Book review by Matthew K. Clifton
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians has been a special area of interest for me in my studies, so when I got the opportunity to review a new book focusing on the biblical and historical information we have regarding the church at Ephesus, I jumped at the chance. I was not disappointed.
In Deceiving Winds, Bruce Morton has assembled a wonderful study not only on the textual information found in the New Testament, but also on the social, historical and archaeological background that brings depth to the picture of ancient Ephesus. In a world where the church is constantly dogged by temptations to digress doctrinally and “go along to get along,” we should well heed the warning and example found in the scriptures regarding the church at Ephesus. By so doing, the church in present times can navigate these dangerous waters and remain pleasing to the Lord.
Morton, who serves as a deacon with the East Fifth Street Church of Christ in Katy, Texas, writes with a concern and passion that indicates his love for the Lord’s church. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn., a master’s degree from Harding University in Searcy, Ark., and has also studied medieval religion at Gettysburg Theological Seminary. His education has well prepared to write a work such as this, and his extensive research is evident throughout the 304 pages of Deceiving Winds.
Upon receiving the book, I was struck by the exceptional work that went into the design and printing of Deceiving Winds. But while it is a handsome publishing effort aesthetically, the real gems are found throughout the well-organized exposition. The book’s organization is a little unique in that half of the book consists of the thirteen main chapters, and the other half presents various notes, appendices, maps and photos, and a substantial bibliography.
Morton addresses many of the main themes found in the letter to the Ephesians, but he also draws on information throughout the New Testament. He covers topics such as the relationship between the Christian and materialism, the supremacy of God, our true identity as Christians, living as children of light, vocal-only music in the church, marriage and family issues, and the role of women in the church. Utilizing 1 Timothy and Acts 20, Morton also discusses the role of elders in the Ephesian church and the nature of the church itself.
With all of these topics, the author brings the biblical material from ancient record to contemporary application. As Morton writes, “The early Christians in Ephesus and Asia faced a daunting task. They had to unravel themselves from a culture that wove together civics, religion, medical arts, relationships, financial matters, and entertainment into a single piece of cloth” (p. 28). This astute observation shows the difficulties the early Christians faced in such a setting, but it also points out that contemporary Christians are in a similar setting. Morton’s book helps us to see that the same challenges the Ephesian Christians faced must be confronted by Christians today, and the answers are the same as they were nearly 2000 years ago.
Deceiving Winds is a must-read for anyone interested in early church history and background. But more than that, it will also make a good Bible class study, since it is broken down into thirteen chapters. The subject matter is highly relevant, since it deals with the contemporary issues of feminism, the dangers of wealth and materialism, instrumental music, human philosophy and mysticism, and even touches upon the “emerging church” movement. Since these issues have relation to what was happening in ancient Ephesus, we can find good counsel through the scriptures to help us navigate these troubled waters.
Overall, Morton has brought us a well-crafted, usefully-organized, and thoroughly-researched work that will help each Christian fight the spiritual battles that are before us. Therefore, I highly recommend this work for your library or Bible class.
Bruce Morton, Deceiving Winds: Christians Navigating the Storm of Mysticism, Leadership Struggles and Sensational Worship (Nashville, TN: 21st Century Christian, 2009), 304 pp.