Friday, October 7, 2011

Christian Century Fall 2011 Books Issue: Hitchhiker's make the list!

The fall, 2011 books issue of The Christian Century has listed A Hitchhiker's Guide to Jesus as one their ten "take and read" books in New Testament, with a brief review by Beverley Roberts Gaventa of Princeton:
The contents of this book live up to the advertisement in the title. Fisk introduces the academic study of Jesus and the Gospels through the conceit of a college student's journal while traveling through Israel. The journal entries include such diverse items as accounts of conversations with biblical scholars, sticky notes from primary sources, quotes from Monty Python and a recipe for making a volcano. Along the way "Norm" struggles to reconcile his faith with his findings in a journey that many will recognize as their own.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Nijay Gupta, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Seattle Pacific University, describes my book as "narrative therapy." Here's the relevant paragraph (with italics added).
I think what Fisk understands is that most “backgrounds” books are boring. Also, they don’t engage directly in the personal challenges of faith, the questions that are raised by the mystery of who Jesus is and what he was doing in his life on earth. “Norm” illuminates our thinking not simply by answers discovered, but also in the eagerness to explore every nook and cranny of the Holy Land while reading every bit of the Gospels. This is, in a sense, “narrative therapy” for real students who need to “explore” their own doubts when they engage in historical Jesus studies.
And here's my favorite bit (though I'm pretty sure the tobacco in Norm's hookah was narcotics-free):
You can tell that Fisk is not interested in comfortable, quick, or easy answers. The book points towards a sense of owning the complexity in such a way that faith continues to be an adventure. There is no taming Jesus in faith, there is no taming Jerusalem (today, right now), there is no end to the exploring. And…there is a lot of fun to be had on the way (some of it involving narcotics?).
Nijay writes with a nice touch. Still to come are his "ruminations on the genre of the Gospels." Looking forward to that.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Butler professor has kind words for Duke basketball fan

Also posting today about Hitchhiker's is James F. McGrath, Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University, Indianapolis. Since my school, Duke, hung on to beat Butler for the national title in 2010, I wouldn't blame James if he tried to even the score. :) He plans to blog about the book's details throughout the week so come back for updates and my response. Meanwhile, his initial assessment includes this remark:
This is a book about exploring the intersection of faith and scholarship, and about learning to live with ambiguity and uncertainty. The first reaction of many people of faith when confronted with critical Biblical scholarship is indeed panic. And so Fisk’s sharing of such reactions, and description of the discovery of a better way, it refreshing and helpful.
UPDATE: Professor McGrath's posted part two on Tuesday (10-4). I much appreciate his attention to matters of pedagogy and to our need to honor the student's journey.
Norm’s journey serves as a helpful reminder of the fact that we all “see from somewhere” . . . And while some of us may try to stick to “just the facts” in our teaching, . . . many of our students will still be interested in whether it is possible to both study and follow. Fisk puts it this way: “Norm…refuses to choose between curiosity and conviction” (p.7). But Norm himself puts it better: “Could I be rigorously honest with the evidence and thoughtfully faithful to the tradition?” (p.16).

Reviews of Hitchhiker's Guide from opposite sides of the globe

The "blog tour" for A Hitchhiker's Guide to Jesus posted two new reviews today.

John Byron
, of The Biblical World, posted here. Byron is Associate Professor of New Testament at Ashland Theological Seminary. This excerpt near the end of his review was particularly encouraging:
Finally, what also makes this book unique, as well as useful, is the honest way in which Norm is allowed to wrestle with the tension between faith and history, between fact and tradition. Fisk does not duck the questions that historical inquiry raises about Jesus and the gospels. Through Norm, he thinks out loud about the implications of a faith that is not always able to find the security of historical moorings. He doesn’t provide any easy answers. Readers are given the materials they need to work with, but they are left to wrestle with the answers for themselves. I think this is the way it should be.
Also blogging today was Michael Bird, over at Euangelion. Bird is Lecturer in Theology and New Testament at Crossway College in Brisbane, Australia. Although I winced when I read the word "cute," I'm glad that Michael thinks the book approaches familiar questions in a fresh way.
I have to confess that this really is a clever and cute little introduction to Jesus. Intro’s to Jesus/Gospels are fairly bountiful, so it takes a bit of straining of the grey matter to come up with something new. Fisk has done just that in this book.
I'm expecting more blog posts throughout the week, so stay tuned!