A narrative turn
There’s an increasing tendency developing within Western Christian thought to pay attention to the background story of Bible which due to past biblical literacy was merely assumed. And so Evangelism and Evangelicalism in the past, when it gave its gospel spiel and insisted on word-centredness benefited from the fact the audience was well versed in Christianity’s language games.
Pitched as a book for those with little or non existent knowledge of Christianity, in other words the unbeliever or the new believer. The book centers around “Four Big Questions We Should Be Asking But Typically Don’t” – Which God? What does it mean to be human? What is Sin? What is the Solution/Salvation?
From the outset, we are told these four questions are to be answered from the narrative we find in Acts. We later find that this new testament book in it of itself is inadequate and does not stand alone but needs a context, which is found in the first few chapters of Genesis and used to answer the third question – What is Sin? Although the turning to Genesis happens on the back of Paul’s recounting of his conversion in Acts 26, which is then used to explain what it means to repent.
After running through all of the questions, the second part of book then urges us on to continue on in grace which we are helpfully reminded we are to continue in, rather than lapsing to prune-juiced commitment to sour faces and prickly conduct codes (pg 92).
Foundations works very well as a Bible/Gospel primer and if it is meant to be, then telling the audience they should “remember how Jesus told Nicodemus that if he wanted to talk about things relating to God…” (pg 60) either means this was already mentioned earlier in the book (I cannot locate this earlier reference to Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus) or it assumes that the reader knows this story.
Another minor qualm is the use of the disputed fact of there being 613 laws according the Jews, which is then reduced to 4 in Acts 15 against the wishes of PBBs – Pharisee Background Believers. Everybody loves bashing Pharisees ! Though this fits nicely within the argument being proposed in the book, the reality of how the Law was perceived by the Jews in the time of Jesus is a lot more nuanced than this.
Finally, Mead asserts that what was lost in the fall was the spirit – the spirit departed and from that point on humanity had lost the captivated sense of God’s beautiful holiness (pg 59, 60). Although it is somewhat true that the curse of death in the fall has a spiritual dimension, there isn’t much to extrapolate about the working of the third person of the trinity pre-fall, we are only left to speculate with the available new testament data. For the working of the Spirit during the post-fall old covenant period, I recommend James Hamilton’s book, which argues that although the spirit is at work in regeneration of the O.T believer, indwelling occurs only with the new covenant, nevertheless, relationship was possible with God in both the new and old dispensations. I admit, this is only but theological nit picking, a credit to the book. The first pair must have enjoyed a relationship with the triune God in Eden which of course included the Holy Spirit, there is however more to be said about the nakedness of man in genesis that goes beyond and is not limited to just the lost of the spirit.
Overall, this is an excellent read and a welcome resource for both evangelism and discipleship purposes. The relational aspect of God’s love for humanity is beautifully highlighted as a major and unique aspect of Christianity in contrast to the dead religiosity secular caricatures of the faith. At just 93 pages with small dimensions – 17.5 x 10.9 x 0.8 cm (less than A5 size) – it makes a very quick read and an upgrade on a gospel tract. The language used is simple but not infantile, the print is just right, chapters are focused on each question and adequately answered.