The Tabernacle: Living In Power Through Abiding Prayer, by Timothy C. Dunlap
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Bostick Communications in exchange for an honest review.]
This particular book, in many ways, is similar to many other books of its kind. It is a self-published effort written by a man who has studied certain aspects of scripture at great depth and who wishes to share that insight with as many people as possible through a book . Some of these books are self-published because no publisher would touch them for reasons of content, because it was too controversial, others because the quality of the work was not good enough. This book is certainly polished and reflective and has something intriguing to say, but it is equally clearly the work of someone who wants to speak their mind on their own and not be beholden to any sort of publisher. There is no doubt, in looking at this book, that the author has something to say that he believes is profound and world-changing.
This book is divided into a few chapters of greatly unequal length. Some chapters deal with the nature of God (which the author understands to be a Trinity, particularly of the Greek model), others deal with the symbols of the tabernacle and temple and their spiritual analogues as well as their place within the physical body of believers (in a manner that seems almost to copy the idea of the chakras from Eastern religion). Still other chapters deal with the mechanics of prayer standing up (and other questions of application) or are discussions about words like abiding or seek to provide a close analysis of a particular Bible passage. It is particularly striking that although the author seeks to provide some explanation of the importance of the tabernacle in understanding the Christian walk, the book itself follows the Greek form of seeking one meaning for various words rather than the biblical (i.e. Hebrew) way of showing a great deal of shade of meaning for words and concepts that includes multiple layers of application and truth.
This tension, or contradiction, is emblematic of the work as a whole. On almost the same page the author laments the lack of intellectual heavyweights in the Christian community and then goes to disparage the mind and praise the heart. This anti-intellectual tone pervades a work that seeks to give intellectual instruction on the meaning and use of Greek words in the Bible, as well as the deeper meaning of biblical symbols. The author thinks that the long life of John was enough to make him spiritually “off the charts,” and only grudgingly respects Paul for his mystical visions of heaven while barely mentioning Peter (who, like John, saw the transfiguration) and not mentioning James at all. Particularly odd about his focus on John is the fact that this book focuses on a relationship with God when John said in 1 John 4:20: “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” Likewise, this book speaks about those in whom Christ Jesus abides not sinning, but says nothing about the way in which we know we love God, not a feeling of the heart, but rather: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” from 1 John 5:3. It would seem, after all, that this author’s interest in John is largely for his own gnostic or Hellenistic Greek ideas, rather than a thorough and complete interest in what John has to say.
Despite the serious questions one can have about this book and its contents, it is of use in a few areas. The advice this book gives about praying standing up is very sound and excellent, namely because it is biblical. Likewise, the book does show how typology can help us to understand the Bible better, so that we are not afraid of symbolism and its deeper meaning. Likewise, this book reminds us (if such a reminder is necessary) that our problems do not often tend to be a shortage of intellectual knowledge, but often a shortage of confidence (i.e. power) or problems in our hearts, in our motives and relationships. Although this book largely ignores the matter of the second greatest commandment, which is really inseparable with the greatest commandment inasmuch as the latter five commandments are inseparable from the first five . Here’s hoping that the author corrects the imbalance between the focus on the relationship with God to the exclusion of one’s relationship with others. After all, the power that we gain from our private prayers is not supposed to make us arrogant mystics, but rather better servants of the Most High God to others (see Matthew 20:25-28).
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