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Making Sense of the Bible: Rediscovering the Power of Scripture Today Hardcover – March 18, 2014

4.6 out of 5 stars 414 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“When I think about how many people have been turned off to the Christian faith because of how they mis-read and mis-understand the Bible, I can only say, ‘Thank you Jesus for this book!’ It’s going to help a lot of people.” (Tony Campolo, Founder and President, Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education)

“Wondrously accessible, Hamilton combines good scholarship with a light touch and exhibits his wise, generous pastoral heart. Hamilton does not let us forget that he bears witness to the gospel and the result is a discussion that permits readers to think again and faithfully about the Bible.” (Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary)

“Clear, straightforward, lucid, faithful, helpful. Highly recommended.” (James Martin, SJ, author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage)

“This is an honest, relevant, and captivating book. Hamilton asks taboo questions and refuses cliché answers. He invites you to join him on a quest for truth, and even if you don’t arrive at the same destination, you will sure enjoy the ride.” (Shane Claiborne, author and activist)

“Acting as friend and guide to those who seek to read the Bible intelligently and with spiritual insight, Hamilton walks readers through the pitfalls of fundamentalism and dry scholarship, opening up both the Bible’s profound humanity and its wisdom for living.” (Diana Butler Bass, author of Christianity After Religion)

“I can think of no one more adept at bringing out the beauty and authority of scripture while also shedding light on the Bible’s most controversial teachings than Adam Hamilton. This is a must read for anyone who is looking for a fuller understanding of the Bible.” (Jim Wallis, president and founder of Sojourners and author of On God's Side)

“If you hope there’s a better way to read, live by, and value the Bible, Hamilton has written the book that will help you-and people you know and love. It’s understandable. It’s honest. It’s wise. And it’s so, so needed.” (Brian D. McLaren author of We Make the Road by Walking)

This isn’t your grandfather’s revivalism. Equal parts an evangelical return to the Bible as the foundation of Protestant Christianity—and a scholarly, inclusive approach to understanding scripture that draws on themes familiar to readers of Brian D. McLaren, Rob Bell and Marcus Borg. Most importantly, for the millions of men and women who have been avoiding churches for years, this is a faithful and intelligent orientation to the Bible. (Read the Spirit)

“Helpful, pastoral, and hopeful....this book is a gift to the broader church at a time when we are not simply wrestling with so-called controversial issues, but perhaps discerning a fresh word from God on how to live as faithful Christ-followers in the twenty-first century.” (The Covenant Companion)

“The best single volume introduction to the bible.” (The Quarterly Journal of the Academy of Parish Clergy)

From the Back Cover

In Making Sense of the Bible, Adam Hamilton invites us into an honest conversation about the Bible. The book begins with foundational questions such as, How and when was the Bible written? Who decided which books made it into the scriptures and why? How literally must we read it? And, Is the Bible ever wrong?

From there, Hamilton considers the real questions people frequently ask that continue to divide Christians and denominations alike, including:

  • Were Adam and Eve real people?
  • Why is God so violent in the Old Testament?
  • Why would Paul command women to "keep silent in the church"?
  • Is Jesus the only way to salvation?
  • How does God view homosexual people?
  • Is the Book of Revelation a guide to the End Times?

In approachable and inviting language, Hamilton addresses these often misunderstood biblical themes leading readers to a deeper appreciation of the Bible so that we might hear God speak through it and find its words to be life-changing and life-giving.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (March 18, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006223496X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062234964
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (414 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,219 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As a lifelong journalist covering religion in America, I have been skeptical of Adam Hamilton's rapid rise in popularity nationwide. How was he doing this in a mainline Protestant church? Why were so many people, now 20,000 members, flocking to his Church of the Resurrection? Then, recently, I had an opportunity to do solid journalistic research into his history, his work today and specifically this new book as well as its related study materials. Turns out: He's a brilliant and faithful pastor with a heart, and a writing and speaking style, that welcomes and respects his audience.

I see themes in this book that echo N.T. Wright as well as Marcus Borg. I hear Brian McLaren's compassionate evangelical voice echoing here. I see Rob Bell's passion for the Bible, coupled with top scholarship, echoed here. If you're a fan of any of those authors, you'll find yourself comfortably enjoying this book. You may not agree with every conclusion Hamilton draws in this book, but his scholarship is rock solid and his invitation to think about the Bible in new ways is clear and inviting.

Research has long shown us that America is distinctive in the world for the intensity of our faith, as a culture, and for our outspoken desire as Americans to express ourselves. Unfortunately, research also shows that a majority of Americans, when asked, can't name the four Gospels. Whether that describes you as you read about this new book, or whether you've been involved in a congregation all your life, reading this book is sure to make you think about the Bible from new perspectives.

In addition to an excellent opening section that provides a sweeping overview of the Bible, its history and its timeless power, about half of the book looks at individual topics that have troubled people of faith over the centuries. The sections on violence and on slavery and on gender are fascinating and make great choices for small-group discussion in your community.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have only one real disagreement with what Adam Hamilton writes in Making Sense of the Bible, although it is a significant disagreement, which I will discuss shortly. Apart from this, I found the entire book valuable, useful, and quite cogently presented.

Hamilton’s goal is to help people who aren’t familiar with the Bible, or who are troubled by certain passages in it, to “make sense of it.” To this, end he begins very helpfully with the crucial question, “What exactly is the Bible?” (p. 7). He explains that it is not what it is often considered to be: an “owner’s manual,” a source of random guidance, a collection of data for systematic theology, a science and history textbook, or a treasury of “precious promises.”

Hamilton then provides historical, geographic, and literary overviews of the Bible to orient readers to its background and contents. These will be valuable and helpful resources for the many today who don’t start with a basic knowledge of the Bible. Hamilton addresses some questions about the nature of Scripture and then devotes the last half of the book to “making sense of the Bible’s challenging passages.”

As I read through the book, there were certain chapters that I found very meaningful personally. Hamilton’s testimony in Chapter 24 of how he “came to love Jesus” by reading the gospels is poignant and beautiful. And I would recommend his reflections on suffering in the preceding chapter to anyone who is going through difficult times.

So what’s my one disagreement? It’s with Hamilton’s answer to the question of what the Bible actually is. He says it is a collection of books “written by men seeking to express what they believed was God’s will.
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Format: Kindle Edition
For tackling tough issues that require careful thought and sensitivity to billions of Christians, Pastor Adam Hamilton is to be commended. Hamilton has boldly gone where many United Methodist bishops have feared to tread. "Making Sense of the Bible" is borne of a great love for the Bible, along with years of study and pastoral ministry. Moreover, Hamilton is always charitable toward those with whom he disagrees. That point should be underlined because some folks (sometimes rather angrily) insist he should take a tougher line with his theological opponents. His final chapter on faithfully and fruitfully engaging the Bible is instructive. For all these reasons, this book deserves a fair hearing.

That said, Hamilton's strength may be his weakness. Hamilton has a thoughtful pastor's ability to simplify the complex. Sometimes that works, but other times it oversimplifies or creates false dichotomies. Pastor Hamilton and I share many of the same conclusions - not all, but many. However, I am concerned that some of his conclusions set forth here will not ultimately bear the weight his other conclusions require them to bear.

For example, Hamilton openly admits he's a traditional Christian fundamentalist on 4.5 of the 5 "Fundamentals (p. 298)," including the virgin birth of Jesus and Christ's atonement for humanity's sin. But Hamilton has consciously shifted toward a classically Liberal Protestant understanding of biblical inspiration and authority, one which tilts toward human authorship rather than divine influence upon the Bible. When Liberal Protestants of the early 20th c. took the same route, they eventually left those Fundamentals behind.
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