Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Book Review: Twelve Unlikely Heroes

Twelve Unlikely Heroes: How God Commissioned Unexpected People in the Bible and What He Wants to Do with You. By John MacArthur. Nashville: Thomas Nelson. pp. 240. 2012. ($22.99 Print | 22.99 Digital)

Three Stars: A Solid "Like"
This is the third installment in John MacArthur’s biographical series, preceded by Twelve Ordinary Men and Twelve Extraordinary Women. This compilation examines some heroes that grace the stories of Sunday school curricula and others we don’t hear about too often.

Since each chapter covers one (or occasionally two) heroes, it functions somewhat like an anthology, except the author is always the same. Like most anthologies, some chapters are quite exceptional, whereas others leave something to be desired. Twelve Unlikely Heroes was largely an enjoyable read.

My favorite chapters were the ones dealing with Joseph and Onesimus. MacArthur really follows the storyline of the Bible well and produces a chapter that could serve as a fine example of what Bible storying really is. What I most appreciated about his retelling of Joseph’s story was how MacArthur focused on God’s sovereign working in the whole affair, something that many people seem to forget or miss entirely when discussing the story. His treatment of Onesimus was even more enjoyable since I hadn’t learned much about Onesimus beyond the fact that he was a companion of Paul and the former slave of Philemon. MacArthur pulled from the New Testament and early church history to paint a bigger portrait of the Onesimus than I had seen before.

My disappointments were minor. MacArthur came across as a little abrasive in his introduction where he should have been building rapport with his readers. He laments the lack of significance of the word hero when it is used to describe six-year-old soccer players, ten-year-old students of the week, celebrities, and superheroes. I would agree, but when your readership just might have a six-year-old soccer player or just might have enjoyed seeing The Avengers this summer, you risk alienating them and losing them before they have a chance to really engage your material. Regarding material, I was a little surprised to see a whole chapter on Enoch, since he only takes up a few verses of the Bible and relatively little is known about him. Even more shocking was the inclusion of Jonah and, to a lesser extent, Samson, who were more or less anti-heroes in the biblical narrative.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. It was a little lighter reading than MacArthur’s Slave (review) and The Jesus You Can’t Ignore (review), but it helped me discover something new in the Bible, which is what any good Christian book should do.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my review.

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