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God Dwells Among Us (Expanding Eden to the Ends of the Earth)

Author: G K Beale and Mitchell Kim
Published By: IVP (Nottingham)
Pages: 211
Price: £11.99
ISBN: 978 1 78359 191 6

Reviewed by Richard Dormandy.

This is an extremely interesting, stimulating and challenging book. I’m not sure whether I find every detail totally convincing, but the general idea at least is tenable and gives a lot of food for thought. The first nine chapters expound the idea, each of them ending with a neat summary.  Chapter 10 then steps back and asks the obvious question of why this idea has not been seen before, and Chapter 11 offers some practical conclusions for mission. How refreshing to have these two concluding chapters.

This book arose from a teaching series developed by Mitchell Kim, after he had read G K Beale’s original work, The Temple and the Church’s Mission”. The exposition begins in Eden, showing how it is presented as a temple and dwelling place of God. The authors cite Ezekiel as a cross-biblical support for this insight. In Eden, as humans are both made in the image of God and called to go forth and multiply, mission is inextricably linked to worship - which of course is what takes place in a temple. “We are created to glorify God by filling the earth with image-bearers crowned with that glory” (p.35).

Amazingly, this mission continues in spite of sin, and the call to Adam is extended to the patriarchs. The authors then describe the Tabernacle, and suggest how its construction mirrors the creation of the world. Later on, the return from exile is seen as a kind of restoration of Eden. However, the rebuilt Temple doesn’t really do the job, and the following chapters describe first Jesus as the Temple, and then his followers as the Temple of the Holy Spirit. All this is continually related to the Eden theme.

My remaining question is whether this single theme can really account for so much. Quite often the authors interpret their Scriptures by simply citing another which appears to match it. The effect is quite convincing, but still leaves me feeling uneasy. My unease is directly challenged in the penultimate chapter where, offering a second reason why this has not been seen before, they write: “We often read the Bible in its immediate context, without regard to its overarching canonical context” (p.148). In this way, they justify using parallels between Eden, the Tabernacle and the Temple, because all of Scripture works together to convey the same consistent message.

The conclusions are a little standard: let the Word of God dwell in you and pray more seriously - but they are challenging nonetheless. I completed reading this book whilst soaking in a warm bath. When I got to the end, I felt distinctly uncomfortable! “The tragedy of the ubiquitous presence of God’s Word in our homes and our phones is that we have failed to hide it in our hearts” (p.160).

This book will certainly make you think. It would be good to read in a book group perhaps, and would benefit from some study questions. It has been widely reviewed around the internet and some of these reviews are worth reading for a further critique. The best thing about it, however, is that it gives a picture of Mission that ties it together with both Creation and Worship. In so doing, it issues a call to holiness and prayer which no longer paints them as inward-looking attitudes, but rather as integral powers for our outreach.

Richard Dormandy

Vicar, Holy Trinity, Tulse Hill, South London

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You are reading Issue 65 of Ministry Today, published in November 2015.

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