Intrusive God, Disruptive Gospel
Encountering the Divine in the Book of Acts
This engaging book guides readers through one of the most colorful books of the Bible, illuminating passages from Acts that show the Christian gospel expressing itself through the lives, speech, struggles, and adventures of Jesus's followers. The book emphasizes the disruptive character of the Christian gospel and shows how Acts repeatedly describes God as upsetting the status quo by changing people's lives, society's conventions, and our basic expectations of what's possible. Suited for individual and group study, this book by a New Testament scholar with a gift for popular communication asks serious questions and eschews pat answers, bringing Acts alive for contemporary reflection on the character of God, the challenges of faith, and the church.
Road Map: As You Read This Book
Acts 1:1-11: Waiting to Go
Acts 2:1-21: Making Sense of Things
Acts 2:22-41: Keeping an Old Promise
Road Map: Emerging Realities
Acts 3:11-26 and 4:5-12: The Ultimate Disruption
Acts 4:32-5:11: Communal Harmony as a Matter of Life or Death
Acts 6:1-7: Growth Brings Change--and Surprise
Acts 7:54-60: Using Violence to Keep God under Control
Road Map: Expansions
Acts 8:4-25: Spiritual Power, Spiritual Gift, and Spiritual Greed
Acts 8:26-40: Absurdly Good News
Acts 9:1-30: Seeing a Different Reality
Acts 9:32-43: The Work, Pain, and Tenderness of Christian Service
Acts 10:1-11:18: Old Boundaries Obliterated
Acts 12:1-19: Coming to Our Senses
Road Map: God Is Still Speaking
Acts 13:1-4: Called and Commissioned
Acts 14:8-20: Learning to Recognize God
Acts 15:1-35: Discerning God
Road Map: Very Public Disturbances
Acts 16:9-40: Battle of the Gods
Acts 17:16-34: The Gospel in the Flesh
Acts 18:1-17: When the Good News Escapes Attention
Acts 18:24-19:20: There's Power in the Name
Acts 19:21-41: Far-Reaching Disruptions
Road Map: The Witness Goes to Rome
Acts 21:1-6: Spirit-Led Disagreement
Acts 22:30-23:11: How to Be a Hero
Acts 25:1-12: The Gospel and the Empire
Acts 27-28: Open Horizons
For Further Reading
"Matthew Skinner probes the book of Acts in an impressively effective way. He successfully negotiates the vexed issue of history and theology and offers a concise, accessible theological twist to every text he considers. His study shows the way in which the narrative text of Acts continues to be compelling for the church's self-understanding and mission."
Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary
"The book of Acts tells an exciting story that warrants the sort of engagement it is afforded here. Skinner takes us beyond the pedantic concerns of academia to experience the power of the story itself, to participate in its transformations and discoveries. Anyone who is spiritual and/or religious will benefit from this disruptive encounter with 'absurdly good news.'"
Mark Allan Powell, professor of New Testament, Trinity Lutheran Seminary
"There is no doubt that Acts is an entertaining read, full of the stuff of legend and tall tales. But what is a twenty-first-century Christian to do with such an unusual collection of stories about the early years of our faith? Enter Matthew Skinner, an internationally renowned scholar of Acts who has, for decades now, immersed himself in Acts--studying, writing, teaching, and preaching it. In this book, Skinner grips our attention, all of it, as he honestly, artfully, judiciously, concisely, and consistently connects our experience with the book of Acts. Chapter by chapter, Skinner teaches us, raises crucial questions--the raw, complex questions that we real readers have--and then offers bold conclusions born from his observations as both a scholar and a Christian."
Jaime Clark-Soles, associate professor of New Testament, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University
"One of the strengths of the book is Skinner's willingness to ask real and pressing questions about how Christians think about God and his activities in the world. He does not shy away from controversial passages, but tries to understand them on their own terms. . . . Skinner's wrestling with the text and his venerability in expressing discomfort allow for real engagement with the reader. This book is written for Christians who have some familiarity with Acts and would be useful for people in ministry (e.g., pastors) as well as for small group discussions."
Sean A. Adams,
"Skinner offers a compelling alternative reading in his introduction to Acts. . . . Skinner provides crisp, incisive analysis of twenty-six selected passages, highlighting in each case Luke's lively narrative dynamics supporting two core themes: the intrusive God and the disruptive gospel. . . . Throughout his pithy, exquisitely written volume, Matthew Skinner serves as adroit press agent, expert interpretive guide, and thoughtful pastor-teacher--a rare combination--for the often misunderstood and underappreciated book of Acts. Highly recommended for clergy, seminarians, and laity."
F. Scott Spencer,
"Skinner's lively engagement with the Acts story is both critical and theological, both devotional and provocative. . . . The book is aimed not at scholars but at thoughtful laypeople, ministers, and students. . . . Skinner's book is an engaging and provocative read. While every reader is likely to object to some facet of his interpretive practice, his theological assumptions, or his conclusions, every reader will also find much food for productive theological thought."
Review of Biblical Literature
"Disruptive, a lively metaphor in contemporary culture, is well applied by Skinner to the message of Acts. Writing for a popular-level audience, this footnote-free book will appeal to thoughtful readers and will bring them Skinner's scholarly insights in digestible form. . . . Refreshingly, Skinner writes as an involved reader of the text, addressing his North American context. The rhetoric is energetic, colorful and visual, sometimes edgy. . . . A book to provoke and reward careful reading of Acts."
Journal for the Study of the New Testament
"Matthew Skinner has written extensively and intelligently on Acts, and so this new book is to be warmly welcomed. . . . This book is a further fruit of Prof. Skinner's research put into accessible form for those who may not have technical training in biblical studies, but want to dig deeper into the Bible. . . . Throughout his writing is lucid, readable, and clear, and sections flow naturally from one to another. . . . The discussion of individual passages is always helpful, informative and theologically astute, and full of well-turned and memorable phrases. In place after place I found my head nodding in agreement, not least when Prof. Skinner showed me the text from angles I had not considered previously. . . . He is judicious and careful in his use of scholarship, and those who have eyes to see will recognize this quickly. . . . This book will be eminently helpful to a church Bible study group working through Acts. It will also inform and help preachers or teachers engaging with Acts, and students who want to see ways in which the book's themes and issues relate to Christian life and experience today. I commend it very warmly."
"This study serves as thoughtful spiritual reading drawing on the dynamic story of Acts."
Donald Senior, CP,
The Bible Today
"[This book] is part commentary, part devotional, part sermon, part scholarship--all blended together into a delicious literary meal! . . . It is not a commentary, it is not a monograph; it is a theological-narrative reading of Acts in its context. Skinner is a gifted writer, teasing out the theological dynamics of the text, often raising the right questions about God, the church, and the world. Skinner's book works well for personal edification, maybe a church group study, but not really a full-blown 'academic' introduction to Acts. (Although I might still use it as a textbook in a survey course.) He keeps academic jargon to a bare minimum. . . . I heartily recommend Intrusive God, Disruptive Gospel to everyone and encourage a wide readership. It's good for the soul--and body--and church!"
Nijay K. Gupta,
Crux Sola blog
"Skinner has compiled a collection of complex questions and bold conclusions on the book of Acts from the standpoint of both a scholar and a Christian. Even though it is quite analytical and has a great deal of historical research, this title is well suited for both individual and group study."
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