MICHAEL CARD BOOK REVIEW: LUKE, THE GOSPEL OF AMAZEMENT
Award-winning songwriter and Biblical scholar, Michael Card, is soon to release in stores the first book in his Biblical Imagination Series. Combining forensic, textual integrity with informed, imaginative narration, Luke: The Gospel of Amazement is a unique contribution to the exegetical form Michael simply calls reintegration. While disintegration comprises every unnatural division caused by Man's First Sin, reintegration comprises the redemptive healing of those very same relationships.
Not surprisingly, the effects of disintegration extend to the way we approach Scripture. We either tend to read with sentimentally inclined hearts and disengaged intellects or with highly astute minds and insensitive hearts. Michael's hermeneutic offers that imagination is the redemptive bridge of the either/or tension between heart and mind. Throughout the book, the reader is given illustration after illustration of how to apply the informed imagination to various topics from Luke's authorship to the theme of his book.
For example, Luke is not an eyewitness to the life of Christ which means that he had to have interviewed those who were (Who were these eyewitnesses?). Luke is identified as Gentile which explains his moderation of a Jewish bias (Why is Luke generous in his view of the Pharisees?). Paul calls Luke a doctor which means that Luke's editorial work would intellectually reflect his profession (Why does Luke extensively use medical terminology?). Michael weaves these brick-and-mortar facts into a cohesive profile with a consideration posed by his informed imagination: Could Luke have been a slave?
Card's proposal is not absurd. After all, both textual and historical evidence support this premise. Medicine was a popular slave profession amongst the Romans. Even the name “Luke” is a common slave nickname, a possible diminutive of “Lucius.” Scripture does not expressly say that Luke was a slave, but neither does Scripture expressly say he was not. It is with the reintegration of the imagination that Luke's life-situation becomes alive to us, and we develop a dynamically deeper appreciation for and grasp of his words.
Similarly Michael analyzes Luke's writing style, unraveling the theme of radical reversal: those who should get it don't while those who shouldn't get it do. In Luke the marginalized tax collector, the woman, the slave, and the poor “get it” while the priest, the Levite, and the Pharisee do not. Time and again, Luke underscores that nothing is as it appears, the summation of which is expressed in what Michael Card calls the “radically reversed blessings and woes” of the Beatitudes. Traditionally, the Beatitudes have been understood merely to be the doctrinal distinction between “Old” and “New” Testaments. Michael reframes the radical reversal of the Beatitudes in light of the epic upheaval Rome was experiencing as it was struggling to become the Roman Empire.
Luke loves the parable and punctuates his book with twenty-one out of the thirty-three recorded in the Gospels. In Luke the parable opens the way for a miracle which provides an opportunity for the parable to move from the mind to the heart. The result is the opening of blind eyes. Luke never leads us to believe that the parable is the main point. Neither does Luke lead us to believe that the miracle is the main point. Ever the keen etymologist, Michael identifies the theme of radical reversal in light of paradox:“We have seen things that might otherwise (para) bring glory (doxa) to God.” It is not merely the hearing of the parable or the witnessing of the miracle. It is the imagination that is the bridge from the mind to the heart.
Luke: The Gospel of Amazement is an enjoyable and informative read, pregnant with fresh and exciting observations. It bears to underscore that Michael Card's method hinges upon the informed imagination, not the imagination divorced of content and meaning. While he elevates the dignity of the imagination in the reintegration process, he levels a cautionary warning about its use: “Just don't be dogmatic about what the Bible is not dogmatic about!”