2 Stars Out Of 5
Superficial, Confusing, Unsatisfying Exegesis
February 22, 2013
This book was rather disappointing for me. I thought it would an exegetically in-depth discussion on how certain verses in the Bible ought to be properly interpreted. It is not that Bargerhuff's method of interpretation is necessarily wrong, but discussion was superficial and interpretations ascertained solely on the basis of context (and maybe some common sense and simple logic). Nothing beyond that is developed.
If the book was "all about learning to properly interpret and apply the truths of the Bible", as the author claims in his "Acknowledgements" (p.12), it leaves out much to be desired. He somehow misses certain pertinent points. Therefore, while his conclusions are not entirely wrong, they do not reflect accurate interpretations of the Biblical texts he cites, which can lead to erroneous views regarding God's moral character as good.
1. On the interpretation in chapter 5 on John 14:13-14, about asking anything in Jesus' name, as the author concludes, "Our goal in prayer is to see God glorified no matter what" (p.61); and here I have no disagreement. However, that does not necessarily mean God would deny a request that, while it may not be something He specifically willed, nevertheless, is a desire of the petitioner that does not violate His general will. Cannot God answer a prayer even if it does not directly bear on glorifying Himself but is merely a desire of the petitioner that God answers simply because He is gracious?
2. Regarding Rom 8:28, chapter 6, the author states that "all things that happen in the Christian life are designed" to shape us into Jesus' image (p.67). By the word "design", does he mean God ordained, in the Calvinistic sense, "all things" that occur to occur? It would seem so because he further suggests that God is the one who brings "terrible tragedy" upon us (p.69). The question needs to be asked, what loving and good father would do that?
Again, Bargerhuff says, "Even the worst evil that happens...is for a greater good" (68) and gives us some examples. First of all, those examples do not necessarily prove that God designed/preordained these tragedies. These examples only show that God can overturn the resultant evil consequences for a good. His interpretations of the events are mere speculation.
If it is the case that God designed/preordained such events used as examples, then these events actually a great good and not genuinely evil. Furthermore, if his premise is correct, then no evil event is in reality an evil event but a good event. Bargerhuff practically agrees when In an endnote to this chapter, he asserts that "anything that glorifies God and advances his kingdom purposes could rightly be called good" (#3, pg.170). Therefore, I cannot see how he can legitimately escape the idea that the "worst evil that happens" (e.g. one's child being raped), an evil "designed" (if I have correctly understood the implications of his use of this word) by God, "could rightly be called good". Essentially, he is saying that there really is no such thing as evil or tragedy.
Bargerhuff seems to hold to certain errors found in Calvinism and engages their ususal brand of double-speak. This was the most unsatisfying chapter.
3. Chapter 10, regarding God allowing no more than one can handle, is the best chapter, even of handled lightly. My only reason for giving it two instead of one star.
4. Chapter 14 on the "prayer offered in faith" is handled confusingly (as I read it) and leaves open at the conclusion whether or not God will answer the pray made in faith, which flatly contradicts the promise left us in James 5:15, the specific verse he uses to correct what he sees is a flawed interpretation of it while, nevertheless, adding to the error rather than correcting it.
As I stated earlier, his engagement with the texts he choose is rather simplistic and confusing, so if you're looking for an in-depth book that makes good sense and corrects the misinterpretation others have of certain verses, particularly the ones the author chose to answer, this is not the book.