Thursday, September 20, 2012

Book Review : frameworks : Eric Larson

While I was in seminary, we were frequently assigned an Old Testament or New Testament Introduction book as a bird's eye view of the biblical books covered in the course.  My experience with these "Introductions," however, made clear to me that the introductory nature  of those volumes referred more to the relatively short treatment of each biblical book and not the quality or accessibility of the treatment.  Which means that an average OT/NT Introduction book may very well be intimidating for folks who are genuinely seeking a better understanding of Scripture, yet don't have the supporting resources provided in a seminary environment.

This presents a fairly wide gap in the literature available to the vast majority of Christians seeking help in understanding the literary background of the most important Book around.  The Bible is the very Word of God and careful handling of the Word shouldn't be alone practiced by those men called to shepherd the local church in pastoral ministry.  The Scriptures necessitate responsible handling by all, which can be helped by the responsible use of a volume that treats the big picture, background, authorship, and intent of the books comprising the Old and New Testaments.  In writing frameworks, Eric Larson seeks to fill this void with an accessible resource he labels "An Extraordinary Guide for Ordinary People."

Mr. Larson's efforts are, by and large, helpful and function as they are intended.  Nowhere does he intimate that this book is intended to replace Guthrie's New Testament Introduction.  His style of writing is accessible (more on that below) and the book's structure is memorable and helpful.  Though the book's content comes in around 350 pages, it is graphically rich and presents helpful images that capture the theme he intends to communicate.  The scholarship draws water up from disputed wells so as not to confuse readers with unnecessary adventures into academia.  It is, largely, a fairly helpful resource.

There are a couple things that I would encourage future efforts in this vein to avoid.  Larson's writing, intentionally accessible, is, at times, a bit too casual.  Titus is compared to Red Adair and, while I understand his rationale, this example - along with others - displays a bit too much liberty taken in characterizing the people and literature of the New Testament.  It is memorable, but may not be helpful and accurate in its memorability.  Additionally, while I recognize the desire to avoid over-complicating issues of scholarship, there is a lack of complexity to his treatment that may oversimplify some things.  The only issue I found with the content itself was what seemed to be a portrayal of the Law and Old Testament institutions that was only abolished by Christ instead of fulfilled.  It might be me being picky, but I believe it makes a big difference when we look at the Old Testament finding its fulfillment in the Savior, rather than a sense of abandonment for the New.  Otherwise, frameworks would find a decent home in most any evangelical church.

Altogether, Mr. Larson has done a very decent job in providing a resource to Christians seeking to gain a better understanding of Scripture without the intimidating likeness belonging to a number of resources that are otherwise very helpful.  This book, with the slight reservations mentioned above, would do well for any Christian to pick up and gain a more helpful understanding of the New Testament.  Thank you to the publisher for providing a complimentary review copy, which was provided to me free from expectation of a positive review or recommendation.

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