My Next Book—On Abraham and Job

I just received my finalized contract from Baker Academic for my next book. I signed the contract and sent it in a couple of weeks ago, and the counter-signed contract arrived yesterday.

The book is tentatively entitled The Silence of Abraham, The Passion of Job: Explorations in the Theology of Lament.

A Comparison of Abraham and Job

The focus of the book would be a comparison of Abraham’s ominous and silent attempt to sacrifice his son in Genesis 22 (known in Jewish tradition as the Aqedah or “binding” of Isaac) with Job’s outspoken challenge to God in response to his sufferings (which God finally affirms as “right” speech, at the end of the book).

I’m planning to work on the book over my next sabbatical, which begins in the summer of 2016. During the sabbatical, I will be presenting my research as the Thiessen lectures at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and also as Visiting Theologian-in-Residence at St. Barnabas’ College and St. Mark’s National Theological Centre, both in Australia (where I’ll be for four weeks).

The book would be framed by the important question of how Christians, who believe and trust in the God of heaven and earth, may respond to suffering. Given that the lament or protest psalms provide model modes of prayer in situations of suffering, the book would challenge traditional Christian interpretations of Genesis 22 and the book of Job. Whereas Abraham’s blind obedience in Genesis 22 to God’s command to sacrifice his son is typically seen as virtuous, God’s response to Job is usually thought to be a divine put-down for his audacity in challenging God’s running of the cosmos.

Some Exegetical Questions

Among the exegetical questions to be addressed in the book are:

  • Why does Abraham shift from bold protest prayer on behalf of Sodom in Genesis 18 to ominous silence about the death of his own son in Genesis 22?
  • What is the significance of the phrase “dust and ashes,” which occurs in the Bible only on the lips of Abraham (in Genesis 18) and Job (in Job 30 and 42)?
  • In what sense is the term “God-fearer” applied both to Abraham (in Genesis 22) and to Job (in the first two chapters of the book)?
  • Could the book of Job be thought of as a commentary on the Abraham story?
  • If so, what are we to understand by this inner-biblical interpretation?
  • And what are the implications of the differing responses to suffering of these two “patriarchs” (one Jewish, one gentile) for our understanding of faithful prayer in the face of suffering in the church today?

A Spirituality of Suffering

The book will draw on relevant teaching I have done on Genesis and Job and on academic papers I have presented on Genesis 22 and YHWH’s speeches in the book of Job.

But my engagement with Abraham and Job would not be geared to a purely academic outcome. This engagement is in the service of developing an honest, yet trustful, spirituality of suffering that could empower God’s people with hope in their daily lives, as they face a world full of chaos and pain.

Videos of my three Thiessen lectures on the lament psalms, Abraham, and Job (along with summaries) are now available here.

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Book Awards Received by A New Heaven and a New Earth

I recently posted about a book award that A New Heaven and a New Earth (Baker Academic, 2014) received from a Canadian organization for Christian writers—the World Guild Award—for best book in the Biblical Studies Category.

But it had previously received a number of other awards from various organizations and websites. This is further affirmation, like icing on the cake.

In roughly chronological order, here are the awards I’m aware of:

Hearts and Minds Bookstore: Best Book of Biblical Studies for 2014. I’ve always appreciated Byron Borger, bookseller extraordinaire, who founded this bookstore back in the days of brick and mortar. Glad to see he has added a significant web presence, and that he resources many major Christian conferences with booktables that are an education in themselves.

Englewood Review of Books: Best Theology Book of 2014. I don’t known too much about these folks, except that they’re based in Englewood Christian Church, Indianapolis (and they take inspiration from Shane Claiborne).

Jesus Creed: 2014 Books of the Year—Theology Category (1 of 2 books). I have got to know Scot McKnight, who runs this website, through a recent conference and our email correspondence. This award comes from nominations by the five bloggers who post at Jesus Creed (Scot McKnight, RJS, John Frye, Jonathan Storment, and Dave Moore).

Nijay Gupta: Best Book Written by a Jamaican-Canadian Living in the USA (2014). I love this one! This is a pretty exclusive category, invented simply because of my friendship with Nijay, who has been reviewing books in biblical studies on his website for many years.

Christian Retailing’s Best Awards (2015)—Finalist in “Eschatology Book” Category (1 of 3 books shortlisted). I don’t know much about this group, or when exactly they will be choosing the winning book.

 I’m grateful to God for these signs of affirmation, but even more grateful for the folks who have benefited from the book and have written to let me know.

A New Heaven and a New Earth just won the Word Guild Award for best Biblical Studies Book of 2014

Writing my eschatology book A New Heaven and a New Earth (Baker Academic, 2014) has been a labor of love. Like all my books, I’ve put my heart and soul into it. So seeing the book in print, and hearing of its impact on people’s thinking and lives, has been a great encouragement.

Best Biblical Studies Book—Word Guild Book Awards

To top it off, I just found out that A New Heaven and a New Earth won the World Guild Award for best book of 2014 in the Biblical Studies Category. I knew the book had been shortlisted (1 of 3) for the award by the World Guild (the primer Christian organization for Canadian writers). They had their annual Gala in Toronto tonight (June 13, 2015) and announced winners in various categories.

Best Overall Book—Word Guild Book Awards

The winner for general Academic book was Leonard Hjalmarson for No Home Like Place (The Urban Loft, 2014). Len also won the Grace Irwin prize for best overall book—quite an honor (or should I say honour).

I met Len in 2013 when he roomed with me to attend the Canadian Evangelical Theological Association (CETA) meeting in Victoria, BC. He presented a beautiful paper entitled “Recovering the Practice of Place: A Theology of Place,” which was based on the book he was writing.

I’m honoured to be in such company.

For some other awards the book has received, see my follow-up post.