Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Transforming: The Bible & the Lives of Transgender Christians by Austen Hartke

This is an incredible book to read. I've read it twice already and I don't usually re-read my books. It's that good.

This book is divided into 2 parts. 

Part 1 talks about the landscape in America today regarding trans identity and how it intersects with the Christian faith, gives us vocabulary to help in the discussion and more. Chapters 1 talks about the landscape of the intersection between trans identity and the Christian faith in USA today. Chapter 2 gives us some vocabulary to help the uninitiated understand the terminology used by trans folk today. And Chapter 3 is a dissection of Mark Yarhouse's 3 frameworks.

Part 2 has theology interwoven with personal testimonies of different trans / non-binary / genderqueer folks.

My favourite chapter was Chapter 5 that featured Aidan Wang, a transgender man from Taiwan. 

This is because in the many LGBTQ+ books I’ve read that dealt with faith, I’d only come across one that featured an Asian American. So to read about an actual person from the queer community right here in Asia was quite a treat. Thank you for your radical inclusiveness Austen!

In addition, the detailed exposition of Isaiah 56:3-8 in Chapter 7 really blessed me. Austen really went into great lengths to explain how this chapter resonated with him when he encountered it afresh as he was finishing seminary. I liked how the chapter was almost a Bible Study where he gave us background info, historical facts, and set the context for us to interpret it accurately.

Get this book to help educate Christians leaders, parents, friends, and family. This is a useful resource in the Christian world that sometimes contains lots of misinformation and hate against trans folk. 

Check out my YouTube video where I talk about other aspects of the book here: 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

An Extra Mile by Sharon Garlough Brown

This is the last book in the Sensible Shoes series but even though it's the only one I've read, it was still an excellent read!

I didn't feel too lost jumping into it as the plot explains itself. And it didn't feel too strained or artificial either.

Four women are coping with the death of a dear friend and mother, even as they experience significant transitions in their respective lives.

Sharon Garlough Brown has a gift of making characters come alive. I resonated with Mara, Hannah, Charissa, and Becca at different points in the story.

I felt for Mara, the single mother who nevertheless spends time each week to serve at a homeless food centre.

Hannah's story tugged at my heartstrings even as she gave up a ministry position to move in with her husband.

Charissa reminded me the importance of rest and how in every crisis there can sometime be a silver lining.

Becca disdains "Jesus-people" and rejects several attempts of others who try to bring her to faith.

Their stories intertwined perfectly and I never felt lost even though the entire novel's narrative alternates between the four of them.

It's a little like my life honestly, I've lost a friend earlier this year and together with some of my friends, I'm learning how to cope with it. So it's nice to read a book that doesn't paper over the grief one feels when a close friend dies.

I'd give this book 4.5 stars out of 5, so grab your copy today from IVP. :)

Disclaimer: The publisher sent me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

4 Views of Hell by Various Authors

This was quite an educational read as I had only one view of hell. I didn't even know people had other ideas of what hell could be, so this book was a must-read.

Each chapter is followed by responses from the 3 other authors so that it provides a more balanced view as the others analyse what might possibly be wrong about that particular view.

So the book opens with Denny Burk defending the traditional view of hell, also known as "Eternal Conscious Torment" where people live forever, being tortured by hellfire and such. This is my understanding of hell so nothing was new except for the fact that the author used 10 different verses to back up his claim that this is what hell truly is. I thought it a was rather thorough explanation and wondered how the other authors could fight against this.

The second chapter is titled "Terminal Punishment". This is a more palatable view of hell where the damned just disappears after being thrown into hellfire. He uses some biblical texts to support his claim which I thought were pretty reasonable.

Next, the third chapter deals with "Universalism", which was once known to be heresy, but is essentially the claim that by the blood of Jesus, God saves everyone in the end. He surprisingly does an interesting exegesis of relevant texts from the holy book, so no one can say he spun out this theory from thin air.

Finally, the last chapter deals with Purgatory. This is strictly not hell, as some claim that it's an anteroom to heaven, a place where people are sanctified before entering the presence of God. This chapter unfortunately has woefully little Bible verses to back its claims, so I thought it fell a little flat. It's interesting to see what C. S. Lewis had to say about Purgatory though, which is what the author referenced to a lot.

The book closes with a conclusion by Preston Sprinkle who evaluates each chapter and tells us where it shines and falls short. I thought it was a reasonable end to a very informative book. Pick up this book if you'd like to learn more about the various conceptions of hell Christians have.