Urban Legends of the New Testament

Were there three kings of Orient at the manger? Where was the manger, anyway? A cave, a barn or somewhere else? These questions are among the 40 addressed in David A. Croteau’s “Urban Legends of the New Testament,” recently published by B&H Academic Press.

What is an “urban legend” of the New Testament? According to Croteau, it is a “commonly circulated myth, repeated throughout the culture as common knowledge, but which isn’t true.” For the New Testament, this includes misunderstandings about the original culture of first-century Israel, as well as well-intended, but erroneous, explanations of Greek vocabulary. It is Croteau’s assertion that we who take the Bible seriously should also strive to get it right. We need to eliminate the urban legends from our teaching and preaching.

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Review: Proclaim software impresses

As a church communications director at my previous church, I spent my share of time using (fighting with) presentation software.

Whether is was PowerPoint, MediaShout or ProPresenter it amazed me how differently each approached the goal of showing content.

That’s part of what intrigued me about sitting down with a copy of the Proclaim software.

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Book review: Brain Savvy Leaders

By Doug Hibbard

Leadership books are everywhere and have been for some time. They range from seriously deep to the farcical. It appears that everyone has a leadership theory, and so everyone has a book to write. The question for Charles Stone is whether or not “Brain Savvy Leaders” rises above the clutter of the market.

First, let us examine his basic premise. Stone, who blogs extensively about the connection between neuroscience and ministry, tells the reader that the way the brain works is critical to understanding leadership. His premise is that ministry leadership should consider not only how their minds work, but also the impact neuroscience has on their communication and their followers. I would note, positively, that Stone sticks with neuroscience as his term and not neurology — he is not a “neurologist,” which is a medical specialty.

Along this path, Stone presents that we, as Bible believers, need not fear the science of the brain. After all, if the brain is part of how we are created, then learning about the brain furthers our understanding of how God made us. As we grow in that understanding, we are more equipped to work together.

From there, he goes on to present a mixture of Scripture and science, showing how the brain works and how that affects us spiritually. One of the more valuable sections deals with stress hormones and their overall effect on performance. To summarize, stress does have physiological effects on the brain, which make it harder to make decisions. Even though we may feel like we make good decisions under stress, the truth is just the opposite. Cortisol is only your friend in crisis, and you need time to recover.

From a theological perspective, Stone’s analysis dovetails well with Scripture. He clearly recognizes the Bible as the top-line authority on what we do in ministry. This includes noting passages in the Psalms about rest and Proverbs about diligence, but tops out with the reminder that our purpose is to seek the kingdom of God.
The concluding chapter provides a plan to implement Stone’s ideas. This practical addition moves the work of “Brain Savvy Leaders” from a theoretical exercise to a practical work. While this is not the first book I would hand to someone developing their leadership skills, it’s definitely a great “next-step” learning book.

Doug Hibbard is pastor of East End Baptist Church, Hensley.


Logos 6 Baptist Silver Package review

Up front, let me state that I love books. Real books, that is, the kind that have pages and covers and are a major pain in the back to move. There are few things I enjoy more than sitting down and cracking into a new book to see the treasures inside. Except, perhaps, cracking open an old book and doing the same.

The challenge for sermon and Bible study preparation, though, is finding what I need in all of those books. After all, there is only so much space on my desk to stack books, and when you add the time it takes to find the one reference needed in each book, it is no wonder that preparation is a daunting task. Enter Bible software programs, like Logos Bible Software.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 17, index

Book review by
Doug Hibbard 

Strangely enough, today I am reviewing an index. Fortress Press, the publisher of the complete Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works in English, has published a volume that indexes all of the 16 volumes of the original. This reflects the growing American interest in the life and writings of Bonhoeffer. The 17th volume contains a dozen documents not previously printed in English, as well as the index material.

First, the additional documents are primarily letters. These are translated from the German with footnotes about the context of the letters. These notes explain the material and writing style as well as develop the background of the recipients of the letters. While interesting in developing more background on Bonhoeffer, one document is neither by him nor to him, and it is the most useful of the collection for the modern Baptist pastor inspired by Bonhoeffer’s story. It is a letter that shows Bonhoeffer was not alone in his struggle within the Church for righteousness in the face of the wickedness in the government.

Second, the index volume provides a chronology of Bonhoeffer’s life. This focuses on his adult years and provides the historical context of events as well. It provides a summary of events that frame the writings indexed in this volume.

Third, the index is massive. Every document referenced in the overall Works series is listed along with which volume contains it. All of the scriptural references, individual names and subjects covered are listed, along with the print volume and page number they appear on. This is a great help to someone seeking all uses, for example, of the Lord’s Prayer in Bonhoeffer’s works.

The index volume is a great help to those who have purchased even some of the Bonhoeffer Works series and can guide the reader to knowing what to buy. Is it appropriate? As Bonhoeffer continues to be discussed in evangelical and Baptist circles, it will only help us to know what he said and wrote in his own words, rather than relying on secondhand sources.

Doug Hibbard is pastor of First Baptist Church in Almyra. He reviews books for the ABN.