Thursday, August 7, 2014

Book Review: "The Derision of Heaven" (Michael Whitworth)

Author Michael Whitworth's The Derision of Heaven is a Biblically based discussion of the Old Testament Book of Daniel, in which Whitworth systematically explains symbolism, historicity, prophetic inclusions, and even some of the more confusing visions Daniel saw.

With clarity, patience, and a conversational style infused with occasion dryly witty comments, Whitworth steps through the Book of Daniel in chronological order, one chapter at a time. His intent is to provide readers with the historical and religious background for each chapter, the context in which the chapter's contents were written, and so to invite understanding for the text.

The tone of the book --- really, more of an intensive Bible study --- is not at all pedantic, boring, conspiratorial, or condescending. On the contrary, Whitworth seems determined to invite readers to join him in an open-minded exploration of some of the most challenging passages in the Bible, ones that scholars have debated for centuries and continue to debate.

Nonetheless, Whitworth's exegesis is Biblically sound, with verses from the rest of the Bible pulled in for clarity and detailed footnotes that reference all the academic and scholarly resources he used to undertake his study.

Most everyone knows the story of Daniel and the lions' den, whether from a children's picture book or a church sermon about faith in the midst of adversity or a cultural reference to the oppression of Christians in that era.

Fewer people (who have not been raised in traditionalist churches or families) will recall the story of Daniel's friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and their trial with the fiery furnace (Daniel 3) or the story of the hand that appeared and wrote on the wall, judging King Belshazzar (Daniel 5).

And yet Whitworth contends that the overarching theme of Daniel remains consistent throughout, despite the wide variety of narratives, prophecies, and apocalyptic language included. He suggests that the theme of Daniel is the honor and awe due God for God's power and provision, regardless of adversity. That, Whitworth says, is a promise to which God's people can cling, no matter what's going on in their lives, and that Daniel is the perfect place to learn how to trust in such a God.

But for the periodic typo, the work is reliably written, lending credibility to Whitworth's study, and where many scholars take a conspiracy-laden or apocalyptic approach to interpreting Daniel's visions, in particular, Whitworth leans more heavily on the side of history to explain what might otherwise appear to be recipes for disastrous societal panic about the Second Coming of Christ in judgment.

I appreciated Whitworth's down-to-earth, rational approach, and the logic and patience with which he contends his interpretation of the Scripture. I would highly recommend this book as a Bible study for anyone interested in delving deeper into Daniel than just the usual story of his encounter with lions.

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Title: The Derision of Heaven
Author: Michael Whitworth
ISBN: 978-1941972014
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received this book free from the publisher through the review program in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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