Review: All But Invisible

33098693Nate Collins received a PhD in New Testament Studies from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS). Collins served as an instructor of New Testament Interpretation at SBTS and is currently a partner associate at The Sight Ministry, a Christian organization based in Nashville, Tennessee, that provides resources and support for individuals, families, and churches regarding LGBTQ issues. Recently, Collins authored graciously informed volume that uniquely explores the interchange between faith, gender, and sexuality like no other book on the market.

All But Invisible: Exploring Identity Questions at the Intersection of Faith, Gender and Sexuality is divided into three major parts: (1) The Vision Problem, (2) The Idea Problem, and (3) Identity Matters. Part one and two seek to explore “two big-picture problems facing twenty-first-century Christians who want to explore a more thoughtful way forward in thinking about gay orientations and identity” (p. 21). Part three seeks to provide resolution to these problems and offer insight into how we can “focus our efforts on helping the church to be a place where gay and lesbian men and women can discover the abundant life that the gospel promises them” (p. 28). The reach of Collins’ approach penetrates the problems with clarity and sensitivity, and the outcome provides readers with careful and informative exploration.

There is much to be praised about All But Invisible. First and foremost, it is important to note that Collins affirms a traditional Christian sexual ethic as a same-sex-attracted man who is married to his wife of thirteen years and the father of three sons. Collins is informed on LGBTQ issues both intellectually and personally, and steered by an unwavering commitment to Christ, and offers readers a unique perspective on the topic unlike anything else on the market. Second, the personal point of view that Collins brings to the conversation, united together with a keen understanding of the cultural landscape and Scriptural conviction, further offers readers an immediate perspective that separates All But Invisible from other books of similar scope. Lastly, Collins consistently tackles the tough questions without reservations, and the answers provided seriously engage the issues with as much weight as the questions.

All But Invisible: Exploring Identity Questions at the Intersection of Faith, Gender and Sexuality by Nate Collins combines rigorous research with a unique perspective, personal experience, and an unwavering commitment to Christ that culminates into one fantastic book. This is a book that will give readers a new pair of lenses to view the world. The love of Christ is on every page, and readers will do well to listen to his perspective. It’s both timely and timeless. If you are in search of a book that will inform your understanding and encourage your heart, then look no further. It comes highly recommended!

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Review: Known by God

33098691Brian S. Rosner is Principal of Ridley College Melbourne in Melbourne, Australia. He formerly taught at Moore Theological College, Macquarie University, and the University of Aberdeen and is the author of numerous books, such as Paul and the Law: Keeping the Commandments of God (IVP Academic, 2013), The Consolations of Theology (Eerdmans, 2008), and Greed as Idolatry: The Origin and Meaning of a Pauline Metaphor (Eerdmans, 2007). Most Recently, Rosner aptly bridges a much-needed theological “identity” gap with a new, informative volume in Zondervan’s Biblical Theology for Life series.

Known by God: A Biblical Theology of Personal Identity is divided into three major parts: (1) Queuing the Questions, (2) Arriving at Answers, and (3) Reflecting on Relevance. The initial section seeks to uncover the probing questions concerning personal identity. What defines you? Who are you? What makes you, you? These questions become the framework for the following sections. The second section encompasses the majority of the book and seeks to explore various aspects of how identity angst forces us towards a stable and satisfying sense of self (p. 38). First, Rosner examines the foundations of personal identity through traditional identity markers (i.e. age, race, occupation, possessions, religion, etc.). Second, Rosner directs attention towards the biblical portrait of human identity before grounding such as the culmination of being known by God. The third section explores some of the practical implications and personal benefits that flow from the identity of being known by God (i.e. significance, humility, comfort, direction, etc.).

The biblical theological portrait that Rosnor paints is saturated in gospel reflection that gives both life and worth to a needing world. Known by God is both timely and timeless. Rosner is keenly aware of the cultural confusion that soaks the social landscape of the twenty-first century, and a book of this scope lands with immediate weight. But, then again, a book of this magnitude has potential to land with such weight regardless of time and space. Known by God uncovers an identity eternally established in the creative work of God and the value that comes from being intimately known by him, and him alone. Rosner offers readers a brilliant exploration of personal identity that is landmarked with careful exegesis of both the Old and New Testament, and further overflows with spiritual encouragement. Readers will appreciate the ability that Rosner demonstrates in moving from questions to cultural engagement, then to the biblical text and personal application. Still, the application therein offers more than an understanding of self, it brings gospel-breathed life to every corner of one’s existence.

The Biblical Theology for Life series by Zondervan offers a number of excellent volumes for readers to explore. Still, among the best in the series is Known by God: A Biblical Theology of Personal Identity by Brian S. Rosner. Rosner embodies the emphasis that readers are to expect from a series offering life out of biblical theology. This book is both practically engaging and theologically rigorous. Rosner is clear and persuasive, and readers are certain to gain more than they expect. If you are looking for a book that will wet your biblical-theological appetite while simultaneously encouraging you towards an identity established in God, then do yourself a favor and grab a copy of Known by God. It comes highly recommended!

Review: Mere Sexuality

34460456Todd A. Wilson is the senior pastor of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Illinois and the co-founder and chairman of the Center for Pastor Theologians. Wilson received an MA in Biblical Exegesis from Wheaton College and Graduate School and a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of several books, including Galatians: Gospel-Rooted Living (Crossway, 2013) and The Curse of the Law and the Crisis in Galatia (Mohr Siebeck, 2007). Most recently, Wilson has written a timely little book on sexuality that presents the historic Christian consensus with clarity and conviction.

Mere Sexuality: Rediscovering the Christian Vision of Sexuality is grounded by a longstanding and overarching Christian tradition. Wilson emphasizes with clarity a major cultural shift in the Christian Church on issues of sexuality that prove to be a departure from the historic confession of Church and provide a problematic vision of the future of Christianity. Wilson reorients readers towards the historic Christian vision of sexuality while lovingly engaging with some of today’s leading cultural voices. Mere Sexuality moves beyond the general questions concerning same-sex marriage, gay marriage, and how to love homosexuals the way Jesus did (p. 14). Wilson covers a broad range of biblical, theological, cultural and practical issues in a surprisingly small package with both clarity and charity.

Mere Sexuality is comprised of several brief chapters and two appendices. Wilson introduces the reader to the historic Christian consensus in the initial chapter, and subsequently supports such a consensus with the sexuality of Jesus. Additionally, Wilson explores how sexuality relates to our identity, the meaning of marriage, the purpose of sex as a gift of God within the marriage union, the practical implication of such within human relationships, and more. This is not necessarily a book concerned with homosexuality, per se, though such categories overlap naturally with the exploration found therein. Wilson is not concerned with providing readers with a book focused on what the Bible says about matters homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Rather, it is here that Wilson provides readers with an exploration of the Christian vision of human sexuality as a holistic conviction.

Mere Sexuality: Rediscovering the Christian Vision of Sexuality by Todd A. Wilson is a faithful and practical book that addresses the historic Christian consensus of human sexuality with both clarity and conviction. Wilson offers a persuasive portrait of sexuality that invites readers to see how the Christian worldview is to functions within the cultural shift of our day. Wilson is both sensitive and informed concerning the issues at hand, and readers will be deeply encouraged as they follow his guidance. Mere Sexuality comes highly recommended!

Review: Ancient Jewish Monotheism and Early Christian Jesus-Devotion

517xMFr6i+L._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Larry 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 Christology and New Testament studies, including Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity and The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins. Most recently, Hurtado has brought together a curated collection of 32 essays on early Christian devotion to Jesus in the massive tome Ancient Jewish Monotheism and Early Christian Jesus-Devotion: The Context and Character of Christological Faith.

Ancient Jewish Monotheism and Early Christian Jesus-Devotion is the outcome of nearly forty years of research on the origins of the Jesus-devotion. Each essay has been previously published elsewhere, but none together in a tome of this caliber and scope. The structure of Ancient Jewish Monotheism and Early Christian Jesus-Devotion is thematic rather than chronological (though a date of composition is provided for each essay) and divided into four major parts: (1) The Scholarly Context, (2) The Ancient Jewish Context, (3) Explanations, and (4) Expressions. The initial sections provide contextual engagement with the scholarly landscape and ancient Jewish belief. Hurtado includes essays engaging Wilhelm Bousset, Rudolf Bultmann, N. T. Wright, and Richard Bauckham. Hurtado is able to familiarize the reader with the direction of his lifework within the longstanding scholarly engagement on the subject. Moreover, Hurtado positions the discussion within the background of ancient Judaism, particularly Second Temple Judaism.

The remaining two sections comprise the majority of the content in Ancient Jewish Monotheism and Early Christian Jesus-Devotion. Hurtado rightly provides several essays directed towards a historical explanation for the development of earliest Jesus-devotion in Second Temple Judaism. Those familiar with the discussion will recognize the importance of such for Hurtado’s thesis in relation to the broader scholarly conversation. Lastly, the majority of essays in the book tend to be grouped together around particular expressions of earliest devotion to Jesus (19 total essays). It is here that most readers will appreciate the collection of Hurtado’s work, as the essays offer a comprehensive portrait of a lifelong devotion to the subject matter. Hurtado includes an essay on Philippians 2:5-11 and contends that the text presents Jesus as both the unique Lord and example of self-offering and obedience to be emulated by believers. There are also two important essays on the “dyadic” or “binitarian” patter of early Jesus devotion, as well as various essays that stretch the length of the New Testament and into the early Christian Church.

Each of the essays in Ancient Jewish Monotheism and Early Christian Jesus-Devotion have been previously published in various contexts across four decades. That said, while accessible within various journals and multivolume works, nothing of this scope has been made available to students of the New Testament until now. Those familiar with Hurtado’s lifework will be thrilled to find a volume of this scope. Not to mention such an affordable volume! Not only is this collection a must-have for serious students of the New Testament, but there is virtually no excuse not to have it at only $40. Hurtado is consistently thoughtful when it comes to historical matters and lucidly clear as textual concerns are used to establish his conclusions. Ancient Jewish Monotheism and Early Christian Jesus-Devotion: The Context and Character of Christological Faith by Larry W. Hurtado comes highly recommended!

Review: Leaving Mormonism

91L-UJ7M-7LLeaving Mormonism: Why Four Scholars Changed Their Minds edited by Corey Miller and Lynn K. Wilder is a captivating autobiographical encounter of four former Mormons, each of whom is an accomplished scholar, who have departed from the LDS church to embrace evangelical Christianity. Each contributor shares an account of growing up in Mormonism, as well as how biblical, theological, moral, and scientific issues ultimately forced them to abandon the LDS Church and its doctrine.

Corey Miller is a sixth-generation Mormon who became a Christian nearly 30 years ago. He is the president/CEO of Ratio Christi and an adjunct professor of Comparative Religion at Indian University. Lynn Wilder became a Mormon in 1977 and, among other things, was a tenured professor at Brigham Young University before becoming a Christian in 2006. Latayne C. Scott became a Mormon at the age of 11, attended Brigham Young University, and later became a Christian. Scott received a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Trinity Southwest University and has authored more than 20 books. James Vincent Eccles was born into Mormonism with a rich Mormon heritage. Eccles became a Christian in 1975 and is currently a research scientist with the Center of Atmospheric and Space Sciences at Utah State University.

The overarching tone of Leaving Mormonism is both respectful and informative throughout as each of the contributors shares their account with intellectual honesty and concern for Mormons as people. Each account is somewhat unique but similar in many respects, and each contributor does an extraordinary service to the reader by balancing their story with the reasons for leaving the Mormon church. This allows readers to hear the heart behind the intellectual concerns that arise throughout the volume and better positions them to evaluate the content of such claims. There is also a decent amount of engagement with primary sources within Mormonism, though the choice of endnotes somewhat hinders the assessment of such material. Moreover, the editors have taken great care to ensure that the issues discussed in Leaving Mormonism provide readers with an overview of the major divide between biblical Christianity and LDS doctrine.

Leaving Mormonism: Why Four Scholars Changed Their Minds edited by Corey Miller and Lynn K. Wilder is a book that will encourage your heart and prepare your mind for serious engagement with the LDS community. It is important to stress the sensitivity that is noticed throughout the volume. Mormons are treated as people, and rightly so. That said, the doctrine of the LDS church is evaluated with rational eyes towards the faithfulness of biblical Christianity and is shown to be seriously misguided on several fronts. It’s a book that needs to be on the shelf of every serious Christian seeking to engage the world. You never know, it could come in handy the next time your doorbell rings!

Review: Mark Through Old Testament Eyes

9780825444111Mark Through Old Testament Eyes: A Background and Application Commentary by Andrew T. Le Peau is an ambitious new commentary on the Gospel of Mark that seeks to illuminate the text by uncovering the biblical backdrop of the New Testament writers—cognizant awareness of the Old Testament narrative. As Le Peau observes, “the New Testament writers were Old Testament people” (p. 9). Mark Through Old Testament Eyes opens Old Testament context to the readers in a fresh and allusive way that makes understanding of Mark and offers insight into the perplexing concepts that saturate its narrative.

Mark Through Old Testament Eyes opens with a concise introduction (12 pages) that generally seeks the orient the readers towards the Old Testament lenses of the Second Gospel. Le Peau also comments on authorship, structure, and Mark’s use of the Old Testament, but those seeking for introductory depth will need to look elsewhere. The commentary proper is where Le Peau is able to bring value to the volume. Mark Through Old Testament Eyes approaches the Gospel of Mark in a verse-by-verse format, drawing upon the Old Testament background and other key information to provide readers an understanding of the text holistically and to answer questions that arise naturally (p. 10). Mark Through Old Testament Eyes also provides a number of helpful sidebars of various flavor, including summaries of the bigger picture of how the Old Testament is being used by the New Testament, literary structure and intentionality, and practical matters of application. These sidebars compliment the overall engagement within commentary proper and provide readers the proper connections unable to be made in a verse-by-verse format.

Mark Through Old Testament Eyes is an excellent commentary for pastors, students, and laity looking to engage the Old Testament background of Mark’s gospel. Le Peau has transliterated the original languages, textual critical matters are rarely discussed, and endnotes are used in lieu of footnotes. The commentary is helpfully illuminating concerning the Gospel of Mark, but it is not without shortcomings. Four are worth mention here. First, as noted above, the introduction is lackluster. Second, there could have been engagement with the Second Temple background to help further illuminate the lenses of Mark’s understanding of the Old Testament that eventually makes its way into the Gospel. Third, the choice to use of endnotes (11 pages) creates an undue amount of work and hinders the serious reader seeking to substantiate Le Peau’s research. Lastly, Le Peau concludes the commentary with Mark 16:8, and thus, offers no real attempt to provide commentary on the long ending of the Gospel, though there is remark around its omission.

Mark Through Old Testament Eyes: A Background and Application Commentary by Andrew T. Le Peau is a fascinating commentary that accomplishes what it was created to achieve. Le Peau has provided an informative and illuminating commentary that gives pastors and students a clear and persuasive portrait of the Second Gospel in light of the Old Testament. Despite it a few shortcomings, I’m confident that it’s a commentary that can be recommended alongside others.

Review: Scripture and Its Interpretation

30259212Scripture and Its Interpretation: A Global, Ecumenical Introduction to the Bible edited by Michael J. Gorman is a tour de force collection of introductory essays aimed to familiarize readers with the Christian Bible form a historical and hermeneutical perspective. The book includes essays by an extraordinary group of contributors from around the globe, including representation from four major theological traditions: Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and Pentecostal (p. xx). The scope of the book is complemented by a balanced and informative approach to the task of introductory study, and the reader is certain to benefit from both as engagement progresses through each major section.

Scripture and Its Interpretation is divided into three parts: (1) The Bible, (2) The Interpretation of the Bible in Various Traditions and Cultures, and (3) The Bible and Contemporary Christian Existence. The initial section focuses on the Bible itself, such as “its character as both library and single book, its historical and geographical context, surveys of both Testaments, formation of the canon, associated books that did not make it into the Bible, and the history of Bible translations” (p. xxi). The second section focuses attention on the hermeneutical diversity visible in various traditions and cultures. Following an introductory essay on the reception of the Bible, the reader will find essays on premodern interpretation, modern and postmodern interpretation, as well as an emerging theological interpretation. The section closes with a number of interpretive essays from various perspectives, including Protestant, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Pentecostal, African and African American, Latino/Latina, and Asian and Asian American. Lastly, the third section approaches the relationship between the Bible and spirituality, ethics, politics, community, and mission.

The introductory nature of Scripture and Its Interpretation is evident. But, the scope of such introduction extends far beyond a standard approach to the topic. The essays are accessible for the purpose of introductory study, but the breadth of the contained essays effectively offers an expanded number of perspectives untreated or overlooked in other introductions. Moreover, if such perspectives are treated, then it is likely done by a bystander rather than an adherent—the advantage of the latter as seen in Scripture and Its Interpretation should be obvious. While it is beyond the scope here to comment in depth on specific essays, it is worth mention to comment on the overall sense of the essays. I found the initial section on the Bible to be extremely helpful, although somewhat rudimentary at times. Michael W. Holmes’ essay on the formation of the biblical canon and Christopher W. Skinner’s essay on noncanoical writings standout among the best in the section, if not the book as a whole. The second section comprises the bulk of the book and could be reason enough to make the purchase. This section brings a new demotion to the genre of Bible introduction. The final section was an appropriate conclusion to the volume but will find itself overshadowed by the benefit of the former sections. Lastly, throughout the book, readers will find boldfaced terms or phrases that are included in the glossary, and each essay ends with an annotated bibliography that is appropriately positioned to direct readers towards resources for further study. Both the glossary and bibliography are welcomed additions to an already impressive volume.

Scripture and Its Interpretation: A Global, Ecumenical Introduction to the Bible edited by Michael J. Gorman is a tour de force collection of introductory essays aimed to familiarize readers with the Christian Bible form a historical and hermeneutical perspective. It is easily accessible to the average reader and holds the potential to shape the minds of even most studied of readers. Furthermore, it’s beyond encouraging to see an introduction to the Bible that takes seriously the consideration of interpretive perspectives beyond that typically associated with the English-speaking world. For these reasons alone, I could not recommend this book more highly. Will you agree with everything therein? It’s unlikely. But, the opportunity to listen to others is on every page of the book.