All posts by Nick Norelli

In the Mail

IVP Academic sent along a couple of titles for me to peruse. The first one, Ron Highfield’s The Faithful Creator: Affirming Creation and Providence in an Age of Anxiety, came last week. The other, Archie J. Spencer’s The Analogy of Faith: The Quest for God’s Speakability, arrived yesterday. The latter is party of the Strategic Initiatives in Evangelical Theology series. I wasn’t expecting either of these volumes and I can’t say that they intersect with my current studies, but I’ll skim through them and see if anything grabs my attention.


In the Mail (about a week ago)

Since I don’t really blog anymore I always forget to mention when I’ve received something good in the mail. But hopefully what I’m about to mention will get me back to blogging a little more than usual. About a week ago I received a copy of Crispin Fletcher-Louis’ Jesus Monotheism, Volume 1: Christological Origins: The Emerging Consensus and Beyond. Now I’ve been aware of this project since January of last year…


…so I’ve been waiting patiently for its release. And after having received the first volume I’ve learned that it’s gone from a proposed two volumes to four! In any event, I’ve started to read it and it promises to be a very helpful resource and a welcome addition to the ever-growing body of literature on the origins of a divine Christology.


Beware of Overnight Experts

A coworker has recently become enamored with Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam. I blame myself. My cousin had been urging me for weeks to watch an interview that Farrakhan did with Jamal Bryant on the Word Network. I finally put it on at work and it caught my coworker’s attention. Since then it’s been nothing but Farrakhan on YouTube for him. The problem is that he has uncritically accepted without examination most everything that Farrakhan says about anything. My cousin is the same way. In fact, it’s exactly like talking to my cousin. Same script, verbatim.

I’ve tried to talk to my coworker where I can but he’s not ready to hear anyone but Farrakhan right now. Yesterday, for example, he assaulted us with a shotgun argument in which he talked about everything from how King James, who ruled the world, rewrote the Bible, to how Christianity is the white man’s religion and was used to control slaves, to how Islam was the original religion, to how the Qur’an has never been changed, to how black people invented science and math (none of which is true, for the record). There was much more in between but this was what I could remember being spit out at me in something like 30 seconds. I tried to focus on one thing at a time but I kept getting talked over. So I just ignored it. I know that now is not the time for him to hear me.

But I did tell him that I’m worried that he’s become an expert very quickly. He told me that he’s always known this stuff but has just ignored it. Nonsense I say, nonsense! There’s a reason that the Nation of Islam targets “the black man in America,” and that’s because many of them feel alienated, disenfranchised, oppressed, and maltreated. And in many cases that’s unfortunately true. The NOI gives them the outlet to feel justified in their anger. The same can’t be said of the black folks around the world that haven’t shared similar experiences. And I say this to say that my coworker is angry and has found a voice for this anger. He hasn’t studied what is being said, he’s just accepted it on face value.

Now me, on the other hand… I’ve been exposed to the Nation of Islam since I was 10 years old. From 16 to 21 I devoted a lot of time and energy into its teachings. I read Farrakhan’s speeches and watched VHS tapes of him before there was a YouTube to watch them on. Same with Malcolm X. I’ve read Elijah Muhammed’s books. I once had an entire filing cabinet full of Final Call newspapers. I’ve known NOI members for years. The point is that I’m not new to this. There was a time when I believed this stuff to be true. And then God saved me and I devoted a couple more years to studying this stuff from a critical perspective. So it’s not revelatory to me. I’ve been there and done that. I have the answers to his arguments but nothing I say will be received.

My bare disagreement with these views is enough to deny anything I say as true. His newfound expertise trumps my years of exposure and study because I’ve boughten into the white man’s “made up religion” while he’s come to the “knowledge of self.” So my task over the coming weeks isn’t going to be to argue and debate with him—he’s not ready—but to provide good information to my other coworkers who are exposed to his newfound views. I don’t claim expertise in anything, but I’m confident in the time I’ve spent on these subjects, and when it’s all said and done I’m really just interested in God being glorified through what I say and do, so my prayer is that however it goes I’ll be able to maintain my composure and speak the truth in love.


In the Mail

I noted on Twitter the other day that Wesley Hill’s Paul and the Trinity was on sale for $16.06 on Amazon. I pulled the trigger on Sunday and bought a copy. It came in yesterday. I haven’t unboxed it yet but I will do so today and add it to the collection. I wish I would have waited though because I see that it’s available for $15.60 today! Doesn’t seem like much but 46 cents is 46 cents!


Receive and You Shall Review?

There’s been some discussion on Nijay Gupta’s blog about what he calls a discouraging trend in the world of book reviewing. “Some publishers,” says Gupta, “are becoming more picky about who they send books to, and also some are refusing to send out print books at all to reviewers…” He also laments the practice of sending ebooks with expiration dates. I find the latter to be deplorable. Always have. I forget what book it was that I received years back that had an expiration date on it but it never got reviewed.

Gupta and those who have commented on his post have all pretty much expressed the desire for hard copies over ebooks. I’m with them. One hundred percent. The general consensus is that reviewers should receive some sort of compensation for the reviews they’re providing because each review is publicity for the book and the publisher. I’m not opposed to such thinking. I’ve commented plenty of times on the symbiotic relationship between publisher and reviewer. We get books, they get reviews. Works perfectly.

Now let me quickly say that some people prefer digital books these days so they’re quite happy with books coming to them in PDF, mobi, or epub formats. That’s good and well. It’s great that publishers have the books available in such formats. I’m still all about hard copies but I have about two dozen important works on my iPad in PDF (thousands of PDFs on an external hard drive). It’s great to have them all available to me at once in a searchable format. I can’t envision myself ever making the switch to all digital but if I did then I’d be very grateful to receive an ebook.

But I’ve meandered long enough. The thing I wanted to comment on was something that Jennifer Guo said in her comment on Gupta’s post. She said:

I agree. I’m old fashioned as well and prefer print by leaps and bounds (what kind of book nerd does not need to mark up their books? not to mention smell the pages wink emoticon ). The bigger point is what Christopher mentioned. While I do review an ebook once in a while from the publishers that refuse to send print, I refuse to review a “disappearing ebook.” Reviewing takes time, and it’s also free publicity for the publisher. A free copy is fair compensation, but if you don’t get to keep even an ebook, I do not see it as fair compensation. We might as well just get a library copy and not spend the time to review then!

I understand the concept of fair compensation. I do. I even agree with it. It’s a bait and switch to send a book for review that later gets taken away. Not cool. It’s the last sentence that stuck with me. Is the idea that we should only review the books we’ve received for free from publishers? If so, why? Why wouldn’t we want to take the time to write about the books we check out of the library (not that I’d ever check a book out of a library)? Why not write about the books we purchase with our hard earned cash?

Some might argue that those reviews could/would be better since the reviewer feels no obligation towards the publisher for sending them a gratis copy. For my part I reviewed the books I bought before I ever knew that I could contact publishers and ask for free copies. Reviews have been a part of my blog since its inception. I continued to review books that I bought well after I started receiving them for free. Now I haven’t reviewed anything in a while, but when I get back to it I’ll continue doing what I’ve always done. But who cares about me?

My point is that I don’t think book reviews should be contingent upon receiving free books in any format. If all the publishers in the world suddenly formed a union and decided to no longer provide free copies to interested reviewers would that mean the demise of the book review? That would be most unfortunate. Would we all of a sudden stop thinking about the things we read and consequently stop having the desire to share those thoughts with others? I would hope not!

Receiving free books is a wonderful benefit of reviewing books but I don’t think it should be the primary goal. In my opinion the main goal should be the dissemination of information. Having the means and ability to inform others about works in their fields of interest is a great privilege. I can’t count how many reviews I’ve read over the years that helped me determine if a book was worth my time, or informed me about the contents of a book I couldn’t get my hands on. I wouldn’t say that it’s my duty to return the service, but I’ve long felt that it’s my honor.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject; especially those of you who review books for internet or print publications.


On Preaching the Word

As someone who loves theology and biblical studies I’ve come to realize over time that it’s simply best to preach the word in a congregational context. What I mean is simply this: Preach the text and let all the theology flow from it. Don’t spend too much time speculating. Use the information gained from biblical studies to illuminate it but don’t make biblical studies the focus to the exclusion of what the text is saying.

I’ve learned that trying to turn Bible study (at least in the two churches I’ve been a member of) into miniature seminary lectures isn’t greatly effective. The glazed over eyes are usually the best indication that it’s not hitting home. And that’s okay. People who want seminary lectures should by all means attend seminary. The average believer that I’ve encountered just wants to know what the Bible says and find ways to apply it to life.

Your experience may very well be different. If it is I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment and let me know.


On Bultmann’s Clarity

30 years ago today Rudolf Karl Bultmann died. I’ve noted many times on this blog that he was an exceptionally clear communicator and I thought to commemorate the anniversary of his death that I’d mention it again. He was a biblical scholar and theologian of the first rate. Sure, many of his ideas are quite simply wrong, but he was able to put them across in such a way that one doesn’t have to guess at what he’s saying. This is quite different from many of his German contemporaries (e.g., Karl Barth) or those who came after him (e.g., Pannenberg or Moltmann). It is my honest opinion that he was the best German to ever put pen to paper when it comes to biblical studies and theology. Not because I agree with so much of what he says—I don’t—but because I can understand it (at least in English translation).