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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

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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

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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 (https://www.nationalreview.com/1999/05/non-fiction-100/). 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

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Justification

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

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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, https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-eating-of-sausages-1376947602).

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

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

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

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Leviticus

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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 half of the book achieves the first aim by providing a biblical theology of evangelism. Thiessen spends some time on what I call the prolegomena of evangelism. What is the gospel? What is the relationship between word and deed? What is the relationship between evangelism and mission? What is the relationship between personal salvation and kingdom membership? Do I proclaim the gospel for conversion to make disciples or to grow disciples? Thiessen’s treatment here is both welcome and thorough.

Thiessen then surveys what evangelism looks like in the Bible, giving particular attention to the New Testament. From this, he generates ethical guidelines for evangelism. The most useful guideline is the Golden Rule: “Evangelize others as you yourself would like to be evangelized” (p. 115). I also appreciate the guidelines that deal with the motivation for evangelism (pp. 129–30). After all, this is the heart of Christian ethics—not so much what we do, but who we are when we do it.

The second half of the book applies these guidelines to four specific, contemporary situations: (1) evangelism of children; (2) evangelism in professional life, with particular attention to the academy; (3) evangelism and humanitarian aid; and (4) the ethics of proselytism, with particular attention to “sheep stealing”—i.e., evangelizing Christians from another church, denomination, or tradition.

Once again, I found Thiessen’s treatment to be highly informed—benefitting both from research and his personal experiences—with nuanced and balanced conclusions. Whether or not you agree with his conclusions, you will always grant that he gives the other side a fair hearing and then adequately justifies his own conclusions.

This book is actually more than a book on the ethics of evangelism. Thiessen also gives us theological treatments on important subjects, such as freedom, coercion, work, and social action. He also gives us useful categories for navigating the ethical minefield of evangelism, e.g., a “sliding scale” for evaluating the relationship between humanitarian aid and evangelism (pp. 191–93). At other times, the book is an apology, i.e., a defense—of Christian evangelism.

In the end, the crux of the ethical debate regarding evangelism is the notion of coercion. At various sections of the book, Thiessen does a great job of giving us a philosophical and theological analysis of coercion—for example, distinguishing between it and constraint (p. 187).

If I have concerns, they are minor. First, most books on evangelism pit the work of the Holy Spirit against human effort. For example, “Ultimately, any success we might have in evangelism is the work of God’s Spirit, and not the result of our own abilities” (p. 86). But can’t it be a both-and rather than an either-or, especially if the Spirit is the supernatural, personal agent, and the human evangelist’s efforts are the natural, instrumental means? Second, at a style level, Thiessen often says, “First …” and then I can’t find a “Second …” and “Third …”! But, like I said, these are very minor concerns.

Overall, this is a welcome addition to the canon of books on evangelism. This book covers much territory on the prolegomena of evangelism, which many other survey books do not address. Its most valuable contribution is that it fills a gap—on the ethics of evangelism—which has been surprisingly untreated until now. It is timely, because our post-Christendom 21st century world is very concerned about issues of power, violence, and coercion. Christians will need all the tools they can get to navigate this new world. Finally, this book is both highly informed by academia and personal experience. I recommend it highly.

Sam Chan
City Bible Forum
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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Encountering the History of Missions: From Early Church to Today

John Mark Terry and Robert L. Gallagher

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John Mark Terry and Robert Gallagher should be commended for attempting to survey the history of Christian missions in a single volume that is both succinct yet comprehensive enough to serve as a textbook for a semester-long course. The eighteen chapters of Encountering the History of Missions span roughly 350 pages. It takes readers from the well-trod ground of “missions in the early church” to a rare and insightful chapter explicating the pervasive influence of Fuller Seminary’s Church Growth Movement school of thought. The authors aim to provide a global perspective in three main ways: (1) by turning from the imperial Roman church to a chapter on Persian and later Nestorian missions (chapter 2), (2) by discussing a millennium of Eastern Orthodox missions (chapter 4), and (3) by including notable majority world church leaders and missionaries in their survey of the modern era.

In a largely chronological presentation, readers progress through succinct chapters on “Celtic” (curiously including Boniface) and Orthodox missions as well as Dominican and Franciscan, Medieval Renewal, and Reformation missions. This is followed by respective chapters on Jesuit, Pietist, Moravian, and Methodist missions. Next comes chapters on The Great Century of Protestant Missions, The Twentieth Century, Missionary Councils and Congresses, and Specialized Missions (developed in the twentieth century). Thankfully, there is a topic index. The second half of the book is more cohesive as the focus narrows on evangelical Protestantism, though not exclusively. The authors find their own voices after relying, perhaps too uncritically, in the first half of the book on scholars of the Catholic, Orthodox, and Nestorian traditions.

A book like this is attractive for a few reasons. Textbooks of this genre and scope are few and far between. Terry is a longtime Southern Baptist professor and former missionary. Gallagher is a Charismatic Australian department chair at Wheaton College and member of the CMA. These seasoned missiologists have provided leadership for a swath of evangelicals. They survey mission theory while introducing the history of missions. The authors believe the history of missions “is as inspiring as it is instructional” (pp. 361–62). It is written for evangelical students and practitioners.

The book’s purview is ecumenical; its perspective is broadly evangelical, not polemical. Terry and Gallagher offer a charitable introduction to the place of missions in Luther’s thought, early Lutheran missions and the eventual Lutheran expansion throughout Scandinavia (pp. 138–48). They survey the missionary contributions of John Calvin’s Geneva. Although the chapter on Reformation missions is too narrowly focused on Wittenberg and Geneva, the authors avoid erroneously dismissing the Reformation movement as unmissionary.

A few weaknesses make me hesitant to assign it to undergraduate students, at least without careful mediation on my part. I am especially troubled by the authors’ uncritical attributions and statements. The following references deserve yet lack theological comment: the liberal Adolf von Harnack is quoted merely as a “German Lutheran theologian” (p. 6); “Arian Christianity” is noted without critical assessment (p. 13); a supposed quote from Jesus is taken from the Gospel of Thomas without qualification (p. 30); Spaniards are said to have searched for gold and “brought Christ” to native peoples through military conquest and forced conversions (p. 91); Ignatius Loyola is said to have had a “radical conversion to Christ” (p. 150), and post-Trent Jesuits are said to have “presented the gospel” (pp. 157, 158, 170). The authors present Jesuits as being both “faithful to Christ” and “flexible in [Christian] expression” (pp. 150, 170). The laudable pedagogical intentions of these professors, it seems, get in the way of discerning historical and theological reflection.

Furthermore, curious omissions and unclear writing span the book. The authors do not cite Tertullian when they write, “The blood of the martyrs really did prove to be the seed of the church” (p. 10). Nor do they indicate that their turn of the phrase, “The world was his parish,” is derived from John Wesley (p. 224). They do not always clearly distinguish between Persian, Syrian, and Nestorian churches. Medieval renewalists are unhelpfully called “Reformers” with a capital R. Martin Luther’s 95 theses are framed as a summary of Reformed thought rather than a focused critique of indulgences (p. 139). Several other simple errors could also be mentioned

This book will serve readers seeking a better understanding of the missionary component of the history of world Christianity. Instructors and graduate students may find it a useful reference and pedagogical resource. A twenty-five-page long reference list includes approximately 500 entries. Many helpful sidebars throughout the book highlight particular events, issues, or primary documents, and persons, including modern era majority world church leaders Ko Tha Byu, Samuel Adjayi Crowther, John Sung, and Sundar Singh. Several women are mentioned throughout the book, including Ann Haseltine Judson, Helen Roseveare, Amy Carmichael, and Betty Green.

The chapter on the Church Growth Movement proved a helpful, objective though sympathetic explication of the current missions scene. Terry and Gallagher posit eight socio-historical factors that facilitated the trending of this school of thought (pp. 338–40). They then posit seven consequent “streams” flowing from Donald MacGavran’s influence. This chapter could serve as a stand-alone resource well describing what is “out there” and requiring critical, discerning engagement. The authors note six needed improvements to the Church Growth Movement. They suggest, as well, that it “never developed a thorough theological foundation” while emerging from a pragmatic and sociological point of view (p. 352).

The book’s perspective on contextualization seems noncontroversial, albeit uncritical. Their claim that elements of a pre-Christian culture could serve as a “foundation” for the Christian faith (p. 158) may be taken as either overstatement or, perhaps, a more accommodating Charles Kraft-like posture toward indigenous worldviews and culture. They rightly commend the usefulness of anthropology and sociological insights for faithful missions (pp. 284–86, 343) but do so without any accompanying warning of potential missteps.

The authors’ final chapter fails to deliver on their promise to consider how to meet the remaining needs in our contemporary world. To be fair, readers will find much “instruction and inspiration” for missionary praxis in the content-packed chapters that precede. Despite its weaknesses, Encountering the History of Missions accomplishes in textbook form, and as a single volume, what no other book I’m aware of does.

Travis L. Myers
Bethlehem College & Seminary
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

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Christianity in the Twentieth Century: A World History

Brian Stanley

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Brian Stanley, respected historian of world Christianity and professor at the University of Edinburgh, invested six years producing his latest work, Christianity in the Twentieth Century. Stanley’s two previous works—The World Missionary Conference, Edinburgh 2010 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009) and The Global Diffusion of Evangelism (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013)—also explore issues of twentieth-century world Christian and mission history.

Stanley’s aim is to evaluate the “multiple and complex ways in which the Christian religion and its institutional embodiment in the Christian churches have interacted with the changing social, political, and cultural environment of the twentieth century” (pp. 3–4). To do this, he chooses fifteen themes that show how the church responded to the changing twentieth-century world, offering two case studies for each theme to make his point.

In the opening chapter, the author shows how British and American Christianity were affected by the First World War. Next, with a focus on Poland and Korea, he discusses the dynamics of Christianity and nationalism (ch. 2). The following three chapters consider prophetic and revival movements in Africa and the South Pacific (ch. 3), state-imposed secularization in France and the Soviet Union (chap. 4), and faith trends and church attendance in Scandinavia and the United States (ch. 5). He then explores church unity in India and China (ch. 6), racism in Nazi Germany, genocide in Rwanda (ch. 7), and the plight of Christian minorities in Egypt and Indonesia (ch. 8). Stanley continues his study by articulating twentieth-century mission theologies (ch. 9), exploring liberation theology in Latin America and Palestine (chap. 10), and discussing justice and the gospel issues in South Africa’s apartheid state and among Canada’s first nations population (ch. 11). He devotes one chapter to questions about the ordination of women in Australia and gay rights in American churches (ch. 12). In the remaining chapters, he discusses global Pentecostalism (ch. 13), Eastern Orthodox Christianity (ch. 14), and the impact of global migration on the church (ch. 15). He concludes the book with a concise and summative chapter that brings the work together.

Christianity in the Twentieth Century is a rich and thorough resource. Though Stanley limits himself to fifteen themes and two case studies per theme, he succeeds in providing the reader a rather comprehensive picture of twentieth-century global Christianity. This includes some places and people that may not get as much attention in other survey works (e.g., Polish Catholics, African Orthodox Christians, Australian Anglicans).

Though Stanley adequately narrates the story of world Christianity in the last century, his many smaller nuggets of historical insights throughout the work are especially compelling. For example, he shows how WWI fractured the mission unity garnered from the 1910 Edinburgh World Missionary Conference and particularly alienated German missionaries from their European and North American counterparts (pp. 14–15). Also, he asserts that Egyptian Coptic Christians learned to be resilient as a religious minority by looking to their monastic past, to the desert fathers who remained firm in their faith amid periods of Roman persecution (p. 181). Stanley also questions the commonly held view that global Pentecostalism originated from the 1906 Asuza Street revival in Los Angeles. He points to other factors and spiritual movements that encouraged this expression of Christianity (pp. 291–92). Finally, Stanley shows how Eastern Orthodox practices, particularly the “Jesus Prayer,” spread to Europe during the middle of the century because of the large number of Russian Christians interned in German prison campus during WWI (p. 315).

I have just two minor critiques. First, though Stanley gives space to both Latin American liberation theology movements and the holistic missiology of Latin American evangelicals (Padilla, Escobar, Costas) at Lausanne 1974 (pp. 210–13, 223–31), he makes no connection between the thought and practice of these two movements. This is especially surprising given his good argument for the Protestant influences on liberation theology within the Roman Catholic Church. Second, while the author does a good job of surveying twentieth-century global Christianity, his work still seems a bit overly focused on the church in America. The biggest twentieth-century Christian story was the church in Africa. This deserves more space.

In sum, Stanley has produced an inviting, well-written, and excellent survey of twentieth-century global Christianity. Scholars, professors, and graduate students of Christian history will greatly benefit. Paired with primary source readings, this fifteen-chapter book would be a great anchoring text for a graduate or seminary level course on Christianity in the twentieth century.

Edward L. Smither
Columbia International University
Columbia, South Carolina, USA

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The End of Theology: Shaping Theology for the Sake of Mission

Jason Sexton and Paul Weston, eds.

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This book is not as pessimistic as the title might suggest! In fact, it is a positive book in many ways. The preface traces the origin of the book to the 2014 meeting of the Tyndale Fellowship Christian Doctrine Study Group. Emma Wild-Wood (senior lecturer at the Centre for the Study of World Christianity in New College, Edinburgh) then provides a foreword that sets the book in the context of the changing face of World Christianity.

“Theologians and missiologists do not often talk to each other,” so say Jason Sexton and Paul Weston in the opening line of their introduction (p. xxi). But they go on to explain how the essays in the book point in a different direction, deliberately drawing missiologists and theologians together. They admit, “It was not an entirely easy conversation” (p. xxii). Although many perspectives are represented in the book, “at every point, the focus of the authors was the central question of what it means to do theology for the sake of mission” (p. xxii).

The editors helpfully arrange the book in three parts. Part one is entitled “Theology and Mission in Dialogue.” This section has three main papers, each followed by a response. Where the main chapter is written by a specialist in mission, the response is given by a systematic theologian, and vice versa.

Part two is entitled “Assessing the Shape of Theology and Mission in Dialogue.” Here several authors reflect (to a greater or lesser extent) on the relationship between mission and theology in the light of the earlier chapters. Of the four essays by Mark Elliott, Brian Stanley, Pete Ward, and Jason Sexton, I particularly appreciated Elliott’s appreciative remarks on the importance of mission while pushing back against those who wish to argue that it is the hermeneutical key to Scripture. Also noteworthy is Brian Stanley’s challenge to do self-consciously theological work that relates to Christian mission. I found the clarity and verve of Stanley’s paper particularly engaging.

In Part three, “The Practice of Shaping Theology for Mission,” I particularly enjoyed reading David Kirkpatrick’s exploration of the influences on Ecuadorian theologian C. René Padilla, including Arthur Holmes at Wheaton College; F. F. Bruce, who supervised Padilla’s PhD in New Testament at Manchester University; George Eldon Ladd, with his theology of the Kingdom and a church living “between the times”; and John A. Mackay, the Scottish missionary from Inverness who called for theology in the Latin American church to be written in context. Other essays reflect theologically on personal experiences of people seeking to engage in mission in various ways and contexts.

This book has an important statement of intent—namely, theologians and missiologists must speak to each other. It is also a useful snapshot for students of the kinds of conversations that are taking place regarding the interface between theology and missiology. At the same time, this is not the first place I would point people looking for theological reflection on mission. I found some essays rather heavy going. Despite the editors’ best efforts to create a measure of coherence, a collection of essays typically has a disjointed feel to it. It was inevitable that I should warm to some essays more than others. Nonetheless, I am grateful for the work that went into this volume. It contains several excellent papers and is a valuable addition to the range of resources available to support serious theological thinking.

Alistair I. Wilson
Edinburgh Theological Seminary
Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

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Happiness in America: A Cultural History

Lawrence R. Samuel

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What do I need to be happy? Possessions? Relationships? An attitude adjustment? More hobbies? Better hobbies? Wine, women, and song? More serotonin? In Happiness in America: A Cultural History, Lawrence R. Samuel examines the role that “the pursuit of happiness” plays in the American self-concept and in our vision of a life lived well (the “American Dream”). Lawrence Samuel works as a culture consultant, advising corporations and advertising agencies on topics relating to cultural trends in the United States. Having earned a PhD in American studies from the University of Minnesota, he is the author of many books on the subject. He argues in this latest book that our definitions of happiness are ambiguous and incoherent, our methods of pursuing it misguided, and our expectations about it wrongheaded.

Drawing on both popular and scholarly sources, the book is organized chronologically. In the introduction, after presenting his basic message about happiness, Samuel briefly discusses the use of the phrase “pursuit of happiness” in the founding American documents and the general understanding of happiness at that time. He then proceeds to trace American thoughts on happiness through the interwar period (ch. 1), World War Two and the 1950s (ch. 2), the tumultuous 1960s and 1070s (ch. 3), the final two decades of the twentieth century (ch. 4), and the dawn of the twenty-first century (ch. 5). In the final chapter, Samuel presents his description of the current state of the pursuit of happiness, and then gives his concluding thoughts in an epilogue.

Samuel presents a consistent message, arguing that Americans tend to earnestly desire happiness, but we do not quite know what it is or what secret techniques we can employ to obtain it. Despite decades of research in which we see that happiness has no strong connection to material wealth, Americans seem unwilling to abandon the idea that if we just had more money or the newest gadget, we would enter into a state of long-lasting bliss. The search for the method or purchase that will ensure happiness is made more difficult by the proliferation of shallow self-help books (a genre that grew into a substantial body of popular literature in the 1930s) that overshadows the more scientifically-rigorous efforts by various scholars to assess happiness through surveys and laboratory research.

One possible outcome of this confusion is a recurring contrast between Americans’ self-identification as a happy people and the troubling levels of more objective indicators of psychosocial functioning (e.g., substance abuse, mental illness, stress, divorce, etc.). In addition, at every turn, we see counter-pressure being brought to bear by critics of “happyology,” who argue that happiness cannot be an end in itself but must be seen as a pleasant side effect of a life spent in the service of something more meaningful than individual subjective gratification. We also see scholarly disagreement over the degree to which happiness depends on individual effort versus social conditions. Some of us who are involved with the “positive psychology” movement might be surprised to learn that the application of social-scientific methodology toward a description of happiness, and a set of empirically-supported techniques for pursuing happiness, is a project that stretches at least as far back as the 1920s. We might also be surprised to see that the debates currently surrounding the science of happiness are, in fact, perennial.

Speaking of positive psychology, Dr. Samuel does a fair job of sketching out the birth and rise of this field, introducing us to eminent early researchers such as Ed Diener, David Myers, Richard Easterlin, and Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi. The positive psychology movement officially began in 1998 with Martin Seligman’s tenure as president of the American Psychological Association. We get a glimpse into the research on learned optimism that gave Seligman the inspiration for his call to psychologists to give greater emphasis to a scientific understanding of the things that make life worth living. Samuel presents positive psychology as the latest (and greatest) manifestation of an ongoing project to create a science of happiness that can be fruitfully applied in order to give everyone a chance at living a happy life.

Despite his kind words for positive psychology (he concludes the book with a set of twelve tips drawn from a century of happiness scholarship), Samuel emphasizes the incoherence of the field. He describes the difficulties in defining happiness, measurement problems in the scientific research literature, contradictory theories of happiness, and general failures to produce universally-effective methods for teaching people how to be happy. In this way, Happiness in America joins the ranks of critics of happiness science such as Barbara Ehrenreich (Bright-Sided [New York: Metropolitan, 2009]) and William Davies (The Happiness Industry [New York: Verso, 2015]), cautioning us that the pursuit of happiness is not all that it is cracked up to be.

Those who are interested in a Christian perspective on happiness and/or positive psychology will have to look elsewhere. While this is an informative book about the history of twentieth and twenty-first century attempts to quantify and cultivate happiness, religion receives only a few passing mentions. For a Christian viewpoint, I recommend that readers seek out books such as Christopher Kaczor’s The Gospel of Happiness (New York: Image, 2015) and Mark McMinn’s The Science of Virtue (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2017).

Charles H. Hackney
Briercrest College and Seminary
Caronport, Saskatchewan, Canada

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Multiplying Churches in Japanese Soil

John W. Mehn

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Planting churches in Japan is hard. Despite centuries of missionary efforts in Japan, the church has little fruit to show for its efforts. In an attempt to investigate and remedy this situation, John Mehn wrote Multiplying Churches in Japanese Soil. Mehn has lived in Japan for more than thirty years and is well versed in the history, culture, and traditions of the Japanese people.

The book is organized into eight chapters. The first four chapters give some historical and contextual background to the work of planting churches in Japan. Mehn explains this history of church planting in Japan and the contextual factors that make church planting so difficult. He then presents the background of traditional Japanese religious groups and provides lessons learned from historical and contemporary church planting in Japan.

In the final three chapters, Mehn examines several contemporary models of church planting in Japan. These models include target penetration, network planting, simple church, cell churches, multisite churches, and sending churches. For each, he not only explains the model but also gives examples of churches in Japan utilizing that model. He then outlines how certain church leaders in Japan are developing leaders in their churches. Common characteristics of these leaders include a God-given ministry vision, a risk-taking faith, a view of the church as a dynamic sending community, an emphasis on the development of lay people for ministry, a relational approach to leadership through encouragement, and an aggressive implementation through practical ministry. Finally, he presents challenges for the future of church planting in Japan.

Mehn does a tremendous job outlining Japanese history and culture. His treatment of religion in Japan and the need for adequate contextualization is worth the cost of the book. He explains one of the challenges to contextualization, “Japanese culture is often hard to determine, as the Japanese people fail to be very self-reflective of their culture and are reticent to speak to people they don’t know well regarding their cultural views” (p. 15). In a later chapter, he laments that unhealthy contextualization has led the church to overemphasize the clergy/laity divide, see the church more as an institution than a gathering of people, and fail to engage the local community (pp. 27–35).

His treatment of spiritual warfare is likewise helpful. He explains that it does not take long in Japan to sense the spiritual darkness surrounding the people. And yet, Mehn displays a biblical perspective by writing, “Our task is preaching the truth of the gospel to ourselves and others” (p. 48). He continues on the issue of prayer, “Rather than praying against spirits, the kind of biblical prayers needed are that God would open the eyes of people in darkness and lead them in repentance for their rebellion against him” (p. 48). An additional strength of the work is that he does not advocate only one model for church planting in Japan but gives numerous models for consideration.

While Mehn’s desire to see more churches planted in Japan is admirable, his overdependence on church planting movement (CPM) methodology hinders the book’s effectiveness. With no support except a quote from Winter and Koch, he asserts, “Only multiplying new communities of believers saturating the country will accomplish the task of displaying the missionary nature of the church in every community” (pp. xix–xx). He criticizes the church’s over-institutionalization and the lack of lay leader ministries. But even if these issues are addressed, it is difficult to see how multiplication could happen “naturally” (p. 127) in a context as structured and regimented as Japan. In the same way, in a culture so deeply committed to sacred space, it is difficult to understand how cell churches and small groups can flourish.

To be fair, Mehn’s approach is not as extreme as other CPM-type methods. Though he celebrates the need for multiplication, the churches in his research planted a new church at least three times over a twenty-year period. Such growth is hardly characteristic of CPM methodology, whose advocates claimed that CPM churches reproduce at the rate of once per month. CPM methodology seems only to affect his analysis and description of the church and its leaders. For example, church is only defined as a “dynamic sending community” (pp. 125–29). This view is not wrong, per se, but it misses key elements of what makes a healthy church, such as biblical preaching, teaching, worship, and prayer.

Along the same lines, the necessity of strong biblical and theological foundations is sadly lacking from his discussions of church and leadership. He does mentions areas where the Japanese church needs greater theological reflection (pp. 13–14). However, when he addresses needs of existing churches (p. 26), contemporary church planting models (p. 99), or church leaders, theology is not listed as a priority. Mehn fails to recognize that unhealthy contextualization flows out of unhealthy interpretation. If churches are going to live out the gospel and be a light to their communities, they need to know the Bible and how to interpret it. Strategies and methods for multiplication simply are not enough to lead the church to health for generations to come.

While Mehn’s work has some weaknesses, we can be thankful that this book advances a needed discussion on the necessity of church planting in an area of great need. Those working in Japan will certainly learn much from this book, but even church leaders in other locations will benefit from reading about the challenges and opportunities for church planting in a place that has long resisted the gospel’s life-giving power.

Will Brooks
Penang, Malaysia

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Reading the Bible Missionally

Michael W. Goheen, ed.

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Since the end of the 20th century, scholarly discussions considering the intersection between biblical hermeneutics and mission have become more and more commonplace. From Johannes Blauw and David Bosch to Christopher Wright and Richard Bauckham, the cross-disciplinary conversations have proven fruitful for both missiological and biblical disciplines. Michael Goheen’s edited volume Reading the Bible Missionally joins these conversations by presenting a survey of topics related to mission and Bible interpretation. With contributors like Richard Bauckham, George Hunsberger, John Franke, Christopher J. H. Wright, Craig Bartholomew, Dean Flemming, N. T. Wright, and Joel B. Green, this text provides a helpful orientation for students unfamiliar with the missional hermeneutic conversation as well as challenging scholarly articles for advanced students on the topic.

Goheen divides the book into five sections: (1) A Missional Hermeneutic, (2) A Missional Reading of the Old Testament, (3) A Missional Reading of the New Testament, (4) A Missional Reading of Scripture and Preaching, and (5) A Missional Reading of Scripture and Theological Education. The first section begins with a brief historical overview. It introduces the three central aspects of a missional hermeneutic: “reading the whole Scripture with mission as a central theme, reading Scripture to under what mission really is, and reading Scripture to equip the church for its missional task” (p. 15). Bauckham, Hunsberger, Bartholomew, and Franke build on those central themes as they impact biblical interpretation, historical perspective, theological interpretation, and intercultural hermeneutics respectively.

In particular, Franke’s chapter adds a decidedly philosophical and theological timbre to the predominantly biblical and missiological conversation. His treatment of intercultural hermeneutics moves readers to consider how these conversations relate to theological disciplines. He guides readers through deep theological waters, addressing the doctrine of the Trinity, modern and postmodern philosophies, their impact on hermeneutics, and insights from anthropological scholarship. Franke should be applauded for the helpful complexity of his consideration. His treatment, however, leaves readers questioning the status and role of the inspired biblical text in his system, which grows out of his focus on the diverse contextuality of Christian knowledge and the impact of context in the Scriptures themselves. Yet, he helpfully takes intentional steps to affirm a robust realism in his interaction with postmodern philosophy.

In the second section, Christopher J. H. Wright introduces his framework for reading the Old Testament missionally. Readers acquainted with his larger work The Mission of God (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006) will find this chapter familiar. Mark Glanville and Carl J. Bosma follow Wright with a narrow lens focus on Deuteronomy, Psalm 67, and Psalm 96. Both of these chapters are rich with observations on how their respective passages help the church better recognize God’s missional working in Israel looking forward to Christ.

In the third section, N. T. Wright begins by arguing the New Testament should be read “from the entire missional agenda of the early church” (p. 176). Joel B. Green and Dean Flemming follow Wright by offering in-depth treatments of James and Colossians read through a missional lens. Green’s treatment of James through the lens of narrative identity and incarnation gives readers a helpful lens through which to consider a book not normally associated with a missional impulse.

The fourth section moves the book into a natural and necessary treatment of how a missional hermeneutic can result in missional preaching. Goheen brings preaching into the missional hermeneutic conversation by considering its telos—“to form a distinctive community for the sake of the world” (p. 247). Goheen’s high view of both Christ and the Bible is laudable and refreshing. Next, Timothy M. Sheridan compares missional preaching with Tim Keller’s gospel-centered preaching, arguing that preaching influenced by a missional reading of Scripture is preferable to a gospel-centered approach.

Finally, Darrell J. Gruder and Goheen consider the impact of missional reading of Scripture on theological education. Gruder outlines the historical development and current contours of the theological education. He argues that a missional reading of Scripture “must reshape theological education so that the community of saints may be equipped through their encounter with the written word of God” (p. 297). Gruder’s ability to juggle the complexities of theological education and synthesize a missional hermeneutic into those conversations makes this chapter a valuable addition to the growing body of literature about the purpose and role of the seminary in the life of the church. Goheen concludes the book by framing his perspective on a missional hermeneutic and theological education through the lens of the 1952 International Missionary Council in Willingen, Germany. He proposes a constructive model for how to create a theological curriculum centered on the gospel, the mission of God, and the mission of the church.

Goheen’s edited volume truly is a multi-disciplinary look at nature of a missional hermeneutic and its application to the life of the church. The genuine diversity of the contributors allows readers to consider the reality of a missional God and his missional text from a number of different angles. As a result, the ability to uncover and tease out the implications for a missional interpretation from so many varied perspectives drives home the reality that the Scripture and the life of the church truly are centered on God and his mission. In addition, all of the contributors share a commitment to pre/post-Enlightenment interpretation of the Scriptures. For readers who do not align with these philosophical presuppositions, this text could prove occasionally troublesome. Even so, Reading the Bible Missionally is a rich resource. It is a must-have for scholars and students in missiology and biblical studies.

Christine E. Thornton
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, North Carolina, USA

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Evangelism in a Skeptical World: How to Make the Unbelievable News About Jesus More Believable

Sam Chan

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The dramatic pace of cultural change in the Western world has left many Christians feeling battered and unsure about the task of evangelism. The approaches that seemed to work so well in the past have little impact on our unbelieving friends. Though a number of valuable books address this issue, Sam Chan’s book provides a depth of engagement that is much needed in this area. Though theologically rich, Chan also draws on philosophy, psychology, sociology, and missiology to give a robust defense of his approach.

The essence of Chan’s argument is that Christians need to utilize a wide variety of evangelistic methods to effectively engage our secular pluralist culture. In chapter 1, Chan provides a biblical and theological foundation for this conviction, drawing on his earlier work in speech-act theory (Preaching and the Word of God: Answering an Old Question with Speech-Act Theory [Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2016]). He helpfully reminds us that evangelism is defined by its content not its form. Effective communication of the gospel is the goal, yet the methods we may employ are many and varied.

Chapter 2 discusses the impact of plausibility structures on evangelism and outlines a range of practical ways to get started in personal evangelism. He emphasizes the lifestyle dimension of evangelism and the value of a communal approach. Though the implications for a church are briefly mentioned, a more in-depth discussion of these principles for church communities would be appreciated.

The tendency among evangelicals to demand a single mode of evangelism is addressed in chapter 3 with a biblical survey of gospel metaphors. Some common gospel outlines are critiqued. Chan surveys the breadth of imagery employed in the Bible for God, Jesus, sin, atonement, and salvation. Readers would benefit from further reflection on these perspectives as a way of broadening their gospel vocabulary and fluency. The following chapter’s review of post-modern epistemology reinforces this need for diversity in approach. The contrast between modernism and post-modernism that Chan outlines is a valuable introduction to the impact of western philosophical paradigms on personal and public evangelism.

Chapters 5 and 6 draw heavily from the field of missiology to apply the principles of contextualization and cultural exegesis to our western contexts. Building on the work of Paul Hiebert and Kevin Vanhoozer, these chapters introduce essential skills for culturally sensitive evangelism. Chan outlines a method for this practice that readers can apply to their own situation.

Storytelling, topical preaching, and expository preaching are discussed in chapters 7–9 as indispensable tools in our evangelistic arsenal. Narrative communication, and Bible storytelling in particular, has been widely promoted in cross-cultural missions circles for some time. Chan appeals to the preferred learning styles of our listeners, arguing that a narrative approach is equally relevant in western contexts today. Though people may not fall into the abstract or concrete-relational learner categories as neatly as Chan suggests the practices he prescribes are widely used and well tested.

Chan’s defense of topical preaching is passionately presented though again argues for a plurality of approaches. In this and the following chapter on expository preaching, Chan outlines a range of practical approaches for preparing evangelistic sermons. He shows a commitment to both knowing and engaging the audience that builds on the earlier discussion of cultural exegesis. The book even gives tips on illustrations, preaching at special events, and leading people in the sinner’s prayer. These chapters are an invaluable source of fresh ideas for those regularly using this mode of communication.

The final chapter explores religious epistemology as it applies it to the practice of apologetics. Contrasting evidentialist and presuppositional approaches, Chan presents his “middle way” of winning over the listener emotionally while presenting a biblical perspective. Unashamedly drawing on the ministry of Timothy Keller, he provides a useful model through a number of worked examples.

The strength of this book is its multidisciplinary approach to evangelism. Though deeply theological and gospel-centered, the insights from other fields of knowledge provide richness and depth to the argument. The missiological perspective is particularly valuable as we increasingly wrestle with the cultural obstacles to evangelism in western contexts. Yet regardless of one’s context, Chan’s focus on understanding both the gospel and the listener more fully is a great encouragement.

The book only occasionally mentions the implications of this approach for a local church. Readers will find regular emphasis on the power of community in evangelism but little discussion about the evangelistic role of our church communities. This would be a valuable addition.

Overall, this book is a wide-ranging and valuable introduction to the increasingly challenging task of evangelism. The gospel message is central, but there is passionate ambivalence about the mode of communication. It would make an excellent textbook for a seminary course or an encouragement to anyone wanting to lead people to Jesus.

Tim Silberman
Sydney Missionary and Bible College
Croydon, New South Wales, Australia

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God in the Movies: A Guide for Exploring Four Decades of Film

Catherine M. Barsotti and Robert K. Johnston, eds.

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There is no denying the power of film to shape culture, attitudes, behaviors as well as cause individuals to reflect on life and issues that they may not otherwise contemplate. The influence of film comes from both its widespread popularity as an entertainment medium and from its inherent storytelling power. We watch films for many reasons, but regardless of the specific reason, we watch them because they have the power to captivate, move, and delight us.

It is because of the power and influence of film that scholars and filmmakers have contributed to the book, God in the Movies: A Guide for Exploring Four Decades of Film. They are affiliated with the Reel Spirituality Institute of the Brehm Center for Worship, Theology, and the Arts at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Editors Catherine M. Barsotti and Robert K. Johnston intend the book to be used primarily as a tool for leading film study groups or for learning how to analyze mainstream films for their spiritual content.

After an introductory chapter outlining the book’s rationale and guidelines for how to best use it, forty films (ten from each of the last four decades) are reviewed with a particular focus on their spiritual significance. Each chapter/review includes study questions, prominent themes, suggested Bible verses, and other ideas regarding how to engage viewers with the spiritual dimensions of the film. The authors also suggest ways to incorporate film clips into sermons, lessons, and other teaching opportunities.

The book is another in a growing list of books written about films and spiritual content and impact. Several contributors have written their own books on similar topics encouraging the reader to engage in serious analysis of secular, mainstream films for their spiritual significance. This genre of book has as its underlying assumption that this type of analysis of film is an appropriate and valuable means of “engaging the culture.”

Films are certainly worth studying for their historical, cultural, and behavioral significance, and, occasionally, for their artistic merit. Some of them do have worthwhile treatments of religious or faith-oriented themes. However, to suggest that studying a broad range of films for purposes of spiritual enrichment is a worthwhile pursuit, is perhaps wishful thinking.

I am speaking as one who thoroughly enjoys the watching and studying of films. I earned degrees at two of the top film schools in the United States. I have taught film courses for nearly 30 years at the university level. I know and appreciate the art and history of film. However, there is sometimes an impulse to over spiritualize works of art—and especially films—in an attempt to justify spending so much time watching and analyzing them. Yes, all films have a worldview and viewers should become adept at spotting and analyzing that aspect of a film. But to suggest that most films are inherently spiritual is a stretch. Can God reveal himself through films and/or other works of culture/art? Of course. However, that does not mean that all films or works of art are equally valuable for discerning his revelation.

While the authors provide some encouraging examples of how films can play a role in pointing people to spiritual things—and sometimes even God, there is little solid evidence that this is an effective evangelism or discipleship tool. While the inclusion of film clips in sermons and other church-based lessons is common practice in today’s churches, the impact of such inclusion usually means that there is less focus on actual biblical exposition. It is not a good tradeoff.

So, do I recommend the book? Not really. The book might be helpful by virtue of its synopses of the films listed. Some of the study questions may help families (at least for the few family films included in the forty) as they discuss films they might view together. However, I do not think the book will be much help for the small group purposes for which it is intended. I hesitate to endorse its use in any outreach strategy.

The other caution I have pertains to the choice of films included in the volume. There are several films among the forty that I would not encourage believers to see. Of course, what films to view is a matter of conscience for every believer to determine, but we should not casually dismiss the power of film to influence us as individuals. Some of these films are clearly questionable.

Like the rest of God’s creation, the arts belong to him. Therefore, there is value in studying, creating, and displaying works of art that bring honor and glory to God and point people to great truths about him and to his beauty and greatness. However, few works of art (including film) do that very clearly. That is why I cannot wholeheartedly embrace the concept of this book as a useful tool for ministry and outreach. God in the Movies aspires to connect the sacred and the profane, but in the end, it too often seems forced and not all that helpful.

Timothy C. Tomlinson
Bethlehem College & Seminary
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

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Mere Sexuality: Rediscovering the Christian Vision of Sexuality

Todd Wilson

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Questions about the “Christian sexual ethic” are never ceasing. No less is this true today than is the fact that the Christian sexual ethic has gone from being the dominant ethic of society—one nearly universally assumed—to one that is almost scorned at present. A radical moral revolution is underway in our society. From Obergefell to Bruce Jenner, the idea that sexuality is endlessly plastic and deferential to personal desire is the new modus operandi. Moral instincts and plausibility structures have shifted that result in the Christian vision for sexuality being less appealing and frankly, less tenable.

Enter Todd Wilson’s helpful, accessible volume, Mere Sexuality. In less than two hundred pages of what is physically a small book (meaning, it can be read quickly), the reader is exposed to a helpful primer on a vision for sexuality that is much broader than just narrowly focused proof texts. In Wilson’s owns words, his aim is to put the question of sexuality “in a larger theological context” (p. 14).

Of the issues the book addresses, homosexuality plays a major backdrop. And that’s because, as best as I can tell, Wilson sees how evangelicals have discussed homosexuality as evidence of how anemically we’ve addressed sexuality more broadly. For Wilson, the question is not first and foremost “why is homosexuality wrong?” in a narrow sense but why in God’s larger purpose for sexuality something like homosexuality is a deviation and rebellion against this original grand design. Too often, Christians base their judgments only in the negative, failing to depict their vision for sexuality in a larger affirmative framework.

But, first, what is “mere sexuality”? Reacting against a “truncated vision of human sexuality,” Wilson argues that Christians have “lost our grip on the deep logic that connects our created nature as male and female with how we ought to live relationally and sexually with one another” (p. 32). Wilson is impassioned with retrieving a grander vision for sexuality, one that he insists has a pervasive consensus within Christian history but has been presently overshadowed. The heartbeat of mere sexuality springs from the reality that that sexual differentiation—male and female embodiment—is morally and theologically foundational to human existence. We are not automatons. We are not asexual. That God created enfleshed humans with sexual capacity means that our design is bound up with our destiny: “We need to recover the moral logic behind Christian sexuality: how babies relate to marriage, and marriage to sex, and sex to identity, and identity to being male and female—and how all of this relates to the person of Jesus Christ” (p. 38).

One of the most compelling aspects of Wilson’s book is his reliance on the humanity of Jesus to understand the sexuality of Jesus. Jesus had a Y Chromosome. He was birthed through the vaginal canal of his mother, Mary. Jesus was sexual, Wilson insists; not sexual in that he engaged in a romantic relationship, but sexual because he was an enfleshed, sexually differentiated human. Jesus was not hermaphroditic or just a spirit. He was, and is, a man. Though God could have manifested his deity in any number of ways, “he chose to reaffirm the basic binary sexuality by becoming a man” (p. 45). This may seem like a fact to overlook, but Wilson makes the provocative observation that the narrative of Scripture is unveiled through sexed realities: A baby boy was born of a woman. To downplay the centrality of the sexed experience in Scripture is to downplay how the narrative unfolds and its centrality to our own experience. The incarnation represents God’s profound blessing of the embodied experience, and the resurrection is God’s reaffirmation that sexed matter, well, matters.

But here, Wilson makes an even more interesting turn that rebuts so much of the sentiment running through our culture and through progressive Christianity. By looking at Jesus, “we learn that sexual activity isn’t essential to human flourishing or personal fulfillment” (p. 49). This is a particularly helpful insight because it rebuts the insistence that sexual fulfillment is necessary for human flourishing. More than that, it exposes the argument that Jesus was unfulfilled or underwent some type of dignity harm because he never had sex as a form of Docetism—the heresy that denied that Jesus was fully human. It’s at this exact point that Wilson helpfully critiques all attempts to elevate sexual desire to the level of personal identity. In a punchy quote from Oliver O’Donovan, Wilson cites him arguing against the rise of “psychological positivism” (p. 67).

Wilson goes on to explore in greater detail the meaning of our sexual complementarity, the idea that men and women come to know what it means to be a man or woman in reference to their counterpart. Here, I applaud Wilson for his careful analysis of the meaning of the “one flesh” union, the symbolic yet visceral description of the sexual union of man and woman that seals the covenant union, but is also capable of bringing forth new life. It is the procreative element that makes the marriage union deeply and ontologically corporeal. As Wilson writes, the rejection of the procreative primacy of the one flesh union results in the inversion of sexuality more broadly. It turns it into a recreational activity instead of a solemn activity shared within the context of covenant. Here I want to commend Wilson for speaking forcefully against same-sex marriage and less forcefully, though still cautiously, about contraception. In Wilson’s view, these contemporary realities indicate a vision for sexuality that vitiates the biblical picture of sexuality. In place of the comprehensive union that the Bible speaks of, same-sex marriage facilitates emotional union only. And instead of orientating marriage toward the reality of children, contraception thwarts bodily design and subjects the begetting of children to the pleasure of those engaging in sexual intercourse. Wilson should be commended for introducing natural law types of arguments without necessarily stating his reliance on natural law (fraught as that conversation can be with Protestants).

The last thing I’ll highlight is Wilson’s call for a reinvigorated concept of friendship. According to Wilson, “singleness” as a category within the church is sub-biblical. As he writes, “Singleness isn’t a particularly biblical idea. In fact, the language of being single assumes that marriage is the preferred norm, which it isn’t” (p. 118). While I would quibble with his notion that marriage is not the “norm,” I do think Wilson is onto something powerful. We form better friendships when we realize that marriage is not the resolution to all loneliness and human existence. Marriage is not self-sufficient to overcome every human longing. As much as I value marriage, Wilson is right to call Christians to a view of marriage that does not exalt it beyond what it was originally designed for. Once we do, we realize that those whose who are not married are not defective or odd, but capable of teaching those of us who are married what intimacy and depth can look like in friendship without it being sexualized.

Wilson’s book is stellar and warmly recommended. The one shortcoming in an otherwise terrific book is Wilson’s failure to be more fulsome in defending the intelligibility and universality of the Christian sexual ethic to broader human society. To be fair, he broaches this subject, but where he could have offered more explanation that would bolster Christian confidence in explaining how our ethics are creational (meaning, not simply sectarian), he did not. And this is probably the book’s only real weakness. At a time when Christians are having difficulty explaining the relevancies of Christian sexual ethics to the broader culture, we need to learn that we are not irrational or simply fideistic in our beliefs about how God made every human being, male or female.

Andrew T. Walker
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
Washington, DC, USA

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Holy Roar: 7 Words That Will Change the Way You Worship

Chris Tomlin and Darren Whitehead

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The origin story of Darren Whitehead and Chris Tomlin’s Holy Roar: 7 Words That Will Change the Way You Worship goes like this: Tomlin heard Whitehead preach on the seven biblical Hebrew words for praise. It was a sermon that, in his words, would “change the way I led worship from that day forward.” Tomlin texted Whitehead immediately. “Your message was amazing. Everyone needs to know these words. It needs to be everywhere. Maybe even a book!” Whitehead texted back saying they should write it together. They did just that over the summer of 2017. Right around the time of the book’s release in October, Whitehead joined Tomlin on his “Good Good Father Tour,” delivering the seven-words message as a powerful exhortation on each night of the tour.

The result of their collaboration is a book which is neatly structured and very easy to read. Whitehead and Tomlin’s writing is skillfully efficient; big on impact but not on word count. At 128 pages of relatively large print one can read the whole thing in an hour or two. Each chapter forms a consistent triptych. Panel 1: A well-crafted retelling of an event in Whitehead’s life. Panel 2: An explanation of a Hebrew word and its implications for Christian praise. Panel 3: Tomlin telling the story of a song he’s written that captures the chapter’s theme.

The stories that bookend each chapter are gripping. Two excited sixty-year-olds dragging Whitehead into the festivities at a rowdy Jewish wedding; the spiritual potency of the Christian music played during his wife’s labor; crying over the phone with a father whose son was on life-support after a motorcycle accident … and suddenly woke up. They’re emotive. They’re sharp. And each illustrates its chapter’s theme precisely. Here the sermonic history of the book’s content brings with it a persuasive rhetoric which works in its favor.

Each chapter also has a section of quotes and discussion questions. These excerpts from historical voices may be the best part of the book. Calvin, C. S. Lewis, Luther, Tozer, Spurgeon—each lends a short and sweet sound bite. Martin Luther King Jr. introduces the final reflection with a profoundly rich quote on the social experience of worship as a realization of unity that transects all levels of life: “Whenever the church, consciously or unconsciously, caters to one class it loses the spiritual force of the ‘whosoever will, let him come’ doctrine, and is in danger of becoming little more than a social club with a thin veneer of religiosity” (p. 118).

Despite these positive aspects, the book’s core content fails decidedly. How so? The short answer is that the seven Hebrew words simply do not mean what Whitehead tells us they mean. Each one has been semantically mishandled, mostly due to his reliance on a very outdated Hebrew dictionary.

His definitions are taken from Strong’s Concise Dictionary, a concordance-turned-dictionary written in 1890 which doesn’t delineate homonyms (rather than a modern dictionary which makes it clear when two words with the same spelling have different meanings). With the different senses of these praise words conflated, Whitehead then tries to show how each one is unique. We’re told, for example, that ידה—which basically means “praise” or (rarely) “shoot/throw”—means, “To revere or worship with extended hands. To hold out the hands.” (p. 18) The concept of shooting has meshed with that of praise to form a definition which bears no relation to the way the word actually functions. Whitehead gets six out the seven words wrong in a significant way, and four times it is because of conjoined homonyms.

This error demonstrates one of the basic “exegetical fallacies” well-known to biblical scholars. The “root” or “etymological fallacy” draws conclusions about a word’s meaning based on the meaning of cognate words, whether they be ancient ancestors or contemporaneous cousins. The mistake is equivalent to suggesting that when a poker player folds, it carries the notion of creasing and bending his cards. Or, because “clue” derives from the Middle English “clewe” (a ball of yarn used to guide one out of a labyrinth), modern usage of the word clue therefore contains a deeper meaning related to balls of string. The words certainly have a genetic resemblance, but they are different words. We know sometimes words have two meanings, but (excepting cases of puns or double entendre) they don’t mean two things at the same time.

Not all of the misdefining results from root fallacies, however. In one case Whitehead expands a word which means “thanksgiving” to include “Thanksgiving for things not yet received.” (p. 56) The dictionary citation provided says nothing of this additional nuance, despite the footnote making it appear to have been found there.

While this and other linguistic gaffes are the book’s primary flaw, it also contains a number of significant errors of fact. For example, Whitehead claims that the Hebrew word ברך (meaning “bless”) occurs 289 times in the Psalms; it actually occurs 74 times. Examples of words as they are used in laments end up generating conclusions about singing in contexts of enthusiastic celebration, which leads to speculative historical reconstructions. He appeals to “Scholars of the ancient Hebrew” at one point to make an ungrounded claim about ברך (p. 74). According to these unnamed experts it means “bending low while keeping one’s eyes fixed on the king.” No doubt such actions could accompany a blessing, but they are not included in the meaning of the word itself.

One of the strangest things about Whitehead’s thesis is that there are various Hebrew words that do mean all of the things that he tries to make his seven words mean. While some of the chapters land in reasonably good places the exegetical vehicle that gets us there is dangerously unstable. And that matters because a whole host of subordinate conclusions are drawn along the way that mislead the reader. More concerning still is the fact that the book teaches a method of interpretation that is potentially generative of false theology.

Tomlin says he truly believes that this book will change the way you worship. It might. But it won’t be because it teaches you very much about ancient worship practices or the true meaning of the various Hebrew words. In fact, the inaccuracies in Holy Roar are such that it impoverishes our understanding of biblical praise. It thus serves as a salutary reminder of the importance of sound exegetical method, linguistic skill and even a little bit of fact-checking. Therefore, instead of reading it in the hope of finding out what is hidden behind the words in your English Bible, read your Bible confident that the translation committees know more than a little about the meaning of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words.

Despite these deficiencies, the book’s intended aim is admirable, and most of the overarching sentiments reflect true aspects of a theology of music which is in harmony with the teaching of the Scriptures. Music does touch the affections in profound ways. We should praise God for the things he has promised he will do. Our focus in praise should be King Jesus. The themes of the final chapter are especially good: God’s love is such that it can inspire praise even when we find ourselves in life’s “dry places”; all nations are called to join in praise of the one true God; our voices can combine in powerfully united anthems; and we praise God for the sake of the next generation. These are all welcome theological landing points, and the book’s call for the church to engage in more exuberant, embodied praise is important to hear.

Andrew Court
Moore Theological College
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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Known by God: A Biblical Theology of Identity

Brian Rosner

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In Known by God, Brian Rosner offers a very satisfying study of biblical anthropology framed by the question of identity. Repeatedly, and rightly, he returns to the fact that being known by God is the ground of all human identity, and to be known by God is to be a child of God. He observes that while Christians have often studied what it means to “know God” (as in J. I. Packer’s celebrated Knowing God), there has been little reflection on the equally prominent theme of being known. Rosner sets this theme in contrast to the late-modern view that identity is self-constructed; i.e., we make ourselves to be what we choose. He illustrates the theme with several personal reflections of how the reality of being known by God sustained him through the crisis of the sudden end of his marriage. At the start of the final chapter he comments that “in one sense the whole of this book has been my personal testimony” (p. 246). How appropriate for a book on personal identity.

Known by God is a fascinating study in biblical theology, offering biblical perspectives (or a biblical perspective) on the basic question: “Who am I.” Rosner’s own previous description of biblical theology is that “it proceeds with historical and literary sensitivity and seeks to analyse and synthesise the Bible’s teaching about God and his relations to the world on its own terms, maintaining sight of the Bible’s overarching narrative and Christocentric focus” (“Biblical Theology,” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, ed. T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner [Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 2000], 10). Known by God does more than this, though never less. It engages directly with a host of contemporary cultural, ethical and philosophical issues, and it offers extended discussions which not only explore and organise the biblical material but apply it in a wide range of ways. So, the scope of biblical theology is extended beyond the analysis and synthesis of the Bible ‘on its own terms’ to include much that is found in traditional systematic theological discussion. This is the explicit goal of the series in which authors offer “descriptions of biblical theology” and then “draw out that theology’s practical implications for the contemporary context” (p. 17). Known by God illustrates the value of the approach and raises intriguing interdisciplinary questions, to which I will return at the close of this review.

After two introductory chapters, which set up the question of personal identity and the approach of the book, Rosner examines some of the common markers of identity (e.g., occupation, marital status, wealth, race, gender). He shows that the biblical writers are well aware of these but do not look to any of them as a basis for identity. He warns that each can become an idol. Building on his previous work on greed as idolatry (Greed as Idolatry: The Origin and Meaning of a Pauline Metaphor [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007]), he argues that idolatry is a metaphor which means “putting something in the place of God, trusting something instead of God, and loving something more than God” (p. 61). Here is one point of many where Rosner does more than biblical theology. Partially inspired by Tim Keller, Rosner suggests that the markers of identity can become idols which fail to satisfy and degrade their devotees. This insightful discussion is an extension and application of biblical teaching into new areas.

In chapter 4 Rosner looks at how the Bible understands human existence, reviewing key biblical anthropological terms and the presentation of human constitution as soul, body, flesh, mind, heart, and spirit. The rest of the chapter examines the foundational text of Genesis 1–3 to show that humans are presented as special, social, sexual, moral, and spiritual beings. This is a very useful summary of standard observations, which are sometimes the focus of treatments of biblical anthropology. Rosner understands that there are far wider horizons to be examined, and the rest of the book focuses more directly on the question of personal identity and its basis in being known by God.

Rosner builds his case with a chapter dealing with humans as “the image and likeness of God,” which he understands to mean that we are God’s children and members of his family. He suggests this is the core meaning of the term, which provides a basis for understanding the other dimensions of image bearing (rationality, righteousness, relationship, rule, etc.). He further argues that “the sonship dimension to the image of God has great potential for a more unified biblical theology of personal identity” (p. 84).

I am not convinced that sonship is the core meaning of image language. J. Richard Middleton’s biblical theological argument that the image is royal-priestly terminology remains persuasive, and it is surprising that Rosner does not engage with it (The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1 [Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2005]). This does not invalidate Rosner’s project, but it does raise the question as to whether “personal identity” (as important as it is) is the most comprehensive lens through which to view theological anthropology.

In the same chapter, Rosner deals with how Adam and Eve lost their identity as God’s children; treating the fall as one of the two “archetypal episodes of temptation” in Scripture (Jesus’s temptation in the wilderness being the other). There is no discussion of the implications that Adam and Eve’s sin has for their children beyond it being an archetype of all temptation.

The heart of the book is in chapters six to ten which trace the theme of being known by God as his child through the Bible. Several of these chapters include exegetical studies of “sample texts” which show in detail how various passages present the theme under consideration. Each discussion is stimulating and helps to make Rosner’s case. Chapters six and seven focus on the theme of God’s people being known by him in the Old Testament and then the New. The Old Testament chapter relates being known by God to belonging to him; being loved and chosen by him; and being his child. All of these are shown to be part of the experience of Israel and individual figures in the Old Testament. Chapter seven offers a similar survey of the New Testament, relating being known by God to the similar themes (belonging, loved and chosen, adopted).

Chapters eight and nine look more closely at the Christological foundation of personal identity. Chapter eight sets out the New Testament presentation of Christ as the Son of God and relates that to salvation in Christ. Union with the Son makes believers the children of God. This is a crucial chapter in giving the book deep roots in the gospel. Rosner is more tentative than needed when he comments that “while no New Testament text says it explicitly, Jesus being known by God as his Son may well be the grounds by which we are known by God as his sons and daughters” (p. 145). He is ready to move beyond explicit textual evidence in much of his discussion, and on this point he has made his case convincingly.

Chapter nine takes up the New Testament theme of sonship as it is applied directly to believers. After a helpful discussion about biblical metaphors, it examines the familial metaphors of the New Testament. Rosner shows how these metaphors, which develop from both Old Testament themes and Christ’s identity as the Son, assure believers that in Christ they are loved children and heirs; members of a wide family of brothers and sisters. This relationship calls them to imitate the Father and his Son, to live in harmony with and care for their siblings and to expect God’s loving discipline (p. 171).

The final core chapter sets personal identity in a temporal and communal context, exploring the role of shared memory and defining destiny in shaping identity. It presents identity narratively. Believers remember they have been bought at a price, have died with Christ and carry the death of Jesus with them. They likewise live hard pressed but sealed for redemption, belonging to the day when they shall be like Christ with resurrection bodies. Each of these is a communal truth: “we have died,” “we were sealed,” “we shall be like him.”

The third part of the book applies the biblical and theological discussion to four issues which are highly relevant to personal identity: significance in the face of disappointment, disability and death; pride and humility; comfort and direction. I will not summarise these chapters, but I commend them to readers for their own spiritual good, and to preachers for material to share with and apply to their congregations.

The final chapter deals with how believers come to know themselves as known by God in Christ. Rosner’s answer is “the basic disciplines of the Christian life” (p. 245)—or we might better say “the means of grace.” Scripture, fellowship, prayer, worship, the sacraments and “living the gospel” are the matrix in which we can grasp the truth that we are the children of God (p. 260).

Known by God is a fine work. Like other volumes in the series, it offers more than most biblical theological treatments in terms of synthesis and application. It is generously sprinkled with stimulating quotes from a wide range of sources—from Calvin and Augustine to Alasdair MacIntyre and singer, Kasey Chambers. The theology is articulated personally, not only applied personally. This is best displayed in the cumulative reading of Jesus’s encounters with individuals in John’s Gospel (pp. 126–37), which not only highlights Jesus’s knowledge of individuals but encourages readers “to expect Jesus to meet them and direct them in the particularity of their individual lives and circumstances” (citing Richard Bauckham, Gospel of Glory: Major Themes in Johannine Theology [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2015], 17). Rosner shows that the Bible, understood in terms of the gospel of Christ, has much to say to contemporary issues of identity.

There are a range of other issues to which this material could be applied. The obvious ones are the pressing ethical questions related to gender, sexuality, life and death and bio-technology. Rosner touches on some of these but is right to have kept his focus on the central question of personal identity.

My interdisciplinary question (as a systematic theologian) is: If this is biblical theology in full flower, is there any need for systematic theology? As I worked through Known by God, I wondered at several points if my own discipline had anything further to add. My conclusion (perhaps not surprisingly) is that it does. So I finish this review with a short reflection on where Rosner’s work might be developed more fully.

Surprisingly, Known by God does not refer to Calvin’s classic discussion of self-knowledge, found in the opening chapter of the Institutes. Calvin claims that “nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” With this, I am sure Rosner would agree. Calvin then observes that there is a proper order—knowledge of God leads to proper self-knowledge: “man is never sufficiently touched and affected by the awareness of his lowly state until he has compared himself with God’s majesty” (Institutes, I.i.1–3, trans. McNeill). In the light of the knowing of God, we recognise we are dependent creatures and sinners in desperate need of mercy. Again, none of this is foreign to Rosner, but it raises the question of how self-knowledge relates to knowledge of God.

Rosner presents his work as a balance to the traditional emphasis on “knowing God.” It, in turn, needs to be supplemented with a discussion of coming to know that we are known—by knowing God. It is one thing to assert that human identity is not grounded in our own wills, or even in our shared human experience, but is framed by God making us, knowing us and determining us from before birth (Ps 139:13–16). Calvin’s discussion points us in the right direction. We will know ourselves as known by God only in knowing God. This is a theme which would importantly supplement Rosner’s discussion. He hints at it in the final discussion in which he argues that the means of grace are the way in which we may know ourselves as we are known (p. 246). However, they are, first of all, the ways in which we know God. It is precisely because of this that they lead us to know ourselves before and in him.

This supplementation would, I suspect, make the theme of sin and fallenness more prominent. Rosner does, of course, discuss sin, and it is implied in the many discussion of redemption. Yet, in the (admittedly brief) subject index there is no entry for sin or the fall. That confirms my sense of reading the book—knowing myself as a sinner is not a primary category for the discussion. Systematic considerations would suggest it needs to figure more fully.

Finally, knowing ourselves in light of knowing God highlights the eschatological dimension of personal identity. Naturally, Rosner refers to 1 Corinthians 13:12 several times: “now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” Primarily, he makes the point that we are already fully known by God. Yet the text underscores the incompleteness of our knowledge; knowledge of God, but also of all else in light of God. Personal identity rests in being known by God. The existential appropriation of that is possible as we know him, and that is always compromised by sin. Only when we see Christ as he is will we know ourselves properly in him. None of this is denied by Rosner, and there are points where he affirms elements of it. But again, it deserves to be more prominent.

These systematic reflections may or may not deserve a place in Known by God. They at least need to be put alongside it. I suggest them, not to diminish the value of the book, but as a contribution to reflection on being known and knowing—and to the discussion of the theological disciplines.

John McClean
Christ College
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age

Jonathan Leeman

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If the past few years have revealed anything in the United States, it is that Christians in that country continue to struggle with the role of their faith in the public square. This has made international news with a bevy of religious leaders of various theological persuasions telling the faithful that to honor God they must vote for one particular candidate and protest mightily if the desired candidate does not win. Meanwhile, in light of growing ostracization of orthodox Christians who refuse to conform to the various demands of the spirit of the age, other Christians are calling for the faithful to withdraw from the public square, build distinctly Christian sub-communities, and hope to remain standing when the political forces of the world have destroyed one another.

Faithful political engagement for those who believe in the God of the Bible is not a new topic for debate. Indeed, Scripture provides numerous examples of rightly and wrongly working in the public square. Church history is replete with case studies of good and bad practices. The challenge is not a lack of examples or material for discussion, but clear principles that can be applied in a variety of circumstances. Only by understanding the broad, enduring strategies for participation in political activity as uncompromised Christians can the church effectively retain its witness without neglecting the duties of citizens.

Jonathan Leeman’s book, How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age, offers a positive framework that should help Christians meet today’s challenges and those of the future, as well. Leeman serves as editorial director at 9Marks, a ministry focused on building healthy churches, and has written academically on both church polity and Christian political engagement. This volume offers a very accessible distillation of his earlier book, Political Church: The Local Assembly as Embassy of Christ’s Rule (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2016).

How the Nations Rage is divided into eight chapters, with a conclusion. In Chapter One, Leeman sets the stage for the book and outlines his goals for the following chapters. He focuses on faithfulness, calling Christians to be better disciples in order to make the world better. The second chapter details one of the major problems Christians confront in a liberal democracy: the assumption that a naked public square is both possible and desirable. This chapter offers a reasoned critique of the political philosophy of John Rawls, encouraging believers not to abandon their faith when making persuasive arguments in the public square. Chapter Three wrestles with the thorny question of patriotism; Leeman offers a moderating approach that views the nation as a good subordinate to the greatness of God.

The fourth chapter of How the Nations Rage is a helpful political hermeneutic. No “side” in contemporary political debates has a corner on proof-texting. Leeman recommends seeing Scripture as a constitution rather than a set of cases to be gleaned for precedent. In Chapter Five the argument shifts to the purpose of government, which is limited and significant. Government, for Leeman, serves as a means to pursue the common good and restrain evil, but not as a functional savior. The sixth chapter deals with the proper function of the church as a political organization concerned with the advance of the gospel rather than particular policy agendas.

In Chapter Seven, Leeman addresses the important question of the manner in which Christians comport themselves. He argues the church should assume the posture of ambassador—firm, reasonable, and confident in the goal of justice—not of culture warrior. When the church engages in political strife improperly, it risks being coopted by parties with ulterior motives and thus risks losing the gospel. The eighth chapter sketches out arguments on justice and rights. In this chapter, Leeman attempts to articulate some of the complexity of the careful balance between freedom and responsibility. He first defines justice, then offers a dozen principles for doing justice drawn from Scripture. The book concludes on a hopeful note. Though the United States is divided and rages against itself and those outside, Leeman finds comfort in the sovereignty of God over all things, which will lead to the final arrival of justice when Christ’s kingdom is fully inaugurated on Earth.

How the Nations Rage is a good book and well suited for the present political environment. Leeman’s arguments are helpful and refreshing. As a Christian political philosophy, the path paved by this book weaves narrowly between totalizing engagement and monastic withdrawal. Whether the reader agrees with Leeman on every point, the arguments of this volume are careful made and deserve diligent consideration. The gospel is at the heart of Leeman’s vision for the church, which ensures that the uniqueness of the bride of Christ remains at the forefront of this book about politics.

This book is subject to the limitations of its format; it is a popular level book with rigorous research behind it. As such, the astute scholar is likely to find Leeman’s case under-supported. There are points where some readers will want additional explanation, but which were likely limited to make the book succinct and accessible. However, if the reader places this in tandem with Leeman’s academic volume on the subject, the strength of the case improves immensely. Additionally, this volume is contextually oriented toward the United States, which will limit its appeal to Christians in other nations. Despite this contextual limitation, it may still benefit readers outside of the United States.

This is a useful and worthy book for the church right now. How the Nations Rage will serve as an excellent resource for pastors and congregations as they seek to navigate the ongoing political turmoil. This is a book that deserves wide reading and careful consideration. Healthy conversations about the church and politics are likely to result.

Andrew J. Spencer
CrossPointe Church
Monroe, Michigan, USA

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God and Soul Care: The Therapeutic Resources of the Christian Faith

Eric L. Johnson

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This massive tome is a magisterial effort claiming to articulate Christianity as ‘a therapeutic faith—a theocentric form of soul care’ (flyleaf). It has not been without associated controversy. This stems, in part, from the author’s presupposition that, in the context of soul care, Christians should not ignore the wealth of resources available from the psychological tradition, including specifically research relating to psychotherapy and counselling. For some within the ‘biblical counselling’ tradition of thought and practice, this may be received as anathema. Without becoming unhelpfully embroiled in the associated controversy as it has unfolded, it perhaps suffices to remember that questions of interdisciplinarity and sources of justification are not new when it comes to determining practical theological method. Nor must an expressly evangelical theological method which honours Scripture’s primacy necessarily exclude all other sources of knowledge.

That an affirmation of the normative status of Scripture need not have the corollary of excluding all other sources as helpful in the construction of an evangelical theology appears to be the supposition underlying Johnson’s thought. He writes in the preface that as a result of all knowledge of God’s creation belonging to him and stemming from creation grace, ‘Christians should be among the most eager to learn from the sciences, even the human sciences, rightly interpreted’ (p. 2, emphasis mine). Admittedly, more explicit discussion of his metatheological assumptions (see Richard Robert Osmer, The Teaching Ministry of Congregations [Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2005], 306–8), and specifically of the relative weighting of his sources of justification, might have provided some comfort to those questioning the implications of his interdisciplinarity for his doctrine of Scripture. Defining his work as coming from the perspective of Christian psychology, Johnson himself expresses regret at not having sought out a theologian to collaborate with him on this project (p. 573). Perhaps to have done so would have resulted in a more clearly-defined position regarding these methodological aspects. Nonetheless, an implicit but very high regard for Scripture does clearly imbue these pages. It is, furthermore, evident that Johnson’s particular interest in this book is not so much what he calls ‘creation-grace resources’ but rather ‘the use of redemptive-grace resources’ (p. 8). He is not against biblical counselling per se, which he defines as ‘soul care that works primarily with biblical teachings’—but argues rather for a ‘progressive form’ of it whereby pastors may remain opposed to secularism while staying open to what he calls ‘valid empirical research, interpreted Christianly’ (p. 454). Notwithstanding the reaction from certain strands of biblical counselling, the book has been endorsed by the president of the Association of Biblical Counselors as a ‘thoughtful synthesis’ and a staggering number of well-known theologians offer similar endorsements. Whether one agrees or disagrees with Johnson’s basic thesis, this work contains a wealth of thoughtful discussion which bears in-depth study and ongoing reflection.

God and Soul Care is organised into six parts, comprising twenty chapters in total. Each chapter is matched with an item from a list of axioms or principles of Christian psychotherapy and counselling. Broadly speaking, the book moves from discussion of the triune God as the centre of Christian psychotherapy and counselling via a presentation of Scripture as the ‘primary agenda setter’ through to anthropological, ecclesiological and eschatological principles of Christian psychotherapy and counselling rooted in an understanding of the incarnation. Whereas the contents page offers simply chapter headings organised into their respective structural parts, a so-called analytical outline a few pages later presents a far more detailed summary of the book (pp. 15–17).

Part One, which consists of the first five chapters, explores a number of axioms, each of which has its own corollary. The axioms include statements regarding the centrality of God and the creation of human beings in his image, the triune nature of God as archetypal for human life in its personal and social form, and God as especially glorified in his Son, such that the intrinsic goal of human development is conformity to the image of Christ. Other chapters deal also with the person of the Spirit and the Scripture’s place as the singular communication of God’s ‘understanding, appraisal, and activity regarding human beings’. Here, Johnson does describe the Bible as ‘the canon of Christian psychotherapy and counseling, the primary guide for its agenda, and provid[ing] … its “first principles”’ (p. 127).

Thereafter, chapters 6–20 contain discussion of ten principles of Christian psychotherapy and counselling deriving from the five axioms. These cover a variety of subjects, including the nature of human flourishing, sin, effects of the atonement and the inauguration of new creation, the place of the church, the process of conformity to Christ and the eschatological hope. Each chapter commences with Christian teachings regarding the topic in view, followed by a number of therapeutic implications and, finally, a list of resources for counsellors and counsellees. This list of resources is divided into classical and contemporary sources, with a number of texts marked as recommended more specifically for counsellors/pastors rather than counsellees. Chapters are full of in-text referencing to a number of sources—centrally Scripture, but also various other sources, both theological and psychological. As a practical theologian, I have appreciated the generally careful theological reflections and have benefited from their extension into therapeutic implications, a discipline less familiar to me.

It is also as a practical theologian that I have a couple of areas of concern with the book. The first is noted above: a fuller discussion of method, perhaps framed within broader practical theological discussions, would sharpen the reader’s understanding of what Johnson intends by an approach dubbed ‘radical Christian scholarship’ (p. 6). While he references an unpublished manuscript here, this is insufficient given the length and weightiness of its proposals. My second concern relates to the nuancing of certain theological claims. For example, chapter 2 is based on the presumption that God as a triune communion of persons is archetypal for the personal and social form of human life. It seems that Johnson too easily makes the jump from theology proper to anthropology. Although he admits that ‘[f]or the most part’, Jesus is to be understood as the ‘primary archetype’ for human development (p. 59), one sentence later he segues into proposing that the Trinity, as persons in reciprocal relationship, also operates archetypally for human persons. Though this latter statement has an associated endnote, there is no discussion of the literature questioning the validity of such a move, nor is there further clarification of the argument (made in that endnote) for maintaining ‘a dialectic between Christ as the archetype for humanity and the Trinity as the archetype for humanity, depending on the precise issue in question’ (p. 582).

I am, however, conscious that such criticisms are made of a work which presents itself as not coming, primarily, from a theological perspective. Accordingly, although I think such a critique is necessary, I am also sympathetic to Johnson’s own admission that he regrets not having collaborated with a theologian. Nor am I suggesting that Johnson has not worked hard to make up for this lack. Seventy-one pages of endnotes tell their own story: this book covers vast swathes of ground and references many external sources. It would thus serve very effectively as a text for graduate-level students, whether in Christian psychology or in pastoral theology, for, despite its length, the text is very readable.

Chloe Lynch
London School of Theology
London, England, UK

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Beauty, Order, and Mystery: A Christian Vision of Human Sexuality

Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson, eds.

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Scripture urges us to “taste and see that the LORD is good!” (Ps 34:8). Our God is not just mighty, he is not just true—he is good, and this goodness can and should be tasted by the people he has made. The world around us can only offer flavorless gruel. Only God can truly excite the taste-buds of our soul.

When it comes to the issue of human sexuality, Psalm 34 might suggest to us that merely demonstrating what the Bible says about marriage, sexuality, and gender while necessary is not sufficient. We need in this area of life—as with all others—to show the beauty of God’s ways. Increasingly today people are not going to care if our words are true if they don’t believe they are good.

So this volume from the Center for Pastor Theologians (CPT) is very welcome indeed. It draws on presentations given at the CPT 2016 annual conference and aims to present a theological vision of faithful human sexuality for the church today. Given its genesis in the CPT, it combines academic insights with practical and ground-level application. It is, consequently, neither an academic tome nor a popular level introduction; rather, it successfully occupies a halfway space between the two. As such it is well-suited to pastors and thinking lay Christians, and especially to those thinking through the challenging issues of human sexuality in the church today who are happy to delve a little deeper but might not have any formal theological training.

Despite its various contributors and the wide range of subjects covered, the book’s common basis is “the historical Christian consensus on sexuality,” including “the significance of biological sexuality” and of the theological importance of our having been made male and female (p. 3). The book’s title indicates something of the vision it offers—that human sexuality evidences beauty, order, and mystery.

In this respect the book is largely successful. In today’s context, it is common for treatments of human sexuality to major on the negatives; that is, upon the biblical prohibitions and the ways in which our culture has drifted further and further away from a Scriptural framework in how it thinks about issues of marriage, sexual ethics, and gender identity. This is a necessary part of being faithful to the biblical witness, and the book does not shy away from this. Wesley Hill’s essay in particular is a model of careful, critical engagement with the likes of “affirming” thinkers such Robert Song, James Brownson, and Eugene Rogers, and offers a sparkling exposition of Jesus’s teaching on marriage and sexuality in Matthew 19.

But the overall thrust of the book is to help us both to think through and to communicate a positive message of human sexuality. As Todd Wilson points out, this is an urgent missional task for the church today. We need to be “not just convinced of the truth” but “ravished by the beauty” of this biblical vision (p. 18). Wilson summarizes this vision as “mere sexuality,” something he has gone on to expound more fully in his excellent book, Mere Sexuality: Rediscovering the Christian Vision of Sexuality (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017).

Elements of this vision include our creation as male and female, and our embodied humanity. As well as affirming these elements the book also takes care to account for the various ways in which life in a fallen world has taken its toll on all of us. There are careful treatments of gender dysphoria, transgenderism, and of unwanted same-sex attraction. This is perhaps where the book is most helpful, and where its origins in a gathering of pastor-theologians is most valuable. The theology is scholarly and insightful, as one would expect and require from those with one foot in the academy, but also pastorally applied, as one would expect and require from having the other foot in the life of the local church. One senses that the authors have encountered the issues about which they write, not just in books but in flesh and blood pastoral encounters. It is one thing to deal with, say, transgenderism in the abstract; quite another to deal well with someone on the church doorstep. Throughout this book is earthed and applied.

Another strength of the book, which comes from the diversity of the contributions, is that it pulls together doctrines which are not normally deployed in our consideration of human sexuality. For example, in his essay, “The Wounded It Heals: Gender Dysphoria and the Resurrection of the Body” (ch. 10), Matthew Mason does a sterling job of showing how our future resurrection brings to full fruition in us the original creation design.

There are, of course, more areas the book could have usefully addressed. Not much reflection is given to the issue of nomenclature, especially to the treatment by some evangelicals of sexual orientation as a matter of ontology—an issue which has become urgent especially in the US church over recent months.

On the whole, this is a very helpful book, and I found fresh insight in virtually every chapter. It deserves to be on the shelf of every pastor. I look forward to more volumes of this standard coming from the Center.

Sam Allberry
Ravi Zacharias International Ministries
Oxford, England, UK

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A Better Story: God, Sex and Human Flourishing

Glynn Harrison

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I ought to say from the start that I am an unabashed enthusiast for this book and have been busy commending it since it was published.

The author is a psychiatrist, Professor Emeritus of Bristol University. He is a theologically well-informed evangelical. Importantly, he belongs to the generation which has lived through the sexual revolution and seen the results. He speaks with authority.

As the title indicates, his thesis is that the biblical faith constitutes a demonstrably better story than that which has propelled the sexual revolution, and that we need to do all that is necessary both to keep Christians adhering to the truth and also to show the world that there is a better way to be human. His fear is that the Christian leadership has timidly fallen silent and that ‘[c]onfused and ashamed, some young evangelicals have already begun salami-slicing their convictions about the authority of the Bible’ (p. xv).

The book falls into three parts. The first, titled ‘A better understanding’ (chs. 1–7), is an analysis of what has happened to turn the world upside down and how it has happened. Harrison rightly calls this a revolution, and begins by describing the ideology, moral vision and story-tellers of the revolution. He links the radical individualism of the new ideology to ancient Gnosticism and shows how it turns us inward to the inner self, making gender something which emerges from individual choice rather than biology. This creates a subjective morality often focused on individual needs rather than general principles. The revolution then proceeds by telling stories which have the power to erode and subvert such big and sacred values as the sanctity of life.

Harrison is excellent at describing the power of the revolution through narrative and through heroic individuals who garner support by standing against the ruling principles in the name of compassion. He isolates the three-part structure of the revolutionary narrative: heroic individualism, a redemptive trajectory and a clear moral vision. He then goes on to show how shame is used against those who disagree, making it deeply uncomfortable to hold Christian views in the contemporary world. Christians, not least young people, are face to face with ardent moral crusaders, who are immensely persuasive precisely because they use stories, appeal to emotion and impute evil to those who disagree with them.

At each point, Harrison challenges us as Christians to recognise that we are now in a very different world and that our approach to cultural engagement must reflect this. In a telling analogy, he describes us as being ‘the away team’ rather than ‘the home team’ (p. xv) and challenges us to adopt strategies suitable to our new reality. Not least should we be self-critical, recognising that some of the power of the sexual revolution has arisen from the mistakes of Christians in our own teaching and behaviour.

The second part of the book begins ‘A better critique’ (chs. 8–11). Harrison here provides us with the evidence of the failure of the sexual revolution:

The bravado of the sexual revolution, with its clarion call of freedom and liberated pleasure, has turned out to be a weak, vulnerable thing needing constant coddling by an army of agony aunts and sex therapists. And because it never quite delivers, people end up thumbing through a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey, or making yet more swipes of the Tinder app, or another visit to a pornography site. (p. 94)

He concludes, ‘the sexual revolution is failing to deliver on one of its central promises’ (p. 99); namely, more and better sex.

Part 3 (chs. 12–17) shares the title of the book—‘A better story’—and skillfully works through the various ways in which the biblical vision of sex ‘connects us with heaven’ (ch. 13), ‘confronts shame and puts the gospel on display’ (ch. 14), and ‘opens the road to flourishing’ (ch. 15). In a particularly illuminating and helpful chapter (ch. 16), Harrison gives advice on how we are to put our story together with some ideas on living it out. He will have none of the suggestion that our attitude to sex is a matter of adiaphora and that we can all afford to get on with one another despite diametrically opposed ideas: ‘It is tempting to think that we can simply pick and mix from God’s moral law, depending on the contingencies of culture. But the biblical vision for sex is like a sweater with a loose thread hanging out: if you pull at it, eventually the whole thing unravels’ (p. 184). Harrison concludes by demonstrating that “the away team” has the better story, that the biblical view of sex and marriage make complete sense and serves human flourishing, whether we are single or married.

Here is a book full of common sense and uncommon facts—that is, facts not commonly acknowledged. Furthermore, Harrison is deeply interested both in how we guard Christians in a world so viscerally opposed to what we teach and also how we commend the better story to those who will listen to it. He explicitly challenges us to do the deeper intellectual work required to help us live this out in daily life. There is, of course, much more to be done to give us a substantial and detailed exposition of the biblical view of sex than he attempts in this work. But what he does say is on target.

We frequently hear from Christians who sigh about our apparent obsession with sex and advise us simply to get on preaching the gospel. This superficially attractive advice is, in fact, untenable. The world we live in is sex-saturated. We can hardly avoid addressing the subject if we wish to apply the gospel, challenge people to live in a godly way, and protect the faithful. At a deeper level, when we consult the Scriptures themselves, we see that the whole business of sexual relations is very much connected to our humanness. At any period of human history, it would be right to give attention to this subject if we wish to understand who we are and how we are to please the Lord. Since there is a close biblical connection between the abuse of sexuality and idolatry, if we wish to analyse the false religions of humanity, we will need to talk about sex.

In particular, the advice to stop talking about sex and instead to just preach Jesus, would, if embraced, lead to a false gospel. For it would mean that one of the chief gods of this age would not be mentioned and therefore some of the chief sins of this age would not be labelled. In the end, a gospel without repentance would be the result and that is no gospel at all.

Harrison’s book has much good advice about how we are to play as ‘the away team’ and much encouragement about ‘the better story’ which we have. It is accessible, challenging and addressed to all Christians. I retain my enthusiasm.

Peter Jensen
Moore Theological College
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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Reformation Worship: Liturgies from the Past for the Present

Jonathan Gibson and Mark Earngey, eds.

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Many younger church leaders sense an incongruity between the doctrines of grace they believe and the worship paradigms they practice. Worship leaders from the “Young, Restless, and Reformed” movement know that the reformation reclaimed the doctrine of justification, but they are less familiar with the reformers’ passion to reform worship.

Young church leaders have been raised with contemporary worship services patterned after a mixture of youth ministry, Pentecostalism, and the church growth movement (for a defense of this lineage see Lester Ruth and Swee Hong Lim’s book, Lovin’ on Jesus: A Concise History of Contemporary Worship [Nashville: Abingdon, 2017]). These services follow an order of events that traces its roots back to the New Measures of the frontier revivals. Beginning with a casual welcome and announcements, the services continue with a four or five song set that ends with a prayer. After singing, the preacher delivers a sermon that concludes with another song of response and (in more charismatic circles) a time of ministry before dismissal.

For these young church leaders, the Calvinism on their bookshelves does not match the revivalism in their church gatherings. And while they might not entirely recognize the incongruity, they at least feel something is wrong. Something smells Finney!

A new book provides an unusually rich opportunity for church leaders to learn from the gathered worship services of Reformation churches. Reformation Worship: Liturgies from the Past for the Present is a new collection of 16th century liturgies assembled from international outcroppings of Reformation rock. It provides this outlook using three introductory chapters and twenty-six primary liturgical documents. While the book thoughtfully synthesizes these different elements, it is helpful to consider them individually before evaluating their cumulative effect.

The first introductory essay, by Jonathan Gibson, is entitled, “Worship: On Earth as It Is in Heaven.” I have never read a better chapter-length biblical theology of worship. Beginning with Eden, Gibson makes the case that humanity was created to worship, but that the practice of worship necessarily transformed after the fall. Using typological insights from Adam, Israel, and Solomon, Gibson follows the basic contours of Graeme Goldsworthy’s biblical theology to argue that God’s idolatrous sons (e.g., Adam, Israel, and Solomon) failed to worship him perfectly, so that God’s perfect son was needed to worship him aright and make us into worshipful sons of God. His essay ends by considering how our present moment of salvation history ought to be reflected in our corporate worship gatherings.

The second essay, by Mark Earngey, “Soli Deo Gloria: The Reformation of Worship,” traces the historical background and development of reformation liturgies. Against medieval devotion and the accretion of Roman Catholic liturgical practices, Earngey describes Reformed worship as a “drastic simplification” which allowed “the power of the unadulterated good news stand out” (p. 27). These liturgies spread the gospel through Europe as much as the publication of any Reformed document. Earngey, in a triumph of concision, avoids simplicity and demonstrates the commonality and diversity among Reformed liturgical practice.

Gibson and Earngey co-write their third chapter, “Worshiping in the Tradition,” harmonizing insights from the many original source documents they survey. Though the main headings are not surprising—Christian worship is Trinitarian, saturated with the written Word, centered on the preached Word—this is not to say that there are no surprises to be found. Today’s worship service planners will probably be taken aback by the Reformers’ insistence upon church discipline at the Lord’s Supper (pp. 59–61) and the prominent, singular role of the presiding minister (p. 69). Each of these sections provides illustrative examples from the Reformation texts demonstrating their main headings.

The editors introduce each of the primary works with helpful and concise essays that situate the liturgical documents within their context. By explaining the terroir of each liturgical document, readers are equipped to understand the necessary changes to adapt reformation practices to their own situation. Additionally, a helpful section of terminological “conventions” is included to assist readers who don’t know their “Matins” (morning prayer) from their “Paten” (Eucharistic bread plate).

Each of the primary works is presented in a fresh translation—a monumental feat. A quick comparison of Luther’s 1523 “Form of the Mass” situates this translation as more modern than Paul Zeller Strodach’s attempt (as found in Bard Thompson’s Liturgies of the Western Church [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1980], 106–37), yet slightly less colloquial than Ulrich S. Leupold’s update (LW 53:15–40). Separate translators oversaw German and Dutch, French, and Latin works. Older English works have been given updated language, and musical notation has been provided (a fine advance over Thompson). Overall, the texts read with admirable clarity and appropriate devotional warmth.

Collections like this are often criticized for arbitrary editorial decisions: Why was one text selected and another omitted? This volume avoids much of that criticism with clear editorial criteria and generous page length. Gibson and Earngey ought to be commended for their clear purpose and careful execution and New Growth Press ought to be commended for printing such a lengthy (724 page!) tome.

Books discussing worship often succumb to the danger of advocacy. What role ought Protestant worship traditions have in Protestant churches today? The Reformers held that while final authority rests in the Scriptures alone, tradition has a derivative authority to the degree that it clearly reflects Scripture’s authority. They refused to confuse biblical magisterial authority with ecclesial ministerial authority. To the degree that Gibson and Earngey help church leaders more thoughtfully consider Scripture’s call to worship, the Reformers would be pleased.

Protestant worship service planners will pursue biblical faithfulness through their own study of God’s Word and through thoughtful examination of how other believers have planned their services. Protestant churches, to borrow Kevin Vanhoozer’s metaphor, act as a “neighborhood association,” voluntarily organizing activities within a neighborhood. They are not like a “homeowners association,” mandating and enforcing strict codes of compliance. This book cheerfully commends the values of Reformation worship without carelessly commanding the adoption of all Reformed practices.

Overall, the book achieves its irenic goal. It advocates for a liturgical retrieval—a creative recovery of our Protestant heritage for the purpose of faithful ministry within our Protestant churches. Every person who oversees the gathering of the Lord’s people for their local church ought to purchase this book and carefully search out its riches.

Matthew Westerholm
Bethlehem Baptist Church
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

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Some Pastors and Teachers: Reflecting a Biblical Vision of What Every Minister is Called to Be

Sinclair B. Ferguson

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“While this is a big book,” says Sinclair Ferguson, “it only seems long! For each chapter is an entity on its own” (p. xiv, emphasis in original). The reason for this is that Some Pastors and Teachers is a collection of Ferguson’s essays written over his many years as both a pastor and an educator. Despite this, there is a consistent depth and breadth across its eight hundred pages. The book, therefore, a one-stop resource where Ferguson’s numerous chapters, articles, and essays are compiled and shaped into a volume directed specifically for those whom the Lord has called to the task of pastoral ministry.

Ferguson retired from pastoral ministry in 2013, having served for many years as Senior Minister of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina. Prior to this pastoral role, Ferguson held the Charles Krahe chair for Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Over the years, he has written numerous books and articles, and he has held various roles with evangelical institutions and ministries in the United States and Scotland. Thus, if readers could hope for anyone to cull together a collection of essays to encourage, strengthen, correct, and form pastors for the work of ministry, then Ferguson’s reputation, faithfulness, and perspective qualify him to assist busy pastors in their ministerial tasks.

Spanning five expansive sections, the book introduces readers to three Johns whose ministries warrant inquiry. In the three chapters comprising this first section, Ferguson investigates John Calvin, John Owen, and John Murray. He helpfully shows how each of these three men held a high view of Scripture, were sound exegetes of texts, and were precise in biblical and theological reflection. From here, Ferguson spends the totality of section two, which comprises six chapters, on John Calvin. These chapters address Calvin’s piety, his pastoral ministry and theology. Noteworthy are two illuminating chapters on Calvin’s theology of the Holy Spirit. The section concludes with a crisp summary of Calvin’s perspective on the Lord’s Supper.

Section three turns the reader’s focus to the Puritans. John Owen receives the most attention in the nine chapters comprising this section. However, Ferguson’s chapter on John Flavel’s theology of providence sheds a welcome light on this lesser known Puritan whose contribution is spiritually rich and pastorally applicable. While Owen is rightly considered a theological giant, Ferguson appropriately presents Owen as a pastorally sensitive thinker.

Comprising thirteen chapters, section four casts a wide net in its focus on pastors and teaching. With introductory chapters on Scripture and inerrancy, to specific chapters on Reformed theology in general, Ferguson seeks to buttress his emphasis on the minister’s theological task. Perhaps the gem of section four is chapter twenty-two, “What is Biblical Theology?” (pp. 417–48). Even if one does not adhere to Ferguson’s method, one could easily conclude that this chapter provides an exceptional summary of the history, discipline, and extension of biblical theology. Pastors would be hard pressed to locate a more informative summary than the one Ferguson offers here.

Section five comprises eight chapters focused on the proclamation aspect of pastoral ministry. Some readers will quibble with Ferguson’s approach to “Preaching Christ from the Old Testament Scriptures” (chapter thirty-four), but his approach is consistent with his tradition. Chapter thirty-seven, “Preaching to the Heart,” addresses, among other things, the effective use of imagination in the homiletical task. Ferguson shows that preaching to the heart does not neglect or ignore the Holy Spirit’s work inner work among those hearing the Word preached; rather, preaching to the heart flows from sound exposition and an “imaginative creativity that bridges the distance between the truth of the word of God and the lives of those to whom they speak” (p. 728). Lastly, a brief epilogue follows section five.

While any Christian would profit from some or all of these essays, those who may need this wise counsel most are those whom the title addresses: pastors and teachers knee-deep in the overwhelming work of pastoral ministry. In this regard, four types of readers will strike gold in Ferguson’s book. First, those ministers who are now in their early years of ministry. These early years are formative ones whose lessons will linger for years to come. Portions of this book will help young pastors locate rock solid principles which help produce a trajectory of ministerial success. Each of the chapters on Calvin will prove beneficial for young preachers, but so too will later chapters such as “Exegetical Preaching” (chapter thirty-three) or “The Preacher as Theologian” (chapter thirty-five).

Second, there are a host of ministers who have been in ministry long enough that the good work of ministry grows tiring or cumbersome. In these seasons, there is a danger of one’s heart hardening or growing faint due to the moral and emotional complexities of daily ministry. For these ministers, Ferguson’s work will be a salve to their tired souls, in some ways interjecting a resolve to move forward in faithfulness. (See, for example, chapter ten, “Puritans: Ministers of the Word”). It is possible that some may doubt the import of Puritan theology and piety for contemporary ministry, but Ferguson shows his readers a pattern to their devotion, calling, and gospel ministry which transcends time. Ministers in this season can learn from the Puritans because, as Ferguson states, they had “the ability to unfold the mysteries of the gospel in a manner which reached into men’s hearts and touched their consciences—and all set within the context of a prayerful dependence on the Lord” (p. 169).

Third, for seasoned ministers who bear the joys and scars of long-term faithful ministry, this volume contains a goldmine of information urging them to finish well. Whether it is one of the early chapters where Ferguson’s focus targets a personality (Calvin, Owen, Murray, Flavel, etc.) or the section on Calvinistic singing in the epilogue entitled, “Doxology,” seasoned ministers will find fresh resources to renew their vows to end their service faithful to Christ and his church.

Fourth, those tasked with training the next generation of ministers, often working through various seminaries and divinity schools, will find in this resource a clarifying call to prepare ministers with a long arc of ministry faithfulness. Ferguson’s work will help teachers and seminarians reject faddish attempts to accomplish ministry in human strength and ingenuity. Additionally, seminary and divinity school professors need to be reminded about their main calling to train ministers to serve the local church (which is why the chapter on John Murray is especially helpful). Ferguson’s career in the church and academy give him the platform to speak to the academy on behalf of the church. In clever ways, this book helps those who are training future ministers to stay on task.

Beyond its practical use for the sorts of ministers listed above, Ferguson treats certain historical and systematic issues in succinct installments. The chapter on Sola Fide, for example, is both illuminating and instructive. As for criticisms, one could wish for more depth in some chapters, and one might wonder at times how any given chapter relates to those surrounding it. But these minor blemishes should in no way hinder readers from mining these chapters for lasting riches. Ferguson casts a big vision for pastors to hunger for God’s word, apply deep theological and practical truths to everyday ministry, and be concerned with a sort of piety and perspective which substantiates their calling. For these reasons alone, Ferguson’s book should be widely read.

Justin L. McLendon
Grand Canyon Theological Seminary
Phoenix, Arizona, USA

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The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in our Post-Christian World

Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

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Some people are going to hate this book because it speaks truth and does so in a concrete and piercing way. It’s true not just in the sense of being orthodox and biblical. It’s also true in its specific and pointed applications. Some may even feel that the book is self-righteous, legalistic, and naïve. (Personally, I hated it because it made me weep like a baby.) But Butterfield excels in moving her readers in all her books, so the fact that this new installment evokes anger, thoughtfulness, tears, and perhaps even conviction comes as no surprise. And lest any misunderstand my own position, I wholeheartedly commend this book. The Gospel Comes with a House Key is reformed theology at its best, merging sound biblical teaching with practical living—all narrated through the wise voice of one regularly engaged in repentance and committed to walking with the Lord.

Throughout the book, Butterfield weaves the story of her experience with her neighbor Hank, a meth addict, and his infinitely loyal pit bull, Tank. Interspersed are other moving narratives, including stories from Butterfield’s “former” life, her complicated relationship with her mother, and the literal ups-and-downs of regular hospitality. The first half of the book orients the reader to the subject of hospitality, mainly through a healthy mix of Butterfield’s personal experiences and biblical teaching. Taking her cue from the Bible, she defines “hospitality” as “love of the stranger” (p. 35). The book then addresses questions readers would ask of Butterfield, including boundaries, potential liabilities, and special cases (e.g., hospitality toward those that have been excommunicated). The book concludes with some practical suggestions, though it could be said that the entire book is practical.

Butterfield doesn’t shy away from presenting herself (and her family, including her children) as exemplars of biblical hospitality. Here is where some might feel that her tone is self-righteous or that she is commending herself. But this would be a misunderstanding. Her purpose is to show that she is more than “just talk.” Indeed, I was reminded regularly of Paul’s willingness to point to himself as an example for all to imitate. Personally, I found it refreshing to hear from someone who at least implicitly says, “Do not just as I say but also as I do.”

A repeated phrase in the book is “radically ordinary,” a phrase that captures perhaps the message or ethos of the book. The phrase seems to be an appropriation (and, perhaps, a correction) of David Platt’s Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2010) and Michael Horton’s Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014). Butterfield contends that followers of Christ should be radical, but not necessarily in the sense of becoming the next Tim Keller or serving at an underground church in China. Perhaps the most radical thing we can do is simply to obey the ordinary things the Bible calls us to, especially the care and entertainment of strangers. Certainly, Butterfield’s own life illustrates how daily obedience can be radical, and how God seems to prefer to use our ordinary obedience to accomplish extraordinary outcomes—namely, the conversion of avowed atheists. In short, her book is a summons to be radially obedient about the ordinary calling to be hospitable.

What is perhaps most helpful and challenging about the book is the way it teases out in painfully concrete ways how all believers are “missionaries,” with their “mission fields” being the neighbors God has providentially placed in their lives. Over the years, members of my church have given one reason after another as to why they don’t share the gospel with those around them. The main reason usually relates to not knowing how to answer difficult questions. Butterfield suggests that this outlook is far too reductionistic and that the way to share the gospel is by engaging with the entire person through regular hospitality. Hospitality allows unbelievers to encounter the faith in more “natural” ways—to see Christians in action in their everyday lives. I suspect that people won’t like this radically ordinary means of evangelism because it forces us to confront our tendency to idolize our homes and to transform them from being “castles” and retreats (p. 41) into “hospitals and incubators” (p. 64). But for anyone who is serious about fulfilling the Great Commission, the clear challenge of this book will lead to radical change.

This reviewer was particularly challenged by Butterfield’s idea of having “margin time” (p. 12) and her willingness to sacrifice income and career to pursue hospitality. The first demands that we stop trying to max out every minute of our lives in order to have plenty of time to be readily and extensively available for our neighbors. This is especially challenging for helicopter parents, persons who want to make more money, and individuals that want to travel and taste every new place and restaurant posted on Facebook. Perhaps in our current climate the creation of such “margin time” can be the most radical thing we do.

The other example hits home for many (at least in my church) where most of the households “enjoy” dual-income. While Butterfield never says this is unbiblical, the reader at least wonders whether it is possible to pursue hospitality if both husband and wife are working full-time. If a reader concludes, “Everything Butterfield exhorts just isn’t possible,” it may be because they have committed to a dual-income lifestyle. It’s helpful to keep in mind that Butterfield herself was once a tenured professor at Syracuse University and clearly has the ability to enjoy a lucrative career as a writer, teacher, and speaker. But she intentionally limits her “professional” activities so that she can support her husband in his ministry, attend to their children (whom she homeschools), and be a good neighbor with the hope that strangers would become neighbors and eventually friends and perhaps even family in the Lord. Rather than dismissing her book as naïve, the reader should consider whether Butterfield has teased out in real and difficult ways the cost of following Christ. Clearly, she has.

Butterfield also addresses the complex question of being a good neighbor and raising children in the Lord. Some parents may wonder whether the sort of open-door policy Butterfield practices is wise given that children can be exposed to undue danger. As Butterfield narrates, hospitality is messy and risky work, seen especially in having her home burglarized or befriending a meth addict. She herself would wholeheartedly agree that children (and the church) need to be protected, particularly from those engaged in unrepentant and egregious sins. Nevertheless, she suggests that perhaps what is more dangerous is modeling a Christian household that is foreign to the Bible itself. Paul, for instance, says to his spiritual son, “share in suffering for the gospel” (2 Tim 1:8). Butterfield’s children get that following Jesus isn’t primarily about attending a fun youth program. It’s about embracing the marginalized, writing to those in prison, and sharing meals with people who have never tasted “normalcy.” Perhaps the worst thing we can do for our children is to instill in them the idol of safety. After all, Jesus, as Butterfield highlights, saved us by surrendering his own safety.

I’ve touched on just a few of the reasons why some people may not like the book. But truth, as seen ultimately in the ministry of Jesus, always offends to some degree. However, I don’t want to suggest Butterfield’s book is perfect. I read with some reservation her account of various people leaving her husband’s church (there’s always another side to a story, and sometimes the reasons for leaving are complicated); the sustainability of her hospitality practice; the occasional tangents; and perhaps an implicit low view of rest. But these possible minor blemishes should not detract from the wisdom, force, and prophetic quality of the book. While Butterfield never outright says it, the reader is left wondering whether an absence of hospitality should cast doubts on the veracity of one’s faith. If hospitality represents a basic expression of the love command, we cannot claim to love God whom we have not seen and yet fail to be hospitable to those who are right in front of us.

Finally, this book is about hope. We are often tempted to believe that some people are so hardened to the gospel that they can never come to faith. Butterfield describes a few such people in her book. Yet, many did come to faith—not because of anything extraordinarily radical on Butterfield’s part but because of her commitment to the radically ordinary “discipline” of hospitality, particularly toward difficult persons who are usually dismissed and rejected as enemies of the gospel and menaces to society. Yes, God has the power to change such people, but such power is expressed through the ordinary means of regularly breaking bread with strangers; hence, the gospel comes with a house key. In this sense, Butterfield’s book is an encouragement to never give up on people—or on God—but to endure in love by keeping the doors of your home open. You never know. Perhaps God will take this seemingly simple act of faith and obedience and do far more than anything we could ever ask or imagine.

Paul S. Jeon
Reformed Theological Seminary
Washington, DC, USA

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Karl Barth’s Infralapsarian Theology: Origins and Development, 1920–1953

Shao Kai Tseng

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Karl Barth described himself as a “supralapsarian” insofar as his theological reasoning is “detached and purified from the doubtful presuppositions” of the seventeenth-century Reformed controversy (Church Dogmatics [CD] II.2, §33, p. 142). According to Barth, the older “presuppositions can be removed without setting aside the basic thought,” after which the purer material form can be “developed in a christological direction” (CD II.2, §33, p. 143). And this is exactly what Barth attempts to do in his christological restructuring of the doctrine of election: or so he thinks. As the title of the work under consideration reveals, Shao Kai Tseng questions the internal coherence of Barth’s supralapsarian claim. The overall structure of Barth’s theology should not be considered, according to Tseng, “supralapsarian” but rather “infralapsarian,” and this despite Barth’s self-professed—though not uncritical—alignment with the supralapsarian position of the seventeenth-century. Tseng argues, given the historic definitions of the original debate, Barth’s theological position is “basically infralapsarian” insofar as Barth increasingly maintains the “object of divine election is God’s eternal conception of fallen humanity” (p. 42). The adverb “basically” is not superfluous. Tseng is careful to consider “supralapsarian” elements within Barth’s theology as they unfold over the course of his complex theological development, even though Tseng ultimately contends the structure of Barth’s thought is “basically infralapsarian” given that the theological “Yes” to humankind in Jesus Christ always presupposes and negates the “No” of humankind’s fallenness and corruption (p. 267). In more technical terms, for Barth the “object of predestination” is “homo lapsus, but not simpliciter so” (p. 292).

The argument unfolds in two parts. Part one (chs. 1–2) explicates the historical definitions of the lapsarian debate within seventeenth-century Reformed theology (ch. 1), as well as Barth’s understanding of those definitions in his small print excursus in CD II.2, §33 (ch. 2). According to Tseng, Barth’s predilection for the supralapsarian position is in part based on his terminological imprecision as it pertains to the lapsarian ordo in the original debate. In particular, Barth seems to think that the infralapsarian position portrays predestination as having taken place temporally after the fall. This, given historical definitions, is simply incorrect. Both lapsarian positions indicate that the divine decree precedes the whole history of God’s engagement with creation. Tseng is most certainly correct in his assessment then that Barth’s excursus “tells us much more about Barth’s own lapsarian thinking than it does the Lapsarian Controversy” (p. 68).

Part two unpacks Barth’s lapsarian thinking vis-à-vis his developing christological doctrine of election. To do this, Tseng navigates Barth’s early inclinations in Römerbrief II (ch. 3) to his time in Göttingen and Münster (ch. 4), then from his Bonn years (ch. 5) to the publication of Gottes Gnadenwahl in 1936 (ch. 6). Tseng locates in Gottes Gnadenwahl Barth’s groundbreaking resolution to the “contradiction between his actualism and critical realism that marked the chief defect of his theology from GD [Göttingen Dogmatics] to CD I/1” (p. 204). What is most important here is that Barth’s christological revision of election did not arise solely as a result of hearing Pierre Maury’s lecture on Calvin’s doctrine of predestination, but arose out of Barth’s continued struggle with the lapsarian question and Maury’s lecture. In this sense, the basic structure of Barth’s mature theology is laid bare in Gottes Gnadenwahl as Barth theologically works through the lapsarian problem in light of Maury’s lecture. After explicating Barth’s christological reworking of the lapsarian problem in Gottes Gnadenwahl, Tseng traces Barth’s solution through CD II/2 (ch. 7) and CD IV/1, §60 (ch. 8). By the time of CD IV/1, §60 (1953), Barth’s basically infralapsarian outlook had, according the Tseng, fully bloomed: “The incarnation is the history of the electing God’s entrance into the history of God’s fallen covenant partner, in order to sublate the latter’s history of fallenness for the sake of and in the election of all in Christ” (p. 289). Barth, it seems, is a rather complicated infralapsarian.

Overall, Tseng has produced a first-rate study on the intersection of election and christology in Barth’s thought, and has done so from the angle of the historic Lapsarian Controversy. In terms of Tseng’s analysis of the successive stages of Barth’s career, the argument is illuminating and commendable. Tseng helpfully brings out the complexity of Barth’s lapsarian position, which dialectically includes supralapsarian (i.e., the election of Jesus Christ) and infralapsarian (i.e., the presupposition of the fall) elements. And apart from a few less-than-irenic comments regarding Barthian “revisionists,” I say so far so good. However, I must agree with George Hunsinger’s assessment in the “Foreword” that it would still be better to consider Barth a “purified supralapsarian” with “strong infralapsarian elements” (p. 10). For Barth—on Hunsinger’s interpretation—God’s primordial will-to-covenant is eternally grounded in Jesus Christ, and this with or without the fall. When all of Barth’s theological revisions are taken into account, Hunsinger concludes that the manner in which Barth made Jesus Christ the object of election cannot fit easily into the mold of the seventeenth-century debate (p. 12). This is a helpful evaluation and puts a finger on the most contestable aspect of Tseng’s thesis: the Lapsarian Controversy as definitional canon. Tseng wants to frame the question around the seventeenth-century controversy, though he remains somewhat indiscriminate as to the difference between the Lapsarian Controversy and lapsarian christology. In terms of the former, Tseng’s taxonomy is not misleading. The driving question in the original debate centers on the individual “object of predestination” within the logical order of the divine decrees. Yet throughout his argument Tseng blends this discussion with that of lapsarian christology. Lapsarian christology asks the following: How does one construe the ordering of creation around the person of Son, in particular his incarnation? This question does not technically fall within the purview of the original debate, even if Reformed theologians during that period had various opinions about it. The two remained discrete discussions. Once one blends them though, historical contours have been traded for constructive engagement. This is exactly what Barth claims he is doing; he is purifying lapsarianism vis-à-vis christology (CD II.2, §33, p. 149). Tseng certainly recognizes this, which is why he does not mask the admixture of infra- and supralapsarian elements within Barth’s mature theology. My contention is that if Tseng took seriously the contours of the historical debate, as well as the idiosyncrasy of Barth’s position, then the thesis would be inverted. Barth should be considered a twentieth-century supralapsarian after all, although with strong (and historic) infralapsarian tendencies.

Phillip Hussey
Saint Louis University
Saint Louis, MO, USA

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The Oxford Handbook of the Oxford Movement

Stewart J. Brown, Peter B. Nockles and James Pereiro, eds.

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The Oxford or Tractarian Movement arose circa 1833 because its leading figures believed that parliamentary decisions then unfolding in Britain were working to undermine the prerogatives of the Church of England. They combatted these changes by promoting the conception of the apostolic succession (and independence) of Anglican bishops and doctrinal teachings of a Roman type which had found support in the era of former Archbishop William Laud (1573–1645). Their stance was, broadly considered, hostile to the legacy of the Reformation. In the face of strong opposition generated within and beyond Anglicanism, there were major defections to Roman Catholicism circa 1845. What began as Tractarianism continues as the Anglo-Catholic expression of Anglicanism. By late 19th century, the influence of the Oxford Movement reached beyond Anglicanism to other forms of Protestantism, creating ferment there.

Major works on this 19th century movement and its leading personalities—whether biographical or of a reference orientation—have often been released at the approach of notable anniversaries of what began in 1833. The volume under review—which comprises an anthology of 42 independently-authored chapters organized under 8 thematic divisions—is an exception to this pattern. Instead it is a consolidative volume providing readers with a sampling of the best scholarship of the last quarter-century on this part-romantic and part-reactionary early Victorian religious movement. One can perceive continuity between it and a previous volume edited by Brown and Nockles, The Oxford Movement: Europe and the Wider World 1830–1930 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012; reviewed in Themelios 38.3).

Researchers do not immerse themselves in the study the Oxford Movement merely because it awaits the daring; they give themselves to the study of the movement because of a fascination with its leading personalities and an attraction to the convictions which they championed. Their fascination is often driven by admiration and party loyalty; it may also be driven by the conviction that this movement was wrong-footed. To its credit, this Oxford Handbook provides us with contributions of both kinds, though the former clearly outnumber the latter.

This Oxford Handbook could not serve as an effective introduction to this field of study; any novice would be avalanched under its detail. But the reader who had taken in hand a good biography of John Henry Newman (1801–1890) would soon be able to profit immensely by the resources provided here. With this said, it would still be wise to begin at the Oxford Handbook’s end. For there, in two reflective chapters concluding the work (42 and Afterword), the writers Peter B. Nockles and Colin Podmore provide the best of starting points. Nockles provides an informed survey of the kinds of historical writing about the movement (partisan and otherwise) penned since 1850. Of equal importance is Podmore’s sketch of what has become of this movement which beginning as Tractarianism soon morphed into Anglo-Catholicism. Today’s Anglo-Catholicism reflects all the fissures over gender and sexuality which confront the Anglican Communion globally.

The forty-two chapters are arranged under eight categories, a few of which are: “Origins and Context” (I), “The Theology of the Oxford Movement” (II), “Cultural Expressions, Transmission, and Influences” (V), “Beyond England” (VI) and “Into the Twentieth Century” (VII). Few readers will have the leisure to plow through the book’s 632 pages in linear fashion; they will instead gravitate to the section(s) which shed light on questions which have arisen in their own reading.

In an uncanny way, our own generation is now sharing in a romantic longing for “imagined Christian pasts” which longing was such a pronounced feature of the original Oxford Movement. A reader who acknowledges this affinity will be especially helped by the contributions on the evangelical background of many of the first Tractarians (ch. 3) and the commitment to the Bible which characterized the first (but not the subsequent) generation (ch. 16). In spite of these original moorings, the first generation generated both empathy and hostility with the steady release after 1833 of their “Tracts for the Times.” Shortly, both High Church Anglicans and evangelicals within and beyond Anglicanism were alarmed at the Romanizing tendencies detected in these pamphlets (ch. 10) and this alarm brought with it a decided reaction which led to the termination of the series (ch. 12).

The Handbook also explains how Newman’s re-affiliation to Rome in 1845, rather than crippling this movement, only obliged to enter a new—and more stable—period of existence (chs. 21–22). Across the remainder of the 19th century, the Anglo-Catholic party grew, though at its height it would not have included more than one in twenty Anglican clergymen, persons who by outlook were most oriented to parishioners of the middling and professional classes (ch. 24). Anglo-Catholicism, in addition to embracing the original Tractarian emphases, came to enfold two other tendencies with which it was not at first associated: a liturgical movement originating in Cambridge, dedicated to the recovery of ancient liturgies, and an aesthetic movement determined to see Gothic architecture revived (chs. 25, 28).

We find, on reading, that we owe thanks to this movement for the role it played in the recovery, composition and compilation of hymnody (a thing to bear in mind the next time we sing, “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” or “Holy, Holy, Holy” [ch. 26]). If we want to know the origin of the re-institution of Protestant religious orders for women and men, we find it with these same Anglo-Catholics (ch. 27).

In sum, here is a most valuable guide to the Tractarians. The volume establishes that global Anglicanism in all its expressions has taken on hues provided by this “ginger group.” Yet it bears repeating that this major work gives only a very minor place to cautionary voices which draw attention to the error entailed in affirming—as the early Tractarians did—that it was the extent to which their Church approximated the faith and devotional norms of Rome that would determine her legitimacy. Now, just as in early Victorian England, this delusion needs to be opposed.

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

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Labor of God: The Agony of the Cross as the Birth of the Church

Thomas Andrew Bennett

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Thomas Andrew Bennett’s work Labor of God is a short but dense book, in which he seeks to address the apathetic response from hearers to what we should expect to be the scandalous idea that the cross is the central symbol of the Christian message. From the beginning of the first chapter Bennett sets out the problem that he perceives with the mainstream language of Christ’s work on the cross, claiming that traditional metaphors have become stale and meaningless through over-familiarity. With this concern in view, Bennett’s work is an apologetic impulse to breathe new life into the proclamation of the cross. His answer is a biblical metaphor that he perceives to have been abandoned, that of “the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth as the birthing pangs – the labor – of God, who bears renewed, spiritual sons and daughters into the world” (p. 5). He draws upon the Johannine concept of second—and spiritual birth particularly, leaning on John’s gospel and the familial language along with the relationship between Jesus and his followers. He defines the concept within historical theology, first citing medieval theologians Anselm of Canterbury, Julian of Norwich and Marguerite d’Oingt, and then citing more recent feminist theologians and the biblical scholar Murray Rae (who endorses the book) in support of the metaphor of childbirth to explain the work of Christ on the cross.

In chapters 3, 4 and 5, Bennett addresses the achievements of the cross according to this metaphor. He first addresses the issue of violence, which has become a major feature of discussions about atonement theology in recent years. He observes that childbirth is simultaneously painful and joyous due to the life-giving process of birth. The work of Christ in the light of this has a transformative element as at the cross Christ transforms human violence into something live-giving: the birthing of the church. Secondly, Christ’s work as the labor of God, also reverses the consequences of sin. Bennett helpfully presents sin as a corrupting influence, which distorts our world and our perceptions on every level. As a result, we are morally and ethically unable to correctly discern right from wrong. The work of Christ delivers rebirth to a new people as a means to restoration. God creates a new heart and a new spirit, therefore bringing about a change in nature reflective of our divine parentage. Finally, with such an approach Bennett avoids the economy of exchange that he identifies within traditional metaphors of atonement, because the gift of atonement is rebirth into a new community without the corruption of sin. This he believes offers a more faithful reading of the atonement in Romans 5.

Bennett’s work has much to commend it. He has restored a biblical and historical model of atonement that can helpfully sit beside other interpretations of the work of Christ. Furthermore, his apologetic and missional motivation in presenting this model is praiseworthy, grounding theology in a ministry context and presenting a helpful ecclesiological emphasis.

However, his bold claim that traditional understandings of atonement models such as sacrifice, victory and ransom have become stale, is unhelpful. Other recent works on the atonement still to some extent draw upon these classic models (e.g., Peter Leithart, Delivered From the Elements of the World [Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1996]; Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ [Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2015]). Does the existence of such works not imply that the models Bennett dismisses still have much to teach us?

Bennett is critical of substitutional and sacrificial models of the atonement because of their mutual reliance, calling them a “Frankenstein’s monster” of atonement, then referring to these models as “a bizarre, piecemeal metaphorical universe” (p. 78). This conclusion presents an internal problem, as Bennett’s criticism of metaphors leaning on others forces his own theory to be all encompassing and to stand-alone. No single metaphor, including Bennett’s, can achieve given the ineffable nature of the work of Christ.

Bennett’s work is helpful; he clearly and concisely presents a metaphorical reading of atonement that can expand and strengthen our understanding of the work of Christ. However, his critique of other atonement models as a means of expressing his own, steps beyond biblical and theological reasonability.

Andrew P. Campbell
St Patrick’s Church
Broughshane, Northern Ireland, UK

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The Making of Battle Royal: The Rise of Liberalism in Northern Baptist Life, 1870–1920

Jeffrey P. Straub

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The buildings are grand. In now-faded images, the trees are tall and blooming. The picture of Rochester Theological Seminary in the early twentieth-century is one of confidence, ambition, and solidity. Here is a school, the campus says, that will endure and make inroads for the kingdom of God. The northern Baptists were ascendant, and schools like Crozer, Colgate, and Chicago pursued a similarly heady course.

Fast forward 100 or so years. Today, neither Crozer, nor Rochester, nor Colgate stands on its own. In a strange twist of conglomeration, the three schools are one, though each seeks to preserve its unique heritage through the affiliate designation: Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. According to online sources, the school has about 90 students.

Curious minds can only wonder: what happened to northern Baptists as a movement—once an empire on the rise, now a marginal religious presence in America? We find many of the answers in The Making of a Battle Royal: The Rise of Liberalism in Northern Baptist Life, 1870–1920. Jeff Straub, professor of Historical Theology and registrar at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, built the present volume off of his doctoral research under historian Michael Haykin. Battle Royal fits well with ongoing scholarship on Protestant liberalism. Straub’s book stands alongside the previous publications of Gary Dorrien (with his trilogy on liberal theology), Richard Wightman Fox (particularly his work on Reinhold Niebuhr), and Gregory Wills (his history of Southern Seminary includes several essential chapters on C. H. Toy and others).

Battle Royal shows, in sum, that the pyrotechnics set off by Harry Emerson Fosdick in the 1920s were prepared decades before. They took shape in the place where ministry—sound or unsound—is often incubated: the seminary. Though this sturdy text is academic in tone and format, I was gripped in my own analysis of the text by how urgently missiological Straub’s academic scholarship is. Because of this modern-day relevance, I now list three principles I identified in Battle Royal that speak not only to the settled past, but the unsettled present.

First, everything depends upon the doctrine of Scripture. Over and over again, we see that the first doctrine the liberal leaders reenvisioned was that of bibliology. In the mind of this mold, the text is sacred but not inerrant. Witness William Newton Clarke, who made the sly argument that poring over the Bible led to just this view: “[T]he Bible itself, upon examination shows me that it is not a book infallible throughout, in which error does not exist” (p. 105). That is, the serious student of Scripture finds that Scripture does not want its students to be so theologically serious. Then as now, Christians were encouraged to doubt the Bible, but not to doubt those who doubt the Bible.

Bibliology was the first doctrinal domino to fall, but many fell after it—a propitiatory atonement, an exclusivistic call to Christ on the mission field, a commitment to expository preaching. The church became a social change agent, committed to a gently Marxist vision of economic uplift in the Rauschenbuschian form. “Soul salvation” was out; social betterment was in. Over time, the church’s mission mirrored that of progressive politics until the two essentially merged.

Second, conservatives only woke up to the true threat of liberal theology when it was too late. The Baptist movement in general was ripe for just the sort of plucking that occurred in this period, for the Baptists of the north had not lashed themselves to confessions. The New Hampshire confession provided some basis for theological mooring, but the liberal theologians merely worked around it, employing “double-speak” and shrewd words (pp. 16, 264). In general, the liberal leaders proved far, far more cunning than the conservatives. They organized against protests from the right; they gave public affirmations of Baptist pieties that mollified the masses; they networked and hired and corresponded like crazy.

These insights matter for today. Then as now, conservatives are often better at building individual ministries, led by a singularly gifted figure, while liberals are often better at laying the institutional groundwork for wholescale takeover that proves impossible to dislodge. By the time Bible-loving northern Baptists woke to the threat of their eclipse, it was too late. They were in checkmate. Contra the stereotype—the canard, in some cases—of the “fighting fundamentalists,” the conservatives, in point of fact, often wavered in the face of doctrinal compromise. Division and massive ecclesial change came because of one group and one group alone: the liberals.

Third, the church needs theologians and pastor-theologians who together promote sound doctrine. Perhaps the saddest figure we encounter in the text is A. H. Strong. He is the strangest of characters: he held to a form of Reformed doctrine but hired Walter Rauschenbusch, giving the latter a priceless platform for his social gospel (pp. 147–50, 229–34). This type, the conservative who wants to be friend to all parties (ala Clarence Macartney), is perhaps the most bewildering type of leader found in the fundamentalist-modernist controversies of the 1920s.

Such sad examples remind us that the great need of our own age is men who will lead churches and seminaries and colleges with personal warmth, doctrinal conviction, and confessional fidelity. God has called men to be the theological leaders of the home, church, and the teaching institutions of his body. This is the need of the hour. We read Straub’s study for scholarly purposes, but the scholar or pastor who loves the church cannot read it in a detached way. The northern Baptists let the fire ebb on their watch. Will we?

The verdict on liberal Baptist theology is in. It bankrupted schools, closed countless churches, and shuttered many missions outposts. This is not opinion; it is fact. Sound doctrine brings life. Unsound doctrine steals it away. We see this in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when liberalism entered grand buildings and teeming classrooms. Over time, it left them empty, collecting dust on an elegant hill, a “For Sale” sign placed discretely by the road.

In so many places in America, churches must compete with one another, block by block, for members. The burden is a terrific one for pastors and church planters. But in the north, and particularly the northeast, a different burden predominates. There, one can drive for miles and not encounter a Bible-loving assembly. Strangely, much of this territory is not unchurched, at least historically. Much of it is burned-over. In the northeast, in New England, sound doctrine once ruled the roost. Now, it is buried and gone, the old white churches of the past increasingly a relic of disbelief, a block of condos, the neighborhood’s newest gastropub.

It was not always so. Once, the northeast pulsed with spiritual activity. Once, the gospel rang out from a thousand sound pulpits. Then the liberal theologians came. They took over churches. They infiltrated the seminaries. They won the battle royal. Through their church-weakening, Bible-undermining teaching, they wrote ICHABOD over the doorways of their schools and churches. The historical questions surrounding the decline of the northern Baptist movement have clear and cogent answers. The real question for us today—those of us who love Christ’s church like nothing else on earth—is this: Will anyone come and speak a better word?

Owen Strachan
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Kansas City, Missouri, USA

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The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism

Ben Myers

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Ben Myers deftly presents an inviting, expository journey through a familiar document of the Christian faith in his recent work The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism. Whether you have grown up reciting the Apostles’ Creed weekly or came to it academically as a theologian, pastor, or lay-person, this short volume is certainly weighty enough to become your field guide. Myers, an Australian professor of theology, literature, and philosophy, research fellow at the Centre for Public and Contextual Theology at Charles Sturt University, and director of the Millis Institute, composes his work from a personal background of academia, causing this book to read with more depth than an average trade publication on the topic might. However, despite its academic credentials, the writing is accessible and tight as Myers loads each word with maximum gravitas so as to say as much as possible in the small space allotted.

The content itself is an easy to follow exposition of the Apostle’s Creed text. The book first divides the larger Creed into thematic articles then tackles the individual ideas. Sometimes a whole phrase, at other times a single word, the chapters use this episodic framework to delve into theological and scriptural issues raised by each portion. This model allows for the one of the greatest strengths of the work as Myers retethers each phrase to its context in historical theology. Myers’s approach is a welcome response when the typical Christian of today would rarely consider the fact that each phrase was carefully selected to speak to real issues being raised at the time of its composition and compilation.

One historical theology example Myers illuminates involves the line “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.” While this seems like a simple declaration of a literal reading of scripture, the book points out that many dualist heresies and the teachings of Marcion had made it their mission to dissect the miraculous and spiritual from the physical (pp. 87–89). The ascension of Jesus created problems for all of these groups for different reasons. Yet, those holding to the orthodox stance on the union of God and man bound inseparable in the figure of Jesus chose to go on record in defense of a literal ascension and a return to full glory, honor, and power alongside God the Father in the form of this seemingly simple line.

The writing is brief and succinct to the point that at times the reader is left wanting more on a certain thought or idea. For example, early in the book Myers references that early Christians were baptized naked but then proceeds to awkwardly avoid commentary on this point and chooses instead to maintain his laser-focus on the theological implications of the act rather than the sociological questions of the reader (pp. 1–2). Yet despite this effort to contain so much inside the confines of the series format Myers writes with vivid imagery that welcomes the modern reader into the mind of the ancient Christian who is literally living out the words of the creed in real time.

Perhaps due to the effort to keep the work connected to the historical context or perhaps instead to keep it short, alternative interpretations or arguments against elements of the creed are not exposed to their full potential. For example, did Christ descend into a literal hell or someplace else, and what are the ramifications of this doctrine (pp. 79–84)? Myers instead focuses more on the original intent of the document coupled with the scripture and tradition used to compose it. In many ways, the creed is taken at face value with a quiet assumption that the reader has a favorable view of the creedal theology.

If I began the book with moderate expectations due to my familiarity with the creed itself and my skepticism towards Myers’s brevity, I noticed that my interest and speed of reading picked up momentum with each passing page. I wanted to know more, and this hunger kept me scurrying madly towards the back cover. The series preface claims to be producing volumes that pass down “tradition that matters” (p. ix). As I personally write from a Baptist perspective, I have been rewarmed to a document that my tribe has often avoided simply because it bears too much the smell of tradition and creedal austerity. Myers presents the creed instead as simple, theological truths, rooted in a defense of scripture and doctrine that were summarized and standardized to help early believers stand firm in the face of persecution, heresy, and insult. In this way, Myers opens an illuminating door for all who would sit at the feet of the earliest church fathers and be reintroduced to the simple, distilled truth proclaimed by the Apostles’ Creed.

Mark Fugitt
Missouri State University
West Plain, Missouri, USA

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John Gerstner and the Renewal of Presbyterian and Reformed Evangelicalism in Modern America

Jeffrey S. McDonald

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In John Gerstner and the Renewal of Presbyterian and Reformed Evangelicalism in Modern America, Jeffrey S. McDonald argues that John Gerstner played a significant role in the development and expansion of a Reformed subculture among 20th century evangelicals. McDonald finds Gerstner to be “astonishingly overlooked” in both American Presbyterian history and the wider literature of American evangelicalism (p. 11). McDonald’s volume, an adaptation of his University of Stirling dissertation supervised by David Bebbington, offers a corrective to this trend and an early contribution to Gerstner studies.

McDonald weaves two story arcs throughout the book: Gerstner’s life and ministry and the trajectory of post-WWII American Presbyterianism. In this sense, McDonald’s volume is similar to George Marsden’s Reforming Fundamentalism, though Marsden uses Fuller Seminary as a lens through which to understand Neo-Evangelicalism, whereas McDonald uses Gerstner as a lens through which to understand the renewal of Reformed theology in America. Throughout an introduction and eight chapters, McDonald provides a chronological account of Gerstner’s life and evaluates his importance to American religion (p. 2).

McDonald demonstrates that much of Gerstner’s later thought was forged in his early days of study at Westminster College (under the tutelage of John Orr), Westminster Theological Seminary, and Harvard University. Gerstner’s lifelong theological distinctives—championing Old Princeton theology, safeguarding inerrancy, and advancing evidentialist apologetics—were “cemented” in these early days, especially through Orr’s influence (p. 49). Gerstner’s teaching career began in 1950 and carried on for over four decades. McDonald highlights the theological tension Gerstner faced among his Presbyterian brethren throughout his ministry and denominational service. He summarizes Gerstner’s teaching, speaking, and writing goals well: “oppose theological liberalism, promote Reformed theology within evangelicalism and the UPCUSA, defend rational apologetics, and use Jonathan Edwards and the Old School Princetonians to achieve the first three objectives” (p. 106). Because of his conservative views and strong personality, Gerstner often found himself in the middle of theological and denominational skirmishes. One colleague quipped, “don’t get into a debate with Gerstner … he will win even if he’s wrong” (p. 196).

McDonald emphasizes two key elements of Gerstner’s life: his promotion of Jonathan Edwards and his influence upon the infrastructure of American evangelicalism. Gerstner’s decades-long fascination with Edwards helped spur evangelical interest in the American colonial theologian. McDonald demonstrates why Gerstner is an important figure in the renaissance of Edwardsian scholarship, even if Gerstner’s legacy is checkered on the topic. Gerstner was Edwards’s megaphone to post-WWII evangelicals (p. 129).

If Edwards had a profound impact on Gerstner, Gerstner too had a profound impact on many evangelical leaders, schools, and institutions. From his mentoring of R. C. Sproul (and his later affiliation with Sproul’s Ligonier Ministries), to teaching at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, to helping establish the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, John Gerstner was an “evangelical dynamo” (p. 106). Two strengths that fueled Gerstner’s influence were his pointed speaking style and his ability to write in effective ways for lay audiences. These skills allowed him to play a “leading role” in the Reformed evangelical movement (p. 212).

McDonald’s volume is an important contribution to the history of American Presbyterianism and the broader evangelical movement. He reclaims Gerstner as not only a figure deserving of attention in his own right, but a figure who is vital for a proper understanding of the emergence of Reformed convictions and sympathies in a variety of evangelical denominations, schools, and movements. McDonald shows that Neo-Evangelical theologians (whom Gerstner supported in the pages of Christianity Today and counted as theological comrades) were not the only thinkers combatting theological liberalism. Gerstner was as well, and he in the context of a mainline denomination suspicious of his views.

McDonald’s volume is balanced. He is appreciative of Gerstner’s ministry and yet offers critical remarks where necessary, especially regarding Gerstner’s weaknesses as a historian and interpreter of Jonathan Edwards. The reader gains a sense of Gerstner’s “resilience” and “persevering spirit” in the face of professional, scholarly, and denominational disappointments (p. 199). As the book contains numerous Presbyterian acronyms and cites them throughout (often without reference), readers acquainted with American Presbyterian history will track with the terminology easier than readers unfamiliar with the terrain. Still, this does not harm the book’s readability and is understandable considering Gerstner’s historical context. Scholars and students of American evangelicalism will find the book to be an important contribution that addresses a blind-spot in American evangelical research. Interested pastors will find in Gerstner a model of how to communicate complex ideas in an engaging way to their congregations.

Overall, John Gerstner and the Renewal of Presbyterian and Reformed Evangelicalism in Modern America is a worthy assessment of Gerstner’s life and legacy. It provides a cogent and compelling account of the man who, despite numerous setbacks and marginalization, provided “the necessary energy that has led to the expansion of Presbyterian and Reformed evangelicalism” in America (p. 212).

Jesse Payne
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Kansas City, Missouri, USA

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Theologies of the American Revivalists: From Whitefield to Finney

Robert W. Caldwell III

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Evangelical history has benefited from a growth of studies aimed variously at its institutions, people, theology, and movements. The Great Awakening, the Second Great Awakening, along with other smaller revivals have all received attention. Likewise, the theology of the revivalists such as Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, John Wesley, or Charles Finney have also received treatments. What are not always clear are the theological connections across the revivals and revivalists. Robert Caldwell, associate professor of Church History at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has provided a much-needed book that explains these historical and theological connections of the revivalists as well as the major pushbacks against revival theology. As a result, Theologies of the American Revivalists masterfully lays open one of the most important theological motivators of early American Protestant religion: revival theology.

Behind revival writing stood various theological schools as well as theological and practical issues. These schools, and their issues, largely drove revival theologies. Caldwell argues that the major issues were the nature of human redemption, the proper balance of divine and human activity in conversion, the nature of true religious experience, and the various ways that a preacher can or should call individuals to Christ (p. 4). The underlying theologies drew from traditional Calvinism, Wesleyan Arminianism, and Edwardsean Calvinism. The practical issues were what does a preacher do while preaching and what does an individual need to spiritually experience conversion (pp. 5–6)? Taking these assumptions and questions into account, Caldwell argues that there are essentially three components to a revival theology: “their theologies of salvation, the ways they practically preached the gospel, and the conversion experience they expected from those experiencing salvation” (p. 6).

The book traces a chronological line from the first major revivalists (chapter one), then follows the main Edwardsean tradition (chapters two, three, four, and seven), considers some critiques (chapters two and eight), and explores side paths taken by the Methodists (chapter five) and Baptists (chapter six). Theologians as diverse as Jonathan Edwards, Andrew Crosswell, Samuel Hopkins, Nathaniel Taylor, John Wesley, Andrew Fuller, Charles Finney, Charles Hodge, and Alexander Campbell receive accurate, though brief, presentations.

In the end, Caldwell traces four major streams of revival theology: moderate evangelical revival theology (traditional Puritan Calvinism, beginning with Whitefield), free grace revival theology (more radical evangelicals), Edwardsean Calvinist revival theology (Edwards through the New Divinity and New England theologians), and Methodist Arminian revival theology (Wesley through its American expositors, concluding with Finney). Beyond these four streams, there were divergences and variations. Baptists, for one, do not fit the streams and were more eclectic in their appropriations. There were more progressive revival theologies, such as New Haven Theology and Charles Finney. And, there were major resistances against revival theology, such as the Princeton theologians and the Restoration movement leaders. Caldwell gives four factors at play in revival theology: the bondage or freedom of the will, particularism or universalism, understandings of the standard length of conversion, and the tension between traditional theological systems and common-sense readings of Scripture (pp. 223–26). These four factors, the theological answers to these questions, and the theological underpinnings attached to the various systems go a long way to explaining why revival theology (and American theology in general) developed in the various ways it did.

Caldwell has provided a valuable service to the study of American theology. His exposition of Edwards’s theology and the subsequent Edwardsean stream is a vital resource for students looking to grasp the flow and development of American theology up to 1850. To understand the theological debates that centered on the atonement, imputation and original sin, perfection, or even the “New Measures” of Charles Finney, one would do well to gain a grasp of the history laid out in this book. This book is not a full-blown history of American theology during the colonial period and early republic, but such a history is simply incomplete without the content of Caldwell’s work. There is no other work on American religious history that provides such a detailed overview of revival theology and its place in American religious history. Though the subject matter can be dry for readers unfamiliar with the complex theological debates of the time period, Caldwell does well to ameliorate against this both with clear prose and clear signposts of where he is going and where he has been.

Beyond the theological and historical discussions there is also a wonderful pastoral dimension. The author ably shows how revival theology was driven, at its heart, by a need to know how God works in the pastor’s heart and in the heart of his people. Caldwell argues that our secular age and the church’s critique of it could use explicit consideration of the issues of revival theology. His own pastoral suggestion is on point and worth repeating: “A robust revival theology, one that intimately unites head and heart, Scripture, proclamation, and life, would certainly help galvanize preaching, capture the religious imagination of the lost, and aid in imparting a theological vision that draws sinners to life and raises up God-glorifying disciples” (p. 229). On the whole, Theologies of the American Revivalists is a skilled presentation of historical theology that admirably serves historical, theological, and pastoral purposes. I highly recommend the work.

Matthew C. Shrader
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Deerfield, Illinois, USA

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Jonathan Edwards and Scripture: Biblical Exegesis in British North America

David P. Barshinger and Douglas A. Sweeney, eds.

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As the Edwards Renaissance continues, a happy trend is interest in studying Edwards’s approach to the Bible. This interest is pursued by Edwards scholars from various backgrounds and disciplines, as participation in the recent Jonathan Edwards and Scripture compendium demonstrates. The editors, Douglas A. Sweeney and David P. Barshinger, have each written authoritative, pioneering works on the topic (see Sweeney’s Edwards the Exegete: Biblical Interpretation and Anglo-Protestant Culture on the Edge of the Enlightenment [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015] and Barshinger’s Jonathan Edwards and the Psalms: A Redemptive-Historical Vision of Scripture [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015]). They have assembled an anthology of essays attending to Edwards’s engagement with the Holy Writ—the aim of which is to observe Edwards’s devotion to scripture, assess him as a biblical interpreter in comparison to his Reformed heritage and enlightened context, and to appreciate the uniqueness of Edwards’s constructive biblical theology and theological interpretation of scripture. Since a comprehensive summary is impractical, this review focuses on how the contributions, though valuable independently, ought to be read in tandem. Their arguments corroborate one another and display a consensus on Edwards’s scriptural interpretation. Apologies to readers who anticipate a linear account; this review is thematically produced.

Kenneth Minkema (chapter 1) depicts Edwards’s scriptural practices. Edwards kept canonical reviews of scripture and had favorite texts and textual “clusters,” which are found in Edwards’s “Miscellanies,” “Blank Bible,” “Notes on Scripture,” other thematic notebooks, and the scripture texts he habitually re-preached. Minkema’s introduction to these less known parts of Edwards’s corpus is helpful because all later contributors amply use these texts. Adriaan Neele’s study (chapter 3) explores Edwards’s secondary interlocutor, Matthew Poole, who introduced to Edwards much more secondary literature. As Neele summarizes, Poole’s Synopsis “is a composition of a vast number and variety of authors of various faith traditions” (p. 56). Robert Brown’s case-study of Edwards and the Pentateuch furthers these arguments (chapter 7). Edwards gave generous time to studying the historical narratives of Genesis and Exodus in order to defend Mosaic authorship (cf. entry No. 416 in “Notes on Scripture”). Edwards also resourced English translations of French-Catholic scholars, Richard Simon and Louis Ellies Du Pin, for his research. Brown’s article is preceded by a Pentateuchal case-study from luminary of American historical studies, Mark Noll, who provides an account of Edwards’s interpretation of Genesis 32:22–32, Jacob’s wrestling with “a Man” (chapter 6).

In chapter 2, Stephen Nichols asserts that Edwards’s reformed interpretive heritage caused him to place great value on harmonizing the Old and New Testament. This harmony respected the “Christological scope” of Scripture. Edwards also appropriated interpretive practices from late antiquity and medievalists by reading texts typologically; this allowed for infinite spiritual senses of the text. Later, David Kling reveals that Edwards believed the unconverted may correctly interpret scripture’s historical and exegetical sense, but only the converted may comprehend scripture’s spiritual sense (chapter 12). Ava Chamberlain’s essay on Edwards and Jonah’s whale is a case-study of Edwards’s typological and spiritual interpretation (chapter 8). She compares Edwards’s theological work with Cotton Mather’s use of natural science to resolve the unbelievable elements of this story. Edwards repaired the historical and natural science problems by employing his spiritual sense of the text.

Chamberlain’s essay demonstrates how fruitful research comes from matters even Edwards gave scant attention. Three other essays reveal this. Remarkably, each one surfaces theological and cultural tensions Edwards managed in respect to Catholicism. Stephen Stein’s essay on Edwards and the Virgin Mary exhibits that Edwards staunchly opposed the Catholic doctrine of Mariology, but he did not marginalize Mary (chapter 10). Her role in redemptive history as the pre-natal vessel for the two-natured Son of God becomes, for Edwards, a typological picture of those who “foster the life of Christ in the world” (p. 190). James Byrd’s blend of intellectual, social, and military history discusses Edwards’s function as a civil figure, who supported a just war interpretation of scripture to enlist support for England’s conflicts with Catholic Spain and France (chapter 11). Gerald McDermott’s inquiry into evangelical Edwards’s theological commitments suggests that Edwards was quite Thomistic on a handful of positions (chapter 13). Furthermore, Edwards appears to subscribe to a Prima Scriptura rather than Sola Scriptura position. Before readers rise up against McDermott’s assessment, it is vital to observe that Protestantism’s catholicity has always featured marks of Thomism; Edwards is no outlier.

Charles Hambrick-Stowe’s contribution on the Bible in Edwards’s personal life and spiritual practice illumines his fundamental preaching aim to elicit revival and stir affections (chapter 4). Edwards’s writing practices were exercises of biblical spiritual reflection to foster personal revival and ongoing conversion, which Kling alludes to in chapter 12 (p. 229–31). Jan Stievermann’s and Ryan Hoselton’s contribution compares Cotton Mather’s experimental piety to Edwards’s (chapter five). For Edwards, experimental piety is denoted by “spiritual notions in Scripture lively to the mind by stirring the saint’s internal senses and perceptions to feel and see their beauty, concinnity, and goodness” (p. 102). Michael McClymond neatly pulls together these conclusions about Edwards’s spiritual understanding of Scripture as he unfolds his “logic of fullness” in John’s writings (chapter nine). Edwards believed that the spiritual life involved an ever-increasing experience of God’s grace as one perpetually comes into deeper intimacy and union with the triune God. McClymond asserts that Edwards’s “logic of fullness” anticipates the inaugurated eschatology of Richard Bauckham and the “dynamic relation” of C. H. Dodd.

These essays will engender further critical engagement by scholars preoccupied by Jonathan Edwards. Furthermore, by acquainting readers with ongoing projects, like Cotton Mather’s Biblia America, this study alerts readers to the value of exploring Edwards’s and Mather’s Atlantic World frontier. Pastors and interested lay-readership will find comfort and encouragement from Edwards’s traditional yet innovative interpretive work; Edwards preserved his Reformed heritage, while creatively protecting sound doctrine from sceptics’ and liberals’ assault upon the church.

Joseph T. Cochran
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Deerfield, Illinois, USA

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Outsider Designations and Boundary Construction in the New Testament: Christian Communities and the Formation of Group Identity

Paul Trebilco

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Some of the richest insights when interpreting the Bible come when readers attend to its subtle details. In Outsider Designations and Boundary Construction in the New Testament, Paul Trebilco demonstrates the fruit of such labor. A NT professor at the University of Otago, he has previously written on the subject of self-designations and group identity in the early church. Trebilco now turns his attention to the way that a close study of outsider designations can assist in the exegesis of Scripture and shed light on the early Christian movement.

Aside from an introduction and conclusion, the book has nine chapters. It begins by explaining Treblico’s methodological approach. He draws from multiple disciplines, including social identity theory, sociolinguistics, and the sociology of deviance. He then surveys a broad range of terms found in the Bible to distinguish outsiders from insiders. Some designations were common to the surrounding culture. Others stem from the LXX, including “sinners,” “transgressors,” “evil doers,” and “the unrighteous.” These observations illustrate continuity between the early church and its Jewish roots. As will be seen, this background also highlights the contrasting ways that Christians refashioned such language for their own purposes.

Biblical writers demonstrate flexibility and creativity when using outsider designations. For instance, Treblico highlights the uncommon (if not unprecedented) use of ἄπιστος to identify outsiders as “unbelievers.” He adds, “‘Unbelievers’ as a designation is a strongly negative term that creates a much higher boundary than ‘low boundary terms’ like ‘neighbours’, or ‘all people’. Those designated by this term do not have the key insider-feature of πίστις” (p. 51).

Even more generic terms for “outsider” (e.g., οἱ ἔξω, οἱ ἔξωθεν, ἰδιώτης) draw a clear distinction between insiders and outsiders. Trebilco sharpens the point by noting how ancient writers made a “strong contrast between ἀδελφοί and all other non-family members who are ‘outwards’ – ἔξω” (p. 100). Still, he warns against the impression that outsider designations were intended to “vilify or demean outsiders.” In 1 Corinthians, for example, “[Paul] encourages social differentiation from these clearly labelled ‘outsiders’ but without a corresponding social distance” (p. 58).

The discussion of οἱ ἁμαρτωλοί (“the sinners”) in chapter 6 typifies the insights offered in the book. It shows how Jesus and Paul altered conventional ways of using ἁμαρτωλοί. In the Gospels, Jesus undermined this well-known outsider label in two ways. First, he applies the term ἁμαρτωλοί to those whom he accepts as followers. Second, one sees in other passages, “Jesus is redefining ‘sinners’: they are no longer blatant law-breakers, but rather those who reject him” (p. 129). As Trebilco summarizes, Jesus “un-othered the other.” Despite appearances, Paul like Jesus also subverts the term by contending that “‘sinners’ need be outsiders no longer” (p. 140). Paul does so by designating all humanity as ἁμαρτωλοί, magnifying the extensive reach and power of sin.

Trebilco shows respect for context and nuance. This is a consistent strength in his analysis. He observes how terms like τὰ ἔθνη and οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι function in seeming contrary ways depending on context. While the former routinely denotes “Gentiles” or “all nations” (i.e., outsiders with respect to Jews), Paul describes non-Jewish Christ-believers as “former Gentiles.” Thus, a Jewish term for outsiders is reapplied to non-Christian outsiders. Other authors also adapt the meaning of ἔθνος, referring to “new community of Jesus’ followers in Matt 21:43 and 1 Pet 2:9” (p. 176). Likewise, writers use Ἰουδαῖοι to suit their need. While “Jew” can refer to an ethnic or political identity, it can signify outsiders who oppose Jesus (cf. John’s Gospel) or are outsiders to the Christian movement (cf. Acts). Alternatively, it becomes a positive designation for insiders, even Gentile believers, in Rom 2:26–29 (cf. Rev 2:9).

The NT epistles exemplify a major theme found throughout the book. According to Trebilco, NT writers strategically blend high boundary terms as “a clear demarcation of group identity” and low boundary terms to “encourage interaction and mission” among outsiders (p. 279). Strong boundary lines serve different purposes. In 1 Corinthians, Paul’s outsider language seeks to “reinforce the distinctiveness and ‘set-apartness’ of the Christian community,” whose identity was threatened by their conformity to the surrounding culture (p. 215).

In Romans, Paul’s critique of outsiders is indirect. The function of outsider terms is to highlight the significant change brought about by Christ. However, in some passages, “the actual language he uses to refer to outsiders encourages harmonious relations” (p. 225). Thus, in Rom 12:14–13:10, Paul “avoids (whether consciously or unconsciously) terms that create a strong social and theological dualism” (p. 231).

While Trebilco broadens our understanding of the NT, the book’s most significant contribution might lie elsewhere. His insights equip readers to construct a practical theology whereby the church can discern its identity in relationship to the world. The early Christians’ use of terms reveals the conscious and/or unconscious ways that Christ reshaped their identity and mission. Trebilco gives a practical implication of outsider designation when he says, “High group boundaries enable them to cope with persecution and resonate with the call to endurance” (p. 239).

The early church did not eradicate all social distinctions; in a sense, they reinforced the lines that distinguished insiders from outsiders. Trebilco concludes, “to undermine all outsider labels would be to destroy group boundaries and hence group identity” (p. 286). Accordingly, this book will benefit anyone who wants to consider how biblical writers both understood and shaped the church’s sense of identity amid diverse social groups.

Jackson Wu
International Chinese Theological Seminary
East Asia

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The Epistle to the Romans: A Commentary on the Greek Text

Richard N. Longenecker

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Given its length, depth of argument, and breadth of coverage, Longenecker’s contribution to the NIGTC series takes its place alongside the most significant and valuable English-language commentaries on Romans. In part, this is because it represents the fruit of a lifetime of study of Paul and his letters. Some of the seeds for this present work were sown in Paul, Apostle of Liberty (New York: Harper & Row, 1964 [rev. ed. 2015]), and the groundwork laid in Introducing Romans: Critical Issues in Paul’s Most Famous Letter (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011). It is best read alongside the latter, since the introductory section is relatively brief for a commentary of this size (39 pages), in many cases summarizing what Longenecker deals with at much greater length in Introducing Romans. The commentary divides the letter up into ten major sections, with various subsections therein. Each subsection of the letter is discussed under the following headings: “Translation,” “Textual Notes,” “Form/Structure/Setting,” “Exegetical Comments,” “Biblical Theology,” and “Contextualization for Today.”

A flow diagram is not given, but Longenecker’s understanding of the letter’s structure is readily discernable from the “Contents” and the beginning of each section. Notable here is that he understands the letter body to start at 1:13 (pp. 132–34), and 1:16–17 to function as the thesis statement of 1:16–4:25 (and not of the whole letter, pp. 155–57). This opens the way for Longenecker’s main thesis (reiterated at various points), that 5:1–8:39 functions as a discrete contextualization of the gospel, distinct from, rather than a development of, 1:16–4:25. Writing to a church that had its theological roots in the Jerusalem church (pp. 9, 267), Paul presents his “spiritual gift” (1:11) in 5:1–8:36, namely his contextualization of the gospel to gentile audiences, which he otherwise refers to as “my gospel” (2:16; 16:25; pp. 16–18, 27, 283). By contrast, in 1:16–4:25 and 9:1–11:36 Paul presents a Jewish contextualization of the gospel, referencing ideas already familiar to the believers in Rome. There are other notable theses and emphases: in terms of its genre, the letter is a “protreptic message” (logos protreptikos, “word of exhortation,” pp. 14–15, 41), the apostle filling “this ancient form of rhetoric with Christian content” (p. 768); Paul had two “primary” purposes (giving of the “spiritual gift” and seeking support for the Spanish mission), a “subsidiary” purpose, and two “further” purposes in writing Romans (pp. 10–11); 9:1–11:36 is an example of a “christianized version of remnant rhetoric” (p. 769); and there is a pervasive interest in rhetorical conventions and oral patterns, which Longenecker sees as key to unlocking various parts of the letter.

The commentary has a number of significant strengths. The foremost in my view is that each passage is interpreted within the context of the history of interpretation, from the patristic period to the present day. Longenecker often summarizes this history in a remarkably full manner. For example, the excursus on “The Righteousness of God” (pp. 168–76) references Plato, Aristotle, Tertullian, Cyprian, Minucius Felix, Arnobius, Lactantius, Erasmus, Ambrosiaster, Augustine, Simplicianus, Aquinas, Cajetan, Luther, Cremer, Stuhlmacher, Sanders, Dunn, Ziesler, and Fitzmyer. Second, Longenecker presents a wealth of suggestive information, enriched by decades of studying Paul’s letters. For example, the discussion of the phrase καθὼς γέγραπται (“just as it is written”) in 1:17 is accompanied by an overview of Paul’s use of scriptural citation formulas (pp. 180–82), and the interpretation of 5:13 is informed by the pattern of Paul’s use of οὐ (“not”) and ἀλλά (“rather,” “nevertheless”) in 2 Corinthians (pp. 592–93). Numerous other examples of the breadth and depth of Longenecker’s knowledge of Paul’s letters could be cited. Third, he has a keen eye to the apologetic force of some of Paul’s statements. This fits with his understanding of Paul’s “subsidiary purpose,” which was to defend against criticisms of his person and misrepresentations of his message (pp. 11, 283). Although several scholars have argued convincingly for an apologetic purpose behind Romans, arguably few commentators have been as attentive as Longenecker to the apologetic import of various parts of the letter.

There are weaknesses. First, the cost of the breadth of Longenecker’s coverage is a prose style that is typically discursive rather than precise, and is, therefore, quite different in presentation from, say, Cranfield on Romans. The effect of this is that it is sometimes difficult to access what Longenecker thinks about a particular verse. Second, I would have appreciated more weighing of interpretive options and validating of exegetical decisions. To give just one example, Longenecker argues that understanding ἐφ᾿ ᾧ (5:12) to mean “on the basis of which” is “more accurate linguistically and makes better sense contextually” than the other options (pp. 589–90), but he does not explain why this is so. Third, there is a certain unevenness of coverage, with some parts of the letter receiving much more attention than others. For example, although 48 pages are given to the treatment of 2:1–16, 6:1–14 is covered in merely 11 pages. Fourth, I am unpersuaded by Longenecker’s main thesis, which to my mind underplays the significant linguistic, theological, and biblical connections between 1:16–4:25 and 5:1–8:36.

These strengths and weaknesses combine to suggest that Longenecker’s commentary is better suited to some applications than to others. Among the major English-language commentaries on Romans it will not serve the pastor or preacher as well as some others. But any scholar, pastor, or student will learn much from the wealth of scholarship contained within this volume. When it comes to outlining the history of interpretation of Romans, it has very few peers.

Will N. Timmins
Moore Theological College
Newtown, New South Wales, Australia

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Revelation 1–11

Peter J. Leithart

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Peter Leithart is well known as an erudite biblical and theological scholar. His commentaries such as A Son to Me: An Exposition of 1 and 2 Samuel (Moscow, ID: Canon, 2003) and 1 and 2 Kings, Brazos Theological Commentary (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2006) reveal his particular ability to write fresh, engaging theological commentaries that balance scholarly rigor with accessible application to the modern church. His two-volume commentary on Revelation is no different.

Leithart’s contribution to Revelation scholarship is unique in a few positive ways. First, it is arguably the most theological Revelation commentary on offer. One of the most influential publications from recent decades on the theology of Revelation is Richard Bauckham’s The Theology of the Book of Revelation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), however that volume is a brief overview of major theological themes rather than a verse-by-verse commentary on the text. Craig Keener also comes to mind (Revelation, NIV Application Commentary [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000]), but his contribution is pitched at a more popular level. At a towering 1,000 pages, Leithart’s set obviously covers more theological ground, but his most unique theological contribution is his attention to Trinitarian themes, canonical contextualization, and theological ressourcement. Truly, no other Revelation commentary engages so well the storehouse of canonical, patristic, and medieval sources. Further, Leithart’s ability to read retrospectively as a Trinitarian brings fresh and valuable insights to reading Revelation as a modern Christian. In this way, Leithart richly delivers on the promise laid out by the series editors.

For example, one of the most disputed items in Revelation scholarship is the identity of the “seven spirits” (Rev 1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6). For some, the seven spirits are merely angelic or otherwise spiritual beings. Others argue that the number seven represents perfection or completion, arguing that the seven spirits more likely refer to the sevenfold power or ministry of the Holy Spirit. In his commentary on Revelation 1:4, Leithart takes the latter position, but does so with an intensely Trinitarian emphasis. He spends several pages (vol. 1, pp. 84–90) on the “triadic” nature of this opening doxological formula, highlighting a few things:

  1. “Grace and peace come from a triple source” (p. 84);
  2. “Filled out Trinitarianly, ‘grace and peace’ mean this: To establish peace on earth, the Father gives the Son and together with the Son gives the Spirit” (p. 85);
  3. The order of the persons in the formula (Father, Spirit, Son) is different than traditional creedal formulas (Father, Son, Spirit). However, he does not find this entirely odd since throughout the New Testament, “the Father acts on and gives life to the Son through the Spirit. Father, Spirit, Son” (p. 85);
  4. The shape of redemption is Trinitarian, both ontologically and economically (pp. 85–87);
  5. The order of the formula is also strange because the Spirit is given a sevenfold designation, however this might compute with Gen 1:2, in which the Spirit helps form creation in seven days (pp. 87–88);
  6. John likes to play with sevens in general with the Spirit (3:1; 4:5; 5:6), Jesus (1:20), and the chapters on the seven churches (2–3) (pp. 89–90).

Second, in the vein of G. K. Beale (The Book of Revelation, NIGTC [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), Leithart also emphasizes the influence of the OT on Revelation. He asserts, “Revelation alludes to or echoes to virtually every book of the OT. It is the NT’s “OTest” book” (vol. 1, p. 4). While this is a given in Revelation scholarship, Leithart stays close to the OT text as he comments, not allowing his theological method and presuppositions overpower the plainest sense of the book—the OT shape of John’s vision. The danger of any theological commentary, especially one as explicitly stated as this contribution, is to exaggerate the systematic categories without giving proper due to the biblical and canonical storyline. Thankfully, Leithart largely avoids this trap. His treatment of the theological implications of the tree of life (Gen 2; Rev 2:7; 22:2–19) is a paramount example (vol. 2, pp. 425–31).

Third, the lack of an excessive focus on debates regarding the millennium in Rev 20 is refreshing. While this is an important theological conversation when dealing with Revelation, some discussions on the millennium would have you believe that Rev 20 is the entire focus of the book. Leithart still engages this debate with fairness and precision, ultimately taking a generally postmillennial position, but interprets the millennial mentions of Revelation against the horizon of first-century expectations and conditions, rather than using current news events as interpretive binoculars.

Our second commendation, however, leads to the most glaring flaw in Leithart’s work. This review is not demanding Leithart’s commentary become an historical-critical work, especially since that is clearly not its aim; however, the lack of sustained engagement with John’s cultural and literary “world,” particularly with reference to contemporary apocalyptic literature, at times undermines some of the theological depth. Systematic and biblical theologians can easily launch into theologizing from biblical texts without remembering that theology is not merely a retrospective culmination of OT and NT big picture ideas—it is also a product of its time, with its theology being formed by concepts, illustrations, and competing worldviews of its day. This is not to say that Revelation or any other biblical book is simply an amalgam of Jewish or Greco-Roman ideas; rather, it should not be ignored that Revelation is an example of a distinctly Christian rebuttal to the theological and political myths of its own time. Because he largely overlooks the apocalyptic background of the book, some of Leithart’s theological deductions end up shallow.

One brief example must suffice. In dealing with the “one like a Son of Man” passage (1:9–20), Leithart helpfully brings out many of the theological and linguistic aspects—namely the heavenly glory of Jesus, the chiastic structure of John’s description, and John’s allusion to the Danielic Son of Man (vol. 1, pp. 103–28). However, while he briefly acknowledges other Jewish apocalypses in a few places (vol. 1, p. 56; vol. 2, pp. 196, 223, 231), he never mentions the Son of Man tradition in these sources, which at the very least may have influenced John’s theological project. The same could be said for the “seven spirits” example listed above.

For example, one could note that John’s Son of Man theology is distinguished from other Jewish apocalypses that his audience would have been familiar with, such as 1 Enoch or 4 Ezra—both of which refer to Daniel’s Son of Man as a type of divine-redeemer. It is important to the theology of Revelation to note that John takes it a step further and continues to elevate Jesus higher than other Son of Man stories as Revelation progresses, eventually placing him at the center of worship in the throne-sharing scenes of Rev 4–5. John evidently uses extrabiblical and theological reflection common in his day and turns it on its head. The Son of Man is not merely messenger of God’s redemption as he appears in other apocalyptic works—he is God himself returning to make all things new. Theologically speaking, then, Revelation is not simply a storehouse for later Trinitarian reflection as Leithart ably shows; it is also an ancient document that uniquely elevates Jesus to the super-divine status of YHWH himself, when both Jewish apocalypses and Greco-Roman imperial cults thought men entering the divine realm was amazing enough as it is.

This is one of several examples that illustrate how ignoring the apocalyptic influence on John’s own apocalypse weakens theological reflection. It is well past time for biblical and systematic theologians to learn from and engage one another in a consistent, concrete way. This commitment will only strengthen the theological reflections and precision of both disciplines.

This quibble aside, Leithart’s two-volume commentary is remarkable in its depth, breadth, and creativity. This student of Revelation warmly welcomes this contribution to Revelation’s scholarly corpus. It is highly recommended for any serious student or scholar.

Brandon D. Smith
Ridley College
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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Matthew’s Theological Grammar: The Father and the Son

Joshua E. Leim

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I like bold writing. I like an author who has a clear thesis and argues for it with direct language. If the thesis proves unconvincing, at least no one will doubt what the author meant because the writing was obscured by prose aimed to tow a middle line or to satisfy academic shibboleths. Leim’s narrative critical study of Matthew’s use of the verb προσκυνέω and his subsequent doctrine of θεός is just such a study. He provides “a reading of Matthew’s Gospel whose force turns on the cumulative literary effects of προσκυνέω and Jesus’ divine-filial identity” (p. 234). He concludes that προσκυνέω in Matthew means worship and its use “bind[s] together the identity of Father and Son” by taking up the verb “in ways that evoke Israel’s commitment to the one God while constantly and strategically applying it to Jesus” (p. 27). Translations and interpretations of προσκυνέω as homage or obeisance or honor gut the Gospel of its theological creativity and strip Jesus of his identity, the very point Matthew aims to expose.

Leim begins by arguing that προσκυνέω is a Leitwort and therefore essential for understanding Matthew’s Christology, which is absolutely necessary for understanding the gospel. But scholarly vagueness over what it means that “worship” of Jesus lends to an “exalted” or “heightened” Christology empties προσκυνέω of its power in individual passages and the narrative as a whole. “This means nothing less than that Jesus’ identity remains unclear, though, ironically, his identity is exactly what the Gospel is about” (p. 11). “Rather than attending closely to how προσκυνέω shapes and is shaped by the flow of the narrative,” Leim goes on, “its ‘meaning’ continues to be governed largely by concerns either external to the narrative or in rather clear contradiction to what the narrative says” (ibid.). “The result … is that Matthew’s Christology is rendered in abstraction from his own Gospel and ultimately expressed in theologically incoherent terms” (p. 13). To redress this, Leim employs a narrative critical approach where the verb’s “embeddedness in this particular symbolic world makes all the difference” (pp. 15–16, emphasis original). It must be understood, therefore, within “the whole of Matthew’s narrative” and “the early Christian way of life in which he participates” (p. 24). The meaning of words is not drawn merely from a list of options within an historically determined semantic domain (here Leim follows Wittgenstein), but the discourse in which the words are embedded shapes the meaning within that narrative world (as the intratexture is allowed to work interpretively forward and backwards over the narrative). In turn, such discourse-determined words have the power to shape an author and audience’s perceptions of reality because of the use of the term in such and such a way. Though, to be clear, the historical usage of terms bears as well; nothing happens in the abstract. The significance of προσκυνέω for Matthew, therefore, “emerges when one attends to its history of usage in scriptural and contemporary Jewish literature … while simultaneously setting it beside Matthew’s christologically momentous appropriation of it” (p. 27).

To make his case Leim considers the “cultural encyclopedia” to see how προσκυνέω was used in “the texts and contexts to which Matthew is most deeply indebted” (p. 31). The lion’s share of attention is given to OT books, especially Isaiah, the Psalms, the Pentateuch and Daniel, “since they are the larger frame into which Matthew fits his portrait of Jesus” (p. 32). After a brief but enlightening survey Leim summarizes that προσκυνέω is overwhelmingly used in the LXX to denote “worship” reserved exclusively for Israel’s God, and equally used to censure those who “worship” anything less (i.e. committing idolatry). In the noticeably few places where προσκυνέω is used of “obeisance” or “honor” of exalted figures, the language is qualified “to curtail the possible misinterpretation” (p. 42). When the word is not so nuanced, the burden of proof is on the translator who would render it as anything less than full “worship.” Leim’s coverage of προσκυνέω in Isaiah and Daniel (esp. in combination with πίπτω in the latter) proves particularly helpful in understanding Matthew’s usage. Similar uses, and qualifications in unique contexts (noting “theologically-charged situations”), are also found exceedingly in Second Temple literature, the NT and early Christian texts. Again, the burden of proof, according to Leim, falls to those who would render προσκυνέω as anything less than “worship” in Jewish and Christian literature without clear contextual reasons.

Chapters 3–6 then give careful attention to the Matthean narrative discourse, particularly periciopae that feature the verb προσκυνέω. The “worship” of Jesus by the Magi in 2:1–12 and the injunction that only the Lord God should receive “worship” in 4:8–10 together create an ungrammaticality, a word or concept that appears unintelligible in the narrative flow. Several factors—particularly intertexture and intratexture through chapters 1 and 2, as well as the combination of πίπτω and προσκυνέω in the cultural encyclopedia—suggest the Magi indeed offer Jesus the worship due exclusively to Israel’s one God. But how can this be if “worship” belongs only to God as explicitly stated in 4:10? “[O]ne does not actually know the answer until reading the whole story” (p. 53); only at that point is the ungrammaticality rendered intelligible by the full text. Thus 4:10 forces the reader to reconsider 2:1–12, creating the ungrammaticality that only further (retrospective) reading will resolve. Nonetheless, “in these opening sections of the narrative Matthew is already (re)shaping his readers’ theological imaginations around the life of the Son” (p. 79, emphasis original).

Of the subsequent eight uses of προσκυνέω, seven have Jesus as their object (8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25; 20:20; 28:9, 17; 18:26 the exception), serving to re-activate and intensify the ungrammaticality each time. Increasingly, “Matthew has narrated these accounts in a way that remolds Israel’s worship christologically, and in so doing, binds together the human life of the Son with the identity of Israel’s κύριος” (p. 90). It is, then, 14:22–33—commonly recognized for “the numerous OT theophanic elements … that are directly appropriated in Jesus’ speech and actions” (p. 129)—that “opens a unique hermeneutical space” (p. 125) to decode the ungrammaticality, and to connect the beginning of the narrative where the ungrammaticality first appears to the end where the resolution is found, namely 28:9, 17. “Indeed, the swathe of intertexts in 14:22–33 … is so thick that one gets the impression that Matthew has narrated this scene almost entirely from the language of Exodus, Isaiah, and the Psalms, all interpenetrating one another, the chorus of which amplifies what Matthew is saying about Jesus” (p. 145). Thus, what is perceived in 2:1–12 and the truth of 4:10 get pushed together for mutual clarification and interpretation.

As the reader continues toward the narrative’s end, Matthew has “provided … the proper repertoire for interpreting 22:41–46” (p. 186) and an invoking of Israel’s Shema (23:8–10; cf. Deut 6:4 and Mal 2:10) to bind the identities of the Father and the Son together (which also encourages rereading passages like 1:21–25, 3:1–17, 11:1–12:8, and 18:19–20 though without the verb προσκυνέω). Across Matthew, therefore, the reader perceives “the sweeping and unified narrative christology that renders the identity of Jesus: the Christ, who is the unique Son of the Father, who as such is κύριος along with this Father, bring[ing] to fruition the eschatological salvation portended by the prophets as the return of the κύριος to his people” (p. 202).

In short, Matthew “binds together the identity of Father and Son through the language of προσκυνέω” (p. 107 et passim). To miss this, or to translate προσκυνέω as merely homage “is much too anemic an interpretation” (p. 106) and misses the very point of the entire gospel: to portray the identity of the Son and the Father (think 11:25–27). In so doing, “Matthew has reshaped the identity of—and therefore Israel’s fundamental confession of and commitment to—‘the Lord God’ around the Father and the Son” (p. 234). “But it is precisely the worship of the Son that is key for Matthew’s theological grammar, and it is with this filial language that Matthew skillfully navigates the double commitment to Israel’s basic confession of the one God and the full worship of Jesus” (p. 240–41).

There is little to demur from in Leim’s method, presentation of the evidence, rationale and conclusions. In fact, I think this is but another example of the fruits of the recent upsurge in narrative critical attentiveness to the Gospels. They are whole texts that cohere in their parts to present a consistent narratival universe. The more we attend to the connectivity of the parts across the whole, the more we see the complete picture the evangelists are giving us. When such studies are grounded in their original compositional contexts, the clearer still they become. It is the fact that Leim has attended so carefully to these things that make his argument very compelling.

Ironically, however, it is this very strength that makes one small critique seem big: I think 18:26 deserves more attention. There πίπτω and προσκυνέω are used together but not for Jesus or “God,” suggesting that something less than “worship” (perhaps “invocation”) can be understood for προσκυνέω within Matthew’s grammar. Leim’s rebuttal is that “the referential and symbolic nature of the parable” reveals that “the ‘King’ in the story manifestly represents God” (p. 65). I easily agree. But because Leim’s method depends so much on the consistency of these terms (with the ungrammaticality generated by their apparently disparate uses a tool for rhetorical effectiveness, not a hindrance) I suspect a lot of readers will want a more detailed explanation of 18:26 within the scope of Matthew and a more thorough refutation of the scholars who have used 18:26 against the sort of position Leim defends.

These are, of course, comparatively minor complaints. Leim’s work is, overall, sound and convincing. I hope Matthean scholars will wrestle with it thoroughly.

Nicholas G. Piotrowski
Indianapolis Theological Seminary
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

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Illiterate Apostles: Uneducated Early Christians and the Literates Who Loved Them

Allen R. Hilton

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When faced with an ocean of information or apparently conflicting data, we need to ask a few fundamental questions. What is the problem? What evidence is available in relation to the defined problem? Are we missing any important information? Allen Hilton, a former Assistant Professor of New Testament at Yale Divinity School, seeks to answer such questions in his new volume, Illiterate Apostles.

I have never read a new academic work quite like this one. The topic is great. The issues are real. But the research is too far removed from current scholarship to give readers an honest assessment or the necessary nuances that the current state of investigation provides. In fact, there are only eight sources referenced from this century and three of them are by the volume’s editor; giving the appearance that they were only added to the previously established endnotes.

How, then, does one review an academic work two decades out of touch with modern scholarship? Herewith are two specific examples of issues that plague the entire volume, followed by a simple summary of the main topics covered.

Hilton opens his book, with presumably a straight face, by saying: “until very recently” (p. 2), “the most recent research” (p. 2), “[t]he latest authoritative estimates” (p. 3), and “in the academy in recent years” (p. 3). Yet his bibliography does not reflect such statements. On numerous occasions, he speaks as if an author “recently” published something, but the publication is almost 30 years old (e.g., p. 88, n. 10). Never mind the numerous studies that would directly challenge or overturn certain statements and arguments he makes, Hilton does not even offer the reader the latest sources from the scholars he relies so heavily on for his key arguments, such as William Harris concerning ancient literacy. Harris, for instance, has since defended his 1989 findings, but the reader will not learn that here.

Furthermore, even when Hilton tries to connect his topic with today, the evidence is either dated or absent if the serious reader tries to track it down. For example, Hilton begins Chapter 2 by stating what “polls tell us” regarding the reasons why nations continue “inserting education’s enormous price tag into their budgets” (p. 35). If readers pursues his endnote 22 pages later, they will discover that the only source referenced is a blogsite. If they were then to go another step further in trying to track down the blog, they would quickly learn that the blog post was from a decade ago and points to no research or polls to verify. Granted, that does not mean such polls do not exist. But why keep readers that far removed from any available data, even if it is outdated?

Hilton divides his book into two parts. The first part of the book—titled, “The Cause of the Criticism”—seeks to answer one key question: “If most ancients lived out their uneducated lives quietly and almost unnoticed by their educated neighbors, why were the early Christians criticized for being uneducated?” (p. 3). In order to answer this question, Hilton spends three chapters picturing for the reader what he imagines everyday ancient life would have looked like.

Chapter 1 surveys various aspects of ancient literacy. Framing a picture of ancient literacy is certainly a (the?) key to many of Hilton’s arguments throughout the book. Disappointingly, this is the weakest chapter in the book, especially for the reasons shared above.

Chapter 2 looks at six pagan authors writing in the late second and early third centuries. Hilton believes they “represent for us what must have been a widespread opinion” (p. 4). He ultimately seeks to answer the question, “why were the early Christians criticized for being uneducated?” (p. 37). Hilton gleans three reasons from his survey of the criticisms: (1) they lacked rhetorical skills, (2) they could not weigh arguments and discern truth, and (3) they were immoral.

Chapter 3 outlines how Hilton understands the various stages of ancient education. Then he places the issue at hand within that arrangement. As Hilton sees it, certain Christian apologists responded to the so-called “illiteracy criticism” by substituting that charge with the strong moral virtue of “stubborn courage that so ruled the philosophical day” (p. 86). In doing so, the positive philosophical statement about courage undermined the negative educational criticism of illiteracy.

Part 2—titled, “A First-Century Reply”—sets out to answer the question: “why does an author like Luke include a detail like the apostles’ illiteracy [Acts 4:13] in his book?” (p. 148). Before providing an answer to this question and concluding in Chapter 6, Hilton spends two chapters discussing various aspects of the Greek term παρρησία (= “courage”) used in Acts 4:13 in order to “add value to the history of exegesis on this passage” (p. 98). Chapter 4 deals with the social dynamics of the term. Chapter 5 addresses the philosophical nature of the term.

Hilton ultimately argues that critics would have assumed that Christians’ supposed lack of education would have also handicapped them morally. Therefore, Luke purposely answers and refutes this assumed implication of their so-called illiteracy by noting their noble παρρησία.

Hilton’s final chapter—titled, “The ‘Education’ of the Apostles”—wraps up his study by trying to determine “[t]he source of the apostles’ astonishing courage” (p. 149). Hilton argues that Luke understood Peter and John’s courage to be God-given—not via Greco-Roman philosophical training—for the purpose of defending and advancing the gospel. “Clearly,” Hilton deduces, “Luke had Christianity’s critics in view when he constructed the narrative, and it is just as clear that he answers them in a cogent way” (p. 164).

At best, Hilton reminds us that such discussions are not new. He indeed recaps for us what some of the critical questions are. But his research is simply 20 years too late in publication to be useful for the stated audience of this book series, which also claims to be “premier,” “cutting-edge,” and “innovative.”

Brian J. Wright
Palm Beach Atlantic University
Orlando, Florida, USA

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The Early Textual Transmission of John: Stability and Fluidity in Its Second and Third Century Greek Manuscripts

Lonnie D. Bell

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New volumes in the NTTSD series, edited by Bart D. Ehrman and Eldon J. Epp, are cause for celebration among those who enjoy critical studies that advance the fields of New Testament Studies and early Christian origins. Granted, books of this kind are rarely gripping. But this one may be among the exceptions.

Lonnie Bell, lead preaching pastor of Four Corners Church in Newnan, GA, and recent PhD graduate from the University of Edinburgh, is not a household name even in those few households familiar with the names of New Testament textual critics. But not all New Testament textual critics have as strong a claim as Bell does to enhance our understanding of the transmission of the Gospels in the early centuries of the Christian tradition. What does Bell argue, and how is it different from the current consensus?

“It has been widely claimed or accepted among New Testament textual critics,” Bell begins, “that the earliest centuries of textual transmission for the texts that now comprise the New Testament were characterized by ‘freedom,’ ‘fluidity,’ ‘instability,’ ‘laxity,’ ‘proneness to error,’ ‘carelessness,’ ‘wildness,’ ‘chaos,’ ‘lack of control,’ etc.” (p. 1). Indeed, this academic consensus maintained by scholars often masquerades without challenge as unimpeachable wisdom.

Not so fast, says Bell. What if this general depiction is wrong? What if the early centuries were not marked by major alterations? What if copyists did not exercise considerable freedom in changing texts? What if stability, continuity, and strictness are better characterizations of the early textual transmission of the New Testament?

In order to address these types of questions, Bell examines fourteen of the earliest extant Greek manuscripts of the Gospel of John. Why pick the Gospel of John? More manuscript evidence from the second and third centuries AD—the earliest period with extant evidence—exists for the Gospel of John than any other New Testament writing. More specifically, we have seventeen Greek manuscript witnesses of it: sixteen papyri (P5, P22, P28, P39, P45, P52, P66, P75, P90, P95, P106, P107, P108, P109, P119, P121) and one parchment (0162). Bell purposely sets aside P45, P66, and P75, due to the size and scope of those manuscripts and his project, though some data from P66 and P75 are included.

The issues at the heart of this volume come into sharp focus when he analyzes each manuscript and diachronically compares the number and character of unique (singular and sub-singular) readings in each manuscript with all majuscules up through the seventh century that completely overlap with it. The bulk of the book is devoted to such meticulous scrutiny of the evidence (pp. 34–225). Bell covers his subject matter with admirable thoroughness. He anticipates and parries the most obvious critiques, such as the occasional limitations regarding certain bodies of evidence from which he is drawing conclusions. Bell persuasively argues that none of the earliest extant manuscripts he studied revealed anything other than continuity in transmission with subsequent centuries. Indeed, the opposite was true. There was remarkable stability in the transmission of these texts. Variation was relatively minor. There was a propensity towards precision in the transmission of these writings.

What, then, is likely to be accomplished by this study? Bell has written a wonderfully rich book, packed with evidence. Part of what makes his argument so persuasive is the way in which he combines and compares the evidence from earlier and later periods. The evidence is compelling, and it impels us to look more closely at the general characterization of New Testament textual transmission up to the fourth century. His major contribution is his conclusion that the second and third centuries were probably not a time of significantly more instability than later centuries. Instead, he argues, the character of transmission reflected in the earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of John points to a more striking stability and impressive continuity with later periods than previously acknowledged or asserted.

The reader comes away from this volume persuaded that there is strong evidence pointing in the direction of Bell’s conclusion. But the questions of how far this applies beyond his database of one New Testament book—a point he strategically notes and even emphasizes—are far from settled. Nevertheless, his study provides a helpful guide to what the future might hold for determining that extent and more confidently answering such questions. Anyone planning to deal with this topic going forward should keep this book handy, and every theological library should own a copy.

Brian J. Wright
Palm Beach Atlantic University
Orlando, Florida, USA

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Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Gospels

Barry Beitzel and Kristopher Lyle

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The recently published Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Gospels is more than a mere geographic commentary—it is a detailed and informative study tool emphasizing the geographical background of the Gospels, while also touching on historical, archaeological, architectural, and social issues. Geography is certainly the focus and strongest aspect of the commentary, but it is by no means the only type of background material addressed. Composed of 48 chapters, each in a concise yet thorough article form written by different authors, the book is ordered chronologically from the time of the birth of Jesus until the resurrection appearances. The chapters address all of the major events and locations in the Gospels, plus several more obscure but interesting topics such as crowds, the hill of Moreh, weather, pig husbandry, and geography of forgiveness. The volume is supplemented at the end by 6 maps and 2 charts, some of which are very useful and others unique, although the map about Absalom and David was an odd choice considering the limited number of maps (p. 527). The main text also is sprinkled with helpful maps, charts, illustrations, and photographs related to the particular topics. The writing team is comprised of sixteen authors with a wide range of qualifications and experience, ranging from seasoned professors and archaeologists to graduate students, but none of the chapters suffers from noticeably poor quality or lack of knowledge.

The volume itself correctly states that there is virtually no end to the number of Bible commentaries, but the Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Gospels fits effectively into a niche due to its specialist nature and specific topical focus (p. xiii). Graduate students, pastors, educated laypeople, and even professionals in the field will find material in the volume that is helpful in their studies on the Gospels, or at the least the chapters will inspire them to further inquiry. Subjects and locations of interest that can be appreciated by nearly all readers include the birthplace of Jesus, the wilderness temptation of Jesus, the location of the baptism of Jesus, Capernaum, Nazareth, Caesarea Philippi, Gehenna, the pools of Bethesda and Siloam, the Temple Mount, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the site of the crucifixion and tomb of Jesus. The chapters contain detailed geographical information linked with the historical events and text of the gospel, and the authors note differing positions on topics that are debated both in the public arena and in scholarship. For example, places such as the praetorium of Pilate (pp. 494–97) and the tomb of Jesus (pp. 506–15) are handled in such a way as to inform the reader about the opposing views, while explaining the relevant evidence and still taking a definitive position informed by the facts. The bibliographies at the end of each chapter are also a useful resource for further investigation of the topics.

As with any work of this nature, there are sections that could be criticized, weaknesses pointed out, or positions some may object to, since it is impossible to please or accommodate everyone. The way in which the Quirinius census issue is addressed may leave readers searching for more answers or disagreeing with the author about the nature of the census and the date of the birth of Jesus (pp. 11–13). The section about the magi is quite short and neglects to mention the geographic possibilities presented by an ancient text referred to as The Revelation of the Magi while endorsing disputed ideas such as a summer birth and a meeting of the magi and Jesus at Bethlehem (pp. 6–9). Bethsaida is placed at Tel el-Araj, which has recent and convincing evidence, but nearby et-Tell as Bethsaida may be cemented in the minds of many readers (pp. 230–42). Those who are attached to the Garden Tomb theory might not agree with the conclusions, but hopefully all readers will recognize the case for the Holy Sepulchre as legitimate and substantial (pp. 504–15, 520–22). The chapter on Caesarea Philippi gives illuminating geographical context, although what could be interpreted as sympathy towards the view that Peter is “rock” of the Church may draw the ire of those who firmly believe the example is not referring to Peter (pp. 293–94). However, the volume excels in the area of geography, which is its stated purpose and the primary category it should be evaluated upon, even if points of criticism can be found in certain areas of archaeological, historical, or textual information. Because it is a geographic commentary, the volume could have benefited from more maps, especially topographical, and more photographs, particularly aerial or satellite. Overall, however, the Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Gospels achieves its purpose of creating a volume addressing the important geographic locations and related background found in the Gospels, and it is a resource which many will appreciate as an excellent addition to their research library.

Titus Kennedy
Biola University
La Mirada, California, USA

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Death and the Afterlife: Biblical Perspectives on Ultimate Questions

Paul R. Williamson

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Paul R. Williamson (Lecturer in Old Testament, Hebrew and Aramaic at Moore College, Sydney) has produced a timely and informative contribution to the New Studies in Biblical Theology series. In response to recent challenges to traditional views regarding personal eschatology, Williamson surveys the biblical teaching on the intermediate state, resurrection, judgment, hell, and heaven. The book is very well organized. Each chapter introduces a recent challenge from within evangelicalism and then surveys the Old Testament teaching on the subject, intertestamental developments, and the New Testament teaching on the subject.

Chapter 1 briefly explores contemporary perspectives and misunderstandings of the biblical perspective, then surveys ancient Near Eastern and Graeco-Roman perspectives, and finally outlines the various biblical issues that will be tackled later in the book. Williamson holds that personal eschatology was progressively revealed so that the fullest understanding of it does not come until the New Testament, though the Old Testament already anticipates where the New Testament will go. In Chapter 2, Williamson defends the idea of an intermediate state, arguing that the Bible supports a “dualistic holism” in which the soul can exist apart from the body, though the soul is incomplete until reunited with the body.

In Chapter 3, Williamson defends the traditional view of resurrection, which he argues comes not from Persian influence but from an incipient pre-exilic resurrection hope that comes to fruition as God’s people later face crisis. While Williamson rejects claims that Psalm 1:5 or Hosea 13:14 or Job 19 has a resurrection in view, he holds that “the germ for such belief was present in what [the Old Testament authors] understood about Yahweh” (p. 81), as one with the power to raise the dead (Deut 32:39: 1 Sam 2:6). The last part of the chapter surveys the New Testament teaching on the subject and shows that the resurrection “will occur on the last day, and not a moment before” (p. 93).

Chapter 4 defends the view that the final judgment is according to works. After considering Old Testament types and predictions of “the day of Yahweh,” Williamson argues that Matthew 25:31–46; Romans 2; and Revelation 20:11–15 teach not “salvation by works, but judgment based on unimpeachable evidence—evidence that reveals the nature of a person’s relationship with God” (p. 121). Williamson warns against “foregrounding” one side of the tension between salvation by faith and judgment by works.

In Chapter 5, Williamson defends the traditional view of hell as eternal conscious punishment. Williamson sees no problem in the fact that “there is almost nothing that might imply eternal conscious punishment” in the Old Testament (p. 137), since “we would expect the antitype to transcend or be qualitatively different from the type that foreshadows it” (p. 135). He surveys intertestamental literature and the New Testament to argue that eternal conscious torment is the view of the New Testament. Finally, Chapter 6 clarifies the nature of the final state of the righteous and opposes evangelical universalism, which sees hell as a kind of “purgatorial wake-up call” that leads the unrighteous to repent and thereby leave hell (p. 164).

The greatest strengths of this book are its organization, its readability, and its thorough presentation of the Old Testament, intertestamental, and New Testament passages on each question that is discussed. This reviewer would have liked Williamson to address later texts that may reveal trajectories that already existed in New Testament times (e.g., rabbinic literature, the church fathers, New Testament apocrypha). But what Williamson has provided is quite helpful and is therefore recommended as a course textbook on personal eschatology or as personal reading for the individual who wants a systematic presentation of the biblical data. Williamson’s emphasis on progressive revelation is also helpful, and he rightly avoids anachronistic readings of Old Testament passages that some might use to support later Christian theology. At times his exegesis is phenomenal and provides correctives to misinterpretations that are common (e.g. Job 19 or Matt 25:31–46).

The greatest weakness is Williamson’s approach to his “dialogue partners” (pp. 1–2). Williamson gives the impression that he is responding to recent challenges to traditional views, but his interaction with proponents of those views is thin and sometimes unfair. Books can be mentioned as “especially influential” (e.g., p. 34, n. 4) and then never mentioned again. Several of Williamson’s dialogue partners are quoted only when they “concede” a particular point (“concede” is probably an unfair term in several of Williamson’s many uses of the word). Williamson often does not discuss how his opponents interpret a passage differently, giving the impression that his opponents have not addressed the issues he raises. And when he does engage his opponents, he sometimes resorts to ad hominem attacks (e.g., “those who are out on a theological limb,” p. 180); question begging (e.g., in discussing the meaning of αἰώνιος on p. 180); non sequiturs (e.g., proposing that the final fate of the unrighteous would probably be similar to their fate in Hades before judgment day, p. 151); and straw man arguments (e.g., opposing annihilationism simply by noting the presence of “some degree of conscious punishment” in passages that discuss the final state of the wicked, an idea that most annihilationists affirm, p. 151). Perhaps Williamson’s failure to interact deeply with theological opponents is by design. He writes in his introduction, “My primary focus … is not the theological case that proponents of various views can mount, but rather the prior question: What does the Bible say?” The problem is that many of the arguments that Williamson ignores are not theological arguments but biblical arguments.

Therefore, if one is looking for a direct refutation of evangelical alternatives to the traditional views, this might not be the most helpful book, but if one is looking for a general survey of the biblical teaching on personal eschatology, then Williamson has provided an excellent resource.

David B. Sloan
John Carroll University
University Heights, Ohio, USA

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Studies in the Psalms: Literary-Structural Analysis with Application to Translation

Ernst R. Wendland

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This book is a tour de force of poetic discourse analysis. Those familiar with Wendland’s contributions will quickly locate him among the ranks of Louth, Kugel, Alter, and Berlin. In this detailed and well-researched work, Wendland systematizes a method for higher-level (entire poem) poetic discourse analysis and formulates techniques to improve the translation of Hebrew poetry into different languages. These two valuable contributions combine some of the latest advancements of linguistic studies in Psalms research and contextualization methodologies in Bible translation.

Typically in each chapter of the book, Wendland begins by explaining a component of his method and then applies it to a particular psalm. His basic methodology is presented in the first chapter. Subsequent chapters further clarify and expand on it. The last few chapters of the book are more focused on translation theories.

Wendland’s ten-step process for analyzing poetic discourses is as follows: (1) Delimitation, (2) Spatialization, (3) Text criticism, (4) Segmentation, (5) Confirmation, (6) Distinction, (7) Contextualization, (8) Conversation, (9) Summarization, (10) Translation and Testing.

Delimitation (1) is the process of identifying the pericope for analysis, and Text criticism (3) is understood in the traditional sense. In my opinion, the heart of Wendland’s method of higher-unit poetic discourse analysis is found in steps (2)–(6).

The figure above shows how Spatialization (2) is done (Ps 31:1–2a; p. 101). With the aid of software (Paratext), Wendland lays out every colon of the text on a grid (under column v.co, we have stanza A; “0.1” means line 0 and colon 1). The main verb of each colon is centralized (in 1.1, חָסִיתִי, “I took refuge”) and words that come before or after the main verb are located along the grid. This exercise provides a way to visualize the text and facilitates the identification of syntactical, morphological or phonological patterns that may be present. From a linguistic point of view, the vertical plane of this spatialization grid allows the student to explore the paradigmatic features of the text (recurring concepts), while the horizontal plane expresses the chosen syntagmatic combination of words. Wendland points out, for instance, that the usage of pre-verbal elements is potentially a display of “added significance” (p. 10).

With Segmentation (4) Wendland seeks to clarify the continuity and discontinuity of text within the poem. Specifically, he looks for shifts in topic, content, repetitions of words, etc. that distinguish the poem’s main stanzas and strophes (p. 16). Confirmation (5) and Distinction (6) are further elaborations of Segmentation (4) based on linguistic and artistic considerations. Steps (2)–(6) also clarify any thematic progression or macrostructural prominence in the poem. The process of Contextualization (7) identifies certain lexeme or concepts that require further historical, intertextual or canonical examinations. In Conversation (8), the exegete looks for clues in the text to understand how words or speeches act upon their implied recipients and accomplish the desired effect. In Summarization (9), major text units of the poem are crystallized with thematic (or topical) titles that are subsequently combined and reworked into a message-oriented, structural outline of the entire poem.

The final step in Wendland’s method is Translation and Testing (10). For him, this process involves translating psalms into the Chewa language (or the vernacular, ndakatulo). A key translational principle that Wendland adopts is to “express the biblical text in a euphonious, rhythmic, more literary and lyrically-equivalent manner—one that is amenable to public recitation, oration, chanting, or simply oral elocution in an appropriately reverent mode” (p. 289).

Several other positive features of Wendland’s work are easy to list. First, this book is up-to-date, detailed and comprehensive. Wendland’s prodigious footnotes and bibliography show that he is aware of the most recent scholarship in this field. His analyses of Exod 15:1–21 and Ps 22 alone span 100 pages collectively. At one point, he provides seven continuous pages of footnotes discussing the Hebrew text (pp. 344–50). Wendland’s analyses also take us from ANE poets to Athanasius to the Alakatu poets of Africa (pp. 363, 254, 278). Second, Wendland emphasizes sensitivity and fidelity to the oral-aural aspects of the text. This means that the exegete and translator need to understand any assonance, cadence, euphony, paronomasia, rhyme, and other phonetical parallelism in the text. These need to be replicated in the translation where possible (p. 276). Third, Wendland’s discourse-oriented approach and focus on macrostructure have not only allowed interpreters to embrace the poem as an aesthetic whole, but also corrected a century-old fixation on genre categories and diachronic concerns of the psalm for interpretation (this is not to say that he has excluded the latter in his analysis). Wendland’s structural-oriented approach is somewhat akin to those of Pieter van der Lugt, Jasper Labuschagne and Jan Fokkelman, though analyses of syllable, word or colon counting are absent from Wendland’s work.

Nonetheless, several areas of Wendland’s work can be improved. I have found the five hundred pages a laborious read partly because of the detail of the analyses and the somewhat loose connections between the chapters. As such, the title of the book, Studies in the Psalms, is apt because it accurately depicts Wendland’s work as a compilation of connected studies. The ten-step method presented at the beginning of the book is not consistently adopted or systematically explicated (e.g., analysis of Ps 85, pp. 381–99). New interpretive terminologies do occur abruptly at times (“porhetorical analysis,” p. 339). Without tightening these inconsistencies, it is not always easy to understand how Wendland works through a particular poem methodologically.

I heartily recommend this book to any serious student of Heb