Today I have a review of Opening the Book of Faith: Lutheran Insights for Bible Study by Diane L. Jacobson, Stanley N. Olson, and Mark Allen Powell, a book with Lutheran roots and ecumenical appeal on how to approach (and teach how to approach) reading and interpreting Scripture in a healthy way. You can also read, rate, and comment on my review at Amazon.
This is a must-have book for anyone who finds themselves doing more on-the-job training than they would like in their ministry. It’s short, it’s accessibly written, and its ideas are sound and helpful. “Opening the Book of Faith: Lutheran Insights for Bible Study” is the sort of pocket guide I wish I’d had during my first year in youth ministry – and I’m not even Lutheran!
There are excellent examples of the balance of law and gospel and how to identify their connections. (29-31) There is exploration in how to interpret Biblical miracles today by considering the Bible’s first audiences’ interpretations. (39-40) The take on the tri-focus of the commandments is eye-opening and insightful. (35) There are explanations of multiple ecumenical ways to approach Lectio Divina, my favorite offered being that from a Moravian camp ministry. (48-50) In those ways, there is option offered and interpretations explored. In another way, the book makes specific claims about the Bible and how to approach it which leaves little room for other theories (for example, the Bible is inspired and God speaks there, yet there is not mention of the other end of the Biblical perspective that it is the dictated Word of God, 2). While I like various perspectives and am less fond of the “Here’s what faith is” approach, I found myself agreeing with the claims made. I even appreciated the writers’ take on what it means to read the Bible “literally.” (21-23) Perhaps its the writers’ gentle tone which makes what could be perceived as a narrow path seem so wide and open to so many.
I was pleasantly surprised by how accessible I found this ELCA-perspective book from my United Methodist Church context. I don’t recall any major theological “red flags” for me and certainly marked more meaningful / helpful passages than I did places in which I would have articulated the point or theological perspective with different words. In a way, I have some new ecumenical understanding between our denominations thanks to the accessible presentation in this book. And I absolutely appreciated the appeal to both Lutherans that they as writers can’t possibly speak for all Lutherans and to non-Lutherans that they may find links or disparities and yet, welcome! All while lifting up that the way Lutherans look at the Bible can be powerful. (20) With this passage, I , as a non-Lutheran reader assigned to read this book for a seminary course, felt invited to read it, not required.
A brief note on my copy’s physical presentation: the front cover two die-cut pieces with a fragile piece in the middle which could be damaged if the book isn’t handled with care. Additionally, my print copy’s inside pages are printed on glossy paper (more susceptible to ink smudges, if you’re annotating your copy and marking favorite passages as you read) and the type face was not black but a dark blue which was sometimes hard on my eyes. If I didn’t receive this book for free for my class, I would have purchased the ebook copy and not had to deal with this issue. Thanks for reading. thelifemosaic