Review: God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments

539735James M. Hamilton Jr. is Professor of Biblical Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Hamilton has a ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary and a PhD from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Hamilton is the author of numerous books in the field of biblical theology, including God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgement: A Biblical Theology, What Is Biblical Theology?: A Guide to the Bible’s Story, and With the Clouds of Heaven: The Book of Daniel in Biblical Theology. Still, one of Hamilton’s most widely received books remains God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments.  

God’s Indwelling Presence was the inaugural volume in the coveted New American Commentary Studies in Bible and Theology series. Hamilton set the pace of the series with a captivating study on the work of the Holy Spirit. Hamilton does much to bring canonical continuity to the discussion as he explores the details of the biblical text while remaining focused on the broader goal. Hamilton begins by orienting the reader towards the study, which beings in the Old Testament and moves (rather quickly) into the New. The major emphasis of Hamilton’s examination on the work of the Holy Spirit focuses on the concepts of indwelling, regeneration, baptism, and empowerment, and he spends a fair amount of time on each. Beyond the main content of the book, Hamilton provides three useful appendixes on relevant passage and themes in the New Testament.

An interesting aspect of the book, though rightly placed in my opinion, is the amount of emphasis that Hamilton devotes to the nature of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life and ministry of the old covenant believer. For Hamilton, while old covenant believers were regenerate, as the Fourth Gospel seems to indicate rather clearly (Jn. 7:36; 16:7), they did not experience the same indwelling that characterized new covenant believers. Additionally, Hamilton’s interaction with the theme of the dwelling place of God (i.e. tabernacle, temple, new covenant believers) is excellent. Not only does he offer readers with a clear biblical-theological path, but he brings the weight of the application to life with the implications of a living temple. The only foreseeable shortcoming of the book is found in the theological assumptions that some readers may not be willing to themselves assume. Though this would have made the volume more comprehensive, I’m not convinced that such would have added much to the more narrow focus of the volume.

God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments by James M. Hamilton Jr. is a fascinating journey into a question that will eventually cross the mind of every Christian. Hamilton is a respected scholar and a learned biblical theological voice. Not only does he offer the reader insight into the biblical narrative and the work of the Holy Spirit therein, but he brings it home to the life of the believer. It comes highly recommended!

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Review: The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes

9133273The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes edited by Thomas Schreiner and Matthew Crawford is a far-reaching collection of essays on Communion from a biblical, historical, theological, and practical perspective. The contributors include a number of established Baptist scholars, such as Andreas J. Köstenberger, Jonathan T. Pennington, James M. Hamilton Jr., Gregg R. Allison, Bruce A. Ware, and more.

The Lord’s Supper opens with a brief introduction to orient the reader towards the volume. The initial three chapters are devoted to the biblical framework for the practice of Communion. The opening chapter by Köstenberger establishes the Lord’s Supper as a Passover Meal and provides readers a positive presentation with noteworthy interaction to critical voices. Pennington surveys the theme of the Lord’s Supper in the Fourfold Gospels, including the Passover festival and the New Exodus and the inauguration of the New Covenant. Lastly, the Hamilton investigates the Pauline epistles emphasizing the corporate nature of the Lord’s Supper, including the pastoral and theological implications of such practice in the life of the Church.

The following chapters are primarily historical in nature and survey the Patristic Era through the Reformation and beyond, including the views of the Catholic Church, Luther, Zwingli, and the various issues that surround open and closed communion in Baptist history. It would have been helpful to have a more widespread treatment of the Lord’s Supper from the Baptist perspective, but the contributors offer implicitly Baptist support throughout. The final chapters offer readers practical considerations regarding the role and administration of Communion in the life of the Church. These chapters provide a useful touchdown for the target audience as they seek to apply the content of the book to the practice of the church.

The extent of the essays in The Lord’s Supper is impressive and noteworthy. The reader is guided through the history of the Church and its Eucharistic expressions with thoroughness and clarity. Where I foresee some readers will be left wanting is in the area of biblical exposition. More specifically, interaction with the biblical text and the theme of the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament. I thought that Köstenberger, Pennington, and Hamilton did an excellent job, but more could have been explored in the Gospels and beyond. The historical essays were well done but lacked a distinctly Baptist presentation of Communion. Nevertheless, The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes edited by Thomas Schreiner and Matthew Crawford remains one of the most comprehensive treatments on the market. It comes recommended with no reservations.

Review: Christian Doctrine and the Old Testament

30259211Gary A. Anderson is Hesburgh Professor of Catholic Theology at the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana. He received an M.Div. from Duke University and a Ph.D. from Harvard University. Anderson is a past president of the Catholic Biblical Association and is the author of numerous books, including Charity: The Place of the Poor in Biblical Tradition (Yale University Press, 2013), Sin: A History (Yale University Press, 2009) and Genesis of Perfection: Adam and Eve in Jewish and Christian Imagination (Westminster John Knox, 2001). Most recently, Baker Academic has published a fascinating collection of articles from some of Anderson’s previously published (with the exception of chapter 3) work on Christian theology and its intersection with the Old Testament.

Christian Doctrine and the Old Testament: Theology in the Service of Biblical Exegesis is made up of ten articles thematically organized into four sections: (1) Who Is a God Like You?, (2) In the Beginning, (3) The Word Became Flesh, and (4) Conformed to the Image of His Son. Each of the sections contains 2-3 essays, which seek to examine a doctrine and demonstrates how it is able to illuminate the intent of a biblical author. This approach may feel exegetically backward for most readers. But, as Anderson acknowledges and argues in the book, “theological doctrines need not be a hindrance to exegesis but, when properly deployed, play a key role in uncovering a text’s meaning” (p. xi).

The initial two chapters are concerned with the doctrine of God and uniquely approach the topic theological, as one would expect. Chapter one looks at Leviticus 10 through lenses of apophatic theology. Chapter two discusses the impassibility of God. Anderson takes a unique approach to the subject that might cause angst to many readers. Chapters three to five address creation, sin, and election. Chapters six and seven focus on the tabernacle from a Christological perspective and a Mariological perspective. Chapter eight returns to the theme of Christology but uses the deuterocanonical book of Tobit as a foundation for its examination of “suffering servant” figure. Chapters nine and ten draw attention to matters of Catholic theology (and one could argue that chapter seven on Mariology does the same), including the treasury of merits and purgatory. Most Protestant readers will lose interest here, although they are encouraged to remain alert. These last two chapters are chiefly important if readers are interested in observing Anderson’s methodology at work—allowing doctrine to illuminate the usefulness of biblical exegesis.

Christian Doctrine and the Old Testament: Theology in the Service of Biblical Exegesis offers a service to the Christian community in the inherent value that is observed in the Old Testament. I am grateful that Anderson takes the Old Testament seriously. Moreover, it is clear that Anderson is uniquely familiar with broader Jewish and Christian scholarship, especially those approaching the Old Testament from a canonical interpretative position. That said, where I think many readers will find Anderson’s approach difficult is in the seemingly backward nature of taking developed doctrine to the text to illuminate its intent. In many ways, it feels like Anderson is searching for something that he already found. I think Anderson’s perspective is helpful and needs to be taken seriously, but I’m not convinced that his approach is more important or methodologically sound than other interpretive approaches. Honestly, I left unsatisfied more times than not, though this may be more of a reflection of myself than Anderson.

Christian Doctrine and the Old Testament: Theology in the Service of Biblical Exegesis by Gary A. Anderson is well-written and intellectually engaging. Anderson is a brilliant thinker and his work suggests decades of thoughtful reflection. Anderson will make you think long and hard about theological topics that you thought you knew front and back. For sure, many readers will leave Christian Doctrine and the Old Testament unsatisfied with its sometimes-reaching conclusions. However, forfeiting engagement with a thinker like Anderson is not worth passing this volume up if you are interested in biblical interpretation or the Old Testament and its place in the Church today.

Review: The Old Testament is Dying

17321403Brent A. Strawn is Professor of Old Testament and Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. Strawn received an M.Div. and Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. He is the author of What is Stronger Than a Lion? Leonine Image and Metaphor in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East, and the co-editor of several important works related to OT and ANE studies, such as The World Around the Old Testament: The People and Places of the Ancient Near East and The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Law. Most recently, Strawn has released a blockbuster book focused on the nature of the Old Testament in contemporary Christianity—a book that should both cause concern and promote change in its readers.

The Old Testament is Dying: A Diagnosis and Recommended Treatment is a straightforward and clear examination of the state of Christianity in North America. Strawn exposes exactly what an observant Christian has likely been pondering for some time now: what’s happening to the Old Testament? As Strawn observes, “the Old Testament has ceased to function in healthy ways in . . . lives as sacred, authoritative, canonical literature. These individuals . . . do not regard the Old Testament in the same way (or as highly) as the New Testament, don’t understand the Old Testament, would prefer to do without the Old Testament, and for all practical purposes do exactly that by means of their neglect and ignorance of it, whether in private devotion or public worship or both” (p. 4-5). Strawn skillfully frames the investigation in terms of linguistic analogy to provide explanatory impact for the reader. Strawn rightly notes, “the Old Testament, like any other piece of literature or art—like any other way of figuring the world—is, or at least can be, a way of constructing reality, a way of understanding the world, and way of perceiving all that is, including ourselves” (p. 8).

The initial section of the book, The Old Testament as a Dying Language, is primarily focused on orienting the reader towards the diagnosis. Strawn overviews the case, provides initial testing by way of Pew Research surveys and the examination of ecclesiastical expressions, and further adds to the linguistic analogy—applying characteristics of pidginized and creolized languages to the modern landscape of Old Testament awareness. The second section, Signs of Morbidity, directs focus upon three groups: (1) New Atheists, (2) Marcionites Old and New, and (3) Happiologists. The interaction in this section is illuminating and telling. There is a clear and variegated problem that Strawn uncovers in these three groups and the reader will do well to observe the discussion therein. The third section, Path to Recovery, brings the recommended treatment to the table and offers readers a clear and detailed way forward, including a renewed passion for Hebrew and the aim to push past a pidginized or creole dialect towards a fully developed linguistic expression.

The Old Testament is Dying: A Diagnosis and Recommended Treatment is timely and important. Strawn combines a unique and observable understanding of both culture and Christian faith in North America, and he makes the symptomatic manifestation of a dying or dead Old Testament is visible on almost every street corner and pew. The diagnosis is soundly established and the recommendation provides a hope for the future. In my opinion, Strawn has rightly identified a problem that deserves immediate and full attention, because once a language dies an identity soon follows. Thus, not only is the book readable and engaging, but the content of the message and the establishment of the thesis are perfectly positioned for readers to engage and act accordingly. If you are looking for a book that will likely challenge and expose some of your own frailties concerning the function of the Old Testament in your daily life, while also offering a feasible solution, then The Old Testament is Dying: A Diagnosis and Recommended Treatment is a perfect next read. It comes highly recommended and could easily be tagged as one of the most important books of the last year!

Review: Biblical Leadership

411A8jCsc+L._SX265_BO1,204,203,200_Biblical Leadership: Theology for the Everyday Leader edited by Benjamin K. Forrest and Chet Roden is a foundational volume that brings biblical theology to the arena of leadership resources. Most Christian leadership books on the market focus on practical principals or applicable models of personal experience. This approach is both helpful and needed, but visibly oversaturated even by a cursory glance on Amazon. It is here that Forrest and Roden fill a significant void and offer a unique exploration of Christian leadership through biblical-theological lenses that observe the Old and New Testament as divinely inspired Scripture.

Biblical Leadership brings together over thirty leading evangelical scholars to survey the whole Bible in order to draw out its practical and relevant leadership lessons. Most of the contributors come from the Baptist tradition and many from Liberty University. Other contributors include Robert B. Chisholm Jr., Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Tremper Longman III, Andrew E. Hill, Benjamin Merkle, Stanley E. Porter, William D. Mounce, Andreas J. Köstenberger, Peter H. Davids, and more. This list of contributors unlikely to grace the pages of any other leadership book on the market, and, if I’m honest, reason enough for many readers to find this volume enjoyable.

Biblical Leadership boasts thirty-three chapters—nineteen concentrated on the Old Testament and fourteen concentrated on the New. Not surprisingly, like other most multi-authored works, the usefulness of the chapters is fairly variegated although the scope is rather comprehensive. I found the New Testament contributions significantly more evenhanded than the Old, though the Old Testament did have a few standout chapters, such as Kaiser on Psalm 23 and Longman on leadership in Ecclesiastes. Still, despite some inconsistencies (and, to be fair, this is somewhat of a subjective description), the overall biblical-theological emphasis of the volume is strong and needed in the marketplace.

As a former student of Liberty University, I have had classes with or interacted with the content of many of these authors, including both Forrest and Roden. I have witnessed first-hand how the contributors of this volume not only articulate biblical leadership but live biblical leadership in the classroom and beyond. Still, the strength of this volume is discovered in the gap that it fills. Forrest and Roden have uncovered a foundation of leadership that should become the bedrock of all Christian leadership—a basis on which practical principals or applicable models of personal experience ultimately make sense.

For this reason alone that Biblical Leadership: Theology for the Everyday Leader edited by Benjamin K. Forrest and Chet Roden merits a place on the bookshelf of every aspiring Christian leader—professional and laity alike.

Review: Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation

567088Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos edited by Richard B. Gaffin Jr. is a masterful collection of biblical-theological essays and book reviews by one of the greatest Reformed thinkers of all time. Vos is widely known for his keen exegetical awareness and biblical-theological insight. This reputation is observable in his major works, such as The Pauline Eschatology and Biblical Theology, as well as Vos’ shorter writings found in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation.

Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation opens with a fascinating introduction by Richard B. Gaffin Jr. As Gaffin orients readers towards the content of the essays included in this volume, he provides essential context for the life and legacy of Geerhardus Vos. The volume is comprised of four major parts: (1) Major Biblical and Theological Studies, (2) Shorter Biblical Studies, (3) Addresses, and (4) Book Reviews. In part one, Gaffin has included seven significant essays that stand alone in terms of value. Readers familiar with Vos’ work will find these essays insightful in relation to his larger literary output. In part two, Gaffin has brought together fourteen shorter essays on various issues related to biblical studies. A number of important essays are included here, such as “Modern Dislike of the Messianic Consciousness in Jesus” and essays on Paul’s concept of redemption and reconciliation. In part three, Gaffin has included two of Vos’ public addresses at Princeton Theological Seminary. Lastly, in part four, Gaffin has brought together a few relevant book reviews, including Vos’ review of Schweitzer’s The Quest of the Historical Jesus and Paul and His Interpreters. The volume concludes with a 13-page bibliography of Vos’ works compiled by James T. Dennison Jr.

Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation is an essential collection of essays for anyone influenced by or interested in the lifework of Geerhardus Vos and Reformed biblical theology. The range of these essays represents a long and productive career by one of the foremost Reformed thinkers of the past two hundred years. Each essay overflows with rich exegetical insight and biblical awareness. That said, most of the standout essays come from the initial 270 pages and include “The Idea of Biblical Theology as a Science and as a Theological Discipline” and “The Eschatological Aspect of the Pauline Concept of the Spirit.” The primary shortcoming of the volume comes by way of the typeset, specifically the size and font of the Greek text. It’s small and difficult to read but used somewhat sparingly and shouldn’t hinder the overall usefulness of Vos’ work therein.

Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos edited by Richard B. Gaffin Jr. is a collection of essays that the Reformed reader, especially the student of biblical theology cannot afford to be without. Vos is a theological giant and his work, even the shorter writings, remains influential and useful. It comes highly recommended and should be on the shelf of every theological library.

Review: Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief

18701170John M. Frame holds the J. D. Trimble Chair of Systematic Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Frame received degrees from Princeton University, Yale University, and Westminster Theological Seminary. He is widely recognized by his peers as one of the greatest theological minds of our age, and arguably the most important Reformed thinker of the last century. Frame is the author of many books, including A History of Western Philosophy and Theology, Theology in Three Dimensions: A Guide to Triperspectivalism and Its Significance, and the 4-volume A Theology of Lordship series.

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief is the culmination and synthesis of many years of writing on, teaching about, and studying of the Bible. Frame is known for being biblical, clear, cogent, readable, accessible, and practical, and Systematic Theology summarizes the mature thought of one the most important Reformed theologians of the last hundred years. Frame’s contribution to the Reformed tradition is already massive, but his Systematic Theology uniquely represents a lifetime of dedicated and distilled theological thinking and service to the next generation.

Systematic Theology is over 1100 pages and separated into twelve parts, most of which should be self-evident and expected for students of systematic theology: (1) Introduction to Systematic Theology, (2) the Biblical Story, (3) the Doctrine of God, (4) the Doctrine of the Word of God, (5) the Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, (6) the Doctrine of Angels and Demons, (7) the Doctrine of Man, (8) the Doctrine of Christ, (9) the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, (10) the Doctrine of the Church, (11) the Doctrine of the Last Things, and (12) the Doctrine of the Christian Life.

Many readers are likely familiar with Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem and Christian Theology by Millard J. Erickson. Frame’s Systematic Theology runs in a similar vein as Grudem and Erickson in terms of scope. However, Frame is set apart from these two popular works in his innovative and eccentric approach to the task of theology, balanced with the unparalleled clarity of his arguments, extensive use of Scripture, and his unique capacity to critically engage with unbelief. Not that Grudem and Erickson lack clarity. But, Frame has a distinct way of making an argument observable for the reader before connecting it to the Christian life. Frame is also known for his multiperspectivalism approach, and his Systematic Theology is saturated with examples outworking of such application.

Where Frame’s Systematic Theology is prone to shortcoming is the manifest unevenness of the works content. Nearly half of the book is devoted to parts three, four, and five—doctrine of God, the Word of God, and the knowledge of God. This is somewhat understandable given the scope of Frame’s literary corpus and the amount of material that he’s written on those three subjects already, but it leaves little room for the reader to explore Frame’s thoughts on other theological matters. Additionally, while Frame is both clear and accessible for all readers, those less familiar with the arena of systematic theology or Frame’s multiperspectival approach may get lost in the details. If this is a concern, I would recommend readers start with Frame’s recently published Theology in Three Dimensions: A Guide to Triperspectivalism and Its Significance as a primer. It will provide a framework for better grasping the riches found here.

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief by John M. Frame is a monumental achievement that deserves every bit of praise seen since its publication. It’s hard to call this   Frame’s magnum opus given the size and impact of the 4-volume A Lordship Theology, but Systematic Theology certainly does contend for such position due to its distilled content and scope. If you’re looking for a systematic theology that contends for shelf space and frequent use, then Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief comes highly recommended. It’s the concentrated work of one of the greatest Reformed thinkers of the past hundred years. What more needs to be said? It should be on the shelf of every serious student of theology.