Saturday, April 5, 2014

book review--Introduction to the Old Testament Template by Landa Cope


There are some things about this book that I found rather annoying, and other, more serious things that seemed to be more than a little off to me.

Among the annoying things, for example, were things like this. The author kicks off the book talking about a time she was watching some kind of news program on TV about a certain city in the US and how Christian that city really is. She claims that this program caused her pretty serious distress, calling into question many of the things she had previously taught. But for such an important event for her and for this book, there is very little information about this program itself. We are not given the program's name, nor the name of the channel that broadcasted it. We are told that the journalist was British, but that doesn't do much to narrow things down. We aren't even given the year in which the author saw it. The author says that several pastors, "...the kind of pastors Christians would respect." (Kindle Location 170), were interviewed during the program, but we are not told who they were, nor are we told what they said except for the author's summation.

Another annoying thing the author does is constantly blame the church for the state of things in the world. For example, in regards to a trip she made to Africa, "In each nation the story was the same. Poverty, disease, violence , corruption, injustice, and chaos met me at every turn. I found myself asking, Is this "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven"? 2 Is this what the blessing of the gospel brought into a community looks like? Is this what a nation looks like when it is "reached"?" (Kindle Locations 218-221). One question that could be asked, though, is what gospel is being spread through Africa and all over the world? Very often, it's not the Gospel of Christ crucified for our sins, but the name-it-claim-it prosperity gospel. Let me recommend this book, Where Are We Heading To?, where the author tells of how these kinds of apostles and ministers are in it to build their own wealth instead of to minister to their people, who brag about their cars and how much their clothes cost instead of using the money the people give in wise and godly ways. Foreign Policy magazine did an article called "Angels and Demons", one part of which is about how supposed healing services in Malawi are causing people to claim to be healed of HIV, so they stop taking their anti-retroviral drugs. And at the site for the 2013 Strange Fire conference, there are two videos of presentations by Conrad Mbewe about the effects of this false gospel in Africa.

Mostly, I think the author's two primary claims are open to being questioned.

One is this, "As Christians, we do say our faith, lived out, will influence a society toward good." (Kindle Locations 176-177). "Our transformed lives are to be salt and light to our families, neighborhoods, communities, and nations, making them better places to live." (Kindle Locations 259-260).
Can we say that Jesus ever taught this kind of thing, or the apostles? Could we say, for example, that Jesus made Israel a better place to live in during and after His time? Did such things happen during the time of the Apostles and the early church? Jesus was the one who told His disciples that if the world hated Him, it would also hate them for loving and following Him. He was the one who told them they would have troubles in this world. He was the one who told them that they would be put into prisons and persecuted. He was also the one who prophesied over Jerusalem about the city's coming destruction for having rejected Him. And the apostles were not any more positive in their messages to the early churches.

"The early church transformed Israel, revolutionized the Roman Empire, and laid foundations for Western European nations to become the most prosperous in the world." (Kindle Locations 263-264). Israel was destroyed in the war that led up to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Christianity struggled in the Roman Empire for a few hundred years, and even when Constantine recognized it, it is questioned how much that helped and hurt the Church.

The other claim that should be questioned has to do with what she calls her Cornfield Revelation. "The light flashed into my poor little brain. Revelation hit like a laser beam. Moses' job was to disciple a nation , to teach a people who had been slaves for four hundred years how to form and run their nation." (Kindle Locations 427-429). Where is it taught in the Bible that Moses was discipling a nation? Where does any New Testament writer point to Moses as the example of what Jesus meant when He told the apostles to teach all nations? Where does any New Testament writer tell us that in order for a nation to be considered discipled, the church needs to put that nation under the Law of Moses, or at least some contextualized version of some principles someone claims to have found in the Law of Moses?

This is a pretty serious claim on the part of the author. Is the Gospel really about putting people back under the Law? Can "discipling" really be summed up as simply making sure a nation's laws are based on someone's ideas of biblical principles taken from the Law of Moses?

To my mind, the author is failing to make what I've heard some in Lutheran and Reformed circles call "The proper distinction between Law and Gospel". How can there be discipleship apart from conversion? But for the unconverted, the law is not designed to make them righteous, it's designed to show them how far they have fallen, to show them their sins, and how much they need the Gospel of Christ crucified for their sins. Imposing the Law of Moses cannot lead to discipleship, it would be merely to clean up the outside of a dirty cup, and perhaps lead to the kind of result that Jesus accused the Pharisees of, that of making converts who are even more children of Hell than before their supposed conversion.

One of the signs that this author is not making this distinction is in statements like this, "He encouraged that if they would obey his teachings, they would not have poverty in their land." (Kindle Locations 830-831). There is a very big "if" in there, because none back then, and none now, are able to fully obey God's law. We have all sinned, we are all fallen, there is not a one of us who is righteous by our own works and attempts to keep the law. But this author holds it up as something we can attain, as if we can make even the churches, let alone the unconverted, fully obey God's laws.

For more on this, let me suggest a few resources. The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel (ESV) and The World-Tilting Gospel

There is some wisdom in this book, but there is lot that could easily lead one into some very questionable areas, too. And I can't ignore the similarities between what is taught in this book, and what Seven Mountain Dominionists teach, too. While this author is much more sensible than someone like Johnny Enlow, her works point in that same direction.

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