Well, Loosing the Lion has been out a few weeks now, and people who’ve been reading it are pleased. One of my priest buddies in another state who’s well skilled in giving friends grief said something to the effect of, “Dangit, Leroy, I really wanted to give you guff about something in your book, but you know what? I love it.” Mike Bird, a leading evangelical scholar from Australia who wrote a blurb for the book, gave me the best compliment I could hope for:
— mbird (@mbird12) December 17, 2017
This review on Amazon captures, I think, what I tried to do with the book:
There is among scripture scholars to do one of two things: to stick to purely academic work, or to turn towards dumbing down the subject matter in such a way that it becomes “accessible” to the modern reader. Efforts resembling the latter end up not only insulting the common reader’s intelligence, but also fail to provide anything substantial by way of actual content.
Dr. Huizenga’s book avoids both of these pitfalls. The work is not only accessible to those who have little theological training, but also provides great detail for those of us who do. “Loosing the Lion” should be seen first and foremost as an aid to grasping the divine as it is revealed in the Gospel of Mark, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to all.
I really tried to write the book at a level that practicing Christians who love the Bible could appreciate, so I tried to avoid technical jargon and arcane debates (though I tell bits of the history of Mark’s reception and interpretation in an accessible way, kicking poor Bultmann’s corpse a couple times in the process). It also didn’t hurt that the book grew out of (1) talks given not only to clergy but to (2) laypeople. And (3) I have a certain wit. So it’s readable.
So what’s in it? The book falls into two parts:
Part I presents three chapters on interpreting and preaching Mark’s Gospel. The first chapter (really oriented to clergy who preach, but a lot of stuff would be generally applicable for laypeople concerned for mission) deals with how the beautiful preaching of Mark’s shocking Gospel might rouse postmodern people to faith in an age gone numb from Moral Therapeutic Deism.
The second chapter concerns how one actually reads a Gospel. Most scholars have treated the Gospels as textual artifacts, as the remains of long-dead religious communities. And so they read bits and pieces of the Gospel, looking for clues to what was going on in the author’s congregation (very few think St. Mark actually wrote it). I advocate reading Mark’s Gospel as a story, for that’s how St. Mark wrote it–with characters, plot, conflict, resolution, drama, irony–and as a verbal icon presenting the very presence of Christ, analogous to the beautiful visual icons with which we’re all familiar. In short, this chapter explains how to read Mark’s Gospel as Scripture. This would probably be the hardest chapter for the general reader lacking academic training in the Gospels, but again, I’ve aimed at readability.
The third chapter is simply a crash course in Mark’s Gospel, dealing with Mark’s theological themes, literary motifs, and the very shape of his story. In a nutshell, Mark’s Gospel is about apocalyptic holy war: how God himself comes to earth in Jesus to launch the liberation of the cosmos, held hostage by sin, death, hell, and the devil. Mark tells the story of divine victory, with God on the loose running round the cosmos to save us and it.
Part II, then, storms through the Gospel of Mark in its sequence, with headings telling where each section is found in the lectionary. I wanted to use the Gospel’s own order to preserve it’s story form and thus the literary context of each passage; the lectionary sometimes departs from Mark’s order to use a passage for a particular day, such as Mark 13:33-37 being read for the very first Sunday of Advent.
So that’s it. It makes a great resource for liturgical Christians who use a version of the revised common lectionary, and anyone else who’d like to understand Mark’s Gospel and (I would hope) have a deeper encounter with Jesus thereby.