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Jesus: The Path to Human Flourishing: The Gospel for the Cultural Chinese

I’Ching Thomas

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As the self-sufficient inventors of paper, printing, compass, and gunpowder, cultural Chinese puzzle over why we westerners think they need Jesus. I’Ching Thomas is often asked by fellow Chinese Christians “how they can relevantly share with their loved ones that this man, who is from a foreign land and from a culture that is equally distant, is the Savior their heart is meant for” (p. 5). Great question! To answer, Thomas wrote Jesus: The Path to Human Flourishing. Formerly of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, Thomas is a Malaysian-Chinese Christian who speaks and writes on apologetics for Eastern cultural contexts.

In Chapter 1 (“Why You’re Talking but We’re Not Hearing”), Thomas is realistic about the obstacles. Not only do cultural Chinese have trouble perceiving their need for Jesus, they also have difficulty forgetting the door into China was first blown open by Western colonizers and then used by Christian missionaries. According to the perception of one Chinese university president: “Buddha rode into China on a white elephant, while Jesus rode in on a cannonball” (p. 6). Thomas mentions another obstacle. Western Christians have done a poor job comprehending Chinese culture. Moreover, even when missionaries present the gospel in understandable terms, their tone does not accord with the subjective longings and traditional values of cultural Chinese.

Although the book is short, the solution is far from a shortcut. Thomas does not list easy-to-remember steps for an effective gospel presentation. Rather she walks us through the far more difficult—but far more rewarding—process of contextualization. Chapter 2 helps us in “rethinking the good news.” The key word in the chapter is “worldview.” We Christians must rediscover our faith as more than just a set of doctrines or a moral code. Rather, it is a view of all reality that should be lived out with passionate conviction. As such, we can present Christianity to cultural Chinese as something that is far more than a transactional, individualistic me-and-God relationship. It is a worldview that fulfills our deepest longings and harmonizes our estranged relationships.

Chapters 3–5 describe the three religions that most define Chinese culture: Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. Daoism invites adherents to calmly return to the harmony of the indefinable Dao, as depicted by the interaction of yin and yang. Confucianism promises adherents a return to golden-age, holistic harmony as they follow the rules of propriety (li). Buddhism diagnoses reality as hopelessly permeated with suffering; yet, one can follow any number of buddhas and bodhisattvas into nirvanic escape.

In chapters 6–8, Thomas presents Jesus as the fulfillment of Chinese longings. She answers the question, “Why shouldn’t they find fulfillment in their homegrown religions?” Even through the collective wisdom of Buddha, Laozi, and Confucius, she says “Confucius’s Utopia” (ch. 6) has eluded them. Such a vision was built on the sands of over-optimism about humanity and over-reliance upon governmental benevolence.

Thankfully, not only is “Yahweh’s Shalom” (ch. 7) a grander vision, but it is actually realistic. Because Christians are naturally better people? No. Shalom works because it calls out sin and calls on God. And the God called upon is no mere noble ideal, but a real, historic person. Rather than blissfully banking on governmental officials to develop love for “the least of these,” biblical shalom originates in God himself, who has entered into “our messy sin-infected world so that he can usher in the era of the new creation” (p. 85). In Jesus, “the homecoming to shalom has begun and humanity is on a path that anticipates and leads toward this vision” (p. 92).

Chapter 8 (“Jesus: The Noble Path to Human Flourishing”) gets practical. It highlights the gospel’s power to restore relationships in all areas of life. Thomas then invites us to locate biblical truths within Chinese culture. Finally, she explores what Christianity offers a people who want pragmatic, lived-out solutions.

What are the book’s weaknesses? All that comes to mind is that it has too many absorbing insights, personal stories, and helpful explanations to be branded as a typical textbook. You guessed it––these are all strengths. My only true complaint is that it could have been longer. Finishing the book makes me want to interview Thomas in order to glean any additional contextualizing tips she has that did not make it into the book. Furthermore, I would like her to further flesh out potential bridges to Chinese honor-shame culture such as “Christ’s shame-bearing death” and “honor-gaining resurrection” (p. 117).

The book left this reviewer feeling both encouraged and uneasy. I was encouraged because there are ways to help cultural Chinese discover how their longings are satisfied and their values are fulfilled in Jesus. There is no shame in being both Chinese and Christian. What an exciting and worthy challenge to take up!

Why would one be uneasy? Thomas concludes that the traditional Chinese religions do not work for them. She gives examples demonstrating moral inadequacies in Chinese culture (e.g., the Confucian ideal remains unmet). As lofty as their ideals are in theory, Chinese people need Jesus. The uneasy upshot of such logic, on the other hand, is that we Christians lose opportunities to argue that Jesus has showed us the true way to live, regardless of how inadequately we Christians live out our faith. To be fair—and to be faithful evangelists—we greatly need Jesus too.

Daniel J. McCoy
The Renew Network
Franklin, Tennessee, USA

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Contextualizing the Faith: A Holistic Approach

Scott Moreau

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Scott Moreau is Academic Dean and Professor of Intercultural Studies at Wheaton College Graduate School, where he has taught for twenty-eight years. Prior to that, he spent ten years serving cross-culturally in Africa. Moreau has published extensively on the subject of contextualization, including Contextualization in World Missions: Mapping and Assessing Evangelical Models (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2012). Contextualization in World Missions comprehensively summarizes the major presuppositions, orientations, and disagreements that have characterized the contextualization debate since 1972. The book furthermore maps a variety of evangelical approaches to contextualization based around the role of initiator (e.g., facilitator, guide, herald, pathfinder, prophet, and restorer). Contextualizing the Faith is a sequel to this earlier book, which both expands and applies Moreau’s model.

In the Chapter 1, Moreau explains that contextualization lies at the intersection of faith and culture and “refers to how people live out their faith in light of the values of their society.” Rather than restricting contextualization to simply the kerygma or even theology, Moreau’s concept of contextualization is refreshingly broad and is said to occur in everything the church does, as well as the way it does it (p. 2).

From this broad conceptualization, Moreau organises his approach to contextualization by basing it around seven dimensions: Social Dimension (chs. 2–5); Mythic dimension (ch. 6); Ethical Dimension (ch. 7); Artistic and Technological Dimension (ch. 8); Ritual Dimension (ch. 9); Experience Dimension: The Supernatural (ch. 10); and the Doctrinal Dimension (ch. 11). The book concludes with projections on the future of contextualization (ch. 12). These seven dimensions “frame a holistic and healthy approach to planting, growing, discipling, developing, and nurturing a local gathering of believers into a healthy church” (p. ix). The burden of the book is to explain and illustrate each dimension, utilizing the general same approach for each: “(1) an introduction to the dimension (or component), (2) a discussion of how that dimension shows up in Scripture, and (3) selected examples of what contextualization of that dimension entails” (p. 10). A representative sample below of these dimensions will illustrate the book’s general approach.

The Social Dimension concerns “how people connect to each other” (p. 11). As the dominant dimension in Moreau’s model, it consists of four components: Association and Kinship; Exchange: Economics; Learning: Education; and Organizational: Politics. Association and Kinship (ch. 2) contains two related concepts needing contextualization. Association refers to the idea that human beings are created as relational creatures. Thus, their associations are determined by factors like choice and birth. Kinship relates to marriage and extended biological relationships.

The Social Dimension as Exchange: Economics (ch. 3) concerns different types of capital that exist in societies, such as: monetary, political, social, and spiritual. The Social Dimension as Learning: Education (ch. 4) favors the term “learning” over “education” to indicate that learning can be both formal/direct and indirect. It not only involves acquisition of knowledge, but also values and skills (p. 54). The Social Dimension as Organizational (ch. 5) considers how individuals organize themselves and their various leadership structures. This section is relevant to society and church settings.

In the Mythic Dimension (ch. 6), myth defined as “any real or fictional story, recurring theme, or character type that appeals to the consciousness of a people by embodying its cultural ideals or by giving expression to deep, commonly held beliefs and felt emotions” (p. 101). This dimension is an oft-neglected area of contextualization. Myths have important psychological and social functions. These include strengthening individuals and societies in times of uncertainty as well as being a “social glue” that holds society together (pp. 101–5). Common themes or paradigms in myths include adventure, brokenness and redemption, suffering and sacrifice, coming of age, heroism, and love. Identifying, understanding, and subsequently contextualizing societal myths are important. Doing so helps to locate “contact points” for evangelism and communication, “conflict points” between gospel and culture, and to identify syncretistic tendencies.

The Ritual Dimension (ch. 9) incorporates the ritual actions that are embedded in society for purposes such as establishing courtships, initiating us into new communities, caring for offspring, celebrating birth, mourning loved ones, and so on. Moreau highlights three categories of ritual. First, intensification rituals are designed to intensify a person’s identity or bonding to others or set of beliefs (e.g., birthdays, anniversaries, pilgrimages, national parades, Communion). Second, transition rituals mark a person’s transition from one state to another (e.g., birth, puberty/coming of age, graduation, marriage, parenthood, retirement). Third, crisis rituals deal with unexpected or unfavourable situations (e.g., drought, famine, illness, loss of job). One challenge for Christians in contextualizing rituals is determining whether a particular ritual can be practiced unchanged, adapted for Christian use, or replaced altogether (p. 173).

This book has many strengths. First, it approaches the topic from an evangelical perspective, consistently drawing readers back to a careful reading of Scripture as normative for contextualization. Second, it has a logical structure and layout, with sidebars included in each chapter containing questions designed to help people apply ideas from the chapter. Third, its approach is holistic (rather than atomistic). The book provides a richer, more nuanced picture of contextualization than is generally found in related literature. Fourth, whereas Contextualization in World Missions is theoretical in nature, Contextualizing the Faith has a stronger practical component, consistently focusing helping readers learn to contextualize. For example, many chapters have associated case studies to ground the material in a real-life situation. Fifth, it takes into account that many Majority World Christians live as religious minorities. Contextualizing the Faith is imminently practical, spurring Christians to consider how to contextualize their faith in the context of other religions and in ways understandable to adherents of those religions (p. 4).

The book poses more questions than it answers. In that way, it functions more as a workbook than a textbook. But for the thoughtful reader, it offers a wide lens for evaluating and exploring possibilities for contextualization in their particular context.

The breath of Moreau’s contextual approach gives room for a wide readership. This book will be particularly valuable for students and teachers of missiology, mission agencies, mission practitioners, and church leaders.

Andrew Prince
Brisbane School of Theology
Toowong, Queensland, Australia

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On Islam

Abraham Kuyper

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Dutch polymath Abraham Kuyper is a giant in Reformed Protestant theology. He served as a pastor, politician, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, publisher, journalist and author. He founded a newspaper, a political party, and a university. The Abraham Kuyper Translation Society has made his collected works available in English, including On Islam, which recounts his tour around the Mediterranean (August 1905–June 1906). This volume spans a range of Kuyper’s interests. He makes observations about diverse topics, including education, economics, international relations, religion and theology, and spiritual trends in global politics. Nevertheless, the pebble in Kuyper’s shoe is the Muslim Umma and Islam.

What Kuyper writes about the future, including his repeated prophecies (and warnings), is particularly intriguing. In some instances, he was prescient. One example is his prediction that China will rise to greatness, throw off European shackles, with Japan leading the way: “Once awakened, China can develop a tremendous power that will overcome any resistance… great treasures lie hidden in this giant empire” (p. 5). Kuyper says this, not to cause anxiety, but “only to prevent surprise over this outcome” (p. 6). Even today, surprise over the rise and rise of China is not yet exhausted.

Another prophecy concerns the potency of what Kuyper calls the Pan-Islamic movement: the Islamic Awakening seeking to unite the Umma, restoring the glory and political dominance of Islam by establishing a caliphate. He warns that colonial regimes will have to contend with this movement in the not too distant future. Although he sees Islam politically as a spent force—“as a political force, Islam is no more” —yet he emphasizes its great spiritually potency. He says, “Islam remains in a strong position … and Europe will have to reckon with it” (p. 215). In contrast to some of his contemporaries, Kuyper rightly discerned that Islam’s spiritual power would not easily dissipate, and the peoples of Islam even then were making preparations to rise again.

Some of Kuyper’s predictions fall wide of the mark. He anticipates the conversion of virtually all of Africa to Islam, with no success for Christian missions. Instead, Christianity is today the dominant faith in the Sub-Sahara.

Perhaps influenced by Romanticism, Kuyper has a mystical understanding of the spiritual character of nations and races. He tends to stereotype groups. For example, everything from Japan to the Middle East is for him “the East” and shares in the “Asian spirit,” in contrast to the “European spirit” (p. 28). He also waxes lyrical about “Semitic spirituality” (p. 38) and “the Semitic conception of life” (p. 175). Admittedly, there are some admirable features in the way he uses these tropes. For example, Kuyper laments the “Germanic Jesus” (p. 307) that infused Protestantism at the time, a tendency in German biblical scholarship to erase the Jewishness of Christianity. Countering this anti-Semitic trend, Kuyper sees the marrying of the Semitic and Aryan spirits in Christianity as a good thing. On the other hand, his tendency to seize on racial traits everywhere he turns can lead to mistakes. Kuyper often confuses linguistic identity with genetic inheritance. His linking of “Semitic” languages with “Shem” of Genesis (p. 302) is one example.

Kuyper’s presentation of Islam is mainly sympathetic, although it is a “warts-and-all” approach. He even hopes that Islam, which he in many respects admires, will unite with Christianity to defeat paganism.

Kuyper’s emphasis on Semitic identity causes him to consider it self-evident that Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are all children of Abraham, an association which deeply influences his approach to Islam.

When reading On Islam, one should keep in mind that Kuyper is a widely-read generalist, not a specialist in every topic he covers. As a result, he makes basic mistakes. For example, although concerned about Islam’s treatment of women, he is under the impression that divorce is readily available for all in Islam. In fact, for women, divorce can be very difficult to secure if the husband opposes it.

A moving aspect of Kuyper’s travelogue is his observation of vibrant Christian communities across Asia Minor and the Levant: two million Christians in Asia Minor alone, mainly Greek Orthodox and Armenian. He discusses the genocide of Christians in Damascus in 1860 and massacres of Armenians in the 1890s. Kuyper describes the obvious fear of Christians he met on his journeys. The prospect of being “overrun by bloodthirsty fanaticism from all sides” (p. 50) was soon to be realized in the Armenian, Greek, and Assyria genocides, reprised by Christian losses in Syria and Iraq of the past 20 years. Many of the vibrant Christian communities Kuyper encountered have disappeared or are a shadow of what he witnessed. In this sense, On Islam can be read as an elegy for a lost world.

A persistent theme of On Islam is Kuyper’s perplexity about the success of Islam at the expense of Christianity. This troubles and challenges him no end. His explanation for why Christian nations turned to Islam is that humiliation under the dhimma was harder to bear than persecution. At the same time, Kuyper is pessimistic about the prospect of Muslims converting to Christianity. He laments that most missions to Muslim societies end up working only with pre-existing Christian populations.

Kuyper’s sense of hopelessness has not been vindicated by history. Today we live in a period when more Muslims are turning to Christ than ever before. It is also an irony that the very thing Kuyper feared as a force for conversion, the Pan-Islam movement, has been instrumental in paving the way for Christian mission in the 21st century. Muslims often have turned to Christ most readily where revival movements have secured political power, such as in Algeria or Iran, and utopian promises have come to nothing.

The editors have supplied this volume with many excellent footnotes, which adds to one’s pleasure in reading. There is a glitch, however, when Kuyper’s understanding of the Islamic jihad is corrected by a note pointing to the concept of the non-violent “greater jihad.” In reality, the tradition upon which the “greater jihad” concept is based is not considered reliable by mainstream Muslim scholars. None of the six Sunni canonical collections of hadith include it. In all pre-modern Islamic jurisprudence, the word jihād refers to military efforts, so Kuyper’s description of this doctrine is consistent with all schools of Islamic law.

Mark Durie
Melbourne School of Theology
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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Shandong: The Revival Province

Paul Hattaway

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Paul Hattaway served as a missionary in China for thirty years. He is the founder of Asia Harvest, an organization that supports the advance of the gospel and the development the church in China. Hattaway is a fluent Mandarin speaker and an authority on the history of the Chinese church.

Shandong: The Revival Province is the first book in The China Chronicles series in which Hattaway traces the history of the church in every province of China. Hattaway’s express purpose for this book (and all those in the series) is to tell the story of the spread of Christianity in China. As a result, “Multitudes would be strengthened, edified and challenged to carry the torch of the Holy Spirit to their generation” (series overview). Hattaway indeed fulfills his purpose. This book challenged this writer to love Christ in a deeper way and make him known in my generation.

A well-known saying among the Chinese states, “He who holds Shandong grips China by the throat.” In Shandong: The Revival Province, Hattaway chronicles the hand of God gripping China and shaking it for his glory. Written in an engaging style, the book traces the establishment of the church in Shandong Providence by the first evangelical missionaries. It ends with the state of the church in Shandong in 2016.

Hattaway begins with a nine-page overview of Shandong history and development. Shandong means “East of the mountains.” He notes that Shandong is the home of Confucius and also the center of house church revival in China. This section provides a good overview on Shandong Province for the uninitiated.

Beginning in the 1860s, Hattaway traces the spread of the gospel in Shandong, decade by decade, ending in 2016. He gives attention to prominent missionaries from those earliest years of missionary activities, including those who are more obscure yet made a contribution in Shandong. Of course, Hattaway mentions prominent Chinese evangelists and pastors who made an impact in those pioneer years. For the period following the 1950s, his exclusive focus is on house churches and the indigenous pastors who led them. Hattaway highlights the faithfulness of house church pastor David Wang, who defied communists after the takeover. Hattaway writes, “Wang summoned his family into his study and them to pray for him. He then walked up the aisle of the church and removed the portrait of Mao and walked out” (p. 174). Wang became a marked man, but by the grace of God, he and his family were able to flee to Hong Kong and evade capture. Many other examples are given of house church Christians’ faithfulness to Christ at great cost.

A volume of this nature is long overdue. According to Hattaway’s introduction, almost a century has passed since such a comprehensive survey of the church in Shandong has been compiled (p. xiv). The Appendix contains an estimated number of evangelical Christians in every city and prefecture in Shandong. The chart identifies Christians in the house church and Three-Self Patriotic state church. This is an invaluable tool for researches, missionaries, and anyone interested in the study of the church in Shandong.

The rich history of the faithfulness of Chinese Christians amid persecution encourages the church inside and outside of China to remain faithful. Hattaway, being a fluent Mandarin speaker, makes extensive use of first-hand interviews with Chinese house church leaders. Through these interviews, Hattaway is able to preserve an oral history that otherwise might fade with time. Further enhancing the credibility of Hattaway’s research are bibliographical notes for each chapter and a bibliography that cites all of the major works of Shandong missionary and church history.

I highly recommend Shandong: The Revival Province. This book is relevant for a pastor, missionary, researcher of anyone interested in the history of the Chinese church. The reader who takes up this volume will be enriched by the story of faithful men and women whom God used to build the church in Shandong.

John Plumley
Lake Wales Baptist Church
Lake Wales, Florida, USA

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Embracing Contemplation: Reclaiming a Christian Spiritual Practice

John H. Coe and Kyle C. Strobel, eds

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What is contemplation? Can the church biblically support this vague-sounding concept often seen in New Age mysticism and Eastern spirituality? John H. Coe and Kyle C. Strobel, seek to answer these questions in their new anthology, Embracing Contemplation: Reclaiming a Christian Spiritual Practice.

Coe and Strobel compiled thirteen essays spanning across evangelical persuasions in order to enter into a Christian conversation on contemplation. The editors define contemplation as “a call to the presence of God that has been made available in Christ by the Spirit” (pp. 6–7), and this definition essentially serves as the book’s theme. However, Coe and Strobel do not advocate a strict, unmoving definition of contemplation but intend to encourage discussion within the church, as seen in the nuanced treatments of the book’s contributors.

Every Christian, including myself, will come to certain essays and have some disagreement with, or qualification for, the writers. This is a strength of the book. It opens a dialectical space for Christians to discuss contemplation.

While each essay has much to be enjoyed and praised, a couple stood out as the most significant in the collection. Outside of Coe and Strobel’s contributions to their anthology, I found Ashley Cocksworth and Hans Boersma made the most illuminating contributions to this anthology.

Cockswork’s essay, “Sabbatical Contemplation? Retrieving a Strand in Reformed Theology,” seeks to formulate a biblical theology of contemplation by looking to teachings on prayer and the Sabbath. He mainly draws from Scripture and the writings of John Calvin, in order to formulate a biblical view of contemplation. He begins his discussion of contemplation by looking at the concept and practice of prayer. Calvin says that prayer “at its deepest level is a practice of ‘pure contemplation’ before God” (p. 79). The connection here is that if the Christian life is a life of prayer, then the Christian life includes contemplation. After looking at prayer, Cocksworth draws the reader’s attention to the Sabbath as expounded in Genesis 2:1–3.

Calvin and Cocksworth both claim that God takes this rest from creation to reflect on, to contemplate, his works. He argues, then, that if we are to imitate God, we are to rest from our works in order to contemplate God and his works. Cocksworth explains, “Sabbatical contemplation is about gift: the sharing, by way of the son, in God’s own rest” (p. 88). He ends this essay with a call to action directly stemming from this Sabbath-formed contemplation. He states that “in sabbatical contemplation is to be found a peculiarly active sort of passivity: rest. On closer inspection, resting in God is hard work—it requires action, commitment, and even the countercultural reordering [of] our desire[s]” (p. 93). The reason I find Cocksworth’s essay so illuminating lies in its envisioning of what contemplation is, a way to commune with God and experience his Sabbath rest today.

Hans Boersma’s essay, “The Beatific Vision: Contemplating Christ as the Future Present,” concerns what it will look like to see God in glory. It aims to guide us in how to see God in the present. In such passages as 1 John 3:2, John shows us what heaven will entail—seeing God as he is (the beatific vision). Boersma looks backward to God’s past revelation of himself (e.g., creation, the covenants, the incarnation). He then looks forward to the full and perfect revelation of himself in glory in order to form a biblical understanding of contemplation.

The reason we practice contemplation is to commune with God, which presents a partial image of perfect, heavenly communion with the triune God. Boersma shows us that “God gives ever-greater opportunity for contemplating him, so that we may get a foretaste of the beatific vision through these early sacramental anticipations of it” (p. 221). Boersma opens our eyes to the truth that we experience the fullness of heaven now, and one significant way of doing so lies in contemplation.

My review of this book has been more theological than practical. Yet, each writer puts forth tangible steps to practice contemplation. One practice mentioned in the book is lectio divina, or “divine reading.” Like many ancient practices, lectio divina evokes mixed responses from evangelicals. This review does not regard lectio divina, or any contemplative practice, as a replacement to sound biblical exegesis. Rather, it is a tool to still the mind so that one may reflect on the Bible.

In practicing lectio, one sits down with a short passage of Scripture, reading it four consecutive times. After the first time, readers get the surface-level sense of the passage. After the second time, a person observes and repeats words, phrases, and sentences that seem significant. After the third time, one prays about how the passage bears upon their life and the lives of others. After the fourth time, readers spend 5–10 minutes in silent contemplation. This is one practical step to open our minds and hearts to discern God’s presence, received by grace.

This book will be a conversation-starter for many Christians, whether pastors, scholars, or laypeople. Coe and Strobel conclude the anthology well when they write, “Scripture points Christians to real wisdom and discernment in the spiritual life, and the church must continually wrestle with the lived reality of that calling” (p. 286). Embracing Contemplation can and will assist anyone who wants to join in this task.

Joey Jekel
Reformed University Fellowship
Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA

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Give Them Jesus: Raising Our Children on the Core Truths of the Christian Faith

Dillon T. Thornton

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This is a book with its heart in the right place. Give Them Jesus starts from the conviction that it is parents who bear the primary responsibility for their children’s spiritual development. This may well occur in the context of a church, but the responsibility lies first with the parents: the family is the first church.

After briefly establishing this foundation, Thornton then suggests that while most Christian parents acknowledge this responsibility, a majority spend little or no time discussing spiritual truths with their children. The reason offered for this is that their own grasp of the content of the Christian faith is shaky. Give Them Jesus aims to address this problem by encouraging and equipping “parent-theologians” who are better able to instruct their children in Christian truth and lead them to be disciples of Jesus.

Give Them Jesus does this by presenting an overview of the major basic doctrines of the Christian faith with an eye in their communication to children. The material is arranged according to six topics drawn from the Apostle’s Creed: (1) The Father; (2) The Son: identity and first coming; (3) The Son: death and resurrection; (4) The Son: present ministry and second coming; (5) The Holy Spirit; and (6) The Church.

Each chapter outlines, discusses, and illustrates the core elements of a particular topic. Each treatment proceeds along classical reformed and evangelical lines, with help from writers such as Calvin, McGrath, Lewis, Bray, Morris, and Packer. Thornton sticks to the mainlines of the Bible’s teaching on each topic and while some controversial areas are mentioned, these are not normally engaged (e.g. the timing of Christ’s second coming). Rather, the focus of each discussion is especially on the implications of the topic for Christian life and practice. Helpful illustrations abound. The explanations are simple without being simplistic, and it is clear that what is written reflects the wealth of Thornton’s experience and practice with his own family.

Each topic concludes with a family worship guide. This is the major innovation of the book and reflects Thornton’s conviction that one of the key responsibilities of parents is to lead focused times of instruction within the context of family worship. Thornton gives detailed guidance for what this might look like under the four principles of teach, treasure, sing, and pray. Importantly this is not to replace a whole of life approach to Christian nurture, “every day is a string of teachable moments” (p. 8), but he suggests parents consider a regular time of family worship lasting for between 10–15 minutes for younger children, often around a meal time or bedtime. I think this would adapt and change as children get older.

The guides at the end of each chapter contain concepts to remember (e.g., the various sections of the Apostles’ Creed) as well as memory verses. This is what Thornton means by his principle “treasure.” Then follows a brief summary of the main concepts covered in the more extended discussion, with each providing a possible focus for a time of worship. There is also a series of suggested questions to raise with the family to spark discussion about the topic, as well as a number of suggested songs. Finally, each guide concludes with relevant prayer prompts.

Give Them Jesus is a reliable guide aimed at the average (Christian) parent. It is a kind of entry level systematic theology and would also double as a useful theological overview for leaders working in children’s and youth ministry.

Part of the value of Give Them Jesus lies in the challenge it puts before parents to grow in their knowledge of their faith so they can more effectively, and deliberately, disciple their own children. Its usefulness is in the way it helps parents to do this. While the question is begged as to what this means for children in churches who come from unbelieving families, there are useful clues here for children’s and youth ministers looking for ideas for topics and programs to be used in their groups and activities.

One intriguing sidelight is the choice of songs recommended for the worship times, which mainly consist of older hymns. Questions of language and syntax with younger children aside (e.g., It is Well With my Soul, Crown Him with Many Crowns), are these choices indicative of the relative dearth of more objective content-based songs in the contemporary scene? Perhaps. In my view, however, the author would have done well to cast the net wider to catch some helpful contemporary songs that have been written for younger believers.

Give them Jesus is a well-written and helpful book that identifies a genuine problem in many Christian homes and provides a constructive and thoughtful response.

Bill Salier
Youthworks College
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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Parenting with Words of Grace: Building Relationships with Your Children One Conversation at a Time

William P. Smith

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William P. Smith is a pastor and former faculty member of the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF). His new book, Parenting with Words of Grace, is a call for parents to build lasting relationships with their children through gracious conversations. The book offers theological depth with a warm and personal tone. This book would be most relevant to parents of older children and teenagers.

Each of the short chapters of Parenting with Words of Grace begins and ends with the gospel. Smith shows how God has spoken graciously to us, how we ought to reflect that same grace to our children, and how we can rely on God’s ongoing grace when we fail. Along the way, Smith pieces together a basic theology of speech. Speech reveals the character and commitments of the speaker: as God’s image-bearers, our speech will either communicate the truth about our Creator flowing from a heart of worship or echo the lies of his enemy flowing from a heart of idolatry.

The first part of Smith’s book sets out his vision: “Parenting involves countless interactions through which you invite potential future peers to an ongoing relationship if they should so choose” (p. 19). Smith encourages parents to understand their role in relational terms: parenting is not about finding formulas that “work,” but about having interactions that “woo” our children into a lasting relationship with us and with God.

Smith illustrates this kind of gracious speech using Jesus’ words to the seven churches in Revelation, along with some shorter examples. He concludes: “God pours out his kindness by speaking the words people need to hear even when he knows they will reject him. He now invites you to join him by giving yourself to conversations with others—especially your children—with that same exhausting, profligate abandon that’s more interested in love than it is in guarantees” (p. 47).

Smith devotes a chapter to explaining why parents have to talk to their children so much. He writes, “By God’s intent, we enter life knowing nothing, then are slowly brought to understand our world and our place within it through the very ordinary medium of people talking to us. With their help, over time, we mature into contributing, responsible members of society who in turn can support and nurture others” (p. 64).

The second part of Parenting with Words of Grace is called “The Hope.” These chapters consider why parents sometimes fail to speak graciously to their children, while reassuring them of God’s willingness to forgive. Smith illustrates this with an extended example from the life of Abraham. He urges parents to keep running back to Jesus, who intercedes with the Father on our behalf. We need to take words of repentance to God and need to listen to God’s gracious words to us in Scripture; only then can we speak graciously to our children.

Part Three of Parenting with Words of Grace focuses on the skill of encouragement. Smith teaches parents to search for the positive in seed form: “It’s too easy to focus on the goal and ignore the process by which someone is moving toward it. Learn to see the process with its countless steps and stages and you’ll quickly see many things you can encourage” (p. 145).

Part Four addresses the skill of honesty. Smith argues from Scripture that the goal of honesty is rescue: “God doesn’t confront to break relationships. He speaks honestly to restore them” (p. 156). Smith then draws from the wisdom of Proverbs, urging parents to think before they speak. Next, he encourages parents to follow the example of Jesus: our conversations should seek to uncover our children’s deepest needs, rather than just address the presenting problem.

The book finishes with a healthy dose of realism: we should expect our children to make mistakes. Smith writes: “Don’t wish those moments away. Don’t sigh or frown or look surprised when they come up. Don’t long for low-maintenance kids who never need you to step in and say anything. Stop wishing you were raising Pharisees—kids who look good on the outside but are in deep trouble inside” (pp. 195–96). In our imperfect human families, we need to develop a “lifestyle” of forgiveness (p. 201).

Parenting with Words of Grace has much to commend it. Smith uses Scripture well in developing a theology of speech that is illuminating and, over the course of the book, surprisingly comprehensive. Smith’s years of experience as a pastor and counselor have also given him deep insight into how people work—he understands the particular weaknesses and temptations that parents face; he gives wise advice on interpersonal communication and conflict resolution.

Smith’s basic message to parents is powerful: we should be careful to use words that strengthen, not weaken, our relationship with our children.

The book, however, is not without its weaknesses. One is that it does not adequately define the unique relationship between parents and children. Smith defines parenting as “the sum total of interactions between two human beings whereby I regularly invite a slightly younger person to a relationship that increasingly closes the maturity gap between us” (p. 24). This definition could equally apply to my relationship with the twenty children in my Sunday School class or soccer team.

Smith’s definition does not take into account the unique responsibility that parents have for their children’s maturity, and the unique authority that this entails. Smith does not use the concept of authority positively until chapter 26; even then, the idea is simply presumed, rather than explained. Likewise, Smith does not address the issue of how children ought to respond to their parents’ words. And yet, the Bible places great emphasis on the value of children honoring their parents by listening to and obeying them (e.g. Prov 1:8; 6:20–23; 1 Sam 2:25; Eph 6:1–3).

The Bible also describes many different kinds of parental speech (especially throughout Deuteronomy and Proverbs). These include recounting salvation history, answering questions, teaching, instructing, commanding, warning, and correcting. Parenting with Words of Grace does not look in detail at these different categories of speech .

Smith might also have drawn on the rich Scriptural paradigm of God as Father and Jesus as Son. Smith’s examples switch between God and Jesus indiscriminately, even to the point of referring to us as Jesus’s children (p. 162). Perhaps it would have been more helpful to examine how God speaks as the Father and how Jesus responds as the Son. Smith’s main example of gracious speech comes from Jesus’s words in Revelation, but here he speaks as the Bridegroom to his Bride-to-be. This typifies the book’s failure to distinguish clearly between different types of relationships, and the different types of speech that might categorize them.

These criticisms notwithstanding, Parenting with Words of Grace is a welcome book that offers parents some very helpful and challenging ideas. It is simply not a comprehensive parenting book. It should be read alongside other books that offer a clearer explanation of a parent’s unique role in the lives of their children.

Harriet Connor
Lakes Anglican Church
Kanwal, New South Wales, Australia

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Untangling Emotions: God’s Gift of Emotions

J. Alasdair Groves and Winston T. Smith

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Emotions are too hot to handle. Equanimity in all circumstances seems a much better friend. That sums up the awkward relationship that many of us have with our feelings. Should we love them? Should we hate them? We are uncomfortable with negative emotions and wary of positive ones. Emotions feel like a liability, or we rarely even notice them. Some of us gravitate to early Christians like Clement and Origen who believed the perfected Christian would be completely free of any emotions.

In Untangling Emotions, J. Alasdair Groves and Winston Smith show how emotions are, in fact, an essential way humans bear God’s image. Emotions reflect what we love—and what we love supremely, we worship. Emotions can help or hinder us from fulfilling the Great Commandment to love God and neighbor. Engaging our emotions is therefore not peripheral to the Christian life. The authors recognize this as they seek to help Christians handle emotions in a way that honors God. The book is divided into three parts: Understanding Emotions, Engaging Emotions, and Engaging the Hardest Emotions. A helpful appendix also looks at God’s emotions in light of the doctrine of impassibility.

The first section helps readers understand emotions by dispelling some of the common myths we believe about them. It’s easy to think we should embrace positive emotions and suppress negative ones. We might label joy and peace as good and fear and anger as bad. Instead, the authors argue that all emotions are good in their proper place. We should not feel happy when a loved one is in pain, and we should feel fear when a car almost hits us. As the first chapter makes clear, sometimes it’s good to feel bad and sometimes it’s bad to feel good! Emotions don’t come “single file” either (p. 41). We usually have many feelings at once. The reason we have various and often conflicting emotions is because we “love lots of things” (p. 42).

The second section explains how to respond to our emotions and the emotions of others. Two pitfalls we often fall into are believing emotions are everything and thus embracing all that we feel, or believing they are nothing and trying to suppress what we feel. Groves and Smith offer a better option: we should engage our emotions. We engage our emotions with four helpful steps: (1) identify what you are feeling, (2) examine why you are feeling it, (3) evaluate the good and bad aspects of the emotion, and (4) act according to the evaluation. Engaging emotions ultimately means engaging God, the Giver of emotions. Our emotions are not something we should keep to ourselves—to truly engage our emotions, we need to bring them to God in prayer and to others in vulnerability. We should also empathetically help others as they try to do the same. Empathy says, “I want to know what this situation was like for you, rather than just imagining what your situation would be like for me” (p. 115). Emotional connection is important for intimacy with both God and others.

The third section lays out how to engage the hardest emotions: fear, anger, grief, guilt, and shame. The authors analyze the good purpose of each of these emotions and the way our sinful nature steers them in the wrong direction. Fear, for example, motivates us to seek safety, control, and certainty. In a moment of danger, fear is necessary to cause us to flee what will harm us. Often however, fear contemplates “what-ifs” and worst-case scenarios while “writing the presence and help of God out of the picture” (p. 158). Nevertheless, even sinful fear can point us back to the truth of Scripture that God cares for each of us, that he is “a Person you can trust with your very life” (p. 164).

Groves and Smith are balanced in the way they help readers engage their own emotions and the emotions of others. They help readers examine their own hearts, but they do not stop there. Even the reflection questions after each chapter enable readers to better relate to others’ emotions. They are also detailed in their explanation of emotions. For example, they touch on the issue of numbness and how those who experience it are usually troubled by their lack of emotion (pp. 61, 79). They give a nuanced explanation of anger by naming its subtler expressions of frustration, irritation, and annoyance (p. 175). They investigate both the objective and subjective realities of guilt and shame: sometimes we feel guilty when we are not, other times we do not feel guilty when we are (p. 202). Overall, their explanation of emotions is nuanced, reflecting the complex ways different people experience and process emotional responses.

I greatly enjoyed reading this book and only have a few suggestions for improvements. I struggled with the idea that “every emotion you ever feel reflects your loves, or what you worship” (p. 39, emphasis added). I appreciated the chapter explaining how emotions happen in our body, but what about how our body affects our emotions in ways that do not reflect our heart? For example, a woman may avoid coffee because every time she drinks it, the caffeine makes her anxious. While I’m not certain, I do not think the authors would say this anxiety stems from her disordered love for God, but instead is a physiological reaction to the caffeine. Or perhaps they would not classify this kind of “anxiety” as true anxiety (or a true emotion) since it is not a reflection of the heart. I agree that most of the time anxiety reveals the concerns of our hearts, but there could have been more clarification here for the few instances that our emotions do not reflect what we worship.

I also appreciate that the authors kept the book to a reasonable length, thus making it accessible for a wide readership. And yet, a chapter on joy would have been helpful. As the authors say in the beginning, “Christians are sometimes uneasy even with positive emotions” (p. 15). We often do not embrace happiness out of fear of idolatry, or we suppress feelings of accomplishment to keep ourselves from pride (p. 15). I have no doubt the authors could have helped us distinguish the difference between righteous and sinful joy. Along these lines, a section on the feeling of God’s absence in the “Engaging Grief” chapter would have been valuable, as many believers experience the sense that God is distant at some point in their life. Interestingly, the authors never tackle the role of cultural and ethnic diversity. Christians from other parts of the world often have a very different understanding and experience of emotions. Are these trivial differences? Do they point to shortcomings in non-Western contexts, or do they suggest that emotions in the Christian life have an even richer, more complex meaning than the categories developed in this book? I would have liked to hear the authors speak to these and related questions.

Amidst a culture of uncritical emotional expression and various Christian traditions of hyper-critical emotional suppression, this book is timely. Written by two CCEF counselors, Untangling Emotions is theologically nuanced and pastorally helpful, making it a must-read for any Christian. Groves and Smith recognize that emotions are not the ultimate end, only God is, but in order to worship God we cannot neglect the emotions he has given us. This book will enable many to better love God with mind, soul, and strength—emotions included.

Makayla Payne (with Hans Madueme)
Covenant College
Lookout Mountain, GA, USA

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Placemaking and the Arts: Cultivating the Christian Life

Jennifer Allen Craft

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The literature on the positive intersection of contemporary art and Christianity is small; more often, the two are pitted against one another. Since 2016 InterVarsity Press Academic has responded to this dearth with a series called Studies in Theology and the Arts, which includes Jonathan A. Anderson and William A. Dyrness’s Modern Art and the Life of a Culture (2016), and Cameron Anderson’s The Faithful Artist (2016). The most recent addition, Jennifer Allen Craft’s Placemaking and the Arts: Cultivating the Christian Life addresses notions of place and artmaking to a predominately academic, broadly Christian audience that includes art novices, art practitioners (artists, curators, art critics, art museum professionals, art history professors, etc.), art patrons and collectors, and finally, cultural scholars who may see art, craft, and visual culture as supporting examples for other theoretical investigations. Craft advances an argument for the value of the arts and art (terms she uses interchangeably) in the natural world, the home, the church, and society. Her central thesis is this:

The arts are a form of placemaking, that they “place” us in time, space, and community in ways that encourage us to be fully and imaginatively present, continually calling us to pay attention to the world around us and inviting us to engage in responsible practices in these places. (p. 2)

Therefore, art, according to Craft, uniquely allows Christians to become producers and sharers in the global economy, and to responsibly care for the land and sojourner.

Two questions drive her study: why place and why art? In the first chapter, she defines place, placemaking, a sense of place, and art. Place is “a location, an experience, a community, a set of relationships, memories, and habits, a measurement of time and history” (p. 8); placemaking is “our actions in a place” (p. 11); and a sense of place is “our imagining of and love for the places the communities in which we are called” (p. 16). However, art is never fully addressed (except strangely by novelist Wendell Berry). This underdeveloped definition of art is especially pronounced when contrasted with the scholarship, for example, on place and space, or, in chapter three, craft. Instead, art is understood as “one particular and paradigmatic form of this type of hospitable placemaking … [or as] a significant catalyst for the development and practice of a theology of home” (p. 87), or as a “characteristic feature” (p. 219) of placemaking. Functionally, it “help[s] us participate more deeply and meaningfully in the corporate life of worship in the church” (p. 124) and “also teaches us to love, our sense of place being defined as love of place” (p. 229). In short, art’s definition hinges on place. In other parts of the book, art is related to beauty and the handmade, two tricky strands of inquiry. Finally, while Craft uses case studies at the end of each chapter to advance her theory, the art examples appear as illustrative rather than unfolding alongside her argument.

The second chapter considers placemaking and theology in relationship to the natural world of creation, incarnation, and new creation. Asking how the arts can expand that theological framework, Craft points to the imago Dei (“image of God”) as “part of the theological root system for a theology of the arts and placemaking” (p. 31). Citing the Genesis creation story, Craft explains creation and the process of naming as a kenotic act of love amongst the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Artists (whether identifying Christians or not) mimic this trinitarian, kenotic love through the act of making. Moreover, because the imago Dei is best reflected in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, this allows people the freedom to accept their identity as placemakers in the natural world who give order to nature and places. Land artist Christo and the late Jeanne Claude’s installations are cited because their wrapping of buildings, land, etc., changes people’s perspectives and the way they see the world.

Craft and craftmaking are highlighted alongside the domestic home in chapter three, which also considers homelessness and consumerism. The author’s thesis is that art, which is concerned with a theoretical understanding of home and the cultivation of a beautiful home, can combat the negative effects of modernity, including homogenization, individualism, and anonymity. By making art in or about the home (a foundational site for identity and memory) and beauty, it allows one’s most intimate space to be put on display for others as an act of hospitality.

In chapter four, Craft focuses on the role of temporary art installations and permanent art in church buildings. Cementing her analysis of art in relation to divine beauty, Craft argues that art in liturgical spaces aids worship, encourages divine-human encounters, helps one feel a sense of belonging, enables mission mindedness, and conveys an eschatological sense of home. Since art fosters people’s sense of belonging corporately in the church, it frees people to invite others to feel welcome and simultaneously points to the tension of living as sojourners on earth while longing for the fullness of God’s kingdom.

In chapter five, Craft discusses the role of art in society by looking at political, ethical, and social issues surrounding displacement, refugees, and borders. Similar to its role in the church, art in the public sphere—as something that contributes to people’s sense of place—has, for Craft, the ability to motivate actions in community because art navigates paths of placement and displacement while pointing to the hope of a new creation. Art—she gives an example by Ai Weiwei—can transform the public square by creating spaces for ethical social practices and reimagined beautiful public spaces as a tool for kingdom living.

In her final chapter, Craft outlines a theological model for the arts. Generally, she calls Christians to engage with the arts more deeply in all spheres of their lives on earth. Specifically, for artists, she contends that as they make art and engage in responsible placemaking “they can share in the creative and redemptive work of Christ in the world” (p. 227).

Overall, Craft’s study foregrounds placemaking and art by conceiving of art as a helpful tool that allows Christians to be productive citizens in the public and private spheres. The book’s goal is to motivate Christian audiences “to cultivate an aesthetically engaged sense of place, along with the development of a placed theology and practice of the arts” (p. 201). There are many useful nuggets here, especially in relationship to theories of place, displacement, and practical application. Moreover, Craft’s theological arguments are spot on, although her eschatological reading of place for the Christian could have appeared earlier in the book.

At the same time, however, the book appears to display an understanding of art tied to function. This diminishes its engagement with the broader conversation happening outside Christian circles about contemporary art in the gallery, the museum, the marketplace, and the art world, and the complex art historical and theoretical paradigms framing those debates. In 1967, Susan Sontag wrote, “Once the artist’s task seemed to be simply that of opening up new areas and objects of attention. That task is still acknowledged, but … art is certainly now, mainly, a form of thinking” (Sontag, “Aesthetics of Silence,” Aspen 5–6). That division between the cerebral and functional continues to inform much of contemporary art practice. Chapter five hints at this complicated situation inviting curious readers to begin with Craft and then dive much deeper into the discourse surrounding visual art, orthodox Christianity, and the space between the two in the twenty-first century.

Amanda Dalla Villa Adams
Richmond, Virginia, USA

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Intersex in Christ: Ambiguous Biology and the Gospel

Jennifer Anne Cox

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Intersex, once a hidden reality, now attracts a good deal of attention and presents questions for Christians—theological, ethical, pastoral, and maybe even political. The two significant theological discussions, Megan DeFranza’s, Sex Difference in Christian Theology: Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015) and Susannah Cornwall’s, Sex and Uncertainty in The Body of Christ: Intersex Conditions and Christian Theology (London: Routledge, 2014), have not been satisfactory for most evangelicals. So, we should be thankful that Jennifer Cox, an Australian theologian, has written Intersex in Christ.

Cox writes with compassion and a clear awareness of the pain and struggles of intersex people. Every chapter includes thoughtful accounts of the intersex experience which are then engaged with thoughtful gospel reflections. This work is evangelical, it focusses on redemption in Christ. Cox also gives fine summaries of contentious biblical, theological and ethical debates in the field and succinct responses.

The opening chapter offers a useful review of the nature of “intersex” conditions. Cox records some of the heartbreak and pain associated with the condition for many intersex people. This has been exacerbated by the common practice of surgical intervention to “assign” a sex to newborns. Cox favors the newer paradigm of slower and more conservative interventions which usually leave genital surgery until adult life, apart from a medically compelling reason (p. 22). Yet she also notes the view of some intersex people, especially in non-Western nations, who would have preferred to have had surgery as infants (p. 23).

Intersex people often experience gender dysphoria—they feel uncomfortable with the gender assigned to them as an infant (often surgically). This leads to a wider question of identity for many intersex people (p. 27) and related stigma and shame are only heightened by repeated examinations, surgery and insensitive treatment (pp. 27–31). Parents of children with an intersex condition face a high level of stress and can often make their child’s experience even worse.

Historically, intersex conditions have often been presumed to be related to homosexuality. More recently, they have been used by a radical “gender agenda” to deconstruct binary gender. Cox argues against this and points out that this agenda often uses intersex people as “pawns for … political ends” (p. 36). So “intersex, homosexuality and transgender are three separate matters” (p. 38).

The bulk of Intersex in Christ applies insights from creation, the incarnation, the cross and the resurrection to the discussion of intersex.

Chapter 2 emphasizes that we are embodied creatures, made in God’s image and fundamentally relational. Cox affirms that “all humans, however sexed, are created in the image of God” (p. 43) and that “having a body is good” (p. 44).

The Fall means that “the world is broken by sin,” though this does not remove “the goodness given … by God.” Congenital defects, including intersex conditions, are one of the manifestations of brokenness and physical death (p. 46). Cox notes that congenital defects particularly highlight the communal impact of sin: “we all experience the consequences of humanity’s sin, even before we are born, due to our intrinsic connection to other humans” (p. 46).

Cox considers arguments that humanity is not made “male and female” and concludes that Genesis 1–2 affirm binary sex (pp. 50–53). Intersex cannot be considered a third sex or gender, nor can we conclude that gender is on a continuum (p. 57). Intersex conditions are one of a number of ways in which human sexuality is affected by the Fall.

Chapter 3 deals directly with contemporary views of gender—mainly drawing on Virginia Ramey Mollenkott’s Omnigender (Cleveland: Pilgrim, 2007). Cox “cannot endorse the idea that we should do away with male and female, nor … that gender is fluid” (p. 67). Much of the chapter sets out her case for this. While I agree with Cox’s conclusion, I’m not convinced it is either necessary or helpful to attempt to ground binary gender in the doctrine of the Trinity. Her argument from biblical eschatology is better. Here she argues that since marriage points us to our destiny of union with God and it does so as people created male and female, so binary gender is important in God’s purposes.

Turing to the incarnation, Cox confronts feminist objections to God’s incarnation as a man. She makes the important point that this is not to claim that God the Son is male—we must not project the Jesus’s maleness into the Godhead. Furthermore, the New Testament emphasizes Jesus’s representative humanity, far more than it speaks of his maleness (p. 77). Cox notes the important parallel with Adam. Jesus’s maleness is part of the “scandal of particularity” and “we have no right to decide that we would like this to be otherwise” (p. 76).

Cox argues that complementarianism is difficult for intersex people because it requires them to determine which sex they are before they can fully participate in church life. I can see this may be so and it is a good caution for complementarian churches. It is not, though, a defeater for complementarianism.

Cox holds that intersex people do not have “to choose” their sex—an intersex person may be content to present as that, without fitting the binary pattern. “The only definitive reason that would require an intersex person to adopt male or female is when entering marriage” (p. 89). She recognizes that practically it is often easier for someone to live as male or female. This can be done without surgical treatment but can be a difficult decision and “the first choice may not be the best one” (p. 89) so a person may transition from one to another.

I appreciate Cox’s call for patience and care, and the recognition of the complexity of such decisions. Yet, as she acknowledges, God’s pattern is binary sex. It therefore seems best to help a person determine which sex they are and help them to live according to that. The process of reaching this decision and the decision itself will vary from person to person, depending on the details of their condition and on their life history.

Chapters 4 and 5 relate Jesus’s life to intersex conditions. Cox reminds us that Jesus shared in the sufferings of the human condition and offers forgiveness, salvation and a new identity to sinners, including those on the edges of society (pp. 100–9). She then considers and dismisses the argument that Jesus, as the product parthenogenesis (virgin birth) was intersex. She points out that the Virgin birth is not an explanation of the mechanism of Jesus’s conception (just as the resurrection is not a biological explanation). Jesus’ death heals broken human sexuality (Eph 5:25–27), since sex is primarily about relationships. So, in restoring us to God, Jesus “healed all that is broken in regard to sex, gender, and human sexuality” (p. 125). This would be a thin view of redemption but that the next chapter turns to the resurrection.

Chapter 6 argues that sexuality will be preserved but transformed in the resurrection. Resurrection is physical, but our bodies are transformed: “our bodies will be bodies still, but bodies of a different kind … with a greater glory than anything we can presently imagine. (p. 132). As part of this discussion, Cox reviews the arguments of DeFranza and Cornwall that the resurrection transcends the binary structure of “essentialist” views of sex and gender. Cox’s reply, in brief, is that resurrection affects the whole person, not just perceptions and relationships (p. 133). She insists that sin has changed the creation and affected all of our bodies: “no bodies … are perfect now. Every body dies and needs healing in the resurrection” (p. 135). There will be continuity of identity in the resurrection but also glorification—which could include genetic changes. (Cox wisely refuses to speculate about the biology of resurrected bodies.) She affirms the classic Christian view that humans will be raised as men and women. Intersex person will be raised with healed bodies “restored to male or female” (p. 140) as all find a transformed identity in Christ.

Cox argues that the resurrection affirms the goodness of bodies and so the value of restoration, including restorative surgery. In contrast, cosmetic surgery is often about making bodies “look” better, which doesn’t affirm the goodness of the body. She argues that intersex is already good and does not require surgery or hormone treatment to make it “acceptable,” though treatment might be recommended to deal with impaired function and enhance well-being (p. 144). I think her approach here is wise, though I’d argue that healing bodies is a good act, where it is possible. We often lack the wisdom to know what is truly restorative and/or the ability to deliver it—hence her proper caution.

On sexual ethics, Cox notes that some intersex people may not be able to have intercourse (due to malformed genitals or because they’ve been scarred by treatment), but may have a sexual relationship, and that this must be ordered by Christ. She affirms that sexual activity is only proper in heterosexual marriage. Her position is that intersex people should marry according to their gender. She insists that is not appropriate to transition gender after marriage (p. 152).

The book concludes with a call to the church to move from fearing intersex people to welcoming and valuing them in Christ.

Although I’ve noted some points of disagreement, I want to stress that Intersex in Christ is a helpful and stimulating read. It offers a fine model of applying gospel insights to a painful and confusing condition. I hope that evangelicals will heed Cox’s plea for understanding and compassion for intersex people.

John McClean
Christ College
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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Big Picture Parents: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Life

Harriet Connor

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Harriet Connor juggles three roles: she is a wife, a mother of three, and a Bible teacher. Connor holds degrees in International Studies (Languages) and Theology. Her book, Big Picture Parents, forgoes the superficial “should and should nots” that permeate many parenting manuals. Connor’s objective is to arm parents and guardians with a better understanding of the biblical metanarrative. A firm grasp of this “big story,” she argues, will help both parents and children find their true and meaningful place in God’s plan.

The book is composed of an introduction, four main parts, a brief conclusion, a very thorough recommended reading list, and questions for group study. The first part of the book probes the theme of purpose. Connor explains that humans were made for much more than the pursuit of happy feelings; we were designed to find meaning in relationship with others. The “big purpose” of both parents and children is to honor God, our Creator, and to show God’s love to others. “We and our children were made for more than happiness—we were made to be in relationship with God, his creation, and each other” (p. 22).

In part two of the book, Connor introduces the idea of the “big problem.” She follows the story of our first parents, Adam and Eve, who rebelled against God, thereby causing humanity’s fellowship with God, the earth, and each other to be fractured. All parents and children are now prone to sin; our sinful nature works against us living out our “big purpose” in the world. But the good news of the “big story” is that God the Father sent Jesus the Son to deal with the problem of our sin.

Following her clear declaration of the gospel as God’s definitive solution to our “big problem,” Connor discusses the “big values” that characterize God’s spiritual family. She freely admits that many of these values challenge the modern lifestyle: “God asks us to put him before our family, to prioritize rest, and to be content with what we have. He asks us to love our neighbor, to be faithful to our spouse, and to tell the truth” (p. 98). Connor both challenges and encourages families, urging them to remember that all people are imperfect beings dwelling in an imperfect world, and thus we will at times fall short of these “big values.” But God, our loving Father, stands ready to forgive us and to empower us in our journey toward Christlikeness.

The final part of the book unpacks the idea of the “big family.” Connor explains that the Bible sets out God’s ideal structure for the family: children will be raised by their biological parents, who are permanently committed to each other in marriage, and who exercise loving authority over their children. Fathers and mothers deserve equal honor, though they have different and complementary roles within the context of the family. Connor concludes by affirming that the Bible stretches our modern definition of family. “From the beginning, God has called individuals to be part of something bigger, to be part of a community that extends beyond our family or even our nation. Jesus redefined the concept of family to mean the community of those who had, by faith, become God’s spiritual children” (p. 133).

As I’ve argued in my own book, Give Them Jesus (New York: FaithWords, 2018), Christian parents must come to think of themselves as parent-theologians. This means that parents must learn to think Christianly about the world and everything in it, to live faithfully by displaying the beautiful truth of the gospel in every sphere of life, and to train their children to do the same. The task of parenting certainly involves things like determining the best bedtime and providing a balanced diet, but it cannot be reduced to these things. Parenting is about something much bigger: it’s about sending our children out into the world as faithful participants in the great gospel story. Connor’s book moves us toward the realization of this true goal of parenting, and for this reason it is a uniquely helpful resource. Where many books in this field focus (exclusively) on parenting practicalities, this volume does the more difficult and more needed work of helping parents think theologically about their roles in the home. This is not to suggest that Connor’s work is devoid of practical matters. Readers will find discussions of the influence of television, the internet, and advertising, for example. But these discussions do not dominate the book; they’re the side salad, not the steak. What sets Connor’s work apart as one of lasting value is her lucid articulation of the metanarrative of Scripture and her insistence that both parents and children will find their true purpose as they come to see themselves within this story.

Dillon T. Thornton
Faith Community Church
Seminole, Florida, USA

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Affirming God’s Image: Addressing the Transgender Question with Science and Scripture

J. Alan Branch

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With the expressed goal of joining “conviction and compassion in an evaluation of transgenderism” (p. 4), J. Alan Branch’s Affirming God’s Image is a wide-ranging investigation of the social, historical, theological, ethical, medical and pastoral dimensions of the transgender phenomenon. Branch’s basic conviction is that transgenderism is “an identity rooted in multiple causes and is completely inconsistent with Christian ethics” (p. 4). Nevertheless, given the mysterious aetiology of gender dysphoria, as well as the fact that people do not choose to experience it, Branch is also deeply concerned that “a Christian response should always be expressed with a tone of mercy” (p. 130). This combination of clear-headed conviction and heartfelt compassion is successfully maintained throughout the book.

The book begins with two chapters that set the stage: “The History of Transgenderism” (ch. 1) and “The Vocabulary of Transgenderism” (ch. 2). As well as alerting us to the challenge of doing Christian ethics on a changing playing field, these chapters helpfully explain how the massive shift in the sexual ethics of western culture has occurred and what all the new terminology means (e.g., transgender, cisgender, neutrois, agender, bigender, genderqueer, gender fluid, gender expansive, etc.).

True to the word “science” in the book’s subtitle, and displaying an impressive degree of familiarity with and insight into the mounting body of scientific literature on the subject, the book also contains four important and carefully researched chapters on “Genetics and Transgenderism” (ch. 4), “The Brain and Transgenderism” (ch. 5), “Hormonal Treatment of Gender Dysphoria” (ch. 6) and “Gender Reassignment Surgery” (ch. 7). On the basis of his findings in these chapters, Branch draws two important conclusions. The first is this:

No one knows what causes gender dysphoria. No one has discovered a transgender gene. No one has discovered a transgender brain. What have been found are some variables that correlate with a higher incidence of transgenderism in certain cases. But no biological or genetic trait has been found that is both necessary and sufficient to cause transgenderism. (p. 129)

In other words, Branch is not denying the possibility of their being a biological component to the experience of gender dysphoria, but simply stating the current state of scientific play: none of the suggested biological factors (e.g., the interstitial nucleus of the anterior hypothalamus 3 [INAH3], the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis [BNST], or having a certain brain type) has been shown to be either necessary or sufficient to cause gender dysphoria. In other words, acknowledging the possibility of “a biological component as a contributing factor to transgenderism … is a far cry from affirming biological determinism” (p. 79).

The second conclusion is that “the best research to date indicates that mental health outcomes do not improve in the long run for postoperative transgender people when compared to transgender people who have never had surgery” (p. 139). Therefore, while Branch appreciates that “someone must be quite desperate indeed if they think such a procedure will end their suffering” (p. 139), the path of Gender Reassignment Surgery (GRS) is not only riddled with risks and complications, but it also “does not resolve underlying issues for many people and the surgery in fact does not bring the hoped-for peace” (p. 105). Furthermore, GRS “is not a morally acceptable option for Christians experiencing gender dysphoria” (p. 94). The better treatment path for all who are afflicted with this burden and its attendant temptation is “to find ways to help them cope with their condition in a manner consistent with God’s design as opposed to reordering their bodies via surgery” (p. 139).

The theological heart of Branch’s argument is found in chapter 3: “Scripture and Transgenderism.” Here he briefly examines the meaning of humanity’s creation in the divine image, the significance of the male and female form of that image, the impact of the Fall, and the reality of disorders of sex development (i.e., intersex conditions). He devotes a little more space to exploring the Old Testament’s teaching on the importance of maintaining and expressing gender-appropriate distinctions (e.g., Deut 22:5), the New Testament’s reaffirmations of sex-based gender roles (e.g., Eph 5:21–33; Col 3:18–21; 1 Pet 3:1–7), and the relevance of Jesus’ teaching about eunuchs (Matt 19:12). He also explores the possible overlap between those with disorders of sex development and those whom Jesus describes as “eunuchs from birth” (Matt 19:12). Branch wisely concludes that “it is difficult to narrow Jesus’ first category of eunuchs to this specific class of people alone, as the category could also possibly include congenital impotency” (p. 47).

Given that some transgender people desire “to play the part of the opposite sex in sexual intercourse” (p. 48), Branch also investigates the biblical connection between transgenderism and homosexuality, especially via Paul’s linking of “homosexuals” (Gk. ἀρσενοκοῖται) with “the effeminate” (Gk. μαλακοί) in 1 Corinthians 6:9. This leads him to a specific conclusion and to a more general conclusion. The specific conclusion is that, because of its pairing with ἀρσενοκοῖται, Paul’s use μαλακοί in this context is a specific reference “to the passive partner in male homosexual intercourse” (p. 49). His more general conclusion is that “the New Testament offers no option for transgender behaviour as a legitimate form of sexual expression” (p. 52).

In regard to the relationship of body and soul in Scripture, Branch concludes that “we are a body-soul unity” (p. 41). Consequently, whenever anyone claims to have “the soul of one gender trapped in the body of another gender, they are making a false claim based on an inadequate understanding of Christian anthropology” (p. 50). This, however, does not mean that a gender dysphoric male has to deny his experience of incongruence. Rather, he can honestly say, “I am a male made in the image of God with both a body and soul, but I am experiencing confused feelings about [my] gender right now” (p. 50).

In his final chapter (ch. 9), “Transgenderism, Christian Living, and the Church,” Branch addresses a range of pastoral challenges, including pronoun use, bathroom use, how to support parents with a gender dysphoric child and how to counsel someone who has undergone gender reassignment surgery and has now come to faith in Christ. On this last point, Branch offers the following advice:

First, we must be very clear that when a Christian receives Jesus as Lord, that means he is Lord of every aspect of a person’s life, including gender and gender expression. Second, our consistent message should be that God’s plan is for people to embrace their birth sex. Third, we must emphasize that being a Christ follower means we live a life of repentance. For someone who has altered his or her body through GRS, this means acknowledging the sin of bodily mutilation and rejecting God’s design. Genuine repentance will find a way to embrace one’s natal sex in an appropriate way. (p. 140)

Affirming God’s Image provides a model of faithful, evangelical, ethical reflection with a critical scientific eye and a keen pastoral edge. In terms of the balance between scientific investigation and Scriptural exploration, however, it is heavily weighted toward the first. This is clearly intentional but highlights my only (mild) disappointment with the book. In my view, it could easily do with another (or perhaps a longer) biblical chapter, rather than one of only seventeen pages. (A suggestion for the second edition perhaps?) This would give the work even deeper exegetical roots and greater theological strength.

Nevertheless, as it is, the book is a timely gift to the church. It is carefully researched (the endnotes are extensive), accessibly written (with “Key Points” at the end of each chapter), scripturally sound and pastorally wise. Highly recommended.

Robert S. Smith
Sydney Missionary and Bible College
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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The Pastoral Handbook of Mental Illness: A Guide for Training and Reference

Steve Bloem

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Steve Bloem has written a fascinating handbook with the aim of resourcing pastors to be more sensitive and informed when caring for those living with mental illness. He writes from both a personal and professional perspective. Importantly, he describes his own experience of depression and suicidal thoughts. He refers to his work with Heartfelt Counseling Ministries and Christians Afflicted with Mental Illness (CAMI).

The book opens with a passionate appeal to pastors to approach people living with mental illness with compassion and not condemnation. He argues that illnesses of the brain are to be expected following the Fall and that one cannot assume that mental illness corresponds to spiritual immaturity or disobedience. He turns to the gentle ministry of the servant in the book of Isaiah and the image of a shepherd to indicate the attitude that one needs to bring to those with mental illness. He echoes the words of the apostle Paul: “encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (1 Thess 5:14).

Among the tables of resources, Bloem provides a list of mental health professionals, explaining their role in treating illness and supporting people. This is useful but is situated exclusively within the North American health system. Some wider awareness of practices in other countries would give the handbook broader relevance.

The major substance of the book is an easy-to-read survey of major mental illnesses. Bloem provides helpful information on conditions such as Anorexia Nervosa, Borderline Personality Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder. There is also a discussion of suicide. For each disorder, the handbook offers medical perspectives and complements these with pastoral tips. For pastors who have had little exposure to mental illness in study or in life, there is real benefit in having lots of information in one handy reference work.

Bloem has also written a lengthy section (pp. 118–40) giving answers to 58 frequently asked questions about mental illness. The depth and scope of these questions is highly variable. Bloem tackles topics such as lack of insight in people with mental illness, treatment options for those living with depression, medication, the differences between professionals and their approaches to treatment and the experience of care givers. His answers are generally informative and would be valuable in many conversations in congregational life. He makes a point of noting the differences between secular and Christian thinking, sometimes with stark polarity. These comments would be enriched by a nuanced biblical theology of wisdom.

Finally, in a series of appendices, the book includes some useful reference tables. One of these is the life-events stress scale, which is often illuminating in helping people to make sense of the emotional impact of their experiences. Bloem includes extensive information about medications that may be used to treat various conditions. I suspect these medication tables offer details beyond the needs of most pastoral workers.

While the book’s goals are admirable and its marshalling of information is valuable, it occasionally evidences a naivety that diminishes its credibility. There are assertions that need to be stated with greater reserve (e.g., regarding the precise dating of the exodus and the composition of the book of Isaiah). There are appeals to Scripture that seem somewhat arbitrary, if not moralistic. Bloem claims, for example, that pastors should study carefully like the sons of Issachar who knew what Israel should do (1 Chron 12:23, 32), or like Ezra who set his heart on studying the law (Ezra 7:9–10). There are also hermeneutically questionable claims. For instance, he connects the darkness experienced by Abraham in the covenant cutting event of Genesis 15 to the experience of depression. However, the darkness is more likely a feature of the theophany than a symbol of Abraham’s mental state.

The topics covered in the book raise highly complex questions about the nature of humanity and how it is that body and mind relate to one’s relationship with God and spiritual forces. Bloem has stimulating suggestions that are worthy of consideration. Early in the book he provides a helpful glossary of psychiatric terms and then proposes an accompanying list of spiritual terms. He describes states such as demon possession, demoralization, and apparent desertion by God. He uses the emotional portraits offered in Job and the Psalms and the accounts of demon-possessed people in the Gospels to generate ways of differentiating between psychiatric and spiritual conditions. Appendix A (“Diagnostic Differentials”) develops this distinction with lists of symptoms or characteristics that may help in diagnosis. The spiritual categories have real potential to provide focus to pastoral conversations, but they also require fuller validation. This highlights another shortcoming of the handbook: it lacks a clear theological anthropology to provide the theoretical underpinnings for the presentation of potential spiritual states.

Bloem’s work also lacks sophistication in synthesizing biblical texts and psychiatric diagnoses. There is no clear discussion of how hard it is to generate a phenomenology of illness from an ancient text and to map this onto diagnostic labels taken from contemporary psychology and medicine. Bloem’s writing shows no evidence of interaction with the volumes of work currently attempting to integrate medical, scientific and theological anthropologies (e.g., John Swinton, Resurrecting the Person: Friendship and Care of People with Mental Health Problems [Nashville: Abingdon, 2000]; Eric L. Johnson, ed., Psychology and Christianity: Five Views [Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2010]; Jennifer Anne Cox, Autism, Humanity and Personhood: A Christ-Centred Theological Anthropology [Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2017]). There is also an absence of engagement with the critical theory that informs the work of disability theologians. Bloem does not interrogate accounts of mental illness that privilege medical diagnoses over social, political and ethical analysis.

Stylistically, the book has an uneven quality. The flow of ideas is not always clear, and there is frequent repetition. Several paragraphs seem to be in the wrong place. I was left with the impression that the text still needed the work of a careful editor. In the chapter on suicide, for example, the handbook reads more like an advertising brochure: “Pastor, do we have a seminar for you! We can train your staff and other groups in your church to be aware of this epidemic” (p. 113).

Bloem’s Pastoral Handbook is a warm-hearted volume that could serve as an accessible introduction to mental illness for pastoral workers. To that end, I commend it. However, it also needs to be supplemented by further reading of works offering greater biblical and theological depth.

Kirk R. Patston
Sydney Missionary and Bible College
Croydon, New South Wales, Australia

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Preaching as Reminding: Stirring Memory in an Age of Forgetfulness

Jeffrey Arthurs

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Many books on preaching appear to fall into one of two distinct camps. First, with tents carefully constructed, authors warm their hands over the fire of preaching content. These books ping-pong the terms “exegesis” and “hermeneutics” over the net again and again with the tenacity of Federer and Djokovic. They often do so in polemical fashion because they know content doesn’t have a monopoly in the market of homiletics.

They also know there’s a second group lounging down by the lake, roasting hot dogs over the smoke of preaching delivery. These authors, perhaps having recently read their first book on sociology, plumb the depths of culture, the affections of congregations, and the rhetorically rhythmic crescendo of conclusions. Both camps occasionally––often with subtlety––drop gum wrappers on the other’s plot.

Fortunately, however, Jeffrey Arthurs, professor of preaching at Gordon–Conwell Theological Seminary, just so happens to own a large cabin in the midst of the campsites. His book, Preaching as Reminding, invites both groups over for dinner.

The thesis of Arthurs’s book might be captured in this sentence: “Stirring memory is one of the minister’s primary tasks” (p. 48). This assertion implies that content matters. Content matters so much, Arthurs contends, that the preacher doesn’t get to come up with it. His role is merely to remind the congregation of truths someone else wrote.

The first three chapters of the book outline a theological understanding of why we should remember certain truths, why we might often forget them, and the role of the preacher in facilitating the former. The second chapter includes thoughtful neurological explanations of the fall and the exacerbating effects of modern media on our fallen natures. If the preacher aims to remind, he needs to be reminded how easily we forget.

Throughout, Arthurs labors to emphasize that remembering is more than mere mental recall. Instead, memory “re–members disconnected things” (p. 14). Employing Peter, Paul and Moses, he details how often the Scriptures call upon God’s people to remember the character and/or deeds of their Lord. As the Lord’s Remembrancer, the preacher “re–members” two often disconnected things––the congregation’s affections and the congregation’s God––by stirring memory.

In quasi–Pauline fashion, Arthurs follows the theological framework established in the first three chapters with application in chapters four through seven. How might the preacher stir memory? Arthurs takes four chapters to discuss four ways: style, story, delivery, and ceremony. While “Sola Content” appears theologically noble, the communication of that content matters as well. Faithful preaching consists not only in what the preacher says, but in how the preacher says it.

For example, in chapter four Arthurs explores the importance of style. He does so, however, without separating it from content. Rather than aiming for spectacle––style calling attention to itself—effective style is like a pair of spectacles, an aid “by which we see something more clearly” (pp. 69–70). Arthurs, therefore, details the importance of using concrete and vivid language. Following his own advice, he pens this memorable sentence: “Vivid language rouses slumbering knowledge” (p. 66). If stirring memory serves as one of the minister’s aims, corralling the right verb or adjective might end up strengthening the exposition.

However, Arthurs rightly points out that choosing the perfect turn of phrase will not ensure faithful or effective communication. Because the act of preaching should never be disembodied, the particulars of delivery matter. Chapter six unveils the often heard (and always staggering) fact concerning nonverbal communication: when nonverbal factors conflict with verbal content, listeners overwhelmingly trust the nonverbal (p. 109). What this means, in terms of the book’s thesis, is that the morose sermon supposedly on joy will often fail to stir the memory of the congregation (p. 114).

Thankfully, this conclusion does not require the preacher to be transformed weekly into a public thespian. Rather, “To stir others, you must first be stirred. You can go no further in the act of delivery if this principle is missing, and in many ways if it is present, you need go no further” (p. 116). The truths to be preached must first affect the preacher.

The final chapter zooms out to reveal the role of the entire worship service in stirring congregational memory. In one thoughtful paragraph after another, Arthurs discusses the role of singing, public prayer, the reading of Scripture––and most convincingly––the Lord’s Supper in facilitating these reminders (pp. 134–44). This chapter is worth reading if only for the comical, yet stinging, chart Arthurs uses to critique the often laissez–faire approach to welcoming and dismissing congregations (pp. 138–39). According to Arthurs, those elements of the worship service ought to be leveraged also in stirring the memory of the congregation.

Given Arthurs’s thesis, one of this book’s many strengths is just how often he deliberately stirs the memory of his readers. Chapter one’s first word is “memory” (p. 11). Chapter two’s first sentence begins this way: “You will remember …” (p. 27). Chapter three’s first sentence references, or better reminds of, an illustration from the introduction (p. 47). Then the reader reads another eighty pages before Arthurs returns to that same illustration in the final chapter, where the first sentence begins, “Remember Jimmie …?” (p. 125).

Why point all that out? Because Arthurs hammers home his point by doing in this book precisely what he instructs the reader to do in the pulpit. When he writes about using vivid language, he uses vivid language. While instructing the preacher to employ effective imagery and illustration, he does so masterfully. The reader will also find historical references, thoughtful allusions to films, repeated interaction with C. S. Lewis’s The Silver Chair, intelligent consideration of the sciences, and relevant personal anecdotes. In short, the author asks nothing of his readers that he doesn’t model himself.

To enumerate even half the strengths of this book, this review would need to double in length. Its weaknesses can be quickly detailed, however. The least convincing chapter of the book is chapter five on employing story in sermons, in part due to the potential risks of story largely being left untold. Having said that, part of the reason for chapter five’s relative mediocrity might be due to the surrounding stellar context of chapters four and six.

I was cautious about Arthurs’s slight aversion to using a full manuscript in the pulpit. Though he’s fair to those using extensive notes, he suggests taking no more than a sheet of paper into the pulpit (p. 121). But this begs a seemingly obvious question: How can someone who struggles to remember use vivid language and employ well–crafted sentences without more than a page of notes? Nonetheless, as someone who almost always preaches from a full manuscript, the fact that I felt the challenge of Arthurs’s point speaks to the persuasiveness of his argument.

The introduction to this review was, admittedly, an overgeneralization. Indeed, a number of authors have written helpful books on preaching that emphasize both content and delivery. But this reviewer is not aware of any as well-written and concise as this one. For Arthurs, both content and delivery truly matter. You don’t even have to hear him preach; his book is exhibit A.

Matt Sliger
South Woods Baptist Church
Memphis, Tennessee, USA

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7 Myths about Singleness

Sam Allberry

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One might well imagine that with all the books on singleness to be found on the shelves of Christian bookstores, we scarcely need another. Yet Sam Allberry’s 7 Myths about Singleness shows that we do. Far from being another self-helpesque book designed to equip unmarried Christians to somehow “eke out something just about tolerable” from their singleness (p. 12), 7 Myths about Singleness sets out to explore the Bible’s presentation of singleness as something infinitely more than tolerable. This is precisely what makes it such an important contribution to this topic.

Rather than simply taking the form of an extended exegesis of 1 Corinthians 7, or perhaps providing an account of all the wonderful ways in which God has worked through particular single Christians in history, Allberry paves an entirely different path. Not only does 7 Myths seek to recover a genuinely theological account of singleness from the pages of Scripture, it also seeks to uncover just how far much contemporary evangelicalism has wandered from that account. Indeed, Allberry argues that it is only in overturning some common misconceptions within Christianity today, that the “whole church, single and married, [may] understand the positive vision the Bible gives us of singleness” (p.15)—hence the title! His overall intention is to facilitate a scripturally informed shift away from the view that singleness, for the Christian, is a state of inherent negation or lacking, to the view that it is a state of implicit blessing and opportunity.

For a comparatively short book, 7 Myths is a remarkably thorough exploration of the following modern Christian fallacies about singleness: (1) it is too hard, (2) requires a special calling, (3) means no intimacy, (4) means no family, (5) hinders ministry, (6) wastes your sexuality, and (7) is easy. With the addition of an introduction, a conclusion and an appendix (the last being a short treatise on how to avoid sexual sin), each of the seven chapters analyses the roots, the content and the implications of a particular myth. Allberry’s writing is concise, yet compelling. He fills out the substance of each myth by including personal illustrations, popular examples, commonly held theological teachings and recurrent pastoral attitudes, while also critically holding up each misconception to the penetrating and corrective light of Scripture.

One of the strengths of this methodology is that it allows—in fact it requires—the reader to be confronted by a range of uncomfortable realities that current evangelical discourse often prefers to ignore. For example, within the first few pages, Allberry gently reminds his readers of the difficult fact that most married people will, one day, be single again themselves (p. 14). A number of chapters later he affirms the often-unappreciated biblical truth that marriage is for this life only, and that all of us will be unmarried in eternity (p. 119). Elsewhere he challenges his readers to acknowledge that Jesus teaches that marriage can be too hard for some (Matt 19:11–12; pp. 23–25). Meanwhile, in his chapters on intimacy, family and sexuality, Allberry patiently seeks to expose the unbiblical underbelly of much Christian culture, which all too often regards our sex lives as core to our sense of personhood (p. 18); sees a life absent of romantic hope as a life only partially lived (p. 26); and tends to collapse sex and intimacy together so that they are virtually synonymous (p. 48).

And yet, as he goes about this task of identifying our mistaken ideals and demolishing our unrecognized idols, Allberry (who has years of pastoral ministry experience) is consistently humble, gentle and loving. As a single man he takes no glee—or even comfort—in the struggles of those who are married. Indeed, in a remarkably honest moment he contends that he would “choose the lows of singleness over the lows of marriage any day of the week. I think being unhappily married must be so much harder than being unhappily single” (p. 30). The author’s willingness to expose his own vulnerability through the many personal musings, experiences and reflections relayed in the book is another of its key strengths. Perhaps the most remarkable example of this comes towards the end of the book when Allberry bravely recounts a recent season of life in which he experienced an unrelenting escalation of the anxieties that singleness can bring. He writes that he viewed everything through the lens that there were “no guarantees, since people can move, or marry, or have some other commitment that supersedes their friendship with me. So, I reasoned, no matter how fond of me a good friend seemed to be, they would drop me when work or family warranted it” (p. 137).

This illustrates another compelling aspect of the book—the pastoral insight provided to married readers (including pastors) into the unspoken thoughts, fears and disappointments experienced by many single Christians, as well as suggestions of how those readers might be able to meet those anxieties with real and demonstrable love. Yet, as noted at the beginning of this review, none of this is framed as an endeavor of Christianized self-help. Rather, Allberry’s approach is deeply theological. Of particular significance are his extended biblical explorations on the nature of friendship (ch. 3) and Jesus’ reconstitution of family (ch. 4). These chapters confront the modern Christian tendency to see marriage as the ideal form of friendship and the biological family as the Christian’s primary place of belonging. In so doing, they challenge married readers to drastically expand their theological vision of Christian relationships. Of course, the book also seeks to challenge the presuppositions and practices of single Christians too, calling them to exploit their singleness for a life of intentional devotion to Christ and proactive sacrificial service of others.

It is difficult for me to provide any points of critical engagement with 7 Myths about Singleness. The reason (from my own unmarried Christian perspective at least) is that there seems little to criticize, both in terms of content and communication. Instead, it might be instructive for me to relay a personal anecdote. Upon finishing the book, I shared an excerpt from it with a married friend in pastoral ministry. In the part I shared, Allberry had reflected on some of the (often unrecognized) practical complexities of the single life, in an effort to encourage those who are married (and particularly those in ministry) to be more creatively intentional in their care for singles. My married minister friend responded that it was good to read, but then immediately went on to express how his experience of marriage was also complex in its own unique ways. It’s “not all one way,” he said. There needs to be some “balance.”

Of course, Allberry would agree with this sentiment. Indeed, on multiple occasions in his book, he communicates his recognition that marriage is indeed uniquely difficult and complex. But this is a book on singleness. A book on singleness that, many would argue, is long overdue. A book on singleness that intentionally seeks to counter and correct the dominant evangelical narrative that all too easily veers toward a view of marriage as the normative experience, desired goal and greatest good of every Christian.

Perhaps the little bit of “imbalance” that 7 Myths about Singleness provides is exactly what we need.

Danielle Treweek
St Mark’s National Theological Centre
Canberra, New South Wales, Australia

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Can We Trust the Gospels?

Peter J. Williams

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Peter Williams, Principal of Tyndale House (Cambridge), demonstrates his extensive scholarship throughout Can We Trust the Gospels? yet makes it easy for the uninformed reader to follow his argument. Not intended for the expert in Gospel criticism, this volume addresses those inquiring into the matter of the reliability of the canonical Gospels for the first time. While the mainline media frequently give voice to theories denying their truthfulness, few in their audience are familiar with the actual evidence and methodological issues involved in the debate.

Williams makes his purpose clear: he does not set out to prove that the Gospels are true, but seeks to demonstrate that they are trust-worthy. Before one can consider the (extraordinary) claims made by the Gospels concerning Jesus, one must first “ask whether the Gospels show the signs of trustworthiness we usually look for in things we believe” (p. 16). This he does by building a cumulative case in eight chapters.

Noting that the Gospels’ reliability has been questioned on the grounds that they were written by devotees commending their faith, Williams begins by looking at what three prominent first and second century non-Christians say about it: Cornelius Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, and Flavius Josephus. Strikingly, their writings report many core facts and beliefs found in the Gospels, giving evidence that these are original, not later developments, as contemporary critics often claim.

Williams then assesses the Gospels from an historiographical point of view. He notes that all serious historians of antiquity recognize the canonical Gospels as being the oldest and best sources we possess concerning Jesus. Their extant textual evidence outstrips even that which is available for a Roman emperor like Tiberius.

The next logical step in the argument is to demonstrate the factual reliability of the Evangelists, examining a diversity of data including: geography, personal names, local flavor, dating, botanical terms, tax references, local languages, and unusual customs. The Gospel writers show themselves to be competent and knowledgeable in those matters.

Williams then looks at four sets of “undesigned coincidences,” in which different authors confirm each other’s narrative in ways that cannot be intentional, because they are too subtle or indirect for most readers even to notice. Three of these occur among the various Gospels, and the fourth between the Synoptics and Josephus.

Asking whether we have access to Jesus’s own words, and noting that Jesus is depicted as a Jewish teacher, Williams shows how the Gospels reflect ancient pedagogical practices meant to facilitate memorization. Moreover, striking teachings like the “golden rule” are more likely to originate from one genius than several independent ones.

Considering the matter of textual transmission, Williams reminds the reader that medieval (Christian) scribes were generally both competent and careful, which accounts for our ability to read ancient (pagan) authors today. With very few disputed verses, the vast majority of the Gospels’ textual tradition is cohesive, corroborating its trustworthiness.

Addressing perceived contradictions, Williams notes that the variations we find among the Gospels show their independence and the fact that the authors (and the church tradition) did not try to harmonize them by forcibly ironing out apparent problems. Before claiming conflict between differing Gospel accounts, one should make sure to understand each one correctly.

Finally, Williams deploys the age-old argument, “Who would make this up?” There are many particulars in the Gospels that are best explained (“simplest explanation”) as faithful reports rather than inventions (“complex explanations). This includes “embarrassing” elements (crucifixion, disciples’ lack of understanding, etc.). The hardest to believe in the Gospels for the modern man is the presence of so many miracles. Since miracles are impossible, they must be untrustworthy reports, so the argument goes. As Williams points out, the problem here is that the premise generates the conclusion. The fact, however, is that the simplest explanation, though not the only one, is that Jesus actually was who he claimed to be according to the Gospels.

Having worked through these various arguments, Williams includes a short discussion on presuppositions and how they control the way one evaluates and explains the “evidence.” Though essentially evidentialist in nature, his apologetic method is somewhat eclectic. Making much of the idea that the “simplest explanation” is more “likely,” he sets out to argue for the warranted (rational) nature of belief in the Gospel records, relying heavily on “everyday” common sense. His argument thus focuses on purported common ground shared with unbelievers, in order to foster consideration of the claims the unconvinced naturally would doubt or question—and thus read the Gospels and be confronted by Christ’s claims on their lives.

The main tactical problem with this type of argument is that it depends upon an essentially subjective value judgment, plausibility. This, however, is the very point where presuppositions and individual sensitivities keep believers and unbelievers apart. Williams, to be sure, is not epistemologically naïve, but one wonders if he might not underestimate the power of the “noetic effect of sin” (Rom 1), as well as our contemporaries’ instinctive skepticism fueled by the “conspiracy theories” peddled by the Da Vinci Code and its pseudo-scientific ilk.

This being said, nonspecialist readers of all apologetic schools will find in this book—conveniently gathered in one place—much material they can use profitably when evangelizing, and when comforting curious or troubled believers.

Flavien Pardigon
Advancing Native Missions
Asheville, North Carolina, USA

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The Intolerable God: Kant’s Theological Journey

Christopher J. Insole

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Christopher Insole’s The Intolerable God: Kant’s Theological Journey is an accessible presentation of material worked out more fully in his earlier Kant and the Creation of Freedom: A Theological Problem (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013). While the earlier book deals in more detail with issues pertaining primarily to Kant studies, The Intolerable God is suited to readers “who have an interest in theology and who have encountered the figure of Immanuel Kant, and who want to know more about his thought and significance” (p. 1). Insole’s approach is set within “a new wave of more historically sensitive, theologically open-minded, and holistic Kant interpretation” in place of the more traditional view of Kant “as attempting a straightforward refutation of the possibility of theological discourse” (pp. 1–2). When Kant is read in this new way, certain theological issues come to the fore, making the book important for any reader interested in the engagement between philosophy and theology. Insole focuses upon the relationship between Kant’s notion of human freedom (requiring autonomy) and divine action in the world. The book’s title and main theme come from Kant’s statement: “One can neither resist nor tolerate the thought of a being represented as the highest of all possible things, which may say to itself, ‘I am from eternity to eternity, and outside me there is nothing except what exists through my will’” (p. 7). Insole shows Kant’s struggle with this concept of God, which Kant says is irresistible, yet intolerable in relation to our own freedom.

Chapters 1–4 outline the background of Kant’s thought and his intellectual development, especially his theological rationalism (the view that the divine mind contains essences which are the fundamental reality of things, coupled with the view that human reason provides access in some way to these essences), and the highest good (happiness in proportion to moral worthiness), while tracing Kant’s struggle to see the possibility of human freedom in this worldview. Chapters 5–6 present a metaphysically robust interpretation of Kant’s transcendental idealism—namely the view that space, time, and the things we experience in space and time are empirically real for us but are not fundamentally (transcendentally) real in themselves—as Kant’s solution to the problem of freedom. This maneuver allows Kant to hold to determinism in the empirical world while preserving freedom in the noumenal world (the world of essences for theological rationalism), which includes our true selves (rather than merely our empirical selves). Chapter 7 presents the doctrine of divine concurrence—the view that God acts directly in all creaturely actions while these actions are still freely performed (preserving libertarian freedom)—as a notion that is not irrational but still goes beyond reason, while explaining that Kant (limiting himself to reason alone) rejects concurrence. Chapter 8 presents Kant’s radical notion of autonomy (giving the law to oneself), leading him to reject the notion of God as directly involved in human actions.

The book’s central issue is the relation of human freedom to God’s existence, offering an engagement between theology and Kantian philosophy and serving as a helpful model of philosophico-theological engagement generally. While concurrence is the classical theological option, Kant rejected concurrence, as he limited himself to reason alone (with concurrence transcending reason). For Insole, Kant could have accepted divine concurrence, since “God acting in all our actions is perfectly consistent with everything that Kant demands from freedom, that is, our being ultimately responsible for our actions, and our being able to do other than we do” (p. 124). It seems that Kant had another reason for rejecting concurrence—his radical notion of autonomy. Insole notes that Kant rejects the notion that the will can be autonomous while being moved by “any external object (Object/obiectus) at all, even the uncreated good that is God, or the perfection of rational nature” (p. 150), such that Kant “rejects the claim that the ultimate object of theology (God) can be a worthy object for us” (p. 151). In the end, “Kant’s inability to accept concurrence accounts leads ultimately to the tearing apart of his system, as the demands of freedom render the hope for the highest good ultimately impossible, or at least, impossible for God to achieve while God is something distinct from us and our reason” (p. 128).

In certain regards, the reader is still left with certain questions about how Insole understands Kant’s relationship to theology. Looking at Insole’s work in light of other approaches to Kant and theology can help to illustrate this. Lawrence Pasternack presents Kant’s position in terms of the aptly spelled out formula: “Pure Rational Faith (reiner Vernunftglaube) = Saving Faith (seligmachender Glaube)” (Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Kant on Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason [London: Routledge, 2014]), p. 3). For Pasternack, Kant’s goal is to determine whether all that is required for salvation is present to reason. Chris Firestone interprets Kant such that philosophy (relying only on reason and freedom) and theology (utilizing Word and Spirit) are meant to chasten one another such that Kant’s philosophical system is open to new rational insights from theology, provided that theology can show a rational need for them (Kant and Theology at the Boundaries of Reason [Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009]). In The Intolerable God, Insole argues that Kant is using a notion of philosophy that “affirms and believes in God and divinity, but which, on principled grounds, engages only with what reason (albeit expansively understood) can show, rather than with revelation and mystery,” speaking of Kant’s “self-studied and apophatic refusal to have a philosophical position on that which goes beyond, or falls below, what philosophy can say” (pp. 154–55). While affirming that theology must go beyond Kant/reason, Insole does not address the issue of the meaning of Kant’s philosophical position, whether it might be related to Kant’s view of salvation. He says that Kant, as a philosopher, “could regard with complex approval, and regret, the theologian who embraces revelation and mystery: approval, inasmuch as the theologian is led to philosophical truth, and regret, perhaps, at the means of doing so” (p. 155). The question still remains as to what might possibly count as philosophical truth for Kant, especially on reason “expansively understood,” as Insole never addresses the issue of whether Kant’s system is open or closed.

Insole presents a parallel between Kant and Virgil in Dante’s Divine Comedy. Kant, like Virgil, goes only so far as reason allows, whereas the full range of humanity (including reason) may well require more than reason can provide. For Insole, “If Kant is our Virgil, Aquinas is our Beatrice” (p. 116). We are encouraged to go beyond Kant, as Dante joined Beatrice to enter paradise. It seems to me that not even Firestone would allow Kant to be Beatrice. The issue is how far Kant can proceed, or (per Pasternack) if paradise (salvation) is at issue for Kant at all. Perhaps dealing with these specific issues would be too much for Insole’s project in The Intolerable God, especially, as the subtitle makes clear, since the focus is Kant’s Theological Journey. Insole most certainly presents a worthwhile journey.

Brandon Love
Hong Kong Baptist University
Kowloon, Hong Kong, China

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Theological Negotiations: Proposals in Soteriology and Anthropology

Douglas Farrow

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Douglas Farrow, Kennedy Smith Chair in Catholic Studies at McGill University, is a prominent Catholic theologian perhaps most known for two monographs on Christ’s ascension. With this volume, he offers provocative explorations in theology, which explains the apt if somewhat understated title of the book.

He notes at the outset that at “the heart of the book lies an interest in the dialectic of nature and grace” (p. vii). Chapter 1 bears this out with a discussion of the relationship between theology and philosophy. Here, he brings Immanuel Kant, Karl Barth and Thomas Aquinas into discussion. He argues that Barth is analogous with Kant because they both present a totalizing approach to the philosophy/theology relation, albeit in their distinct and contrary ways. Thomas, he argues, is to be preferred on balance. Whereas Thomas sees the two as conciliatory (“the pax Thomistica,” p. 31), Barth sees their connection in more militant terms. Yet, Farrow argues, Barth is closer to Thomas and even Vatican I than most realize, closer even than Barth himself discerns. This back and forth between various thinkers, drawing out sometimes unexpected conclusions, is characteristic of the volume throughout.

Chapter 2 on theological anthropology is concerned with Thomas’s understanding of nature and grace in conversation with competing interpreters of Thomas (De Lubac, Stephen Long). Farrow concludes that Thomas’s anthropology suffers from a “christological deficit” (p. 62).

Chapters 3 through 6 have, arguably, the most polemical edge. Chapter 3 places Martin Luther into conversation with the Council of Trent. Chapter 4, in conversation with Aquinas and Anselm, discusses the relationship between satisfaction and punishment. Chapters 5–6 address the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation from different vantage points.

Chapters 7–9 stand somewhat at odds with the rest of the volume. Chapter 7 is a thoughtful diatribe against the notion of autonomy. Chapter 8, perhaps one of the most helpful overall, offers a penetrating look at the relationship between the Jewish people and the modern church. Chapter 9, based on Hebrews, continues the conversation of chapter 7 and admonishes the reader toward godly fear.

A few critical remarks are in order. In the third chapter, as one would suspect, Farrow takes a Catholic perspective on the relationship between justification and sanctification contra Luther. He writes, “to ground sanctification in justification … is right. Only it is not possible if justification is by faith alone” (p. 80) for “good works … increase the justification that is ours in Christ” (p. 81). To bolster his case, Farrow turns to penance and purgatory and the grace that flows from these to show how we are finally sanctified and in turn justified. While this does admit of a certain theological coherence, the conclusion decisively overthrows the Protestant account of justification and sanctification. Notably missing is any significant treatment of the letters to the Romans or the Galatians, which serve as a backbone for the Protestant understanding. Moreover, no effort is put forth to demonstrate the biblical origins of such concepts as penance and purgatory. In fact, with the latter, he admits that it “is derived from sources … that … are quite cryptic” (p. 89). In sum, though a fascinating look at this topic from a Catholic perspective, it fails to address the strongest arguments of the Protestant view (for an invaluable defense of the Protestant view in conversation with Catholic sources, see G. C. Berkouwer, Faith and Sanctification, trans. John Vriend [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952], chs. 1–2).

More briefly, in chapter 4 Farrow argues, in conversation with Anselm and Aquinas, that Anselm’s satisfaction theory of the atonement is more cogent than Aquinas’s view, which approaches something like the penal substitutionary view. Yet Farrow does not seem to be aware of the points of contact his own account has with a penal substitution view, reflecting an overreliance on Barth (cf. p. 114) to the neglect of other Protestant voices; nor does he adequately interact with such biblical texts, such as Galatians 3:13 and Matthew 26:36–46.

Some strengths ought also to be highlighted. Whether one agrees with Farrow or not, it is clear that even though he is staunchly Catholic, he is not afraid to sympathetically engage with Protestant thinkers and even at times admit the validity of some of their insights or even their concerns regarding Catholic teaching. Moreover, he does not shy from taking a critical look at one of the most revered theologians of the Catholic tradition: Thomas Aquinas. Coupled with this critical glance is his willingness to correct mistakes he finds in his own tradition, such as the contention that purgatory is gracious. He also reconstructs transubstantiation in a manner which moves away from Thomism and toward an “eschatological perspective” (p. 168). This kind of theological courage and forthrightness is something to be appreciated in any theologian, and Farrow models it well.

In conclusion, Farrow is a high caliber Catholic theologian who has offered us various theological proposals written lucidly and argued well. He demonstrates a deep awareness of his own tradition, the Protestant tradition as expressed in the Reformers and Barth, and is additionally conversant with philosophical schools such as those of Kant and Descartes. For those interested in reading a seasoned Catholic theologian who does not avoid critical engagement with his own tradition as well as sympathetic interaction with those with whom he disagrees, this work is highly recommended.

Thomas Haviland-Pabst
Emmaus Church
Asheville, North Carolina, USA

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The Marks of Scripture: Rethinking the Nature of the Bible

Daniel Castelo and Robert W. Wall

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The genesis of this book is the journal article “Scripture and the Church: A Précis for an Alternative Analogy” (JTI 5 [2011]: 197–210), in which Castelo and Wall proposed Scripture’s analogy to the church as an alternative to the popular and yet controversial incarnational analogy. The tenet of both the article and this book revolves around English Anglican theologian John Webster’s idea that a dogmatics of Scripture must be constructed with the economy of God’s salvation at the center. Any talk of Scripture would be pointless without situating it in God’s work of sanctifying and “healing of Scripture’s addressee, which is the church” (p. 34).

Chapter 1 is devoted to situating Scripture’s ontology and teleology within the economy of God’s salvific self-presentation. Scripture is defined as an auxiliary of the Holy Spirit in forming and reforming God’s people into loving communion with God and one another. The authors prefer the term “canon” in explaining the ontology of Scripture. Scripture became what it is now through canonization by the church under the direction of the Holy Spirit. In this sense, Scripture is the church’s book from its origin. They also use the term “means of grace” to emphasize its being an ordinary but sanctified channel thorough which the Holy Spirit is nurturing the church into the likeness of Christ. Such ontology and teleology of Scripture naturally leads to the discussion of ecclesial analogy in which the Bible is taken as a theological category in itself rather than merely as epistemological source for theology.

Incarnational analogy in chapter 2 is presented in detail as a foil for the authors’ preferred ecclesial analogy. According to the authors, Scripture’s analogy to the incarnate God is plagued with inherent dangers of either deifying Scripture or degrading it as just another human literature. A more fundamental fault with the Christ-Scripture analogy lies in its structural detachment from the economy of salvation. Just like two natures of Christ, divine and human features of Scripture may not be discussed independent of their roles in the saving economy of God’s loving and regenerative self-presentation. All this inclines the authors to say that the incarnational analogy “should be put to rest” (p. 30).

Should Scripture be better compared to the church, another of God’s ordinary channels by which God manifests himself in a saving way, the authors go on to argue, the creedal confession of the church as “one,” “holy,” “catholic,” and “apostolic” might be applied to the nature of Scripture in a constructive way. Chapters 3–6 are devoted to fleshing out this Church-Scripture analogy. Each chapter begins with a dogmatic and practical account written by Castelo (a theologian) on how the church can be understood as exemplifying the mark in question, then Wall (a biblical scholar) offers a constructive account that applies Castelo’s ecclesial reflections analogously to Scripture.

First, the authors define ecclesial “oneness” not as uniformity but in terms of the church’s calling as the sanctified body of Christ, that is, a kind of unity that exists in diversity. Modern criticism has revealed Scripture’s diversity of literary genres, historical circumstances, and theological beliefs, and yet, according to the authors, these must be put in the context of God’s continual use of Scripture for salvation in Christ. Scripture’s unity is in this regard derived from Jesus’s hermeneutics of Scripture, which locates its normative meaning in his own work of salvation. In this sense, unity is less a character of Scripture than a function of God’s redemptive work through Scripture. Second, holiness of the church is no different in this regard. The church can call itself “holy,” not because of its acts but because of its relationship with God who nurtures his people to becoming holy like him. Likewise, Scripture is holy not because it contains no error but because God is able to use ordinary human writings for his holy purpose of “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” Third, the church’s catholicity is a function of the universal “presence and work of the Trinity across the globe” (p. 99); it is the opposite of Constantianism, namely, collusion between a particular church and a particular political arrangement. Just as God’s church worldwide is identical in its worth and function, Scripture’s authority and usefulness reaches every membership of Christ’s global church, not to mention that every part of every scripture is appointed by God’s spirit as a textual witness to Christ. Finally, the fourth mark of the church, apostolicity, is redefined as referring to the culture of witnessing to God’s work in accomplishing the healing of the world. Being apostolic means being an apostle-like witness to God’s work of salvation in Jesus. Scripture is apostolic because it not only contains the apostles’ eyewitness to the risen Christ but also exemplifies a way of life informed by a Christo-centric or Christo-telic reading of Scripture.

The ecclesial analogy proposed by Castelo and Wall is a welcome addition to the discussion of Scripture’s nature. It is refreshing to hear the authors say that the focus in our discussion of Scripture’s nature should be on the Trinity at work in the economy of salvation. The authors’ use of the four marks of the church as a rubric for his discussion of Scripture is original and constructive. Further, this book, holistic in its perspective, does not separate the practice of Scripture from its dogmatics. It is no wonder that the authors provide practical tips on “how to read the Bible in light of its ontology and teleology” in the last chapter. Two points of criticism are in order, however, the first of which concerns the authors’ use of incarnational analogy as a foil for their preferred ecclesial analogy. They could have spoken positively and convincingly about the latter without dispensing with the former altogether, since, as the authors acknowledge, the nature of Scripture cannot be encapsulated within a single analogy (p. 21), not to mention that there are many versions of incarnational analogy, the best of which comes very close to the vision of the authors (p. 29). Second, more importantly, the ecclesial analogy may perpetuate a sort of cognitive dissonance in a Christian use of Scripture as it makes the content of Scripture secondary to its function as a means of grace for the church. But my criticism does not detract from the authors’ otherwise cordial and constructive treatment of the subject.

Koowon Kim
Reformed Graduate University
Seoul, South Korea

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Karl Barth: Ein Leben im Widerspruch

Christiane Tietz

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Christiane Tietz, Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Zürich, commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of Karl Barth’s death (December 10, 1968) with a pioneering study of his life and work. Karl Barth: Ein Leben im Widerspruch [Karl Barth: A Life of Conflict] is the first German-language biography of Barth since 1975 (written by his assistant Eberhard Busch). Tietz expertly builds her account on primary source materials as well as a wealth of scholarship on the renowned Swiss theologian and presents it in a readable account for the scholar and lay reader alike.

Tietz begins with Barth’s childhood and student years. She highlights his family life, early friendships, and studies in Bern, Berlin, Tübingen, and Marburg. From early on, Barth considered himself a follower of the staunch liberal theologian Adolf von Harnack. Hence while studying in Tübingen, he harbored “deep inner disdain” for Adolf Schlatter’s divergent approach to historical-critical exegesis (p. 50). Later in Marburg, Barth was especially drawn to the thought of Wilhelm Hermann, who had been deeply influenced by Friedrich Schleiermacher and Immanuel Kant.

During his pastoral apprenticeship in Geneva (1909−1911) and pastorate in Safenwil (1911−1921), Barth fell under the influence of Christian socialism. He learned from liberal Protestant theology that building the Kingdom of God was the key ethical imperative of Christianity, and he grew convinced that socialism was the channel to carry this mission out. He remained committed to socialist politics until his death.

It was also during his pastorate in Safenwil that his thinking radically changed course toward what became Barthian theology—variously designated as “theology of the Word of God,” “dialectical theology,” “Theology of crisis,” and “Neo-Orthodoxy.” Through his studies in Romans, he came to see that modern theology had confused the relationship between God and the world. Flipping the thought of Schleiermacher on its head, he contended that theology must begin with God and not man. He thus reoriented theology around the otherness of God, stressing the distance between God and man that could only be bridged by God’s self-revelation and the redemptive work of the God-man Jesus Christ. Beginning with the publication (and extensive subsequent revisions) of his commentary on Romans in 1918, Barth elaborated on the implications of this thinking in his writing and teaching for the rest of his life. His massive multivolume Church Dogmatics represents the culmination of his life work.

Given that this book is a biography and not a critical engagement with Barth’s theology, extensive analysis of his theology of the Word of God receives comparatively little room. Readers will, however, discover key aspects of Barth’s life about which many students of his theology know little.

At thirty-nine years of age and with five children, Barth began a bizarre love affair with Charlotte von Kirschbaum. Not wishing to conceal it, he not only told his wife but also moved Charlotte into their home. She lived with them for thirty-five years. Long a scandalous rumor, Barth’s children confirmed the veracity of the affair by releasing their love letters to the public in 1991. They spoke of the tremendous burden their father’s love triangle had on them and commended their mother for keeping the household together. As Tietz explains, Barth never sugarcoated the affair, nor did he attempt to justify it theologically. In his commentary on Romans 12, he downplays the need for a this-worldly ethic and stresses instead the importance of finding comfort for a guilty conscience in the grace of God.

Tietz also highlights Barth’s opposition to the ordination of women. While Barth was an avid participant in the growing ecumenical movement, he had no patience for its promotion of female ordination. He criticized the thinking behind it for committing the same errors as modern theology: its starting point was ultimately humanistic. He sympathized with women but insisted that theology must begin with God, and God’s Word taught against female ordination.

Barth’s encounter with the American evangelist Billy Graham is also treated in this book. Barth met Graham in Switzerland in August 1960, and he found him congenial. He did not like his preaching but felt Graham preached law rather than gospel, focusing too much on scaring people into conversion. For Barth, the “Christian faith began with joy, not fear” (p. 394).

Barth battled for many years not only with other theologians but also with depression. His final months were especially difficult. The day before he died, he told his childhood friend, “Yes, the world is a dark place. But do not hang your head! No! … God is in control. For this reason, I have no fear” (p. 414). Barth died in his sleep on December 10, 1968.

While Barth is among the most studied theologians in the English-speaking world and Asia, Schleiermacher has largely overshadowed Barth in contemporary German-speaking scholarship. Tietz sympathizes with Barthian theology, but she questions whether it will have much of a future as it offers very little to culture and science.

With his doctrine of the Word of God, Barth exposed obvious weaknesses of Neo-Protestantism. His wish to overcome Schleiermacher and consequently to make God the starting point for his thought moves in the right direction. But he never fully overcame the crisis of Protestant theology because he could not accept that Scripture was God’s very Word itself but rather a witness of divine revelation. He thus got stuck halfway. This writer believes that theology must ask more radically: what does God, in fact, say? Theology must take God at his Word, and this will not be possible without dramatic corrections to the course modern Protestantism has taken since Kant.

Tietz’s biography sheds tremendous insight into Barth’s life and thought. It combines diligent research, masterful narration, and accessible prose. Highly commended. (Editor’s note: this review was originally written in German and translated by Ryan Hoselton.)

Ron Kubsch
Bucer Seminary
Munich, Germany

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Before Jonathan Edwards: Sources of New England Theology

Adriaan C. Neele

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Jonathan Edwards studies have witnessed major developments along new fronts over the past several years, seeing important works come out on Edwards’s exegesis and an increasing number of works on his use of post-Reformation Reformed dogmatics. It is this latter development that is the focus of this present review. The bulk of the secondary literature thus far has often been more concerned with Edwards as a theological giant of his own making, starting with his own system of thought and then advancing toward an articulation of the New Divinity, than with Edwards’s own theological backdrop. Adriaan Neele’s book, for instance, plays off of the title of another book, Crisp and Sweeney’s After Edwards: The Courses of the New England Theology, which serves as an example of the way Edwards tends to be read. But rather than turning to Edwards as a source of the New Divinity, Neele turns instead to key movements in Reformed theology leading up to Edwards’s own work.

Rather than seeing Edwards as a lone genius working on the wilderness front, Neele focuses on the theological context in which Edwards was working. This is a particularly important task, especially in our own context, where we have seen major developments and interest in Reformed High Orthodoxy, particularly by figures like Richard A. Muller and Willem J. van Asselt. Unfortunately, advancements in this research have not often been utilized to understand Edwards. Over the past ten years this has changed, but what Neele offers is a richer historical account of the key figures and texts that were on hand for Edwards as he took on his significant publishing endeavors. Furthermore, a focus in this area raises questions on the adequacy of the current discussion, which often ignores theological developments in New England as a feature of Reformed intellectual history. By avoiding New England, Edwards is often treated as an outsider to the discussion rather than a central figure. Neele’s book offers a different way to analyze the material, placing Edwards within the broad movements of Reformed intellectual history and its fragmentation at the end of the seventeenth and into the eighteenth century.

Beyond questions of intellectual history, Neele’s real focus is to analyze a series of questions and issues in Edwards’s thought, showing how they are continuations of long-debated issues that took place on an international stage. As it turns out, this is a stage that Edwards was quite familiar with. After his initial exploration of Reformed intellectual history, Neele turns to four case studies to consider Edwards’s theological development in relation to key sources in post-Reformation Reformed dogmatics. He looks at homiletics, sources of biblical exegesis, sources for the formulation of doctrine, and sources of history and theology. Each of these points of emphasis highlights a central feature of Edwards’s corpus. Edwards was, of course, primarily a pastor, and therefore homiletics and exegesis were the core of his life’s work. Neele addresses the debates on these tasks, as well as key areas of interest in the secondary literature, to reveal how Edwards’s views and development relate to his forebearers. Furthermore, by focusing on the formulation of doctrine and history as theology, Neele gets to the heart of Edwards’s theological trajectory, namely to write a dogmatic theology in “an entire new method, being thrown into the form of an history” (p. 204), and he raises questions about how new that mode actually was.

While this does not take away from the importance of this book, it is worth noting one minor critique. There are times in the book when the focus on the backdrop to Edwards’s work overtakes the idiosyncratic nature of his emphases. For instance, in the final chapter looking at the use of history in theology, and Edwards’s own admission that his dogmatic work was going to be in a historical mode, Neele provides incredibly helpful background material to show where Edwards stands in relation to his sources. All of this helps to push the conversation forward on what it means that Edwards’s theological enterprise was to be in “an entire new method,” and how his use of history would form that reality. But this seems to assume that the newness of Edwards’s method was solely tied to his use of a historical mode, which is, in my mind, the least original feature of his method. Rather, it seems, it is the tri-fold form of his historical mode that establishes the uniqueness his method, where Edwards traces through the history, not only of earth but of heaven and hell, showing how the histories of heaven, earth and hell are connected by the reign of Christ as he rides the chariot of providence through history. This points to Edwards’s use of Ezekiel 1 as the architecture for his “History of Redemption” sermon series that no doubt would have been utilized in his dogmatic treatment. This is a minor, but relevant, critique of Neele’s work, which will no doubt prove its worth to all who read it. Before Jonathan Edwards is essential reading for students of Edwards and those who are interested in post-Reformed Reformed theology, and it will be a key source for any looking to engage the source material of Edwards’s own pastoral and academic endeavors.

Kyle Strobel
Talbot School of Theology, Biola University
La Mirada, California, USA

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Thomas Cromwell: A Revolutionary Life

Diarmaid MacCulloch

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Lacey Baldwin Smith, the noted historian of Tudor Britain, wrote that explanations of how the Protestant Reformation unfolded in England could be divided in three. First, historians leaning toward Rome customarily attribute the upheaval to the marital escapades of King Henry VIII; the king ended papal jurisdiction in England because the Roman pontiff refused him the annulment he sought. This was not about doctrine but jurisdiction, and so a break with Rome was forced upon a nation which had no Roman quarrel of its own. Second, interpreters highlight earlier movements of dissent –extending back to Wycliffe and the Lollards and continuing into the reign of Henry—as the fertile soil out of which agitation for Reformation sprouted; here pre-existing native aspirations found a window of opportunity provided by Henry’s desperate search for a male heir. Third, others hold that England’s population was increasingly irreligious in the sixteenth century and largely indifferent to whatever religious agenda their monarch decided to pursue.

Diarmaid MacCulloch’s massive Thomas Cromwell is not a book seeking to explain the advance of England’s Reformation, and so it does not conform to any such line of interpretation. The Cromwell volume is rather a very comprehensive study of the rise to power of a man of humble origin who, after European (particularly Italian) mercantile experience, and some legal training, entered the service of the then-chancellor of the England, Thomas Wolsey (also the non-resident archbishop of York and a Roman cardinal). Wolsey was about to fall from royal favor because of his failure to secure for his king the desired papal annulment. Always loyal to his discredited master, Wolsey, Cromwell was nevertheless soon elevated to exercise the powers formerly wielded by the fallen Wolsey. Shortly, Cromwell became King Henry’s “fixer,” adept at introducing the monarch’s legislative agenda into Parliament.

In particular, Cromwell drafted legislation which secured for the king a made-in-England marriage annulment, terminated papal authority in England, set out what was required (an oath) for supporting Henry’s arrogation to himself of the title, “Supreme Head of the Church,” and ensured that the offspring of the second marriage (not the first) would stand in the line of succession.

Central to MacCulloch’s portrayal of Cromwell is the reality that King Henry as “Supreme Head of the Church” proceeded to vest in Cromwell (as Vice-gerent) the functional authority of directing the English Church away from the orbit of Rome into some still-to-be-determined alternative. In Western Europe the only alternative orbit to Rome was represented by the strident Protestantism of Saxony and Switzerland; for these King Henry had very little appetite.

It is at just this point that Lacey Baldwin Smith’s framework proves helpful. King Henry, we can acknowledge, was driven through these changes by a purely personal agenda. His Vice-gerent, however, turns out to have been a man familiar since his youth with remaining Lollardy, who grew to be acquainted with William Tyndale in the 1520s and was a known admirer of Erasmus and his writings. MacCulloch compares the evangelical Cromwell (p. 69) of the 1520s with the Italian evangelicals of that era (the “Spirituali”; pp. 72–73). Though his relationship with King Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, was characterized by mistrust (she had helped bring on Wolsey’s downfall), their Protestant sympathies largely overlapped. Cromwell (though not his King) was thoroughly conversant with the English reforming “underground,” a loose-knit movement including clergy, preaching friars, university scholars, bankers, and printers. With such already-present human resources, Cromwell, whom MacCulloch terms “a vigorous impresario” (p. 189), re-oriented increasing swathes of the English Church towards the European Protestant movement as it existed in the 1530s in Saxony, Zurich, and Strassburg.

Wielding a well-nigh unlimited and unregulated discretionary authority, the Vice-gerent advanced first the inspection (and selective closure) of faltering monastic houses, encouraged diplomatic alliances with the German Lutherans and promoted the circulation of the Bible in English. It is surely one of the ironies of this story that by the time the translator, William Tyndale (1494–1536) was captured and executed at Antwerp as the outworking of King Henry’s antipathy toward him, Vice-gerent Cromwell was securing (p. 416) permission from the same King for the circulation of improved versions of Tyndale’s Scripture translation within England.

And yet this unregulated discretionary authority would prove Cromwell’s undoing, for his exercise of authority had made him many enemies in the church hierarchy, nobility, and regions where traditional Catholicism held fast. By 1540, Cromwell was accused of treason and condemned to death; then all influential friends such as Archbishop Cranmer could do was appeal for mercy toward him. Those who succeeded him in office would never be permitted to wield this same unregulated discretionary authority.

Yet, as he met his end, Cromwell left a still-minority Protestant movement within the Church of England much stronger than it had been at his rise to power a decade earlier, in free possession of vernacular Scriptures and (since about 1536) much more oriented to the orbit of Zurich and Heinrich Bullinger than to Lutheran Saxony (p.363). Cromwell had helped to set the stage for bold Protestant advance when at King Henry’s passing in 1547, he was succeeded by the energetically Protestant Edward VI.

In sum, this volume enables those interested in Reformation England to view the period 1520–1540 in much clearer light. Reading MacCulloch’s Cromwell is heavy going. Its 552 pages of text are augmented by 30 pages of bibliography and 150 pages of notes. Like the same author’s companion biography, Thomas Cranmer: A Life (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996), this displays the fruits of the granular consultation of massive surviving contemporary sources: diplomatic, governmental, and personal. It is encouraging to find the then-contemporary chronicler, John Foxe, treated with general respect. Thomas Cromwell is, all in all, a tour de force.

Kenneth J. Stewart
Covenant College
Lookout Mountain, Georgia, USA

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Luther’s Jews: A Journey into Anti-Semitism

Thomas Kaufmann

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This book (a translation of Kaufmann’s Luthers Juden [Stuttgart: Reclam, 2014]) is an ambitious attempt to fully “historicize” Martin Luther’s writings and statements about Jews and Judaism. Kaufmann here offers a systematic and chronological survey of Luther’s dealings with and writings about Jews, building on his own earlier study which systematically placed each of Luther’s major “Jewish writings” (Judenschriften) in their own respective historical contexts (Luthers “Judenschriften”: Ein Beitrag zu ihrer historischen Kontextualisierung [Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013]). He also dives into the fraught and often tragic reception history that Luther’s anti-Jewish writings have had.

To this end, chapter 1 pursues a twofold aim. First, Kaufmann broadly assesses the legal, cultural, and economic situation of European Jews in the sixteenth century, demonstrating how they were at once ingrained in European life and yet legally, culturally, and religiously marginalized. He then attempts to parse out what actual contact Luther had with living Jews. Such contact for Luther was slim, though not non-existent, and Kaufmann highlights the role that Bernhard, a converted Jew, played in Wittenberg and in Luther’s thinking about Jews more broadly.

Chapters 2 through 5 proceed with a chronological, workman-like survey of Luther’s comments and policies towards the Jews. Methodologically, a glance at the endnotes reveals that Kaufmann has decided to focus exclusively on expositing Luther’s views from the primary sources themselves. References to secondary scholarship are entirely non-existent in the notes, though a helpful bibliography is included at the end of the work.

The first two chapters of this section cover Luther’s opening decade as an author and a public figure. Chapter 2 gives evidence from Luther’s earliest writings that the reformer’s developing theology had surprisingly pro-Jewish elements, discarding many medieval legends and stereotypes about Jewish host desecration, ritual murder, and well poisoning. Chapter 3 then focuses on Luther’s key 1523 treatise, That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew. Kaufmann agrees with many in noting how the work was remarkably tolerant for its own time. Importantly, he sees it as a carefully formulated statement of Jewish policy, especially emphasizing how Luther closed the treatise by noting that he advocated increased Jewish toleration but only until he could “see what effect [it] had” (p. 62).

Chapters 4 and 5 turn to the period from 1523 until Luther’s death in 1546. Here Kaufmann covers much traditional information but also helpfully chronicles the publication history of Luther’s Judenschriften. In this way, he demonstrates that the early, more tolerant Luther, was in fact much more widely-read in the sixteenth century than Luther’s late anti-Jewish diatribes. Kaufmann further shows that many of Luther’s late fears, such as Sabbatarian Christians who underwent circumcision at the hands of Jews, were, in fact, polemical literary creations of the reformer’s own mind with little to no basis in reality.

The final chapter reveals the ambiguous afterlife of Luther’s Jewish writings. Just as this corpus of texts gave a contradictory set of perspectives on the Jews, so also it has been received and used for quite different ends. Kaufmann is here to be commended. In seeking to interpret Luther historically, he does not—indeed, he believes one cannot—ignore the fateful ways in which Luther’s Judenschriften have been used. In the twentieth century, Nazi party members with “no interest in Luther’s theological concerns” (p. 147) published widely-read extracts of Luther’s most anti-Jewish statements, thereby seeking to appropriate him as the father of modern anti-Semitism. It is an image that, while grossly simplistic from a historical angle, has nevertheless persisted with tragic consequences.

On the whole Kaufmann’s volume offers a brief but helpful summary of the perennial topic of “Luther and the Jews” that serves well as a systematic introduction to what Luther said and thought. However, due to its decision to proceed without reference to the concerns of secondary literature, it would be helpfully supplemented by the standard work of Heiko Oberman (The Roots of Anti-Semitism [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1984]) or the informative but much larger volume edited by Stephen G. Burnett and Dean Phillip Bell (Jews, Judaism, and the Reformation in Sixteenth Century Germany [Leiden: Brill, 2006]).

While on one level a survey, Kaufmann’s work also contains insights that will prove helpful even to specialists. Several of these stand out. First, Kaufmann at various points contextualizes Luther’s Jewish writings by describing contemporaneous, but little-known works by Christian authors about Jews (e.g., pp. 65–71). Second, Kaufmann repeatedly and rightly insists that Luther’s anti-Jewish writings, in fact, utilized a “two-pronged attack” (p. 124). Specifically, in their own historical moment, the Judenschriften were directed not only against Jews but also, and perhaps more primarily, against Christian Hebraists of Luther’s own time whom the reformer believed inadequately interpreted the Old Testament in a Messianic fashion. The Basel Hebraist Sebastian Münster justly plays a central role in Kaufmann’s narrative at this point, an emphasis missed by many other studies (pp. 101–9).

Despite these virtues, the work is at times marred by translational and editorial infelicities. For example, the translators inexplicably use the King James Version for quotations of the Bible, resulting in odd archaisms such as God being able “to graff [the Jews] in again” (p. 46). As for the work’s content, Kaufmann spends very little time noting anti-Jewish medieval and contemporary influences on Luther, such as the works of Ramon Martí and Petrus Galatinus, to which Luther was heavily indebted in his late Judenschriften. Yet these minor matters do not detract from what is generally a fine work.

Kaufmann ends where he began—by making clear the need to read Luther “through a consistently historicizing lens” (p. 156). This means placing Luther, and his views, firmly in their sixteenth-century context. Yet “to historicize [Luther] does not mean to justify him, to make him irrelevant, or to ‘diminish’ him” (p. 159). Rather, this study raises the perennial challenge of whether, in looking at Luther, we will pause long enough to recognize his own distance and differences from us, rather than simply proof-texting from him to justify our own ends. In this regard, Kaufmann’s work presents a model to be emulated.

Erik Lundeen
Baylor University
Waco, Texas, USA

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Grace Worth Fighting for: Recapturing the Vision of God’s Grace in the Canons of Dort

Daniel R. Hyde

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This book was written to mark the 400th anniversary of the Synod of Dort (or Dordrecht). That Synod was convened to respond to The Remonstrance, a document published in 1610 by the followers of Jacobus Arminius. In the introduction, Hyde describes the origins of the Synod and details all the participants. He also makes it clear that this book is not an exercise in history but rather an attempt to demonstrate that the redeeming grace of God expressed in the Canons of Dort is vital for Christian life today and is worth fighting for. He then provides an outline of the Canons of Dort under four headings: First Point of Doctrine: Redemption Planned; Second Point of Doctrine: Redemption Accomplished; Third & Fourth Points of Doctrine: Redemption Applied; and Fifth Point of Doctrine: Redemption Preserved (pp. 41–43).

The main substance of the book is based around these four headings. The Synod followed a format which has often been used in Christian theological writing, namely, stating what they affirmed and then stating what they rejected. Our author has two chapters on each point of doctrine, one on the articles being affirmed and one on the articles being rejected. The format of the chapters is that the article being affirmed or rejected is stated, and then the author explains its significance.

In explaining each article, the author’s approach is varied. On some points, we have perhaps one or two pages, mostly repeating verbatim what is in the article, together with a few supportive and applicatory comments. On other articles, he breaks into a sermonic mode. For example, on page 236, in discussing human depravity, he uses an illustration from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in which good and bad eggs are separated, with the bad eggs going to the incinerator. He concludes with the words, “We are by nature bad eggs deserving of hellfire.” The evidence that major sections of the book originated as sermons is clear throughout, such as on page 243 where he writes, “Turn back to Romans with me for a moment.” There are even long sections where sermon outlines are included in the text! For example, on page 320–25, there is a three-point sermon: The Certainty of Salvation, The Certainty of the Saved, and The Certainty of the Savior. Similarly, Hyde includes an alliterative sermon on the theme of “Once Saved, Always Saved?”: The Real Potential in Ourselves, The Righteous Permission of God, and The Remedy Prescribed in Scripture (pp. 325–29).

Given that this journal has theological students as its primary intended audience, it should be emphasized that this is not an academic study of the Canons of Dort, nor does it pretend to be. It is unashamedly an attempt to state and affirm the grace of God as described in the Canons for a popular audience. Although in some places there are detailed references to theological discussions which have a bearing on the material in hand (including references to Augustine, Calvin, and many others) this is not done consistently. The lack of a careful academic approach is underlined by the absence of any attempt to explain, in a sympathetic and careful way, the reasons (especially biblical reasons) for the views of the writers of The Remonstrance. They are almost always summarily dismissed. There are two useful appendices at the end of the book: The Remonstrance of 1610 and also The Opinions of the Remonstrants of 1619, this latter document being their response to the Canons of Dort. These two appendices appear without comment, and there is no attempt to engage with them. For Christians with interest in the doctrines of grace as found in Scripture, they may well find this book to be useful, although it is a long read and could have used a good editor. For theological students and others, there are better places to go for a study of the Canons of Dort.

A. T. B. McGowan
University of the Highlands and Islands
Dingwall, Scotland, UK

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The Love of God Holds Creation Together: Andrew Fuller’s Theology of Virtue

Ryan P. Hoselton

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During the last several decades, Andrew Fuller’s (1754–1815) legacy among Evangelicalism has become a popular theme in Baptist scholarship, especially regarding his soteriological influence on the Modern Missionary Movement. This emphasis is merited as Fuller’s evangelical Calvinism remains his foremost contribution to evangelicalism. However, as Ryan Hoselton notes, other areas of Fuller’s theology and practice have yet to be surveyed. This work focuses on one such area: ethics. In its pages, Hoselton adopts the term aretegenic, a neologism coined by Ellen Charry, to describe Fuller’s relationship between virtue and theology. According to Charry, classic theologians such as Augustine of Hippo (354–430) and John Calvin (1509–1564) believed that an accurate knowledge of God “fostered virtue and excellence in the lives of believers” (p. 3). A similar aretegenic theology, Hoselton maintains, materializes throughout Fuller’s theological corpus but develops most evidently in his apologetic works against Socianianism and Deism. Through an examination of these primary works, the author determines that “Fuller rooted morality in right Christian doctrine. A right knowledge of God and human nature grounded a correct knowledge of virtue, and a vital love of God and neighbor facilitated a love of virtue” (pp. 2–3).

Hoselton structures the work around this thesis. In chapter two, the author introduces Fuller’s evangelical Calvinism within his Enlightenment context. Fuller’s soteriology centers on an Edwardsean application of natural and moral inability to human responsibility. Although sinful humanity is morally unable and unwilling to respond to God’s decrees, they remain naturally able and, thus, accountable. This understanding of human depravity and responsibility directly contradicted the optimistic anthropology of most Enlightenment thinkers, including Joseph Priestley (1733–1804), whose Socinian theology emphasized progressive ethics and human capability, and Thomas Paine (1737–1809), who popularized Deism and its rejection of Christianity’s suppression of human potential. After introducing these figures within their Enlightenment context, Hoselton proceeds in chapter three to detail Fuller’s apologetic against both Priestley’s Socinianism (in The Calvinistic and Socinian Systems Examined and Compared, as to Their Moral Tendency [1793, 1802]) and Paine’s Deism (in The Gospel Its Own Witness [1800]). The author highlights Fuller’s use of virtue as a central argument against both systems. True morality, Fuller contends, rests in Christian orthodoxy. Chapter four applies this argument to Fuller’s broader theological system, including the doctrines of God, humanity, redemption, and revelation. Each of these dogmas displays Fuller’s aretegenic approach as “every doctrine of the gospel proved salutary to the lives of believers, rousing a love for God that pervaded the agent’s entire being” (p. 68). In chapter five, Hoselton demonstrates Fuller’s application of doctrine to Christian morality as proof of its truthfulness in comparison to the failure of Enlightenment principles to inspire similar results. The author then concludes with a brief application of Fuller’s aretegenic method to modern virtue ethics.

The greatest strength of Hoselton’s work lies in its charting of new territory in Fullerite scholarship. Unlike any previous study, The Love of God Holds Creation Together demonstrates the effects of Fuller’s evangelical Calvinism far beyond his soteriology and missiology to his ethics. Love and virtue were just as predominant in Fuller’s thought as they were to Jonathan Edwards, his theological predecessor and mentor. Through a scholarly examination of primary sources, Hoselton uncovers this essential function of virtue in Fuller’s polemic against both Socinianism and Deism. As such, the author effectively locates Andrew Fuller within his Enlightenment context beyond the oft-studied immediate setting of High Calvinism. Hoselton’s work introduces the reader to the broader intellectual climate of Fuller’s day.

A few questions remain unanswered by Hoselton’s work, which could be explored by future studies. First, the present study investigates Fuller’s aretegenic approach, primarily in two apologetic works. Although Hoselton briefly discusses the theologian’s most influential work, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, as well as other sermons and writings, other areas of Fuller’s corpus remain uncharted. Deeper study of Fuller’s other polemical works such as those against antinomianism, universalism, and Arminianism could uncover additional insight into his aretegenic theology. Further, Hoselton’s conclusions related to Fuller’s systematic theology can be extended to other doctrines. One could ask, for example, how Fuller roots virtue in the areas of ecclesiology and eschatology, among others. While The Love of God Holds Creation Together leaves these questions unanswered, this detracts little from the overall value of the work. Hoselton has provided a valuable resource for both Baptist studies and Fullerite scholarship. After reading the work, one is left with the impression that this brief monograph is only the starting point for future studies on virtue in the thought and practice of Andrew Fuller.

Stephen A. Reynolds
Gateway Seminary
Ontario, California, USA

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The Battle for Bonhoeffer: Debating Discipleship in the Age of Trump

Stephen R. Haynes

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Over the past 15 years, Stephen Haynes, Professor of Religious Studies at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, has been the leading surveyor of the cultural reception of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the United States. Haynes’s work has demonstrated the varieties of Bonhoeffer interpretation from various segments of the theological spectrum, ranging from the liberal Bonhoeffer to the conservative Bonhoeffer. In particular, Haynes’s work The Bonhoeffer Phenomenon: Portrait of a Protestant Saint (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004) mapped out the territory of Bonhoeffer reception, indicating the ways in which various theological traditions tend to focus on particular works of Bonhoeffer while downplaying others, and demonstrating that Bonhoeffer’s theology has been notoriously easy to bend towards the readers’ predilections. In The Battle for Bonhoeffer, Haynes continues his project of surveying the use of Bonhoeffer in America by focusing on the evangelical reception of Bonhoeffer in the era of Trump, analyzing how Bonhoeffer has been utilized in the political and cultural battles raging in the lead up to and during the first stages of the Trump presidency.

Early in the book, Haynes tracks the evangelical engagement with Bonhoeffer in the years before the presidency of George W. Bush. In doing so, Haynes analyzes how the reception of Bonhoeffer’s theology among evangelicals moved from a period of reservation about Bonhoeffer’s liberal theological education and worry about concerning aspects of his theology to a full embrace of Bonhoeffer as a moral hero. In this short survey, the main theme of The Battle for Bonhoeffer emerges: What explains the evangelical embrace of Bonhoeffer? Why has he been placed into the pantheon of evangelical heroes alongside Lewis, Graham, and others? Haynes believes this move to evangelical sainthood occurred because, as the culture wars were heating up in the 1980s and 1990s, evangelicals needed heroes who could be guides in that war. Making connections to Bonhoeffer’s battles with the emerging forces of Nazism in the 1930s, and his role in resisting Nazism, evangelicals found a figure who could be a guide to faithfulness to following Christ in a hostile culture. Focusing primarily on Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship allowed the evangelical church to absorb aspects of Bonhoeffer’s theology that were most amenable to evangelicalism and so raise Bonhoeffer’s status as a guide to the church in dark times.

Haynes then turns to evangelical reception of Bonhoeffer during and after the Bush presidency, with the hinge figure in this story being Eric Metaxas, who established a new audience for Bonhoeffer in popular evangelicalism through his best seller Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010). Metaxas offered a full-throated endorsement of Bonhoeffer as a foil to the liberal cultural dominance of the Obama years, providing a picture of Bonhoeffer as one who was aligned with the evangelical cause and so able to guide evangelicalism through the sense of being under attack in the American culture. Haynes continues the book by tracking “the Bonhoeffer moment” in evangelicalism, by which he refers to the increase in engagement with Bonhoeffer in the era of the Trump presidency. He shows that numerous influential evangelical commentators, often dependent upon Metaxas’s depiction of Bonhoeffer, appealed to Bonhoeffer in the key issues of the culture wars and the evangelical desire to maintain power and influence over the culture. A populist Bonhoeffer has arisen in the intersection of Metaxas’s biography and the rise of Trump. Haynes offers a searching critique of this populist Bonhoeffer, demonstrating the incompatibility of this figure with the historical Bonhoeffer.

Haynes’s book puts before evangelicalism important questions regarding our relationship to Dietrich Bonhoeffer: What is the place of Bonhoeffer in the era of Trump? What should be the relationship between Bonhoeffer and American evangelicalism? While there is plenty in his theology that evangelicalism can and should utilize, we must honestly recognize that Bonhoeffer is not an American evangelical. Metaxas’s book has deep flaws, and Haynes is right to query evangelical devotion to Bonhoeffer if that devotion is based on him being one of our tribe. He is not. Haynes offers insight into how and why Bonhoeffer has been forced into the mold of evangelicalism, and how this has resulted in evangelicals being unable to grasp Bonhoeffer’s own theological commitments and purposes fully. If evangelicalism is to appropriate Bonhoeffer as a guide in our time, then we must do it with integrity, recognizing the places of difference between Bonhoeffer and the evangelical tradition. Haynes’s book should be read by evangelicals who look to Bonhoeffer as it provides us with a needed perspective on Bonhoeffer’s theological inheritance and the areas where we are prone to misappropriating Bonhoeffer’s theology. Rejecting the populist Bonhoeffer doesn’t mean rejecting Bonhoeffer; rather, it means having a more nuanced, and so more honest relationship to Bonhoeffer, and a better understanding of the ways he can be a resource for evangelical theology.

Joel D. Lawrence
Central Baptist Church
St Paul, Minnesota, USA

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Biblical Theology of the New Testament

Peter Stuhlmacher

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With this volume, we are given an English translation of the magnum opus of Peter Stuhlmacher, professor emeritus of New Testament at the University of Tübingen, Germany. A number of his other works are available in English (e.g., Revisiting Paul’s Doctrine of Justification: A Challenge to the New Perspective [Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2001]; Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Commentary [Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1994]), but this work stands as the culmination of his thoughts on the NT and ought to be widely and deeply considered by NT students.

For those familiar with the original German work, there are a few modifications of note to accommodate “the needs of English-speaking theological students” (p. xiii) such as the inclusion of English-language bibliographical material at the end of every chapter, summaries of “recent works of New Testament theology” (p. xiv; e.g., Frank S. Thielman, Theology of the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005]; G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011]), and the additional of some supplementary material by Daniel Bailey within the text (not to mention the inclusion of an essay by the same).

Stuhlmacher is writing from a Protestant perspective and, more specifically, one informed by the Lutheran tradition. The latter is evidenced by his relatively frequent (positive) citation of Martin Luther (pp. 314–15; 750–62) as well as his mention of the Augsburg Confession (pp. 313, 857–58). The book is divided into two main parts. The first focuses on what the proclamation of the New Testament and the second, briefer part focuses such areas as the question of canon and the center of Scripture. The first part is further divided into six main sections, namely, the proclamation of (1) Jesus; (2) the Early Church; (3) Paul; (4) after Paul; (5) the Synoptic Gospels; and (6) John and his school.

He sets up the body with a helpful discussion of biblical theology as a discipline coupled with a survey of “the current leading theologies of the New Testament” (p. 15) and current research surrounding the discipline. He argues here that the method employed to elucidate the biblical theology of the New Testament “must correspond to the biblical texts and help them express themselves in their own language.” Therefore, while “the historical-critical method” is the “one established method,” it must be, he argues, a method that “is prepared to enter into serious dialogue with the texts” and agree “as far as possible with their central kerygmatic statements” (p. 12). What this means is that he distances himself from the existential reading of the NT exemplified by Rudolph Bultmann and others of this school (more recently, Hans Hübner), realizing in turn the important and unbreakable connection between “the gospel of Christ” and “the tradition, language, and thought mode of the Old Testament” (p. 44).

Though many positive features can be noted, our attention will first turn to some problematic aspects of the book. Stuhlmacher seems to approximate something like a “canon-within-the-canon” approach to the NT (see Michael Kruger, Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books [Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012], 68–73) by arguing that Paul and the Pauline school (Colossians, Ephesians, 1–2 Timothy, Titus) are in direct conflict with other NT books (James, Hebrews), with 1 Peter serving as “a kind of golden mean between Paulinism” and the more Jewish letters of James and Hebrews (p. 519). This arises from his contention, following W. G. Kümmel, that “the center of Scripture corresponds with the Pauline message of the justification of the ungodly by faith alone” (p. 786; cf. pp. 780–82 for his discussion of Luther in this connection).

Moreover, he favors the historicity of the Synoptic Gospels over against the Gospel of John: “in rendering this tradition [from the time of the earthly Jesus] in the language of their own school, John and his pupils proceeded … recklessly with the historical events as compared to … the synoptic tradition” (p. 58). Thus, while he recognizes the strengths of the “Johannine school” (which includes 1–3 John, Revelation), it is sub-par when compared with the synoptic gospels. (For an account that argues persuasively for the historicity of both the Synoptic Gospels and John, the reader is referred to Craig L. Blomberg’s The Historical Reliability of the Gospels [Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2007], esp. 196–240). This gives rise to another issue. By evaluating John’s Gospel thus, Stuhlmacher’s discussion of Jesus’s proclamation is marred. Less significant, though arguably still incorrect, is the prominence he places on the Septuagint in the life of the early church as well as in the formation of the NT canon.

Despite these and other areas of difficulty, there is much to commend Stuhlmacher’s book. On many occasions, he departs from the critical consensus, preferring a close and even churchly reading of the text. This is most obvious when one considers his German theological milieu, i.e., Martin Hengel exerts more influence than Bultmann. Further, his constant attention to the Old Testament and Jewish context sheds profound light on the text. In comparison with G. K. Beale’s work, his work is more introductory in content; yet he is a clear improvement on Udo Schnelle’s Theology of the New Testament (trans. M. Eugene Boring [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009]). In conclusion, the magnum opus of this senior German scholar has much to offer the NT student, will indubitably contribute to English-speaking scholarship, and serves as a reliable entry point into the world of German NT studies.

Thomas Haviland-Pabst
Emmaus Church
Asheville, North Carolina, USA

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The Soteriological Use of Call in Paul and Luke

Ian Hussey

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This crisp, accessible book fills an important gap in the literature by considering the use of καλέωand its cognates as a salvation metaphor by Paul and Luke. Dr Hussey teaches at Malyon College, Brisbane, and has served as a Baptist pastor. His interests in New Testament and pastoral ministry have clearly drawn him to this topic, on which he earlier published an article (“The Soteriological Use of ‘Call’ in the New Testament: An Undervalued Category?” BTB 46 [2016]: 133–43).

Hussey approaches the topic as one who seeks to understand the process of Christian conversion in the early churches. His introduction sets the scene by sketching scholarly debates about the relationships of Paul and Jesus, and especially Paul and Luke, notably in relation to soteriology. Paul and Luke are frequently set off against each other by scholars working in this area, and Hussey gives succinct summaries of important contributions to this discussion. He then turns to the καλέω word group and sketches the range of uses and translations of these lexemes, before outlining the focus and shape of the remainder of this book. Notably, he works with the Pauline corpus other than the Pastorals, arguing that the other disputed Paulines are widely agreed to reflect Paul’s theology, even if not from his hand. (Curiously, he treats Philippians as a disputed Pauline [p. 84], which it is not generally considered to be).

The first of the core chapters studies Old Testament use of “call” language and themes in the life of Israel, notably that God calls Israel into existence, that Israel’s call is the result of God’s choice (election), and that Israel’s call is expressed in the form of covenant—a covenant which has a characteristic meal. This meal points beyond itself to the messianic banquet to come when God saves his people.

This is followed by a study of the overall soteriologies of Paul and Luke. Hussey of necessity paints with a broad brush—the whole chapter is just 24 pages—but is judicious in the themes he identifies. For Paul, he sums up in three key propositions:

  1. Righteousness by faith is a metaphor of salvation, not an all-encompassing term;
  2. Covenant deserves a more central place in Pauline soteriology;
  3. Righteousness is related to covenant rather than imputation. (p. 36)

He provides a very helpful list of 38 metaphors of salvation used by Paul to demonstrate the range of Paul’s understanding (pp. 37–38). The influence of the “new perspective” is clear in his use of Sanders, Dunn and Wright—although not uncritically—in seeing covenant as a key category in Pauline soteriology.

When Hussey turns to Luke, he identifies salvation as lying at the heart of Luke’s soteriology. This is not simply tautology: Luke uses the Greek word group for “save” extensively. After summarising previous scholarship very succinctly, he proposes that salvation relates to the kingdom of God, and the biblical covenants (especially in Luke’s eucharistic words)—the latter is expressed clearly in Acts 3:25; 7:8, 44—the believing community stands in continuity with the people of Abraham. The study of Paul and Luke leads Hussey to claim that a key point of convergence between Luke and Paul is the use of “covenant language in soteriological ways” (p. 59).

In studying Paul’s soteriological use of call, Hussey provides a verse-by-verse discussion of key passages: Gal 1:6, 15; 5:8, 13; 1 Thess 2:11–12; 4:7; 5:24; 2 Thess 1:11; 2:14; 1 Cor 1:2, 9, 26; 7:15–24; Rom 1:6–7; 4:16–17; 8:28–20; 9:7, 10–13, 22–26; 11:28–29; Eph 1:18; 4:1, 4; Col 3:15; Phil 3:13–14. He claims he is working with “a generally agreed chronological order” (p. 60), which surprised me a little—although I agree that Galatians is early, this is a minority position in scholarship. The comments on the passages are not detailed exegetical conversations with other scholars—rather, he tends to cite those with whom he agrees, and his sources are not always the most in-depth commentaries (and I found little in German cited, for instance). That said, the discussion is clear, lucid and engaging, and shows the wide range of things to which believers are said to be called (summary, p. 86).

Hussey’s discussion of Luke focuses on only six passages where he perceives a soteriological use of call language: Luke 5:32; 14:12–14, 15–24; Acts 2:21, 39; 15:17. As with Paul, he works through the passages presenting his understanding with support from scholars with whom he agrees (including some, it must be said, rather lightweight sources). I was somewhat surprised not to see Jacob Jervell among his conversation partners here. His summary at the end of the chapter is very clear and helpful, and broadly on the right track, even if some of the arguments along the way seem to me to be stretching the evidence.

The conclusion draws the threads together in a very useful table comparing Pauline and Lukan uses of καλέω language (p. 111). Notably, both use call language in connection with election, covenant, the kingdom of God, God’s eternal purpose to save gentiles, sanctification and repentance, present and future experience, the supersession of ethnicity and socioeconomic status in belonging to Christ, and the formation of Christian community. There are differences too: Luke lacks the Pauline indicative claims about sanctification and vocation, but this (Hussey considers) relates to the different authors’ intents. Thus the καλέω word group should not always be translated in two different ways, “invite” and “call,” since the two English words convey rather different ideas. A closing short section draws implication for the Christian life, connecting with Os Guinness’s good work on vocation.

The presentation of the book is not as good as I’m accustomed to expect in these days of computer typesetting (not least from this publisher). A number of Greek words are wrongly accented (either no accent or too many), or what should be nominative forms have the iota subscript which signals the dative case. A few footnoted references lack page number(s). A few sentences seem to lack a word.

Overall, this book does a good job at what it’s trying to do: provide an overview of call language in relation to salvation in Paul and Luke—and that is no small achievement in just over 120 pages. Those who want to see the detailed exegetical debate and to consider alternative views will need to look elsewhere. There is certainly at least one PhD thesis to be written in this area: who will do this for us?

Steve Walton
Trinity College
Bristol, England, UK

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Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle

Paula Fredriksen

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Pauline studies are en vogue. However, there is little consensus regarding the best interpretive lens(es) through which to view Paul. N. T. Wright (in Paul and His Recent Interpreters: Some Contemporary Debates [Minneapolis: Fortress, 2015], vii–ix) notes at least four major Pauline interpretive “schools” in contemporary biblical studies: (1) the Lutheran view (OPP); (2) the so-called, “New Perspective on Paul” (NPP); (3) Apocalyptic interpretations; and (4) Social-Scientific approaches, with varying subgroups within each. Over the past decade, an amalgam of competing (perhaps, antithetical?) Pauline portraits have been sketched by each of these groups. Paula Fredriksen’s Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle combines a synthetic blend of these last three approaches to Paul while ploughing new soil left mostly untilled in Wright’s monograph. In several places she acknowledges the formative influence of Krister Stendahl (pp. v, 178). Fredriksen is Aurelio Professor of Scripture emerita at Boston University and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Comparative Religion at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and currently serves as co-chair (alongside Matthew Novenson) of the SBL’s “Pauline Literature” section. Also known for her work on Judaism, the historical Jesus, and early Christianity, she is well-qualified to write this book.

Fredriksen’s epigraph, “The past is gone; and the truth of what is past lies in our own judgment, not in the past event itself” (Augustine, Faust. 26.5), is consistent with her overarching thesis: “Paul lived his life entirely within his native Judaism. Later traditions, basing themselves on his letters will displace him from this [Jewish] context. Through the retrospect of history, Paul will be transformed into a ‘convert,’ an ex- or even an anti-Jew; indeed, into the founder of gentile Christianity” (p. xii). Nevertheless, Augustine’s quote is equally applicable to Fredriksen’s own assumptions regarding Paul. Fredriksen’s goal/purpose in writing is to answer sundry research questions that function as the bedrock to her thesis: “How many years [since penning Rom 13:11–12] stood between Paul and his call to proclaim the good news? Why—how—after the passage of so much time, can Paul still be so sure that he knows the hour on God’s clock” (p. xi, emphasis original). Methodologically, Fredriksen employs a hybrid approach (p. 7) utilizing the tools of social-scientific criticism, comparative analysis of primary sources, and exegetical analysis of key Pauline texts (e.g., Rom 1–2; 7–11; 1 Cor 15; Phil 2:6–11). The subtitle “The Pagans’ Apostle” stems from Fredriksen’s distinction between “Gentiles” (a religiously neutral, ethnic term) and “pagans” (a religiously specific, ethnic term denoting non-Jews and non-Christians [p. 34]).

Structurally, the book consists of a preface (pp. xi–xii), introduction (pp. 1–7), five chapters (pp. 8–166), postscript (pp. 167–78), abbreviations (pp. 179–80), notes (pp. 181–253), bibliography (pp. 255–80), and indices (pp. 281–319). In her introduction, Fredriksen reveals her methodology of investigating Paul’s “two generative contexts”: the “scriptural” (Paul’s moorings in Jewish apocalyptic hope) and “social” (Greco-Roman world), which was Paul’s missionary ambit (p. 7).

Fredriksen’s chapters fall into two major sections: chapters 1–2 cover Paul’s “social” world, whereas chapters 3–5 address the “scriptural.” Fredriksen adroitly sketches at least four major themes regarding Paul: (1) Paul was an apostle racing on time’s edge (p. xii, 169, 175); (2) despite his “conflicting” portraits of the Law (e.g., Gal 3:11; Rom 7:12), Paul did not proffer a “Law-free” gospel and remained faithful to Judaism (pp. xii, 113–19, 175); (3) the gods/δαιμόνια/στοιχεῖα of the first-century Mediterranean world were hierarchical and ethnic—creating anti-Jewish tension/persecution as the “ex-pagan pagans” (to use Fredriksen’s “oxymoronic” terminology [p. 34]) abandoned their ancestral gods in favor of YHWH—thus, bringing the gods’ ire against their nations and families (pp. 92–93); and (4) eschatologically, while all are one in Christ (κατὰ πνεῦμα), Israel remains distinct (κατὰ σάρκα) from “the nations” (τὰ ἔθνη; pp. 114–21).

Numerous strengths mark this work. It is eloquently written and well-researched with over seventy pages of notes and a twenty-five-page bibliography. Fredriksen argues her thesis well—highlighting the necessity to recover Paul’s Jewish (apocalyptic) roots, the effects of distanciation—socially and chronologically—on one’s exegesis (p. 58), and the reality of spiritual warfare (p. 92). Further, Fredriksen boldly swims against the streams of the consensus—critiquing the OPP and NPP (pp. 122, 234, n. 64). Perhaps, the book’s greatest strength is Fredriksen’s vivid illumination of Paul’s first-century world, which serves as a helpful corrective to post-Shoah interpretations of Paul within Western Christianity. For this, and more, Pauline students/scholars owe Fredriksen a debt of gratitude.

Despite these notable strengths, Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle leaves one wanting. First, regarding formatting, end notes and the inconsistent use and transliteration of Greek make for a frustrating experience—better to have used Greek script throughout. Second, Fredriksen presents an imbalanced approach to Paul by elevating Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Galatians with only passing reference to the full Pauline corpus—even amongst the seven undisputed letters (pp. 295–301). Third, Fredriksen seems to contradict herself—alluding in her epigraph to the impossibility of recovering the historical Paul, while at the same time claiming (through her method) that one “can … begin to see Paul as he saw himself” (p. xii). As George Tyrrell asserted: “The Christ that Harnack sees … is only the reflection of a Liberal Protestant face, seen at the bottom of a deep well” (cf. Christianity at the Crossroads [London: Longmans, Green and Co, 1909], 44). Similarly, the present book risks turning the image of Paul into the image of Paula. Fourth, and more systemic, Fredriksen’s evolutionary view of the gospel pits Paul against Jesus and the Evangelists (pp. 2–3), and she presents the Fourfold Gospel, Acts, and Paul as contradictory, unreliable historical witnesses (pp. 4–6).

In sum, Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle offers an accessible, affordable entry into the discussion of “apocalyptic Paul.” Fredriksen rightly situates Paul in the center of his complex cultural milieu, “thick” with various divine, human, and suprahuman actors (p. xii). Fredriksen’s erudite work evinces the fruit of a lifetime of study, and her synthetic approach is commendable. However, given the weaknesses above, this book cannot be recommended without reservation.

Gregory E. Lamb
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, North Carolina, USA

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The Lost World of the Torah: Law as Covenant and Wisdom in Ancient Context

John H. Walton and J. Harvey Walton

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The present work is John H. Walton’s sixth in a series of Lost World volumes published by IVP Academic. He is joined by his son, J. Harvey Walton (who also collaborated on The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest), in an attempt to recast our understanding of the Torah, not as legislation/legal code/moral instruction, but as wisdom instruction, covenant stipulation, and ritual instruction—all embedded within an original ancient Near Eastern (ANE) context far different from our modern one. As in the previous volumes, Walton and Walton proceed by way of advancing and defending one proposition per chapter (23 propositions in all), each one laying the groundwork for further discussion, culminating in a final series of propositions designed to explore “the practical issues of today using an informed understanding of the Torah and applying a consistent hermeneutic” (p. 6).

In Part 1 (“Methodology”; Propositions 1–2), Walton and Walton employ the analogy of cultural rivers to argue that we who live within a modern cultural river with all its attendant (and assumed) cultural currents (such as democracy, individual rights, etc.) must be careful to read ancient texts (and the OT is an ANE text) in light of the ancient cultural river in which they are embedded, with due appreciation for the cultural currents that often differ from ours and perhaps don’t even anticipate ours. Only by reading the ancient Hebrew text for what it is (and not what we want it or assume it to be), with the aid of “cultural brokers” who can help those in one culture to understand the backgrounds and beliefs of another culture, can we have confidence that we have reached authoritative interpretation of the Hebrew Bible. With this in mind, they assert that our concepts of Torah today are influenced by our modern, post-Reformation notions of law and legislation as prescriptive formulations enforcing obligations upon those under its authority; according to the authors, however, the ANE context presents legal material only as descriptive formulations, calling for wise understanding by those who might settle disputes and make decisions. To put it more bluntly, they aver that many read Torah “as if it were prescriptive, codified legislation, though that concept did not exist in the ancient world” (p. 22) and so are guilty of hermeneutical cultural river violation.

Part 2 (“Functions of Ancient Near Eastern Legal Collections”; Propositions 3–7) provides the authors’ actual arguments that legal collections (like the laws of Hammurabi) are not in fact prescriptive legislation, based on their lack of comprehensiveness and the lack of appeal to the written legal sayings in court records (both of which should be present in the case of codified legislation). Instead, the legal collections’ lists function as aspective wisdom, providing illustrations of what wise order in applying justice looks like. Since the Torah is like these legal collections, it should likewise be understood as aspective legal wisdom designed to preserve order and not supply legislation. It is here that Walton and Walton state in no uncertain terms what many will find to be shocking: “If God did not give rules, as we have suggested, there are no rules to follow. If God did not provide legislation, there are no laws to obey” (p. 44). In a similar vein, they also point out that the Torah shares much in common with ANE suzerainty covenants; just as the stipulations of such covenants are not given by the suzerains to legislate the vassal’s society or to provide moral requirements, so we should not assume that YHWH provides these stipulations for said reasons. Instead, they propose that the covenant stipulations serve to preserve covenant order and to reflect on YHWH the sovereign’s reputation by revealing what kind of a wise and just king he is. Finally, the authors propose that holiness for Israel is a status conferred by YHWH, not something to be acquired by observing rules or performing rituals.

Part 3 (“Ritual and Torah”; Propositions 8–9) explains how ANE ritual functioned as part of the “Great Symbiosis” where worshipers needed the favor of the gods while, at the same time, the gods were dependent on humans to meet their needs. Here the Israelite covenant differs greatly from ANE religions, since YHWH has no needs to meet. Therefore, the function of ritual must be to preserve covenant order, wherein offerings serve as tribute to the suzerain and rituals preserve the favor of YHWH dwelling in their midst.

In Part 4 (“Context of the Torah”; Propositions 10–14), Walton and Walton discuss in detail the contextual situatedness of the Torah in the ancient world (and its ancient values), in the covenant relationship (with Israel as the unique vassal), and in Israelite sacred space (where Israel receives instruction in how to preserve the blessings of divine presence and favor).

The final section, Part 5 (“Ongoing Significance of the Torah”; Propositions 15–23), applies the foregoing conclusions to significant questions about how to apply Torah today (actually, it would be more accurate to describe this lengthy section of 101 pages as how not to apply it). They argue for a number of controversial points, such as the following: the NT does not provide hermeneutical guidance for how to understand the OT in context; one cannot legitimately separate the Torah into parts in order to determine what is of enduring value; a derived-principles approach to applying the Torah is too problematic to be consistent and workable; the Torah is not and never was intended to provide an ideal social structure or a moral system/set of moral principles; and a divine command theory of ethics could be constructed even without a written Torah construed as moral. Following the conclusion, the authors provide an appendix expounding the Ten Words within their hermeneutical framework.

No doubt many will laud the work of Walton and Walton and breathe a sigh of relief that their approach offers “a way to resolve a longstanding problem: why the inclusion of slavery or patriarchy in the Torah should not concern us” (p. 225). For my part, while supportive of their fundamental goal of interpreting the Torah in its original context, I found myself in vigorous disagreement with them at so many points. However, due to the requirements for brevity in this kind of review, I thought it best to present a summary of the book as charitably and accurately as possible and to limit myself to one substantive criticism. A significant plank in their argument is that the legal sayings of the Torah (as well as ANE legal collections) are not codified prescriptive legislation. This conclusion is based on the lack of comprehensiveness in what it addresses and the absence of judges overtly grounding rulings in legal collections for the court documents we have. The latter is of course an argument from silence. The former presents a false dichotomy: either a legal collection is comprehensive in scope and prescriptive legislation, or it must be descriptive legal wisdom. As Walton and Walton put it, “The conclusion can only be that these documents could not possibly serve as codified legislation to regulate every aspect of society” (p. 30). But why must this be an all or nothing proposition? Why can’t a non-comprehensive legal collection serve as both codified legislation for the areas it does address and instructional legal wisdom for judges in the areas that it doesn’t? Appeals to our modern experience of indexing comprehensiveness to codified legislation would be to impose our modern cultural river on the ancient one.

Phillip S. Marshall
Houston Baptist University
Houston, Texas, USA

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Dating Deuteronomy: The Wellhausen Fallacy

Josef Schubert

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As one who has loved Deuteronomy for over thirty years, I am far from jealous when someone claims to be “Dating Deuteronomy.” The more who date and then love Deuteronomy the better!

Nonetheless, the issue of establishing the date of the Book of Deuteronomy remains highly contentious in Old Testament scholarship, a lynchpin for the Old Testament to use the language of Gordon Wenham many years ago (“The Date of Deuteronomy: Linch-Pin of Old Testament Criticism: Part 1,” Them 10 [1985]: 15–20; and Part 2, Them 11 [1985]: 15–18). Since de Wette, and then more famously and popularly Wellhausen, the view that Deuteronomy dates from the time of Josiah continues to retain significant popularity. When I published a small book on Deuteronomy by an evangelical Australian publisher over twenty years ago (Deuteronomy: The God who Keeps Promises [Melbourne: Acorn Press, 1998]), the editor wanted me to reflect Josianic origins, something she simply assumed uncritically. Though Wellhausen’s hypothesis has met considerable critique and modification over the past 150 years, a Josianic origin of Deuteronomy remains often astonishingly intractable as a theory.

Schubert’s book is a refreshing argument aimed at dismissing the Wellhausen fallacy of late dating of Deuteronomy, P, and the general reconstruction of Israelite history and religion. To that end I am in full agreement with Schubert’s thrust. As Schubert points out at different points, Wellhausen’s theory is largely built on successive steps of speculation. One of the appeals of this book is its refreshing sense of logic, likelihood, and reason.

Schubert writes from an explicitly secular perspective, though from a Jewish ethnicity. He studied under Cassuto, Segal, Mazar and others in the 1940s in Jerusalem but then turned to psychology. Now Emeritus Professor at the University of Regina, Canada, he helped found the department of Jewish studies because he was appalled at the lack of biblical knowledge among students. Now in his nineties, I believe, this is his first book, and extremely helpful it is indeed.

Schubert’s main arguments focus at times on Hebrew language, analyzing the nature of Israelite religion and cultic practice, and in general arguing for the logical consistency of the Pentateuch. The first section, consisting of three chapters, deal with the problem, as he sees it, of the Wellhausen hypothesis and archaeological assumptions. The second section of three chapters discusses the Torah, namely the composition of the Pentateuch, its religion, and then a chapter on Deuteronomy specifically. The final section, of five chapters, is under the heading of the “Ethnogenesis of Israel.” Here Schubert traces his understanding of the origins and history of Israel. The chapters in turn look at the tradition of a wandering Aramean to a Nation bound by covenant, from the conquest to monarchy, religion during the monarchy, the prophets and finally the exile.

At each point he undermines the assumptions of the Wellhausen school’s reconstruction of the development of Israelite religion. In particular he asserts clearly that monotheism was original to Moses, at least, and in the Patriarchs, and was not an evolution of ancient Israel. He argues this is the most likely scenario historically as well. He attacks the minimalist archaeological view asserting that logically the unity of monotheistic Israel pre-conquest is much more likely than the non-conquest views, and more consistent with archaeology as well.

Schubert asserts convincingly that the Pentateuch was recognized as an entity before the separation of Israel into two kingdoms after Solomon. The closeness of the Samarian Pentateuch and that of the Hebrew Bible testify to this. So it is inconceivable, he argues, that either is copied from the other; the most reasonable, likely, and logical answer is that the Pentateuch originated pre-division. He also argues persuasively that the idea of editing earlier Scriptures is hard to believe when they were regarded as sacred books. Such editing of a Scripture was unheard of in the ancient world.

Schubert’s approach to Hebrew aims to substantiate his argument, claiming that, for example on sacrifices at high places, the Hebrew has been misunderstood and wrongly used to support Wellhausen, et al.

I have never been convinced by the “pious fraud” theory of Wellhausen. And inconsistencies, contradictions or clunky repetitions are not best explained by redactors or by weaving sources together. Such views surmise incompetent redactors at best. If an editor can draw together such nuances and tensions, then so too can an author. Hooray for Schubert’s book, bringing some common sense back into the debate and contributing to what needs to be done—a total debunking of Wellhausen’s fallacious hypothesis. In doing so, Schubert shows the ripple effects of Wellhausen that spread all the way through Old Testament study.

The book has plenty of minor typos that could be cleaned up for reprinting. Nonetheless it is eminently readable, refreshing and ought to be read by anyone studying Deuteronomy.

Paul Barker
Anglican Diocese of Melbourne
Melbourne, Australia

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1 Samuel

Koowon Kim

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Koowon Kim’s contribution is one of thirteen volumes published thus far in the Asia Bible Commentary series by the Langham Global Library in partnership with the Asia Theological Association. The goal of the series is to provide a resource that is “biblical, pastoral, contextual, missional, and prophetic for pastors, Christian leaders, cross-cultural workers, and students in Asia” (p. xi). The authors are evangelical scholars all across Asia who seek to contextualize the Bible for particular Asian contexts by demonstrating its cultural relevance and leveraging cultural resources with which to engage the text. Kim is a seminary professor at Reformed Graduate University in Seoul, South Korea.

Kim’s 1 Samuel begins with a brief introduction followed by the commentary and then selected bibliography. In the body of the commentary are also embedded fifteen brief topic studies in inset boxes that highlight a biblical theme or issue for particular discussion from a pastoral, cultural, or even historical point of view. Kim is explicit in how he contextualizes his commentary for Asian audiences (p. 10). First, he introduces Chinese, Korean, or Japanese folk sayings or Confucius’s teachings for “illustrative purposes.” Secondly, he applies the text wherever possible to the situation of Korean churches as he knows them. And thirdly, in his commentary on the David narratives of 1 Samuel 16–31 he includes relevant episodes from the Chinese epic novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms—a work of historical fiction recounting the turbulent period of Chinese history from the end of the Han dynasty into the so-called Three Kingdoms period (ca. 170–280 CE).

Kim’s volume is a worthy commentary in the tradition of western, historical, and textual biblical scholarship. There are many exegetical and theological insights in his exposition of 1 Samuel that make the book a fascinating read and help for pastors. For example, he notes the contrast of Hannah considered by Eli as a “wicked woman” (בַּת־בְּלִיָּעַל) in 1:16 with Eli’s sons who are referred to in the narrative as “scoundrels” (בְּנֵי בְלִיָּעַל) in 2:12 (p. 29). In Samuel’s victory over the Philistines at Mizpeh, Kim intriguingly suggests that Yahweh is here depicted as a divine warrior striking out at the enemy as Israel stands by and watches (p. 71). Israel is merely Yahweh’s armor-bearer as “The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar” (1 Sam 7:11 NIV). His assessment of Saul’s quick ascent to the throne compared with David’s long and tortuous one is theologically profound and fruitful: “This season of suffering characterized David’s rise to the throne, for David became a man of obedience through suffering, which is an essential trait of an Israelite king” (p. 172). Kim writes clearly and concisely, summarizing in excellent fashion each section of the biblical narrative. The commentary is conversant and grounded in previous scholarship although statements are not cited as often as one might wish as to their sources.

There are a number of problems, however, with this work. First, there are several rather egregious errors. For example, in the man of God’s condemnation of Eli in 1 Samuel 2:29, Kim argues that the double-meaning of כבד “to be honored” and “to be heavy” is suggested in the text: “Further, we are told that Eli had “honored” [כבד] his sons more than God by “fattening” [כבד] himself and his sons on the choicest part of the offerings made by God’s people (pp. 34–35). But the Hebrew text does not have כבד for the word “fattening.” The editors should have caught this misstatement as well as others upon which the exegesis and exposition so fully depend.

A second problem is that Kim tends to (a) moralize the Old Testament story and (b) over-interpret the text. In critiquing the priesthood of Eli, for example, Kim reminds readers that the church today has become like a “business” selling sermons like merchandise (p. 38). Recently, evangelical scholars have expressed concerns over moralizing the Old Testament story. Rather, the focus should be on the redemptive-historical themes raised, that these motifs are part and parcel of the narrator’s larger theme of “those who honor me, I will honor” and reflect the theology of the Deuteronomic historian. Kim also has the tendency to over-interpret the text. Perhaps the most notable example is the conclusion that Saul failed in obeying the Lord not two times (as in 1 Sam 13 and 15) but three times (cf. pp. 6, 98–103). When Samuel anoints Saul in 1 Samuel 10 and after three signs are fulfilled thereafter, he tells Saul to “do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you” (v. 7). Kim interprets Samuel’s latter words to imply that Saul should attack the Philistine outpost at Gibeah (p. 99). In fact, the implied action becomes to Kim a “command,” which of course Saul fails to do and thus becomes his first “failure to obey.” When asked why Samuel didn’t just come out and tell Saul directly to attack Gibeah, Kim writes that Samuel apparently “wanted Saul to figure out the Lord’s will, based on the wisdom he had acquired through his life experience and rational judgment” (p. 100). Surely, this asks too much of the reader to infer and the explanation is rather tortuous.

The Asia Bible Commentary seeks to contextualize the Bible for its Asian audiences. Kim does well to bring up on almost every page an Asian proverb, illustration or parallel that relates to the narrative stories of 1 Samuel. Pastors in Asian contexts will no doubt appreciate the parallels and illustrations, but these are for the most part illustrations only. Contextualization requires more, involving the integration of the thought world of the Bible and more importantly the redemptive-historical themes of the Scriptures with the thought world of the target culture. Many of the Asian examples seem piecemeal and tangential to the actual theology of the book. Kim includes Korean and Asian parallels on everything from betrothal type-scenes (p. 90) to armor-bearers (p. 164) to victory chants (p. 176) to the composite bow (p. 195). But how do these illustrations bring to bear in a foreign culture the religious and theological themes of 1 Samuel? One of the more helpful comparisons is Hannah as a model of the Korean “fighting” woman who “fights” with herself, her family members and even with God (p. 11). Yet, surely in as hierarchal and patriarchal as the Korean culture one cannot overlook the fact that Hannah was a woman and yet was fundamentally instrumental in executing God’s next movement in his redemptive-historical drama. In such an honor and shame-based culture as the Asian, one cannot overlook the redemptive-historical meaning of God’s removal of Hannah’s shame in this story.

In summary, Kim’s commentary on 1 Samuel is a valuable contribution filled with many worthwhile insights and grounded in traditional, western biblical exegesis. But it would be unwise to rely solely on this work for critical study, its interpretation of 1 Samuel and contextual sermon preparation.

Milton Eng
The King’s College
New York, NY, USA

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The Books of Haggai and Malachi

Mignon R. Jacobs

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Mignon R. Jacobs is professor of Old Testament Studies at Ashland Theological Seminary in Ohio. Among her other books is Gender, Power, and Persuasion: The Genesis Narratives and Contemporary Portraits (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007).

Jacobs has produced a very different commentary within this series. It is a highly disciplined, precise, and carefully crafted work. I must admit it took me some time to appreciate the wisdom and usefulness of this approach.

In the introduction Jacobs states, “My primary task was to interpret the texts, first, as prophetic literature and, second, as diverse intertextual voices within the Hebrew Bible/ Old Testament canon” (p. xiii). Where there are “various interpretative options” the commentator steps back to “allow these options to coexist” even though this “may jar readers who want a single, decisive interpretation.” Jacobs states that “my faith commitments and theological stance shape this approach to writing a commentary” (p. xiii) without inviting the reader to engage with these commitments. The focus is on the text.

The result is a rigorous, technical, and extensive investigation. Matters of textual criticism are set out in some detail. Jacobs’s conservative approach to the text resists textual variants that evidence paraphrase and harmonization, as well as modern speculations that lead to emendation. Typically, the evidence is left to speak for itself. On rare occasions Jacobs states a personal opinion in terms such as “I retain the MT” (p. 111).

The commentary works most helpfully as a translator’s handbook and would be an outstanding help for students, pastors or scholars wanting help to read the Hebrew text with precision. Jacobs provides an extensive investigation of the semantics and syntax of the Hebrew text of these books. Footnotes include extensive citations of competing scholarly opinions, often without comment. If read quickly, some of the semantic discussions seem unnecessarily redundant, e.g., “to despise the name is a particular formulation designating an action that results in the defamation of Yahweh’s character or reputation” (p. 188). However, discussions like these do bring out the finer nuances of the language and require of the reader pause and consideration.

Jacobs is to be commended for a very cautious and honest approach when dealing with passages where translation options cannot be firmly settled. Tendentious argument is vigorously resisted. Personal preferences are occasionally stated simply and without argument. This work is an exemplary model of interpretative integrity, allowing a question to remain unresolved at the limits of the available evidence, while setting out the data fully and clearly. So, for example, after a detailed discussion of the translation difficulties and options in Malachi 3:13–15 (pp. 253–60), Jacobs focuses on the issue of divorce in Malachi 2:16 (pp. 260–63). One option is to read Yahweh as the one who hates divorce (cf. NASB, NRSV). This raises questions with respect to both Deuteronomy 24:1–4 and Ezra 9–10 (cf. Mal 2:10–12). An alternative translation would be “the one who hates, divorces, and covers his garment with violence.” How then to understand “covering his garment with violence?” Is this a public display of violence as a product of one’s arrogance? Is it the imagery of taking a wife (cf. Deut 22:30; Ruth 3:9; Ezek 16:8)? The implication then might be that “marriage to one woman conceals the divorce of a previous one” (p. 262). The overall force of the passage is a warning against acting treacherously (2:15). In conclusion Jacobs issues a timely warning, “Much caution should be exercised, especially considering how these verses have been used on issues of divorce, intermarriage, and alliance” (p. 263). Jacobs leaves the reader to work through the possibilities.

One of the great strengths of this commentary is Jacobs’s extensive investigation of intertextual data to clarify the meaning of words, phrases or concepts. The Scripture index locates over four thousand OT citations within the work—a remarkable number for a commentary on two short prophetic books. This contrasts with an indicator of the major desideratum of this commentary: there are only seventy-four citations from the NT (and fifty-two from the apocrypha) in the whole work.

In the author’s preface Jacobs states, “My approach … is to inquire about the significance of the text for both the ancient and the modern audience” (p. xiii). In the body of the commentary the only matters of significance for a modern audience appear to be those pertaining to academic questions of textual criticism, semantics, and syntax. Insufficient attention is given to questions of biblical theology engaging with the New Testament’s use of these books, their place in the development of our understanding of Jesus’s person, life and work, let alone eschatology.

Haggai’s prophecies with respect to the construction of the second temple focus on a most significant event in preparation for the coming of Jesus as the embodied temple of God (John 2:13–25). The final destruction of the second temple in turn brought closure to the transition from shadow to reality, as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in each believer transferred the temple function to the expanding missionary church. Much more could be said about Haggai’s contribution to this theme within its canonical context. More could be said about Haggai’s discussion of holiness, particularly with respect to Jesus’s power to make clean what was unclean, and to sanctify his people once for all time.

The New Testament writers make extensive use of the Book of Malachi. Pastors and students will look for a deeper and more extensive discussion of issues such as the universal expectation of Malachi 1:11, the relationship between faith and lifestyle (1:6–2:9), covenant family life (2:10–17), and especially the eschatological expectations of Malachi 3–4.

Jacobs states, “Recontextualizing the ideas and themes most often requires reconceptualizing. This task is not the primary concern of a commentary, even though it might offer specific theological stances for the reader” (p. xiii). This may explain the reasons for this deficiency. However, it does contrast with Jacobs’s approach to another difficulty.

Contemporary sensitivities are a matter of genuine concern, particularly with respect to the issue of the Bible’s gendered language with reference to God. The Hebrew text uses masculine pronouns, even though the Creator exists without actual gender. Jacobs states “to avoid the masculine pronoun, I use Deity (the Deity) or God” (p. xiv). In places this usage is open to suggesting that God/Yahweh and “the Deity” are two different beings, for example, “God is also aware of those who honor and reverence the Deity and will bless them” (p. 153); “Yahweh’s hatred, like the Deity’s love, is compelled by Yahweh’s choice” (p. 174); and “a perception that Yahweh requires of people something that the Deity does not require” (p. 266). This approach produces readings that are awkward at best. As a general tendency it also depersonalizes God.

Overall this volume provides a valuable resource, particularly for Hebrew students, scholars and pastors who want to have a precise and faithful understanding of the Hebrew text in its historical context.

David R. Jackson
Werrington, New South Wales, Australia

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The Hebrew Bible and History: Critical Readings

Lester L. Grabbe, ed.

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It is often said that “History is in the eye of beholder.” The reporting of history lends itself to subjectivity, ideological bents, and a narrow focus. In the last seventeen years, the European Seminar has wrestled with issues of historicity in ancient Israel. Their most recent contribution, The Hebrew Bible and History: Critical Readings, continues the Seminar’s work by providing a dialogue on writing a history of ancient Israel. The contributors span the theological spectrum so that their viewpoints provide a dialogue.

The volume comprises of five parts, including an introduction at the beginning of each section. Part one (pp. 3–170) focuses on the question of historical methodology and each article deals with the tension between a maximalist and a minimalist position. For instance, Herbert Niehr (pp. 15–23) begins the section with an overview of the various types of textual sources in recovering a historical methodology. He argues that the process for recovering a historical methodology should begin with a historical anthropology, then primary sources, then secondary sources. J. Maxwell Miller (pp. 31–55) discusses the possibility of writing a history without the Bible. He argues that the Bible is often considered a secondary source but that it does not differ from works such as Herodotus. Nadav Na’aman (pp. 56–71) probes the reliability of archeology as having the final authority. He argues that archeology is lacking in two areas: incomplete information and interpretative bias.

Part two (pp. 171–382) focuses on the rise of the monarchy in ancient Israel. John Van Seters (pp. 185–202) discusses the historicity of the geography of the Exodus. He notes that the work of archeology in the past few decades has overturned earlier discoveries. He focuses on Pithom and Succoth and identifies them with the Tell el-Maskhuta, a town built by Necho II around 600 BC. Walter Dietrich (pp. 270–92) provides a synchronic reading of the story of David and his relationship to the Philistines. He argues that David did not fight against the Philistines but had a treaty with them. Herman Niemann (pp. 311–51) argues that a historical event can be restricted through a threefold process. He also argues that we should avoid the presupposition whereby any theological dimension of the biblical portrayal can be derived from Solomon.

Parts three and four (pp. 383–518) focus on two case studies: Josiah’s reform and Nehemiah’s wall, with contributions investigating the historical issues that have come into skepticism recently concerning either Josiah’s reform or Nehemiah’s wall. In the last chapter (pp. 519–33), Lester L. Grabbe outlines the work of the seminar dating back to the past twenty years. He suggests categories that the historical method should apply when researching the history of ancient Israel.

The essays are arranged in such a way that the volume will serve as a reference work for years to come. The reader navigates easily through 564 pages because Grabbe has compiled the book as gears rotating in order. The introduction to each section serves as a goldmine for readers, since he introduces each section by surveying the issues while also summarizing each article. The structure at the macro-level services the reader even though there are some inconsistencies in its formatting. For example, some chapters use footnotes with a bibliography, while others use only footnotes. The volume would further assist the reader with the inclusion of a bibliography after each section.

The essays display European scholarship, which the editor declares without any hesitation (p. 521). Grabbe should be commended for his attempt to bring a wide range of voices from across Europe to dialogue on writing a history of ancient Israel. Yet, he admits that the past seventeen years of the seminar has not brought a consensus (p. 522). He introduces the volume by stating the inclusive nature of the contributors, but then he reveals his hand against the “ultra-conservatives.” He states, “It is safe to say that ultra-conservatives were not a part of it. This was because I felt that all who participated had to be genuinely critical scholars, whereas fundamentalist and many conservative evangelicals would be unable to engage in a useful dialogue on the issues” (p. 524). Here Grabbe displays a common mantra that inerrancy and good scholarship cannot coexist, but this author hopes that initiatives such as the new Text and Canon Institute at Phoenix Seminary will disprove such false presuppositions. Evangelicals have an invested interest in the text that should promote their inclusion in wrestling with the historicity of Scripture. Perhaps if the editor expands his audience to evangelicals a solution may arise concerning the historicity of ancient Israel. The Seminar limits itself by denying evangelicals a place at the table.

The volume comprises top-notch scholars from around Europe and each essay succinctly addresses a particular topic. A key issue in the volume is archaeology’s relationship to the text, since archeological evidence appears to contradict the text. Archeology and composition theory dominate the formation of the critical readings. The text plays the piper to either archeology or composition theory. Thus, the biblical figures such as David or Saul become fluid figures, or even a part of the narrator’s imagination. These critical readings of the Hebrew Bible provide imaginative reconstructions of ancient Israel with a plethora of textual information. Evangelicals will disagree with many of the conclusions but should glean from their analysis of each text and would serve well the Church and scholarly community by engaging with this scholarly resource.

Nicholas Majors
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Kansas City, Missouri, USA

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Sepher Torath Mosheh: Studies in the Composition and Interpretation of Deuteronomy

Daniel I. Block and Richard L. Schultz, eds.

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Deuteronomy has long held a privileged position within the OT guild. Ever since Wilhelm de Wette’s contention that the book’s provenance is best connected with Josiah, Deuteronomy has offered historical critics an anchor point to ground compositional models—not only for the Pentateuch but also for the Former and Latter Prophets. Evangelical responses to such reasoning have not always been magnanimous. In fact, there has been a noticeable divorce between evangelical scholarship and the wider academy. Sepher Torath Mosheh, edited by Daniel Block and Richard Schultz, is an attempt at rapprochement.

The volume’s opening chapter by Peter Vogt establishes the broader interpretative landscape. Differing critical approaches to Deuteronomy are surveyed as a means of contrasting evangelical responses. Vogt concludes that while evangelicals have historically tended to be reactive rather than proactive (p. 22), a “more confident and assertive evangelical cadre” is beginning to turn the tide (p. 29). The current volume is a case in point. Thirteen evangelical scholars engage with, affirm, and critique critical readings in their respective attempts to grapple with the text and theology of Deuteronomy. The result is a compelling showcase of the potential.

Three chapters explicitly consider historical matters. Two examine the connection between Deuteronomy and ANE treaties. Neal Huddleston presents a forty-eight-page survey of seven ANE treaty forms extant from 2300 to 600 BC. This survey serves as data for a subsequent essay, co-written with Lawson Younger, which critiques conclusions drawn from comparative analyses. Younger and Huddleston note an all-too-frequent “violation” of documents that only considers superficial similarities, not the contrasts (p. 95). They conclude that Deuteronomy draws from a broader cultural milieu rather than one specific ANE treaty form (p. 109). A third chapter by Sandra Richter presents data from recent archaeological digs at Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. Richter argues that this locale—ancient Shechem, the highest peak in the most densely populated region in Canaan—was the ideal place to announce the rule of a new sovereign, namely YHWH (Deut 27; p. 310). Accordingly, she proposes that the first instantiation of the ambiguous “place of the Name” announced throughout Deuteronomy was Ebal/Gerizim (p. 337).

Two back-to-back essays by Michael Grisanti and Bill Arnold tackle compositional issues. Grisanti charts the development of the critical consensus that links Deuteronomy with Josiah (pp. 111–18), presents counter evidence (pp. 119–29), and considers alternate proposals (pp. 130–38). He concludes that Deuteronomy was primarily composed by the end of Moses’s life (p. 138). Arnold’s essay heads in a different direction and, as it does so, considers an evangelical touchstone: inspiration. Eschewing both the traditional thirteenth-century date and a late Josianic provenance, Arnold opts for a middle position. Drawing on Michael Fishbane’s distinction between traditum and traditio, he suggests that Deuteronomy is best understood as a corporate product—that is, as a scribal recasting of Mosaic tradition designed to perpetuate the text faithfully for a new generation (pp. 150–53). This, he argues, is more consistent with what we know of ancient text production. These two chapters illustrate the conversation captured by this volume—contributors do not see eye-to-eye on all points. Readers are thus inducted into a lively, yet cordial, discussion.

A contribution by Brent Strawn explores the rhetoric of Deuteronomy. Strawn notes how the use of self-involving language (“we” and “you”) positions the audience as rescued slaves and as recalcitrant rebels, forcing a point of decision (pp. 183–84). This, in turn, bequeaths a “transhistorical effect” to the book, involving readers wherever and whenever they might be (p. 184, emphasis removed). Importantly, readers are engaged as both slaves and rebels; one cannot simply elect a favored persona. Strawn concludes, “That is how Deuteronomy’s inscription works: writing the audience into the story’s most noble and ignoble moments for salutary ends” (p. 190, emphasis removed).

A further five chapters fruitfully apply intertextual analysis. Markus Zehnder reads Deuteronomy’s command to love the alien (Deut 10:19) against Leviticus 19:34. Richard Averbeck compares Deuteronomy with Exodus 21–23 and Leviticus 17–27 to argue for the presence of cultic frames around the various law codes. The presence of wisdom themes in Deuteronomy is explored by Gordon McConville. Carsten Vang assesses the long-noted textual overlap between Deuteronomy and Hosea and concludes that the direction of dependence presumed by critical scholars (Deuteronomy upon Hosea) is based more on undefended assumption rather than literary considerations. Finally, in an intriguing essay, Daniel Block ponders what Moses may have thought of Paul (p. 340), particularly in relation to Galatians and the matter of circumcision. Block concludes that Moses would likely have agreed with the apostle (p. 356), noting that in Deuteronomy “physical circumcision is never identified as an or the Israelite identity marker” (p. 358). For Moses, as with Paul, internal orientation (circumcision of the heart) remained central.

Sepher Torath Mosheh fulfils what it sets out to accomplish: a considered and proactive evangelical engagement with critical scholarship on Deuteronomy. The contributors are by no means uniform; diversity on multiple issues is apparent. Readers will therefore find material with which they agree and disagree. That, one suspects, is part of the point. The volume calls for and models serious engagement with the issues instead of retreat and reaction based on prior commitments. Students and researchers are amply served in this regard. At the same time, one cannot help wondering what critical scholars would make of the volume. Jeffrey Tigay was invited to attend the 2015 symposium that marked its origin. It would have been interesting to have his reflections included. Nevertheless, this remains an important volume which displays frontline evangelical scholarship at its best.

G. Geoffrey Harper
Sydney Missionary & Bible College
Croydon, New South Wales, Australia

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The Beauty of Holiness: Re-Reading Isaiah in the Light of the Psalms

Joseph Blenkinsopp

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I think three groups of people will gravitate toward this book: those who love the books of Isaiah, those who love the Psalms, and those familiar with the name Joseph Blenkinsopp. This volume is a historical-critical and intertextuality scholarship of Isaiah and Psalms at its best. Blenkinsopp works through these books intertextually, identifying a plethora of common traditions and themes between them. He argues that a guild of temple singers composed and perpetuated these traditions over a long period of time, leaving vestiges of liturgical and prophetic elements in the pages of these books.

The ingenious contribution of this work, in my view, is how Blenkinsopp reimagines a common prophetic and liturgical source that gave rise to intertextual doublets in Isaiah and the Psalms. These doublets, or parallels, as Blenkinsopp argues, are connected by terminologies and language characteristic of temple musicians and prophets. The parallels identified are said to be unique—they are either entirely absent in the Hebrew Bible or given a twist in Isaiah and Psalms. For instance, the term “Torah” in these two books is less connected to Moses or associated with the imposition of law as seen elsewhere. Instead, this Torah has prophetic connotations, and proceeds from Zion rather than Sinai. It is also a Torah for all peoples and not merely for the nation of Israel (p. 6).

Blenkinsopp’s volume can be broadly structured into three sections. First, Blenkinsopp discusses the origins and developments of the liturgical psalms on the basis of the Psalter, the books of Chronicles, and Ezra-Nehemiah. He argues that the authorship of these liturgical compositions can be traced to temple musician guilds based on the eponyms seen in the superscriptions (or in his preferred term, “rubrics”) of Asaphite, Korahite and Ezrahite psalms. Subsequently, temple guilds of Heman, Asaph, and Ethan/Jeduthun perpetuated the use of these songs from the time of David through to Josiah. Blenkinsopp suggests that Ethan and Heman probably had Edomite origins but were later indigenized into the Levitical guilds by the Chronicler (pp. 22–23). Importantly, Blenkinsopp also points out that musicians such as David, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun had prophetic ministries. They were given prophetic gifts alongside their instrumentation abilities (2 Sam 23:1–7; 1 Chr 25:1–8). On the other hand, cult prophets were involved in temple worship (Amos 7:10–17; Jer 7:1–2). In other words, psalmody and prophecy had a more intimate connection than usually supposed.

Second, Blenkinsopp works through the three sections of the book of Isaiah (1–39, 40–55, 56–66), uncovering substantial psalmic material in Isaiah. They occur as “psalm entire, embryonic, or fragmentary,” manifesting “terminology, themes, and religious orientation” found in the Psalter (pp. 37, 50–51). For instance, Blenkinsopp notes that the concept of God’s holiness in the Trisagion, Isaiah 6:1–7, is likely dependent or even composed by the guilds that produced Psalm 22, where “God is holy and enthroned on the praises of Israel,” or Psalm 99, where the “Enthroned One is proclaimed holy three times” (p. 38). Third, Blenkinsopp reserves four chapters for the furtherance of four themes that are common and significant in Isaiah and the Psalms: traditions and eschatological perspectives surrounding Zion (ch. 7); language relating to the righteous and the wicked as two segregated groups (ch. 8); a specific community called the “servants of YHWH” (ch. 9); and an apparent repudiation of sacrifice (ch. 10).

Blenkinsopp’s erudition is obvious; yet more than this, his understanding of the text reimagined from the life in the temple guilds has shown us what the ministers at the temple “aimed to achieve in their participation in the temple liturgy”—the beauty of holiness (p. 148). This idea is inspiring! Likewise, all who meditate on and sing of God’s glory in Isaiah and the Psalms today will revel in the beauty of God’s holiness as the original musicians did. As such, Blenkinsopp’s study has evoked something of the heart from these texts that had always resound through the ages.

Now most, if not all, of the connections identified between Isaiah and the Psalms by Blenkinsopp are said to be dependent on the Psalms (pp. 50, 52, 70–74, 81–82, 158–159, 161). I am surprised that Blenkinsopp has invariably assumed a single direction of dependence, almost without qualification, even though the dating of individual psalms is notoriously difficult. In other words, Blenkinsopp is not interested in the final editing or editors of the psalms. He is, rather, focused on the presumed early authors of the psalms. Hence, it must be said that while Blenkinsopp finds a convincing number of connections between Isaiah and the Psalms, he makes little comparisons of the final theological contours and messages of both books. His comparisons of the themes of Torah and Zion in Isaiah and the Psalms are masterly and accurate, but his quiescence on kingship is especially odd, since it is a considerably important theme in both texts.

This volume is less accessible than it initially looked. Blenkinsopp writes in long sentences and his proposals require readers to be somewhat familiar with the dating and historical agendas in the compositions of Isaiah, Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah and the Psalms. Many of Blenkinsopp’s sources are German, steeped in higher critical scholarship, and dated from between the early to mid-twentieth century. Several are even dated to the nineteenth century. Though the title of the book, its length, and readable format may entice many readers, I think those who will best appreciate this volume are students working at the interface between biblical history and the text. Nevertheless, Blenkinsopp is an important name in the field, and for those who can appreciate his work, how great is that appreciation!

Peter C. W. Ho
Singapore Bible College
Republic of Singapore

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Bob Becking

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Bob Becking’s commentary on Ezra-Nehemiah is a welcome contribution. Becking, Emeritus Professor of Humanities at Utrecht University, is no stranger to Ezra-Nehemiah. He has not only contributed to Ezra-Nehemiah scholarship in the past but is also a published scholar in the study of Persian history. This dual specialisation allows for an elaborate study of the nexus between history and the biblical text, which is the aim of the series.

The commentary begins with a helpful 20-page introduction. This introduction covers a great number of issues within a small space. Issues which have caused various disagreements (e.g., the unity of Ezra-Nehemiah, authorial relations to 1 and 2 Chronicles, and historical reliability) are assessed (pp. 1–9). Additionally, the introduction offers adequate summaries of the ancient witnesses and traditions; some of these, like 1–2 Esdras and 4–6 Esdras, are not well known by many readers of Ezra-Nehemiah (pp. 9–13).

A number of readers may demur on Becking’s conclusions from the outset. For instance, Becking argues that Ezra and Nehemiah were originally two separate arrangements (pp. 4–5). This has significant impact on the exposition of the text. This example, however, can be considered a minor point of controversy for the reader. Perhaps the most notable claim is that the book of Ezra is a pseudepigraphic writing (p. 6). Nonetheless, for Becking, the historical inaccuracies or fabrications do not devalue the text since “there is more at stake than … pure history” (p. 1).

Each chapter begins with “Essentials and Perspectives,” which gives a helpful overview of its content and themes. This section, at several points, sound sermonic and can be helpful for the preacher. For example, Becking laments that the Netherlands’ (his home country) pessimism towards law and gravitation towards “freedom and happiness” has caused “moral disorder” (p. 240). Yet in Nehemiah 8–12, Becking argues, “the tôrā is presented as a compass” and “the tôrā leads to joy” (p. 240). Next, under the title “Scholarly Exposition I: Introduction to the Exegesis” there is an explanation of historical, contextual, and structural matters. Each chapter then ends with “Scholarly Exposition II: Exegesis,” which is virtually a verse-by-verse interpretation of the text. The commentary’s superstructure is logical and easy to navigate. Moreover, it helps the reader to understand the presuppositions that the commentator has before he enters into the exegesis of the text.

Becking’s analysis of the final-form of Ezra-Nehemiah is rather refreshing. A noteworthy example can be found in Becking’s study of the chronological inconsistencies of Ezra 3–6. Instead of attributing the composition to mere historical blunder, Becking utilizes narratology in order to understand the justification behind the formation of the story (pp. 48–53). He remarks that the story is “constructed with an apparent intention to relate past events in a non-chronological order” (p. 48). An approach like this is ultimately helpful for readers of Hebrew narrative. Not all narratives ought to be chronological, and its achronological structure may indeed serve a purpose.

For the modern reader, the intermarriage crises in Ezra 9–10 and Nehemiah 13:23–31 are perhaps the most morally confusing parts of the Hebrew Bible. Becking offers a moderated analysis of the events. One nuance he adds to the debate is the translation of the word נָכְרִי which is used to describe the wives. This word is usually translated as “foreign” evoking images of race. However, as Becking notes, נָכְרִי can be easily translated as “different” or “strange” and rarely has ethnic connotations (p. 137). Therefore, these women may have been scrutinized for their “strange” lifestyles. Becking, however, still finds that “Ezra 9–10 places before the reader, a moral problem” (p.138), a problem which this commentary does not solve, but nevertheless attempts to make sense of.

I have only two minor critiques of this commentary. The first being less significant than the latter. The careful reader will be more or less frustrated by a number of typological errors and missing references. For example, the translation of Nehemiah 2:4–5 contains a typological error (p. 181; cf. p. 178). Moreover, there are a number of citations that cannot be located in the bibliography (e.g., p. 23, n. 23; p. 180, n. 38).

The second critique has to do with a missing element within the commentary. Although there are small remarks concerning the shifting narrators (third person to first person and vice versa) and language (Hebrew to Aramaic and vice versa), nothing substantial is said of them. For example, Becking briefly concludes his assessment on the language shift in Ezra 6:19–22 saying, “With the celebration of the Passover, the narrative reaches its target. This makes it understandable that the narrator suddenly shifts from Aramaic to Hebrew” (p. 94). Additionally, for the Artaxerxes Edict, Becking finds that a language transition is adopted to give an impression of authenticity (p. 110). For a commentary with a copious amount of references, it was surprising to see that this topic, which is of great interest, is not developed any further (see, e.g., Joshua Berman, “The Narratological Purpose of Aramaic Prose in Ezra 4:8–6:18,” Aramaic Studies 5 [2007], 165–91).

Overall, Becking’s commentary is a well-researched and dynamic work that only a skilled scholar could produce. Even though readers may have reservations about Becking’s conclusions, it is impossible not to appreciate Becking’s deep and thought-provoking analysis of Ezra-Nehemiah.

Paul Byun
The University of Sydney
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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Intercultural Hermeneutics

Henning Wrogemann

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With the growth of the church in the Majority World and the center of Christianity shifting to the Global South, it has become imperative for scholars to devote more attention to issues of contextual theology and intercultural theological dialogue. Wrogemann’s book attempts to do just that by examining the various ways culture and history affect theological development in a specific context. As the head of the Institute for Intercultural Theology and Interreligious Studies at the Protestant University Wuppertal, Wrogemann is well suited to address this issue.

Wrogemann’s primary thesis in this book is that theology is fleshed out in the everyday issues of life. Thus, the study of intercultural theology is concerned with examining the media of different cultural settings and how that affects the theology manifested in those contexts. To accomplish this purpose, he defines intercultural theology and intercultural hermeneutics in Part I. He then considers the concept of culture, the history of hermeneutics in the West, and the question of globalization in Part II.

In Part III, he looks at African theology as an example to show how some contextual theologies in Africa relate to their specific cultural milieu. In the fourth section, Wrogemann examines historical approaches to Christian mission. These various approaches illustrate how intercultural interaction has taken place in the past. Finally, in Part V, he answers key questions related to interculturality, including inculturation, syncretism, postcolonialism, and ecumenism.

One strength of this work is its thoroughness. Wrogemann covers a wide range of issues related to culture, contextual theology, and mission studies. For example, his section on Christian mission and intercultural interaction covers five centuries of mission work. Organized into five separate models of intercultural interaction, these models not only recount different historical mission strategies, but they also display the ways that missionaries interpreted and interacted with the worldviews they encountered.

At the same time, though, while Wrogemann covers a wide range of topics, readers might at times find it difficult to discern an overall structure or flow to the book. After defining basic terms in Part I, he deals extensively with the idea of culture and cultural semiotics in Part II. At this point, one would expect him to build on those ideas by showing how culture affects theological development. Instead, he deals with examples of contextual theologies in Africa. More confusing still are Parts IV and V, which seem disconnected from the overall theme of the book as though something of an afterthought.

Another strength of the book is its exploration of the interaction between culture and theology. He explains that a hermeneutics of culture aims to “identify those cultural patterns that members of a certain culture perceive as signs and to interpret them” (p. 153). He goes on to state, “It is an attempt to decode other, foreign cultures using the medium of their own conceptions and terminology” (p. 154). The difficulty here, Wrogemann explains elsewhere, is remaining neutral while one uncovers the cultural issues that lie beneath certain theological distinctives of the church in that specific context. He explains that “the task of intercultural theology is to remain hermeneutically sensitive even (and especially) over against those forms of expression of Christian life and doctrine in a given context which an observer might consider to be offensive” (p. 166). His explanation of these complex issues is incredibly valuable.

When it comes to the book’s overall theme, the strongest section is the one on contextual theology in Africa. In this section, Wrogemann looks at specific manifestations of theology in various African contexts. He examines Pentecostal approaches, more contextual approaches that explain Jesus as ancestor, African women’s theology, and more evangelical approaches. He explains that within this spectrum some groups have allowed context to have more emphasis on theology, while other groups, like evangelical ones, attempt to allow the Scriptures to have more authority in shaping doctrine. This section is a fascinating study of the interplay between text and context, and the specific examples help to flesh out the philosophical arguments of Part II.

The most significant weakness of the book is the fact that when one picks up a book with the word “hermeneutics” in the title, one anticipates that the author will deal with theories for interpreting the Bible. In fact, the book starts off that way by stating that hermeneutics is concerned with answering the question, “What did the author intend to say with the text?” (p. 31). It is only later on that the reader realizes that the “texts” Wrogemann refers to are specific cultural settings around the world. This book is less about biblical interpretation and more about interpreting the relationship between theology and culture in any given context.

Will Brooks
Penang, Malaysia

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Transforming Mission Theology

Charles Van Engen

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This book is a compilation of writings by missiologist Charles Van Engen, who has taught biblical theology of mission at Fuller Theological Seminary for more than twenty-five years. The author offers a rigorous theologizing of mission as well as a candid self-reflection on a variety of issues related to the theologies and praxis of mission. The book is divided into five parts, covering the sources, meaning, methods, goals and samples of mission theology. This book is an unrivaled resource for scholars as well as mission workers. This is largely due its wide scope and deliberate wrestling with particular problems that were rarely theologized, such as the resistant groups and ethics of missionary cooperation.

Since the author emphasizes that “there was no one methodology that could encompass doing theology in mission and doing missiology in theology” (p. xvi), he adopts an interdisciplinary approach with a strong biblical emphasis. Every issue of discussion is placed into a cross-disciplinary framework of examination and is brought back to the biblical context.

The author dismisses a totally disenchanted and pessimistic attitude towards mission theology. Instead, he states several affirmations in every section. For example, the four affirmations in the introduction serve to orient later affirmations with regard to specific contextual problems (pp. xvii–xix). He also uses a dialectic discourse in explaining “what mission is not” to further clarify his assumptions (p. xix). For example, the assumptions that mission “is not what we in the Christian church want it to be” or “what our surrounding culture or our world wants it to be” are revealing statements that convey ethical authenticity. In this way, the author also expresses his epistemological and ethical propositions in these guidelines.

If Parts I–II are necessary but largely generic foundational discourses on defining mission theology, Parts III–V are innovative and even boundary-breaking analyses on the methods, goals, and models of mission theology. For example, chapter 7 lays out five paradigms of contextualization, including communication, indigenization, translatability, local theologies, and epistemology. These processes combine to create what the author names “the hermeneutical spiral,” “a tapestry of interaction between gospel and culture” (p. 170). This helps visualize how the Christian message gets integrated from theory to action and then to contextualization.

More innovatively, the author begins with the theological problem of resistance in chapter 10. This is where self-reflection serves best in his theologizing about missional ethics. Often, we tend to discuss “receptive peoples” while leaving out conversation about “resistant peoples.” Mission work becomes what he calls “selective targeting” of the former group (p. 216). As a result, even the communication of the gospel can become “receptor-oriented” (p. 217).

With regard to resistance, there are multiple layers of complexity too. The author lists two possibilities. Either some groups are resistant because of contextual factors or some may be resistant because of factors within the church (p. 247). As the author candidly acknowledges, “the nominalism and secularization of the church itself has been one of the greatest obstacles to world evangelization” (p. 247). Likewise, “our theology of conversion may itself create resistance” (p. 248). He challenges the commonly held view that counter-culturalness is necessarily good, for “strongly counter-cultural” strategies may contribute to “a sense of strangeness” such that unreached groups lack cultural and spiritual interface with the church and receptor group (p. 249). Japan is an example in this line.

The author’s discussion on mission partnership is also thought-provoking. When he explains “what a global body of Christ image does not mean,” he uses the example of mission “moratorium,” a way to give concrete shape to the oneness of the church in mission. The “three-self” formula of Henry Venn and Rufus Anderson serves a specific case. As he analyzes, “many receiving churches that have been taught that mature, indigenous churches should become ‘three-self’ churches—simply became selfish and self-centered” (p. 277). And “the long-term result of that ‘moratorium’ was an increasing myopia and insularity” for many third-world churches (p. 269). Before reading this part, I wondered about this particularizing theology, such as the “three-self” principles, which were later used by China’s communist regime to co-opt churches. Yet, his analysis makes sense given the biblical catholicity of the church as Christ’s body.

In chapter 12, the author lists faith, love, and hope as the three-fold goals of mission, which are reminiscent of Augustine’s methods in preaching. Van Engen stresses that “mission that is not based on biblical revelation, the text that declares the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and offers a new birth through the Holy Spirit, may be church expansion, or colonialist extension, or sectarian proselytism” (p. 293). This is a very insightful remark. I can relate it to today’s resurging trend of “sectarian proselytism” in China, which in the 1920s created detrimental consequences to churches and strong resistance in China. Sectarianism itself discredits the gospel, but unfortunately, history has repeated itself.

Lastly, the author is keenly conscious of two major contemporary challenges to mission that protestant theologians seldom addressed: urbanization and migration. He devotes two excellent chapters to these facets of postmodern society. Globalization and accelerated urbanization challenge Christians to rethink and reevaluate mission theology. It is in these areas that Christian scholars of different academic disciplines (such as economics, political science, sociology, media culture, etc.) ought to collaborate with missiologists and public theologians in the future.

Li Ma
Calvin College
Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

The Kingdom Unleashed: How Jesus’ 1st-Century Kingdom Values Are Transforming Thousands of Cultures and Awakening His Church

Jerry Trousdale and Glenn Sunshine

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The Kingdom Unleashed utilizes narrative accounts of revivals and “kingdom movements” around the world to demonstrate why the Global South is in a season of spiritual flourishing and how the Global North must change their ways to overcome the trends of spiritual decline seen throughout the past several decades. “Kingdom Movements,” often called “Disciple Making Movements” (DMM) or “Church Planting Movements” (CPM), are defined as “a process of disciples making disciples, and churches planting at least 100 churches, with four or more generations of replication” (p. 21). These movements have caught the attention of missions organizations and missionaries around the world, but Trousdale and Sunshine argue that these movements are relevant for any and all who yearn for God’s kingdom to come in the Global North.

The book is divided into two main sections: First, Trousdale and Sunshine’s critique of the Global North by describing the “five categories of spiritual malpractice.” Second, the authors describe practical solutions to these areas of “malpractice” utilizing stories that illustrate how God is using Kingdom Movements around the world for the holistic transformation individuals and communities.

The authors explain the first area of malpractice by saying, “the church is not an end in itself, but the means to build the Kingdom” (p. 48). Their critique of compartmentalized Christianity, which fails to transform lives in a holistic way, is mixed. Certain elements are well founded; other statements are a stretch. Appropriately, however, they address issues such as the fact-value distinction and the bifurcated gospel. The second area of malpractice in the global north is prayer. Trousdale and Sunshine claim that “the church in the Global North does not pray enough” and “when we do pray, our priorities tend to not be the same as God’s priorities” (p. 62).

Third, the authors identify Constantine as a root problem, claiming that after his rule, church leadership became professionalized in a way that crippled the role of the laity. The fourth malpractice is that the church has emphasized knowledge instead of obedience. Again, they go deep enough to tackle some of the historical milestones such as the Reformation’s acknowledgment of grace as well as contemporary extremes like the idea of “cheap grace.” Lastly, Trousdale and Sunshine contrast movements and institutions, concluding that the Global North depends too much on institutions that simply can’t multiply. Though the malpractices addressed were inevitably generalizations, the broad criticisms are both accurate and well thought through.

The second part of the book describes fundamental aspects of Kingdom Movements, which can be taken, by implication, as the authors’ proposed solution to the aforementioned malpractices. For starters, we should understand and follow Jesus’s model for ministry as well as clarify our vision and strategy to accomplish that vision. They illustrate this through W. Allen’s story of reworking his vision for India in which he concludes, “I no longer say ‘I want to reach India’; I say, ‘Lord, I want to see India reached.’ I want to put God’s Kingdom first, rather than my own personal ministry” (p. 175).

Next, they argue that ordinary people must be equipped to do extraordinary things. A Christian businessman who observed Kingdom Movements in Africa says, “We cannot add disciple making and church planting to what we’re already doing. It has to be what we’re doing” (p. 211). Trousdale and Sunshine point to other issues as well. These include a concern with “branding,” a plethora of resources in the Global North that results in minimal dependence on God’s provision, and the need for simple training and resources that anyone can reproduce. This section contains many incredible stories of Kingdom Movements that almost sound too good to be true. Some stories felt squeezed in or forced, but it is clear that Trousdale and Sunshine have done extensive research into what God is doing around the world through these Kingdom Movements.

Trousdale and Sunshine acknowledge that DMM has received its fair share of criticism. Notably, the authors defend against critiques of “obedience-based discipleship” twice (chs. 5, 15). They ask, “Can there be any serious question about how important obedience is to our Christian life?” (p. 317). However, the critique of obedience-based discipleship is partly about the emphasis on obedience and more about the lack of emphasis on grace. The authors fail to respond to that critique, falling in line with many other DMM advocates who seem to gloss over this foundational element.

Finally, they look at the critique that Kingdom Movements don’t fit within the paradigms of modern ministry in the Global North. Their response is to point to Scripture: “It is our contention, though, that from the perspective of biblical faithfulness and spiritual fruitfulness, the Disciple Making Movement ministry paradigm is more consistent with Jesus’ instructions for His people, more aligned with the earliest church, and more empowering of ordinary people to change their world than the models of ministry that are currently in place in the Global North” (p. 365). The critiques of the Global North that this book puts forth must be considered and answered by every Christian in a position of spiritual leadership. The answer may not be DMM, but it is essential for the vitality of global Christianity that leaders answer these questions.

Bradley Cocanower
Columbia International University
Columbia, South Carolina, USA

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Global Poverty: A Theological Guide

Justin Thacker

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It is a truism to say that the world is more globally connected and aware than at any time in its history. Our daily decisions and actions have a significant and often more direct effect on other people, cultures, and the planet in ways we previously have not been aware of. This interconnectedness requires new depths of understanding about how our approach to discipleship can enable and foster others’ flourishing yet not demean and limit them. We need well informed and biblically robust resources that inform our thinking and actions as we love God, our neighbor, our enemy, and those within the Christian community.

Of course, numerous books, studies, conferences, and policies seek to explore, understand, address, and engage with key issues related to global poverty. Thacker’s book brings a fresh and important voice. It makes a significant contribution into the work of public theology and Christian social ethics. His contribution is both unique and thorough as he seeks to develop a systematic theology of global poverty. In addition, he discusses ways that aid is both a help and a challenge. His critique causes the reader to reflect more deeply about whether giving aid is a sustainable approach in a world of 1.2 billion people who live in extreme poverty.

Thacker previously served as a medical doctor in Kenya, where he lived in the context of widespread poverty. He has also written on these issues, e.g., Micah’s Challenge: The Church’s Responsibility to the Global Poor (Bletchley, UK; Paternoster; 2008). As the current Academic Director of Cliff College in Derbyshire, he continues to foster his thinking and influence as lecturer in practical and public theology. This background helps Thacker bring academic and practical theology together in a helpful and symbiotic way.

Thacker uses five key theological categories to frame his theological anthropology. These include creation, fall, Israel, redemption, and consummation. Within each of these, few stones are left unturned as he considers the continuing challenges of inequalities and the social, historical, political and theological underpinnings that form and shape our understandings and engagement. Certainly, other loci are missing from Thacker’s systematic theological treatment, e.g., the incarnation. He is aware of these concerns yet acknowledges that this work, like all books, has inherent limitations. Nevertheless, his presentation is coherent and relatively comprehensive.

The strength and weakness of a work like this lie is its range and breath. Thacker is well read and provides substantive and wide-ranging insights that challenge various theological and political stances. Engaging his argument will challenge and inspire readers. Thacker seeks to encourage and provoke. He brings a prophetic, nuanced understanding to the complexities of the issues and the importance to take them seriously. He draws clear inspiration from the late missiologist and church statesman Lesslie Newbigin, whose thought forms the book’s missional underpinning.

Thacker’s insights in this timely work reflect one of the marks for 21st century discipleship, whereby we intentionally participate in the ongoing challenges that global poverty presents. His book goes a long way to aid our thinking and stimulating changes that enable us to express kingdom values in a fresh and timely way.

Dan Yarnell
ForMission College
Birmingham, England, UK

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Recapturing the Wonder: Transcendent Faith in a Disenchanted World

Mike Cosper

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When I was first asked to review this slim volume from Mike Cosper, it wasn’t just a new book, it was still forthcoming. The request came in the same month in which brain surgeons opened my skull, so I had a fantastic excuse to offer my regrets and decline. And, to be honest, that was my initial impulse. But instead, for some unknown reason, I begged for an absurd amount of time, and said that I would give the book a read. And now that Recapturing the Wonder has been out for more than a year, here I am, fashionably late, but grateful to have been asked and grateful that something, somehow—in the most absurd month of my life—made me say yes.

Before this book, I had never read anything by Cosper beyond the occasional tweet, and those never led me to believe that we would have much affinity. (I promise, that sounds worse than I mean it to.) Yes, we are Christian brothers and yes, we both type words, but from those few snippets that floated past my eyes on the interwebs, I truly had no accurate sense of the man, which is why the first ninety pages of this book provoked a great deal of surprise and contemplation. I was surprised by how much I wanted to buy him a drink. I grew contemplative about social media, Twitter in particular, and about the strange way it causes us to sample people like tidbits of cheese on toothpicks at Costco before deciding whether or not they are worthy of our consumption. And this, I shouldn’t have to explain, is a pretty awful way of assessing people.

While not directly addressed in Cosper’s book, this subject of my pondering does relate to the mission and purpose of his writing. Cosper is concerned with thickening callouses of unbelief that build up in individual hearts, families, and communities. He hates the accumulating sediment of cynical rationalism that sedates our wonder and makes us all inclined to disbelieve in the miraculous and supernatural and causes us to miss the beauty of even the simply natural. Cosper calls us all to take note of those small but glorious moments in our lives, like dew on spider tapestries in the morning, which slap us in all six senses and the soul, shake the dust off our cynicisms, and cause us to marvel in our wondrous Maker.

This book intends to aid Christians who desire to cultivate a healthy sensitivity to wonder and a resistance to apathetic cynicism. While his prose often reaches for the poetic, Cosper also gives quite practical suggestions. His discussions of generosity, feasting, prayer, and a Christian view of sexual intimacy are all excellent. His call to put down the phones and head outside is also greatly needed. If Job, at his most raw, is told to wonder at the animals, how much more should we?

In some places, Cosper and I part ways (some petty, some more substantive), but that is to be expected in the pursuit of something as personal as wonder. The writings of Thomas Merton, the famous Trappist monk, clearly mean a great deal to Cosper, evident by his less than cynical admiration for some of the more ascetic forms of religious expression. When it comes to all things monastic (e.g., Lenten abstention, ashy brows, absurdist vows, etc.), all my impulses are with those old Reformers who saw the essential need to feast, wed, bed, and throw sausage barbeques during Lent. Despite my love for and appreciation of many Catholic writers and thinkers, my hatred for every form of self-flagellation is (as Flannery O’Connor might say) somethin’ fierce.

Cosper also holds artists in much higher esteem than I think is healthy. He views them with the all-too-common sentimental respect that has been with us since the Romantics. I mention this not as an essential disagreement but as a quibble. When unpacked, the perspective of artist as uniquely “gifted” is less dangerous to the spiritual health of the average person than it is to the health of artists or aspiring artists. I find it more helpful to think of the best artists as UPS guys (complete with awkward outfits), hustling packages as broadly as they can at Christmas. Imitating that demeanor and attitude as an artist allows an ambitious pursuit of the type of creative generosity Cosper admires. At the same time, it helps kill the “cool kid” temptation of vanity and pride.

Those nits aside, this book provides a great deal of practical edification, for which I am grateful. Consumed slowly, or like a shot tequila after a lick of salt, this book will do readers good. But don’t come to it hoping for an intellectual discussion only. These are not gnostic pages. Come willing to contemplate and then imitate. Come ready to pray, butter noodles, host friends, and establish a familial Sabbath feast. If Cosper’s suggestions are broadly read and followed, the American church would be a more wholesome and holy place by this time next year.

N. D. Wilson
Moscow, Idaho, USA

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Sharing Abraham? Narrative Worldview, Biblical and Qur’anic Interpretation & Comparative Theology in Turkey

George Bristow

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Sharing Abraham? is the published version of George Bristow’s well-written Ph.D. dissertation accepted by Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Bristow demonstrates competence in both Old and New Testament. The dissertation also bears witness to his mastery of Islamic studies and Turkish culture, though I am less qualified to evaluate his competence in these areas.

Bristow’s purpose is to lay “groundwork” for and explore “the possibilities of employing the biblical and Islamic Abraham stories for interfaith encounter and Christian witness in Turkey” (p. 1). This subject was worth exploration because Abraham is important for the narratives and worldviews that undergird both Christianity and Islam. Furthermore, Abraham has special significance in Turkish tradition. Bristow approaches this subject within the context of the overarching narratives presented by both the Bible and the Qur’an.

Chapters 1–2 set the stage for what follows. First, Bristow evaluates various groups who advocate “Abrahamic Dialogue.” Using such dialogue to blur the sharp differences between the Christian and Islamic worldviews is neither accurate nor ethical. If both sides are true to their respective faiths, they must allow for persuasion.

A careful analysis of the Islamic and Christian worldviews highlights sharp differences across three polarities: (1) Creation-Fall/Tawhid, (2) Redemption/Prophethood, and (3) Consummation/Afterlife.

First, Creation-Fall/Tawhid. The complexity and a condescension of the God of the Bible is contrary to the Islamic doctrine of the absolute oneness of God (Tawhid). Allah does not enter his creation. Furthermore, the biblical fall brings a radical disruption of God’s creation that requires redemption. The sin of the qur’anic Adam requires right guidance to counter forgetfulness.

The second polarity, Redemption/Prophethood, corresponds to the above understanding of evil. In the Bible, God comes into the world to provide a salvation through one people, the children of Abraham. His coming culminates in Christ and provides redemption for the world. In the Qur’an, God sends prophets to various peoples with “right guidance.” Muhammad brings this same “right guidance” for all.

The third polarity, “Consummation/Afterlife,” flows from the second. Both the Bible and Qur’an affirm bodily resurrection and eternal bliss or punishment. In the Bible, however, at the “consummation” of the history of redemption, God demonstrates his faithfulness by returning and establishing a new heaven and earth free from evil. According to the Qur’an, the final judgment fulfills the prophetic word whereby those whose good works outweigh their evil deeds go to God in paradise; others are cast into hell. The biblical emphasis on God’s dwelling among his people in a new creation is distinct.

This analysis of competing worldviews provides a framework to compare the accounts of Abraham in the Bible and the Qur’an. In chapters 3–4, Bristow analyzes Abraham in Genesis and the New Testament. In chapters 5–6, he explores Abraham in the Qur’an and in Turkish tradition. While chapters 3–5 are based on the study of texts, chapter 6 records the results of face-to-face dialogue with nine mainstream Turkish Imams.

In summary, little overlap exists between the biblical and qur’anic Abrahams. The Bible presents a coherent Abraham narrative focusing on God’s faithful fulfilment of his promise. The Qur’an uses Abrahamic stories to illustrate the need to affirm God’s oneness and the day of judgment. The primary Abrahamic events in the Qur’an are (1) disputing with idolaters in Mesopotamia, (2) the angelic visitation, (3) building of the Kaaba, and (4) the offering of Abraham’s son. Bristow’s Turkish dialogue partners refer to fourteen extra-qur’anic Abraham stories that slightly embellish the qur’anic accounts. These dialogue partners focus on the incidents without biblical parallel, the struggle against idolatry and the building of the Kaaba.

Bristow explores the significance of these conflicting Abrahamic accounts in chapter 7. Concerning the Creation-Fall/Tawhid polarity, the qur’anic Abraham is a sinless prophet who discovers the oneness of God through creation and struggles against idolatry. In the Bible, God reveals himself to Abraham, makes a covenant with him, and proves himself faithful by keeping his promises.

Regarding the redemption/prophethood polarity, the biblical God communicates intimately with Abraham as the progenitor of the people through whom he will redeem the world. According to the Qur’an, Abraham is the model prophet who proclaims the absolute oneness of God and provides a perfect example of submission.

With respect to the consummation/afterlife polarity, “Abraham fits into biblical eschatology as the main starting point of the redemptive process that led to the resurrection of Jesus, and will lead to the resurrection of his people when he returns, and into qur’anic eschatology as an exemplary prophet and believer in God and ‘the Day’” (p. 167).

Chapter 8 draws conclusions concerning the potential of “Abrahamic Dialogue.” Such dialogue has limited use because the two faiths do not offer two versions of the same Abrahamic story but two different, even contradictory, stories. Reducing Abraham to an example of obedient faith, apart from the eschatological significance of the Abrahamic promise, suggests a false sense of commonality with the Islamic picture of Abraham as an example of obedient surrender.

Nevertheless, Bristow’s discussions about Abraham provide an opportunity for interfaith dialogue that produces clarity of understanding. Bristow’s narrative-worldview framework, with its three polarities, proves helpful for comparing “nonoverlapping biblical and qur’anic narratives” (p. 176). Although Abraham does not provide as good a starting place for gospel witness as might be expected, these discussions afford opportunity to present Jesus as the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise. Bristow’s study underscores the need in Islamic contexts for interpretation that grasps the grand narrative of the Bible with an awareness of the qur’anic challenge to the biblical worldview. However, the divergence of the two worldviews, especially the way one links Abraham closely with Muhammad and the other with Jesus, exposes the flaw of trying to use the Qur’an as an authority in “contextual” Christian witness among Muslims.

This book is well-researched, well-written, and persuasive. My criticisms are minimal. Its repetitiveness is characteristic of dissertations. Footnotes would have been more user-friendly than endnotes. Despite several useful appendices, there is no index.

Everyone working within an Islamic context should read Sharing Abraham?. It is profitable for anyone wanting to understand differences between Muslim and Christian worldviews. This type of comparative interpretation enriches our understanding of the biblical text.

Gareth Lee Cockerill
Wesley Biblical Seminary
Jackson, Mississippi, USA

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City Shaped Churches: Planting Churches in the Global Era

Linda Bergquist and Michael D. Crane

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Linda Bergquist and Michael Crane have teamed up to address challenges to planting churches in urban settings. They speak from broad ministry experience, including working together in a failed church plant in San Francisco in the 1990s (p. 19). They admit their church planting experience “had a steep learning curve” (p. 19). We are reminded that urban church planting is often more challenging and disappointing than people imagine. Their book is a welcome invitation “to become passionate about sharing the gospel in urban centers” (p. 22). The authors’ unique backgrounds contribute to presenting important insights on the challenges of reaching urbanites with the gospel in our global era. They refrain from “insisting on suburban models for urban settings” (p. 27) and provide sociological studies and valuable statistical data on major urban centers.

Crane begins with a theology of the city (ch. 1), acknowledging that “we are not given a prescriptive command to prioritize cities” (p. 47). Yet cities are considered important because they are “economic powerhouses” (p. 51), “centers of cultural production” (p. 52), and “connectors on a global scale” (p. 53). Bergquist identifies four ways church planters relate to the city – “natives, nomads, sojourners, and settlers” (p. 59) – and implications for ministry. She contrasts the concept of reaching low-hanging fruit with reaching those who are hidden in cities (p. 105); these include night workers, undocumented immigrants, the incarcerated, the disabled, and seniors (pp. 108–13). Connecting with these groups requires strategic, creative, and innovative thinking

Readers will benefit from the emphasis on strategically placed new churches as “points of welcoming urban dwellers [and] pointing them to Christ and the city to come” (p. 45). The authors highlight the need to engage in “demographic and ethnographic research” (p. 100) and the importance of churches seeking “creative ways to open up their buildings in a manner that is inviting to the public” (p. 142). They rightly insist on the priority of the gospel at “the core of every aspect of life. Everything in life is inadequate without being profoundly shaped by the gospel” (p. 241).

Readers will need to evaluate areas of debate. How has sustainability become “a deep moral value to those who care about the future of the planet” (p. 25)? In what way does the Old Testament clearly demonstrate “the church’s responsibility to the alien” (p. 91)? More support is needed for the assertion that the incarnation of Christ “validates and encourages the engagement of the arts in culture” (p. 118). Bergquist proposes novel “multisensory, participatory worship that includes works of art, creative dance, film, photography, and various styles of music” (p. 123). Crane’s claim that “there are almost no nominal Christians in the city” (p. 226) appears unverifiable. The authors conclude their book with two chapters on church planting movements. Bergquist makes several references (ch. 21) to secular social movements (e.g., LGBT, Black Lives Matter) without clearly showing how the success of these movements helps understand church planting movements.

The book’s organization detracts from the reading experience. Its layout with double spacing between paragraphs gives a chopped appearance. The chapters share considerable overlap. At times the book reads like a patchwork of collected essays. More attention to editing and proofreading would catch inconsistent spacing between sentences and poorly formatted biographical entries. The omission of an index severely limits the ability of church planters to locate areas of particular interest. Mind you, there are many valuable observations, necessary principles, and interesting anecdotes. However, one will need to mine deeply for applicable nuggets due to the global swath of urban centers under discussion. There is not only diversity in cities but among cities. So, moving from global observations to local application might prove challenging.

Frankly, this would not be among the first books I would recommend for those considering urban church planting. The book might be useful as a companion volume to other books specifically focused on particular contexts. It reveals the challenge of multiple authors in different geographical regions to collaborate and produce something cohesive. The authors attempt to cover too much material in twenty-three chapters with little discernable structure. There are better written and more user-friendly books available. These would include Stephen T. Um and Justin Buzzard’s Why Cities Matter: To God, the Culture, and the Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), Ed Stetzer’s Planting Missional Churches (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2006), and Scott Moreau’s Contextualizing the Faith (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2018).

Crane and Bergquist are not novices. They are seasoned church planters sharing their wisdom and burden for cities. We need the reminder that we find in cities the nations of the world gathered in a grand mosaic. We recall that those for whom Christ died come from every tribe, every language, and every people. The diversity of cities and the differences between cities requires study, reflection, wise counsel, and prayer for church planters to determine where to go. If God calls them to minister in the city, they must be aware of the challenges before them.

Stephen M. Davis
Grace Church of Philly
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

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Why Children Matter

Douglas Wilson

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Only a few days before writing this review, my wife got a call from our 23-year-old daughter and her husband. My daughter said, “I’m pregnant!” My wife put the phone on speaker mode and joyous sounds and tears exploded as this was news of our first grandchild!

Reading Douglas Wilson’s Why Children Matter naturally raised the question of whether this book would be a good resource for my daughter and her husband? Would it guide them as new parents? Would I send it to them? Or as a pastor, would I encourage families to read it and use it as a source for a study?

As to readability and approachability, Why Children Matter is easily digestible as a parenting theology book. Its starting point is the biblical definition of marriage (one man and one woman), contra the Obergefell decision of the United States Supreme Court (2015), and the fact that family “is not something that mere creatures get to define” (p. 3). The confident tone of Scriptural sufficiency pervades this straight-talking book. The fourteen brief chapters of only a few thousand words each are arranged in four sections: (1) Why Children Matter, (2) Discipline Basics, (3) Nurture and Admonition, and (4) More Like Christ. The last section of the book is an appendix of 29 more specific questions and answers with both Douglas and Nancy Wilson (who have three grown, married children and, at this time, sixteen grandchildren).

The book does not address popular parenting concerns, such as vaccinations, allergies/diets, scheduling for breast-feeding, home vs hospital birth, doctor vs midwife, special needs children, ADD, medications, etc. It does not pretend to be either a “Parenting for Dummies” manual or the “Encyclopedia of Parenting” or a self-help book with several magic steps to ideal children. Instead, the book concentrates on presenting the gospel as the foundation of parenting. Some might see this as a deficiency—particularly if they’re assuming the book should be anything like the “Biggest Book Ever on Parenting”—but, arguably, Wilson has taken us to the heart of the matter.

The explicit intention of the book, then, is to provide gospel-shaped counsel. Indeed, Wilson asserts that the book is nothing less than “a proclamation of the gospel as embodied in family life” (p. 5). As such, the theological concepts of adoption, justification, and sanctification are woven into discussions on the atmosphere of the home, parental roles, and discipline. Gospel principles, rather than a specific set of rules, is the refrain.

The appendix, however, is a subtle admission that parents who understand the answer to (say) “What is justification?” nevertheless need specific advice, examples, and practical help. Hence, the appendix addresses questions on (actual) security blankets, television, boys sitting still in church, the “mechanics” of dad not bringing work home, homeschooling vs private schooling, and more. This kind of parental advice comes in the disarming but effective form of an interview, rather than via a definitive methodology presented as dogma or inspired therapy.

Some will still find this book problematic. The explicit message (gospel principles only) may seem incongruent with some of the practical teachings. For example, on the one hand, it eschews methods and specificity, yet, on the other, it advocates such specific actions as spanking. Wilson dismisses “lame theories on the ineffectiveness of spanking that … circulate on Facebook” (p. 26). However, one can reasonably inquire whether the “rod” passages in Proverbs actually refer to “spanking” young children or to the corporal punishment of mature “fools” who are “beaten” on the “back” as law-breakers. (Think here of a past era’s penal systems with stocks and caning.) To my knowledge, Douglas and Nancy Wilson’s several helpful books on family do not provide a thorough examination of the modes of discipline, but rather assume a traditionalist-spanking model for little children.

Wilson emphasizes the gospel-only basis for parenting, but insists that fathers must provide a Christian education (schooling or home-schooling) for their children using Ephesians 6:4. But does the gospel require schooling in an organization with an explicit Christian affirmation? Here Wilson seems to be preaching to his own choir (of which I am a tenor) and does provide some rationale for his view (“The Necessity of a Christian Paideia,” ch. 8). But for a more sustained and persuasive argument, the readers will need to look elsewhere—e.g., to Wilson’s, The Case for Classical Christian Education (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003).

The answer of the title question may also be jolting. Wilson asserts that “God is after a lineage, and He’s been after a lineage from the very beginning. Why did God make them one? He was seeking a ‘godly seed’ (Mal. 2:15). That’s why children matter” (p. 28). Children matter because God’s purpose is to raise up a godly seed to inhabit and have dominion in the world. This may be a very unpopular “gospel truth” for the aging, “professional” couple who heartily embraces the gospel, but is intentionally without progeny. Is the normative expression of the gospel in the life a family with father, mother and children? If so, we are seeing many deviations from this norm of the gospel in contemporary western culture.

Readers may also find themselves challenged by Wilson’s thought that “theology comes out your fingertips” (p. 31). This is a phrase and theme that he has used repeatedly over many years. It characterizes his decades of writing and teaching on family matters. Your theology manifests in your family. Anger, a lack of joy, legalisms, gracelessness, pride, etc. in parenting are the test of one’s actual theology. “Regardless of what you say you believe, your theology of justification and sanctification is enacted in microcosm in your relationship to your children” (p. 31).

Back to my opening question: Would I give this book to my own daughter as advice on parenting? Yes. Why Children Matter will point parents to Jesus and help them think about parenting in a gospel-centered fashion. Wilson’s emphasis is right, even if his treatment lacks comprehensiveness or incisive relevance to a number of current questions. The gospel is to be applied and lived out in our homes. This matters most, beyond methods and specific practices.

Gregg Strawbridge
All Saints Church
Brownstown, Pennsylvania, USA

That Hideous Strength: How the West Was Lost: The Cancer of Cultural Marxism in the Church, the World and the Gospel of Change book cover

That Hideous Strength: How the West Was Lost: The Cancer of Cultural Marxism in the Church, the World and the Gospel of Change

Melvin Tinker

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Melvin Tinker’s That Hideous Strength: How the West was Lost is a clever little book. I say “little” because it is not much more than 100 pages in length. This not only makes it a quick read but, as it’s been well-written by a pastor-preacher with an eye to his flock, an easy read too. I say “clever” because, despite its brevity and accessibility, the book not only covers a wide sweep of complex terrain but also provides a deep and penetrating analysis of how the west was (or is being) lost, as well as a timely admonition to Christians to heed their master’s call “to stand against the world in order to win the world” (p. 21). In terms of both purpose and approach, Daniel Strange (who authored the book’s Forward) helpfully describes it as “a creative exercise of looking at the world through the Word and focusing on an ideology at war with God and his life-giving blueprint for life” (p. 14).

As lovers of C. S. Lewis’s writings will be aware, Tinker’s main title is borrowed from the third book in Lewis’s space trilogy—That Hideous Strength, first published in 1945. (Interestingly, Lewis’s title was itself drawn from a line in a sixteenth century poem by Sir David Lyndsay which described the Tower of Babel as follows: “The shadow of that hideous strength / Six mile and more it is of length.”) Tinker’s first chapter is, therefore, given over to an exposition and application of Lewis’s book, in order to help us see “the way a new totalitarianism is being introduced into Western society and the way the church has colluded with it” (p. 20).

But Tinker’s deeper concern is that we learn the lessons embedded in the incident that gave rise to Lindsay’s lines—the Tower of Babel itself. This is the burden of chapter 2. For Tinker, the Babel episode functions “as a parabolic lens through which we can view and come to understand what has been happening in our society and how it may be countered by the Gospel of Jesus Christ” (p. 34). Moreover, it illustrates three related ways in which human beings try to unmake and remake the cosmos: communalism (i.e., solidarity in rebellion), constructionism (i.e., the attempt to de-god God) and connectivity (i.e., unity in language and action). The net effect is “a blasphemous human ‘let us’ over and against the Holy ‘let us’ of the Triune God” (p. 43).

In chapter 3, Tinker turns to an exposé of “neo-Marxism, sometimes called cultural Marxism or libertarian Marxism” (p. 45), which he defines (care of the Marxist philosopher, Sidney Hook) as a “philosophy of human liberation” which seeks to “emancipate man from repressive social institutions, especially economic institutions that frustrate his true nature … so that he can overcome his estrangements and express his true essence through creative freedom” (pp. 45–46). He first takes us back to the Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci, and the importance of his idea of cultural “hegemony.” He then turns to the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School, paying particular attention to writings of Herbert Marcuse—notably, Eros and Civilization (1955) and “Repressive Tolerance” (1965).

Tinker’s interest in Eros and Civilization is due to the fact that it fuses “neo-Marxism with a version of neo-Freudianism in order to turn the power of the libido into a revolutionary force” (p. 53). Marcuse thus called for “the throwing off of all traditional values and sexual restraints in favour of ‘polymorphous perversity’” (p. 53). Tinker’s interest in “Repressive Tolerance” is due to the fact that the kind of tolerance Marcuse advocates “cannot be indiscriminate and equal with respect to the contents of expression, neither in word nor in deed; it cannot protect false words and wrong deeds which demonstrate that they contradict and counteract the possibilities of liberation” (cited on p. 49). The net result is “a new totalitarian-tolerance” (which is, in fact, profoundly intolerant) and “the all-pervading political correctness of our age” (p. 49).

This naturally leads Tinker to a consideration of “The Gender Agenda” (chapter 4). He begins by outlining the strategic plan articulated in Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen’s After the Ball: How America Will Conquer its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90s (New York: Doubleday, 1989), noting the speed and success with which it has been implemented, and the radical revolution in societal attitudes that has been the result. He then draws attention to the way in which “the main cultural transformers have been brought to bear to achieve this revolution” (p. 67)—e.g., advertising, TV series, social media. As to the latter, he notes that “the revolution has become much easier with a lynch mob mentality being able to be whipped up with ease via Facebook, Twitter and the like” (p. 71). All of this is in the service of the larger neo-Marxist agenda—to create not merely a classless society but one in which all creational differences are erased, including gender.

However, there are two related institutions that stand in the way of the full flowering of this prospect: the family and the church. Will they be able to provide the resistance necessary? This is the question that drives chapters 5 and 6. As Tinker sees it, “the end game of the neo-Marxist agenda is the destruction of the family” (p. 73). For those who doubt it, Marcuse is explicit on the point. The “polymorphous sexuality” he promotes “would lead to a disintegration of the institutions in which the private interpersonal relations have been reorganized, particularly the monogamic and patriarchal family” (cited on p. 73). But Tinker’s greater concern is with the way in which the church has colluded with this agenda and “increasingly adds its own confused voice to the confusing voices of the Babel culture in which it finds itself” (pp. 83–84).

Is it then too late for the church? And, if not, what needs to be done? This is question of chapter 6. To answer it, Tinker takes us back to the account of the Tower of Babel. The good news of Babel is that “despite humankind’s attempt to redefine and reconfigure reality—to ‘de-god God’—it is God in his glorious omnipotence and infinite wisdom who remains Lord. He subverts all our attempts to subvert, and his great reality, which lies behind all realities, will win out” (p. 91). How then should the church respond to the challenge of that “hideous strength” in its current cultural Marxist form? Tinker’s advice is threefold: by faithfully commending God’s truth, by gospel-centered cultural engagement, and by courageous refusal and refutation. (Those who want to know how Tinker expounds each of these points will just have to buy the book!)

On the final page, Tinker takes us back to Lewis’s novel and reminds those who know it that final victory was accomplished not by clever human maneuvering or a powerful human leader but (as in the case of Babel) “by a special intervention of God” (p. 117). Therefore, it is for this, above all, that he urges us to pray today.

Some readers may question either the validity or helpfulness of invoking the specter of cultural Marxism, particularly as it is a contested category in the minds of some and has been employed in a highly conspiratorial fashion by others (Anders Breivik’s Manifesto comes to mind). Nevertheless, in my view, Tinker’s use of the category is more than defensible, and the links and parallels he draws between various twentieth century neo-Marxists proposals and a range of current cultural and political phenomena is difficult to deny.

Is That Hideous Strength beyond criticism then? Not quite. I, for one, would have welcomed footnotes, endnotes or some other way of discovering on what page(s) of the various “Works Cited” (which are helpfully listed at the end) the book’s many citations may be found. It also contains the odd misnomer (e.g., “Sex in the City” should be “Sex and the City,” p. 67), typo (e.g., “sapientail” should be “sapiential,” p. 96) and mis-spelling (e.g., “Guiness” should be “Guinness,” p. 117). But these are minor blemishes, which in no way detract from the book’s force and clarity. Tinker’s That Hideous Strength thus deserves the many strong commendations it has received and will greatly benefit all who read (and indeed, re-read) it.

Robert S. Smith
Sydney Missionary & Bible College
Croydon, New South Wales, Australia

Contemporary Perspectives on C. S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man: History, Philosophy, Education, and Science book cover

Contemporary Perspectives on C. S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man: History, Philosophy, Education, and Science

Timothy M. Mosteller and Gayne John Anacker, eds.

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C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man has been described as perhaps the best place to begin in understanding the main thrust of his public work. The book is an adaption of a series of lectures Lewis gave at the University of Durham during World War II. The topic of those lectures was modern education. However, the lectures serve as a significant critique of the trends in linguistics in the early Twentieth century, an argument against the rejection of a traditional anthropology, and an apology for natural law. That Lewis successfully accomplished all three of those tasks in about one hundred pages, including the appendix, is nothing less than amazing. It is little wonder, therefore, that in 1999 The Abolition of Man came in at number seven in National Review’s top 100 non-fiction books of the century ( It is also not surprising that the book continues to be discussed in diverse audiences today.

A recent multi-authored volume, Contemporary Perspectives on C. S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man: History, Philosophy, Education, and Science, offers a collection of essays considering the critique Lewis offered with respect to the current state of various disciplines. After a concise introduction from the editors, the book deals with The Abolition of Man in nine chapters (hereafter Abolition). In chapter 1, Adam Pesler offers an overview of Lewis’s thesis and considers the importance of his argument for the place of emotions in moral reasoning and against subjectivism in philosophy in general. The second chapter, by Micah Watson, delves into the defense of natural law in Abolition, including ways that natural law can be misused or corrupted.

In chapter 3, Mark Pike explores how contemporary education might look different if Lewis’s advice in Abolition was taken seriously, in particular with regard to providing moral education to children. In the fourth chapter, Charlie Starr develops Lewis’s ideas into an application for teaching English to students in a world that largely embodies the failures Lewis was attempting to resist in Abolition. Francis Beckwith evaluates whether Abolition can rightly be called a conservative book in chapter 5, concluding that it supports a conservativism that values the good, the true and the beautiful but not, perhaps, a conservativism that is primarily about libertarian economics.

In the sixth chapter, Judith Wolfe places Lewis’s thinking in Abolition alongside his expression of “mere Christianity” to show the continuity between his philosophical and theological thinking. Chapter 7, by David Ussery, contains a more personal essay reflecting on the impact of Abolition on a scientist. In the eighth chapter, James Herrick looks at the context in which Lewis was writing, giving background to contemporary readers on the subjectivist philosophers whose ideas Lewis was seeking to combat. Finally, in chapter 9, Scott Key shows the ways in which Lewis developed his critique in Abolition in his fictional work, That Hideous Strength.

Contemporary Perspective on C. S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man is a helpful treatment of a central book in “Lewisiana.” (In fact, Walter Hooper, the longtime editor of Lewis’s writings, has argued that Abolition should be read first among Lewis’s many works.) Readers of this volume will be unable to escape the ways that Lewis’s prophetic predictions have come to pass, often with remarkable accuracy. It stands to reason, then, that his proposed remedies would be beneficial, or at least worthy of consideration given his uncanny understanding of the trajectory of modern society.

This book offers a unique perspective on Abolition: it is a collection of essays about education by educators in response to a theory about education. While the essays tend to be academic in tone, there is obvious personal wisdom under the surface of their arguments. That many of the contributors are well-known scholars in their respective fields also contributes to its value. This book would make an excellent volume for an interdisciplinary discussion group among faculty in a university setting. Or, it could be useful as a supplementary course text in a class on educational theory at a Christian university.

As a new volume in the perpetually expanding field of C. S. Lewis studies, this book adds depth to the discussions of Abolition. The contributors have offered well-researched, cogent essays that deal carefully with the text. One weakness of the volume is the amount of repetition between many of the essays. Even given the brevity of the book under discussion and the diversity of the fields of the authors, the volume could have been better constructed to minimize the amount of time summarizing Lewis’s arguments in Abolition at the beginning of each chapter. That approach would have been challenging for the editors but would have improved the end product. Despite this opportunity for improvement, the volume remains a valuable one.

One of the greatest strengths of this volume is that it presents a critique of modern thought without devolving into apocalyptic ranting. Much like Lewis’s own tenor during his prolific public writing career, the contributors of this volume are perfectly clear that there is something wrong, but they offer a constructive solution rather than merely urging a boycott or breaking out the pitchforks. This volume represents the best attributes of public discourse: clarity in logic, consistency in focus, and forcefulness in advocating a solution. It would make a worthy addition to the libraries of educators in particular, as well as benefitting anyone interested in Lewis’s non-fiction work. It should certainly find its way into institutional and personal libraries as a helpful resource in understanding The Abolition of Man.

Andrew J. Spencer
CrossPointe Church
Monroe, Michigan, USA

Depression, Anxiety, and the Christian Life: Practical Wisdom from Richard Baxter book cover

Depression, Anxiety, and the Christian Life: Practical Wisdom from Richard Baxter

Michael S. Lundy and J. I. Packer

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The heart of this book consists of two treatises on depression written in the seventeenth century by the English Puritan pastor, Richard Baxter (1615–1691). These works from Baxter have been revised, updated and annotated by a twenty-first century physician-psychiatrist, Michael Lundy. Which raises a question: why? Why would a contemporary mental health expert want to publicize advice that pre-dates modern psychiatry and is ignorant of the research findings and treatments that are available today? Lundy’s interest is not merely historical; he believes that Baxter’s counsel is apt and profitable for the significant number who continue to struggle with the awful affliction of depression and/or anxiety.

Part 1 of the book introduces the reader to Richard Baxter. First, another Baxter admirer, the pastor-theologian J. I. Packer, offers a succinct overview of the nature of Puritanism, Baxter’s life, and the foci of Baxter’s ministry. Packer highlights that Baxter, like other Puritans, affirmed that fruitful Christian living begins in the mind with thoughtful consideration and engagement with God’s truth, and that all of life was to be lived before God and with eyes fixed on eternal realities. For Packer, Baxter’s willingness to bring the message of God’s grace and love in Christ to those experiencing depression is something that today’s pastors could well adopt.

After Packer’s chapter, Lundy provides a longer introduction that focuses more directly upon Baxter’s methodology in addressing depression as well as offering his own thoughtful reflections on how sin, human responsibility, and suffering should be understood in relation to mental illness. Although the modern-day lifestyle differs markedly from that of the seventeenth century, the nature of psychiatric disorders remains unchanged, and Lundy believes that Baxter offers advice that has stood the test of time. From his medical background, he recognizes the scientific inadequacies that surface in Baxter’s work (such as the humoral theory of medicine). But he also appreciates that “recent” does not imply “best,” and laments the “unhelpful and often unwarranted segregation of body and soul, medical and pastoral, theological and psychological” (p. 36) that permeates much of the mental health field. He appreciates Baxter’s holistic theological anthropology which acknowledges the psychosomatic (soul and body) unity of each individual and the various social and cultural forces that influence behavior. What Lundy finds is a pastor from an earlier generation who draws deeply upon biblically-informed Christian theology and adaptations of Stoic moral philosophy. Baxter uses these insights to produce a forerunner to modern day cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT), while also ensuring “that his readers understand that their problems have somatic as well as emotional and spiritual dimensions” (p. 53).

And this is indeed what emerges in the two Baxter treatises that comprise Part 2 of this work. “Advice to Depressed and Anxious Christians” is a section from his massive pastoral manual, A Christian Directory. The thirty-five possible signs that are listed reveal Baxter’s familiarity with the illness and his acute powers of observation. Symptoms of anxiety, psychosis and obsessive-compulsive disorder are found in the list, as are various impairments in thought, mood, behavior and associated spiritual consequences. Then, after a few brief comments on the causes of melancholy (the seventeenth century term for “depression”), Baxter sets forth his advice in twenty-one directions. Many of these, along the lines of CBT, seek to adjust unhelpful thought patterns and to encourage behaviors that Baxter had found by experience were more likely to lift mood. He cautions against ruminating thoughts, introspective spiritual practices, and withdrawing from the company of others. He encourages productive activity, thoughts of God’s love and grace, and the value of seeking assistance from a physician.

The final chapter is Lundy’s edited and updated version of Baxter’s “The Cure of Melancholy and Overmuch Sorrow, by Faith.” While there is significant overlap with the previous chapter, this more detailed piece has an even stronger emphasis upon the spiritual dimensions that contribute to low mood and its alleviation. Yet the sophistication of Baxter’s approach remains to the fore. For many individuals experiencing “excessive and misguided sorrow and guilt … much of the cause is to be found in physiological disturbances, physical diseases, and general ‘weakness’” (p. 114). For others, Satanic influence, sinful impatience, ignorance of gospel truth, and such like might be at play. For Baxter, relief is best found in thoughts and practices informed and renewed by biblical truth. In particular, he provides thirty-one truths about God’s grace that provide consolation for those of tender conscience whose sadness arises from a sense of spiritual insecurity. This work also provides a number of helpful suggestions of how family and friends might assist someone beset with depression.

The book concludes with a short appendix, “The Duty of Physicians,” extracted and revised from A Christian Directory.

Throughout these works from Baxter we find pastoral sensitivity and kindness. Rather than pressing duties upon those suffering, Baxter is more concerned to offer gospel solace and commend them to the supportive care of others. He steers clear of simplistic explanations and solutions. His approach avoids reductionism in any form, whether that be to overstate the role of biology or to claim that every emotional difficulty is due to spiritual insufficiency.

Mental health professionals today tend to function with a bio-psycho-social model of treatment. When it comes to mental health, they recognize that genetic and other biological factors play their part, as do patterns of thought, family background, networks of support, etc. Increasingly, many also affirm the significance of a spiritual dimension to human experience and appreciate that altruistic values and cultivating a sense of meaning and purpose in life contribute to wellbeing. What this book does is foreground this essential spiritual component of human life, not in a general sense, but by directing the reader to the spiritual truths that arise from biblical Christianity. Baxter doesn’t have all the answers. But we do indeed find wisdom that stands the test of time, and that will assist both those suffering these afflictions and also those who pastor them.

Keith Condie
Mental Health & Pastoral Care Institute, Anglican Deaconess Ministries
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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Christian Ethics: An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning

Wayne Grudem

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This mammoth (4 lb.!) volume applies the methodology of Grudem’s popular Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994) to the discipline of Christian ethics. In his own words, the book offers a comprehensive answer to the question, “What does the whole Bible teach us about which acts, attitudes, and personal character traits receive God’s approval, and which do not?” (p. 37). Fans of the author’s Systematic Theology will feel entirely at home with the highly structured treatments, the clear and concise prose, and the continual quoting of Scripture to establish conclusions.

Part 1 introduces the general topic of Christian ethics, explaining why and how Christians ought to study ethics, and establishing some foundational principles: the moral character of God as the “ultimate basis for ethics,” the Bible as the “source of ethical standards,” the glory of God as the “goal of ethics,” and the life-changing consequences of obedience or disobedience toward God. Chapter 6 addresses the question of how to discern God’s will regarding our decisions, including an appendix on Garry Friesen’s influential book, Decision Making and the Will of God (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2004). Chapter 7 tackles the issue of “moral dilemmas,” arguing that Christians never have to choose “the lesser sin” (Grudem takes as his main foil the “graded absolutism” of Norman Geisler).

Chapter 8 discusses the important (and among evangelicals, much debated) question of what role the Old Testament should play in Christian ethics. Here is Grudem’s answer summarized: The Mosaic Covenant has been terminated by the death of Christ and therefore none of its laws are binding on Christians, at least not in any direct way. The material from Genesis 1 to Exodus 19, however, “predates the Mosaic covenant and therefore teaches ethical principles for all time” (p. 236). Furthermore, most of the Ten Commandments are reaffirmed in the New Testament and are therefore binding on Christians. The rest of the Old Testament can be understood as “containing God’s wisdom for human conduct” (p. 253). This wisdom can be extracted by applying various principles that take into account the major discontinuities between the Old and New Covenants.

In the remaining 34 chapters, Grudem gives his answers to the prominent ethical questions facing Christians today. On most issues he takes a clear position, expressing confidence that Scripture speaks unambiguously on the question. On other issues, where Scripture does not speak directly to the matter and there’s room for reasonable disagreement among Christians committed to the inspiration and authority of the Bible, Grudem expresses his best judgment, explaining his reasoning, and leaves it there. Often this is couched as the “wisest” position, all things considered, but lacking the force of divine command.

Parts 2 through 7 are structured in light of the Ten Commandments, which Grudem takes (with one exception) to express universal moral laws. Part 2 (“Protecting God’s Honor”) covers the first four commandments along with the ninth. (Grudem’s rationale for this relocation is twofold: the topic of lying is closely related to the topic of purity of speech, discussed in connection with the third commandment, and it is preferable to address the ethics of truth-telling early on because “it raises issues that are relevant for many other topics that follow” [p. 310].) Topics treated in this part include idolatry (in its many forms), use of images (and artistry more broadly), use of language (including discussions of obscenity, vows, and curses), truth-telling, and the Lord’s Day (Grudem contends that Sabbath observance expired with the Mosaic Covenant, but it’s still wise to set aside one day a week for rest and corporate worship).

Reformed readers may be disappointed to find no acknowledgement that the second commandment presupposes a Regulative Principle of Worship, which has weighty ethical implications. The same readers will likely consider Grudem’s arguments against Sabbath observance to be rather superficial; for example, he doesn’t reckon with the force of the argument from creation ordinance (Gen 2:3; Exod 20:11) or take note of the fact that Sabbath observance preceded the giving of the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 16 surely counts as material from Genesis 1 to Exodus 19!)

Part 3 (“Protecting Human Authority”) discusses parental authority, the education of children, equality and leadership in marriage, civil government, and other authorities in human relationships and institutions, all under the rubric of the fifth commandment. Part 4 (“Protecting Human Life”) applies the sixth commandment to various issues: capital punishment, just war, self-defense (including the question of gun ownership), abortion, euthanasia, suicide, aging and death, racial discrimination, physical health, and the use of alcohol and drugs. Part 5 (“Protecting Marriage”) takes the seventh commandment as a launchpad for discussions of marriage and singleness, birth control, infertility treatments, adoption, pornography, divorce and remarriage, homosexuality, and transgenderism. Those who have followed Grudem’s writings over the course of his career can safely predict the positions he defends on all of the above issues. Those who have been critical of his political conservatism in the past may be surprised at how carefully he qualifies and nuances his conclusions at points. Where moral conclusions depend partly on factual questions, such as the operation of birth-control methods, Grudem typically provides ample documentation to back up his claims. Indeed, the extensive footnotes may be one of the most useful features of the book.

Part 6 (“Protecting Property”) addresses a wide range of issues inspired by the eighth commandment: property rights, work and rest, poverty and wealth, financial stewardship, borrowing and lending, business ethics, and environmental stewardship. Readers familiar with Grudem’s previous works on politics and economics will not be surprised at the thoroughness of his treatments. The attention given to these topics undoubtedly distinguishes Christian Ethics from other evangelical ethics textbooks. One might wonder, however, whether devoting over a fifth of the book to such matters is excessive. Still, if much of the suffering in the world is due to poverty and a failure to responsibly develop the resources God has made available to us, these are ethical issues that Christians ought to be encouraged to reflect upon more carefully.

Part 7 (“Protecting Purity of Heart”) closes the book with a single chapter applying the tenth commandment to issues of coveting and contentment. An appendix reproduces the author’s lengthy critical review of William J. Webb’s Slaves, Women & Homosexuals (originally published in JETS).

Grudem’s overall approach may be fairly summarized as “applied biblicism.” Christian Ethics, like his earlier Systematic Theology, “seeks to explain ‘what the whole Bible teaches’ about various specific topics” (p. 24). In his own words, the book attempts, “for each ethical topic, to collect and synthesize the teaching of all the relevant Bible passages about that topic and then to apply that teaching wisely to various life situations” (p. 37). Grudem believes that natural law arguments have some value (p. 96), but his conviction is that ethics “should be explicitly based on the teachings of Scripture” (p. 24). This unadorned biblicist approach has both pros and cons. Positively, it reinforces a high (biblical!) view of Scripture and ensures that the arguments are tightly tethered to the Protestant principles of Sola Scriptura and Tota Scriptura. Rather than relying—as some Christian ethicists have done—on a relatively small set of very general biblical teachings, Grudem is committed to mining “the whole counsel of God” for answers.

The downside is that Grudem’s use of Scripture occasionally operates at quite a surface level, without exploring and drawing upon the deeper structures of the biblical canon and the organic relationship between the various biblical covenants. For example, almost no use is made of the notion of creation ordinances, which has been a prominent feature of the Reformed theological tradition to which Grudem is deeply indebted. The nomenclature of “creation ordinances” may be dispensable, but the reality of such creational norms is foundational to biblical ethics.

Since Grudem acknowledges the influence of John Frame on his approach to ethics, readers who have benefited from Frame’s Doctrine of the Christian Life may be interested to hear how the two books compare. On specific questions, Frame and Grudem are largely in agreement. (The most obvious disagreement concerns the ethics of truth-telling; Grudem argues at length, contra Frame, that lying is never morally justifiable.) However, whereas Frame spends considerable time on methodological considerations, surveying major non-Christian approaches to ethics and developing at length a triperspectival biblical model for ethical decision-making, Grudem wastes little time in getting to specific moral issues, which he then treats in great detail. Consequently, Grudem’s book will serve more like a reference work than a user guide. Frame will teach you how to fish and then take you fishing; Grudem will invite you to watch him prepare an extensive seafood buffet.

The amount of autobiographical material in the book may surprise some readers. In many of the chapters Grudem shares how he has wrestled with and applied the principles in his own life, family, and ministry. Indeed, the book is peppered with personal anecdotes. I confess I found this slightly off-putting at first, but by the end of the book I came to see the value of it. It gives the material a warmth and practicality it might otherwise lack. Although this was not his intention, the author’s piety and wisdom frequently shine through the printed words.

One final observation. While reading Christian Ethics it struck me forcefully at times that it is a very American book. Consider some of the topics that receive attention: watching movies and acting in plays; shopping on Sundays; schooling choices; the role of government in protecting liberties; patriotism; self-defense and gun ownership; cosmetic surgery; birth control options and fertility treatments; living wills; transgenderism; vacations and retirement; free-market economics; financial investment; environmentalism and the debate over climate change. I do not mention this as a criticism of the book. On the contrary: these are all live issues in our (Western, American) society, and Christians need to think responsibly about how God’s Word should inform our judgments about them. It’s a virtue of Grudem’s book that he tackles such topics.

At the same time, however, it’s a convicting reminder of how privileged we are in the West and how different many of our priorities are compared with believers in other parts of the world. What a luxury to have to think through the ethics of school choices and fertility treatments! These are truly “first world problems.” It leads me to wonder: What would a Christian Ethics for believers in the Global South look like? And who will write it?

James Anderson
Reformed Theological Seminary
Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

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A Hermeneutic of Wisdom: Recovering the Formative Agency of Scripture

J. de Waal Dryden

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“The central thesis of this book,” writes J. de Waal Dryden, “is at once commonsensical and controversial: the Bible is a wisdom text” (p. xvi). He believes we should take seriously the intentionality of the text, which he says is both discoverable and clear: the Bible was written to shape the people of God, “to cultivate certain devotions, beliefs, desires, and actions—to prize some things and despise others” (p. xiv). Nevertheless, while this was “the majority opinion of the church throughout its history and was uncontroversial in all ages prior to the modern era,” what dominates biblical studies today are critical methodologies that “usually deconstruct this wisdom intentionality” (p. xv)—or, it seems, are simply incapable of seeing it due to various presuppositions.

Dryden, however, wants to reinstate reading the Bible in a certain way which he believes will not only recover the meaning that the text was written to convey, but is theologically responsible as a way of approaching God’s word. He presents a method of reading, with examples of how this method changes the way we might read various New Testament texts, that would show believers how to use Scripture as it is meant to be used—as a formative text for character and community.

For this reason, Dryden (more or less) unapologetically claims that areas generally regarded as part of moral psychology, practical theology and spiritual formation should rightly be included in New Testament studies. He is quite aware that this would be regarded as “unsanctioned infiltrations,” but “their exclusion is a historically conditioned employment of certain beliefs foundational to modernist understandings of anthropology and epistemology, for which I can salvage only a mild allegiance” (pp. xxii–xxiii). One is tempted to applaud. Modern disciplinary boundaries may be useful for organizing payrolls, but they are hardly arbiters of reality, after all.

As a lecturer in ethics, I also like the fact that Dryden similarly rejects a typically modernist understanding of ethics, “moral casuistry within an idealist deontological (Kantian) framework” (p. xxi). If Scripture is written with a formational purpose, then ethics rightly understood becomes not just the study of moral responsibilities, but moral formation—the task of becoming a moral person or (if we might put it more biblically) a godly person. Moral agency and moral formation, he contends, “only make sense in the context of how that agency is directed toward God as the giver of all things and whose glory is the proper telos of all human loves and actions” (p. xxiii). In this way, he rejects the distinction between “moral formation” and “spiritual formation,” where they are seen as two different things “because one deals with external moral action and the other deals with internal spiritual experiences” (p. xxiii, n. 17). I am no fan of the phrase “spiritual formation,” and the attempt to distinguish it from moral formation, which is ubiquitous in the literature on spiritual formation, is one of the reasons I don’t like it. Dryden, however, although he keeps the phrase, rightly uses a far more biblical concept to inhabit it.

The book has two distinct sections. Dryden begins with what he calls “tilling the soil”—looking at questions of epistemology and the foundational philosophical assumptions that drive how we read texts. It is all too easy to assume that hermeneutics, how we read, is independent of what we believe about how we know and who we are. These brief chapters contain extremely useful overviews of our philosophical heritage in the Western world, which lie behind both modernist thinking and the reactions to it in postmodernist philosophy. Dryden shows how these two recent moods have different ideas of how a reader relates to a text—distinctly from it, as the dispassionate objective observer, or as active in the creation of meaning, inevitably situated and partial. Yet both still see the text as the material to be put in the hands of the reader who masters it in one way or the other. Both fail to realize that Scripture, God’s word, is rightly approached in humility and trust.

There is much here that I value, and indeed it reminds me strongly of what the late Mike Ovey built into his master’s module on Epistemology and Hermeneutics, which became compulsory for all postgraduate students at Oak Hill Theological College (Mike died shortly after teaching its first iteration). One of the strongest recommendations I could give this book is that Mike would have really appreciated it—although he would probably have added that the first section could have done with some Martin Buber and his I-thou/I-it distinction.

Dryden’s thesis is that all Scripture is what he broadly terms wisdom, that it not only has practical applications, but was written for the purpose of teaching the very practical skill of living wisely. He has captured in a real and worked through sense the truth that theology is never abstract; it is never purely theoretical. God tells us things for a reason, and that reason is not just that we might know more, but that we should become different people, his people. This approach overcomes what Dryden sees as a number of false dichotomies built into many contemporary ways of approaching the Bible. One is the dichotomy between theology and application. In Christian thought, there is no is/ought divide, no naturalistic fallacy. What God is—his compassionate, loving, merciful, just character—flows through creation and all he has done in it. His being moulds both who we are and who will become and therefore what is right in our thinking and acting. Wisdom, Dryden says, “operates at the intersection of being and doing”—and so makes sense of how the Bible moves between things that we place in separate categories.

Dryden works his thesis through in his second part, “Planting the Seeds.” Here he has chapters on Gospels and Epistles, with several case-studies from different books in each genre. He gives enough detail to demonstrate that the “wisdom hermeneutic” does overcome various particular exegetical difficulties that have troubled scholars. At the same time, he also suggests fruitful ways forward for taking this approach further.

Dryden’s approach is not only useful for biblical studies but also as a way into Christian ethics. Indeed, it could potentially speak into the discussion about what we are doing in theological education as well; we need neither Athens nor Berlin, but a holistic approach to wisdom.

This is an introductory book in many ways, not a comprehensive analysis of hermeneutical approaches (even his own), nor is it a commentary on the Bible texts considered. (Indeed, as Dryden points out, he has not tried to tackle Old Testament texts through this lens at all.) More work needs to be done, therefore, to see how Dryden’s approach bears fruit in other texts, or further in the texts he considers. However, at this stage his approach is very attractive in the way it brings cohesion and wholeness to Scripture understood as God’s saving word.

Kirsten Birkett
Oak Hill Theological College
London, England, UK

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Breaking the Marriage Idol: Reconstructing our Cultural and Spiritual Norms

Kutter Callaway

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Iconoclast: a person who attacks cherished beliefs or institutions. Kutter Callaway, professor of theology at Fuller Seminary, fits the definition of an iconoclast. Why? Because he has no qualms about aiming blows at one of the oldest and most established institutions found among human civilizations, marriage.

Now to be clear, Callaway is not against marriage; he is happily married. Nor is he saying that marriage does not benefit society and that people ought not to pursue marriage. In fact, he believes that those who are called to marriage ought to pursue marriage. Rather, the purpose of Breaking the Marriage Idol is to challenge Christians to rethink the normalcy of marriage for the Christian community.

Callaway is concerned that too many in evangelical circles have become hyper focused on the normalcy of marriage. His argument is that most churches have an unspoken conviction that every Christian falls into one of two categories: “married” or “not-yet-married.” This leaves people who do not neatly fit into these categories, particularly singles and celibate gay Christians, as outsiders to church culture.

Callaway spends the first few chapters analyzing the “state of the union” of evangelical churches in regard to this problem of “marriage normalcy.” Interestingly, he argues that rather than taking their cues from Scripture’s teaching on sexuality and marriage, many churches have adopted the “marriage normalcy” view and, by association, definitions of marriage and manhood and womanhood that are not drawn from Scripture but from the culture. Showing his skills as a cultural commentator, he notices an intriguing pattern: that a culture of Disney princesses, serial sexual monogamous relationships leading to relational skepticism (as paraded in the lyrics of Taylor Swift), and the “multiple intimate relationship for seeking true love” paradigm (broadcasted on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette) has leaked into the church and informed its practices of “true love waits” seminars, “kissing dating goodbye” and “women captivating men who are wild at heart.”

Callaway believes that the church has adopted a view of romantic relationships which sees sexual intimacy within marriage as the pinnacle of a fulfilled life. Much Christian literature funneled towards teens contains a baptized version of a Disney fairytale as it promises your “true soulmate” who will complete you and uses sex to sell abstinence: “if you are abstinent now, you will have amazing sex when you are married” (p. 66). Those who are putting off dating relationships as teenagers are still assuming that marriage is in their future. In his own words, “we simply cannot escape the fact that when cast in terms of the princess paradigm, singleness is a state of radical incompletion, romantic love is a self-justifying good, and marriage is an end in itself” (p. 72).

Callaway then presents an alternative proposal: a radical reformation of church culture in which both singleness and marriage are valued as equally legitimate options for Christians. He argues from Scriptures such as Genesis 1–2 and 1 Corinthians 7 that marriage is never put forward as the normative state for men and women but serves as an assumed cultural practice.

This then enables Callaway and contributor Joshua Beckett (who is the author of chapter 6, “Desire in Singleness”) to advocate for an increasingly popular view known as “spiritual friendship.” Building on the work of Wesley Hill (e.g., Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian [Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2015]), this view not only allows for gay Christians to accept their orientation but also to commit to lifestyles of celibacy lived out within the context of the church. This can lead to gay celibate communities or even covenanted celibate partnerships between gay Christians and blessed by the church. This fits into Callaway’s proposal because the “spiritual friendship” ethos he calls churches to adopt sees both singles and married couples deepening their understanding of community through intentional relationships based on a redefinition of human sexuality. Sexuality is greater than physical expression but encompasses all the ways men and women dwell in relation to one another. “We would do well to reclaim a view of human sexuality that understands something as seemingly mundane as drinking coffee with a friend as a profoundly sexual act” (p. 113).

There are many portions of this book where I would question the author’s reasoning and conclusions. For example, he challenges the normalcy of marriage by arguing that Genesis never says that Adam and Eve were married because it uses the Hebrew words אִישׁ (man) and אִשָּׁה (woman), rather than more explicit terms for ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ (pp. 114–15). Yet Genesis consistently uses אִישׁ and אִשָּׁה for husband and wife throughout its chapters (Gen 12:18, 16:3; 20:7, 26:8–9; 29:32; 30:15). Callaway’s exegetical minimalism can also come back to bite him, for he argues that Genesis 1–3 is not talking about marriage but about human beings being created for relationships within a community. But the same text which (supposedly) does not address marriage also lacks a larger community, since there was only one man and one woman in the garden.

While I would agree that there needs to be reform in how church culture can sometimes exclude those who are unmarried, I cannot follow all of Callaway’s conclusions concerning marriage and singleness. Marriage and covenanted partnerships in Scripture are exclusive to monogamous, opposite-sex relationships, and there is a unique and different calling that God has given to those who are married and to those who remain single. Marriage is intrinsic to the covenant which God made with humanity, where marriage and childrearing are tied to humanity’s goal of fulfilling the cultural mandate within the order of the first creation. It is true that the new covenant begins a transition from physical ties to spiritual ties for those who are part of the kingdom of God, whereby the eunuch can become the spiritual father of a nation (see Isa 56:4–5; Acts 8:26–38). Nevertheless, one worries that Callaway is compressing the already and not-yet elements of the kingdom of God in order to fit his egalitarian paradigm. While there will be no marriage in the eschaton (Matt 22:30), the cultural mandate which entails marriage and procreation as a means of spreading God’s glory throughout the earth remains until Christ returns.

Callaway’s work is representative of a larger movement within evangelicalism which is trying to redefine marriage, relationships, and sexuality. This movement is gaining momentum and voicing its dissidence against others within the evangelical tradition. Breaking the Marriage Idol is particularly noteworthy because it seeks to provide a cohesive exegetical argument for the “spiritual friendship” proposal which is presenting a compelling option to Christians who find themselves experiencing same-sex attraction or who, for other reasons, believe themselves to be called to a life of celibate singleness.

This is a conversation which is only beginning in an age where gender norms and expectations are consistently being reevaluated and questioned. What is at stake is not only the nature and purpose of marriage and sexuality but how we represent and respond to the gospel message. For the gospel is directly tied to how we live as faithful Christians and how we represent the mystery of Christ’s love for his bride, the Church, in our marriages and friendships.

Jared S. Poulton
Brewton-Parker College
Dublin, Georgia, USA

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Walking through Infertility: Biblical, Theological, and Moral Counsel for Those Who Are Struggling

Matthew Arbo

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The aim of Matthew Arbo’s Walking through Infertility is to address biblical, theological and moral questions surrounding infertility in order to encourage the church generally, and especially couples experiencing infertility. An interview at the end of the book hints that the author, a professor of theological studies, may have been prompted to write in response to family members’ experience of infertility. It consciously simplifies the content in order to provide an easily understood message: that God cares about those suffering from infertility, but provides a different way for them to be a “family.” In this way they are fully able to participate in the life of the church and the mission of God.

Chapter 1 begins by considering the “propagation mandate” of Genesis 1:28. There is reassurance given to couples that success in conceiving children is not required for obedience to God. In Arbo’s words, “Couples who are open to having children and who do what they can to conceive but who have not (yet) succeeded in conceiving are not violating God’s command” (p. 24). This is then followed by a brief review of biblical infertility narratives (e.g., Abraham and Sarah, Zechariah and Elizabeth) in which God’s covenant faithfulness is emphasized. While children are a gift from God, we are not all promised this particular gift, although we cannot always know why it is withheld.

Chapter 2 expounds the nature of Christian Discipleship, recalling the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Discipleship consists in faith and obedience” (p. 46). This is the way to fulfillment as a follower of Christ, for the childless as well as others. Although it is not sinful to continue to pray for a child, we “must be prepared to repent of desires held too firmly or which cause us either to ignore or reject Jesus’s purposes for us” (p. 57). With this reorientation of our affections, contentment and perseverance can prevail, whatever our circumstances. The place of the church in providing comfort, support and relationships is outlined in chapter 3. We meet together as disciples, working together as the body on Christ, where we each belong and have a role.

Chapter 4 provides an ethical critique of some common artificial reproductive technologies (ART)—Intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), and embryo adoption and surrogacy, with a brief mention of genetic engineering. Essentially, all ARTs are rejected as unethical, on the grounds that they replace the intimate act of marital intercourse, the natural means of begetting, with an instrumental process controlled by others. However, guidelines are also given for those who choose to go ahead with ART, in order to limit ethical problems. The book ends with an interview with a real-life interview with a couple who discuss their own challenges in experiencing infertility.

Arbo’s book is easy to read, with a recurring story of a husband and wife experiencing childlessness woven through the text, helping others understand the road that may be travelled in the quest for a child. The passages on discipleship are the strongest, with multiple references to the scriptural foundations of the author’s arguments. However, I was surprised that other parts of the book, which assume a good grasp of the Biblical narrative, lack the scriptural references needed to support the statements made. I suspect that most Christian readers would much prefer to have the scriptural references provided in order to work through a biblical position on ART.

The coverage of ART procedures is brief and, in part, inaccurate. Techniques often recommended for Christian couples, namely gamete intra-fallopian tube transfer (GIFT) and zygote intra-fallopian tube transfer (ZIST) were not mentioned at all. Some procedures were dismissed in anticipation of unethical practices that may occur in the future. I was concerned that genetic engineering was briefly mentioned without a warning of the ethical issues involved in genetic examination of embryos. Costs quoted and adoption procedures refer to an American medical system.

In summary, while I found this book largely encouraging, I am not sure to whom I would recommend it. I can understand why some people would desire a simple explanation of ART, without the confusing acronyms and scientific terms. However, it is inescapably a complex business and I believe we need all the facts to make a valid ethical judgement about whether or not it is ethical for Christians to undergo ART. I say this without arguing for or against the practice. However, I would think that students of theology or a couple seriously considering ART would need more information and, in particular, more scriptural references, to decide what is the correct road to take. This is a challenge for pastors and their congregations. Thankfully, other Christian books are readily available which contain this information. However, the particular strength of Arbo’s book is that he encourages us to consider the role of the disciple as we live out God’s purposes in our lives.

Megan Best
University of Notre Dame Australia
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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The Preacher’s Catechism

Lewis Allen

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Lewis Allen is pastor of a church plant in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England. He has previous pastoral experience in London. This book is written by a preacher for preachers. Throughout the volume Allen exemplifies an awareness of pastoral challenges—spiritual, existential, and relational—that evidences years of personal experience.

The book sets out to provide a theological orientation for the preacher’s ministry. The familiar and historic tool of catechesis is employed to engage both the heart and the mind. Working from the foundation of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Allen appropriates the catechism for application to the preacher. Instead of 107 questions, there are 43; each being tweaked and tailored to the specific ministry of pulpit proclamation. Though catechisms have had a number of functions through the ages, especially pneumonic, these questions and answers are aimed at character formation as much as anything else. Reading the short chapters—typically 4–5 pages—the questions and answers serve as a springboard into deeper, more probing reflection on every day (or every week) issues.

Each chapter begins with a heading, followed by a question and its answer, followed by a related passage of Scripture. The exposition that follows situates each question in the pastor’s experience, typically relating the truth to a problem, thereby establishing a tension that requires resolution. Theological truth then serves as the remedy to the issue, as doctrine is applied to the pastoral crisis.

The probing questions asked of the reader are among the most helpful features of the book. They address the preacher head on, engaging issues of motivation, secret and public sins, discouragements, failure, and frailty. More than anything, they keep asking the preacher where his assurance lies. The central theme of the book is that God ought to be the focus of our preaching ministries; we serve him and we proclaim him, to the exclusion of all self-glory and at the expense of self-comfort. Allen reminds readers, “You are not preaching for your kingdom” (p. 200). He works to break the pastor of sinful tendencies like covetousness: “Unbelief tells us that God has withheld the good and sent the bad, and our hearts rebel in covetous desires.… If we don’t have what we want, that is for our good” (p. 159).

Sprinkled throughout the volume are rich quotations from key theologians and pastors of old, most notably the Reformers and the Puritans. Allen demonstrates a great breadth of reading, especially across the 17th century pastoral literature, supplying primary source readings for the benefit of a modern audience. Situated in the development of his theological arguments, these quotations alone are worth the price of the volume, as they serve as a great encouragement to pastoral piety from brothers who served before us.

The volume will read as familiar to many. The themes treated are akin to John Piper’s Brothers, We Are Not Professional: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry (Nashville: B&H, 2013) and Jared C. Wilson’s The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ to Your Life and Ministry (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013). Nevertheless, while Allen’s insights aren’t novel, they are necessary. The uniqueness of this volume is that it is structured to align with the framework of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. This provides a more deliberate theological agenda to the volume, addressing central theological truths (e.g., God, Sin, Christ, etc.), moral challenges from the Decalogue, and the goodness and relevance of the sacraments to the preaching ministry.

At some points readers may find the application of the catechism to preaching slightly contrived, particularly in the section on the Decalogue. Consider chapter 22 (“Love’s Choice”):

Q: What does the first commandment teach us?
A: You shall preach as a love expression to the Lord your God), but never in a way that proves theologically irresponsible or practically unwarranted. (p. 119)

While the initial links seem more tenuous, in fact the exposition in the chapter that follows provides ample justification.

If there is a weakness to the volume, it is that the application feels similar after a while. Is your preaching ministry about you or about God? But this repetition, like an expositional sermon series, is because there is a central theme to the book. The author wants God to be the focus of the preacher’s ministry, and he works hard to keep the theme fresh. The repetition of application is perhaps necessary, as the problem being addressed is so real and prevalent. The aforementioned inclusion of Puritan insights, as well as the author’s own practical advice, break the monotony.

In many pastoral contexts, preachers can feel alone in their work. They lack people who will push them, identify sinful blind-spots, and encourage them when they’re disheartened. This volume will serve as a great aid to preachers in these contexts (and in contexts where preachers aren’t alone!), calling them back to vital theological truth that will anchor them in the chaos of their experience. I commend this book as a good example of rich reformed theology applied to the preacher’s ministry. It will serve theological college students preparing for ministry with a good foundation, but more so it will refresh seasoned pastors by reorienting them to the theological focus of their work. It should be read slowly (a chapter a day), reflectively, and prayerfully.

Chase R. Kuhn
Moore Theological College
Newtown, New South Wales, Australia

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Pastoral Theology: Theological Foundations for Who a Pastor Is and What He Does

Daniel L. Akin and R. Scott Pace

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“I believe God wants me to be a pastor,” says the young man in his twenties. After a few years of spiritual maturation, making disciples, teaching the Bible, and affirmation from his local church, the young man is certain God wants him to shepherd his flock. “I think God wants me to leave my career and pursue pastoral ministry,” says the man in his forties who has worked tirelessly to reach his current position. After much counsel from trusted friends, the desire to care for God’s people is too compelling to resist. These two men represent the stories of countless men who have contemplated God’s call to pastoral ministry.

Aspiring to the office of overseer is a noble task (1 Tim 3:1). But what exactly is the task, and who does this kind of work? These are the questions that Daniel L. Akin and R. Scott Pace set out to answer in their book, Pastoral Theology: Theological Foundations for Who A Pastor Is and What He Does.

Unfortunately, numerous men begin their journeys into pastoral ministry only to discover how difficult the task is. Before they know it, they’re discouraged and sadly, want to quit. While multiple factors contribute to the end of many pastors’ ministries, could it be that properly understanding the theological foundation for pastoral work would increase the likelihood of longevity in ministry? I think so. That is why I find this book incredibly helpful and timely. The authors suggest that the reason “our ministries are destined to collapse” is due to “a poor theological framework” (p. 3). Too many pastors build their framework for ministry on the latest form of pragmatism. Akin and Pace want to remind pastors that their task is fundamentally theological in nature. Consequently, “Ministry that is defined and driven by a theoretical, traditional, or practical basis is ultimately a ministry that is detached from sound theology” (p. 3). The authors’ goal is to give a biblically saturated and theologically robust framework for pastoral ministry in a systematic fashion. The overarching theme of every chapter is that theology drives methodology. A glimpse into the content may be helpful.

Pastoral Theology offers a systematic theological framework for pastoral ministry by examining three major categories. Section one examines the Trinitarian Foundation for pastoral ministry. In this section, chapters 2–4, Akin and Pace “focus on a different member of the Trinity and the implications of each in establishing the pastoral office” (p. 13). The chapters follow the systematic categories as listed: Theological (ch. 2), Christological (ch. 3), Pneumatological (ch. 4). For example, when answering the question, what kind of men should serve as pastors, chapter 2 assesses the holiness of God the Father. The authors write, “When considering pastoral qualifications, it is necessary to identify their spiritual root. The prerequisites for the office are not to be understood primarily as the ability or aptitude needed to perform certain ministerial tasks. First and foremost, the required characteristics establish the pastor as a representative of the One whom he ultimately serves and to whom he must give an account (Heb 13:17)” (p. 19). Akin and Pace are not, of course, advocating for sinless pastors. Only Christ meets that standard. They argue that the term “above reproach” (1 Tim 3:2; Tit 1:6–7) “does not speak of moral perfection” (p. 27). So what does reflecting the character of God look like in the life of a pastor? It means that “he is devoted to the pursuit of holiness and continues to progress in his sanctification” (p. 27). “This includes demonstrating honesty about his own shortcomings and taking responsibility for his personal and ministerial faults” (p. 27).

The pattern of establishing a theological framework, followed by implications derived from that theology, is a useful tool for the reader. Disciplining the mind to first think theologically, then methodologically, is much needed today given the prevalence of pragmatic, “what works” approaches to ministry. Chapters 3 and 4 follow suit by exploring the nature and work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and the implications that follow for pastoral ministry.

Section two explores doctrinal formulation, which gives helpful handles for pastoral ministry. Akin and Pace begin this section with a valuable study of anthropology in chapter 5. The reason this is necessary, they argue, is because a “deep understanding of [God’s] grace will not only facilitate our own spiritual growth, it will also enhance our theological perspective of humanity and enable us to view people accurately and minister to them accordingly” (p. 120). This section serves pastors well by putting ministry among people in proper perspective. Systems, structures, and trellises certainly have a place in the discussion about serving people. Yet, understanding the condition of the human heart is foundational to pastoral ministry.

Chapter 6 sets forth a biblical ecclesiology. Pastors have the unique responsibility of shepherding the church that Jesus died for. Akin and Pace do a superb job of examining the metaphors in Scripture used to describe the church, such as the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, and the building of Christ. What is most helpful about this section is how they explain the pastor’s specific work in relation to each metaphor. For example, pastors are to edify the body, sanctify the bride, and solidify the building, all through loving service and faithful teaching (p. 170).

Section two ends with an important charge to pastors in chapter 7. By understanding the mission of the church, pastors must always keep the mission in the forefront of their flock’s minds, both by personal action and verbal affirmation.

Section three explains the practical facilitation of pastoral ministry. Chapter 8 focuses on the role of the pastor as undershepherd; that is, as one who learns how to care for the sheep by imitating Christ’s example as the Chief Shepherd. “The Lord’s invitation to follow our Shepherd and fellowship with our King … is an invitation to follow his example, be conformed to his likeness, and become a Shepherd” (p. 217). The authors follow this chapter by laying down a theological foundation for preaching in chapter 9. Finally, the book concludes with chapter 10 which explains how pastors may need to redefine their priorities, so that leading both family and church are not at odds with each other but are managed well to the glory of God.

I appreciate the attempt of Akin and Pace to follow a systematic approach in defining the who and the what of pastoral ministry. I would contend that Pastoral Theology is a must read for any pastor. The arguments are rooted in thorough exegesis and successfully establish the book’s thesis, that a right theology that leads to a right practice. That said, the book does feel a bit structurally rigid at times and, at certain points, the authors’ arguments feel boxed. This does not result is bad exegesis, however. Quite the opposite. Nevertheless, because of the desire to adhere to a systematic approach, there are moments when the argument feels a bit clunky.

Yet, looking at the structure from a positive angle, in each chapter the reader knows what to expect. A theological premise or aim for each chapter is clearly set forth. The premise is then followed by sound biblical theology regarding the particular subject. What is most helpful is how Akin and Pace make sure to conclude each chapter with pastoral principles derived from their theological analysis. This is gold.

The overwhelming strength of the book is lies in the commitment of the authors to let theology drive methodology. For this reason, pastors, or soon to be pastors, would be wise to seek counsel from Akin and Pace.

Richard Shadden
Audubon Park Baptist Church
Memphis, Tennessee, USA

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The Beauty of the Lord: Theology as Aesthetics

Jonathan King

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Eugene Peterson commented during his long years of ministry on the emptiness of great parts of the church. In one of his accounts of a pastoral call he describes a church in “soggy suburbia” where no one read books or discussed ideas. His people, whom he actually shepherded and loved, were characterized by a “stunted imagination” having abandoned the blazing glory of Christian vocation (Eugene Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992], 156). In the face of such bankruptcy, plus the ugliness of our world, many evangelical Christians are turning to the beautiful for renewal. Though hardly altogether absent from theological discourse, Jonathan King argues that beauty has been seriously underplayed, particularly by Protestants.

The Beauty of the Lord contains many virtues. It is deeply learned. The author draws widely and deeply from all kinds of sources, as well as directly from Scripture. Although the writing is dense, his central thesis is easily stated. It is best to quote him directly: “My working hypothesis is twofold: first, beauty corresponds in some way to the attributes of God; second the theodrama of God’s eternal plan in creation, redemption, and consummation entails a consistent and fitting expression and outworking of this divine beauty” (p. 23). Because Jesus Christ is its perfect exhibition, King centers on the incarnation as the “critical lens for seeing God’s beauty” (p. 23).

For the author beauty is a divine attribute, mostly connected to the glory of God. Though a number of Old and New Testament words are translated into beauty, the one that most consistently is concomitant to beauty is glory. King argues that glory is both ad extra, expressing itself in God’s outward works, and ad intra, emanating from God’s own being.

But what is this glory specifically? King most often defines glory, and thus elucidates the nature of beauty, by fittingness. We encounter this theme particularly in the writings of Anselm of Canterbury. It is present as well in Thomas Aquinas, Jonathan Edwards, Hans Urs von Balthassar, Bavinck and Barth. More recently we meet the expression in Nicholas Wolterstorff’s book Art in Action: Toward a Christian Aesthetic (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), which King mentions, among his hundreds of allusions and citations.

King notes the original creation as one of beautiful design, with human beings, the crown of God’s work, image-bearers with a royal status. Among the most elegant pages in this text are those describing the ways in which we, as image-bearers, conform to the divine original. Quoting Cornelius Van Til he affirms that we are God’s “analogs” (p. 120). This has important ethical implications, such as the complementarity of man and woman and the love of neighbor. It will also have implications for God’s judgments, which must in every way “fit” the crime they address.

With this in mind, when King describes the fall, it is mostly in terms of falling short. The image of God is marred. Man’s being is perverted (p. 131). Quoting Calvin he asserts we have not lost the image, but we have lost our beauty and dignity (Institutes, 3.7.6). We are marred by sin, or “malformed by sin” and thus can no longer properly image God (p. 79). The fall is described in aesthetic terms. Following Jonathan Edwards, he says those who are eternally lost will see all of Christ except his “beauty and his amiableness” (p. 302).

When it comes to the incarnation of Jesus Christ, who is at the center of these thoughts, we are confronted with “beauty condescending” (ch. 4). Christ altogether fittingly becomes man and interacts with us, and then leads us to the place Adam failed to go. King rightly (in my view) avoids the temptation to say his true beauty, that is the glory of his divinity, is somehow veiled by his humanity. King defends the traditional view, bolstered by Chalcedon, that differentiates between his states (humiliation followed by exaltation) from his nature (always God, then adding human nature to the one Person). The glory of his divine nature was never obscured by his humanity, even at the cross.

King’s understanding of beauty centers on “fittingness”: harmony, design, shapes, etc. There is a good deal to affirm about these notions, though at times I had the impression that they owe more to Plato than to Scripture. King commends the divine plan for its “symmetrical design” (p. 88). If one means by that the plan evidences a successful beginning and a desired end, there is no quarrel (Romans 11:33–36). Yet a great deal that deserves to be called aesthetic is not so lofty. How did the Book of Judges make it into the canon? Or Psalm 88? It will not do in my judgment simply to fold them into a larger design or look for a silver lining. Indeed there is a strong and well-crafted aesthetic to them, but little beauty.

Missing here is Martin Luther’s declaration that true theology is much less about glory than about the cross. I found no references to Luther at all. Nor were there any to Calvin Seerveld, the Reformed philosopher of aesthetics who has contributed so much to these kinds of discussions. Seerveld cautions against the trend to take refuge in “beauty” since although beauty does belong to God, there is so-called beauty which does not. He notes from the visual arts, for example, Mondrian’s highly symmetrical primary colors and right-angles which exhibit plenty of harmony, design, etc., but no humanity. There is also skillful but superficial academic beauty (such as William-Adolphe Bouguereau) and there is seductive lustful beauty (such as Francisco Goya’s Maja), neither of which communicate the realistic, morally pure, but earthy, sometimes messy, strategies of the Lord (see Calvin G. Seerveld, Bearing Fresh Olive Leaves (Carlisle: Piquant, 2000), 102–15; also Rainbows for the Fallen World (Toronto: Tuppence, 1980), pp. 116–25). Do we not tend to overload the term and lose its usefulness?

I sense here an imbalance in King’s elevation of beauty. Moral uprightness is more, though not less, than a return to glorious symmetry. The costly forgiveness of sins acquired at the cross, which was a shameful, bloody, cruel torture, is far more, though not less, than a “due proportionality between punishment and crime” (p. 231). And redemption is far more, though I suppose not less, than a “theodrama.” It is the stark, in-your-face, deadly serious reality of a God who so loved his people that he mixed it up with sinners, offering them healing and freedom from guilt. His incarnation, eternally human as well as divine, is not just fitting; it is mind-boggling.

Having said these things I do hope for the day when we do more justice to the aesthetic dimension of the Bible and of life itself. Jeremy Begbie has suggested that not only is the Bible our guide to aesthetics, but aesthetics can help us better understand the Bible. Can we practice that without falling into an excess? Perhaps we should simply separate the two words: beauty and aesthetics. Some of those believers described by Eugene Peterson are presently so reacting against the dryness and lack of imagination that they are in danger of over investing in beauty! Let’s put all these issues on the table and discuss them with iron sharpening iron. A word of thanks to Jonathan King for leading the way.

William Edgar
Westminster Theological Seminary
Glenside, Pennsylvania, USA

Justification book cover


Michael Horton

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It is difficult to understate the importance of the doctrine of justification. Exegetically, it occupies considerable portions of the correspondence of the apostle Paul. Theologically, it touches upon a wide range of biblical doctrines—covenant theology, the atonement, and sanctification, for example. Historically, it has shaped the last half millennium of the Western church, defining the Protestant and Roman Catholic communions that formed in the wake of the Reformation.

Michael Horton’s two-volume Justification is an ambitious and panoramic effort to address the doctrine in its exegetical, biblical-theological, systematic, historical, and contemporary significance. The first volume concentrates upon the doctrine in its historical development. Horton argues that the patristic writers’ statements concerning justification stand in fundamental continuity with the later doctrine of the Protestant Reformers (1:75–84). It was the ambiguity within Augustine’s formulations, however, that both spawned medieval understandings of justification as a transformative grace, and provided the Reformers the resources to restate the biblical doctrine (1:84–91).

Horton tracks the development of the doctrine in the works of Scotus, Ockham, and Biel, arguing that late medieval understandings of justification were not only semi-Pelagian but also wedded to the sacrament of penance (1:162). It was against this doctrine that Luther and the other Reformers protested. In doing so, Horton contends, the Reformers did not capitulate to and extend the nominalism of the late medievals. On the contrary, the Reformers reflected their continuity with the Scripture and the Fathers in expressly setting the doctrine within the context of union with Christ and the law/gospel distinction. If anyone has been responsible for the perpetuation of nominalism, Horton counters, it is the Council of Trent and the post-Tridentine Roman Catholic theologians (1:332). Trent “represents the triumph of the nominalism represented by Ockham and Biel” by rendering the principle facere quod in se est (“do what you can”) an “all-controlling thesis” (1:350). Horton concludes his historical survey of justification by responding to the charge that the Reformation doctrine of justification bred antinomianism. While conceding that justification was not designed “to provide an ethic,” Horton insists that justification is the “basis” for sanctification (1:363–64). This state of affairs yields an “extrospective piety” with respect to God and human beings (1:373).

Volume Two addresses justification exegetically and theologically, particularly in response to developments within the last half-century of New Testament studies. Horton begins by perceptively observing that much of modern discussion regarding justification has been marred by false dichotomies—“historia salutis” or “ordo salutis”; “covenant” or “apocalyptic”; “forensic” or “participatory” (2:37–49). Horton’s discussion of justification then proceeds along four lines. The first attempts to set justification within its biblical context. The law/gospel distinction yields a bicovenantal framework, the covenant of creation (law) and the covenant of grace (gospel). Within redemptive history, the Abrahamic and Sinaitic covenants are two different covenants, corresponding to gospel and law, respectively. Sinai was a “temporary parenthesis” (2:81). For both Sinai and the Covenant of Creation, “personal fulfillment of the stipulations is the basis for the promised blessing” (2:76, emphasis original). The apostle Paul devotes his energies to correcting what Horton understands to be a confusion or conflation of the Abrahamic and Sinaitic covenants within the first-century church (2:117). The Judaizers taught that the blessings of the covenant of grace could be secured on the terms that God had set forth under the Sinaitic covenant (2:126). Paul counters by insisting that the blessing of justification could not be secured by “works of the law,” but through “faith.”

The second line of Horton’s analysis of justification concerns the “achievement of justification” (2:149). Horton argues that Paul shared a common Jewish conception of the human condition, namely, that people are in need of “personal salvation” (2:184). In particular, Paul understands humans to be under the divine wrath. To this plight corresponds justification, which is the “realization here and now of what happened objectively in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection” (2:195). Christ’s death is substitutionary, penal, and propitiatory, and Christ’s resurrection means that he is the “source of eschatological justification and life for all who will be united to him” (2:271).

Horton then turns to the “gift of righteousness” (2:281). Justification is both “declaratory” and “judicial” (2:293). Specifically, it is the “courtroom declaration that someone is deemed righteous before God … that the demands of the law have been fully met so that the person is reckoned to be righteous” (2:297, emphasis original). One must neither reduce justification to a mere declaration of membership, nor expand justification to include the grace of transformation (2:302, 299). Horton proceeds to argue that this declaration is based solely upon the “imputation of Christ’s meritorious righteousness” (2:325), laudably defending the doctrine of imputation from recent criticism. The verdict of justification is not based upon the good works of the justified person. Good works, rather, are “a consequence” of justification (2:394).

Finally, Horton addresses the way in which the grace of justification is to be received (2:395). “Faith alone” is the “instrumental cause” of justification (2:402, emphasis original). Reviewing the πίστις Χριστοῦ debate, Horton concludes that the “subjective view” (“the faithfulness of Christ”) “is to be faulted not in what it affirms but in what it rejects” (2:443). The objective genitive interpretation (“faith in Christ”), on the other hand, upholds the biblical doctrine of justification along with those legitimate insights of the subjective view. Horton concludes this section and the book by reflecting upon union with Christ. Union with Christ is not an “alternative paradigm” to justification, but its “proper habitat” (2:447). Union with Christ serves to integrate not only historia salutis and ordo salutis, but also justification and sanctification (2:460, 468). As such, it helps students of Scripture to avoid the distortions and false dichotomies that often attend reflection on justification.

Justification is a thorough and wide-ranging survey of the doctrine that commendably and self-consciously defends the formulations of justification that emerged from the Protestant Reformation. It helpfully and persuasively demonstrates not only that the Tridentine doctrine of justification is not a faithful expression of the theology of the patristic writers, but also that the Reformation stood in basic continuity with the church fathers. Horton also patiently shows that the Reformers did not construct the edifice of justification upon the foundation of late medieval nominalism, even as they recognized the deficiencies with Augustine’s particular formulation of the doctrine (1:222–23, cf. 311–32).

One further virtue of Justification is its historical, theological, and exegetical insistence that union with Christ is the necessary context within which the grace of justification is biblically situated. In doing so, Horton shows that the dichotomies often posed between either union with Christ and imputed righteousness or union with Christ and justification are false ones. He further demonstrates that understanding union as the context within which the sinner receives all of Christ’s benefits goes some distance to relieving perceived difficulties in relating justification and sanctification. Because each grace is received in union with Christ, justification and sanctification are necessarily inseparable, even as they are necessarily distinguishable.

Horton, however, is not altogether clear in the way in which he relates justification to sanctification. Summarizing his reading of Calvin, Horton speaks of justification as the “foundation for sanctification,” its “basis,” or (quoting approvingly Herman Selderhuis) its “cause” without further elaboration (1:273, 470; cf. 2.471). Elsewhere in his discussion of Calvin, he speaks of a “logical dependence of sanctification on justification” (1:271). Presumably, Horton intends in each of these statements to communicate a strictly logical or psychological priority of justification to sanctification. If, as appears to be the case, the intent is to rule out an ontological priority or a relationship of efficient causality between the two graces, a clarifying statement to that effect would have helped the reader.

Similarly, Justification, at points, speaks of justification, along with sanctification, as a “gift” or “benefit” of union with Christ (2:470–71). This way of putting things suggests a logical priority of union to justification. But elsewhere Horton says that “on the legal basis of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, believers can be united to Christ” (1:209), and “the act of justification is logically prior to union” (1:219). Here, union appears to be logically posterior to justification. The reader, then, is left less than clear with respect to how Horton understands union and the grace of justification to relate to one another.

Horton commendably offers a defense of the traditional reading of Paul’s phrase “works of the law” as “something to be done in its entirety” (2:126; cf. 97–148). He constructively engages New Perspective readings of this phrase as denoting predominantly or merely “ethnic badges” (2:104). He does so, in part, by rightly questioning such proponents’ insistence that Paul and his Jewish contemporaries regarded first-century Judaism to be a “religion of grace” (2:107).

For Horton, Paul understands “works of Torah” to denote “an all-encompassing covenant that one indwells” (1:128). As such, Paul is said to target individuals who misguidedly sought the blessings of the age to come “on the terms of the Sinai Covenant,” not “according to the covenant of grace” (2:126). In reality, they, like other Jewish persons, were “transgressors” who found themselves in the “dangerous” position of being “in a covenant based on law” (2:137). In this respect, the Jew under Torah shares the plight of the gentile—each, in different respects, is under the covenant of works (2:136, 139). Therefore, “the only hope of Jews and gentiles alike is the Abrahamic/new covenant with Christ as Mediator” (2:136).

Horton’s proffered explanation of Paul’s phrase, “works of the law,” is internally consistent and mounts a stiff challenge to recent, revisionary interpretation. His developed exposition of the phrase, however, rests upon an understanding of the Mosaic covenant that is controverted even among conservative Reformed federal theologians. Many Reformed interpreters regard Paul’s opponents to have fundamentally distorted the Mosaic covenant, which was divinely promulgated as an evangelical administration of the covenant of grace. The “works of the law,” on this reading, reflect a failure to grasp the proper nature of the Mosaic covenant. As Horton’s argument stands, readers are not adequately apprised of this intramural difference. Were a reader to demur from Horton’s understanding of the Mosaic covenant, he might not know that there is an alternative way to account for the posture of Paul’s opponents towards Torah.

In summary, Horton’s Justification is a robust articulation of the doctrine that successfully manages to situate the doctrine historically, articulate its theological importance, reflect upon its biblical foundations, and to engage firmly but charitably its contemporary critics. It will be a valuable resource to students of the doctrine for years to come. To the reader who is willing to persevere to the end of this complex and challenging survey, a rich reward is in store.

Guy Prentiss Waters
Reformed Theological Seminary
Jackson, Mississippi, USA

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The Lord Is Good: Seeking the God of the Psalter

Christopher R. J. Holmes

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The “classical” tradition of Christian theological reflection is often accused of leaving God at arm’s length from his creation, eliding all meaningful discussion of human existence. If one desired to challenge such assessments, a good place to start would be Christopher Holmes’s The Lord is Good (dedicated to the late John Webster). Holmes discusses the divine attributes with attention to divine goodness, “the preeminent claim the Psalms make with respect to God” (p. 1). Unlike the christocentric approach to the attributes which has predominated since Karl Barth, Holmes prefers to “think theocentrically,” moving back from God’s outer works to contemplate “how God is ordered to himself apart from the world” (p. 3). In doing so, he joins up Katherine Sonderegger’s “compatibilist” account of the God/world relation with Thomas Aquinas’s effort to utilize the Psalter as a comprehensive resource for theology.

Throughout the study, Holmes pursues two goals. The first is “to follow Scripture’s lead in distinguishing between what is said [of God] in a substantial or essential sense and what is said in a relational sense” (p. 4). Accordingly, Holmes first concentrates on God in se. Chapter 1 discusses divine simplicity, which states, among other things, that God alone is one whose essence is to exist. Chapter 2 describes the “unceasingly active goodness” of God, using the language of pure act (p. 33). Here Holmes establishes that while goodness is predicated of God essentially, considered relatively it is the Spirit to whom are appropriated the works of life-giving and governance on account of which “goodness” is most properly predicated. Chapter 3 follows the Psalter in speaking of one goodness. The chapter’s most arresting claim is the idea that all the divine attributes, save the “omnis” and the persons’ relational designations, are transcendentals—attributes that “leap across categories,” and are thus “properties that all things possess by virtue of their participation in God’s perfection” (pp. 66–67). Chapter 4 shows that creaturely goodness is good only to the extent that it wills what God wills – namely, God himself. Goodness, then, is the God who delights in communicating himself to the created order.

Holmes’s second goal is “to think through how goodness functions as the principle of intelligibility for creation but also the explanation for God’s ongoing presence in and to created things” (p. 6). That work begins in earnest in Chapter 5, which discusses the difference in how goodness is predicated of God and of the world, establishing that “the Creator is not extrinsic to his creation but intimately present to it” (p. 98). Chapter 6 discusses evil as a desire for “being but only in relation to ourselves” (p. 117)—a desire which, on the supposition that God is his own relation to the world, can only result in the creature’s “frenetic … advance toward nothing” (p. 118). Chapter 7 argues that the law, in inciting the cry to be taught (p. 146), expresses God’s goodness according to its own mode. Chapter 8 shows that there is no diminution of divine goodness in the Son’s incarnation; the incarnation changed the assumed human nature, but in no sense altered the goodness of the Son. Chapter 9 focuses on “the renewal of the Creator/creature distinction.” Earlier in the book, Holmes asserted that it is the task of theology patiently to discern the “implications of divine aseity for faith and practice” (p. 88). The result of that task finds expression in a dense thesis about the creature’s telos: “The last end of every creature is for that creature, in all its fullness, to share in the Lord’s goodness, participant in a manner befitting its mode of being in what is common to the three” (p. 171).

Some readers may regard Holmes’s appropriation of the neo-Thomist tradition as ill-suited to what Michael Horton has called the “covenantal-ethical” dimensions of much Reformed theology, or as liable to collapsing the Creator/creature distinction (though Holmes’s final chapter argues the contrary). Others may find it off-putting for asserting a real distinction between God and creatures, emphasizing God’s transcendence at the cost of denigrating God’s good creation; something like this claim is involved in Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen’s “classical panentheism.” Still others might perceive Holmes as capitulating to Radical Orthodoxy’s criticism of the Reformation as ushering in secular modernity through its rejection of participatory metaphysics; though it is not clear that all Reformed Orthodox theologians did so, or that Radical Orthodoxy’s claim is incontestable. Courtesy might have encouraged a gentler lead for an evangelical readership, perhaps in dialogue with Chapter 4 of Kevin Vanhoozer’s Remythologizing Theology: Divine Action, Passion, and Authorship (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012). Nevertheless, The Lord is Good states its approach clearly and deals with such concerns throughout.

The Psalms “demand a kind of moral and spiritual fitness” (p. 7). So too does Holmes’s deeply theocentric ascetical theology. Holmes contemplates the goodness of God to rouse the affections to desire God. Knowing God requires the pilgrimage of discipleship, “the affective dimension [which] is essential to any treatment of the metaphysics of God’s life” (p. 47). Holmes exhorts the theologian to aspire to become the kind of person with the moral and spiritual fitness requisite for inhabiting the Psalter. For him, as for Augustine, it is in the end gastronomy – the belches and shouts of prayer and praise engendered in and by the Psalter—that provides the mode of theological discourse most befitting the goodness of the Lord.

Samuel Fornecker
University of Cambridge
Cambridge, England, UK

Seeing God: The Beatific Vision in Christian Tradition book cover

Seeing God: The Beatific Vision in Christian Tradition

Hans Boersma

Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition: Recovering the Genius of Premodern Exegesis

Craig A. Carter

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These books join the current movement to retrieve and revive interest in classical theological resources and seek to counter what the authors see as deleterious effects of modernity. Specifically, both books orient from the authors’ view that the patristic and medieval thinkers’ mixture of a broadly Neoplatonic metaphysic and biblical theism helps to respond well to modernity’s disjointed and purely immanent understandings of history, human experience, and hermeneutics.

This outlook, which both authors refer to as Christian Platonism, holds that the deepest meaning of reality and history lies in the diverse participations of all beings in God’s infinite existence. That is, the world is not so many atomized bits of contingent matter but rather a vast hierarchy of creatures who proceed from, and therefore share in, God’s transcendent being, and who, for that reason, restlessly ascend back to God (as their telos) through his work in history. These books seek to work out what this metaphysical position entails for the beatific vision and biblical exegesis, respectively.

Hans Boersma, for example, argues that the Christian Platonic notion that all created things participate in, or partake of, God’s being supplies the only plausibility structure for his assumption that “the telos of the beatific vision lies embedded in our human nature” (Seeing God, p. 11), ordering that nature to the supernatural end of seeing God in Christ after death and even enabling us to experience God’s infinite life on earth. Likewise, Craig Carter contends that “the synthesis of Christianity and pagan philosophy in late antiquity” explains how “the Old Testament writings do actually participate in the reality that is Jesus Christ” (Interpreting Scripture, pp. 86, 151) and that this ontology of Scripture brings a deep Christological unity to the words of the Bible. Hence, a so-called “synthesis” of Christianity and paganism in Christian Platonism is essential to the proposals of each work.

In Seeing God, Boersma argues that a participatory, or as he often puts it, “sacramental” understanding of the beatific vision “points us to the recognition of the real presence of Christ already in this life, in anticipation of the beatific vision of God in the hereafter” (pp. 14–15). While the opening and concluding chapters of the book directly serve this thesis (see further below), the intervening chapters (chs. 2–12) offer a diachronic survey of various theologians’ views regarding the beatific vision. Part 1 (chs. 2–4) focuses on early Christian thought, Part 2 (chs. 5–8) on medieval theology, and Part 3 (chs. 9–12) on Protestant theology. Chapter two, the exception, traces the influence of Plato and Plotinus on later Christian accounts of the beatific vision. Boersma there lays a philosophical foundation for the themes of participation, ascent, divinization, mysticism, etc., that permeate his ensuing discussions of Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and Gregory Palamas, Symeon the New Theologian and John of the Cross, Bonaventure and Nicholas of Cusa, Dante Alighieri, John Calvin, John Donne, various Puritans (Ambrose, Owen, Baxter, Watson), Abraham Kuyper, and Jonathan Edwards. Throughout these studies, Boersma commends the ideas that he believes mesh well with his “sacramental” vision of the world and the Christian life (see, e.g., pp. 94–95, 108–9, 162, 211, 222, 313, 352–53, 383–84). The result is a fascinating survey of primary and secondary sources that traces the doctrinal development and theological disagreements regarding humanity’s final end.

The signal feature of Boerma’s work, however, is his argument that a participatory ontology entails that the visio Dei is not only proleptically present to believers today, but also progressively divinizes them throughout this life and beyond. While the notion of the creature’s metaphysical divinization may disturb evangelical readers, Boersma is simply drawing out what is implied in Christian Platonism, i.e., that eternal life is nothing less than a “deifying participation in Christ” (p. 196). That is, just as human beings sacramentally partake of God’s being in their coming from him in creation, so God graciously draws them back into himself as Christ “makes us more than human by uniting us with himself in the incarnation” (p. 221). While Christ, himself, is the deifying visio Dei, Boersma argues that even natural phenomena sacramentally contribute to our beatitude, since “everything we see with the eyes of the body today is a theophany of God in Christ” (p. 384). Eventually, the beatific vision will so transform our body and soul that “like God—and in the risen Christ—we take on incorruptibility and immortality” (p. 393).

As these quotes suggest, for Boersma, the believer’s final end is a never-ending assimilation into God’s own interior life in and through Christ. Boersma assures the reader that man’s divinization through the beatific vision “does not mean that we take the place of God” (p. 393), but it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that, for Boersma, the beatific vision will make us part of God. As evidence, Boersma expresses hope that Jonathan Edwards’ treatment of the beatific vision “will prove contagious” (p. 16), even as he agrees with Oliver Crisp that “Jonathan Edwards’ Neoplatonism implies that he was a panentheist” (p. 355, n. 5).

Craig Carter in Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition explicitly endorses Boersma’s commitment to the “sacramental” ontology of Christian Platonism (see pp. xvi, 34–36), arguing that it is the outlook of the Great Tradition (i.e., classical Christianity). However, instead of arguing for the endless divinization of creatures in the beatific vision, Carter deploys this metaphysic to “recover classical theological interpretation of Scripture for the church’s benefit today” (Interpreting Scripture, p. xv). The opening chapter sets the stage by describing a “gulf” between the modern historical-critical theories of the academy and the church’s perception of the Bible as an inspired text, using as a test case their divergent approaches to the messianic prophecy of Isaiah 53. Carter then spends three chapters laying out the theological and metaphysical program (Part 1: Theological Hermeneutics) which he argues can rectify the academy’s failures. The next three chapters (Part 2: Recovering Premodern Exegesis) build on the prior theological treatment by working out the details of Carter’s hermeneutical proposal, addressing the unity and diversity of Scripture, the issue of meaning, and the Old Testament as a Christ-laden text. The concluding chapter revisits Isaiah 53 in light of Carter’s prior discussions, assesses contemporary approaches to the text (Goldingay and Payne, Motyer, Childs), and engages with Vanhoozer and Carson regarding the current Theological Interpretation of Scripture movement.

Foundational to Carter’s retrieval effort is the idea that the Bible is the Word of God “insofar as it participates in the divine Word of God, the Second Person of the Trinity” (p. 58). By “insofar,” Carter does not mean to deny the inspired character of the Bible per se (see pp. 37–42). But, for him, inspiration is what opens up the depth of meaning conveyed through Scripture as its human words participate in God’s Word, namely, Jesus Christ. For example, Scripture’s participation in Christ accounts for the fact that God “speaks His Word through the human words of the inspired text” (p. 32), particularly as God “commandeers those texts and speaks through them” (p. 167). And because of this dynamic, it is possible “to regard what we learn from the Bible as the Word of the almighty God” (p. 36). Throughout these accounts of divine speech, Carter appeals to John Webster (to whom the book is dedicated), who depicts the Spirit’s sanctification of the biblical text (see pp. 25–26, 32–36, 58–59), noting that such language is just another way of affirming that “Scripture functions sacramentally,” both for Webster and for himself, “just as it does for Hans Boersma” (p. 35).

In other words, Carter finds Christian Platonism amenable to what “all three of us [i.e., Carter, Webster, and Boersma] are referring to when we speak of the context in which the saving self-revelation [of God] occurs to our benefit” (p. 59). That is fascinating, for if Carter is right, one can use the language of metaphysical participation to express a creature’s vertical contact with God in more sacramentally incremental (Boersma) or more sacramentally actualistic (Webster) terms. In both cases, created things—human nature for Boersma and the human words of the Bible for Carter—witness to transcendent spiritual realities precisely because God makes those created things to participate metaphysically in his own being, especially as that being is revealed in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Thomas Aquinas and Karl Barth arguably represent the most explicit and refined forms of this kind of Christological participation, but Carter’s work, perhaps unintentionally, synthesizes enough strands of thought to weave this common thread.

Carter’s intention is, itself, hermeneutical. In line with his Christian Platonism, he argues for biblical interpretation “as a sacramental activity” (p. 131) centered on Jesus Christ. That is, he indicates, just as Christ was sacramentally present in the literal forms of Israel’s life prior to the incarnation, so Christ remains sacramentally present in the literal meaning of the text of Scripture. For this reason, one need not pit the literal sense of a text against its deeper, spiritual or allegorical meaning, since, within Carter’s participationist framework, the literal meaning includes that deeper meaning within itself, just as God “encloses time within himself and transcends time in the incomprehensible mystery of his unique being” (p. 175). So whether we are dealing with the Old or New Testaments, Christ is “ontologically” present as its participated origin and end, so much so that the text “becomes the sacramental means by which we are united to Christ” (Interpreting Scripture, p. 154).

These works by Boersma and Carter have received accolades in the Reformed and evangelical world. Seeing God won Christianity Today’s 2018 award in the category of theology and ethics. Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition has been hailed as a home run on the topic of hermeneutics. However, upon careful review, it must be concluded that the metaphysical project underpinning each of these works and, therefore, the views these works espouse, conflict with the best of Reformed theology at central points. For example, though Boersma criticizes Herman Bavinck as “too this-worldly” (Seeing God, p. 38), the latter affirms a beatific vision that is firmly fixed on the presence of God and not a warm glow from worldly shalom. But Bavinck makes clear that the hope of seeing God face-to-face is the hope of consummated covenant fellowship with the triune God through a Spirit-wrought, faith-secured, non-deifying union with the risen Christ, whom believers, as creatures, will see with glorified eyes. On this account, the visio Dei is not a metaphysical elevation. It rather constitutes an ethical advancement and bodily transformation into the fullness of covenant blessing, the richest and deepest enjoyment of God of which his human image is capable. This is what Christ now enjoys in his non-deified humanity as the eternal Son in glory, and it is what he has secured for his people. Moreover, as the Westminster divines understood, the substance of this covenant blessing was revealed and applied to believers in history prior to the coming of Christ through redemptive prophecy and symbol, and the same hope is revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures thanks to the organic character of biblical typology, not because the Old Testament or its readers metaphysically participate in the person of Christ.

Unfortunately, rather than elucidate these tenets of Reformed theology, Boersma and Carter’s retrievals of patristic and medieval concepts too often obscure and even deny them. As a result, for those who seek to follow the “deeper Protestant conception” (to use the language of Geerhardus Vos), their books should prompt Christians to shun, rather than to embrace, Christian Platonism as harboring unbiblical Neoplatonic influences and to hold firmly to biblical theism as expounded in Reformed confessionalism.

R. Carlton Wynne
Westminster Theological Seminary
Glenside, Pennsylvania, US

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An Incarnational Model of the Eucharist

James M. Arcadi

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James Arcadi’s published Ph.D. thesis provides an argument for what he calls “sacramental impanation.” In particular, he employs a rich discussion of linguistic and metaphysical realities at work according to the various views of the Eucharist on offer, and advances a coherent account that is grounded in the words of Christ and the liturgy of the church. Arcadi begins by mapping the options available to explain the “mode of presence,” or, in other words, the mode by which God is uniquely (or not) present in the eucharistic elements. He articulates three broad modes of presence: the “corporeal mode,” the “pneumatic mode,” and the “no non-normal mode.” In the first instance, corporeal modes affirm that the body and blood of Christ become substantially present. Pneumatic mode adherents argue that Christ is present in the elements in a non-substantial way, and in the no non-normal family of views, there is no special presence in the elements beyond God’s general omnipresence.

Arcadi’s categorization helpfully focuses on the real differences between traditional views, only then turning to differing streams of thought within each category. Within the corporeal mode, he distinguishes between the Capernite manner, two different Roman manners, and the German manner, which also has two species, what he calls the German-Wittenberg and the German-Nuremberg. What differentiates the German manner from the Roman, is that the presence of the substance of bread and wine are maintained. According to the German manner, Christ and the bread/wine are substantially present; the difference between them lies in how they conceive of the relation between the substantially present bread/wine and the body/blood of Christ.

Arcadi reflects on the linguistic realities at work in Christ’s claims, “This is my body,” and, “This is my blood.” In what sense are these claims true? What might it mean for the body and blood of Christ to be, in some sense, connected to the bread and wine of the Eucharist? Developing a close analysis of the various options, and an engagement with Hunsinger’s notion of “real predication,” Arcadi attends to the implications for these linguistic claims concerning how one conceptualizes God’s presence. What does it mean to say that an omnipresent God is particularly present in the bread and wine? In keeping with his emphasis on the liturgical aspect of the Eucharist, Arcadi develops a notion of consecration to account for Christ’s claims about the bread and the wine, advancing recent discussions in predication to fund his account of impanation.

Arcadi prefers a version of the German-Nuremberg view, which, in contrast with the German-Wittenberg, holds to a union between Christ’s body/blood and the bread/wine that is modelled on the incarnation. Under this category there are three options: hypostatic impanation, natural impanation, and sacramental impanation, the last of which is Arcadi’s position. In hypostatic impanation, there is another hypostatic union established with the divine Word, now with the bread and wine rather than with the human soul/mind and body. In natural impanation, the soul of Christ simply enters into another kind of natural instrumental relation to the elements that parallels the soul’s instrumental relation to the body, in such a way that they can be called “the body and blood of Christ.” But for Arcadi, these options fail to give as adequate an account as sacramental impanation, which posits a sacramental union between the elements and the human body of Christ. On this view, according to Arcadi, “the body of Christ uses the consecrated bread as an instrument. As such, the bread becomes part of Christ’s body in the manner as the human nature becomes part of the composite Christ. Thus, the sacramental union is an instrumental union just as the hypostatic and natural unions are” (p. 209). An advantage to this version of impanation is that it can account, in a much more straight-forward way, how the elements are truly the body of Christ and are not owned by Christ. By focusing on the sacramental union with the body of Christ, sacramental impanation allows for a tighter connection to the words of consecration.

Aracadi demonstrates well that regardless of theological proclivities, one cannot simply ignore metaphysical judgments, claims about presence, or linguistic predication when talking about eucharist, because one must give an account of what it actually means when Christ says, “This is my body.” Furthermore, Arcadi proves to be a balanced reader of a variety of positions, and provides helpful mapping of the various options available for the reader, and whose own position is an intriguing attempt to take the words of consecration and the church’s own liturgical acts seriously with linguistic and metaphysical rigor. For that reason, I think that along with scholars who are interested in working in this area, seminary students would find this volume to be a helpful conversation partner in the development of their own thinking about these issues.

In terms of critical remarks, I will only mention one. Though Arcadi did exactly what he claimed he was going to do, I would have liked to see more biblical work done. The mode of argumentation seems to imply that the biblical material is straight-forward and the real work needed is through metaphysics and linguistic analyses. Nonetheless, Arcadi’s work proves fruitful and instructive, but broader and more in-depth biblical work would have served his overall project well.

Kyle Strobel
Talbot School of Theology
La Mirada, California, USA

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Martin Bucer (1491–1551): Collected Studies on his Life, Work, Doctrine, and Influence

Marijn de Kroon and Willem van’t Spijker

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In recent years, an upsurge of interest in Reformation and post-Reformation figures has been seen the continuing stream of monographs on John Calvin, contributions to the study of Luther, and the recent translation of Peter van Mastricht’s magnum opus, to name a few. Yet, Martin Bucer remains for those less acquainted with Reformation history something of a footnote in the life of John Calvin. As Herman J. Selderhuis notes in the introduction to this volume, “research of the biography and theology of Martin Bucer … can still be called rather new” (p. 15).

This brings us then to the aim of this book. Recognizing the relative lacuna in Bucer studies, this work offers essays by De Kroon and Van’t Spijker, two widely recognized Dutch Bucer scholars, in order “to stimulate Bucer-research” (p. 15). The essays are divided into seven different sections: (1) Bucer and tradition; (2) Bucer compared with Calvin; (3) Bucer involved in dispute; (4) Bucer and justice; (5) Bucer’s person; (6) Bucer and city reformation; and (7) Bucer and ethics. Of the twenty-two essays contained in this volume, only eight are translated into English, with three being accessible to an English-speaking readership for the first time and the remaining five bringing together in one volume essays found elsewhere.

The first section consists of three essays touching on Bucer’s use of Augustine, his relationship to the church fathers and scholasticism, and a broader essay offering insight into the relationship between the Reformation and Scholasticism.

The fourth essay of this volume, which is mistakenly listed under first section (cf. p. 7 and p. 439), discusses the relationship between Bucer and Calvin regarding predestination. Van’t Spijker provides four of the five essays in this section, building a case for a relationship of reciprocity and respect between Bucer and Calvin. Here, we find comparison and analysis of their shared view of the Holy Spirit over against that of Luther and Zwingli as well as other significant points of theological and ecclesial continuity between them. De Kroon’s one essay in this section reinforces the findings of Van’t Spijker with his exploration of Bucer and Calvin’s respective views of Romans 13.

If the second section is characterized by agreement, the third is characterized by theological dispute and contention. The first essay here surveys the controversy between Johannes Marbach and Jerome Zanchi regarding predestination, which is a telling controversy as the latter was clearly in continuity with Bucer both theologically and methodologically. Another essay discusses Luther’s infamous rejection of Bucer’s attempts at unity, which again highlights the differences that existed between figures in the Reformation period. In two additional essays, Bucer is seen also as a disputant with the Catholic Reformation theologian Ruard Tapper as well as with Konrad Braun on the relationship between church proper and faith, and the role of laymen in “religious talks” (pp. 250–53).

The fourth section consists of two essays dealing with what amounts to the complex yet thoroughly Reformational (i.e., state as protector of the church) approach of Bucer to the question of the church/state relationship. The fifth section explores Bucer’s relationship to Pietism and what his wills and testaments demonstrate about him as a person. The sixth discusses Bucer’s role in Cologne and details correspondences between Bucer and Gereon Sailers during the Augsburg Reformation. The last section provides a look at Bucer’s approach to ethics, treating such topics as freedom, tolerance, political leadership, and the Lord’s Supper.

This collection of essays gives us a fascinating look at the Strasbourg Reformer Martin Bucer from many different perspectives and angles. What emerges then from these essays is the complexity that characterized both the man himself and the times in which he lived. They ably demonstrate that Bucer should not be relegated to a mere footnote in the life of John Calvin. In fact, the second section helps us to see how indebted to Bucer Calvin truly was and moreover how much Bucer shaped and influenced the broader Reformation movement.

We gain the picture of a man who loved Christ, loved the church, and firmly believed in the Reformation. Yet, Bucer was a man that knew great suffering as well, as seen in the essays on his personal life, his correspondences, and his failed attempts to unite with a Luther-lead Wittenberg.

In sum, the aim of this collection of essays to stimulate “Bucer-research” is largely met. Many of the essays are crafted so as to encourage the reader to explore further areas that are only touched on. Also, the relative brevity of the essays leave room for more development. At the same time, these essays are able to hold the interest of both the beginning student and scholar of Reformation studies. One of the greatest challenges to the overall aim is that just over a third of the essays are translated into English thus reducing the usefulness of this volume for those unable to read the remaining fourteen German essays. But for those able to read German and English, this is a superb and highly recommended volume of essays characterized by clear writing and historical erudition.

Thomas Haviland-Pabst
Emmaus Church
Asheville, North Carolina, USA

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Human Nature from Calvin to Edwards

Paul Helm

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In Human Nature from Calvin to Edwards, Helm examines the neglected topic of the Reformed perspective on human nature in and of itself (not the well-researched topic of human nature as created, fallen, redeemed, and glorified) by detailing perspectives of the soul according to representative theologians between 1550 and 1750. Though their views were diverse, all of these theologians used faculty psychology to make sense of human beings. Helm does not attempt to provide an apologetic for this framework but does claim that their understanding of the whole person—including concepts like consciousness and conscience—went beyond a one-dimensional perspective of a purely physical existence.

Chapters one and two explain the roots of faculty psychology as found in Augustine and Aquinas, and Reformed anthropology as found in Calvin and Vermigli. Augustine, influenced by Plato, believed that memory influenced understanding and emotions were actions of the will. He prioritized the will over the other faculties, defining it as unfree or turned around because of sin yet still being the power by which one chooses. Aquinas, influenced by Aristotle, prioritized the mind, arguing that if sound reason dictated the passions, it would lead to virtuous behavior. Later theologians were deeply influenced by these two figures. Though Calvin was suspicious of philosophical approaches to the soul, worrying that they underplayed sin, he still believed that reason was active after the fall despite its limitations to receive divine truth. On the other hand, Vermigli willingly used Aquinas’s approach and promoted the compatibilist view of actions as originally caused by outside forces, though people were responsible for their unforced choices.

Chapter three outlines the Reformed orthodox view of the body and soul in general. Many used hylomorphism—the Aristotelian view that “the soul is the form of certain matter” (p. 12)—and taught that the soul and body are connected (though some like Purnell were more dualistic than others like Flavel), the soul animates the body, and the soul is simple, immaterial, and immortal.

Chapters four–six directly address the faculties. Though some of the Reformed orthodox were voluntarists, most were intellectualists who aligned with Aquinas in believing that the intellect is the superior faculty that directs the will in its action. In fact, many of the orthodox believed that the subordination of the will to the intellect was a metaphysical necessity, saying the intellect provided vision to the blind will. Often, debates regarding the freedom of the will led to connections between freedom and being in a state of grace. There were also various views and definitions of moral ability and inability, such as Owen’s emphasis on the loss of intellectual ability in the fall versus Truman’s on the loss of willingness. The affections were sometimes referred to as a third faculty and other times as an aspect of the will, but either way they were not to be discarded to achieve rationality. Rather, affections were meant to be used in godly ways as directed by reason to achieve virtue.

Chapter seven addresses issues and debates related to the interplay of the faculties. For example, various perspectives on the interconnectedness of the faculties’ powers affected in-group debates about faith and assurance. Further, the Reformed orthodox debated with outside groups about issues related to the faculties, such as their disagreement with the Arminian tendency to lessen the negative effects of the fall on the functioning of the will. Lastly, chapter eight addresses Edwards, showing he argued that the soul of a person not the faculty of the will had the power to choose, and he disagreed with the Reformed orthodox view that affections come from the will and are guided by reason when he stated that sensations move the will to act.

In sum, Helm’s book contributes to scholarship on the Reformed view of human nature, makes antiquated and complicated ideas easier to understand, and presents the Reformed tradition in a nuanced way. The reader will quickly see that the concepts Helm interacts with are steeped in old debates and thus difficult to understand today, but Helm’s use of clear and straight-forward language makes them accessible. Further, Helm’s previous work Calvin and the Calvinists, which debunked stereotypes about Calvinism, shines through in his statements related to the Reformed orthodox use of Aristotle (which arise quite frequently in this book), as well as each figure’s uniqueness and connectedness to other figures. Helm does not describe each figure’s perspective of a certain concept in a vacuum but refers to relevant historical and literary information. This is important because many figures used faculty psychology as a method but did not write an anthropology that outlined their method in a systematic way, which means one quote must often be understood in light of other information.

Unfortunately, since several chapters deal with a vast array of figures and topics, it becomes very difficult to synthesize information in order to create a coherent idea of what the Reformed orthodox believed about human nature. This is partly unavoidable given the natural diversity of views even within one theological camp, but perhaps this work could have been helped by adding visual aids like charts or a list of definitions to enable the reader to categorize the many technical terms they will encounter in the context of different figures and debates.

Jenny-Lyn de Klerk
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Kansas City, Missouri, USA

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Still Protesting: Why the Reformation Matters

D. G. Hart

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Can Protestants and Roman Catholics be allies in the culture wars being waged against the Christian faith and values? This is the question that the historic seminar of “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” gathered to address in the spring of 1994. Leading scholars signed and published a statement that explained the need and “responsibility for Evangelicals and Catholics to be Christians together in a way that helps prepare the world for the coming” of Christ. The advancement of ecumenicism has grown even stronger today, as evidenced in the dramatic decrease of Christians who identified as Protestant in a 2017 Barna poll. In response, D. G. Hart seeks to remind readers of “the enduring strengths of historic Protestantism” and the vital need to recover its teachings, arguing that “debates that divided the two sides of Western Christianity still matter” (p. xiii).

This book stands as a defense of Reformed Protestantism and its teachings on salvation, worship, and the institutional church, in the current context where an increasing number of Protestants are converting to Roman Catholicism. Hart contends that the gulf between the two cannot be bridged if one truly cares about “the holiness of God, the demands of His law, human sinfulness, and the reality of eternal punishment for disobeying Him.” (pp. xii–xiii). In this well-written and at times biting work, Hart unapologetically calls Protestants to stand against Rome’s teachings by holding fast to the historic Protestant biblical teachings, particularly the sufficiency of Christ for salvation.

Published shortly after the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, this book is a timely addition to the corpus of works written on Protestant/Catholic relations in the twenty-first century, which include Christian Smith’s How to Go from Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in Ninety-Five Difficult Steps (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2011) and Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom’s Is the Reformation Over? An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008). In contrast to these works, however, this volume sets out to support historic Protestantism’s relevance for today. Hart is an elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Distinguished Associate Professor of History at Hillsdale College, and has authored important works on church history and the Reformation tradition, including Calvinism: A History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013). In this work, the former dean of academic affairs at Westminster Seminary in California lives up to Barton Swaim’s characterization of him as “a cantankerous conservative, a stalwart Presbyterian and a talented polemicist with a delightfully perverse sense of humor” (“The Eating of Sausages,” Wall Street Journal, 19 August 2013,

In this concise work of 207 pages that includes a helpful index, Hart utilizes Reformed and Catholic documents and reputable secondary sources to make his case for the enduring relevance of historic Protestantism. The introduction opens by positing that the arguments of scholars such as Christian Smith “are not sufficient to overcome the enormous problems in Roman Catholicism” (p. 7). Chapters one through five examine significant aspects of the Reformation including the reason for the Reformation, the authority of Scripture, the doctrine of justification by faith alone, the reforming of church governance, and the doctrine of vocation. In the second half of the book (chs. 6–10), Hart defends Protestantism against major Catholic objections including its newness and divisions, its lack of aesthetics, and its agency of the woes of modernity and liberalism.

This volume is a particularly helpful resource for Protestants considering Catholicism. Chapter three and the conclusion serve as a powerful call to continue to stand firm in the Protestant tradition for the sufficiency of Christ. Hart persuasively demonstrates that “the gospel, truthfulness of Scripture, and danger of idolatry are still as much at stake in Roman Catholicism as they were at the time of the Reformation” (p. 195). Another highlight of the book is chapter five, “Vocation: Spirituality for Ordinary Life.” As Hart adeptly shows, the Protestant doctrine of vocation resolved the daily tension ordinary believers felt regarding holy activities and common ones, enabling everyone to “serve God and love their neighbor in regular activities” (p. 84). Hart helps the reader recognize the spiritual value of worldly vocations and the application of salvation to all areas of life.

In Still Protesting, Hart evidences his reformed perspective by focusing on the flaws of Roman Catholicism, building his defense of Protestantism primarily on the defects of Catholicism. The author offers an excellent reminder of the enduring theological truths of historic Protestantism. He, however, shies away from acknowledging some of its missteps, tending to see it through rose-colored lenses. While a concise book such as this cannot cover every issue that has divided Protestants and Catholics, it is surprising that Hart does not give a more extended treatment to the key theological concerns of papal infallibility and the sacraments, particularly transubstantiation. It is also interesting that Hart, being trained as a historian, relies heavily on secondary sources, including Thomas Bokenkotter, Brian Kelly and Mark Noll, to explain the historical and theological context. Yet, this is appropriate for a book aimed more at the layperson than the academy. Hart’s words can be biting at times. For example, calling contemporary Roman Catholicism “incoherent if not schizophrenic” (p. 165) may cause some readers to dismiss him. In this, Hart has taken to heart not only Luther’s theological views but also his polemical voice. This tone may best serve a Protestant audience already convinced that Rome “erred about the things of God” (p. 196).

For Protestants exploring Catholicism or the question of whether Catholics and Protestants can be allies for the gospel, this is an excellent resource. It offers a robust historical and theological critique of Rome, arguing that the differences between Roman Catholics and Protestants extend beyond ecclesiastical matters to the central issue of salvation.

Karin Spiecker Stetina
Talbot School of Theology
La Mirada, California, USA

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Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church

Michael Graves, ed.

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Ad fontes! This was the call of the Renaissance humanists, and later the Protestant Reformation, to go back “to the sources.” With this call came a renewed emphasis on the study of Greek and Latin classics, as well as the Christian Scriptures in the original languages. Additionally, this brought about renewed interest in the early voices of Christian history: the Greek and Latin texts of the church fathers. According to the series editor George Kalantzis (Professor of Theology, Wheaton College), the goal of the Ad Fontes series is “to invite readers ‘to return to the sources,’ to discover firsthand the riches of the common Christian tradition and to gain a deeper understanding of the faith and practices of early Christianity” (p. viii). In this volume, Michael Graves (Armerding Professor of Biblical Studies at Wheaton College) seeks to “provide a useful survey of early Christian interpretation of Scripture through primary sources” (p. xi). Graves’s entry to this series includes selections from fifteen sources, ranging from the second through the fifth centuries, in order to provide readers with an introduction to the theory and practice of early Christian biblical interpretation. The reasoning behind the selection of texts is both to “illustrate major features of Christian exegesis, such as christological typology, proofs from prophecy, appeal to the Rule of Faith, salvation-historical paradigms, and use of Scripture to refute heresy” (pp. xi–xii) and to “articulate coherent ideas about how to interpret Scripture and also treat specific biblical texts with enough detail to show how the theoretical ideas work in practice” (p xii). Thus, Graves illuminates the past for the purpose of helping modern readers to better interpret Scripture for today and the future.

The book begins with an introduction to early Christian interpretation, defining and elaborating the early Christian understanding of the literal and spiritual senses of Scripture. The remainder of the book consists of selection from fifteen different authors in the early Christian period. Leading up to the third century, Graves provides selections from the Epistle of Barnabas, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Cyprian. The later selections include works from Origen, Eusebius of Caesarea, Ephrem the Syrian, Diodore of Tarsus, Gregory of Nyssa, Jerome, Theodore of Mopsuestia, John Chrysostom, Augustine, and John Cassian. Graves gives a historical overview of each figure, including how each provides helpful insight into understanding early Christian interpretation. The remainder of each chapter is made up of primary source selections. While Graves mostly provides reading from a single work for each given author, the chapter on Origen includes selections from multiple works.

This is a good resource for those wishing to begin their studies in understanding early Christian biblical interpretation. For the novice, each section provides a different facet of early Christian interpretation, including its theological and practical function. Graves provides a wide range of sources, and his insights help readers advance in their knowledge of early Christian interpretive practices. Even those who have some experience in this area may find something new and helpful given the diverse group of figures examined in this text.

With that said, it is up to the reader to take up Graves’s challenge to “facilitate historically informed critical reflection on early Christian biblical interpretation and so provide a useful resource for contemporary theology” (p. xxix). He does not simply spoon feed his audience but sets the table so that readers may decide where and in what ways to enjoy the feast. With this in mind, some may feel that Graves’s selection of texts is too limited and consider his historical overview and interpretive comments too brief and cursory. If this is the case, then such readers should look to more specialized texts on early Christian biblical interpretation focusing on specific figures or topics. Based on the book’s stated purpose and scope, Graves accomplishes his task of introducing readers who are unfamiliar to this area by providing prominent texts and figures to consider. Thus, it should be seen as a primer and not an encyclopedia.

For those teaching introductory courses in early Christian interpretation, this text would make a great addition to one’s syllabus. However, its usefulness extends past the classroom and could easily be used for church-based studies on biblical interpretation, or for equipping lay leaders to understand the history of biblical interpretation. For the reader looking for a primer on early Christian biblical interpretation, may they heed the call of ad fontes and return “to the sources” provided in Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church.

Coleman M. Ford
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Louisville, Kentucky, USA

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Debating Perseverance: The Augustinian Heritage in Post-Reformation England

Jay T. Collier

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One of two broad stories tends to be told about the nature of the post-Reformation Church of England. The first narrates the early emergence of a distinctive Anglican via media, characterized by deep commitment to the theology of the early fathers over that of the continental reformers. This reading, associated with scholars such as H. R. McAdoo and Peter White, perceives a smooth line running from the early Elizabethan bishops, through the Caroline divines, and on to the Restoration—a line along which the puritan movement represents an eccentric disruption. The second story presents the early modern English Church as far more self-consciously reformed in its theology and practice. This more recent view, evident in the work of Patrick Collinson, Peter Lake and others, questions the extent to which an early “Anglicanism” may be discerned, arguing that the Church of England sits quite recognizably within the broad international reformed consensus of the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

Into this debate steps Jay T. Collier with his study Debating Perseverance: The Augustinian Heritage in Post-Reformation England. Extending the work of the latter group of scholars in particular, Collier takes the view that, rather than identifying either the fathers or the reformed as the primary source of English theological identity, a more profitable way forward is to take “both the Reformed churches and the early church fathers as confluent sources of identity for the Church of England” (p. 19). Within this approach, Collier examines the way in which a catholic commitment to the writings of one figure from the early Church in particular, Augustine, was determinative in English debates over the key doctrinal distinctive of the reformed tradition—the perseverance of the saints. Collier surveys five episodes from the period in which, he argues, this combination of reformed and catholic commitment served to set the terms of and direct the debate.

First, in the development of the Lambeth Articles of 1595, Collier demonstrates the extent to which perseverance was at issue in the controversy, something underappreciated in earlier studies. He also shows that the Articles’ final form reflected Whitgift’s desire to allow latitude on the issue of perseverance, within the bounds of a commitment to unconditional election, partly on the basis that such views represented valid readings of Augustine—a reformed leniency, enabled by the value placed upon legitimate catholicity.

Collier then turns to the failed attempt of the British delegation at Dort to secure a similar breadth within the Synod’s statement on perseverance. This failure, Collier argues, led to formative pressure being placed upon an English church which had tolerated minority Augustinian positions on perseverance, but which the international reformed consensus had now determined as unacceptable.

The third and fourth episodes are the controversies surrounding Richard Montagu in the 1620s. The disputes with Montagu have been characterized, in both the polemics of the time and in later historiography, as taking place between “Arminians” and “Calvinists.” Collier shows, however that this is an over-simplification. Montagu’s denial of the perseverance of the saints sat alongside an Augustinian view of election and effectual grace, rather than emerging from Arminian convictions.

Lastly, Collier surveys the altercations in the 1650s with the genuinely Arminian John Goodwin. In so doing he demonstrates an on-going disagreement over Augustine that persisted amongst theologians who were pro-Dort and pro-Westminster, not only concerning perseverance, but also on where one should draw the proper bounds of acceptable catholic orthodoxy.

Collier’s study effectively dismantles overly simplistic characterizations of the post-Reformation Church of England, and of the reformed tradition more generally. His attentive reading of primary documents contributes to the picture of an Augustinian Protestantism in England that was more diverse and subtle in its internal distinctions than both popular and some scholarly presentations have suggested, specifically because of the importance to virtually all parties of being recognizably reformed and catholic in doctrine and practice. Of course, Collier maintains that certain boundaries existed. Unconditional election, and the perseverance of the elect at the very least, were non-negotiables for those who sought a unity with both Augustine and the broader reformation. But the sharp lines drawn at times between Calvinist Puritans who looked to the continent and Arminian conformists who looked to the past are effectively shown to be unhelpful and misleading.

Collier’s task is a descriptive one, and he performs it admirably. As such, his book is perfect for anyone with an historical interest in the period he surveys, and it is a model of the kind of historiography that avoids mischaracterizing its subject matter by viewing it through the lens of contemporary concerns. However, having done that work, it would be of benefit to hear what implications—if any—Collier thinks may be drawn from his study for contemporary claims regarding the proper nature, substance, and boundaries of reformed and Anglican identity. Are the events he examines a cautionary tale for those who would draw the lines too narrowly, or too widely, or both? Do they provide a model for the way in which various ancient and contemporary exegetical practices may or may not legitimately be appealed to in the course of ecclesial debate? Can the “reformed catholic” sensibilities of the early modern English churchmen inform the agenda of recent moves to kindle a similar sensibility in the 21st century church? Collier’s assessment of these questions, in light of his wonderful study, would be warmly welcomed.

Thom Bull
Trinity Theological College
Perth, Western Australia, Australia

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Debated Issues in Sovereign Predestination: Early Lutheran Predestination, Calvinian Reprobation, and Variations in Genevan Lapsarianism

Joel R. Beeke

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Joel Beeke’s Debated Issues in Sovereign Predestination may have an intimidating subtitle (“Calvinian Reprobation, and Variations in Genevan Lapsarianism”) but this ought not dissuade prospective readers. This book offers a clear, judicious exploration of aspects of predestination that many modern readers are prone to ignore or dismiss as unimportant. In fact, as Beeke ably demonstrates, “lapsarian” issues have unexpected theological and pastoral significance.

The book focuses on three theological questions. First, does God’s act of predestination only refer to his positive, saving act wherein he chose individuals for salvation prior to creation (election), or does it also include an active predestining of the non-elect to damnation (reprobation)? This is the difference between single and double predestination. In single-predestination God passively passes by those not elected to salvation, whereas in double-predestination he actively reprobates them. Second, Did God regard the objects of his predestining act as sinners in his sight (infralapsarianism) or as uncreated, non-sinners (supralapsarianism)? Stated differently, did God predestine the elect out of a fallen humanity, or did he set out to create two groups of people, those saved and those condemned, without sin yet being in view? Finally, what are the theological and pastoral consequences of one’s answers to these questions?

The book consists of three parts. First, Beeke traces the themes of predestination and reprobation in Lutheranism from Luther to the Formula of Concord (1577), before offering historical and theological comparison and evaluation. Second, he expounds Calvin’s doctrine of reprobation and follows it through Calvin’s theological development. The final section highlights “lapsarian variations” among subsequent Genevan theologians up to the eighteenth century. Each section deals with a disputed historical and theological issue: the nature of early Lutheran views on predestination; the character of Calvin’s views on reprobation; and the relative prevalence of infralapsarian and supralapsarian options among Genevan theologians from Beza to Tronchin.

Part one offers a fascinating narrative of the development of early Lutheran attitudes to predestination. Martin Luther (1483–1546) could assert reprobation very strongly, but he often tempered it through appeal to his distinction between the “hidden” and “revealed” God. This allowed him to avoid difficult lapsarian questions by locating them in the mystery of God’s undisclosed will. Luther was concerned with the pastoral value of predestination as a source of comfort and assurance. Undergirding the tensions in Lutheran thought on predestination from the start is a Law-Gospel distinction that will only allow doctrines of the gospel to have positive pastoral application. Whilst Luther could use reprobation to a positive pastoral end (e.g. to promote humility and gratitude), later Lutherans would struggle to find any positive use of reprobation and would jettison the concept.

In part two, Beeke engages historical and theological scholarship on the place of reprobation in Calvin’s thought. Beeke demonstrates that Calvin taught active reprobation (double-predestination), and that this was at least implicitly present in his earliest work. This section traces the development of Calvin’s views on reprobation and offers a valuable explanation of Calvin’s distinction between two causes of reprobation: God is the remote cause of reprobation, whilst man’s sin is the proximate cause. This distinction is worthy of careful reflection. It simultaneously demonstrates that God’s reprobating act is just (sinners deserve condemnation), and yet that human actions in no way cause or influence God’s acts, even in the case of reprobation. These are subtle matters and Beeke explains them well.

The final section lays out the lapsarian options among later Genevan theologians, focusing on Theodore Beza (1519–1605) and Francis Turretin (1623–1687). It also makes significant reference to Giovanni Diodati (1576–1649), Theodore Tronchin (1582–1657), Benedict Turretin (1588–1631), Friedrich Spanheim (1600–1649), Louis Tronchin (1629–1705), Benedict Pictet (1655–1724) and Jean-Alphonse Turretin (1671–1737).

Beza has often been mischaracterised in the “Calvin versus the Calvinists” debate as the decisive scholastic distorter of Calvin’s theology. Beeke takes two chapters to demonstrate Beza’s essential continuity with Calvin and his pastoral sensitivity, which flies in the face of many notions of what “scholastic” theologians were like. Although Beza was supralapsarian, Genevan theology after him was dominated by infralapsarians. Francis Turretin, for example, rejected supralapsarianism largely due what he perceived to be its theological and pastoral implications. Beeke’s study repeatedly highlights how these sophisticated Reformed theologians were also profoundly pastorally oriented and possessed a deep concern for the edification the church.

This final section of the book also tells a story of theological decline. Both the older Tronchin and the older two Turretins (Benedict and Francis) were orthodox Reformed theologians. However, the next generations (Louis Tronchin and Jean-Alphonse Turretin) adopted various modernist and rationalist ideas which severely compromised their theology.

Beeke’s study concludes with ten theological implications. Alongside accurately presenting the views of the theologians he covers, Beeke uses his study to argue for what he views as properly Reformed views of predestination. He presents both infralapsarian and supralapsarian positions as legitimately belonging to the Reformed camp. However, he strongly advocates for double-predestination and uses his historical survey to argue that single predestination has unintended negative consequences. “Lutheran history confirms that a monergistic, single predestination is neither a biblical nor rational solution; repressed reprobation must end in repressed election.” (p. 74)

This is a bold claim, extending beyond history into biblical exegesis, and theological and pastoral consequences. Readers will need to make up their own mind whether they find Beeke’s theological critique convincing, but his study puts the reader in a good position to do just that.

This book invites further study in several directions. How did other early Reformed theologians treat these themes? Did the unintended theological consequences that Beeke observes playing out in Lutheranism and in Geneva develop similarly elsewhere? The theological argument of the book would be significantly bolstered if similar patterns could be observed in other Reformed centers and networks, and in later eras.

In sum this is a very useful book, not only to theologians, but also to pastors. It is essential reading for anyone interested in early modern Reformed thought.

Matthew N. Payne
University of Sydney
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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Communal Reading in the Time of Jesus: A Window into Early Christian Reading Practices

Brian J. Wright

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This book, the product of Wright’s doctoral studies at Ridley College, challenges the current scholarly consensus regarding how early Christians would have interacted with written texts in the first century CE—a consensus to which the author formerly subscribed. In contrast to the prevailing view that reading was an elite phenomenon and that 90% of the population was illiterate, Wright contends that communal reading events were geographically widespread in the Roman Empire and exhibited a staggering diversity of venues, occasions, genres, readers, and audience members. (By “communal,” he means involving two or more persons, whether in a public or private setting—in other words, Wright is not addressing silent or individual reading.) Furthermore, Wright asserts that the earliest Christians centered their communities on such reading events, creating a distinctly bookish culture in which Old Testament, apostolic, and other texts were read aloud, heard, and discussed.

In chapter 1, Wright declares that the “entire subject of communal reading events and their role in controlling literary traditions has been largely neglected in early Christian studies” (p. 4), which he then substantiates by surveying the relevant scholarly literature and the recent discussion of “quality controls” for the transmission of the earliest Jesus traditions. Chapter 2 lays out the limits of his study: Wright will examine literary evidence that can be reasonably dated to the first century, which may or may not include certain key Greek and Latin terms. Chapter 3 argues that economic and political conditions in the first century Roman Empire were favorable for communal reading events and that writing materials and manuscripts were not as cost-prohibitive as previously imagined. Likewise, increased travel and mobility would have fostered the distribution of written texts and their recitation in diverse locations. Chapter 4 describes the social dynamics at work within communal reading events, including audience participation, and claims that these events were “deeply embedded within the social fabric of society” (p. 45). This chapter also explains the Jewish background to early Christian reading practices, particularly the role of synagogues.

With these parameters in place, chapter 5 surveys “a selective and specifically targeted set of literary evidence in order to identify where there is enough evidence to find a plausible context for communal reading events in the Greco-Roman world apart from the New Testament writings” (p. 61). Wright examines 20 Greek, Roman, and Jewish authors—such as Epictetus, Ovid, Martial, Dio Chrysostom, Quintilian, Seneca the Younger, Philo, and Josephus—and concludes that communal reading events are attested in 23 specific locations and several broader regions, spanning the entire reach of the Roman Empire. Then in chapter 6, Wright finds evidence of communal reading events in every single book of the New Testament. While Wright analyzes several passages that directly describe or commend communal reading, much of the evidence he offers is indirect. He concludes that the New Testament refers to communal reading events in 28 specific locations and more than a dozen generalized areas, not all of which were urban. A brief seventh chapter summarizes the findings and contributions of this study and an appendix catalogues another 142 texts from 60 additional authors witnessing to communal reading events in a somewhat expanded time scale (100 BCE–200 CE).

In the opinion of this reviewer, the preponderance of evidence Wright marshals in this book more than establishes his baseline contention that communal reading events were geographically widespread in the Roman Empire of the first century CE. Furthermore, although one might occasionally quibble with the NT evidence that Wright sets forth in chapter 6 and the conclusions drawn from it, it is hard to argue with his cumulative case: communal reading of various texts is well-attested among the earliest Christians throughout the Empire. However, the most interesting and potentially most significant parts of this book can be found around the edges of his central argument, when Wright hints at the implications of his findings for historical Jesus research, orality and literacy, New Testament textual transmission, early Christian social identity, and even canonicity. Throughout the book Wright makes provocative forays into these areas, but then quickly returns to his more limited and judicious focus on mapping the geographical distribution of reading events. (Wright’s published articles, reviews, and interviews have begun to fill out his broader perspective on these controversial matters.)

The largest contribution of this book is its careful culling and analysis of literary evidence illuminating a woefully neglected topic. Now that Wright has compiled all this data, the task remains to sort through and debate all the implications. It is a testament to the importance and brilliance of this book that one may wonder, as D. A. Carson does in his endorsement, “why these things have not been brought to light before.”

Alexander N. Kirk
The Evangelical Theological Seminary of Indonesia
Yogyakarta, Indonesia

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Der Brief des Paulus an die Römer: Kapitel 1–5

Eckhard J. Schnabel

Der Brief des Paulus an die Römer: Kapitel 6–16

Eckhard J. Schnabel

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The HTA commentary series aims to probe the texts literarily and within their ancient contexts without neglecting the texts’ theological significance for today. The authors engage Scripture with critical minds and with a disposition of trust toward the text and its divine inspiration, attending to meaty exegesis while keeping in view the history and relevance of the theological conversation. Few books have been subject to as much debate as Paul’s epistle to the Romans, whose every chapter has given way to mountains of secondary literature and theological controversy. Eckhard J. Schnabel’s two-volume contribution on Romans offers almost 1,500 pages of commentary (not including indices or bibliographies) on Paul’s letter. This review will briefly sketch his approach to the letter’s background and theology.

Volume 1 opens with an introduction to Paul’s life and mission (based on Acts and the letters) and the background of this epistle. Schnabel locates Paul’s writing in Corinth during the winter of AD 56/57, viewing it as Paul’s direct dictation to Tertius. He views the congregations addressed in the letter as having grown up especially out of the synagogues and consisting, by Paul’s time, of about five house-churches. Roman Christianity was likely primarily Gentile, probably mostly God-fearers who already worshiped Abraham’s God but were uncircumcised before believing the gospel, but also including Jewish believers. Paul wrote only two years or so after Jews returned to Rome after Claudius’s expulsion, which affects the letter’s background (Schnabel surmises that this affected the availability of kosher butchering, which caused the apparent asceticism addressed in Romans 14). Planning a trip to Spain by way of Rome, Paul lays out and defends his gospel, often against a “typical Jew” (vol. 1, p. 39) addressed singularly as “you.” This makes the main body of the gospel proclamation (1:16–11:36) appear somewhat “independent” (vol. 1, p. 38) from the situation of Paul’s mostly-Gentile addressees. Schnabel overviews possibilities but does not pronounce definitively on Paul’s purpose in writing Romans, noting that Paul does not explicitly name what he hopes to achieve or to get from his audience (cf. Rom 15:24).

The main body of the commentary is formatted thus: each section begins with a fresh translation of a passage, followed by an overview of the passage’s place in the book and text-critical issues; next comes a verse by verse explanation. Finally, the commentator reflects on historical or contemporary-theological issues addressed by the passage (e.g., sexual ethics after Rom 1:18–32, a discussion of whether there is any ecological/environmental significance in Rom 8:19–22). Summaries of differing views or academic debates are usually kept to small-print excursuses. This format makes the volume easily referenced for teachers and preachers, as theological exposition takes the lion’s share of the page. Likewise, Schnabel’s German is eminently readable, and his translation is both clear and accurate (translating Χριστός consistently as Messias [“Messiah”]).

Romans is held dear by most Christian communions for the theology it expresses, even as each disagrees over central topics in the letter. Schnabel’s commentary does not treat every differing theological position, but dialogues with many and brings nuance and insight to many debates in which his exposition must participate. He emphasizes that justification—a main theological topic—is God’s righteousness communicated to humans as a gift, and yet is a saving power that grips and justifies believing sinners to free them from sin and draw them into real ethical life in Christ (see the excursuses on the righteousness of God [1:174–80] and the New Perspective [1:65–69]). Schnabel’s treatment of Paul’s soteriology in many commentary passages combines an unrelenting emphasis on the free forgiveness of sins in Christ with an understanding of real transformation as believers are transferred from the reign of sin to become God’s servants. This corresponds to his views on the (debated) passages about the final judgment and keeping the law in Romans 2:7, 10, 13–14 and elsewhere, which he argues are not hypothetical, but pertain to Christians who keep the law according to the new covenant, the law written on the heart (cf. Jer 31:33; see for example 1:299–300). Similarly, he argues that the depiction of the reign of sin in Romans 7:7–25 is about “the past,” a characterization of the pre-conversion human condition, whereas Romans 8:1 begins talk about the believer’s “present,” in which believers are forgiven in Christ and live anew by the Spirit. His discussion of Romans 11 emphasizes the priority and efficacy of grace, while maintaining that human faith empowered by grace is a requisite for which humans will be held accountable. He explains Paul’s hope for Israel according to the flesh with an emphasis on faith in Christ rather than outlining a separate dispensation, and takes “all Israel” in Romans 11:26 to refer to all believers in Christ.

Schnabel is good in the introduction and throughout at noting the way Paul’s diatribe drives his proclamation toward the edge of a logical cliff and then pulls back to counter false conclusions some might draw (e.g., a non-priority to Israel in 3:1–4, cheap grace in 6:1–2). He is attentive to rhetorical devices in the letter. The word studies provided in excursuses are likewise well done and quite helpful, attending to Jewish and Greco-Roman backgrounds for Paul’s terms and their significance.

No commentary can say everything, of course, and good ones have their weaknesses. One was surprised to see a considerably long discussion insisting that baptism in Romans 6:1–4 is metaphorical and may only secondarily relate to “water baptism” (2:23–36)—much of which struck one as historically and linguistically unconvincing—with theological reflections following. On the other hand, Paul’s comment about marriage in Romans 7:2 is not compared with similar statements in Paul or the Gospels for its modern relevance in the church. The commentary’s greatest lack, in my view, correlates with its introduction. Schnabel’s view that much of the letter’s argument is somewhat independent of his addressees’ situation is not only debatable, it also affects much of the commentary at the level of theological exposition. Schnabel highlights and expounds Paul’s gospel in Romans very well, and readers who disagree will still benefit from consulting him. But the commentary is often lighter than one might hope regarding potential social situations or effects at which Paul’s arguments might be driving.

This being said, Schnabel has offered very helpful commentary on Paul’s most debated letter. I certainly will be consulting it. It is theologically insightful and clear, and attends well to Paul’s terms and logic. It will repay scholars as well as German-reading pastors and teachers.

James B. Prothro
Ave Maria University
Ave Maria, Florida, USA

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Both Judge and Justifier: Biblical Legal Language and the Act of Justifying in Paul

James B. Prothro

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James B. Prothro currently serves as Assistant Professor of Theology at Ave Maria University. Both Judge and Justifier is the published version of his PhD thesis completed under the supervision of Simon Gathercole at Cambridge University. As is well known, the issue of justification in Paul’s letters is hotly debated, and Prothro’s monograph attempts to contribute to this discussion by addressing the basic lexical question: what does Paul mean when he uses the verb “justify” (δικαιόω)?

After introducing this issue, Prothro begins his work by staking the claim that Paul’s use of the verb “justify” is biblical legal language. This is clear, Prothro suggests, by virtue of the fact that both Paul and the Septuagint use the Greek term for “justify” exclusively for positive judgment in contrast to its typical usage as a term for negative judgement (pp. 3–5). In the remainder of the first chapter, Prothro surveys the variety of recent scholarly views about the meaning of “justify” in Paul, and he then suggests that the distinctive meaning that Paul attributes to this verb indicates that Paul’s employment of it should be examined in the context of its use in pre-Pauline Jewish literature written in Greek.

The following four chapters then examine the use of “justify” within this literature. Prothro surveys the use of “justify” first in contexts that involve only human actors and then in those that involve God in some capacity. Prothro subdivides the material on the basis of whether the scene in view involves only two parties in contention (“bilateral” scenarios), or two parties along with a judge (“trilateral” scenarios).

These chapters include several interesting conclusions. Prothro argues that, in trilateral scenarios, the verb “justify” likely never refers to the bare pronouncement of a verdict but rather to the judge’s siding with and enacting justice for one of the parties (pp. 57–60). He also finds a number of instances within bilateral contentions involving God in which the term is applied to a person or group who have done wrong but confessed or repented. Prothro concludes that in these passages “justify” must mean something along the lines of forgiveness and reconciliation (pp. 69–71, 74–76, 78–80). Furthermore, Prothro claims that trilateral scenarios involving God typically depict God as siding with Israel over against oppressors in the wake of the resolution of a bilateral contention between God and Israel (pp. 94–99). Finally, in his examination of the use of “justify” in relation to the Isaianic Servant, Prothro suggests that in the broader passage of Isaiah 40–55 God’s trilateral vindication of Israel over the nations merges with the theme of God’s bilateral contention against all idolaters (pp. 99–103).

With this background in place, Prothro then devotes one chapter each to 1 Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans. Prothro argues that, in the majority of the passages in which Paul uses the term “justify,” Paul has in view the bilateral scenario of God’s contention against human sin, and the term “justify” refers to the forgiveness and reconciliation that is extended to those who recognize that God is in the right (cf. pp. 124–26, 140–44, 158–85). In two cases, however, Prothro suggests that Paul uses “justify” for God’s vindication of his people over against other parties: Romans 6:7, which he interprets as the vindication of Jesus himself over against sin as a personified power, and Romans 8:33, which he understands as vindication not in relation to the charge of sin but in relation to the challenges of adversaries (pp. 186–205).

The concluding chapter reviews the argument of the book, and then highlights the significance of the study. Prothro suggests that his research largely vindicates and develops proposals made by Mark Seifrid (p. 210), and he points to a few broader theological issues for which his work has relevance.

Prothro’s book is in many ways a useful study. His focus on analyzing the verb “justify” is a welcome approach, and he is certainly right to focus on Jewish use of this term as the primary background for Paul. Nevertheless, it seems that in some ways Prothro has overplayed his hand.

Despite the validity of Prothro’s point about the proper background for Paul’s use of the verb “justify,” his assumption that Paul’s conception of the divine trial is wholly taken over from ancient Jewish sources underestimates the degree to which the first-century context may have influenced his imagination. For example, in Romans 14:10, Paul depicts the final reckoning as occurring before God’s “judgment seat” (βῆμα), a term (and architectural feature) absent from the Septuagint. One wonders if other aspects of first-century jurisprudence may have had an effect on Paul’s conception of divine legal proceedings, and the complete neglect of this material in Prothro’s work weakens his case.

Additionally, Prothro’s division of the theological legal scenarios into the categories of bilateral and trilateral is at times forced. Although God is sometimes a party in contention, a number of these passages also depict him as standing over the contention as judge at the same time. Along similar lines, the claim that a distinctive trilateral conception of justification is in view in Romans 6:7 and 8:33 fails to persuade. Both passages are better understood as referring to God’s vindicating judgment in relation to the charge of sin, especially the latter, which provides a retrospective and celebratory summary of where the argument of Romans has gotten thus far.

One also wonders if Prothro’s claim that justification at times means forgiveness and reconciliation is accurate. Although forgiveness and reconciliation are clearly in view in many of the passages to which Prothro applies this definition, Prothro does not even consider the possibility that justification in these passages is a legal finding rendered in light of God’s (logically) prior forgiveness of sin rather than being an act of forgiveness in and of itself. For a study that is focused on the lexical meaning of the verb “justify,” the lack of reflection and explicit argument at this point is disappointing.

Despite these shortcomings, Prothro has made a significant contribution to the study of justification in Paul, and his work does provide an effective challenge to several misguided interpretations of justification in Paul’s writings. His survey of the use of the verb “justify” in pre-Pauline Jewish literature written in Greek is particularly valuable, and his book as a whole is a resource to which discerning readers will be able to turn with much profit for many years to come.

J. Andrew Cowan
Murphy, North Carolina, USA

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Christianity in the Second Century: Themes and Developments

J. C. Paget and J. Lieu, eds.

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Studies on second century Christianity are drawing greater attention. This time period is recognized as one in which Christian identity was being defined. The apostles were gone, persecution had increased, and the Christian faith was distinguishing itself from a much larger Judaism. Frequently, the second century has been viewed to be a time when the church moves to being more institutionalized and strengthens itself against heretics. New research, however, has argued that there was a greater diversity within this period than was previously thought. New questions about this century include whether there was a predominant Christian narrative or no narrative, whether Christianity represented a distinct voice or was an expression of wider movements in the second century, what texts describe it best, what role do texts like those from Nag Hammadi have, and what characteristics define Christian identity. These can be added to traditional concerns such as the relationship between Judaism and Christianity and the development of institutionalization.

Christianity in the Second Century is a compilation of papers that were presented at a conference called “The Christian Second Century” which was held at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Cambridge in 2013. The book is composed of 18 different articles which are divided into the following different sections: (1) contexts, (2) discerning continuity and discontinuity in early Christianity, (3) interpreting texts and engaging in practice, and (4) modelling identities. The authors include a large number of established international scholars largely from the United Kingdom but also from Norway, Belgium, and the United States.

The first section contains four articles regarding the context of the second century. In “Empires, Diasporas and the Emergence of Religions,” Greg Woolf identifies the second century as being an age of empires. He draws attention to the changing political structures at this time, which influence one’s evaluation of Christianity in that time period. Instead of seeing Christianity and other religions forcing their way into history against the social climate, Woolf views religions as fitting into the changing power dynamic. His article also challenges the viewpoint that Christianity is exceptional. He advocates for an evolutionary approach to religious change happening at the time.

The remainder of this section about context concerns Judaism in the second century. Tesa Rajak writes about the status of Judaism in “The Mediterranean Jewish Diaspora in the Second Century.” She supports the complexity and vibrancy of the Jewish faith in the second century and encourages one not to “Christianize” Judaism of the time. In “The Rabbis and Their Rivals in the Second Century CE,” Philip Alexander outlines the dominant part of Judaism in the second century, which is Rabbinic Judaism. William Horbury writes about the relationship between the church and the synagogue in “Church and Synagogue vis-á-vis Roman rule in the Second Century.” These essays on Judaism present significant contributions for evaluating Christianity in relation to Judaism at the time.

Five articles comprise the second section, which focuses on continuity and discontinuity in early Christianity. This is the most diverse section of the volume with essays providing contradictory conclusions about continuity and diversity within early Christianity.

Several articles support a greater sense of continuity within early Christianity. James Carleton Paget evaluates the second century from the perspective of the New Testament. He rightly points to how this time period can date the New Testament documents and define the narrative of Christian history. He also discusses the terms trajectory and reception that have been used in the understanding of second century Christianity. Rather than separating the first and second centuries from each other, Paget supports viewing these centuries together. In his article, “Continuity and Change in Second-Century Christianity: A Narrative Against the Trend,” Lewis Ayres supports continuity between the two centuries. He advocates for one late second-century tradition, the tradition of the “proto-orthodox.” This is in contrast to Sethian or Valentinian Gnostic traditions. He effectively counters the trend to find more diversity rather than unity within the life of the early church, advocating for unity of thought over a core amount of ideas in early Christianity.

In contrast to Paget and Ayres, the final essay in the section, Winrich Löhr’s “Modelling Second-Century Christian Theology: Christian Theology as Philosophia,” proposes the contrary. Löhr advocates for more diversity within early Christianity. He bases his conclusion on the parallels with the concept and practice of second century philosophia. He believes that this should be the starting point for evaluating Christian theology.

Two articles within the second section provide fresh viewpoints about Gnosticism. In “‘The Gnostic Myth’: How Does Its Demise Impact Twenty-first Century Historiography of Christianity’s Second Century,” Karen King advocates for a complex mapping of second century Christian texts. She finds early Christianity more dynamic and multi-faceted. Mark Edwards, in “The Gnostic Myth,” addresses false views of the character of Gnosticism which have emerged from a failure to grasp the allegorical mood of Gnostic myth.

This second section of Christianity in the Second Century illustrates the diverse perspectives in the field. These articles will provide a good beginning point for those wishing to explore the aspects of unity and diversity within early Christendom.

The third section contains four articles focused on the theme “Interpreting Texts and Engaging in Practice.” Rebecca Fleming, in “Galen and the Christians: Texts and Authority in the Second Century AD,” provides a fresh look at one of the secular sources that refers to Christians in the second century the most. Galen viewed Christians as being a philosophical school, and Fleming argues for understanding this in relation to his understanding of authority, ideas, and identity. She concludes that Christianity is not a unified and homogeneous movement as may be expected from Galen’s comments.

In “‘Authoritative Texts’ and How to Handle Them: Some Reflections on an Ambiguous Concept and Its Use in Second-Century Christian Literature,” Joseph Verheyden looks at four groups of authors who arrived at authoritative texts: Greco-Roman, Jewish, Early Christian, and Second-Century Christian authors. After completing his survey, he arrives at the conclusion that texts could become authoritative by several different routes.

The final two articles in the section look at Graeco-Roman religious experience. Teresa Morgan argues, in “Belief and Practice in Graeco-Roman Religiosity: Plutarch, De Iside and Osiride 379c,” that it mattered what Greek and Roman worshippers believed more than what has normally been assumed. With a focus on content, her article provides an intriguing parallel between Christianity and Greco-Roman religion in the second century. She argues that Christian understanding of belief should be seen along a shared spectrum of religious thinking instead of a drastic departure from Graeco-Roman religious expression. The final article in this section, by Laura Salah Nasrallah and entitled, “Lot Oracles and Fate: On Early Christianity among Others in the Second Century,” looks at the lot oracle found at Kremna in southwest Asia Minor. She finds that the content of this oracle allows one to reflect further on the relationship between doctrine and practice and the characterization of the second century as an “age of anxiety.”

Five articles are found in the final section entitled “Modelling Identities.” The first two articles concern ethnic identity. In “Christians as a ‘Third Race’: Is Ethnicity at Issue?” Erich Gruen examines whether ethnicity can be applied to Christians as a third race between Jew and Greek. Oskar Skarsaune in “Ethnic Discourse in Early Christianity” examines the same topic. Both articles look at an extensive number of sources that are Greaco-Roman, first century Christian sources like Colossians and 1 Peter, and then second century sources such as the Epistle to Diognetus, the Kerygmata Petrou, the Apology of Aristides, writings from Nag Hammadi, Martyrdom of Polycarp, Justine Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho, Tertullian’s Ad Nationes, and Origen’s Homilies. Gruen and Skarsaune conclude that Christianity as a “third race” cannot be supported.

John North, in “Pagan Attitudes,” and Tim Whitmarsh, in “‘Away with the Atheists!’ Christianity and Militant Atheism in the Early Empire,” examine secular attitudes towards Christianity in the second century. North evaluates Lucian’s Peregrinus as displaying pagan attitudes to Christianity. Whitmarsh argues convincingly that it was highly unlikely that non-Christians spoke of Christians as atheists prior to the age of Constantine. Such a misunderstanding may emerge from a misreading of Martyrdom of Polycarp 9. Instead, it was Christians who were occupied in a project of redefining atheism as the opposite of Christian faith.

The final essay by Judith Lieu, “Modelling the Second Century as the Age of the Laboratory,” functions well as a concluding essay to this section but also to the book as a whole. Lieu looks at ways of explaining the phenomenon of Second Century Christianity. Rather than considering it to be a “parting of the ways” with Judaism, a struggle between proto-orthodoxy and heterodoxy, Lieu advocates for the model of a laboratory. Such a metaphor allows for exploration and experimentation of Christian ideas. She finds that ideas such as biblical theology, pagan mythology, and contemporary philosophy are mixing together within this century which is leading to various outcomes. She sees second century Christianity similar to modern ways that African and Indian cultures are challenging western presuppositions and lead to new and creative ways for truth to be expressed in vastly different environments. Instead of being institutional and fixed, Lieu views Christianity as developing more democratically as a result rather than being a linear progression. By viewing second century Christianity as a laboratory, Lieu promotes thinking about this period more different than the expression of one grand narrative. With this laboratory model, she advocates for a renewed focus on the recovery of particular individuals rather than institutions.

Lieu’s article is an effective conclusion for these articles. She rightly encourages further exploration of different voices within the second century and rightly minimizes the effect of institutions at the time. Her focus on the expression of Christian ideas in different cultures will also help further research. Evangelicals, however, will struggle with her minimizing a grand narrative and downplaying particular truths which can be seen as constant through the second century.

Christianity in the Second Century: Themes and Developments provides top quality scholarly essays in the emerging field of second century Christianity. It is an important reference for scholars working in the field. The nearly forty-page bibliography at the end is a valuable resource for the scholar as well. Some readers may be frustrated with some of the contrary opinions expressed in the book, particularly regarding unity and diversity of Christianity during this time period. These essays, however, do illustrate the diversity present within this field of study which is ripe for further research. Those who are new to the field of second century Christianity will need to have sufficient background from an introductory textbook like Michael Kruger’s Christianity at the Crossroads: How the Second Century Shaped the Future of the Church (London: SPCK, 2017) before reading this book.

H. H. Drake Williams, III
Evangelische Theologische Faculteit and Tyndale Theological Seminary
Leuven, Belgium and Badhoevedorp, the Netherlands

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The Letter to the Hebrews: Critical Readings

Scott D. Mackie, ed.

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This volume is, first of all, a collection of twenty-three essays on Hebrews that fit the following qualifications: (1) recognized significance among Hebrews specialists, (2) written in English, (3) published since 1950, and (4) generally inaccessible to non-specialists. I might have subtracted one or two essays and added one or two others that also meet these qualifications, but on the whole I judge the choices to be sound. My only quibble in terms of these particular goals concerns the last—that these important publications would be made more readily available. For $200+, the non-specialist is hardly likely to take the plunge! And if you have access to the kind of library that will purchase this volume, the chances are good that you can already access all the essays it contains. Having them all in one place is obviously useful, but at what price?

The essays are divided into six sections: (1) Theology, Christology, and Pneumatology, (2) Eschatology, (3) The Author and the Addressed Community, (4) Structure, Greco-Roman Rhetoric, and Hortatory Strategy, (5) The Old Testament and the Relationship with Contemporaneous Judaism, and (6) Soteriology. Each section includes an introduction, the pertinent essays, and suggestions for further reading.

I can hardly do justice to all the essays in this short review; more profitable, perhaps, will be an overview of major points addressed at various points. First, debate continues concerning the implied cosmology of Hebrews—particularly whether it depends primarily on an apocalyptic or a Platonic framework; for significant voices in this discussion see the essays by C. K. Barrett (“The Christology of Hebrews,” pp. 31–46; “The Eschatology of the Epistle to the Hebrews,” pp. 146–70), Ken Schenck (“Philo and the Epistle to the Hebrews: Ronald Williamson’s Study after Thirty Years,” pp. 184–205), and Scott Mackie (“Ancient Jewish Mystical Motifs in Hebrews’ Theology of Access and Entry Exhortations,” pp. 460–76).

Second, the “structure” of Hebrews provides unceasing grist for the scholarly mill—Schenck’s comment that “it is very difficult to capture the sophisticated nature of Hebrews’ rhetorical structure in a straightforward outline” (“A Celebration of the Enthroned Son,” p. 49) has proved true, but it has not prevented us from trying to do precisely that! The classic studies of Hebrews’s structure are of those of Vanhoye and Guthrie (Guthrie’s monograph is noted as a suggestion for further reading on p. 335), but those interested in the next phase of the discussion will want to read the essay by Michael Martin and Jason Whitlark (“Choosing What Is Advantageous: The Relationship between Epideictic and Deliberative Syncrisis in Hebrews,” pp. 314–34). Martin and Whitlark have expanded their discussion in numerous other essays and now in a new monograph Inventing Hebrews: Design and Purpose in Ancient Rhetoric (SNTSMS 171 [Cambridge: CUP, 2018).

Third, it goes without saying that the use of the Old Testament is a major issue in Hebrews; for an overview of that discussion, see George Guthrie’s “Hebrews’ Use of the Old Testament: Recent Trends in Research” (pp. 355–75). For a provocative (both in terms of OT exegesis and in terms of Christology) reading of Hebrews 1–2 that has proved quite influential vis-à-vis recent debates on the atonement in Hebrews, see George Caird, “The Exegetical Method of the Epistle to the Hebrews” (pp. 347–54), as well as (tangentially related to Caird’s work but particularly interested in the resurrection vis-à-vis Christ’s high priesthood in Hebrews) David Moffitt’s “‘If Another Priest Arises’: Jesus’ Resurrection and the High Priestly Christology of Hebrews” (124–35).

Finally, the “traditional” view that Hebrews is written to a group of Christians who are considering abandoning their faith and returning to Judaism (I note the anachronistic nature of this description, but it is frequently put in precisely these terms) finds support in Barnabas Lindars’s “The Rhetorical Structure of Hebrews” (pp. 218–38) and opposition in Eric Mason’s “The Epistle (Not Necessarily) to the ‘Hebrews’: A Call to Renunciation of Judaism or Encouragement to Christian Commitment?” (pp. 389–403). In his introduction Mackie acknowledges the growing abandonment of the traditional view in current scholarship, so I applaud the inclusion of both of these essays in order to represent the variety of perspectives that have existed in the academy and in the church in the past several decades even if current trends are firmly in one direction over the other.

In all, this is a great collection of recent and important studies of Hebrews. As I said earlier, its price makes the value-added questionable in terms of who concretely benefits from its availability, but in terms of the content itself I highly recommend it.

Michael Kibbe
Great Northern University
Spokane, Washington, USA

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Listen, Understand, Obey: Essays on Hebrews in Honor of Gareth Lee Cockerill

Caleb T. Friedeman, ed.

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How does one review a Festschrift? This book is a fitting compliment to Gary Cockerill, recently retired professor of New Testament at Wesley Biblical Seminary, insofar as it displays his own values: breadth of interest (the book has contributions from historians, exegetes, and systematicians) and pastoral heart (every essay is ultimately aimed at the church, despite varying degrees of technical interest along the way).

I focus here on a couple of the book’s essays that are more significant, in my opinion. First, Jon Laansma reflects on Hebrews’s emphasis on divine speech, and particularly God’s speech in relation to his promises to Abraham, en route to a fascinating exploration of theological hermeneutics. Laansma parallels the possible backdrop to Hebrews (some denying that the new has come and affirming the ultimacy of the old) with those who want to ignore the coming of the Son in order to grasp the OT only in its “original context”—“to insist on [that] attempt might be tantamount to turning back to the shadows, against which this entire epistle warns, rather than holding fast to one’s confession” (p. 67). In describing Hebrews’s own hermeneutic, he says that since that hermeneutic “is not in fact a product of human genius, no amount of [historical] exegesis will be able finally to retrace the exegetical path that led to [it]” (p. 65). But having constructed a theological rather than a merely historical account of Hebrews’s interpretive methods, should we go and do likewise? “Not to do what [the NT writers] did hermeneutically would finally be disobedience to the gospel itself, to deny that it is the God who is the Father of the Son, who is known only in the Son, who speaks in these [OT] Scriptural texts” (p. 66). Much food for thought here!

Amy Peeler takes up the question of human priesthood in light of the surpassing priesthood of Christ in Hebrews. “If Jesus is truly our high priest, should anyone else play the role of priest on earth?” This becomes two questions: (1) “What should human priesthood look like in light of Jesus’ sole, sufficient, and eternal priestly ministry?” and (2) “If all are priests then what is the biblical justification for the ordination of some?” With respect to the first question, Peeler surveys priestly language—applied to believers—in the NT and argues that it stems from their filial relationship to the Father. “Sacramental ministry,” she suggests, is no less birthright-based than it was in Israel; the difference is that now the whole community are sons and daughters and therefore priests (p. 105). On the second topic, Peeler goes back through the NT and asks whether it offers any justification for “priests among priests” (p. 110)—an ordained sacramental set of believers as a subset within the priesthood of all. She answers in the affirmative, but hesitantly—all serve and worship as priests, and that is the dominant emphasis of the Scriptures, but some have a specific priestly role (preaching, sacraments, pastoral care) toward other priests.

Tom McCall engages a vital theological issue in Hebrews—the submission and obedience of Christ to the Father—in conversation with Thomas Aquinas and Karl Barth. Surprisingly, he says, Hebrews 5:8 (Jesus “learned obedience from the things that he suffered”) has not featured prominently in conversations about Christ’s submission—but it ought to! Barth, says McCall, argued for an eternal (ontological) subordination of the Son: the Son as eternal Son is subordinated; there is a hierarchy in the Trinity (pp. 136–37). Aquinas, on the other hand, argued for the Son’s “missional obedience”—“it is the incarnate Son who is subordinate” because he “has the form of a servant” (137–38). Against Barth, McCall argues that Jesus’s obedience is presented as a surprise in light of his sonship (Heb 5:8), and so it is unlikely that his sonship is (eternally) constituted by his obedience (p. 145). Digging deeper into Aquinas, McCall notes the disconnect between Aquinas’s claim that the incarnate Son possessed the beatific vision throughout his earthly life and those who see in the cry of dereliction a separation of Father and Son. McCall, as those familiar with his marvelous book Forsaken (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012) will know, sides with Aquinas. “It is because [Jesus] is the one who is both human and divine—and thus the one who enjoys … unbroken loving communion shared with the Father (the beatific vision)—that he is able to fully sympathize with us in our weaknesses while also uniting us to God” (p. 149).

Chris Bounds presents a survey of early (1800–1840) Methodist readings of Hebrews; it does not offer a single thesis, as many of the essays in this collection do, but as one unschooled in Wesleyan theology and commentary I found it extraordinarily informative. The dominant themes will not be surprising: the person of Jesus, the Wesleyan “synergistic understanding of salvation” (p. 162), the possibility of apostasy, and the pursuit of Christian perfection. Among the more interesting points were the following: (1) affirmation of Pauline authorship of Hebrews, (2) rejection of the doctrine of eternal generation of the Son, (3) insistence that apostasy is willful rejection and not mere backsliding (I’m reminded of the unfortunate joke about the Arminian daisy to counter the Calvinist TULIP: “he loves me, he loves me not …”), and (4) Wesley’s own suggestion that God raised up the Methodist church for the chief end of “propagating” the doctrine of perfection (p. 166).

This is a fine collection of essays and a fitting tribute to Gary Cockerill, a man whom all of us who study Hebrews count as a mentor and model of faithfulness to God and His Word.

Michael Kibbe
Great Northern University
Spokane, Washington, USA

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The Glory of the Crucified One: Christology and Theology in the Gospel of John

Jörg Frey

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Jörg Frey is well-known for his research on John over the last twenty-five years and is likely to be more widely known to Anglophone New Testament students as the editor of the WUNT series published by Mohr Siebeck. In 2013, he released a volume of essays entitled Die Herrlichkeit des Gekreuzigten (ed. Juliane Schlegel, WUNT 307 [Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck]). The Glory of the Crucified One translates seven essays that appeared in the 2013 collection and is a valuable addition to the Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Studies in Early Christianity series. The book is not a straightforward translation of the entire German tome. Three of the 2013 chapters already appeared in English and would be redundant in a translated volume. Eight additional chapters were excluded to make room for four others from Frey’s most recent publications, along with a hefty introduction by Frey that is published here for the first time.

Frey’s introduction contains an autobiographical account of how his studies of the Johannine writings began and notes three of his particular research interests: the history of research, John’s context and background, and John’s theological claims. The eleven other chapters are organized into five parts. Part 1 consists of an essay that maps how Frey sees recent Johannine scholarship. It outlines five models for interpreting John and highlights his own multi-faceted approach to the Gospel that emphasises literary, historical, and theological readings. Part 2 contains three essays on the character of the Gospel. Chapters consider “the Jews” in John as well as the parting of the ways, the way in which John’s Gospel fuses the temporal horizons of the community’s present with the historical story of Jesus’s work in the past, and the background and function of dualistic imagery within the Johannine story. Part 3 follows with three essays on Jesus’s death, resurrection, and glory. Frey argues that John depicts Jesus as raised bodily. Such a claim has implications for how the cross is viewed with respect to Jesus and how readers’ eschatological hopes are to be framed. In particular, God’s glory has been made visible in the crucified Christ.

Part 4 follows with further reflections on John’s understanding of the incarnation, Jesus, and God. Frey points out that the image of the Word “dwelling among us” (John 1:14) taps into traditional discussions about God dwelling among his people, transfers eschatological imagery into Jesus’s ministry, and enables readers to understand the meaning of the divine presence in Jesus. Frey also devotes attention to God in the Fourth Gospel, who has often been neglected in favour of discussions of John’s Christology. The chapter concludes by arguing that for John God has revealed himself in Christ, has entered human history in Christ, demonstrates his love in the cross, overcomes human rejection in love, and transcends spatio-temporal limitations. John’s theological articulations represent an important step toward the Trinitarian thought patterns that were later formalised in the creeds. The volume comes to a close with reflections on how Johannine theology might be seen as the climax of New Testament theology.

While each of the essays can stand alone, the entire volume is a model of high-level New Testament scholarship. The chapters draw on a wealth of historical and contextual knowledge that are brought to bear on the interpretation of the primary text—John’s Gospel. The essays on incarnation, Christology, and the doctrine of God are particularly worth reading in this regard. Frey’s consistent attempts to locate his work alongside other researchers makes readers aware of where Frey sees himself in relation to other scholars and provides readers with a map of Johannine scholarship that is especially useful for English-speakers since it draws attention to German-language scholarship. Frey highlights the Farewell Discourses (John 14–17) as in many ways the apex of John and argues that the Gospel of John makes the story of Jesus present to its readers by fusing temporal horizons. The Jesus who meets the community in the present is the Jesus who is remembered in the Gospel. Although Frey raises questions about John’s value to scholarship on the historical Jesus because John fuses Jesus’s story in the past with the community in the present, it is worth pursuing this issue further to see whether and in what ways John may be used as a corroborating witness for research on the historical Jesus. The questions of scholarship are rarely exhausted, and Frey’s volume is to be commended for answering many questions while simultaneously raising further questions to be explored by others.

Two comments should be made in conclusion about the translation. First, the text is readable and accessible. The translation does not result in stilted prose but carries the reader smoothly along the paths of Frey’s lively thought. Second, with regard to chapter 7—the only chapter for which the present reviewer has compared the translation with the original—the translation faithfully follows the German text without sacrificing readability in English. Frey’s exegetical and theological comments are consistently worth engaging throughout the book, and the translation by Coppins and Heilig enables a broader audience of English-speakers to access these observations more easily than would be the case if readers instead had to read the text in a second language. This book is recommended for students and researchers of John as well as for the libraries that support research in biblical studies.

Jonathon Lookadoo
Presbyterian University and Theological Seminary
Seoul, Republic of Korea

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Pauline Hamartiology: Conceptualisation and Transferences

Steffi Fabricius

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This book is an edited form of Fabricius’s doctoral dissertation, using the tools of cognitive linguistics to address Paul’s understanding of sin. Is sin an action, or a slave master? As Paul speaks in both of these ways, which is real and which is metaphor? Or is it possible to speak of both as real, and if so, how do they relate?

Fabricius is not writing as a biblical scholar who reaches into the foreign field of cognitive linguistics, but as someone with expertise in linguistics (according to her bio), and is using that expertise to contribute to a long-contested debate in biblical scholarship. Her proficiency in cognitive linguistics is a strength, but her methodology, scholarly jargon, and the thought-world in which she operates will be foreign to most biblical students and scholars. Readers will need pre-requisite knowledge in the distinctions between reality and actuality, the ontic and the ontological, rerum metaphora and verborum metaphora, etc. Such concepts are used liberally throughout her work, generally without explanation or definition. This heavy use of the jargon of her own field is entirely appropriate for a PhD thesis, but the typical Themelios reader may be unfamiliar with such concepts and ought to be forewarned: This is not a light read, even by the standards of published PhDs.

On the other hand, Fabricius has very helpfully written in English, making her work far more accessible than if she had taken the easier route of writing in her native German. Even if there are occasional grammatical complexities in her writing, this decision should greatly increase the reach of her work.

After a short introduction, chapter 2 introduces the problem that scholars in the field of biblical studies have wrestled with: Is sin in Paul primarily or exclusively an action or a personified power? How do we reconcile these two ways of speaking?

Chapter 3 introduces cognitive linguistics, and Fabricius’s approach of producing “conceptual metaphorical mappings and conceptual integration” (p. 78). That is, she seeks to understand how ideas fitted together in Paul’s mind, and therefore describe a unified concept. This concept is strictly in Paul’s mind (deduced from his writing), but since all humans encounter the world in a common “embodiment,” we expect that people will have sufficiently common mental concepts, and can therefore understand each other.

Chapter 4 deals with an assumption associated with a “linguistic understanding of ontology”: that God “does not have objective existence, is beyond human perception, and must, therefore, also be beyond human knowledge” (p. 82). Fabricius is alert to the way this foundational assumption of much cognitive linguistics could undermine her whole project, but denies that this assumption is necessary. By rejecting Aristotelian substance ontology, and introducing a relational ontology that is dependent on language (metaphorical ontology), she responds to those who claim that theological language is indirect and God is therefore unknowable: all language is indirect, so God is just as knowable as anyone or anything else.

Chapter 5 is the main body of Fabricius’s research, constituting half of the book, as she methodically relates Pauline “sin” to fundamental cognitive linguistics categories such as “container,” “event,” and “state.”

In chapter 6, Fabricius concludes that not only sin, but all things have a metaphorical ontology. This goes beyond a simple relational ontology by arguing that our existence is not constituted by static relationships, but by the constant movement or communication (translatio) between relational entities.

While I can see some merit in this conclusion, it is built upon her philosophical foundations and prior understanding of ontology (primarily expounded in ch. 4), rather than the results of her study of Paul per se (ch. 5), which are largely absent from her conclusions. She has read out of her study what she put into it. That does not invalidate her conclusions, but their basis is theoretical, not exegetical.

Fabricius’s efforts to bring a new framework to a long running debate ought to be applauded. If simple exegetical approaches were sufficient, the debate would have faded long ago, so attempts to reshape our thinking to bring it into conformity with God’s word are both welcome and necessary. Whether Fabricius’s particular attempt will win widespread support remains to be seen, but I fear the impact of this book will be limited by the foreignness of its concepts to the typical biblical student.

Chris Conyers
Moore Theological College
Newtown, New South Wales, Australia

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Paul and the Greco-Roman Philosophical Tradition

Joseph R. Dodson, Andrew W. Pitts, and Chris Keith, eds.

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The past fifty years have witnessed a revival of scholarly interest in the method of comparative analysis within biblical studies (generally) and Pauline studies (specifically). This trend—albeit, far from uniform or monolithic (p. xvii)—is evinced in seminal works such as E. P. Sanders’s Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1977), Jonathan Z. Smith’s Drudgery Divine (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), and more recently within the works of John M. G. Barclay (Paul and the Gift [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015]) and C. Kavin Rowe (One True Life [New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016]). Heretofore, the trend for those within the “New Perspective on Paul” movement (NPP) has been to compare Paul primarily with Second Temple Jewish sources, whereas Greco-Roman sources have been the favored lenses of comparisons within the Lutheran tradition. Essentially, Paul and the Greco-Roman Philosophical Tradition (PGRPT) is an edited anthology offering a myriad of thirteen comparative analyses between Paul and various Greco-Roman philosophical texts and traditions. What is interesting about PGRPT is the diversity of scholars (some within the NPP tradition), who each see the value of reading Paul through a Greco-Roman lens. The editors, Joseph R. Dodson (Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Ouachita Baptist University) and Andrew W. Pitts (former Chair of the Biblical Studies Department and Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Arizona Christian University) are well-qualified to edit such an anthology in that they have served as authors/editors of numerous articles, anthologies, and monographs focused on Paul and his cultural milieu.

One of the primary goals of PGRPT is to “push beyond the Jewish/Hellenism divide by placing Paul in dialogue with other Hellenistic Jews and ancient philosophers” (p. xv). The purpose for such dialogue is not to commit the same methodological fallacies of the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule in finding surface-level similarities or genealogical dependence between these traditions and Paul, but, rather, “to discover similarities and differences in these sources [Paul’s tertium quid] that spark new interpretive questions and kindle fresh insights” (p. xv). Perhaps, the overarching thesis of PGRPT is that Paul is relatable/comparable to these philosophical traditions, and Paul’s appropriation of this material gives one a more full-orbed understanding of Paul’s “literary and missionary efforts” (p. 11).

Structurally, PGRPT consists of a preface (Dodson), foreword (Troels Engberg-Pedersen), introduction (Pitts), thirteen chapters, and indices of biblical and ancient sources, modern authors, and ancient figures (pp. vii–viii). In his foreword, Engberg-Pedersen suggests the “endemic” praxis of comparison within NT scholarship—presenting two primary founts/rules (“lex Malherbe” and “lex Meeks”) from which contemporary comparisons of Paul and Greco-Roman philosophy have flowed (pp. xvii–xviii). Engberg-Pedersen suggests a “further consideration” is needed: after having performed the analyses suggested by Malherbe and Meeks—studying each pole of comparison on “its own premises and from within its own perspective” and then “highlighting where it is similar and differs” (p. xvii, emphasis original)—one must discern “which of the two poles has the higher degree of forcefulness … as an adequate description of the world” (p. xviii). In his introduction, Pitts succinctly sketches a helpful reception history of Paul in relation to these philosophical traditions, then briefly introduces each article (pp. 1–11).

In the opening essay, “Paul and the Militia Spiritualis Topos in 1 Thessalonians,” Nijay K. Gupta argues (contra Malherbe) against Paul’s dependence on Dio and suggests that Paul appropriates the familiar warfare imagery of Militia Spiritualis (pp. 22–23). The aim of Dodson’s essay, “Elements of Apocalyptic Eschatology in Seneca’s Writings and Paul’s Letters,” is to offer a tripartite comparison between recurring apocalyptic eschatologies and those appearing in Paul and Seneca, to ignite, as it were, new lamps of illumination (p. 53). The thesis of David E. Briones’s article, “Paul and Aristotle on Friendship,” is that the inclusion and activity of God in Paul’s portrayal of friendship in Philippians departs from Aristotelian and other Greco-Roman models. Pitts and Bahij Ajluni co-author chapter four (“Bruce Winter and the Language of Benefaction in Romans 13.3”), and argue that Winter’s portrayal of benefaction, when considered against the backdrop of philosophical discussions of benefaction and alongside Paul’s portrayal in Romans 12, is left wanting (p. 77). Niko Huttunen pens chapter five (“Powers, Baptism and the Ethics of the Stronger: Paul among the Ancient Political Philosophers”)—suggesting that Paul’s words in Romans 13:1 resonate in important ways with a “general rule” of “the Stronger” that is pervasively present within the Greco-Roman tradition (pp. 101–02). Orrey McFarland’s essay, “Divine Causation and Prepositional Metaphysics in Philo of Alexandria and the Apostle Paul,” suggests that worries regarding Paul’s use of prepositions in divine causation are “unfounded” (pp. 118–19). Runnar M. Thorsteinsson’s “Paul and Pan(en)theism” compares Paul’s “potential pan(en)theistic passages … in light of Stoic theology” (p. 136). In chapter eight, “The Wilderness Tradition in 1 Corinthians, Wisdom of Solomon and Hebrews,” Madison N. Pierce juxtaposes Wisdom of Solomon and Hebrews with 1 Corinthians (her main text)—comparing two components: the provision of divine gifts and divine punishment of human rebellion (p. 158). 1 Corinthians is again the focus of Timothy A. Brookins’s essay, “Natural Hair: A ‘New Rhetorical’ Assessment of 1 Cor. 11.14–15.” Brookins argues against Paul’s “conventional” usage of φύσις—considering the term’s ancient context (pp. 195–96). Jonathan Worthington (“Gendered Exegesis of Creation in Philo [De Opificio Mundi] and Paul [1 Corinthians]) argues that both Paul and Philo display asymmetrically gendered exegesis in these two texts. De Opificio Mundi is also the focus of Gitte Buch-Hansen’s article, “Early Conceptions of Original Sin: Reading Galatians through Philo’s De Opificio Mundi,” in which she answers the question, “Did Paul operate with a concept of original sin?” (pp. 222–23). Mathias Nygaard’s penultimate chapter, “Death as an Ethical Metaphor in Seneca’s Writings and in Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” posits that both positive and negative metaphors of death can be discerned in Paul and Seneca (pp. 246–47). Lastly, Seneca is highlighted again in Brian J. Tabb’s essay, “The Nature of True Worship: Reading Acts 17 with Seneca, Epistle 95.” Tabb argues that these texts, while displaying some resonances, “reveal notable divergences when they are situated in the authors’ respective biblical and Stoic traditions” (p. 278).

Numerous strengths mark PGRPT: it is generally well-written—albeit, with a handful of typos scattered throughout its pages (e.g., p. 29 “solider”). Many of the essays make important contributions to scholarship: Worthington’s discussion of gendered exegesis roots sex and ethics in the creation account rather than culture; Buch-Hansen’s discussion of the Epicurean “cradle argument” elucidates Paul’s anthropology; and Nygaard’s comparison between Paul’s and Seneca’s views on death as a positive and negative metaphor serves as a corrective to previous studies and paves the way forward for future discussion. However, the diversity of the contributors and their approaches to Paul, is, perhaps, the greatest strength of PGRPT.

As in any anthology, there are hits and misses. Perhaps the weakest link within PGRPT is Tabb’s comparison between Paul and Seneca. Tabb’s thesis inductively appears at the end of his essay with little supporting argumentation. Furthermore, Tabb’s focus on Acts 17 seems misplaced in a study focused on Pauline (not Lukan) Christianity—though, to be fair, Pitts’s introduction to the volume does commence with a discussion of Acts 17, and there are good reasons to take Luke seriously as a witness to the substance of Paul’s preaching. The title of PGRPT is misleading also in that PGRPT focuses not on the entire Corpus Paulinum, but only on the Hauptbriefe and 1 Thessalonians. There are no chapters focused on Philemon, and Ephesians, 2 Thessalonians, and the Pastorals are not even referenced in the index (p. 283). There are also lacunae within the Greco-Roman sources, with preference given to Seneca and Philo (three chapters assigned to each—nearly half the book).

In sum, Pitts’s introduction, and the chapters by Buch-Hansen and Nygaard are alone worth the price of admission. Despite its flaws and imbalanced coverage of the material, PGRPT is a must-have for scholars investigating Paul’s complex thought world and Sitz im Leben.

Gregory E. Lamb
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, North Carolina, USA

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Psalms: Volume 2

W. Dennis Tucker Jr. and Jamie A. Grant

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The NIV Application Commentary series is unique. Any student of the Psalms using this work will quickly find its accessibility a welcoming appetizer before being presented with the main course of world-class Psalms scholarship. This commentary is intentionally designed to be two-way—readers are not only guided backwards to what the text meant in its original contexts, but its meaning and implications are brought forward to bear on the readers’ present context.

In this volume, Grant covers Psalms 73–106, while Tucker covers Psalms 107–150. Individually, they have worked on the Psalms for many years. Besides bringing to the table up-to-date scholarship from both sides of the Atlantic, the combination of their strengths makes this second installation a formidable one. Tucker’s earlier work, Constructing and Deconstructing Power in Psalms 107–150 (Atlanta: SBL, 2014), supplied the historical basis for his interpretation of these psalms. Likewise, Grant’s published dissertation, The King as Exemplar: The Function of Deuteronomy’s Kingship Law in the Shaping of the Book of Psalms (Atlanta: SBL, 2004), supplied the literary and theological frameworks for his interpretation of the exilic and Mosaic psalms in books three and four of the Psalter. In other words, they are suitably qualified for this mammoth task.

Those familiar with the first volume by Gerald Wilson will be happy to know that Tucker and Grant, who represent a younger generation of Psalms scholarship, have continued the tradition. Even more so, they have now supplied in their introduction what was left unsaid by Wilson (pp. 19–37): two important hermeneutical perspectives—the editorial shape, and the theology of the Psalter. The discussions on the editorial shape of the Psalter have gone somewhat beyond what Wilson had accomplished. For instance, Grant has linked the loss of Jerusalem depicted in Psalm 74 all the way through Psalm 79 and beyond by highlighting certain motifs like “remembrance” (pp. 80, 97, 110, 140, 168, 182). Clearly, the commentary has benefited also from the slew of studies on the canonical shaping of the Psalter since the 1990s.

Even though the selling point of the commentary is its focus on “application,” its biting-edge, in my opinion, is the section on the “Bridging Contexts.” The methodology adopted by the commentary in every psalm is developed in three stages, namely, (1) Original Meaning, (2) Bridging Contexts, and (3) Contemporary Significance. In (1), the authors give sense to the text in its original literary and historical contexts. Brief discussions on structure, superscription, translations issues or poetics are given, though this is not dissimilar to what other commentaries have achieved. In (3), readers will find the application of the text in the modern or postmodern contexts, and at times, written in the first-person voice of the authors. However, in the section on “Bridging Contexts” (2), the authors try to make sense of each psalm intertextually; that is, the connections of the texts are made and interpreted under the larger theological rubric of not just the Psalter but also the Old Testament (e.g., discussion on the “horn,” p. 107). Moreover, relevant links between each psalm and the New Testament, if they occur, are explored and bridged.

Several other peculiarities of the commentary deserve mention. While the commentary is based on the NIV translation (2011), it does not restrict the authors from addressing translational difficulties (e.g., the translation of חֶסֶד as “love” in the NIV is discussed, pp. 881–82). Psalms superscriptions are given an interesting numbering throughout (e.g., Pss “78:0,” “138:0,” pp. 140, 905). The commentary uses transliteration of the Hebrew and avoids lengthy discussions on text-critical or form-critical issues, which are not uncommon in older Psalms commentaries. As a multi-author volume, the editors have also done a good job of preserving continuity without sacrificing individual voices of the authors. In my own reading, I have found Grant’s application (“Contemporary Significance”) more personal and helpful. Tucker, on the other hand, seems to give more expression to textual, poetic, and historical issues. They are somewhat even in their analyses of the editorial shape of the Psalms.

The strengths of this commentary are easy to list. It is easy to read and caters primarily to content, meaning, and application. In-depth issues (e.g., textual issues) or genre discussions are not absent altogether. The authors have tried to keep their comments concise without jettisoning important discussions on poetics or historicity (sometimes, expanded in the footnotes). As a whole, the comments are primarily semantic in thrust. As such, readers who are interested in the technical details may find it lacking. Consequently, this commentary is best used with others that forefront extended discussion on technicalities (e.g., Hossfeld and Zenger’s three-volume Hermeneia commentary) for those who need them. To be sure, the lack of emphases in technicalities does not mean they have not been considered; they are simply in the background. Comments on each psalm are divided into structural units that are, unfortunately, not always explained. I find that discussions on the editorial shape of the Psalter are mostly incremental, primarily semantic, and usually pertain to near-distant or adjacent psalms. In my view, the commentary has not decisively advanced the macrostructural understanding of the shape of the Psalter. To be fair, it was not intended to.

Nonetheless, this work is probably one of the latest commentaries available that incorporates the shape of the Psalter in its treatment—a trend that we will continue to see. In the last two decades, the adoption of this approach is clearly visible in several English commentaries on the Psalms, particularly the works of McCann (NIB, 1996), Hossfeld and Zenger (Hermeneia, 2005, 2011), deClaissé-Walford et al. (NICOT, 2014), and less so, Bullock (Teach the Text, 2015, 2017). Content-wise, Tucker and Grant’s volume reads most akin to the single-volume NICOT commentary. Length-wise, the complete NIVAC two-volume on the Psalms is similar to Goldingay’s three-volume Psalms, BCOTWP (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006–2008).

I think Tucker and Grant have succeeded with this NIVAC volume. It will be useful to those who minister on or off the pulpit, and will appeal to Bible study leaders, seminary students, and missionaries alike.

Peter C. W. Ho
Singapore Bible College
Republic of Singapore

Leviticus book cover


Ming Him Ko

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In 2015 I reviewed the outstanding commentary by Jay Sklar on Leviticus for Themelios and made a passing comment that, then living in Asia, there were a few issues that Sklar glossed over because of the Western context of both the author and the series. So it was with some interest I read Ko’s new commentary in the Asia Bible Commentary series.

This series, originally a project of and published by the Asia Theological Association, is now published by Langham under the editorship of Rico Villanueva in the Philippines. The authors come from a wide range of Asian countries and the series is certainly adding weight and credibility to Asian scholarship. Ko’s contribution adds further to that.

Ko’s handling of the text is not word for word but rather a comment on paragraphs of the text. He often cites others’ chiasms (calling them “inverted structures,” e.g., p. 220), but does not get bogged down in scholarly argument or different opinions.

At times a little more discussion of different opinions might have been useful. For example, there is surprisingly little emphasis on atonement. Yom Kippur is called the Day of Purgation (p. 147), and the main aim of the burnt offering is to “attract divine presence” (p. 21 and elsewhere throughout). I was unpersuaded by this latter understanding. He argued, without giving evidence, that the purificatory role of the burnt offering had been demoted behind its role as a gift offering (p. 18). I was unconvinced by this, and wonder whether overall he downplayed too much the idea of sacrifice as atonement. He dismisses the view that laying the hand on the animal denotes a transfer of sin, and instead thinks it denotes an acknowledgement of ownership of the animal (p. 17).

One of the weaknesses to my mind, in contrast to Sklar’s great strength, is the lack of a biblical theology or even a sense of biblical unity. Ko appeals at times to Chronicles, on which his doctorate was based, and implicitly seems to accept the JEDP reconstruction of the Pentateuch’s origins. He sees Priestly theology as building on a priestly creation theology (e.g., pp. 153, 161) and suggests Leviticus is in contest with Deuteronomy (e.g., p. 158 on Deuteronomy 12).

Having said this, Ko regularly links the text to the New Testament, often in helpful and thoughtful ways. He clearly sees Leviticus foreshadowing or leading us to Christ. Jesus is certainly the fulfilment of the rituals and sacrificial system in this commentary.

At times I would have preferred a more nuanced reflection of continuity or discontinuity between ancient Israel and Hong Kong (his main background for examples, e.g., p. 230 on land laws) and between ancient Israel and Christians. The priestly sections of the first half of Leviticus he often links to Christians via the idea of a royal priesthood (e.g., pp. 82–85), but that idea was already in place in Exodus for all of God’s people. So more nuancing might be helpful. Another example is the discussion of foreigners and aliens (p. 186), where he doesn’t distinguish carefully enough between the two in the text and thus applies it too vaguely to Hong Kong and migrant issues.

This last issue exposes again a weakness of his biblical theology. The laws of ancient Israel were, in part, to shape Israelite society as the people of God. They cannot be simply transposed into a modern country. He doesn’t appear to see the role of ancient Israel to attract the nations to God’s blessing through their holiness.

Some language struck me as odd, such as Day of Purgation already mentioned, but he also prefers to use “adytum” for the central part of the Old Testament temple rather than Holy of Holies and Holy Place. The Lord’s Supper is called the “holy supper” (p. 207) and he refers to something “seeable” (p. 238) rather than visible.

The main issue glossed over in Sklar’s commentary that is more significant in Asian practice is eating blood. Ko addresses this, but unsatisfactorily to my mind. He doesn’t see the implication of the blood prohibition in Genesis 9 applying to all humanity, and that the blood prohibition in Leviticus and Deuteronomy are both separate from the food laws. So he considers that blood can now be eaten, as all foods are now clean, and that Acts 15 applied to the context of food offered to idols in the ancient Roman Empire. So he considers eating blood to be a cultural issue, not a theological one. Acts 15, linking the blood prohibition to fornication and idolatry, doesn’t allow such an interpretation. This issue remains important and contentious in many Asian contexts.

One of the comments on Asian society I did find helpful was on Leviticus 23. Chinese and I would add Burmese, often have superstitions attached to dates and numbers, and he wisely and explicitly excludes such superstitions when commenting on Israel’s festival calendar. However, another example failed to compel, when he used disrespect of a nation’s flag as a parallel to blaspheming God’s name (p. 215). There is surely something much more personal in blaspheming God’s name than showing disrespect to a flag.

Ko’s commentary is readable, consistently wanting to show the usefulness of Leviticus for the modern Christian, Asian or otherwise. The Asian context is refreshing and the examples from Hong Kong or China are thought-provoking. My quibbles and questions show that the commentary is stimulating and engaging.

Paul Barker
Anglican Diocese of Melbourne
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

If One Uses It Lawfully: The Law of Moses and the Christian Life book cover

If One Uses It Lawfully: The Law of Moses and the Christian Life

Matthew E. Ferris

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Does the Mosaic law have a continuing role for Christians and, if it does, what is that role? These are important questions and yet the range of views, both ancient and contemporary, attests to the difficulty of reaching satisfactory answers. Matthew E. Ferris, cognizant of the wider debate, writes to critique the popular assumption that the Decalogue (or Ten Commandments) constitutes a “rule-of-life” for Christians. Against that understanding Ferris maintains, “the position of Christian freedom from the law is the only scripturally consistent one” (p. 4). Accordingly, the pattern for Christian living ought to be Jesus, not the law (p. 9).

In chapter 2 Ferris turns to defining “law” and establishing its extent. The need for this, as rightly recognized, is that “law” has many connotations in the Bible. Ferris argues (again, rightly in my view) that the law must be considered a whole. Hence, attempts to subdivide OT law into moral, ceremonial, and civil categories are regarded as untenable (pp. 14–18). On this basis, Ferris also criticizes notions of “trans-covenantal” law—that is, moral regulations, synonymous with the Decalogue, given to Adam by God. He concludes, “Despite confessional documents, there is no Scriptural support for placing the moral law in Eden” (p. 28). Ferris thus highlights discontinuity between old and new covenants to argue that the Mosaic law bound only Israel, not people generally.

This leads to consideration of the law’s purpose in salvation history. The Decalogue is understood as a time-limited treaty document between Israel and God (pp. 37–38). Galatians and Romans underpin Ferris’s conclusion: “in all of Paul’s discussion of law, he presents an unfolding narrative of God’s dealings with mankind that consigns the law to a prior age.” In this new era, however, “the Spirit’s indwelling of believers means that we pattern ourselves not after the law, but after the risen Christ as the Spirit enables” (p. 59). The law, therefore, including the Decalogue, cannot be the basis of Christian sanctification; nor can it define what doing good looks like for Christians (p. 41).

Chapter 4 surveys several important Protestant writers—Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Berkhof, and Cranfield—to evaluate their view that the law functions as guide to life for the regenerate (the so-called “third use of the law”). Ferris suggests this position is problematic because it removes consequence from command. Furthermore, he deems it a “redefinition of what the law is…. It is no longer the Ten Commandments, but the Ten Suggestions” (p. 65). However, Ferris here assumes a definition of law (as statutory regulations that must be obeyed) that he has not demonstrated. Indeed, lack of precision regarding the definition of “law” is a problem that runs through the volume. ”Law” is equated with the Decalogue (p. 94), the Mosaic covenant (p. 28), the Pentateuch (p. 14), and even the OT as a whole (p. 118). While this might reflect the nuances of νόμος in the NT, it detracts from the clarity of Ferris’s presentation.

The impact on Christian living is explored in chapters five and six. Ferris posits a distinction between keeping the law and fulfilling it. Christians, he says, fulfil the law by living Spirit-filled, obedient-to-Christ, lives. Using a helpful analogy, Ferris suggests the difference is like that between native and non-native speakers: native speakers do intuitively what non-native speakers only approximate by following grammatical rules (p. 87). Based on Galatians 6:2, Ferris suggests that Christians should consider themselves “en-lawed” to Christ (p. 102); as presented with a person, not a code. Renewing the mind, learning Christ, walking in love, and in the Spirit do what the law could not: transform believers into Christlikeness (p. 103). The Epilogue asserts the book’s major contention sharply: “we are not under the Mosaic law in any way … it has nothing to say to those in Christ” (p. 114).

This final statement (reminiscent of Luther) raises the question of how OT law functions for Christians as Spirit-inspired and Spirit-applied Scripture. This is a question, however, that Ferris leaves substantially unaddressed. Here also, the reader feels other limitations in the volume. Ferris’s discussion of the law’s purpose, for instance, is overwhelmingly shaped by Reformation categories. Thus, while the Reformers’ “three uses” are critiqued, the validity of the categories is simply assumed. In fact, one of the most striking features of the volume is its lack of scope. The biblical case is positioned on Romans and Galatians with occasional references to 1 Corinthians. While these important texts are handled well, the sample set is rather meagre considering the available data. What about the contribution of Hebrews? Or James? Or the Johannine literature? Thus, when Ferris concludes that, “The New Testament presents” (p. 113; emphasis mine), he is substantially overstating what has been demonstrated. Moreover, when it comes to OT texts, the silence is almost total. This is remarkable in a book that purports to define OT law (ch. 2), articulate its purpose (ch. 3), and consider its ongoing function (chs. 4–6). The resulting discussion thus pays no attention to recent developments which have clarified our understanding of OT law (including its literary artistry, rhetorical purposes, social function, and interrelationship with other ANE law codes). This lacuna is substantiated by the bibliography which contains only three treatments of the Decalogue (by Pink, Rooker, and Seitz) and one OT commentary (by John Wesley). One cannot avoid concluding that the argument has been based on a canon within the canon.

While If One Uses It Lawfully mounts an effective case against the “rule-of-life” position, and is commendable to that end, the volume is weakened by limited engagement with the Scriptures and by being out of touch with developments in the secondary literature.

G. Geoffrey Harper
Sydney Missionary & Bible College
Croydon, New South Wales, Australia

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Atonement and Purification: Priestly and Assyro-Babylonian Perspectives on Sin and its Consequences

Isabel Cranz

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In this revised dissertation, Isabel Cranz approaches Priestly literature from a comparative perspective. She focuses her work on a comparison of Leviticus 4–5 with Šurpu, an Akkadian ritual text found and used throughout Mesopotamia. As a result of this comparison, Cranz concludes, “Priestly rituals of atonement and purification highlight how the Priestly writers addressed sin and human suffering from the perspective of sanctuary maintenance. This focus on the sanctuary was not the result of a conscious expression of monotheism or an attempt to challenge foreign rituals. Rather, the Priestly writers were defending the privileged position of the Aaronides against their critics and the encroachments of rival priestly groups such as the Levites” (p. 1). This concise summary highlights the three main results of Cranz’s work: 1) Priestly ritual focuses on the maintenance of God’s presence in the sanctuary; 2) Priestly ritual contains no polemic against foreign practices, nor does it advance a monotheistic agenda; 3) Priestly ritual grants unique status and authority in the sanctuary to the Aaronide priests vis-à-vis other claimants to ritual privilege (especially Levites).

Cranz divides her argument into an introduction (ch. 1) and seven subsequent chapters. In Chapter 2, Cranz explains her focus on ritual elements (e.g., ritual contexts, participants, activities) in the comparison of Leviticus and Šurpu. In chapter 3, Cranz compares sin and its consequences in both Šurpu and Lev 4–5. She observes that both texts describe individuals undergoing divinely induced suffering for some hidden sin(s), which must be confessed to experience relief and restoration with the deity. Despite this overarching similarity, Cranz highlights the different literary settings of the rituals in Šurpu (an instruction manual for Mesopotamian ritual specialists) and Leviticus (a set of instructions communicated to both the priests [Lev 6:2, 18] and the people of Israel [Lev 1:2; 4:1–2; 7:22–23, 28–29]), as well as the very different nature of suffering in each text (demonic possession in Šurpu; physical and/or emotional distress expressed by the verb אשׁם [“to suffer guilt’s consequences”; for this translation, see p. 39] in Lev 4–5).

The following two chapters (4–5) focus on the ritual elements of Šurpu. In Chapter 4, Cranz observes that the exorcists who performed Šurpu were not tied to one specific institution, but could be hired by individuals (often the king). The exorcists assumed the identities of both the supplicant and deity (Marduk), thereby bringing the patient into the divine realm for intercession and bringing divine realities to bear in his or her life. In Chapter 5, Cranz explains that Mesopotamian exorcists had relatively little involvement in the maintenance of temples. Instead, Šurpu was performed outside the city in places where deities resided, such as riverbanks and the steppe.

In the last three chapters (chs. 6–8), Cranz focuses on sacrifice and purification in the Priestly material. Cranz begins this section (ch. 6) by demonstrating that the priests functioned as mediators between the divine and human realms. They fulfilled this role because they were bound to God’s sanctuary and thereby became holy. In chapter 7, Cranz demonstrates that the sacrificial practices of Lev 4–5 closely parallel ritual activities in Šurpu. Yet, while both Šurpu and Lev 4–5 contain rituals performed for the benefit of the individual, the biblical rituals also serve the community as they mitigate God’s wrath and preserve his habitation in the sanctuary. Finally, in chapter 8, Cranz applies the results of her work to the interpretation of Lev 14. Scholars regularly argue that the ritual for the restoration of one suffering צָרַעַת (“skin disease”) contains foreign elements hostile to the Priestly system and that the lack of any connection between sin and pollution in the chapter indicates the monotheistic agenda of the Priestly writer. Cranz rebuts both points, arguing instead that Lev 14 focuses on the role of the priests in preserving the sanctity of the sanctuary, without any clear agenda subverting foreign practices or advancing monotheism.

Cranz’s comparative project largely succeeds in advancing two of her three conclusions. She successfully argues that Priestly ritual emphasizes the role of Aaronide priests in maintaining God’s presence in the sanctuary. This claim is hardly controversial, since numerous other scholars agree with Cranz that the role of the priests was (among other things) to purge the sanctuary of impurity and sin so that Yahweh could continue to reside among his people (see, e.g., Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 1–16, AB 3 [New York: Doubleday, 1991], 254–61; Tikva Frymer-Kensky, “Pollution, Purification, and Purgation in Biblical Israel,” in The Word of the Lord Shall Go Forth, ed. Carol Meyers and Michael O’Connor [Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1983], 399–414, esp. 406; Roy Gane, Cult and Character [Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2005], 324–33). Nonetheless, the comparison with Šurpu proves enlightening because it demonstrates that ritual professionals in Mesopotamia were not always attached to temples and regularly performed rituals in the periphery. In other words, the Priestly text focuses on the sanctuary (and community), whereas Šurpu focuses on the individual. Cranz’s second argument, that Priestly ritual does not polemicize against foreign practices or advance a monotheistic agenda, is considerably more controversial, but remains convincing. Cranz’s comparison with Šurpu demonstrates that Priestly ritual shares a great deal in common with other ancient Near Eastern traditions. Further, Cranz shows that, instead of advancing a monotheistic agenda by separating suffering from sin (and thereby eviscerating the role of demons in human suffering), Leviticus 14 focuses on the priestly work of purification necessary to fulfilling their role of keeping the camp pure. Only when Cranz sees Priestly ritual advocating the claims of Aaronide priests against the Levites does her argument falter. Regardless of one’s perspective on the existence of intra-Pentateuchal polemics between different priestly groups, Cranz’s comparison of Priestly ritual with Šurpu fails to shed new light on the subject. Instead, Cranz depends entirely on evidence from within the Hebrew Bible to make the case for conflict between Aaronides and Levites.

This stimulating study should prove helpful to anyone interested in situating biblical ritual in its ancient Near Eastern context.

Greg Church
Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Reading Genesis Well: Navigating History, Poetry, Science, and Truth in Genesis 1–11 book cover

Reading Genesis Well: Navigating History, Poetry, Science, and Truth in Genesis 1–11

C. John Collins

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I have a very clever Catholic friend who once told me that an evangelical is someone who takes everything in the Bible literally—except when Jesus tells the crowd that unless they eat of his flesh and drink of his blood, they can have no life in themselves (John 6:53–58). The point is a fair one, and should stand as a reminder to all evangelicals that biblical inerrancy should not mean that every statement in the Bible must be taken in a narrowly literal, scientific way.

Along with many of my fellow conservative evangelicals, I prefer to define inerrancy to mean that “the Bible is true in what it affirms.” Such a definition allows the adherent of inerrancy to take the Bible historically when it is being historical, poetic when it is being poetic, and fictional when it is being fictional. Now, committed evangelicals will often disagree as to when a passage is being historical or poetic or fictional, but at least this definition of inerrancy allows for a common ground of discussion.

I myself believe in a historical Job, but I also believe that a good case can be made, from an orthodox, inerrant position, that Job is not history but a parable writ large. I also believe, despite my more literalist bent, that a strong case can be made, within the purview of inerrancy, that Genesis 1 is to be taken poetically, with the word “day” being used to connote eras of time. I am, in sharp contrast, unwilling to empty Genesis 2–3 of historical content, but more on that below.

Reading Genesis Well: Navigating History, Poetry, Science, and Truth in Genesis 1–11 is a provocative but carefully argued book. C. John Collins, professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis and chair of the Old Testament translation committee for the ESV, does a masterful job sorting out, not only the literary genres of Genesis 1–11, but the specific kinds of language that it employs and the particular audience to which it is directed. Before he even touches on Genesis, Collins devotes a third of his book to surveying how language works, considering closely such elements as linguistics, rhetoric, and genre.

As I expected, Collins discusses different literary genres and how they should be read, but he goes much deeper than that. When reading passages in Scripture, whether Genesis 1–11 or the Sermon on the Mount, it is not enough merely to decide on the genre being employed. The careful reader must distinguish between the passage’s locution, “the actual form of words spoken,” and its illocution, “the intended effect of those words (on beliefs, actions, attitudes)” (p. 51). Often, as is the case with rhetorical questions (“Do I have to tell you that again?”) the focus is not on the words themselves as a propositional statement (locution), but on a certain behavior the question is intended to provoke (illocution).

Collins suggests, convincingly, that “probably most questions in the Bible are of this sort: ‘For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?’ (Matt 5:46) is not a request for information but a device to shape the disciples’ way of leaning into their world, to define their community identity with a certain set of likes and dislikes” (p. 52). The same, he further suggests, is likely the case with most of the questions that God asks in Genesis: they “intend to offer the hearers an opportunity to do something, more than they express actual ignorance” (p. 52).

For communication to be carried out properly, whether face-to-face or through a book, speaker and hearer alike must be able to discern between locution and illocution. “To do this well requires both a social and cultural awareness … and a cooperation between speaker and hearer. In this cooperation the speaker must provide enough clues to his intentions, and the audience should be willing to go beyond the mere form of words, and to do so with enough sympathy with the speaker to perceive what he or she wants—compliance with the speaker’s intentions, of course, is another matter” (p. 60).

Collins insists that the Bible provides those clues, then calls on us as readers to do the hard work of coming into sync with the linguistic intent of the passage being considered. Most of the Bible, he argues, is written in ordinary or phenomenological language—“in terms of what things look like, without making much of a claim about the inner workings of the referents” (p. 63). Ordinary language can be distinguished from scientific (analytical) language and poetic (imagistic) language. The former has gained much prestige because it seems to speak a universal language, but that universality is achieved by “abstracting away everything that makes for particular cases, that is, for real experiences” (p. 67).

Now, lest Collins seem to be taking us back to Rudolph Bultmann and the demythologizing of Scripture, he does make it clear that “the biblical material speaks largely in terms of historical matters and of a worldview and asserts that these are true” (p. 84). In no way does he empty Genesis 1–11 of all historical content; the point of his book is not to write off Adam and Eve as mere myths. Nevertheless, he argues that the biblical authors were not so much concerned with scientific language as “with shaping the worldview of the people of God and thus equipping the faithful to play their part in the unfolding story of God’s work in the world” (p. 89).

That last sentence gets to the heart of Collins’s thesis. The literary-rhetorical-illocutionary goal of the Bible, including and especially the opening chapters of Genesis, is not to supply scientific information but to shape the covenant people, most of whom were farmers who were already aware of the different kinds of animals and the basic laws of nature that they needed to be in tune with if they were to feed themselves and their families. What sets Genesis 1–11 apart from Genesis 12–50 is that the latter chapters focus on the covenant God of Israel while the former reveal that that covenant God is the God of all the nations and that Israel was meant to proclaim that message to the pagan world around them.

Whatever evangelical readers take away from Collins’s book, they should pay careful attention to the way Genesis 1–11 would have functioned in the life and ministry of the people of Israel. When Genesis 12–50 is read in the context of 1–11, Collins explains, it becomes clear that “God’s calling of Abram [was] not simply for his own benefit but also for the rest of the world” (p. 113).

Once we grant that argument, and any close reader of Genesis 12:3 cannot help but do so, we are compelled to take seriously what Collins goes on to argue:

One of the chief themes of Old Testament messianic hope is the expectation that under the leadership of the Messiah, the people of God will succeed in bringing God’s light to the gentile world. The shape of this biblical story assumes that all human beings have a common origin, a common predicament, and a common need to know God and have God’s image restored in them. This assumption comes from including Genesis 1–11 in the story with some version of the conventional reading of the fall of the whole human family. (p. 113)

Note that Collins does not here reject an actual, historical fall; he merely seeks to emphasize the core of what Genesis 3 is trying to teach its original audience: namely, that the redemption story that the Bible recounts concerns all people and not just the Jews.

The various analyses that Collins performs in his book are too wide and diverse to summarize here; however, if the reader will (at least temporarily) concede to Collins his focus on illocution and on the kind of covenant history Genesis is trying to tell, he will learn much of value. He will likely disagree on many points, as I did myself with a number of Collins’s conclusions, but he will have his understanding of Genesis 1–11 expanded in many ways.

Collins’s style is, for the most part, lucid and accessible, though it bogs down at times and is a bit hard to slog through. I would have found it easier to slog through myself had Collins’s editor not made repeated use of the word “humankind” as a euphemism for man. I found this quite distracting, especially given that the ESV correctly translates the Hebrew “adam” as “Man” in Genesis 5:2: “Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man.” Still, Collins is to be commended for conveying his analysis with as little jargon as possible.

Louis Markos
Houston Baptist University
Houston, Texas, USA

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Deuteronomy: One Nation under God

George Athas

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George Athas is Director of Research and lecturer in Old Testament at Moore Theological College, an Anglican minister, and author of numerous books and articles. His commentary enables a first-time reader of Deuteronomy to understand and begin to apply this much-neglected portion of God’s word that he describes as the Old Testament’s “theological backbone” or “theology central” (p. ix).

Athas divides Deuteronomy into thirteen sections. In each section he begins his discussion with the structure and meaning of the text, before looking at how it was applied and interpreted throughout the rest of the Old Testament. He then looks into the way the New Testament treats each passage. The discussion questions that follow open up the contemporary context.

In the general field of Bible commentaries, Athas’s work is part of the beginning of a new sensitivity. Most Bible commentaries engage with other scholars, often dealing with fairly speculative agendas, or else with theological questions dating back to or beyond the Reformation. Athas notes that we are now speaking to a majority audience of people who are not even aware of those questions. He calls this “a post-Christendom era” (p. x).

The last decade in Western culture has seen a significant rise in hostility and mockery of the Christian faith, the Bible, and particularly the Old Testament. There is a widespread assumption that the books of the Old Testament, and Torah in particular, are not worth reading because they advocate a primitive and essentially immoral set of values. Athas wisely, and bravely, sets out to address this uninformed prejudice. It is our experience that this audience has proven to be open, interested, and very surprised by what the Bible has to say. Athas has produced a commentary that draws the interest and challenges the stereotypes of a biblically illiterate culture.

As an ancient text, Deuteronomy suffers from the tyranny of distance in time, geography and especially in culture. Athas’s solid scholarship proves its value as he informs the reader of the historical and cultural background to God’s instructions. This enables the reader to perceive the relevance of Deuteronomy for people today.

Athas is to be commended particularly for his willingness to engage explicitly with matters of sexuality. We speak to a generation that does not tolerate coy euphemisms when it comes to the painful and outrageous abuses of human sexuality. Such approaches resonate too closely with the attempts by notorious church leaders to cover up such crimes. Athas allows the text to speak to the present with its original explicit detail.

His discussion of passages dealing with virginity (pp. 261–64) clarify matters that many might prefer to avoid. Speaking to a multicultural community, this level of engagement is essential. His detailed exposition of laws pertaining to rape breaks down the cultural distance between the text and the present. Applying the case law of Deuteronomy, he acknowledges David’s sin with Bathsheba as rape (p. 96). He notes, “the law does not see rape as a subcategory of adultery. Rather, 22:26 equates rape with murder. This acknowledges the profound impact that rape has: it imposes a kind of living death on the victim” (pp. 266–67).

His discussions of adultery (pp. 88–90, 264, 278–80, 286), and ritual uncleanness (p. 271) cut through to the heart of the issues. By reading the text within its original context he persuasively demonstrates how Yahweh instructed his people to protect the vulnerable, particularly women and children, bringing justice to bear wherever abuse occurred (see also pp. 240–43).

Athas also brings a particular precision and sensitivity to the discussion of images and the second commandment (pp. 64–68, 78). Speaking of the tabernacle, he explains, “At the heart of Israel’s worship was revelation, not idolatry” (p. 167). Similarly, with respect to the third commandment, he states that “Honouring God’s name is about knowing him … and about how Christians live, speak, think and pray – not about how to pronounce a particular label” (p. 81).

Athas spends considerable energy clarifying the differences between the Old and New Covenants and the place of Old Covenant law in that transition. He explains Deuteronomy as a law for the nation of Israel, enabling that nation to maintain its relationship with Yahweh and the Promised Land. Given that the New Covenant people of God are not constituted as a geo-political state, and that Jesus has fulfilled the law, he states bluntly, “For Christians, then, the law is no longer binding as law.” Rather, “it educates Christians on the kind of God they worship and the kinds of standards he has in mind for people” (p. 202).

In describing Old Covenant law as prophecy and wisdom (pp. 201–2) Athas begs a number of questions. He states that “The nature of this [Old Testament] revelation was law.… The proper response to it was loyalty, obedience and fear.… The nature of this [New Testament] revelation was grace and truth. The proper response is love, fellowship and joy” (p. 51). Given the strong emphasis on love for Yahweh, unity and generosity among the Old Covenant community, and the extensive celebrations of the festivals and songs in Deuteronomy alone, this dichotomy seems strained at best. It would have been helpful if Athas had more clearly explained how individual salvation (including justification by faith, the work of the Holy Spirit, and the role of personal faith) worked for people under the Old Covenant. One might conclude from Athas’s commentary that these things didn’t happen until after Jesus’s resurrection (especially pp. 249–51).

Athas is careful in his discussion of the contributions of the editor, as distinct from the actual words of Moses. Controversially, he allows that the final form of Deuteronomy may not have been completed until the time of Ezra in 458 BC (pp. 3–4). Of greater concern is his suggestion that 10:14–22 may be “an editorial statement,” or that “the editor has put the words onto the lips of Moses” (p. 151, n. 58; see also p. 46 on 4:38). He reads 32:15–27 as a reference back to the exile (p. 4), in spite of the text stating that “Moses spoke the words of this song in the hearing of all the assembly of Israel” (31:30). He sees in references to covenant curses a likely editorial reading back, rather than an authentic prophetic prediction (pp. 4, 317–18; see also p. 315).

Overall, Athas’s commentary has opened up this foundational text for a wide audience. He challenges the assumptions and stereotypes of contemporary culture, and calls on Christians to come to grips with God’s character and instructions for life. He has shown us that Deuteronomy speaks to the issues of our times, and explains how Christ’s finished work can and will transform our lives and lifestyles, and free us from the destructive power of sin even here and now.

David R. Jackson
Werrington, New South Wales, Australia

Early Christian Readings of Genesis One: Patristic Exegesis and Literal Interpretation book cover

Early Christian Readings of Genesis One: Patristic Exegesis and Literal Interpretation

Craig Allert

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This book is a call for responsible and accurate usage of the church fathers in contemporary engagement with the doctrine of creation. Allert notes how easy it is for modern readers to engage in superficial readings of the church fathers, driven by the concerns and needs of the contemporary debate. As he puts it, “we cannot simply parachute into the context of the Fathers and disregard it by plucking out quotations that appear to support our conclusion” (p. 158). Allert is particularly burdened by what he argues are misrepresentative appeals to the church fathers among creation science advocates. This concern frames the book (pp. 3–4). He draws particular attention to the dangers of proof-texting, selective quotation, eisegesis, and overgeneralization. In contrast to these approaches, Allert argues that we must seek to understand the church fathers in their own context and in relation to their own concerns, which he recognizes is a challenging and consuming task. But, as he emphasizes as well, it is a rewarding one.

Chapter 1 provides a broad introduction to the church fathers, and a case for their importance, drawing from others who have made this case, like Bryan Litfin, D. H. Williams, Robert Webber, and Christopher Hall. This is a helpful overview that readers may benefit from even if they have no interest in the creation debate specifically. In this chapter Allert is especially helpful on the usage of the rule of faith in the early church, the slow development of the canon during the patristic age, and our indebtedness to the fathers in our understanding of Scripture.

Chapter 2 describes how creationist groups misuse the church fathers. Allert’s language against this practice is sharp: he is “appalled” (p. 4); it is “shameful” (p. 109); one example is “glaring” (p. 55). Although at times it is perhaps debatable whether the strength of the argument justifies the strength of the language (e.g., the survey of young-earth and old-earth argumentation on pp. 55–59), Allert has identified a real problem and is right to push back against it.

Moreover, Allert’s own engagement with the church fathers is detailed and informative. This is particularly seen in chapters 3–4, where he explores what the church fathers meant by the “literal” meaning of Scripture (focusing on Basil’s Hexaemeron specifically in ch. 4). Here Allert demonstrates that the fathers’ understanding of “literal” meaning is far more complicated than what contemporary young-earth creationists mean by this term. He rightly opposes the neat opposition of the church fathers into the Alexandrian and Antiochian schools of thought (e.g., pp. 123–24), as well as the overly simple breakdown of “literal” and “allegorical” hermeneutical approaches among the fathers. Essential to this point is the observation that the fathers’ conception of the Bible’s “literal” meaning was flexible enough to frequently embrace various “spiritual” and “allegorical” levels of meaning within it. Allert documents this well, with reference to Diodore of Tarsus’s understanding of historia and theoria in the Psalms (pp. 137–38); or Eustathius of Antioch’s criticism of Origen on the meaning of 1 Samuel 28:5–18 (pp. 142–52); or Basil’s Hexaemeron (pp. 174–202). Noteworthy also is Allert’s defense of allegorical interpretation, against some contemporary critiques, on the basis of the New Testament (pp. 115–23).

The latter half of the book (chs. 5–8) consists of commentary on various issues in the church fathers’ views of creation, such as creation from nothing, or the creation days. Although it is not always clear how to correlate each chapter’s contribution to the larger argument of the book (perhaps, for instance, some kind of summary at the start or conclusion of the chapters would have helped), readers will doubtless expand their understanding of the fathers on the issues they address.

Allert’s book is especially informative about Basil’s Hexaemeron, which is a key text for grasping the fathers’ understanding of Genesis 1. Allert maintains that Basil was not opposed to allegory as such, but a particular kind of allegory; and that his opponent was not Origen but more excessive allegorists like the Manichaeans, who disregarded Scripture’s spiritual interests (e.g., p. 197). He establishes this claim by exploring the context of Basil’s appeal to the “common meaning,” as well as Basil’s own employment of allegorical interpretation in both the Hexaemeron and in other writings. Allert draws attention to how Basil’s concern was the intended purpose of Scripture, not the “literalistic” meaning in the modern sense: “the exhortation by Basil to let Scripture ‘be understood as it has been written’ is not a call to attend a literalistic attachment to the text but rather a call to attend to the purpose of Scripture wherein God ‘has ordained that all things be written for the edification and guidance of our souls’” (p. 198). Appeals to Basil by modern day creationist groups should display sensitivity to the danger of equivocation on the meaning of the word “literal” with reference to Genesis 1.

A strength of Early Christian Readings of Genesis One is the detail and sensitivity of its engagement with patristic sources. Readers will greatly enhance their knowledge of the fathers, especially Augustine and Basil. There are a few eccentricities of footnoting such as not locating an article (p. 56) or citing Wikipedia (p. 62); but these are minor points within an overall solid work of scholarship.

On the whole, Early Christian Readings of Genesis One is a welcome and needed call for more careful, rigorous use of the church fathers’ views on creation. It is not intended so much as a work of fresh discovery or breakthrough—Allert draws from the work of other patristic scholars such as Paul Blowers (e.g., p. 94), Charles Hill (e.g., p. 88), Frances Young (e.g., pp. 127–37), and John McGuckin (e.g., pp. 194–98). The value of Allert’s work is that he brings such scholarship into explicit and forceful opposition to contemporary young-earth creationist advocates. In this role, Early Christian Readings of Genesis One helpfully draws attention to the complexity of patristic exegesis of Genesis, and calls us out into deeper waters than most of us have yet waded.

Gavin Ortlund
First Baptist Church of Ojai
Ojai, California, USA

Accordance 12 Hebrew Expert Collection

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This package is one of three aimed at those specialising in the OT. Hebrew Pro ($999) includes the main Hebrew and Dead Sea Scroll texts, and a number of major lexicons (BDB, HALOT, TLOT, and TWOT). Hebrew Expert ($1999), the collection reviewed here, adds cognate languages and related texts, notably the Syriac Peshitta and the Aramaic Targum. It also adds Leningrad Codex images, along with the full version of DCH. Hebrew Master ($3699) adds more Semitic resources, including Rabbinic resources, such as a tagged Mishna and an untagged Babylonian Talmud. It also adds DSS images, along with BHQ, NIDOTTE, and TDOT. All packages come with a clutch of English Bible translations, including ASV, ESV, KJV, NET, NRSV. All packages only ship with a few general Bible dictionaries (e.g., Easton’s Dictionary and Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary), and a couple of commentaries (abridged Matthew Henry and the New Bible Commentary).

To demonstrate some of the features and potential of this package, I will outline how a seminary or graduate student, or a scholar can use this collection to study Ruth 2:12. BHS and BHQ Ruth can be placed in parallel columns, with the apparatus displayed in a separate window at the bottom of the screen. The user can add the LXX, Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, Targum, and Peshitta as parallel panes. The BHQ commentary can be displayed in a separate window to the right. A text browser window below this can contain a selection of English (and other language) Bible translations. Hovering over a Hebrew word while depressing the command key will bring up the definition in a designated lexicon in another window. Clicking on a Hebrew word after selecting the “Live Click” option allows a user to bring up a research pane in which you can choose from all the hits related to that word in the lexicons. Clicking on an entry in one of these lexicons will bring up the full lexical entry. The bibliographic details for the lexical entry can be easily produced by using “copy as” > “bibliography.” A click on a Hebrew word in BHS-T can also bring up a window with all the hits of that word in the original language texts. Right clicking on a Hebrew word brings up different search options, based on the lexeme, inflected, root, tag, and letters. For instance, a search based on the lexeme of פֹּעַל produces a list of thirty-seven verses. The analysis graph of the search results will immediately reveal that these verses are mainly found in poetic texts of the OT. Observations such as this, along with other textual thoughts or comments can be jotted down in “User Notes” for later reference. Personal translations of verses can be added with “User Notes,” which can be configured as a scrollable parallel column. Although a little fiddly for basic phrase diagramming, analyzing the structure of a verse is possible with the diagram feature. Overall, these features, among others, makes performing text-critical work on the original texts, as well as referencing lexical resources using this software package convenient and efficient.

There are a few minor ways in which the Accordance Hebrew Expert Collection can be improved. First, an option to copy Hebrew as one SBL transliteration style or the other would be useful. As it is, Hebrew transliteration is closest to the academic, rather than general purpose style. For instance, וּתְהִי מַשְׂכֻּרְתֵּךְ is transliterated ûṯᵉhi maśkurteḵ instead of ‎ûtǝhî maśkurtēk. Second, add pagination for the BHQ Megilloth commentary, since copying bibliographical information produces a paragraph instead of a page reference. A user needs to consult a hardcopy edition of the BHQ commentary to correctly cite pages for publication. Third, an option to “Copy As” > “References” in Concordance after a word search would improve efficiency. Fourth, the ability to edit in the diagram feature in full screen, not just when the window is small.

Some graduate students and scholars specializing in the OT will need to consider buying additional resources. These might include (additional cost in parentheses) BHQ ($199), the Vulgate (available in Catholic Bibles and texts add-on bundle, $199), NJPS ($19.90), TDOT ($699; surprisingly, the package includes TDNT but not TDOT), and NIDOTTE ($179). Those considering this software package might need to keep the additional cost of items such as these in mind (total cost for Hebrew Expert and these add-ons is $3294.90). Also, since all the Hebrew packages only ship with a limited number of English Bible translations, dictionaries, and commentaries, Themelios readers who want to move beyond text-critical work might want to add at least NIV-11 GKE ($49.90) and HCSB ($14.90), along with other Bible dictionaries and commentaries. A Hebrew collection in Accordance could be supplemented with English Pro ($999.00) or English Expert ($3999.00) to obtain these resources.

I’ve been trialling Accordance for six months after using BibleWorks for the previous eighteen years. The learning curve has been steep, but the gains in efficiency after learning to use the basic functions, along with resources of Accordance Hebrew Expert, has made the effort worthwhile. Since this collection is geared towards more scholarly use, those preparing Bible studies and sermons will need to add more resources to this collection.

Peter H. W. Lau
Malaysian Theological Seminary
Seremban, Malaysia

All the News That’s Fit to Tell and How to Tell It: How to Write Christian Newsletters book cover

All the News That’s Fit to Tell and How to Tell It: How to Write Christian Newsletters

Amy Young

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To anyone who has never been required either to write or read a steady flow of missionary newsletters, an entire book dedicated solely to that purpose might seem excessive. Nevertheless, having periodically found myself at both ends of the newsletter production line, I have seen and can testify that Amy Young’s latest work is a godsend for missionaries and their supporters alike. Young, Director of Global Operations for Velvet Ashes, speaks from her years of experience as a missionary to Asia. The result is both spiritually insightful and deeply practical, a gift and a guide to amateurs, veterans, and every newsletter writer in between.

Young begins where the process of writing itself begins, in the mind of the writer. Her first section (pp. 5–15) addresses “The Unseen Battle” of correcting and solidifying one’s mindset in order to write with confidence. In this chapter, she demonstrates how to break out of the negative patterns of thought and attitude that so easily derail the writing process: perfectionism, fear of failure, comparison, fear of criticism, and so forth. She then devotes a chapter to clarifying and establishing one’s individual motivation for newsletter-writing, finding a “why … strong enough to hold you when emotion dies” (p. 18). Having established the mental, spiritual, and emotional posture that undergird the process of writing newsletters, she then devotes the remainder of All the News to equipping readers with a set of practical tools.

Some of Young’s input is designed for newsletter writers in particular. She outlines the unique structure common to this genre and demonstrates how to enliven that structure with visual elements. Along with this instruction, she provides a full chapter on “blend[ing] explaining and storytelling,” moving beyond the plain delivery of news to “act[ing] as a bit of a tour guide sharing your cultural context … while illustrating your explanation with stories” (p. 35).

The bulk of All the News, however, is simply good writing advice, tailored ever-so-slightly for the newsletter-writing missionary. This includes ground rules for employing strong verbs and concrete language as well as rooting out repetitive language and developing a concise, readable style. Some chapters equip writers to foster their unique writing voice. Other sections help missionaries to seek out and accept qualitative feedback. She even demonstrates how to cultivate the introspective and observational skills needed to glean writing material from the rhythms everyday of life.

If those seeking to master writing should consult Douglas Wilson’s Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2011), then All the News is for those who have had writing thrust upon them. Young acknowledges this reality in her first chapter, admonishing the reader that “[w]hether you enjoy writing or not, the truth is your job now requires you to write” (p. 7). She takes on the role of training a potentially unwilling audience in a daunting task. Her tone, content, and structure all expertly flow from a sober recognition of that fact.

In light of that dynamic, Young’s chapters on mindset and motivation are essential to the success of All the News. Cross-cultural ministry is one of the most disorienting experiences a believer can undergo. All the tethers of identity (e.g., homeland, language, hobbies, friends, family, religious experience) have drastically changed, if not entirely disappeared. All the daily rhythms of life have been disrupted. In the midst of such an undertaking, the added stress of communicating that experience to a distant audience can register as an existential crisis rather than a passing annoyance. Young’s description of the devil’s attacks in this area is not remotely hyperbolic: “He is your adversary, strongly opposed to you communicating and connecting with your supporters. He will … tell you that you are not a good enough writer, not doing enough, not being spiritual enough” (p. 8). As such, far from being a mere perfunctory pick-me-up, these chapters establish the exact tone of grace and encouragement necessary for the reluctant writer to hear and accept her advice.

Young balances that advice skillfully between the general and the specific, casting a clear vision without being unduly prescriptive. Her advice on outlining and prewriting provides structure, but she also creates ample space for creativity within that structure. Likewise, the chapter on visual elements (co-written with photographer and missionary Kathryn Bronn) is a magnificent miniature crash-course in photography. Her recommendations for “Where to Find Material” (pp. 102–12) are an especial boon to missionaries whose communications are hampered by security concerns.

Even the visual structure and layout of All the News facilitate Young’s intentions. The work is broken into carefully measured paragraphs with bolded subtitles, optimizing the work not only for initial digestibility but also for ongoing review. Each chapter ends with action steps for applying and practicing new methods and ideas. She even closes the book with a brief checklist reviewing the key takeaways of each chapter, the perfect conclusion for this guidebook.

Step by deliberate step, Amy Young dispels the glamour and mystery surrounding good writing. She reveals the entire process to be a simple (if not easy) matter of hard work and consistent practice. In the end, All the News more than earns its place in the limited square footage of any missionary’s luggage.

Jaclyn S. Parrish
B. H. Carroll Theological Institute
Irving, Texas, USA

The Scandal of Evangelism: A Biblical Study of the Ethics of Evangelism book cover

The Scandal of Evangelism: A Biblical Study of the Ethics of Evangelism

Elmer John Thiessen

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I am often asked to give seminars help Christians tell their friends, family, and work colleagues about Jesus. Over the last decade, the nature of the questions afterwards has increasingly changed. Whereas the questions previously concerned the method of evangelism—e.g., “How do I bring up my faith in a conversation?”—the questions now relate to the ethics of evangelism—e.g., “As a boss, am I allowed to tell my workers about Jesus?”

This has been an under-explored area of Christian evangelism. Most books on evangelism have a brief treatment on the definition of evangelism, something on the biblical warrant for evangelism, and then a suggestion of methods of evangelism. But there is very little on the ethics of evangelism. Can a doctor tell her patient about Jesus? What about a school teacher to her students? What about an uncle to his niece?

Elmer John Thiessen fills this gap with his latest book The Scandal of Evangelism: A Biblical Study of the Ethics of Evangelism. This is familiar territory for Thiessen. He previously taught philosophy for 36 years at Medicine Hat College in Alberta, where he was open with students about his Christian faith. His earlier book, The Ethics of Evangelism: A Philosophical Defense of Proselytizing and Persuasion (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011) was written for both Christian and non-Christian audiences.

The audience of this book, The Scandal of Evangelism, is the Christian reader. The goal is twofold: (1) to provide a biblical grounding for a Christian ethics of evangelism, and (2) to apply this to contemporary examples. These two aims divide the book into two halves.

The first h