Monday, December 10, 2012

Book Review: Reclaiming Genesis

I've long appreciated Melvin Tinker's ministry of preaching and writing, having read several of his books and heard him preaching in Dundonald and at NIMA. When preparing to preach from the opening chapters of Genesis, it was very helpful to read his book Reclaiming Genesis, a series of sermons he had preached, reworked into book form. While I didn't necessarily agree with all his exegesis or application, it was good to see how someone else had tackled the book.

As he begins, Tinker points out that the two books most likely to be the cause of heated debate are found at either end of the Bible: Genesis and Revelation. 'The main bone of contention is how they are to be interpreted.' The rest of the introduction is rooted in the discussion of interpretation, which helps to put the sermons themselves into an interpretive framework and context.

He argues that Genesis displays clearly that God is sovereign, but that he may have used evolution as his instrument. This is not something that the Scripture is overly concerned with, though, as the text of Scripture is written for us. The more important question, therefore, is what is its purpose, and what is it saying?

With a great illustration of a scientist analysing a love letter scientifically, Tinker points out that 'they miss out on the most important thing... that someone was trying to establish a relationship.' Genesis answers the Why (or rather, Who), rather than the How.

Moving into the sermons themselves, there is much to be edified by in these pages. The introductions and illustrations are like a preaching masterclass, the language is simple and direct, the message of the scripture is clear and arresting. It may actually have been a bad idea to read it prior to preaching, such were the insights that could be 'borrowed' - although Tinker obviously had a lot more time in his sermons than I'm currently preaching.

Here are a sample of quotations to whet your appetite:

'Whatever Genesis 1-3 is, it is at least a vigorous polemic against paganism.'

'What Dawkins has in effect constructed is a pseudo-religion in which the powers of deity have been ascribed to molecules.'

'We are sinners not because we are fundamentally lawbreakers, but because in our pride we take to ourselves the decision to become lawmakers independent of God.'

Many of the contentious issues are dealt with, in a manner that shows how an ordinary congregation can be helped to think through them without dictating or pontificating. It's a most helpful book, for anyone wishing to learn more about Genesis, or receive a basic introduction to the text of the opening chapters.

The preacher will find it useful; but it's not just for preachers - the 'ordinary' Christian could use it to aid an indepth study of Genesis or as a guide for devotions.

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