About Joey Cochran

http://www.jtcochran.com

I was raised in Texas and graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with a Bachelors of Business Administration in 2004 and completed my Master of Theology from Dallas Seminary in 2009. I served as the General Manager of Campus Dining Services for Dallas Seminary during my seminary years. I currently serve as the High School Pastor at Fellowship Bible Church Tulsa. Before joining the Fellowship Bible Church staff, I volunteered in youth ministry for ten years. I am married to Kendall, the most amazing woman I've ever met. She is a graduate of Dallas Baptist University with a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology. We are blessed with one daughter, Chloe born October 2008 and one son Asher born June 2011. I enjoy analyzing music and movies, and I also enjoy making social and cultural observations and commentary. I have an incredible passion for youth ministry, and I have a scholars heart. I really enjoy reading and studying about the New Testament, Old Testament, Theology, Pastoral Ministry, and Youth Ministry.

Posts by Joey Cochran:

Five Book on Introduction to Biblical Exegesis

Finding the best books to read on a subject of theology can be a challenge. This series provides suggested resources for topics of Theology. Each title is linked to Amazon, if available. If you have another title to suggest for this area of study, please comment. I’m always happy to add another work to my library.

Here are 5 books that will launch you into studies on an introduction to biblical exegesis.

1. Invitation to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature, and Theology by Andreas Kostenberger and Richard Patterson

2. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, Revised Edition by Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard

3. Is There a Meaning in This Text?: The Bible, the Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge by Kevin J Vanhoozer

4. Biblical Exegesis, 3rd ed by Hayes and Holladay

5. Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics: The Search for Meaning by Kaiser and Silva

View-Worthy: 9.19.14

Preview

Human Flourishing, Don’t Quit on Church, Hate to Wait, Love the Lost.

Headliner

Joe Carter. Evangelical Leaders Discuss How To Enhance Human Flourishing. (ACTON)

Last week in Washington, D.C., AEI’s Values and Capitalism initiative hosted their inaugural Evangelical Leadership Summit. The summit was a nonpartisan conversation among leading evangelical writers, pastors, parachurch leaders, business executives, artists, and policymakers that focused on “concrete paths to enhancing human flourishing.”

Deal of the Day

Faith and Learning ed David Dockery $0.99

Book Review

Jeramie Rinne. Church Elders. Reviewed by Trent Hunter. (TGC)

Links

Barnabas Piper. Why You Shouldn’t Give Up On the Church. (Relevant)

I grew up in the Church. No really, I grew up in the church.

As a pastor’s kid, I spent countless hours in church and doing church activities. I am a church native and familiar with all its quirks and cultural oddities, with all its strengths and all its failings. As the son of prominent evangelical pastor John Piper, I not only saw the inner workings of my own church, I was also exposed to church leaders from around the world and saw the good and the bad from their churches, too.

Paul Maxwell. Do You Hate to Wait. (DG)

Anxiety is the slave song of the human heart under the tyranny of insignificance. Impatience is an acute strand of anxiety — played in a certain key — that can mesmerize and trap a soul in an infinite loop of hypnotized idolatry. With each heartbeat, drops of innocent desire increasingly become a torrent of violent mania, accruing simple words with vast jurisdiction: “I want it”. . . . “I want all”. . . . “I want it all nowRIGHT NOW!”

Ed Stetzer. Loving the Lost: Church Without the Broken are Broken Churches.

It is a natural thing for Christians to want to be around other Christians. Something special happens in the fellowship of believers.

We can worship freely, study deeply, and communicate clearly. Hanging out with like-minded people who (appear to) “have their stuff together” can be a wonderful thing.

But how well are we engaging those who aren’t as spiritually stable as we (think we) are?

I’ve been fascinated by the fact that a lot of Christians don’t seem to like non-Christians—otherwise known as “the lost,” “the unchurched,” or whatever other term you may want to use. They want to keep away from the messy people– perhaps missing the obvious that we are messy as well.

Edify

Psalm 95:6 “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!”

“What or whom we worship determines our behaviour.” John Murray

10 Quotes from Beat God to the Punch by Eric Mason

BeatGodToThePunch

My review of Beat God to the Punch by Eric Mason will run tomorrow at Lifeway’s Pastors Today web-blog channel. You should check it out, and see what I thought about this new book. In the meanwhile, here are 10  quotes from Beat God to the Punch.

1. “On that day, those who are forced to bow will experience the punch of God’s wrath. Those who willingly bow at the appointed time of salvation will be missed by God’s wrathful punch because God hit Jesus on their behalf” (2).

2. “Real life, for a disciple, is a journey of wrestling with a pattern of faith and loyalty to who Jesus is” (6).

3. “Grace is not merely an esoteric theological concept, but it is seen and defined most vehemently in a person” (11).

4. “Jesus came to take our lives off layaway” (13).

5. “Truth lets people know where you stand, but grace lets people know you love them” (37).

6. “Grace is God’s work of creating potential where there is none, in spite of our circumstances” (41).

7. “We must recognize that there is no grace-filled life without comprehensive spiritual renewal. This is the promise that Jesus brings to us, spiritual renewal” (50).

8. “As we walk with the Lord, we find that God’s commitment to us is unending” (59).

9. “Jesus, not heaven, is the focal point of revelation” (86).

10. “Living in the tension of the already but not yet is to live in fervent submission to the sovereignty of God as He shows us the multifaceted nature of His grace” (87).

 

View-Worthy: 9.18.14

Preview

8-28, Emerging Adulthood, Friendship, College Students and Membership.

Headliner

Amy Julia Becker. Ian and Larissa Murphy: Trusting God Through Traumatic Brain Injury. (CT)

A couple years ago, a video about Ian and Larissa Murphy’s marriage went viral. In some ways, they exhibit a conventional story of young love. They met in college and wanted to get married. But Ian suffered a traumatic brain injury after a car accident. Their plans were tenuous at best as Ian lay in a coma in a hospital bed.

The accident came 10 months into their relationship. For the next two years, Ian worked to regain his ability to talk, then the couple began talking about marriage. Two years after that, they married on Ian’s late father’s birthday, 8-28-2010—a date referenced in the title of their new book, Eight Twenty Eight. The number also refers to a favorite Bible passage, Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (ESV).

Deal of the Day

Loving the Way Jesus Loves by Phil Ryken $0.99

Book Review

Ed. Michael Bird. How God Became Jesus. Reviewed by Jonathan Huggins.

Links

Marc Cortez. The Rise of “Emerging Adulthood”.

Emerging adulthood is now viewed by many as a distinct stage of life in America, one that covers the period between high school and “real” adulthood. And according to Christian Smith, Professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame, it’s a stage of life that is powerfully shaping the way people in their 20s view the world, how they understand the church, and how they approach their own formation.

Chris Poblete. MANHOOD 101: Friendship. (CBMW)

Friend. What does this word mean to you?

The twenty-first century is suffering the inflation of the word “friend.” A friend used to be someone that you shared a special and mutual bond with, involving a certain level of love, respect, and camaraderie. Today, the word friend is more nebulous (thank you, social networks). According to dictionary.com, “friend” can be used as a verb now, simply meaning, “to add someone to a list of contacts associated with a social networking website.”

But when you friend me on Facebook, will you really know me? Sure, you can find out who I’m married to, where I live, how many kids I have, or how stupid my face looks when I’m not prepared for a picture snap. These facts don’t make up my story. They don’t tell you my sins, my struggles, my strengths, my weaknesses.

Dave Russell. College Students and Church Membership. (9M)

Should college students join a local church by campus if they have a church membership “back home”?

This question is often asked of me in reference to Christian students who are coming to college and have a church membership “back home.” Here are some things to consider that may help to answer the question.

Edify

John 8:34 “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”

“Man’s practices are the best indexes of his principles.” Stephen Charnock

The Moody Bible Commentary by Rydelnik and Vanlaningham

MoodyBibleCommentaryBibliography

General Editors Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham. The Moody Bible Commentary. Chicago: Moody, 2014. 2176 pp. $49.99.

Category

Expositional

Summary

A valuable new resource dropped onto the scene in the world of one-volume commentaries recently: The Moody Bible Commentary. This commentary on the whole Bible is developed by the faculty at Moody Bible Institute and includes contributions from 30 professors.

This 2,000 page behemoth of a commentary tackles difficult texts, commenting in light of the original languages, as it unfolds Messianic promises in the Old Testament, and traces the fulfillment of them in the New. It’s a user-friendly, trustworthy, and understandable text that harnesses a literal interpretive method. Each book of the Bible has a robust introduction with a detailed outline. The two-column structure and the typeset make for easy reading. Transliterations are italicized and key words are boldened for quick research. A number of maps, charts, and sketches are included for explanatory purposes and to bring the story of the Bible to life. And each book of the Bible concludes with an excellent bibliography to encourage deeper study.

Benefit for Pastoral Ministry

Three things stand out about this commentary.

The commentators selectively reference other recent commentaries (e.g. NIVAC, NAC, et al.) and include the best stuff as helps. This ends up turning The Moody Bible Commentary into a helpful reference for knowing what one commentator’s conclusion may have been on an issue needing validation. Rather than picking up that commentary and digging through it to find that commentators position, one might quickly reference The Moody Bible Commentary and get that same conclusion much more swiftly.

Second, it really does tackle those tough issues that other study bibles or one-volume commentaries seem to skirt. In fact, it hits those issues head on and leaves alone the unassuming stuff that other commentators will certainly grab and engage.

Third, while it occasionally references other commentaries and it tackles the hard issues, it most certainly does all this with keeping an eye to straightforward exegesis. It is not a constant dialogue with other commentaries, nor is it only focused on resolving the big problems in every text. It is first and foremost an aid to pastors and studious lay persons who want to uncover more about the text. Thus, the observations and interpretations offer clarity for those that consult The Moody Bible Commentary.

Rating

Essential            Recommended            Helpful            Pass It By

Recommendation

The Moody Bible Commentary provides a well-calculated synthesis of the text that pastors will joyfully consult.

View-Worthy: 9.17.14

Preview

Men & Friendship, Women & Theology, Gospel Centered Talk, Moral Ambiguity in a Selfish Culture.

Headliner

Wesley Hill. Why Can’t Men Be Friends? (CT)

As researchers like Laura L. Carstensen, director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, have observed, people approaching middle age tend to retreat to the relationships they already have, rather than seeking out new communities. “You tend to focus on what is most emotionally important to you,” she told The New York Times. “So you’re not interested in going to that cocktail party; you’re interested in spending time with your kids.”

But our widespread feeling that friendship is harder to come by hasn’t always been prominent among Christians. On the contrary, many of our forebears in the faith celebrated the love of friendship. Far from occupying a suspicious or wistful vantage point, they invested enormous effort in making and keeping friends. And therein lies a tale—one we need to heed today.

Deal of the Day

Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley $4.99

Book Review

George Marsden. The Twilight of the American Enlightenment. Reviewed by Matt McCullough. (9M)

Links

Jen Thorn. 6 Reasons Women Should Study Theology. (Christianity.com)

When theology is mentioned in a circle of women I have often found the response to be less than enthusiastic.  Mention books on homemaking, marriage or parenting, on the other hand, and everyone seems interested. Why is that? I have heard comments like, “I’m just not smart enough”, “I will leave the study of theology to the men”, or  “I don’t need theology I just need to read my Bible.”

Dane Ortlund. What’s All This ‘Gospel-Centered’ Talk About? (TGC)

“Gospel-centered preaching.” “Gospel-centered parenting.” “Gospel-centered discipleship.” The back of my business card says “gospel-centered publishing.” This descriptive mantra is tagged on to just about anything and everything in the Christian world these days.

What’s it all about?

Erik Raymond. Moral Ambiguity in a Selfish Culture.

When I read the news I often feel like I am walking around in a the middle of a power-outage. Things are not arranged the way I thought they were (or at least the way my mind thinks they should be). Let me give you a couple of examples.

In the last few weeks the National Football League (NFL) has been in the headlines for incidents that occurred off the football field. In the first instance, Ray Rice was seen violently abusing his then fiancé. The running back appears to knock her out cold and then calmly drag her out of an elevator. The video goes viral and is accompanied by a loud public outcry. Rice is suspended indefinitely from the NFL and cut from his team. In another story, another running back, Adrian Peterson, is indicted for child abuse. Peterson, allegedly, went far beyond any reasonable forms of discipline and training his child. The images and descriptions of the wounds are graphic and disturbing. The public outcry over Peterson’s case is also loud and it appears, justifiably so.

As Christians we can join in the chorus of opposition. In both cases, Rice and Peterson, we see the breakdown of what God created man to be. Instead of loving, protective, sacrificial, servant leadership that promotes flourishing, there is violence, selfishness, and destructiveness.

Edify

Psalm 119:77 “Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.”

“The gospel is not a doctrine of the tongue, but of life.” John Calvin

Unmasking the Erudite

We live in a peculiar and unparalleled age of erudites. Because we live in such an age it is of great interest to discuss them: what it means to be one and why it’s important to unmask one.

What’s An Erudite You Say?

Well, an erudite is anyone who considers them self to be learned. Really anyone and everyone these days can be an erudite. Because of the vast knowledge and information that is accessible through the internet, everyone has something that they may safely profess to be an expert on.

I’ve known erudites on My Little Pony; I think my daughter is one of those. I’ve known erudites on Spiderman; that would be my son and maybe me too. I’ve known erudites all over Pinterest sharing their expertise on their craft; I think my wife is one of those, though most of the time she seems to want to deny it. I’ve known erudites on Reformation or Puritan pastors and theologians; I think I might even aspire to be one of those.

You might even go so far as to say an entire generation may be considered a generation of erudites. Really, one of the quintessential attributes of a hipster is being an erudite, and if you statistically look at the academic prowess of the Millennial generation, you’ll quickly learn that this generations’ parents spared no penny at educating that generation. Millennial-hipsters have been incubated in the embryonic juiciness of eruditehood. No doubt this will present some benefits and liabilities for the former and forthcoming generations.

On Being an Erudite

I like to consider myself an erudite, and really, don’t we all. We all want to be experts on something, right? And most of us think that we are. You might be an erudite on the Chicago Bears in the 1970′s or an erudite on Keynesian economics or an erudite on the dendrochronology of the Piney Woods. Whatever happens to be your forte, you probably take great pride in that knowledge.

Whatever the case is for you, it is imperative that you understand this about your eruditeness. Being an erudite is both easy and hard.

It’s easy in that you just have to be exceptionally studied in some narrow field of expertise. If one just reads all the books by a particular author, they fast become an erudite on that author. If one just listens to all the music of a particular artist or have vast knowledge on that genre, one fast becomes an erudite in that field. Really, all it takes is to have intense focus in a narrow field. And what makes it even easier is when there is not a lot of extant material in that field to study.

What’s hard about being an erudite is to remain humble about one’s knowledge. You see, a critical component of being an erudite is being perceived as an erudite. You’re not really one unless you’re recognized as one.

When I was in high school, my “group” that I hung out with had a knack for dubbing each other erudites in one field or another. We each had a title, “Czar”, that went with our field of expertise. They called me “THE Alternative Music Czar.” I earned this title because I constantly listened to The EDGE Alternative Rock Station, read Rolling Stone Magazine, had a membership to Columbia House Music (discounted Music CD’s Club), and acquired a library of a hundred CD’s of alternative rock music. I also went to a concert here or there as I had the freedom. I was a teen after all. If anyone wanted to know some generality about that field, I knew it, including many of the band members and the backstories of the bands. In the mind of my peers, I was recognized as the erudite of alternative rock music.

That kind of knowledge and recognition comes with a challenge, the challenge to be humble in that knowledge and recognition.

As the sage erudite Paul once said, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1). What we learn from Paul in this verse is that the best way to protect the erudite from being puffed up is to foster love concerning the erudite’s knowledge.

The kind of love that needs to be fostered is a selfless love that doesn’t want to simply display knowledge but impart knowledge. The kind of love that needs to be fostered is a patient knowledge that helps others discover what the erudite already knows. You see, most people who are not on par with the erudites knowledge in his or her field will likely be skeptical of the erudite. Does this person really have deep knowledge on this subject? How did they attain it? What is their credibility concerning this knowledge? How do I know I can trust them? The erudite must be willing to take time to patiently win the confidence of his or her skeptics.

Unmasking the Erudite 

But fostering patience and selflessness in the erudite is not enough. The erudite must also be unmasked.

What do I mean by this? Well, one day at school I met a challenger to my mantle of “The Alternative Music Czar.” Yes, I met someone who knew more about Gavin Rossdale (Lead for Bush), Gwen Stefani (Lead for No Doubt), and their romance. Not only that but that person unmasked me before all my friends. They exhibited how I really didn’t have all that much knowledge on alternative music after all. Sure, I had a lot of music and had read some about the artists, but I had barely even scratched the surface on that field. I really only had an elementary understanding.

Really, that’s pretty much the case for most of us. As much as we think we are an erudite, there will always be another, someone who’s knowledge goes far deeper than even ours. The younger you are the easier it is to unmask you. Some of us talk a really good talk. We’re able to read a couple books on one narrow field and make it look like we are an expert. But, if we are in a conversation with the right person, or wrong person for that matter, before long we’re unmasked. We really aren’t the erudite that we present ourselves to be.

Unmasked Before the One True Erudite

Your eruditeness may not be unmasked in this life as it will one day. Some of us are actually pretty clever and are able to carefully conceal the chinks in our erudite armor. But at some point we will all be unmasked before the Creator and Judge, the one who stretched the canvas of the heavens, placed the stars in their orbit, and set the current of the seas. That moment will involve utter nakedness before him.

We will feel much like Job did upon hearing these words out of the whirlwind:

Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?

Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity; clothe yourself with glory and splendor. Pour out the overflowings of your anger, and look on everyone who is proud and abase him. Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low and tread down the wicked where they stand. Hide them all in the dust together; bind their faces in the world below. Then will I also acknowledge to you that your own right hand can save you. (Job 40:7-14)

Of course the discourse continues on for quite some time, and when it comes to a close Job responds in humility and repentance. He says, “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:3). Job had thought himself an erudite on God. What he discovered is that he had only scratched the surface on his knowledge. It wasn’t until God revealed himself to Job that he truly gripped the inadequacy of his understanding. Here the erudite, Job, became unmasked as he peered into and listened to the masked God in the whirlwind.

And that’s us. We’re all Job. We’re all erudites waiting to be unmasked. And one day that will happen. Are you ready to be unmasked? If you are, then what’s astonishingly different about that day and Job’s day is that on that day we’ll be unmasked before this God, and he too will be unmasked before us as well. He’ll see us naked before him, and we’ll see him in his full glory and splendor. We will not be ashamed of being unmasked and naked erudites because he has accepted us and found us pleasing in his eyes. We won’t want that mask anymore. We won’t want that recognition. We’ll be okay with who we really are, the unmasked erudite, the naked and without shame Adam.

View-Worthy: 9.16.14

Preview

Harvest Bible Chapel Church Discipline, If the Worst Happens, When Greek’s a Distraction, Poverty and Marriage.

Headliner

Daniel James Devine. Harvest Bible Chapel Sorry for Church Discipline. (WORLD)

Harvest Bible Chapel, a Chicago-area megachurch with seven campuses and about 100 church plants around the world issued an apology over the weekend for harshly censuring three former elders last year.

James MacDonald, an author and the senior pastor of Harvest, read a statement to the church saying he and the current church elders met last week with the three men and asked for their forgiveness: “I wish to announce that the elders of Harvest Bible Chapel have unanimously agreed to lift all discipline from Scott Phelps and Barry Slabaugh and Dan Marquardt.”

Deal of the Day

Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole by Eric Mason $2.99

Links

Vaneetha Rendall. What If the Worst Happens? (DG)

I found myself growing fearful. Not a heart-stopping, all-encompassing fear, but the kind of constant gnawing that occurs when you look at the discouraging trends of the present and assume things will never change. When you think about the future and wonder, “What if the worst happens?”

What if.

I’ve spent a lifetime considering the “what ifs.” Those questions have a way of unsettling me, destroying my peace, leaving me insecure.

Peter Krol. A Little Greek Can Be A Big Distraction. (TGC)

You don’t have to reference Greek or Hebrew to study the Bible. You can observe, interpret, and apply using a decent English translation (such as the ESV or NET). In fact, knowing a bit of Greek can actually distract you from careful study of a passage.

Joe Carter. The Poverty Problem is a Marriage Problem. (ACTON)

If you’re out of work and can’t earn an income, it’s easy to slide down the economic ladder from working-poor to just plain poor. So it’s no surprise that the poverty rate in America has, since at least 1970, moved in sync with the unemployment rate. During each recession we would see a spike in the poverty rate and then a decline as the economy recovers and employment levels began to rise.

Edify

2 Tim. 2:8 “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached by my gospel.”

“The law is a hammer to break us, the gospel God’s oil to cure us.” Stephen Charnock

Paul Washer on Love that Acts

GospelAssuranceandWarningsIn Gospel Assurance and Warnings, Paul Washer explains what true love that acts looks like:

The love that Christ demands and of which John writes must act. Therefore, it finds its truest expression when we are consistently living for the benefit of others in the body of Christ by daily dying to self and doing practical works of service according to our gifts and the opportunities that providence provides. Of course, this type of love requires that we actually enter into real relationships with God’s people that we actively seek out opportunities to serve them. Consequently, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for this type of love to manifest itself consistently in a community that comes together for only one weekly show on Sunday morning. This type of love must start in the midst of individual relationships within a local body and then work its way outward to believers and believing communities throughout the world.

The Stories We Tell by Mike Cosper

stories we tellBibliography

Mike Cosper. The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long for and Echo the Truth. Wheaton: Crossway, 2014. 240 pp. $15.99.

Category

Church and Ministry

Summary

Entertainment, particularly that of television and movies, has shaped generations. We might go as far to say we’re addicted to TV and movies. They shape how we think and how we behave. Yet, at the same time, Christians are suspicious of them as well, not knowing how to curb the addiction and filter the moral dimension of entertainment.

Is that the case for you? Do you ever feel ashamed of what you watch, yet seemingly unable to alter your fascination with shows such as Arrested Development, Keeping up with the Kardashians, or Dexter? Do you ever ask yourself: “What will others think if they knew I watch these shows?”

Mike Cosper’s new book, The Stories We Tell, is certainly not an expose on media ethic: what we should and shouldn’t watch. He sets out from the beginning saying that he wouldn’t suggest everyone watch the shows that he discusses (13).

Rather, what Cosper – the Worship and Arts Pastors at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville Kentucky – does with The Stories We Tell is borrow from the world of TV and movies the most striking illustrations of the big picture, the gospel narrative. He reminds us: “All human creativity is an echo of God’s creativity” (33). And though humanity doesn’t always get it right, “These stories long for and echo the truth” (37). They illustrate God’s narrative of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation.

So, without assuming that the producers, writers, and actors of these TV shows and movies intended to tell God’s story, Cosper, nonetheless, retrieves from the gamut of media he has enjoyed to explore how these stories hint at and long for the gospel. All along Cosper helps us redemptively reconsider what we watch, why we watch it, and how to watch it with new eyes seeing the gospel story in previously unforeseen ways.

Chapter one sets up the framework upon which The Stories We Tell rests. Chapter two discusses the spectrum on which all viewers sit: the overanxious teenager on one side, enjoying edginess, while the church lady sits at the other pole, setting borders to stay within and judging those outside those borders. Tackling issues pertaining to gospel and culture, and conscience and community fall under the auspices of this chapter as well.

Chapter three begins Cosper’s interaction with the gospel narrative themes. It delves into creation through the movie The Descendants and flips the fall story by focusing on Pleasantville. He also uses Frankenstein, Jurassic Park, and Spiderman to talk about playing God. Chapter four investigates the theme of love by considering shows like How I met Your Mother, 30 Rock, and Who Wants to Mary a Multi-Millionaire.

Chapter five scrutinizes the fall, singling out Prometheus, The Tree of Life, Mad Men, and Seinfeld. Chapter six surveys the inevitability, frustration, and pointlessness of life found in Ecclesiastes by showcasing The Wire. Chapter seven plays on fears and evils lurking in shadows by leveraging horror movies such as Drag Me to Hell or paranormal classics like The Twilight Zone and X-Files.

Chapter eight reveals redemptive pictures prevalent in shows such as Dexter and pervasive themes of vengeance demonstrated in Pulp Fiction and other Quentin Tarantino films. Chapter nine inspects stories of heroes by developing the hero story of Jesus and then tracing parallels in other celebrated stories: The Lord of the Rings, Superman, Sleeping Beauty, et al (cf. the chart, 189). Chapter ten closes the book by calling attention to the social media and reality show phenomenon. Cosper analyzes reality shows like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and Survivor, all of which point to the universal human desire to be known, accepted, and found valuable, which these desires are only fulfilled at Christ’s consummative return.

Benefit for Pastoral Ministry

Every solid book is built on a stalwart premise. The premise of The Stories We Tell is novel, culturally engaging, and profoundly grounded in biblical truth. Cosper talks about how researching and writing this book forced him to re-examine his approach to media. Looking for expressions of gospel themes in TV and movies nuanced what he celebrates and enjoys watching. I think that is precisely what’s happened after my reading. I can’t view a show without simultaneously reflecting on how I see gospel glimpses in that show’s story.

I want to caution readers to manage their expectation when reading The Stories We Tell. If you’re looking for anti Harry Potter and Twilight ammo, you won’t find that schtick here. Likewise, if you expect to find a list of okay or not okay shows to watch, it’s not going to happen either. Cosper reasons: “The content of the stories we hear and tell can’t be true without acknowledging – and sometimes delving deeply into – humanity’s darkness” (47).

What you will get is an overabundance of gospel connections, which sometimes come from unlikely sources (never saw Dexter coming). I don’t think Cosper considers one ostentatious “Christian” film. His selection of illustrations is completely eclectic and unapologetically built on his tastes. I commend him for this. If anything, this approach piqued my interest in shows or movies I had looked past or forgotten.

Cosper’s synopses of shows are concise; he is a purveyor of clarity. This is a tough task to master, and I am impressed with how simply he explains so many complex plots and provides character development in such few pages.

The Stories We Tell is a timely and fitting read for today’s audience. We all love TV shows and movies; redeeming the time we invest in them is a tangible benefit of this book.

Pastors should read The Stories We Tell as a guide to exploring and leveraging the many advantages that TV and film offer to their ministry. Pastors should recommend this book to their congregation because it will help everyone think in fresh perspective on what, why, and how to consume this media.

Rating

Essential            Recommended            Helpful            Pass It By

Recommendation

The Stories We Tell is an investigation of TV shows and movies that reveals an astonishing and riveting encounter with the gospel.