Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ephesians: A Participatory Guide

Allan Bevere and the folks at Energion Publications have been kind enough to provide me with an advance reader copy of a participatory study guide to Ephesians.

As an author, Robert Cornwall is uniquely qualified to write just such a volume. He is the Pastor of Central Woodward Christian Church in Troy Michigan and he holds a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. What that means is that Cornwall brings together the concerns of both the Pastor and the Scholar as he leads the reader through a study of Ephesians. Indeed Cornwall has this say about the volume: "Faith and understanding are not mutually exclusive categories, and this study seeks to draw them together" (1v).

The method used for this study is lectio divina ("holy reading"). This method is steeped in over 1800 years of Christian history and tradition. Using the "four movements" (Reading, Meditating, Praying and Contemplating), Cornwall leads the reader through 8 lessons that cover the Epistle to Ephesians. Each lesson has:

  1. An opening prayer
  2. A reading from Ephesians
  3. The lesson for the section
  4. A set of discussion questions
  5. An exercise to help reinforce the lesson and the experience
  6. A historical/theological reflection
  7. A closing prayer

I am impressed with Cornwall's efforts. He has done a fine job bringing in both theological and pastoral concerns (not that they are or should be different than one another). He is also not afraid to shy away from difficult, yet important questions. For instance, in the first lesson he dives right into the debate over whether Paul wrote Ephesians or if someone wrote it in Paul's name. The topic of pseudonymity is not usually on the mind of those not engaged in scholarly debates. But Cornwall does not "protect" the reader, but instead draws the reader in to consider the implications. And as far as I can tell, he does not tell the reader what to think. Rather the reader is engaged further in the discussion questions when he asks them to think about how pseudonymity might or might not effect a reading of Ephesians.

Another strength is the way the reader is introduced to the wider Christian tradition. The opening closing prayers of each lesson are taken from the various hymn and prayers that have been handed down to us across the years. In one lesson the reader begins with a prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr (20th cent) and concludes with one from St Dionysius (3rd cent). In this fashion, the reader interacts with and appreciates the continuum of Christian worship throughout history.

The volume is complemented by a useful appendix listing some recommended "tools" for doing Bible study. This is particularly helpful since several of the exercises include reading in Bible dictionaries or commentaries. Cornwall's selection will help the reader to find and use a quality resource.

I commend Robert Cornwall and Energion Publications for producing a thoughtful study guide that does not spoon feed information to readers and supply with trite solutions to make it through life. Rather, this volume will challenge the reader to think as well as learn. It would serve either an individual or group study, but I think a group setting would make the interaction all the more valuable. I look forward to seeing other similar study guides in the future.

The release date for the Ephesians guide in January 3rd.

I have decided that I will do a giveaway with this volume. Leave your full name in the comment section of the post. I will take names until 11:55pm on Thursday, December 16th. I will choose the recipient on Friday.

13 comments:

  1. Ohhh another give-away. I love it!

    Please add me to the list.

    I was not familiar with lectio divina until PoE - but have learned to really appreciate this method.

    I enjoy your blog and you have been added to my 'bookmark toolbar". I know this will bring a tear of joy to your eyes.
    Jill

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  2. This sounds like a great resource, I would love to check it out. Tadd N Sponseller

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  3. John,

    Thank you for your kind review of my book. I hope that it will prove to be a blessing to individuals and groups as they struggle with this important letter!

    Bob

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  4. Thanks for your kind review. Since I'm the publisher, I wanted to point out that we're a couple of weeks from release, which is scheduled for January 3.

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  5. Count me in.....Ricky Chambers

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  6. Thanks for the solid review, John. I value your advice and will commend this book to our church. Blessings, Brad Selan

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  7. One of the best events of retirement is having time to study Scripture & pass on to others what I have learned. This book sounds like my "cup of tea". Connie

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  8. Beth Hoffman--I would like to be entered in this giveaway.

    I've recently learned about lectio divina and thought it was very cool indeed!

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  9. Please enter me into the drawing. I love free giveaways!

    Joel Bucklin

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  10. Sounds like a good read!
    Matt Fullen

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