leader disposing him from power in that way. As those plans fell through a plan was eventually formed to assassinate Hitler. First they attempted to kill him by planting a bomb on his plane; the bomb failed to detonate. Next they brought bomb into a meeting with Hitler; this bomb did detonate. It, however, did nothing more than blow his pants off and make him feel immortal.

It drives me crazy that I am 500 words in to this post and have barely started to say what I hope to. I suppose that’s why Bethge’s book is nearly 1000 pages. I have confessed before my fascination with Bonhoeffer. Reading this book only reinforced and deepened that fascination. Bethge made it a point throughout the text to not just share details of Bonhoeffer’s life but to also explore Bonhoeffer’s writings and expound on his thoughts and theology. This excited me, and in turn caused my reading list to grow.

The resistance to Hitler makes for a story that compels most, but in fact I am equally impressed by Bonhoeffer’s theology and works (The two should be understood together). We ought be challenged by his ideas of “Cheap Grace” ( see Discipleship), community (Life Together) and his fascinating exegesis of Genesis 1-3 in Creation and the Fall. I can’t hope to come close to covering all that deserves to be said about what Bethge covers in this Biography but I will close this post discussing a few of my highlights.

Bonhoeffer spent some of his early formative years in New York, and he was struck by the racism towards the African American community. One of his fellow classmates invited him to an inner-city black Harlem church, and he spent his time there teaching Sunday school. It was there that he learned to love the Negro spirituals that he would later teach his students at Finkenwalde. The racism so unsettled Bonhoeffer that he wrote his brother Karl-Friedrich who had preceded him in visiting America by a few years about the issue. His brother agreed, citing the racism as the cause for turning down an offer to teach at Harvard, he wanted to be sure that neither he nor his children would be associated with such a societal shortcoming. Karl Friedrich went on to say about Germany in 1931

“In any case our Jewish question is a joke by comparison; there won’t be many people who claim they are oppressed here. At any rate not in Frankfurt…” (Bethge, 151)

I don’t know what Frankfurt (my birth town coincidentally) looked like in 1931, but I do know that they were just a few years removed from atrocious acts against the Jew.

I wonder why it is that we are better equipped to analyze the faults of other countries while missing the issues in our own. In our own day I think of how the immigrant has become fodder for politicians to score points on; they are an easy scapegoat for the economy and crime issues. Meanwhile, as the church, I think we would do well to remember that “we were once strangers in a strange land,” and throughout Scripture there is a clear mandate to care for the poor, the widow and the sojourner (immigrant). I think too about the unborn, who are killed for the sake of convenience and medical research. Recently I heard a priest say that “it is impossible to do a vice virtuously”. I couldn’t agree more and pray daily for the unborn.

Bonhoeffer spent time before his teaching assignment at Finkenwalde visiting different seminaries and church communities taking notes and shaping his own ideas of community formation. In one of those communities they recited Psalm 119 daily, a practice that he would continue for years. This struck me because for one Psalm 119 is looooong, but also because I have for the past few years been drawn to the Psalms, amazed by their ability to shape and speak to me. Bonhoeffer has a book titled Prayerbook of the Bible. It reflects on the Psalms, and I intend to read it soon.

In Germany the state and church were intimately linked. They were so close, that as the National Socialist party came into power they had the ability to appoint bishops and affect church policy. This led to the Aryan clause being adopted and the church in essence becoming a propaganda tool for the state. As a result, there were many who thought to be a good Christian was to be a good German, to support the Fuhrer, to turn their eyes from the awful things happening, and worse to participate in such atrocities. This is unsettling and Bethge proposed that Bonhoeffer avoided this trap because;

“Within this vocation he eventually achieved a very personal relationship to the church of Christ. This led him away from nationalistic tendencies and brought him into the ecumenical realm” (Bethge,xv)

It is my hope that we as the church might be so captivated by an image of God’s Kingdom that we can distinguish between the state’s vision and God’s vision. We must be vigilant to not become a propaganda arm of the government as we care for the widow, the orphan, and sojourner as ambassador’s of God’s kingdom come.

In closing I hope to share briefly the character and impressiveness of Bonhoeffer. One prisoner who met Bonhoeffer in the lowest point of his life said this of the great man of God

“He was one of the very few men I have ever met to whom his God was real and ever close to him.” – Payne Best (Bethge, 920

In the end I think that is how Bonhoeffer ought be remembered as a man close to God who through his leadership and convictions stood tall during one of history’s darkest times.

I said earlier that Bethge’s book is loooooong, crazy long; and I don’t imagine many of you have the time to work through 1,000 pages on him. However in conversation with Theologian W. Travis McMaken (an author I happened to have reviewed previously in my blog) he did me the favor of recommending this biography Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Spoke in the Wheel by Renate Wind. It comes in under 200 pages, and if McMaken recommends it than I feel comfortable doing so as well.

I hope to soon teach a class at the church on Bonhoeffer or one of his works. Keep tuned to the blog for an upcoming review of The Work of Theology by Stanley Hauerwas.

until next time –

The Sign of the Gospel: Toward an Evangelical Doctrine of Infant Baptism after Karl Barth – W. Travis McMaken

Let it be know up front, if you have come to this blog hoping to discover what the “W” in W. Travis McMaken’s name is, you have come to the wrong place. For whereas this book proved to be informative and challenging in many ways, it left the reader to wonder “what about that W?!”.  I can only imagine I have lost half of my readers at this point, the mystery remains, but for those of you left I would like to write a quick review of this book; which, spoiler alert- was very good.

I am not a neutral spectator on the issue of infant baptism, I myself was baptized as an infant into the Catholic church, and both of my daughters have been baptized as infants into the Nazarene church, infant baptism is a practice I support and encourage. That being said, I am also a fan of Karl Barth, I am slowly working my way through his Church Dogmatics, and have read scores of authors influenced by Barth or directly responding to Barth (Some of those texts I have read recently include Saving Karl Barth: Hans Urs Von Balthasar’s Reoccupation by D. Stephen Long, and The Witness of God by John G. Flett, both challenging and illuminating texts that have increased my desire to dive into Barth further).

My support for infant baptism and my appreciation of Barth has had its issues. To my dismay Karl Barth takes a rather intense stand against infant baptism going as far as to say

To all concerned: to theologians, for unfortunately even theology has not yet realised by a long way that infant baptism is an ancient ecclesiastical error; to Christian congregations and their pastors; to Church leaders, presbyterial, synodal or episcopal; to all individual Christians , however simple, let it be said that they should see to it whether they can and will continue to bear responsibility for what has become the dominant baptismal practice, whether they might not and must not dare to face up to the wound from which the Church suffers at this genuinely vital point with its many-sided implications…

Long, D. Stephen (2014-02-01). Saving Karl Barth: Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Preoccupation (Kindle Locations 5776-5784). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.

Long is quoting Karl Barth from Church Dogmatics 4.4.

An ancient ecclesiastical error?! That stance seemed so Ant-Barthian to me, what of this man of Revelation, so powerfully speaking God’s role into our lives?!

Insert W. Travis McMaken’s work, The Sign of the Gospel: Toward an Evangelical Doctrine of Infant Baptism after Karl Barth. This book had me hooked by title alone; it appeared to be a text that would support my frustration with Barth and give me scholarly clout to back it up. I had all kinds of ideas for what I wanted this book to be. To my surprise and delight, it turned out to be none of these things.

Rather than summarily dismissing Barth’s stance on infant baptism as I was hoping McMaken would do, he decided to take seriously Barth’s stance and theological objections to the practice. McMaken explores Barth’s “No” to sacramental infant baptism, and Barth’s “No” to covenantal infant baptism, placing them in context and showing their consistency with Barth’s Soteriology and views on covenant. Where I hoped Barth’s stance was nothing more than an odd opinion, he held at the end of his life; that hope was quickly dismissed by McMaken as he quoted Eberhard Jungel’s insight on the matter:

“The doctrine of baptism is . . . not an appendix to the Church Dogmatics, but rather . . . a test -case.” Consequently, anyone who “wants infant baptism should not seek nourishment for the pulpit from Barth’s doctrine of election. . . . It is one or the other— one must decide for oneself.” [149]

McMaken, W. Travis (2013-08-01). The Sign of the Gospel: Toward an Evangelical Doctrine of Infant Baptism after Karl Barth (Emerging Scholars) (Kindle Locations 919-922). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.

I wanted Jungel to be wrong, and in fact I contacted McMaken on twitter after reading that quote early in his book hoping he would laugh it off as a fault of Jungel’s. Instead, that insight seemed to help shape the book as McMaken explores Barth’s stance as just that, a test-case.

Included in McMaken’s work are a few excursuses (I looked up the plural of excursus on Google, Word Hippo may have led me astray) that engage Scriptural texts and Barth’s interpretation of them. These excursuses are fascinating and challenging as they started to make clear to me my desire to outright dismiss Barth’s stance may indeed be foolheaded. I found myself explicitly convicted of this when I read the following quote towards the end of McMaken’s second excursus.

But those who dismiss Barth’s position on the assumption that his exegesis is less than convincing have not yet grasped this nettle. Their cavalier dismissal of Barth on this point says more about their own theological presuppositions , which they bring to the biblical passages in question, than it does about the quality of Barth’s exegesis or the exegetical support for his doctrine.

McMaken, W. Travis (2013-08-01). The Sign of the Gospel: Toward an Evangelical Doctrine of Infant Baptism after Karl Barth (Emerging Scholars) (Kindle Locations 2050-2052). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.

Now a fascinating testimony to the quality of this work is that whereas this book was nowhere near what I expected it to be; I could hardly put it down. The book was great. McMaken has a familiarity with Barth that I can’t help but envy. His research and in depth scholarship shine throughout the text, and ultimately he prods the reader on with a well written book that pushes beyond Barth’s conclusions only after faithfully placing the reader into the context in which Barth formed his stance.

If this book was what I hoped it would be; a dismissal of Barth’s stance on infant baptism and an apologetic for the practice, than the church wouldn’t benefit from the very sound critiques that Barth brings to our practice of baptism. McMaken allows the critiques of Barth to shape a more robust and more faithful theology of infant baptism that places it into “a lifetime of catechesis about which the church must be intentional” (Ibid, 268).

I don’t want to spoil the text and flesh out all of the suggestions McMaken posits, but I do want to highly recommend this book as a helpful and challenging resource on the very important topic of infant baptism.