Review

PUBLICATION DATE: NOVEMBER 1, 2010

C

ommentaries don’t tend to be the type of literature that Christians get excited about. They tend to be fairly academic and quite dry. At least, that is the perception. Most theologians would disagree with that assessment. But, perception is reality for many people. Not to mention, what is exciting for an academic or theologian might not be exciting for the rest of the Christian populace who are fed a steady diet of pop theology, self-help, and apologetics from the pulpit and the book shelf. Enter the “Resonate Series” from Intervarsity Press.

This series of commentaries, beginning with Paul Louis Metzger’s The Gospel of John: When Love Comes To Town,

Instead of going verse-by-verse, the author of each Resonate volume draws insights from the featured biblical book’s major themes, all the while attentive to the context of in which the themes are developed, for the purposes of guiding, guarding and growing readers as they move forward in their spiritual journeys…Our aim with this distinctive new genre or approach is to have one finger in the ancient Scriptures, another in the daily newspaper, and another finger touching the heart, all the while pointing to Jesus Christ.

It is an ambitious undertaking to be sure. I believe what The Gospel of John ends up being is a long sermon of sorts. The academic work is not sloppy nor is the imaginative work of communicating that work. This is essentially the art of the sermon. Each week, as a pastor crafts and eventually preaches his or her sermon, a good one must “have one finger in the ancient Scriptures, another in the daily newspaper, and another finger touching the heart, all the while pointing to Jesus Christ. Thus this commentary’s back-and-forth between our world and the world of Jesus is something most of us experience every week as we sit in the pew. As in math, this series simply “shows the work.” The final sermon is the English equivalent of “hiding all the edits.”

Is it appealing, though? I think so, but I am a young theologian. I love thinking about this kind of stuff. But, I’m afraid that while many pew sitters say they want to study deeply, by-and-large they have not been equipped to do so. Our churches, despite the hard work of the pastor wrestling with the text throughout the week, have served to create lazy followers not given to rigorous study of the Scriptures. This series is by far the most accessible I have come across, but I’m not entirely sure its going to “resonate” with the Christian consumer (beyond pastors, those already given to buying commentaries). It is dragged out to sea by the very tide is attempting to turn.

Overall, I think the author and series editor have accomplished something unique in the world of commentaries. As someone who swears by tried-and-true, dusty old commentary volumes, the “Resonate Series” is a welcome addition to my growing library of theological resources.  My hope is that the general consumer will accept the honest challenge of loving God with heart, soul, and mind, as this series really requires all three.