Author’s background and intent
According to the publisher’s website, Oscar Avant is a retired engineering manager, and has served on the staff of churches in Silver Spring and Gaithersburg, MD. After I started reading this book, I looked for more information on his educational background, but could find none. His interest in this material is his passion for evangelism.
Avant’s intent is to offer a synopsis and commentary on the whole of the Biblical narrative.
The subtitle of the book is “Six Chapters of Man,” and this is how the book is organized. These chapters are:
- New Covenant
Avant summarizes and comments on these key events and the scriptural narrative that tells us of them.
At the level of essentials, Avant seems to hold to the essentials of Christianity. He holds to Trinitarian theology, a high Christology, and the necessity of trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ for salvation. However, at the level of the details, some of his theology seems poorly articulated at best, and on shaky ground at worst. While the use of generic terms like “Great Spirit” may seem like how one would reach out to a biblically illiterate culture, (even if it is reminiscent of Native American folk religion) there are places that the author takes creative license without informing the reader of this. In a number of places, Avant makes hermeneutical comments that are odd. It seems to me that if a writer is going to do that, he could at least cite his sources. Examples include his detailed account of Satan’s rebellion, (19-20) as well as the claim that the angelic realm was created before the universe. Additionally he claims that when Adam was the only human, since there was no need for human language he spoke the “spirit language of all things” that even animals could use. (30) This may or may not be true. We are not told in Scripture, and that is where we must look for such information. If the author wants to speculate on this, he is welcome to do so, but he ought to make it clear that this is what he is doing.
If this was the worst of it, I would not waste pixels on it. It is the details he adds to the Genesis account of the origin and fall of humanity that gets weird. He claims that Adam was created with a “seed of Myself (God)” in him (21.) He later calls this an indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Further, his use of the analogy of humans as “triune” since they are body, soul and spirit, leads to the heresy of partialism. Come on, Patrick! Where his theology shows some shakiness is when he describes the Holy Spirit as being capable of moving at infinite speed. At this point you may think I am fussing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but if you have a robust understanding of divine omnipresence, and understand that the Holy Spirit is God, then you see that God does not move through space since he is present everywhere, and he is non-spatial.
Based on a passage in Daniel, Avant claims that demons can stop prayers from reaching God. I will leave it to others how to tease this out in the context of Daniel. However, Avant makes similar claims about New Testament believers. However, if the Holy Spirit indwells New Testament believers, how is it even possible for any entity to interfere with our prayers reaching God, since the Spirit of God lives in us?
Avant also draws an artificial distinction between sin and evil behavior. He claims that sin did not exist before the law was given. However, he notes the judgment of God poured out in the Flood and on Sodom and Gomorrah.
Aside from some confusion he shows on the Incarnation, which errs close to seeing Jesus as two persons, most of what he has to say about the cross and salvation are orthodox.
Avant tells a fascinating story, and makes a detailed case for his views on the Gifts of the Spirit that are interesting. Moreover his writing is accessible for middle school age readers. However, I would not recommend this book to a non-Christian or a new Christian seeking to better understand the faith. They would come away rather confused.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255