Review: Daniel (SOGBC)

418k1bx5DzLWendy L. Widder is a contributing editor at Logos Bible Software and the author of several books, including Living Whole Without a Better Half (Kregel, 2014), A Match Made in Heaven: How Singles and the Church Can Live Happily Ever After (Kregel, 2003), and various publications under Lexham Press. She holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern studies from the University of the Free State, a master of arts in Hebrew and Semitic studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a master of divinity degree from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. Most recently, Widder offers readers a much-anticipated volume on Daniel in the Story of God Bible Commentary.

Daniel by Wendy L. Widder is a unique and welcomed addition to this increasingly popular series. Widder has a clear passion for the local church, and this volume demonstrates that on almost every page. The commentary opens with a brief introduction to the book, including comments surrounding some of the distinctive features of the genre of Daniel, the context and purpose of the book, authorship, date, etc. Widder affirms the events in the book happened to “a real Daniel and his Judean peers in sixth-century BC-Babylonian exile, and that the prophecies are accurate,” but also recognizes the limitations of knowing who compiled the book in its final form (p. 5).

As the commentary proper opens the reader is guided passage-by-passage through three major sections: (1) LISTEN to the Story—includes the NIV translation with additional references to encourage the reader to hear the story within its broader biblical context, (2) EXPLAIN the Story—explores and illuminates each passage within its canonical and historical setting, and (3) LIVE the Story—reflects how each passage can be lived today and includes contemporary stories and illustrations to aid teachers, preachers, and beyond.

Where issues of disagreements are inevitable for the book of Daniel, Widder does an exceptional job directing the concerns back towards the purpose of the book and away from theological traps. In this respect, Widder demonstrates how to handle the text in a corporate setting and allows the reader formulate thoughts in a similar direction. This, in my opinion, is one of the best aspects of Widder’s work here, and it will inevitably prove useful for the target audience of the series. Like I mentioned above, Widder has a clear passion for the local church, and it is evident on almost every page.

The Story of God Bible Commentary: Daniel by Wendy L. Widder is a unique contribution that offers a unified presentation of one of the most theologically significant books of the Old Testament. Widder is well-informed and easy to read, and any lack of distinctive interpretive contribution is made up for in her keen ability to keep sight of the whole amid the details. Widder makes Daniel fun and interesting again for those who may have “heard enough” about its many theological controversies. This is a worthwhile read if you are studying Daniel. It comes highly recommended and will be extremely useful for those teaching the book!

Review: To the Cross

34501638Christopher J. H. Wright is International Ministries director of the Langham Partnership and the author of numerous books related to global missions, the Old Testament, and the people of God. Wright is both a veteran scholar and a seasoned pastor, and his most recent book offers readers a wonderful glimpse into the intersection of the former with the latter.

To the Cross: Proclaiming the Gospel from the Upper Room to Calvary is a collection of sermons Wright preached at All Souls Church, Langham Place, London. These five sermons guide the reader from the Lord’s Supper to the crucifixion (The Last Supper – Matt. 26:17-30; Peter’s Denial – Matt. 26:69-75; Insults and Paradise – Luke 23:26-43; From Darkness to Light – Mark 15:33-39; It is Finished – John 19:28-37). As expected, Wright provides an excellent example of what it looks like to blend Old Testament insight with a New Testament declaration of the Cross of Christ. Wright likewise does an exceptional job illustrating the major points of the text for the reader.

There is much to be praised about this volume. First and foremost, Wright is a brilliant scholar, and his sensitivity to the broader biblical narrative consistently informs his exposition. There are more insights in this volume, and thus the five sermons preached than most pastors would be able to feed to their congregation over the course of a year. Second, Wright has provided readers a glimpse into his preparatory work in the form of an appendix. For those interested in workflow and preparation tips, this appendix will be a joy to read. Finally, not only is Wright readable and engaging, but he captivates the heart with nearly every page. I could only imagine the impact of these sermons being preached live, but I am forever thankful they have been made available in print.

To the Cross: Proclaiming the Gospel from the Upper Room to Calvary by Christopher J. H. Wright is an excellent example of why there is still so much wonder available to captivate the hearts of believers in the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. This is not only an ideal book for the Lenten season or Holy Week; it is easily on the of the most important. Outside of the Bible, if you plan on digesting anything this season, I would highly recommend this new one by Christopher J. H. Wright.

Review: Dietrich Bonhoeffer: An Introduction to His Thought

41rTZTDkfULSabine Dramm received a doctorate in education science from the University of Bonn in Bonn, Germany. She has studied evangelical theology and social science as well as philosophy and education. Dramm is the author of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Resistance (Fortress Press, 2009) and Dietrich Bonhoeffer Eine Einführung in sein Denken (Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2001). The present volume, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: An Introduction to His Thought (Hendrickson Publishers, 2015), is a reprint (previously published in 2007 by Hendrickson Publishers and 2010 by Baker Publishing Group) of the English translation of Dramm’s latter mentioned title.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: An Introduction to His Thought is a unique and important work for anyone looking to get better acquainted with the life and theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Those familiar with Bonhoeffer (which should be many given the success of the biography Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas) will also find much to glean from Dramm’s work. The uniqueness of Dramm’s approach comes in the form of her unusual ability to intermingle a well-positioned introduction to Bonhoeffer’s thought (which encompasses Bonhoeffer’s sermons, letters, articles, and books) with a survey of his life story. Dramm not only captures Bonhoeffer’s theology with clarity, but she does it in a similar manner as Bonhoeffer did himself—integrating both life and theology.

There is much to be praised about Dramm’s work. For starters, she has meticulously documented her engagement and summation of Bonhoeffer’s work. The number of cross-references scattered throughout Dramm’s work is impressive. Unless otherwise mentioned, Dramm consistently references the official collection of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Works published by Fortress Press. Still, Dramm has provided more than a mere overview of Bonhoeffer’s works. She has developed a pattern of Bonhoeffer’s thought throughout his numerous works, and uses that pattern as a platform to guide the reader through the depths of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Finally, Dramm is extremely lucid and readable. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: An Introduction to His Thought is easily one of the the most accessible and informative books on Bonhoeffer available today.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer has fascinated the hearts and minds of many in the twenty-first century. He is a symbol of courage and fortitude, with a passion for God’s people and a determination for the wellbeing of the Church. Bonhoeffer is a man of many mysteries and is often overlooked in the arena of theological rigor. Still, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: An Introduction to His Thought by Sabine Dramm will rightly ignite a newfound flame of passion in that arena, and open the doors to invite those in the streets on a tour. In fact, anyone with even the slightest interest in Bonhoeffer will do themselves a disservice if they overlook this book. It comes highly recommended

Curious? NIV Faithlife Study Bible

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Curiosity ignites a fire that both informs faith and encourages spiritual growth. There are several ways to feed this curiosity within the Christian life, but few are more impactful than uncovering new or previously unnoticed insights into the Bible. For those who study the Bible often it is easy to find yourself in a dangerous place when it comes to keeping this flame of curiosity alit. There is no easy or one-size solution to remedy this situation, but a well-rounded Study Bible such as the new NIV Faithlife Study Bible can provide an excellent point of engagement to kindle this flame. Let me tell you about a recent encounter I had with a well-known passage in the book of Hebrews.

The book of Hebrews contains five major warning passages against apostasy (2:1–4; 4:12–13; 6:4–6; 10:26–31; 12:25–29). These warnings are scattered throughout the landscape of the book and all of them, except for 6:4-6, appear to be intrinsically tied to an Old Testament allusion or quotation. Here is where curiosity set in and a flame was lit. Given the consistency of the pattern found in the other warning passages, does it make sense to look for a similar type of pattern in 6:4-6? Moreover, if such pattern were present in 6:4-6, would it impact the current wave of theological conversation surrounding the passage? With these questions in hand, I began to survey what commentaries were saying with almost no success. I knew there was a chance that I was off track, but the pattern seemed too strong to simply disregard. As curiosity carried on and I turned to the NIV Faithlife Study Bible, I was pleasantly surprised by my discovery. Not only did it confirm my curiosity, but it opened a door to further insights of exploration.

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There are at least three features of the NIV Faithlife Study Bible that distinguish it from other Study Bibles on the market and position it for readers motivated to stay curious about the Bible. First, and probably foremost, because a Study Bible is only as good as those who contribute, the list of contributors is both impressive and wide-ranging, including scholars such as Michael Bird and William Varner, and best-selling authors such as Randy Alcorn and Charles Stanley. This balance brings both academic and pastoral considerations to the forefront of the reader’s minds. Second, the visual appeal of the NIV Faithlife Study Bible is unlike any other Study Bible available today. Readers will be met with beautiful full-color maps, timelines, tables, infographics (example above), etc. This aspect alone should activate the reader’s curiosity, especially the family-tree diagrams. Third, the level of depth provided in the introductions, articles, and notes offer an unparalleled experience.

No matter where you are in your faith journey, the new NIV Faithlife Study Bible has something exciting for everyone. It will keep your interest near and engage your heart as you continue to discover God’s word. Stay curious. There’s always more to explore.

Review: The Spirituality of Paul

29011657Leslie T. Hardin is professor of New Testament at Johnson University, Kissimmee, Florida. Hardin has received his D.Min. in Spiritual Formation from Ashland Theological Seminary and has authored articles in the Journal of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care, as well as several books, including The Spirituality of Jesus: Nine Disciplines that Christ Modeled for Us, Letters for Micah: Navigating the Internal Dynamics of your First Ministry, and the present volume, The Spirituality of Paul: Partnering with the Spirit in Everyday Life.

The Spirituality of Paul is a follow-up volume to Hardin’s previous work on the spirituality of Jesus. Hardin approaches the spirituality of Paul through ten prominent characteristics of Paul’s life and ministry: (1) the participation of the Spirit, (2) devotion to the Scriptures, (3) prayer, (4) disciple-making, (5) the proclamation of the gospel, (6) corporate worship, (7) holiness, (8) the spiritual gifts, (9) building one another up in faith, and (10) suffering. Hardin is easy to read and does and exceptional job bringing the reader into the life and ministry of Paul while remaining as theologically neutral as possible. That said, because of the nature of the study and the material at hand to conduct such, the content of this book is likely to follow with disagreement from some readers—especially those who are less sensitive to the New Perspective on Paul movement that has saturated the last few decades. Nonetheless, Hardin does an excellent job keeping readers focused on the life of Paul and provides a unique and practical contribution to the current wave of Pauline studies.

It was Paul himself that exhorted the Corinthians to, “imitate me, just as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). The Spirituality of Paul: Partnering with the Spirit in Everyday Life by Leslie T. Hardin offers a fresh pair of lenses for modern readers to view Paul’s life, and ultimately, to imitate him as he imitated Christ. Hardin offers practical insights into Christian spirituality through on of the most familiar Christians in the New Testament—the Apostle Paul. Christians of all walks of life would do well to engage with Hardin and earnestly reflect the Pauline principals that he assesses throughout. It comes highly recommended!

Review: Sinai and the Saints

34372209James M. Todd III is Assistant Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at College of the Ozarks, Point Lookout, Missouri. Todd received a Ph.D. from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Remember, O Yahweh: The Poetry and Context of Psalms 135-137 (Wipf & Stock, 2015) and the present volume Sinai and the Saints: Reading Old Covenant Laws for the New Covenant Community (IVP Academic, 2017).

Sinai and the Saints is a clearly written and engaging exploration of the nature and relationship of the Old Covenant to the New for the people of God. The importance of Todd’s work cannot be overstated. It is both relevant and accessible to the average reader, and Todd consistently pulls from the best scholarship to support his position. The premise of Todd’s work is that Christians, as members of the New Covenant community, are not under the confines of the Old Covenant law. That said Todd does an exceptional job displaying the ethical relevance of the Old Covenant law (namely the Ten Commandments) within the New Covenant community, who by all respects are now under a different law—the law of Christ. The book does much for the contemporary readers wrestling with the significance of the Old Testament law to the twenty-first-century Christian life and offers fresh lenses to tackle tough questions.

There are some foreseen disagreements that learned readers might encounter as it relates to the relationship between Israel and the Church. This is not a new problem, nor is Todd’s work an attempt to answer those questions. That said, where I found Todd to be helpful is in his reliance upon the biblical text to further found a pre-established position. Those looking for a resolution to issues regarding “replacement theology,” covenant theology, dispensationalism, etc. will want to look elsewhere. Todd’s position is firmly planted within the stream of covenant theology, and rightly so given the nature of his task here. This peripheral dispute being set aside, Sinai and the Saints has beautifully occupied a needed gap for today’s readers.

Sinai and the Saints: Reading Old Covenant Laws for the New Covenant Community by James M. Todd III is an accessible and relevant book for those struggling to understand the relationship between the Old Covenant law upon the New Covenant people of God. It is a book that will reap immediate and practical fruit for anyone eager to harvest its riches. It comes highly recommended!

Review: The Lost World of Adam and Eve

23055095John H. Walton is Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College. Walton earned his Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible and Cognate Studies from Hebrew Union College. He is the author of numerous peer-reviewed articles, contributor to several academic reference works, and over twenty books both popular and academic. Walton is a household name in the arena of Old Testament Studies and a voice of reason when it comes to the ancient Near Eastern context and background of the biblical world. The Lost World series has sought to target controversial issues related the modern theological assumptions frequently (and unnaturally) placed upon the framework of the biblical audience. The most recent of such explorations has directed attention towards human origins, Adam and Eve, and the early chapters of Genesis.

The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate is comprised of twenty-one propositions concerning the nature and relation of Adam and Eve to both the biblical world and modern concerns. For Walton, the concern of the book is “particularly interested in determining the extent to which the biblical claims may or may not conflict with the claims made in the current scientific consensus about human origins” (p. 198). The book has much designated to the hermeneutical or interpretive concerns related to Genesis 2-3 and allusions to Adam and Eve in both the Old Testament and the New, and Walton does the reader a service as he carefully guides them through the contours of the conversation. Walton views Adam and Eve as archetypes of the human race and finds support for this reality in the pattern of though common among the ANE and its penetration into the biblical text. Thus, for Walton, while Adam and Eve should be considered as historical people, no biblical restraints exist to necessitate Adam and Eve as the first created humans.

There is so much to be praised about this volume and Walton’s approach in general. Walton is keen to the needs of the reader and sensitive of the way he approaches each of the propositions. It is also noteworthy to mention that Walton has included an extended excursus by N. T. Wright on Paul’s use of Adam to further establish a New Testament voice within a predominately Old Testament examination. The organization and structure of the book around propositions is also extremely helpful and user-friendly. These short chapters allow the reader to utilize the book as a reference work for answers to specific claims, or as a cover-to-cover read. That said the latter is to be recommended before the former as Walton’s argument is filled of circumstantial evidence established upon a cumulative case. Still, in my opinion, where Walton does exceptionally well is in bringing the academic ideas explored in this book to a gospel-centered plea to the Church to pursue faithfulness to the Scriptures within their proper context.

The Lost World of Adam and Eve is going to be filled with heated controversy for many modern readers. Nevertheless, in my estimation, the heat generated from Walton’s presentation should only help to produce gospel-light in a different, but still lost world.