Monday, January 17, 2011

book review: seeds of turmoil

Title: Seeds of Turmoil: The Biblical Roots of the Inevitable Crisis in the Middle East
Author: Bryant Wright
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2010)

Almost every day there is a new story about the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East. Despite countless attempts to forge a lasting peace, there is none to be found. Temporary cease-fires give way to full-scale conflict. Suicide bombers wreak havoc throughout the region. Iran’s president has stated his desire to wipe Israel off the map. It seems like no matter what action is taken, no matter who is involved in peace talks, it just keeps going.

Bryant Wright traces the current conflict in the Middle East back long before the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. He says it originated when Abraham sinned, distorting God's promise that he and his heirs would make a great nation and inherit the land now called The Holy Land.

In part one of Seeds of Turmoil (which is the bulk of the text), Wright walks his readers through the biblical story of the birth of Abraham’s children, Isaac and Ishmael, and of the rivalry between his grandchildren, Jacob and Esau, explaining how the prophecies made about each are still coming to bear in our present age. 

One criticism I would have, is that much of the book reads like a sermon transcript. Some of the phrasing and repetition which are helpful in spoken word, is not as helpful in print. But granted, the repetition is important in stressing that today's ongoing conflict is rooted in the conflict between two brothers.

Wright's emphasis on the biblical roots stresses the seriousness of sin: Abraham's adultery and Jacob's identify theft have consequences that are felt to the present day.

Wright presents a compelling argument that traces the the current crises in the Middle East back to Abraham of the Old Testament. From Abraham and Sarah's sin, that was meant to "help God" by allowing Sarah's servant, Hagar, to bear Abraham's first son to the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham that Sarah will bear him a son: Ishmael and Isaac; Jacob and Esau; the "birth" of the chosen people, Israel; Israel's struggles and becoming a nation; Israel's loss of its nation (and the Jews being scattered among other nations); Israel's becoming of a nation again in 1948; Israel's wars with the Muslim nations since 1948; coupled with the explanations of the beginning and rise of Christianity and Islam.

The author makes a very insightful and compelling biblical and historical account for the current Middle Eastern Crises. The book is not about bible prophesy, though some is cited.

In the much shorter second part, Wright looks at the political and historical events from Muslim, Jewish and Christian perspectives.

In this section, Wright doesn’t shy away from saying very hard things about the Muslim religion, even while seeking to keep his tone respectful. I don’t find that Wright comes across anti-Islam, so much as pro-Israel (which to some might be the same thing, but there is a distinction). And this he is, almost to a fault.

One of the greatest difficulties for many Christians today is how to support the nation of Israel. Does it deserve unquestioning support from followers of Jesus, or is it more the same sort of support we would seek to provide to any nation - that through our prayer, through proclamation of the gospel and seeking the good of the lands we inhabit, many would turn away from sin and worship Christ.

While Wright does state that it’s only when Christ returns that there will be lasting peace in the Middle East (and all nations for that matter), I think he gets a bit muddy in his view of the modern nation.

I was surprised to find that Wright fails to deal with the passges on Israel in the book of Romans, I was expecting more on this.

Overall, Seeds of Turmoil is an engaging and provocative primer on the biblical roots of the current turmoil in the Middle East—one that I believe will help many as they seek to understand the climate and pray for God’s peace to reign.

Wright 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 you may not agree with Wright's perspective of the conflict or in his understanding of Islam and its people, he 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 study materials in the back) or a holistic reading of scripture with Israel and its neighbors at the center of the focus. 

Seeds of Turmoil is not an academic book, but it is a good starting point for understanding the spiritual seeds of the Middle East conflict.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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