Regeneration | J. D. King

The cover of King's Regeneration

 is a massive project, both in scope and page count. Over the course of sixteen years, J.D. King has researched and written a book with an ambitious subtitle: . King is personally invested in this topic. His own firsthand experience with healing kept him from abandoning the faith (9). He conducts his research and writing not only as an academic but also as a practitioner. Academically, he “set out to develop an overview of the healing streams and their associated methodologies” (21). This pursuit was motivated by a desire not just to understand, but to “learn to operate similarly” (9).

Structurally, King follows the narrative of healing chronologically, beginning in the post-Apostolic era and following the theme through two millennia to the ongoing Third Wave movement. In the early chapters, King gives an overview of the church before examining the lives and healing accounts of various key leaders. In the later chapters, he spends more time describing the theological perspective that undergirds the practice of healing. King casts a wide net, even going beyond textual sources to the world of art (86–88). Notably absent from King’s chronology is the Eastern Orthodox tradition, aside from a footnote. While this does not take away from the work King has done, it does add a significant qualification to the “complete history” this multivolume work chronicles.

This broad historical approach to healing gives perspective to the practice. Themes and trends repeat over the years. Take, for example, the tension between what the local church experiences versus what the leadership structures teach. This is particularly evident in the case of Martin Luther. Under the growing influence of a “rationalistic and materialistic worldview” (Althouse in King 167), along with a desire to be rid of Roman Catholic superstition (182), Luther’s teaching often downplayed divine healing (168). However, when the need arose, he was quick to take his associate Phillip Melanchthon’s hand and pray for a healing that delivered Melanchthon “from death to life by divine power” (Luther in King 173). This tension between official policy and the practice of the laity is characteristic of many eras, including our own.

In the second volume, King’s chronological tour slows down and focuses in on the variety of overlapping movements which characterized the twentieth century. It is particularly interesting to see how King, a man with Classical Pentecostal roots (20), elucidates the various theological themes and inter-relationships between the various healing movements. King describes how the Faith-Cure movement with its emphasis on unhurried personal ministry in healing houses gave way to the more entrepreneurial spirit of the Radical Holiness movement which formed the context of the Pentecostal revival. He writes that “in its amalgamation of fundamentalism, millenarianism, and Restorationism, Pentecostalism drew heavily upon the radical fringes of the Holiness movement and ultimately transformed the milieu of divine healing in the twentieth century” (382–383). In time, the Radical Holiness and Classical Pentecostal movements “moved away from healing after an early period of fervor” (.466). The Charismatic Renewal, the Word of Faith movement, and the Third Wave all picked up the theme of divine healing while adding their own unique spin to the underlying theological assumptions.

Perhaps the greatest strength of  is the sheer number of sources that King integrates into the narrative. King has done the academy a great service in the third volume by providing a four-hundred page annotated bibliography of “the most significant works on healing in the English tongue” (.312). This will surely become a foundational resource for anyone studying healing in the future.

Citing the sources is one thing—verifying them is another. It is easy, especially for the educated (24), to question the truth of a source. This is especially problematic with the more radical accounts of cancerous tumors falling off (.333), prosthetic eyes gaining sight (8), and the dead being raised (.443). While King admits that “framing up imperfect narratives is what historians are obliged to do” (27), he does not to evaluate the testimonies he cites. Instead, he simply confesses that “no matter how much one insists on the scientific method, spiritual realities can never be fully dissected” (27). King keeps the domains of science and religion separate, acknowledging that physical restoration can be viewed through either lens (.474). This epistemological approach, while simple, has significant benefits. It challenges the Western scientific mindset while giving full weight to a variety of testimonies from people who are too often written off  as unreliable.

There have been many methodological variations on the theme of healing. The early church laid hands on the sick, issued commands to the sickness, and interceded fervently. People in the Middle Ages sought healing in pilgrimages, liturgies, and relics. Quiet healing houses gave way to raucous healing lines in twentieth-century tent meetings. There are just as many theological variations. While some insisted that healing was an objective reality provided in the atonement, others emphasized healing as a sign of the in-breaking of the eschatological Kingdom of God. It is interesting to note that both the dispensationalism of the Holiness and Pentecostal movements as well as the more realized eschatology of John Wimber and the Third Wave provide equally fertile ground for the exercise of divine healing. King’s work highlights the radically diverse ways in which physical restoration has been manifested throughout history. He demonstrates that correct theology, proper methodology, and even the moral character of the healer matter little when the Spirit chooses to act restoratively.

The healing homes, made popular in the late 1800s were places of retreat where the sick could withdraw from the skepticism of the world into a place where “faith reigned” (Curtis in King 301). In these homes the sick fed upon testimonies designed to build their faith. King’s  would have been a welcome resource in such a place. Perhaps this book might even inspire the increasingly secularized Christianity of the West (.505) to join with the broader global church and rediscover divine healing, “one of Christianity’s most distinctive characteristics” (.508).

This review was first published in Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 39.4 (2017) 537–39, DOI: 10.1163/15700747-03904003

King, J. D. Regeneration: . 3 Vols. Lee’s Summit, Christos Publishing, 2017.

The Aeneid | Virgil

The cover of Virgil's The AeneidJust before Virgil (70-19 BC) died, he left instructions that his epic poem, The Aeneid, should be burned. Caesar Augustus (the one who called the census which brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem) disagreed with Virgil’s dying wishes and rescued the manuscript at least in part because the story legitimized Roman culture and rule.

The Aeneid is a sequel of sorts to Homer’s Iliad. The Iliad narrates the Trojan war. At the end of the war, Odysseus journeys home (see Homer’s Odyssey) and Aeneid escapes and goes on his own convoluted journey. The good Aeneid begins the book fleeing the ruins of Troy and ends a mature hero who wins a new homeland: Rome.

Most interesting in The Aeneid is the interplay between divine and human agents. The gods are capricious, following up petty insults with life-altering storms. They back various human actors to play out their own squabbles. Eventually Jupiter has to step in with a stern, “Stop it!”

From a Christian perspective The Aeneid is a depressing world where capricious deities and fates tug humans around like puppets. Despite this, many Christian theologians were inspired by the ethics of the good Aeneid. In his Divine Comedy, Dante summoned up Virgil to guide him through Hell and Purgatory!

The Collector’s Library edition features a prose translation by J. W. MacKail. The most difficult part of reading The Aeneid was remembering all the names. SparkNotes does an excellent job summarizing the plot of each book and describing the significance of the narrative. I recommend reading SparkNotes before and after each book of The Aeneid to aid in comprehension.

The Aeneid is a foundational work of literature that deserves its reputation as a classic.

Virgil. The Aeneid. Translated by J. W. MacKail. London: Collector’s Library, 2004.

Revival | Stephen King

The cover of King's RevivalCharles Jacobs was a young minister who liked to tinker with electricity—until lost his wife and child in a horrific car accident. One “terrible sermon” later he left town with his faith in tatters and his electrical hobby turned an obsession.

Jamie Morton was a young child assaulting a German stronghold with plastic army men when Charles first entered his life. Revival is the story that covers their intertwined lives.

This novel stands out from the pack in a couple ways. In the first place, King excels at characterization and pacing. In contrast to so many action-packed suspense novels, King seems almost leisurely. By the time the action hits, you are emotionally invested in his characters. Surprisingly, this slower pace makes the book no less interesting. King proves that you don’t need to end every chapter with a cliff-hanger to sustain the constant reader’s interest.

The second way this novel stands out is King’s use of Lovecraft’s cosmic horror theme. He offers an explicit nod to Lovecraft when Jamie’s research assistant compares a book called De Vermis Mysteriis to Lovecraft’s “fictional” Necronomicon (389). This theme also connects Revival to the Dark Tower’s idea of the space between the worlds. The theme is only accentuated when juxtaposed against Jacob’s loss of faith.

Once again, King has shown himself a master storyteller by applying legitimate literary skills and devices to pulp fiction themes.

King, Stephen. Revival. New York: Pocket Books, 2014.

The World’s Emancipation | Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich BonhoefferThe emancipation of the worldly order under the domination of Christ takes concrete form not through the conversion of Christian statesmen, etc., but through the concrete encounter of the secular institutions with the Church of Jesus Christ, her proclamation and her life.

—Bonhoeffer, Ethics, 324.

Unstoppable | Maria Sharapova

The cover of Sharapova's UnstoppableMaria Sharapova is a Juggernaut of the tennis world. She has been in fifty-nine career WTA finals, winning thirty-six titles (and counting—by the time this post is published, the 2018 Australian Open will be complete). She has an ability to finish on the biggest stages. At seventeen years of age she beat Serena Williams at Wimbledon. In 2012 she won her first French Open title, completing the career grand slam—a task only ten women have achieved.

Of course, she is also known for her meldonium suspension. Despite being cleared of any intentional wrongdoing (“under no circumstances, therefore, can the Player be considered an ‘intentional doper'” (Court of Arbitration for Sport verdict, 288)), many people only remember the initial news headline.

Her fifteen month meldonium suspension is not the only challenge she has faced in life. Her parents fled their home in the shadow of Chernobyl to Siberia and later to Sochi where Sharapova first picked up a tennis racket. As a young child her Father took her to America hoping her raw talent would open doors (it did). Her crushing serve has led to shoulder surgery and a new style of game-play. Serena William’s record against her is 19-2, despite that initial Wimbledon victory. Every time there is a setback, Sharapova’s drive to beat her opponents motivates her return.

The title, Unstoppable, perfectly fits a life that refuses to quit.

Sharapova, Maria with Rich Cohen. Unstoppable: My Life So Far. New York: Sarah Crichton Books, 2017.

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