Author Archive | Stephen Barkley

Jesus the Christ | Thomas G. Weinandy

The cover of Weinandy's Jesus the ChristAnalogies, when the subject is God, always fall short.

One of the most common analogies for the Trinity is H20. Just as H20 can be a solid (ice), liquid (water), or gas (steam), God is Father, Son and Spirit. The analogy seems like an apt way to throw light on the inconceivable theological arithmetic where 1+1+1=1 (another analogy)! Weinandy, having thought through the details of the H20 analogy, simply states that “[i]t perfectly illustrates Modalism” (60)! This example demonstrates Weinandy’s clear-sightedness when it comes to the Christology and Soteriology.

Jesus the Christ is a refreshingly straightforward look at who Jesus is and what he accomplished. Weinandy begins with scripture before tracing the thought of the church through the patristic and medieval eras, and into the present. His chronological method is particularly helpful in explaining the multitude of heresies that confronted the church in its formative years.

In approaching this book from a pentecostal perspective, I was struck by the way in which the Spirit preserved and revealed truth throughout the centuries. The Spirit inspired people like Ignatius, Origen, and Athanasius to write, using their limited amount of light, to bring about a more complete picture of the truth.

In a field of systematic theology notorious for its difficulty, Weinandy’s book is a breath of fresh air suitable for a new theological students or thoughtful laity.


Weinandy, Thomas G. Jesus the Christ. Middletown, DE: Ex Fontibus Company, 2017.

Deliverance to the Captives | Karl Barth

The cover of Barth's Deliverance to the CaptivesKarl Barth is a theological giant of the Twentieth Century. His fourteen volume, 9,200 page Church Dogmatics has cemented his legacy. This background is what makes Deliverance to the Captives so interesting. It’s a collection of sermons Barth delivered to “avowedly critical and ‘un-Christian'” (Schwarz in Barth 12) prisoners. Is it possible for Barth to simplify his theology to connect with the every-man?

The answer is a resounding “Yes!” For each message, Barth takes a short snippet of scripture and simply reflects on it. “You Shall Be My People” (60-66) is a good example. In preaching on Leviticus 26:12, “I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people,” he simply breaks the passage down into its three statements and shares his thoughts on them.

I was impressed by Barth’s bold humility. He didn’t shy away from the fact that he was preaching to prisoners. In fact, he specifically chose passages like Romans 11:32, “For God has made all men prisoners, that he may have mercy upon all.” He didn’t hesitate to include himself as “prisoner.”

Barth’s messages in Deliverance to the Captives have the power to speak to spiritual and physical captives even today.


Barth, Karl. Deliverance to the Captivesds. Translated by Marguerite Wieser. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1961.

Unifying Pentecostalism | Walter J. Hollenweger

Walter HollenwegerI believe that there is something unifying in the Pentecostal movement, but it is probably not on the level of doctrine. It is a way of doing theology: experience-related, open to oral forms, ecumenical (by virtue of its many worldwide forms), and expressing itself in categories of pneumatology.

—Hollenweger, Pentecostalism, 329.

The Way of Discernment | Elizabeth Liebert

The cover of Liebert's The Way of Discernment“What’s God’s will for my life?” might be the single most common question asked of any pastor. The question usually comes from a person at the crossroads of a major life-decision. Should I change career or stay safe? Should I commit to that mission trip or stay at home? Should I marry him or move on? Elizabeth Liebert provides a holistic way to bring the decisions of life to God.

Three elements set this book apart from the rest.

  1. Grounded. Liebert grounds her discernment practice in the writings of Ignatius of Loyola. From the initial prayer of examen to reflections on consolation and desolation, Ignatius’ fingerprints are all throughout this book. From those Ignatian roots, Liebert moves out to glean wisdom from a variety of other sources, from Jonathan Edwards to the practices of the Quakers.
  2. Practical. Liebert is not only interested in providing a theology of discernment. She invites readers to “begin [their] own discernment process, rather than just thinking about discernment” (xi). To facilitate discernment, Liebert has included a series of exercises throughout the text which will give the reader the practical tools necessary to develop their own discernment practice. The book is so practical, I suspect it will become one of my most lent-out volumes (and re-purchased when my book isn’t returned)!
  3. God-Oriented. While some of the discernment practices included would find a welcome reception in a corporate boardroom, the overall thrust of the book is to determine God’s will (or to use Liebert’s preferred word, “call”). To retain this focus she emphasizes spiritual freedom through indifference. By this, Liebert stresses indifference to anything other than God’s fundamental call.

The Way of Discernment is theologically rich yet easy to follow. I will be sharing it with anyone who is seriously concerned with determining God’s next steps for their life.


Liebert, Elizabeth. The Way of Discernment: Spiritual Practices for Decision Making. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008.

Unity and Solidarity | Ernst Käsemann

Ernst KasemannFor Paul, unity in the body of Christ does not mean the sameness of all the members; it means the solidarity which can endure the strain of the differences—the different gifts and different weaknesses of the different members.

—Käsemann, Perspectives on Paul, 3.

Borne | Jeff Vandermeer

The cover of Vandermeer's BorneRachel and Wick live in a nightmare. The world they can’t remember—except through drug-like memory beetles inserted into their ears—has been destroyed and abandoned by The Company. Their lives have been reduced to scavenging the debris and detritus of failed biotech experiments. Then Rachel found Borne on the flanks of Mord, a multi-story bear-human hybrid experiment. Did I mention that Mord can fly?

If you’re reading this second paragraph, you might enjoy the New Weird genre described by Rose O’Keefe as “cutting edge speculative fiction with a literary slant.” Vandermeer’s Borne is not meaningless fiction. Publisher’s Weekly elevates it beyond weird fiction. Borne is “weird literature.”

The ethical dilemmas that Rachel and Wick face resonate with those that humanity faces in real life. This is all wrapped in a mystery story that will keep you frantically turning pages until you reach the end.

Like his earlier Southern Reach Trilogy, Borne is a compelling work of New Weird literary fiction that challenges the reader to see the real world in a new light.

 


Vandermeer, Jeff. Borne. Toronto: HarperCollins, 2017.

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