John Dyer. From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology.
Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2011. 192 pp.
Reviewed by Mark Zockoll.
John Dyer’s vocation, Director of Web Development for Dallas Theological Seminary, combines his dual passions of “teaching the Bible” and “computer programming” (14); it also renders him capable of writing on the philosophy of technology. Dyer challenges outright the neutrality of technology, and ultimately desires his readers to affirm that “technology changes everything” (175). By affirming such, the reader must then scrutinize their position in a technological age in which they may neither “be content merely to criticize technology” nor may they dismiss its shortcomings “and use technology as much and as often as we can . . . because at Christ’s return he will remake all things, including our problematic technology” (176). Such scrutiny leads to a course of action prescribed by Dyer which “will help us become better stewards of the technological tools God has entrusted to us” as we seek to live lives pleasing to Him (179).
Dyer reaches these goals by quickly presenting the issues generally associated with technology and then traveling back to the Garden of Eden to provide a common genesis of thought. After describing the mutual transforming power of humanity’s tools, like a simple shovel, he defines technology as “the human activity of using tools to transform God’s creation for practical purposes” (65). A major point of this early section is that the creativity evident in man’s design of these tools reflects the image of God and His creativity in man. He then notes the fallen nature of mankind, and necessarily, technology, but continues on to argue that God’s redemptive acts, as portrayed in the Ark and the cross, show God’s pleasure and interest in mankind’s creativity as well as its redemption. Next Dyer deals with the restoration of mankind by God to a perfect state. This state will be the new Jerusalem, which represents the restoration of a city, one of man’s earliest and greatest technological achievements, a reoccurring theme throughout the Bible and Dyer’s book. In conclusion Dyer presents how this information should transform the way Christians think about technology.
Dyer’s use of language appeals to a wide audience, not only by his sparse use of philosophical and theological jargon, but also by his continual reference to both those younger readers who, in general, are comfortable with the latest technology as well as their older counterparts who are wary of newer technology. To disarm either side, Dyer returns to Socrates’ distrust of what was the novel technology of writing and explains that each age brings about a generational trust and distrust of new technology.
Many readers, of either age, would expect this book to showcase a definite answer to the dark side of the internet, the proper use of projectors in church, and whether or not smart phone Bibles should be used by the congregants. Dyer, though mentioning several of these issues, focuses on how the Christian should live his life in awareness and repulsion of technology’s fallen nature. Evaluating a technology’s worth, experimenting with its intricacies, limiting its role in your life, making sure to communicate with Christian friends during the previous steps, and supporting those who actively invent technology to promote redemptive projects complete the method by which Dyer would suggest a Christian keep abreast of and involved in technology in their own time, which is to say, between the garden and the city.
For Christians familiar with common instructions concerning the handling of objectionable elements, Dyer’s book presents precious few new strategies for the confronting thereof; however, the strength of this book, and the reason I would recommend it, lies in Dyer’s ability to demonstrate technology as a fundamentally flawed, not neutral, creation of mankind and the corresponding new mindset the reader must develop based on such an assertion. Fundamentalists may find issues with Dyer’s reported freelance work with Anheuser-Busch and his non-confrontational approach to gray areas (14, 83).
David P. Murray. Jesus On Every Page.
Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2013. 245 pages.
Reviewed by Mark Hanson
The topic of Jesus in the Old Testament has received quite a bit of interest as of late and this book is entering a crowded field with works including: The Scriptures Testify about Me (D.A. Carson, 2013), Is Jesus in the Old Testament (Iain Duguid, 2013), and The Unfolding Mystery (Edmund Clowney, 2013) all being published this year. While it might be a little too early to tell how this book stands out from this pack, that does not prevent a further look to see what merits it might have in its own right.
Murray begins with his own personal development and growth as he personally worked through the issue from his experience as a youth that the Old Testament was often only referenced in Sunday School, yet was customarily neglected in Sunday sermons other than some topical correlation to a particular date or special project. The issue that he raises with his personal history is a valid one: “Why would God have given us the majority of the Bible in the Old Testament” (p 10) only to have churches rarely interact with it when compared to the New Testament? This then leads to his quest to answer that particular question and, ultimately, to this book, Jesus on Every Page.
He lists several reasons that have led to the somewhat downplayed status of the Old Testament in the modern era. Some of these include: liberalism, irrelevance, laziness, and even Dispensationalism. This particular element was not surprising as a critique since the book is written from within the Reformed tradition. He notes that “although unintended, the dispensational division of Scripture into different eras tends to relegate the Old Testament to a minor role in the life of the church and of the individual Christian.” (p 6). Now on face value there is some merit to this as any time you divide something into smaller sections there can be a tendency to compartmentalize the component elements. In this instance, it might have more to do with the understanding of the distinct roles between Israel and the Church than with the actual division of the dispensational eras. But even so, the claim that the Old Testament is preached significantly less than the New Testament is a valid question that deserves an evaluation from the dispensational point of view, and more importantly from the pulpits of our churches. One element that should be commended is a small section he has on Israel and the Church (p 130) where he rightfully notes the following elements we do share in the proclamations from God’s prophets: God speaks an unchanging Word, God requires faith and repentance, God chastises his people, God preserves and comforts a remnant, and God will send salvation.
Beyond that dispensational rabbit trail, Murray jumps right to the heart of his book and begins by appealing to Jesus’ sermon on the Emmaus road where Jesus takes “a big text—Moses, all the prophets, and all the Scriptures. And it has two main points—His sufferings and His glory. In other words, the Old Testament was about Him. . .” (p 15). He starts with what Jesus says about Himself, then looks at other major players, to see what Peter, Paul, and John have to say on the subject. The case is built well and substantiated nicely. He addresses one of the major verses that would challenge his thesis, namely, John 1:17, “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” He does this by referencing John 5:39, 46, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. . . . For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.” So objections are handled throughout the book, albeit briefly as the scope of the book covers the basics and moves on to the next section rather concisely. Even so, there is good substance to continue “searching” the topic and the book does well at moving the argument forward. The chapters (Christ’s Planet, Christ’s People, Christ’s Presence, Christ’s Precepts, Christ’s Past, Christ’s Prophets, Christ’s Pictures, Christ’s Promises, Christ’s Proverbs, and Christ’s Poets) accomplish this by looking at topics as they relate to Christ’s connections with the text in the Old Testament rather than the more standard form of taking Old Testament texts and comparing them with Christ. Even thinking along these lines seems to be beneficial as its approach helps to see connections related to the chapter headings.
One area of critique that often comes with this kind of study is the tendency to “see” Jesus on every page even when He might not be specifically found. Just to highlight one instance Murray notes that since Moses was identified as a “type” leading and pointing to the Messiah (Acts 7:37) this then “implies the identification of Joshua as a type of Jesus in his similar role as God’s appointed mediator and leader of Israel as well.” (p 140). While there is a mention of Moses being one, there is no mention in Scripture that Joshua is a type of Christ. This raises some questions: Does this generalizing of types apply to every leader in Israel? Just the good ones or maybe the ones anointed by a prophet at God’s direction? In reading this book there is much to profit from the study; but some caution should be rendered when implications, which are particularly found in Chapter 13, are made apart from a clear Scriptural warrant.
David Murray is a professor of Old Testament and practical theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary as well as the Pastor of the Free Reformed Church, both located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. These two roles are evident in the tone and flavor of the book as it is written to a general, lay audience with good correlation of scripture and stories for examples, making the work a quick and easy read, but also very practical by way of being able to see an illustration of the point that was made. Being a pastor, there is alliteration in just about every chapter, most of which appropriately fits. Since these alliterated subdivisions go beyond a few per chapter (sometimes nine or ten), it feels a little stretched and overdone. The book has a helpful scripture index that increases its value as passages can quickly be found within the text, as well as providing a starting point for further study on the topic. He avoids the error of making the book overly technical with theological terms and never loses simple explanations which an experienced pastor would make to his congregation on a Sunday. This is a great strength to the book as it is an easy introduction to the subject; but is probably also its greatest weakness as it tends to cover many of the issues and passages in a manner a little to0 briefly at times for a good, in-depth pondering of each of the points that he draws out. The book on a whole functions as a good introduction for getting one’s feet wet in studying various issues and passages related to finding Jesus on Every Page in both the Old and New Testaments.