When we read something, that information is filtered through our own experiences and culture. This is no less true when we read the Bible. Our worldviews are important, but we rarely get a chance to see the Bible from another perspective. Because of language barrier and distance, we have limited access. Although it’s never appropriate to read something into the biblical text that isn’t there, unique cultural viewpoints can help draw out scriptural truth that might otherwise have been missed. The Transformative Word series is designed to help illuminate these diverse perspectives.
We’ve enlisted church leaders and scholars from around the globe to show us the transformative significance of each biblical book. Each contributor will write in their native language, and their book will be translated and published in multiple languages. The unique personal and cultural experiences of this diverse cast of contributors reveal biblical truth in a way you may never have seen before.
The power of poetry and story to evoke human experience
In When You Want to Yell at God, Craig Bartholomew uncovers how the struggle of Job can speak into our own lives. Job’s story is often misunderstood and its themes of suffering and blessing are complex and difficult to fully grasp. Bartholomew was born in South Africa and uses his unique perspective to reveal the book of Job as the height of biblical poetry. This excerpt gives you a glimpse of Bartholomew’s worldview:
One of the fascinating characteristics of Job is that the bulk of the book, chapters 3–41, are written in poetry. This section is enclosed by the frame of 1–2 and 42, which are written in narrative prose. This makes it unlikely that Job should be read as a historical account, although there is debate about this among scholars. What is crucial is that we not make the false distinction that ‘historical’ means the same thing as ‘true’ and ‘fictional’ means ‘false.’ Literature can be true and powerfully convey truth without being historical in the sense of recounting events that actually happened. For example, I grew up in apartheid South Africa, and to this day when I speak publicly about South Africa I always turn to Alan Paton’s classic novel, Cry, the Beloved Country. Although Paton’s book is a novel and thus the characters and plot are not strictly historical, the book powerfully evokes the relational breakdown that occurred in apartheid South Africa, with its racism and oppression. Story and poetry are able to evoke human experience in a way that straightforward descriptions cannot.
Conflict resolution and the Corinthian church
In Cutting Ties with Darkness, John D. Barry examines how the broken relationship between the Apostle Paul and the church in Corinth can help us heal from our own relational scars. Discerning when to reconcile our broken relationships or when to walk away from them is always difficult. Barry draws on years of ministry experience to help us rebuild our relationships on the redemption of Jesus. In this excerpt, we see the full spectrum of God’s grace and mercy that Paul shows to the Corinthian church:
The strength of Paul’s words could prompt us to say that, for him, the world is black and white. But when you get down to the gritty details of 2 Corinthians, it’s apparent that the world is much more complicated than many of the ‘religious’ people would like to believe. There isn’t just ‘us’ and ‘them.’ This isn’t one political party versus another we’re dealing with—or, as Americans say, ‘donkeys versus elephants.’ There are hyenas and lions, zebras, and gazelles. The spectrum of Paul’s worldview is as bright and colorful as a street market in India or downtown New York City. The whole world—everyone, everything—is made by one Creator. There is potential for everything to once again be good and do good—for all things to be saved by Jesus and to be empowered to live in God’s image (2 Cor 3:17–18; compare Gen 1:27; Rom 8:19–23). With this in mind, Paul says, ‘Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? And what agreement does Christ have with Beliar? What does a believer share with an unbeliever?’ (2 Cor 6:14–15). Paul is not contrasting black and white. Instead, Paul is interpreting how the universe functions now that Jesus has come. ‘Light’ here does not mean ‘white’; it is the full spectrum of the light that first entered the universe—the spectrum we see in the rainbow, which is itself a promise from God (Gen 1:3–5; 9:12–17). Paul is saying, ‘Look, there’s darkness here. There is evil. God wants color and life, as we see in Christ. Which realm will you live in? Will you embrace Jesus’ realm of life and light or stay in the darkness of all that defies its Creator?’
In conversational tone, these books explain the importance of a biblical book, showing how it can transform your life. Thought-provoking questions guide your reflection as you begin to see the Bible from a whole new perspective. Enrich and expand your worldview with the Transformative Word series.
When You Want to Yell at God and Cutting Ties with Darkness are available now! For a limited time, if you order both books, you can get 25% off with the coupon code TRANSFORM2. Get both of these insightful books today!