Review: Partners in Christ

26267453John G. Stackhouse Jr. is Samuel J. Mikolaski Professor of Religious Studies and Dean of Faculty Development at Crandall University in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. Stackhouse received his M.A. from Wheaton College and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He is probably most well-known in the United States for his contribution to the ongoing debate regarding the nature of Hell, namely through his work with Rethinking Hell. Stackhouse has published more than a few peer-reviewed articles on a variety of subjects, and authored, co-authored, edited, or co-edited numerous books—one of the most recent of which is a revised, expanded, and newly named edition of his influential work Finally Feminist.

Partners in Christ: A Conservative Case for Egalitarianism evenhandedly explores the contours of the evangelical gender debate. As the title and subtitle suggest, Stackhouse advocates for an egalitarian position of biblical gender equality. However, Stackhouse’s approach therein gazes past the polemic tenor typically associated with the debate to provide a hermeneutical basis for recognizing the issues amid a diverse corpus of writings. For Stackhouse, the cultural movement towards egalitarianism seems to become a resting place for his argument. Certainly, he is more nuanced in his presentation, but much of his presuppositions as he approaches the subject appear to be rooted here. He covers almost all the standard objections to the egalitarian position as he builds his case. However, strangely enough, he doesn’t seem to interact much with the claims that Paul grounds his argument in creation rather than culture.

There is much to be praised about this book. First, and probably foremost, the reader will truly appreciate the level of honesty that Stackhouse brings to the discussion—even affirming both sides of the debate at points. Second, Stackhouse does well to identify the so-called “pattern of doubleness” throughout the biblical narrative. This “pattern of doubleness” usually involves “a complex interweaving of both the standard privileging of men and of the affirmation of men and women as equal to each other” (p. 81). It affords a Stackhouse the ability to honestly examine the cultural limitations of the biblical text, while at the same time illuminate the equality underlying the biblical authors. Third, Stackhouse is a gifted communicator and his work on this subject is clearly established and well-executed. It’s an evenhanded and enjoyable read that is sure to be recommended for years to come.

Partners in Christ: A Conservative Case for Egalitarianism by John G. Stackhouse Jr. is a truly exciting treatment of an age-old debate. The reader will get what they expect and so much more. This book should be engaged from either side of the discussion as a model of intellectual honesty. If you are interested or engaged in the gender equality debate, please don’t pass this book up. It comes highly recommended from this complementarian!                    

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: Discovering Biblical Equality

689390The role of women in ministry has been a debated topic within evangelical circles for over a century. Numerous books and articles have been written on both sides of the issue—some more helpful than others. Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementary Without Hierarchy edited by Ronald W. Pierce, Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, and Gordon D. Fee is unquestionably one of the most accommodating defenses of biblical equality or egalitarianism one the market today.

Discovering Biblical Equality is a collaborative effort of some of the most well-known and respected biblical scholars and theologians associated with the egalitarian position, including the likes of Richard Hess, Gordon Fee, Craig Keener, I. Howard Marshall, and much more. Divided into five major sections, Discovering Biblical Equality addresses historical, biblical, theological, cultural, and practical issues related to the ongoing debate. Each of the major sections includes several articles on various topics or sub-issues, and each is aligned with appropriate contributors for the specific matter addressed. Like nearly all multi-authored works, some articles are more helpful than others. However, Discovering Biblical Equality is well-rounded in its choice of topics and contributors, and thus, fairs better than similar multi-authored works.

As someone who identifies as a complementarian (the position that this book is arguing against), I found myself in fundamental disagreement with almost every article (which was expected before engaging with it). However, I was thoroughly impressed with the level of interaction with the other side that is present in this volume. A number of articles stood out, including Craig Keener’s treatment of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, Richard Hess’ treatment of Genesis 1-3, Linda Belleville’s treatment of 1 Timothy 2:11-15, Kevin Giles’ treatment on the subordination of Christ and the subordination of women, and Gordon Fee’s treatment on hermeneutics and the gender debate. That said, from what I can tell, nearly everything in this book has been addressed from the complementarian side prior to its publication (see Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth by Wayne Grudem).

Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementary without Hierarchy edited by Ronald W. Pierce, Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, and Gordon D. Fee is a worthwhile investment for anyone interested in the gender debate. The editors have brought together the best in the field to tackle the most pressing questions driving the discussion. While it may not be groundbreaking by way of new argumentation or evidence, Discovering Biblical Equality is clearly established as the best introductory work from an egalitarian perspective. It comes highly recommended!     

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview

148102Together with the disciplines of biblical studies and theology, philosophy is widely recognized as an indispensable model for constructing a Christian worldview. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview accompanies the reality of this statement to the examination room. What is accomplished by such scrutiny? The result is this definitive introduction by two of the most qualified voices in contemporary Christian philosophy, J. P. Moreland, and William Lane Craig.

Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview is divided into six major sections: (1) Introduction, (2) Epistemology, (3) Metaphysics, (4) Philosophy of Science, (5) Ethics, and (6) Philosophy of Religion and Philosophy of Theology. Each section (apart from the introductory section) contains a number of important chapters. Throughout the book, the reader will discover a number of charts and diagrams to help illustrate the concepts being discussed. Keywords are also bolded to help readers recognize their importance in context, and each chapter ends with a summary and a checklist of terms and concepts. Moreland and Craig close the volume with a “further reading” bibliography specific for each chapter and a few indexes. However, what is missing from this volume, in my opinion, is the inclusion of chapter summary questions and a glossary of the terms and concepts used throughout the book. These additions would make the volume more accessible for classroom purposes and self-reflection.

I am admittedly not one with a deep interest in philosophy. I recognize its importance and enjoy its discussions, but I tend to spend more time in the world of biblical studies and other related disciplines than philosophy. That said, I found Moreland and Craig to be extremely accessible and clear in their presentation throughout, even in some of the complex areas of epistemology and metaphysics. However, it should also be noted that this is certainly a college-level (possibly even a graduate-level) philosophy textbook and it does anticipate the reader is at least vaguely familiar with its material. Moreland and Craig do well in guiding the novice reader, but there is truly only so much guidance that can be offered if significant ground is going to be covered, and significant ground is covered in this volume.

Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview by J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig is a first-rate, one-stop reference work worth occupying the shelf space of any serious student of philosophy, theology, or apologetics. It’s not a resource that everyone will enjoy. But, for those who will, Moreland and Craig have provided a treasure-trove of philosophical riches that will effectively establish a foundation for the Christian worldview. It comes highly recommended!

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: Theology of Work Commentary Series

screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-9-41-23-pmWe spend more time working than all other activities combined. Work is an essential component of daily life and paramount to our identity as individuals created in the image of God. Still, there appear to be few things more problematic to reconcile with the Christian life than work. Why is there such a vast chasm standing between work and faith? How should faith and work connect and be nurtured within the Christian life? What does the Bible say about work and how should it influence and shape the way Christians work? These are the sort of questions that have motivated the existence of the Theology of Work Project, and propelled the development of a truly unique and valuable collaborative effort.

Theology of Work Bible Commentary is the shared fruit of both seasoned biblical scholarship and professional insight. Some of the more noteworthy contributors include Daniel I. Block, Duane A. Garrett, Jonathan T. Pennington, Bruce Waltke, and more. Still, the most unique aspect of this commentary is discovered in the wider roster of individuals involved. The Theology of Work Project brought together a team of leading executives from various professions, ministry leaders, and biblical scholars, and then tasked them with the responsibility of exploring the whole Bible and building a bridge between the workplace and the Christian life. The result was a one of a kind commentary that systematically pointed the reader towards the joy and responsibility of work as worship to God.

There is much to be praised about the Theology of Work Bible Commentary. It is both scholarly and in-depth while being accessible and immediately applicable to readers of all backgrounds. In fact, the practical nature of this commentary is the most praiseworthy feature to be enjoyed by all readers—in particular for the working pastors and the ordinary working Christians. The editorial team has done the readers a tremendous service by removing layers of scholarly jargon without compromising the scholarship within, and thus producing a commentary that is useful for all with a substance that will last. Each section of the commentary is easily digestible and examined within larger units of the biblical book.

I was shocked to discover how much the Bible had to say about the nature and function of ordinary work. It is true that work consumes the majority of our daily lives, and yet, our faith is the foundation from which we are called to operate therein. In other words, work and faith are not mutually exclusive, but rather should be understood as a unified framework with which we are to view the world. That is, our faith demonstrates itself most clearly in the work we do! The overarching heartbeat of this reality is traceable from Genesis to Revelation, but the Theology of Work Bible Commentary offers more than an explanation of this truth. The reader will discover clear and practical examples of how a proper theology of work can function to bridge a gap that is far too often avoided.

Theology of Work Bible Commentary is a unique resource that provides valuable insight and practical guidance into the function and role of work in the Christian life. From Genesis to Revelation, the reader will be encouraged and empowered to both embrace and rejoice in the God-given responsibility of work. Human beings have been commissioned by God to exercise dominion over the earth, and to be fruitful and multiply. God has commanded those created in his image to operate as people with a clear and identifiable theology of work. It should be deeply ingrained into the very fabric of our being. This is a whole Bible commentary that will quickly turn that command into reality as the readers’ eyes are opened to the significance of work as a mode of worship and service in the Christian life. This is a must have series for every pastor looking to encourage his congregation to live beyond Sunday. It comes highly recommended!!

 

I received a review copy of this series in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: A Time to Keep

29894929Ephraim Radner is professor of Historical Theology at Wycliffe College, Toronto. Radner earned both an MDiv and PhD from Yale University. He is the author of several books and articles, including A Brutal Unity: The Spiritual Politics of the Christian Church, The World in the Shadow of God: An Introduction to Christian Natural Theology, and the volume on the book of Leviticus as part of the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible. Most recently, Radner released an exciting anthropological investigation into the nature and function of mankind in relation to his time and being here on earth.

A Time to Keep: Theology, Morality, and the Shape of Human Life explores significant territory and wrestles with noteworthy questions—many of which we may have never even thought to ask. For Radner, mankind is a relational being created and shaped by God for redemption and death. That is, as creatures, mortality should continually remind us that death is but a doorstep away. Because the number of days are finite for God’s creatures, time here on earth is to be understood as both vocational and purposeful. Thus, Radner guides the reader to reflect upon the frailty of life as it was intentionally created by God and challenges them to make the most of it for him daily. Life, for Radner, is graciously given by God for his glory, and thus, he has sought to establish his presence in this world through the specific nature and function of his creatures. Still, Radner does much more than establish the above reality. He also spends a good amount of time and energy exploring the Bible to construct a biblical portrait of humanity, including issues related to human sexuality, gender, and even bodily fluids (yes, bodily fluids) in relation to cleanliness and Leviticus 15.

Radner has creatively (and I would even go as far as to say, masterfully) woven some of the most intricate details of biblical anthropology with that discovered in the overarching implications of human life that is both purposeful and sustained for divine fruitfulness. The reader will likely leave with numerous questions, but a new perspective on life should be the Radner’s guarantee. A Time to Keep is a book that (while more advanced than some may choose to enjoy) will deeply encourage your heart and enrich your understanding of God’s creative work in mankind. Radner effectively teaches both the heart and the head, and thus succeeds in transforming a worldview that recognizes the real point of life. This is a book worth weighing through! It comes highly recommended!

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: Destroyer of the gods

29894928Larry W. Hurtado is Emeritus Professor of New Testament Language, Literature and Theology in the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh. Hurtado has authored numerous books related to early Christianity, including Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity and The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins. Most recently, Hurtado has written a blockbuster of a book and thought-provoking investigation into the distinctiveness of early Christianity within the Greco-Roman context.

Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World is an important and well-thought monograph that explores various aspects of the early Christian movement. The goal of the book is to display the uniqueness of early Christianity in the vast religious landscape of the Greco-Roman world. The book begins with a quick survey of early Christianity through the lenses of non-Christians, including both Jewish and Pagan critiques of Christians. Hurtado concludes, “a good many outsiders, who were the overwhelming majority of the populace, regarded Christians and Christianity as objectionably different and certainly not simply one group among an undifferentiated lot” (p. 35). It is this discovery that establishes the subsequent chapters as the reader is guided through the distinctiveness of early Christian ethics, worship, and more.

The entire book is fascinating and chocked full of rich historical commentary on the Christian movement of the second century. However, one of the most exciting chapters in the book has to do with the early Christian interest with the written word. That is, according to Hurtado, the early Christian movement was particularly interested in books—a “bookish” religion. The implications of this fly in the face of the popular misnomer that early Christians were primarily concerned with oral tradition rather than written words. Early Christianity, according to Hurtado, was uniquely fond of reading, writing, copying, and circulating text. In fact, the modern book likely discovers its origins in the early Christian utilization of the codex. Thus, Hurtado concludes, “the young Christian movement [was] distinctively text oriented in context of the varied religious environment of that time . . . ‘textuality’ was central, and, from the outset, early Christianity was, indeed, ‘a bookish religion’” (p. 141).

Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World by Larry W. Hurtado is a worthwhile investment for anyone interested in early Christianity. Hurtado is usually lucid in his presentation, but this book easily tops the charts of Hurtado’s life works. The reader will likely appreciate Hurtado’s interaction with contemporary scholarship and sensitivity to make the subject matter accessible to a wide range of readership. While much more could surely be said about Hurtado’s treatment of early Christian ethics and worship, in my opinion, the chapter outlined above is alone worth the price of the book. It comes highly recommended!

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

 

Review: What Christians Ought to Believe

27840609Creeds have functioned as educational instruments in the life of the Christian Church since its inception. One of the most formative of such Creeds, especially within early Christianity was the Apostles’ Creed. It is here that orthodoxy concerning the basic beliefs of the Christian faith has been both preserved and passed to subsequent generations. In What Christians Ought to Believe: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine through the Apostles’ Creed, respected New Testament scholar Michael F. Bird uses the framework of the Apostles’ Creed and establishes a working and palpable summary of core Christianity.

What Christians Ought to Believe is a brief book that would be ideal as an entry level college or adult Sunday school textbook. Bird covers the entirety of the Apostles’ Creed and provides clear and witty (both characteristic of Bird) explanation along the way. For example, the section titled “Believing in the Father” includes numerous subsections, such as the one true God, the triune God, a father of us all, God Almighty, creator and creation, and more. These subsections are functional explanations of the theological implications to be understood (according to Bird) from within the specific line or phrase from the Apostles’ Creed—in this case, “…God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.”

The book opens with a helpful introduction that allows the reader to better grasp the usefulness of Creeds within our increasingly Creed-less Christian culture. This introduction both justifies Bird’s work and sets the stage for the exploration that follows. Each chapter concludes with a summary of the “Story” to bring the pieces of the study together and a recommended reading for further study—many of which will point the reader to Bird’s larger work Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction (Zondervan, 2013). After walking the reader through the various aspects of the Apostles’ Creed, Bird closes the volume with an appendix on the early text and tradition of the Creed and a number of indexes.

Overall, I was very impressed with the brevity and clarity of this volume. Bird is generally an engaging author, and this volume exemplifies that characteristic well. As with any work related to Christian theology, the opportunity for disagreement with the author will arise at numerous points. However, as one who sometimes disagrees with Bird, I found his treatment here both evenhanded and well-informed. Consequently, after some consideration, I will likely be using this book in the near future as the basis for an adult education curriculum. It’s an easy to read, thought-provoking, and engaging introduction to the Christian faith that is firmly grounded in the history of the Christian church. It comes highly recommended!

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.