Friday, September 17, 2010

Review: Seeds of Turmoil by Bryant Wright

Thomas Nelson's recent release on the Conflict in the middle east reads with clear armchair simplicity but contains well-researched scholarship that lays a far deeper foundation than the tone and style might suggest. Bryant Wright's cordial, colloquial tone gives the book a quick pace and natural readability. The work clearly aims not at literary or scholarly achievement within the realm of theology or Biblical exposition, but at simple Biblical teaching that's easily digested by all. And Wright succeeds.

 The work comes from a clearly expressed viewpoint, and though Wright manages to wriggle out of the most controversial subjects, he maintains a clear, informative explanation of the spiritual cause of the conflict in the middle east that remains as free from political argument as possible given the subject. While Wright may not always be correct in his perspective of the conflict or in his understanding of Islam and its people, he always keeps his arguments highly Biblical. All of Wright's points come from Biblical interpretation. That interpretation may not be flawless, but the book's message is derived from a scriptural understanding and an expository root rather than a political agenda that twists scripture to meet its world-view. This makes it a worthy book to review for this blog and Wright's work progresses very much like a Bible study (in fact the book includes Bible study materials in the back) or a holistic reading of scripture with Israel and its neighbors at the center of the focus. The book is not exceptionally deep. It's not radically stirring. It's not a unique or revolutionary revelation. It is a simple starting point for understanding the spiritual seeds of the Middle East conflict.

While this book is not in the vein I would normally choose for this blog, I was attracted to the book because of my own involvement in Muslim ministry and my search for hope for the Muslim and Arab people. They remain one of the hardest groups to reach out to, and those who have been called to share the gospel with Muslims must constantly seek the hope, vision and heart for Muslims that comes from God's heart. I must say that Seeds of Turmoil comes from a perspective that provides a foundation for understanding the root of spiritual and generational conflict, but falls short of unveiling a biblical hope for an awakening within the Muslim people.

Within the context of this blog Wright has some interesting insights to share on the Bible itself:

The description of the promised land is smaller than the one God gave to Abraham in Genesis 15 and reiterated as an everlasting promise in Genesis 17. I wish I could give you a concise, clear reasoning, but some things in Scripture are simply unexplainable. There are a few things to keep in mind, the first being the absolute trustworthiness of God's Word. I know. I've dealt with those doubts many times. But once we have settled the issue that Scripture is perfectly true and trustworthy, then we learn to doubt our doubts and ask God, "What insight are You trying to share with me?" Sometimes we simply have to trust that God's Word is true even when it is difficult to understand. And sometimes, over time, claims of Scripture that at first seem contradictory become clear through the interpretation and teaching of the Holy Spirit. We realize there is no contradiction. (p. 32)

The passage illustrates Wright's greatest strength: simple, clear honesty coupled with a sincere interaction with God's Word. Seeds of Turmoil has its weak moments and it certainly won't be a scholar or theologian's first choice, but it highlights a large number of highly relevant Biblical passages on the subject and provides lucid, insightful and, at times, fresh and inspiring interpretations. Some highlights include Wright's look at the prophets and Revelation and his exhortation regarding the Christian's role in the conflict, while the biggest weak spot in the book is definitely the rather unilluminating and unfulfilled discussion of Iran. All in all the biggest hope and disappointment within the work are coupled as Wright urges Christians on for the Muslim individual while clearly resigning the Arab culture to a spiritual chaos until Christ comes as the righteous judge.

Everyone who recieves His grace begins a transformation that changes the heart of bitterness and revenge into a heart of grace that forgives those who killed their brothers and loves those who are their enemies. For those who do this in the Middle East, the conflict ends--one life at a time. The seeds of turmoil are transformed into the seeds of love, forgiveness, and peace. Yet because most will not, the cycle of hatred and violence will never end until the Prince of Peace invades history in person once again. (p. 173)

The book's finishing lines reveal what Wright believes is an extrapolation of Biblical prophecy but makes at least one major error: the Prince of Peace has already invaded history in the person of the Holy Spirit and He seeks to bring whole nations, cultures and people groups to repentance.

I received a review copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through Booksneeze. I was not required to give a positive review.

Misprint on Page 40.

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