Jimmy Johnson

About Jimmy Johnson

James' Blog
Hello, my name is Jimmy Johnson. I am a student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. I enjoy reading, film, hiking, camping, and working out. I, also, enjoy mentoring men and helping them connect the gospel to their daily lives, preaching the Bible, and teaching theology. I got married to my wife Lauren, June 6, 2015. We are expecting our first baby girl this March. We are using their gifts to love and serve Vista Baptist Church and the surrounding communities.



How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind Book Review

How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind Book Review

How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind

by Thomas C. Oden
Length: Approximately 7 hours. To read (197 pages)
TCB Rating:
four-half-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

Can anything good come from Africa? Some might erroneously answer no. Some in Jesus' day thought the same of His hometown (Jn 1:46). Thomas C. Oden, in his book How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind, shows that much good has come from Africa by its influence on Christian thought.

Who should read this?

Everyone. Christianity has existed for nearly two millennia. Therefore, we have a diverse and rich spiritual ancestry that should be explored and celebrated. So Christian, pick up this book and get to know your family heritage.

How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind Book Review 1

SUMMARY

Africa. Significance. Exegesis. Dogma. From a historical standpoint, Africa in the first six centuries played a massive role in giving shape to the Christian mind. Dr. Thomas Oden presents seven ways that Africa sculpted the Christian mind. The two ways that stand above others in their significance are exegesis and dogma. These will be the focal point of this discussion.

To begin with, according to Dr. Oden, “The rules and methods for interpreting Scripture were decisively shaped not only by Africa’s greatest scientific investigator of sacred text, Origen but also by fourth- and fifth-century African exegetes like Didymus the Blind, Tyconious, and Augustine of Hippo” (45). For Dr. Oden, it was not only some of the early African Christians that exercised what modern Christians now employ in exegesis, but there were many, and this was passed on through generations and carried to other geographical locations, even the minds of the West.

These ways of thinking about and doing exegesis look very similar to what the orthodox church in toto practices. This is of great importance due to the many heresies or divisions that arose in the first several centuries of the church and the many that continue to plague the church today.

The early African scholars like Origen laid the foundational principles for exegesis that are now being used by conservative exegetes today. It is true that not all of Origen’s ideas of interpretation were passed down and some were harshly rejected by even his peers and conservatives now. However, his approach to the Old Testament and the historical-grammatical level of his interpretations have been championed by many members of the orthodox church after him. One example early on is Augustine who posited that it is the goal of the interpreters as grasping the meaning intended by the biblical author as he was under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

This is significant regarding how early and modern Christians combated and the heresies and settled disputes amongst divided Christian sects. Today in evangelical seminaries of the west the pursuit of the author’s intent of the Scriptures is still the goal of hermeneutics and until the author’s intent is reached the process of interpretation is incomplete. By putting the focus on the text of Scripture itself, the early Africans would dismantle heretics. Also, they had a platform by which they could analyze the many different views that arose as the Church spread and began to receive less persecution from the government.

Dr. Oden asserts that the way Origen and other early African Christians practiced exegesis was not significantly different from those of Europe and Asia. In fact, Oden believes that the differences are often exaggerated amongst modern scholars (46).

Not only did early African Christians shape the way in which exegesis and biblical interpretation were done, but they also shaped early Christian dogma. Dr. Oden agrees when he says, “Western Christian dogma was formed with precision in Africa before it became ecumenically received worldwide” (47).

For example, the concept of the Trinity was developed by first explained by Tertullian was what is now what is used by evangelical Christians. Before any of the ecumenical creeds were established the early Christians from Africa established the terms and explained the concepts that would later be adopted as the true and only way of viewing the triune nature of God.

Furthermore, the debates in which the creeds were established were argued by and amongst Africans. To say that Africa has no significance to the development of the Christian mind is blind to history. It is evident that many of ideas were not merely passed from the North to the South, but were instead passed from the South to the North.

It was not until the Arab conquest where many Christians were expelled or killed that there was a movement of Christianity from the North to the South. The significance of Africa in Christian thought can be exaggerated, but this is not what is commonly practiced. Africa is the root of many ideas and practices that later were taken up and used by the Church in toto.  

Africa. Significant. Exegesis. Dogma. Dr. Thomas C. Oden presents that Africa played an essential role in the development of the Christian mind. Notably, early African Christians were pivotal in the concepts of exegesis and the formation and articulation of dogma before the ecumenical Creeds. One must not ignore the truth that Africa is significant to the history of Christianity and how Christians have thought and continue to think today.

ANALYSIS

Personal Perspective

After reading Thomas C. Oden’s How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind, I am left with no doubt that Africa played a critical role in the formation of what Christians now think and practice. Personally speaking, there are ways in which Dr. Oden’s book instructed, corrected, and challenged my understanding of how Christian tradition and thought developed. This will be the subject of the remainder of this paper.

This reading challenged my thinking about Christian tradition by first making me think about the significance of Africa in the development of Christianity. I have read portions by many of the authors that Dr. Oden mentions, but have often in my head unintentionally paid no attention to the fact that they were from Africa. That the culture they were born into was African and not American nor European. I seemed to have in my previous study of these men’s writing assumed that they were mainly Greek or Roman imports.

I would have never come out and stated that but in the recesses of my mind I never really saw that these men were, in fact, African and this influenced the way they communicated and understood Christian truth.

In addition to the fact that many of the early African Christians were African, Dr. Oden presented that many of the ideas that the North had come from the South. Passively, through my study of Church history, I never noticed how many concepts were first articulated in the South and then were adopted by the North. Dr. Oden points out that commonly western scholars hold that the North was the source of truth. In such a claim there is a passive, maybe even overt, prejudicial view of Africa and the people from there.

This corrected my presuppositions that Africa as a whole was and is not intellectual. Thankfully, Dr. Oden made me begin reflecting on my own modern tendency to subvert Africa and other areas South of Europe and North America. The example gives the route that African monasticism took to Ireland. The author postulates that the practices of Irish monks were indisputably African. This evidences the claim that the North did not exclusively have influence, but that the South, in fact,  played a pivotal role in shaping European and Asian Christianity in the North.

Next, this book made me wrestle with the aspect that Africa played a detrimental role in the intellectual aspects of Christianity. Like I stated earlier, I tended to wrongly think of the early African Christians as if they were not African, but imports from the North. Dr. Oden repeatedly dismantles this. The practice of rhetoric and the way in which education was done in Africa plays a role in how the Church continues to operate.

For example, I never really thought about the role of rhetoric in preaching or writing and how this was commonly presented and used by the early Christians in Africa. Augustine would frequently use his rhetorical genius to explain the great truths of the faith and encouraged aspiring Pastors to do likewise. African Christian intellectual practices like many ideas in history traveled from the South to the North and were pertinent in the development of the intellectual traditions practiced by Christians today.

Another area Dr. Oden’s book instructed me is the part that African conciliar patterns influenced the process in which the ecumenical councils practiced. Before any of the ecumenical councils, the early African Christians exercised an ecumenical and communal aspect to church debate. African Christian leaders would come together and debate over issues as they arose and decisions would be made by way of a vote.

When I read this, I began to realize that many churches and denominations govern themselves similarly to early African churches. For instance, the Synod not only the term but the general aspects of the Synod are still practiced in Presbyterian denominations. Not only Presbyterians use the general principles of the African councils, but even Southern Baptists in their common congregational style of government bears some resemblance to the communal aspect to decision making. However, the Presbyterian model seems to be more akin to the African practice.

Lastly, this reading instructed me in the truth that the exegetical practices I have been taught and many of the theological categories in which I think were first articulated clearly in Africa. The term and concept of the “Trinity” were first used and articulated in Africa.

The explanation given by Tertullian was later used in the ecumenical counsels and still is used in many systematic theologies that are now being read today. Also, the idea of authorial intent being the goal of the interpreter in exegesis was explicitly presented by Augustine, who was African. It was not Augustine alone in Africa who sought the intent of the Author, but he employed what was past too from Africans like Origen. Origen though tended to allow his philosophical assumptions get in the way of letting him stick with the authors intended meaning.

Strengths

Dr. Oden is a terrific writer and demonstrates in-depth knowledge of the subject of this book. As a scholar of early church history and historical theology, this is well researched and documented. He even provides a helpful literary chronology of Christianity in Africa for the first 1000 years.

Another strength is in his purpose for writing the work. Yes, he aims to give a summary of African Christianity and its influence on Christian thought. However, he also uses the work as a call to arms for others to pick up the mantle and explore the topic to a greater depth. Notably, he hopes for African scholarship to take up this task. In a time where Christianity is often said to be the white man’s religion or colonial religion, studying early Christianity show that such notions are false.

Weaknesses

The brevity and design of this work leave some parts less detailed than desired. However, this is a work that is calling for more work to be done, so this weakness hardly diminishes the value of the work.

The title and thesis of the book are that early African Christianity has influenced Christian thought. Oden spends only one chapter of nine listing seven of the ways Africa shaped the Christian mind. In my opinion, this is a weakness. I expected to find whole chapters on areas of Christian thought that are rooted in early African Christianity. Even with these two weaknesses, it is still a book worth reading.

CONCLUSION

It is quite clear that Africa played a part in the development of modern Christian traditions. Dr. Oden’s work does an excellent job of introducing this fact in an accessible manner. It is a necessary work and should be read and the applications he suggests in the appendix should be applied. Early African Christian’s laid many of the foundations of Christian intellectual pursuits, Church decision making, Biblical interpretation, and theology.

Also, the story of Christianity reveals that it is not adequate to say that all ideas and practices came from the North in Europe and Asia and went south to Africa. Historical evidence illuminates that there are many instances in which the ideas and practices of the early Church came from Africa in the South and went north into Europe and Asia. Overall, Africa is of great importance to Christianity in many ways and should be viewed and presented as such.

four-half-stars
By | 2018-03-12T17:06:43+00:00 March 12th, 2018|

Why Johnny Can’t Preach Book Review

Why Johnny Can’t Preach Book Review

Why Johnny Can't Preach

by T. David Gordon
Length: Approximately 2 hours. To read (108 pages)
TCB Rating:
four-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

Why Johnny Can’t Preach by T. David Gordon is a book about preaching. In it, Dr. Gordon diagnoses what he believes are the causes of poor modern preaching. He also offers what he believes might help modern preachers preach well.

Who should read this?

Anybody who cares about preaching and preachers. Church members can learn what to look for in a preacher. And preachers, or those aspiring to be preachers, can learn how to fine tune their craft.

Why Johnny Cant Preach Book Review 1

SUMMARY

David Gordon in Why Johnny Can’t Preach aims to expose why the state of preaching today is so weak. Though he paints a very gloomy picture at the beginning of the book, he does not leave the reader there. He asserts that Johnny can’t preach, but he could. The main points of the book are, a majority of modern pastors do not preach well, the art of reading text has been lost, the ability to write well has been lost, and the content that is necessary for preaching has been lost.

To begin with, the contemporary portrait of preaching is bleak. Many of today’s Christians are starved of the spiritual nourishment that preaching is supposed to offer because they have sat under the poor preaching of God’s word for the majority of their Christian lives. In fact, these Christians often don’t realize what they are missing because they have grown accustomed to the poor preaching.

In haunting detail Gordon makes the state of today’s church plain when he says, “As starving children in Manila sift through the landfill for food, Christians in many churches today have never experienced genuinely soul-nourishing preaching, and so they pick away at what is available to them, trying to find a morsel of spiritual sustenance or helpful counsel here or there” (17). He evidences this by stating his experience of attending church for over twenty-five years. Then he shows by way of an elder’s testimony that many churches hire pastors who can’t preach because they know they are at least good at some part of the ministry.

In fact, the elder admits to Gordon that the man they are hiring can’t preach. Furthermore, the experience Dr. Gordon has had with church members showed him that many like their pastor, but do not think he preaches well. Also, there is an ever-growing desire amongst congregants for shorter sermons. This and the fact that the newly emerging churches tend to do away with traditional sermons all but entirely, evidence that the state of preaching is not where it used to be and is moving in a worse direction.

This is to be remedied by the implementation of annual reviews of current ministers and the cultivating of “pre-homiletical sensibilities,” which will be explained further later. It was also, helpful when Dr. Gordon presented the seven elements of good preaching that Robert Lewis Dabney presented in the Lectures on Sacred Rhetoric: Textual Fidelity, Unity, Evangelical Tone, Instructiveness, Movement, Point, and Order. These elements are in the backdrop to the remainder of the book.

The first thing that has been lost by modern pastors is the ability to read text. What Gordon means by this is that modern preachers have been affected by the progressive development of technology in such a way that they only read to extract the information. They are prone to read as quickly as possible and do not take time to appreciate the words, grammar, and overall structure of the text that they read.

To read for information is fast, “but reading a text is a laboriously slow process” (43). By not reading text pastors often come to the Bible and ask, “What is this about?” without first asking, “How the passage is constructed?” Moreover, it is hard for the modern preacher to come to any text, including the Bible, and enjoy the aesthetic qualities of well-written literature (46). Without reading well, one cannot preach well. How is this pervasive issue to be remedied? According to Gordon, one such remedy is for ministers to discipline themselves in the cultivation of reading text.

More specifically, he, in the same vein as Charles Grosvenor Osgood, suggest learning how to read and study verse (100). Fundamentally, Gordon believes that if ministers discipline themselves to study English literature to understand better and employ the language, they will become better preachers.

In addition to the loss of reading skills, modern pastors have also lost the ability to write. Again, Dr. Gordon believes that the development of technology is a primary culprit of the decline of good preaching. For example, he accuses the telephone causing us to become literalist in how we receive the information spoken to us. This is because when we talk on a phone, we are unable to see the other person’s body language, which has led to an inability to interpret body language even when we talk to people in person (63).

A similar effect could be said of emoticon communication and the entire concept of instant messaging. People no longer take the time to articulate what it is they want to say, and this results in a wooden, cold, and often unclear mode of writing. Dr. Gordon asserts that the cultivation of composed communication can help remedy the loss of skilled writing amongst members. One such suggestion is to write hand-written letters (103). Likewise, he believes that pastors should be avid writers by writing for theological journals, newspapers, or anything (103). Pastors need to write.

Lastly, Dr. Gordon comments on the issue of content in preaching. He states that the content of Christian preaching must always be centered on Christ and that the application of any text in preaching must be faithfully drawn from the parameters of the text being preached. Modern preachers must always endeavor to make Christ known in their preaching. He must be the backbone and center of every sermon, or they will fall into one of the failures he mentions.

At the end of this chapter on content Dr. Gordon says something that preachers need to take to hear. He says, “If Johnny loves his profession, loves his flock, and above all loves what Christ has so competently done for sinners, he will find sufficient motivation to cultivate those latent sensibilities and participate in the return to our culture of a vigorous Christian pulpit” (93).

ANALYSIS

As a young preacher, I found this work to be accurate in its diagnosis of modern preaching. Preaching does seem to have fallen on hard times. Preachers would do well to head to Dr. Gordon’s encouragements to read better, write better, and to match the content of the sermon with the content of the Biblical text. Dr. Gordon in this work shows that he cares about preaching, preachers, and the church. He also shows that he knows how to write. His arguments are clear and easy to follow. His suggestions if implemented would help the Johnnys who can’t preach learn how to. The author also does an excellent job of getting his readers to analyze themselves and their preaching.  

After reading this book, I bought an anthology of English poetry to become a better reader. Reading poetry helps the reader to slow down. I do wish though, that he would have made a stronger case that a preacher should or could learn the Biblical languages. I translate and diagram the passages I preach. I find this forces me to slow down and analyze the structure of the text. Also, learning the Biblical languages is more directly related to biblical interpretation and preaching than reading and interpreting poetry.

At times, I found the author’s style and tone to be offputting. He seems to be against all things novel. Telephones, instant messenger, and emoticons are to blame for the drought of good preaching. I am speaking as a millennial, who hates talking on the phone, texting, and emoticons. I find that in this work, however, Dr. Gordon doesn’t prove that the existence and use of these mediums cause weak reading, writing, and preaching.

It easily could be the absence of classical learning and not the addition of modern mediums of communication that causes Johnny not preach well. Can someone not learn how to read, write, and preach, while also using these new mediums of communications? To Dr. Gordon, the answer seems to be no.

Furthermore, his premise that modern preaching is weak is not substantiated by any concrete stats. It is based on the subjective senses of him and his colleagues. Though I don’t disagree with the senses of Dr. Gordon and his colleagues, I find the concrete pronouncements he makes throughout the book to be a little strong.

If Johnny can’t read, write, or preach, then we might assume that his audience can’t either. Even with to the tools to read, write, and preach suggested in this book a preacher still might need to learn how to communicate to people who can’t do those things. I would have liked the book to be more about how Johnny can learn how to preach to modern people than about the fact that he can’t. Writing it that way also might have made the tone seem less hostile to learning preachers.

CONCLUSION

This book is a creative contribution to the plethora of books on preaching. However, I don’t necessarily think it needed to be written. Other works like Christ-Centered Preaching by Bryan Chapell, Recapturing Voice of God by Steven Smith, and Doctrine that Dances by Robert Smith to name a few, deal with the issues Dr. Gordon raises more practically and positively. I find myself revisiting these works as reference material. Rather than books saying we can’t preach we need books and good preachers to come alongside us and provide us the tools we need to get better.

Why Johnny Can’t Preach is helpful in some ways. But, many of the critiques Dr. Gordon offers could have been listed in a short article rather than a 100-page book. He could have then made an appendix of recommended works to help Johnny better his preaching. Sure, many Johnnys aren’t great at preaching, but I believe that we Johnnys can learn.

four-stars
By | 2018-02-24T20:48:52+00:00 February 25th, 2018|

Oops!

Hi, thanks for dropping by! Looks like you caught us changing … our site design. Please excuse our mess! If you find any bugs or have an suggestions, email us at info@topchristianbooks.online. We’ll definitely reply.

Hey, before you go!
Grab a FREE Copy of the Institutes
SNAG IT!

 FREE DOWNLOAD 
John Calvin's Institutes 

close-link

Pin It on Pinterest