Friday, February 26, 2016

Rediscovering Jesus - David B. Capes, Rodney Reeves, and E. Randolph Richards

Let me know more of the true Christ; nothing less will do.

Rediscovering Jesus: An Introduction to Biblical, Religious and Cultural Perspectives on Christ
Authors: Capes, David B.; Reeves, Rodney; Richards, E. Randolph
Publisher: IVP Academic (www.ivpress.com)
Pages: 272

Rediscovering Jesus could be the most interesting and helpful book that you ever read about Christ. This is not a quest for the historic Jesus, though that has its place and there is a chapter about it. This has more to do with answering two questions posed by Jesus to his disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” and “Who do you say that I am?”

You might think it pointless: I have answered these questions. The authors contend that there is more to Jesus than we can ever know. No one has him figured-out, but we can learn from each other.

Along the way, we must recognize the tendency to magnify aspects of his person that appeal to us and ignore or reject what we might not like. We might like to think that our view of Christ is biblical, but it can easily include outside elements. It can be a reflection of our limited knowledge, experience and even prejudice.

Rediscovering Jesus is divided into two parts: (1) portraits of Christ from the various New Testament books and writers and (2) views from outside the Bible. The latter consists of how he is seen by Gnostics, Muslims, Mormons, and Americans in general, those in search of the historical Jesus, and the images conveyed in the many movies about Christ. The authors could have easily added an interesting chapter about how Jesus is portrayed in song and hymns. As with the other subjects, the picture is not always accurate.

Even though the first part is engaging and insightful, I was even more intrigued by the examination of the unorthodox views in the second part, probably because the latter is less familiar. Even so, the material in the first section is well-organized and can serve as an excellent reference for studying New Testament depictions of Christ. Seeing the differences can be a revelation.

Each chapter in both sections contains three critical parts:

1.       What does the picture of Jesus look like?
2.       How is different?
3.       What if this was the only portrait of Christ?

For example, the authors ask, “Who does Mark say that Jesus is?” How does this differ from the Jesus of the other New Testament writers? In the cases of unorthodox portrayals, how do they differ from Scripture? Lastly, imagining that any one picture were the only one can have startling implications for worship and Christian practice.

They point out among many other things the widespread influence of Paul’s and John’s Jesus. “Paul tell us what Jesus did for us on the cross. John tells us that we need to be born again. So what do we talk about in our churches? We need to be born again (based on what Jesus did on the cross)” (255).

It may be obvious but worth stating, “We need a biblical Jesus” (256). One taken from the biblical texts but one that includes voices from the entire Bible.

Failure to do so can have serious consequences. You can see an extreme example in what critics refer to as ultra- or hyper-dispensationalism. This Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom to the Jews. Therefore, in relation to living the Christian life Paul’s words are deemed more applicable than the words of Jesus. It was left to Paul to reveal the gospel of grace and provide instructions for the Church. Subtle divisions like this seem right but can get people off-course when working-out the implications.

It might have been helpful if the authors had addressed the progressive nature of revelation. Does Paul further the ideas contained in the gospels or is he bringing new revelation? In order to answer groups like the hyper-dispensationalists, we need to be able to show how it all fits together. To some extent this is covered in the conclusion, but more could be said. I would welcome another volume from the authors along these lines.

This study can lead to greater discernment. “Give me Jesus” might well become the cry of the heart. It means rejecting wrong ideas and images learned from others and/or gained by making Christ in our own image. 

Rediscovering Jesus can be a guide towards knowing Christ more fully. Our knowledge of him now will never be perfect, but we can grow in our relationship and understanding.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Inheritance - Audrey Assad


Audrey Assad, one of the foremost Catholic artists in our day, infuses ancient texts with a simplicity and wonder that makes them sound timeless.

Inheritance
Artist: Audrey Assad (www.audreyassad.com)
Label: Fortunate Fall Records
Length: 11 songs/42 minutes

On Inheritance, Audrey Assad, one of the foremost Catholic artists in our day, infuses ancient texts with a simplicity and wonder that makes them sound timeless. Initially, as I thought how to describe it, words failed me. This production is an amalgamation of styles that varies from track to track.

The percussion and layered keyboards bear some resemblance to Celtic music, though you won’t find any flutes, pennywhistles or pipes. Piano, violin, cello and programming combine at times to create something ethereal.

The promotion for the release uses the word “cinematic.” Not a bad description for music that could serve as a soundtrack for something epic. At other moments, it’s little more than a fragile yet confident voice singing over piano and woodwinds.

One of the surprises is “Even unto Death,” which I mistook for an ancient song that I had never heard. Assad wrote this stirring, challenging ode to modern-day martyrs, especially those in the Middle East, with fellow Catholic Matt Maher, who sings on it.

Assad’s connection to the Middle East is more than a song. She is the daughter of a Syrian refuge.

“New Every Morning” is another outstanding composition by Assad and Maher. The rest are classics, with the exception of “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet,” which is a more recent composition.

“New Every Morning” is a little like the beauty of the first day enshrined in song. Like the Spirit hovering over the face of the deep, Assad’s voice gently floats over piano notes as she sings first of Creation, then Adam and Eve’s transgression, and lastly the Word made flesh, which makes the promise of new mercies every morning secure. This is a gorgeous track that grows in intensity.

One of the most remarkable transformations is “Oh, The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.” If the traditional melody has a sense of foreboding, coupling this with the music associated with “Morning Has Broken” is like lifting this from the chill of winter into the warmth of spring. It gives it a different feel. Fernando Ortega, one of my favorites, duets on it. His involvement is such an appropriate choice, given the sound of his voice and his history with hymns.

Another transformation takes place on “How Can I Keep from Singing.” It uses roots rock elements, layered keyboards and shimmering guitar to convey peace. Remakes don’t get much better.

Even in the more sparse moments like “It is Well with My Soul” and “Abide with Me” there is fullness. The former includes a small congregation of voices echoing the famous chorus. The winsomeness heard in both is due in large part to Assad’s singing. She effortlessly slips in and out of falsetto. I’m not that familiar with the rest of her work, but I can’t imagine her vocals being any more beautiful than what you find here. She could have sung each track with just piano accompaniment, and I would be applauding, but the various textures add richness. This is how to do hymns.

I’ve been collecting recordings like this for years, and this is without a doubt, one of the better ones. It has a transcendent quality; it’s worshipful and artistic; spiritual but earthy. I would welcome more along this line, but I’m interested in whatever she might do in the future. This is an artist to follow even as she continues to follow Christ.  

The Legacy - Michael Phillips

Passing on a vision of life with God The Legacy (Secrets of the Shetlands, Book 3) Author: Michael Phillips ( www.fatherofthein...