Book Review: Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up

Kathy Khang’s new book from InterVarsity Press addresses an important question:

You have a voice. And you have God’s permission to use it.

In some communities, certain voices are amplified and elevated while others are erased and suppressed. It can be hard to speak up, especially in the ugliness of social media. Power dynamics keep us silent and marginalized, especially when race, ethnicity, and gender are factors. What can we do about it?

In the introduction (“The Risk of Silence Versus the Risk of Raising Your Voice”) Khang gets right to it: “More often than not, raising my voice comes at some cost” (3). But not speaking up has a cost, too: “I learned that even when I chose to be silent and do nothing, I was still choosing to communicate something” (10). She says, “I want you to know that you have a voice. God wants you to use it, and the world needs to hear, see, and experience it” (10).

Khang roots our voice in the image of God and says, “Creation was not meant to be silent” (35). The God who spoke creation into being calls us to speak and even speaks through us.

This doesn’t mean raising our voice will be easy. Khang talks about fear, failure, and the risk of upsetting others. She shares experiences where speaking up for peace has been difficult for her—even times when trusted colleagues have (literally!) tried to silence her. Her sharing of her and her family’s life stories are a compelling part of her showing readers what finding our voice can look like.

I marked up quite a bit in this book. Here are some of the passages that especially helped me:

Rather than waiting for fear to pass, we must be willing to make small yet courageous steps toward the unfamiliar. We must simply be willing to “do it afraid.” (65, from a friend of Khangs that she interviews)

Speaking out is often labeled as rocking the boat or causing trouble, but silence is just as dangerous. (83)

Another thing to consider is what issue is pulling at your heart and soul so much that it might make you do something you never thought you’d do? (57-58)

I found the following idea especially compelling, and a great antidote to those who complain about “division” or “playing the race card” or whatever other reasons people give for avoiding difficult conversations:

Speaking up doesn’t increase division. It brings injustice and sin to the forefront. (66)

The book is not quite the step-by-step how-to guide I expected from the chapter titles, but Khang offers plenty of practical advice:

What issues do you care most deeply about? Identify what compels you to speak up. What people, problems, dreams, and values are near and dear to your heart? What things make you angry and question humanity? Where do you find hope? (57)

And her use of the Esther narrative as a lens through which to view using one’s voice is inspiring.

The book, by the way, is an excellent oceanside companion…

 

 

… and a good dinner partner:

 

 

It’s especially timely, given everything the current president does and says, as Christians try to navigate what to say and how to say it and in what venues.

 

 

Raise Your Voice releases July 31 and is available here (IVP) and here (Amazon).

 


 

Thanks to the good folks at IVP for the review copy, sent without expectations of the content of my review.

A Book You Should Read: Amy L. Sherman’s Kingdom Calling

Any church is an outpost of the Kingdom of God. There is the mission of the church, expressed in terms of what it does together as a congregation. Then there are the myriad ways members of a congregation—especially but certainly not limited to ones involved in teaching, social services, and other care-taking roles—live out the church’s call to love, to be salt and light, to share the good news of God’s love..

Even if we are at church four hours a week, we churchgoers spend some 98% of our lives not gathered with the congregation as a whole. How can churchgoing folks continue to build the Kingdom of God, not just when we are together, but when we are apart?

3809There exists among congregations an impressive amount of what Amy L. Sherman in Kingdom Calling refers to as “vocational power–knowledge, platform, networks, position, influence, skills and reputation.” As a pastor I am keenly aware of the importance of equipping the body of believers to use their “vocational power” for the growing of the Kingdom of God. How, as Ephesians says, can we “equip the saints for the work of ministry”—ministry not just at church but in our day-to-day lives, in all the places in which God has set us?

Sherman sets the course with a definition of vocational stewardship: “the intentional and strategic use of one’s vocational power (skills, knowledge, network, platform) to advance the values of the Kingdom of God.” In calling for “foretastes” of the Kingdom of God, she speaks of a righteousness that has three dimensions: up (God and me), in (myself), and out (the world and me). This robust understanding of righteousness gets at the heart of the Old and New Testament’s definition of righteousness as right relationship with God, self, and others.

Throughout Kingdom Calling Sherman tells inspiring stories of non-profit owners, teachers, pastors, small groups, construction workers, cleaning service providers, and many others who are helping to advance the Kingdom of God by offering foretastes of it in their own spheres.

As a pastor I appreciated Sherman’s focus on “four pathways for deploying congregants in the stewardship of their vocations” (22). These are:

  1. “Blooming where we are planted by strategically stewarding our current job,”
  2. “Donating our vocational skills as a volunteer,”
  3. “Launching a new social enterprise,” and,
  4. “Participating in a targeted initiative of our congregation aimed at transforming a particular community or solving a specific social problem.”

Sherman shares inspiring stories of church-school partnerships and congregation-wide initiatives, although it is hard to know how to replicate some of the successes Sherman mentions, absent more specific implementation suggestions. But insofar as her aim is to cast a vision to church leaders and attendees of vocational stewardship and the great potential found in vocational power, Sherman’s work has excited me to move ahead in my own church with what I’ve learned from Kingdom Calling.

This Will Almost Undoubtedly Be the Best Theology Book This Fall: The Mestizo Augustine

Mestizo Augustine

 

A forthcoming book from IVP combines one of my favorite lenses for theology (mestizaje) with one of my favorite theologians (Augustine). And the author is none other than Justo González. I believe Michael Scott calls that win-win-win.

Here’s the publisher’s description:

Few thinkers have been as influential as Augustine of Hippo. His writings, such as Confessions and City of God, have left an indelible mark on Western Christianity. He has become so synonymous with Christianity in the West that we easily forget he was a man of two cultures: African and Greco-Roman. The mixture of African Christianity and Greco-Roman rhetoric and philosophy gave his theology and ministry a unique potency in the cultural ferment of the late Roman empire.

Augustine experienced what Latino/a theology calls mestizaje, which means being of a mixed background. Cuban American historian and theologian Justo González looks at the life and legacy of Augustine from the perspective of his own Latino heritage and finds in the bishop of Hippo a remarkable resource for the church today. The mestizo Augustine can serve as a lens by which to see afresh not only the history of Christianity but also our own culturally diverse world.

Coming in November! If you go to the publisher’s page, you can see the Table of Contents. Amazon has it up for pre-order. I’ll do my best to review it here this fall.

IVP’s 5-Volume Ancient Christian Doctrine in Accordance, On Sale this Week

Ancient Christian Doctrine

 

This week Accordance Bible Software has put their five-volume Ancient Christian Doctrine (IVP) on sale for $129 (normally $199). Ancient Christian Doctrine is a full-blown compendium of early church commentary on the Nicene Creed. I write more about the resource here.

If you’re teaching or preaching on the Creed, this is possibly the best resource to start with. (And, of course, it’s likely available for free in print at your local theological library.)

The related Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (covering the entire OT and NT) is also included in the sale.

Here‘s the link to find Ancient Christian Doctrine at Accordance.

 


 

This week’s blog sponsor is MailButler, the feature set you always wished your Mac Mail had (and that I’m glad mine does). Find out more about it here or download and try it free here.

 

IVP’s 5-Volume Ancient Christian Doctrine in Accordance

Ancient Christian DoctrineI just finished two systematic theology courses this semester. Phew! One resource that was really helpful to be able to reach for was Intervarsity Press’s 5-Volume Ancient Christian Doctrine.

It’s similar to the 29-volume Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture set–like ACCSAncient Christian Doctrine compiles primary sources from early church theologians as a running commentary. ACD, however, is a full-blown compendium of commentary on the Nicene Creed.

It was an excellent resource, too, for helping me think through this last week’s sermon in my church’s Advent preaching series: “Who is This Jesus We Are Waiting For?”

I skipped ahead in my research to the Creed’s final phrase, “…the life of the world to come.” Here’s what you see at the beginning of the section in the Accordance edition I’ve been using:

 

Ancient Christian Doctrine in Accordance
Click to enlarge image

 

You get the Creed in Greek, Latin, and English. Then, as you can see in the sidebar Table of Contents at the left, there is the commentary on that phrase–categorized helpfully in the volumes into sections like, “Two Advents” and, “The Intermediate State of Souls.”

Here was a powerful piece from Tertullian from that section:

We affirm that, as there are two conditions demonstrated by the prophets to belong to Christ, so these two conditions presignified the same number of advents. One of the advents, and that being the first, was to be in lowliness when he had to be led as a sheep to be slain as a victim and to be as a lamb dumb before the shearer, not opening his mouth, and not fair to look on. For, says the prophet, we have announced concerning him, “He is like a tender plant, like a root out of a thirsty ground; he has no form nor comeliness; and we beheld him, and he was without beauty: his form was disfigured,” “marred more than the sons of men; a man stricken with sorrows, and knowing how to bear our infirmity,” “placed by the Father as a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense,” “made by him a little lower than the angels,” declaring himself to be “a worm and not a man, a reproach of men, and despised of the people.” Now these signs of degradation suit his first coming quite well, just as the tokens of his majesty do his second advent when he will no longer remain “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” but after his rejection become “the chief cornerstone,” accepted and elevated to the top place of the temple, even his church, being that very stone in Daniel, cut out of the mountain that was to strike and crush the image of the secular kingdom. Of this advent the same prophet says, “Behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days; and they brought him before him, and dominion and glory were given to him as well as a kingdom so that all people, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which will not pass away; and his kingdom is that which will not be destroyed.”

I’ve gotten this resource in Accordance so I can preview it at some of my upcoming Accordance Webinars, the schedule for which is soon to be posted. And I’ve also found it quite helpful in writing pieces of theology and sermon preparation.

This week it’s on sale through Accordance (here).

Let me leave you with this inspiration from Hilary of Poitiers:

He is born as man, while remaining God: this is in contradiction of our natural understanding. That he should remain God, though born as man, does not contradict our natural hope. For the birth of a higher nature into a lower state gives us confidence that a lower nature can be born into a higher condition.

 


 

See my other Accordance posts (there are many) gathered here.

Book Review: Jesus, the Temple and the Coming Son of Man

Mark 13 is one of the most difficult chapters of the Bible to interpret and understand. From the “abomination of desolation” to the claim of Jesus that “this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place,” the chapter is full of statements that could refer either to the near (historical) or far (apocalyptic) future.

Robert H. Stein’s goal in writing Jesus, the Temple and the Coming Son of Man: A Commentary on Mark 13 is to finish the sentence, “I, Mark (the author), have written Mark 13:1-37, because…”. Stein, author of the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament volume on Mark, is one of the best commentators one could hope to read on such a challenging and important chapter.

Here is Stein’s outline of Mark 13, in his words (p. 49):

 

  • 13:1-4: Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the temple (and Jerusalem) (chapter 3 of this book)
  • 13:5-23: The coming destruction of the temple (and Jerusalem) and the sign preceding it (ch. 4)
  • 13:24-27: The coming of the Son of Man (ch. 5)
  • 13:28-31: The parable of the fig tree and the coming destruction of the temple (and Jerusalem) (ch. 6)
  • 13:32-37: The parable of the watchman and the exhortation to be alert for the coming of the Son of Man (ch. 7)

 

The majority of the book (chapters 3-7) is taken up with Stein’s exposition of each verse in Mark 13. Chapter 1 defines the goal of the book: “to understand what the author of the Gospel we call Mark meant and sought to convey by the present text of Mark 13” (39). Stein focuses especially on what Mark meant to “teach his readers by the Jesus traditions that he chose to include in this chapter, his arrangement of these traditions and his editorial work in the recording of this material” (45). Chapter 2 is “Key Issues Involved in Interpreting Mark 13.”

Chapter 8 is a really nice add-on, which consists of Stein’s “interpretive translation” of Mark 13. What a great idea! You can read the chapter in one sitting and see right away how Stein interprets it. This could be a really good starting point for the reader, as could the excellent and detailed “Outline” starting on p. 9 (basically an annotated table of contents).

Stein offers at the outset a nice tour of the so-called quests for the historical Jesus, and how that relates to reading Mark. But Stein doesn’t seem to think the authorship (Mark) or genre (historical narrative) of Mark matters much to the purpose of this short commentary. I find his views here less than compelling, but that didn’t keep me from being convinced by the rest of the book.

Two key points the book makes will give a sense of Stein’s approach:

  1. Stein differentiates between three settings we need to keep in mind: “the first involving the teaching of the historical Jesus to his disciples, the second involving the situation of the early church between the death and resurrection of Jesus and the writing of the Gospels, and the third involving the situation in which and for which the Evangelist Mark wrote his Gospel” (47).
  2. Because of the above point, Stein can tease out different settings and time-frames that different portions of Mark 13 refer to. He says, for example, “Mark does not see the coming of the Son of Man [AKJ: the apocalyptic imagery in 13:24-27] as part of Jesus’ answer (13:5-23) to the disciples’ twofold question (13:4) concerning the destruction of the temple” (72).

Throughout the book Stein keeps in view the distinction between the soon-to-come, 1st century future (destruction of the temple) and the distant, unknown day of the coming of the Son of Man. Stein acknowledges that it is “easy to intermix these two horizons [two settings in time] of the text, and the result is confusion and lack of clarity in understanding either setting in time” (100). Much of the chapter, Stein argues (but not all), anticipates the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in A.D. 70.

You don’t need to know Greek to make good use of this text, but Stein does keep (transliterated) Greek in front of him so he can analyze the text at the word and phrase level. He is really good, too, at using a broader biblical context to help explain specific parts of Mark 13.

I read the book cover-to-cover in a few sittings—it was that intriguing! As detailed and in-depth as Stein’s reasoning is, it reads really nicely: his tone is conversational, which makes it easy to try to sort through some tough hermeneutical issues. Stein’s is certainly not the only possible interpretation of Mark 13, but it’s a persuasive one.

 

Thanks to the fine folks at IVP Academic for the review copy. Find the book here at IVP’s site, or here on Amazon.

Two New IVP “Black Dictionaries” from Accordance

Last week Accordance released two new IVP “black dictionaries.” Both cover the Old Testament. There is Wisdom, Poetry & Writings and Prophets.

Here’s a screen grab from the Accordance page–they’re on sale through midnight EST tonight, and still reasonably priced after that.

 

Prophets (click image below for product page):

IVP Prophets

 

Wisdom, Poetry & Writings (click image below for product page):

IVP_Wisdom, Poetry, Writings

 

These IVP dictionaries are really good. I usually use whatever volume I own when preparing sermons.

And Accordance 11 (just released this fall) is a nice way to use these dictionaries. You can try especially sophisticated searches with them in Accordance, like this one.

If you’ve used either of these dictionaries, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. So far, I’ve really appreciated everything else from this series.