Review: Reordering the Trinity

4378 trinity cover CC.inddThere are few doctrines more central to orthodox Christianity than that of the Triune Godhead. Still, despite its imperative nature, the Trinity remains one of the most difficult doctrines for most Christians to defend biblically. Is the Trinity in the New Testament, or it simply a patristic misunderstanding? Does the triune nature of God matter to the average Christian as they seek to live faithfully and biblically? It is within the difficulty of answering these questions that Reordering the Trinity: Six Movements of God in the New Testament by Rodrick K. Durst (Ph.D, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary) positions itself as a timely and helpful volume.

Reordering the Trinity is an exciting and engaging academic voyage into the New Testament attestation of the triadic formula, or formulas as presented by Durst. Most readers of the book will be well-acquainted with the traditional triadic formula found within the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), where Jesus mandates the baptism of disciples in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit (F-S-Sp). However, looking across the literature of the New Testament, the representation of this triadic order only accounts for 24% of the occurrences (p. 70). In fact, as Durst skillfully presents, there is a total of six triadic formulas—each exhibiting a different order, and each emphasizing a specific purpose.

Durst begins his examination with four important introductory chapters. Chapter one looks to review the state of the doctrine of the Trinity in contemporary circles. It is here that Durst seeks to place Reordering the Trinity before the reader as a fresh approach to the significance of the Trinity in the worship and life of the Church. Chapter two provides the reader with the data and research that underlies the presentation of the six triadic formulas articulated in later chapters. The reader will find this chapter well constructed and extremely useful for future reference and research. Chapter three looks the Hebrew Scriptures to make a case for plurality in the Godhead of the Old Testament. Durst does well in building his case, although I was surprised not to find any reference to Alan F. Segal (Two Powers in Heaven, Brill, 1977) or Michael S. Heiser (The Divine Council in Later Canonical and Non-Canonical Second Temple Literature, PhD diss., University of Wisconsin, 2004). Lastly, chapter four traces the doctrine of the Trinity through the historical landscape of the Christian Church.

The remainder of the book, chapters five thru ten, seeks to analyze and expound upon function and purpose of the six triadic formulas (F-S-Sp/Missional, S-F-Sp/Christological, Sp-S-F/Ecclesial, S-Sp-F/Regenerative, Sp-F-S/Sanctifying, F-Sp-S/Formational). Each chapter opens with a table outlining all the occurrences within the specified triadic formula, and includes a designated rating, a word or two about the context, and a brief summary. Following the table, Durst examines and comments on each occurrence individually and in canonical order. The chapters close with a few discussion questions for reflection and retention, as well as a sermon starter section aimed at helping the pastor articulate the content for his congregation. Durst appropriately concludes the book with a practical chapter on becoming a functional Trinitarian and several helpful appendixes (great for future reference).

Reordering the Trinity is an exciting and helpful book. I found Durst to be both thorough and thoughtful in his research and presentation. The intentional balance between scholarly rigor, pastoral application, and Christian spiritual formation is admirable in its own right. Add the consistently fair and faithful examination of the biblical text in relation to the Trinity, and you have a volume well-worth its weight in gold. I found this book to be refreshing and persuasive in its presentation, and thus I find myself indebted to the labor therein. It has largely reoriented how I read the triadic formulas and provided me with much to think about, both academically and spiritually. If you are looking for a fresh engagement into one of the most important theological convictions of the Christian faith, Reordering the Trinity: Six Movements of God in the New Testament by Rodrick K. Durst is an essential read. I foresee it being off my shelf often for reference.

 

I received a review copy of these books 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.

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Review: Talking Doctrine

26116052Talking Doctrine: Mormons & Evangelicals in Conversation edited by Richard J. Mouw and Robert L. Millet is a collection of essays culminating from nearly two decades of intentional inter-faith dialogue between Evangelicals and Mormons. The collection essays are diverse and address a wide assortment of topics that are traditionally associated with the Mormon-Evangelical discussion. Accordingly, the book is helpfully organized underneath two general section headings: (1) the nature of the dialogue and (1) specific doctrinal discussions. It is here that the conversation begins.

The opening section of Talking Doctrine helpfully sets the tone for the conversation ahead. The reader is first brought into the background and context of the project. It is here that the reader encounters the charitable character exhibited in the exchange. The tone is respectful and cordial despite the clear theological differences. As an Evangelical who appreciates inter-faith dialogue and worldview analysis, I found this first section of the book to be an exciting and appropriate demonstration of how responsible exchange should be facilitated. However, I also found myself a bit concerned with the soft-handed approach of some of the Evangelical contributors.

The subsequent section turns more pointedly towards the specific doctrinal differences traditionally witnessed between Mormons and Evangelicals. This interaction was helpful and appropriately modeled. Although, as someone who interacts with Mormons with some level of frequency, I would be hard-pressed to believe that the Mormon contributors of this volume represent the theological convictions of the missionaries that knock on my door. Still, the honest and candid conversation about the trinity, grace, the origins of mankind, the nature of God, deification, and authority are well worth the price of the book—especially if you engage in similar conversations regularly.

Talking Doctrine: Mormons & Evangelicals in Conversation is a valuable book if for no other reason than it models the effectiveness of a relationally driven inter-faith dialogue. If compassion for people and understanding of worldview are absent from our efforts to pursue truth, then our efforts will ultimately fail. There will inevitably be several points of disagreement throughout the book for both Mormons and Evangelicals, both in methodology and affirmation, but the book has undoubtedly accomplished what it intended to accomplish. If you are in the market for an up-to-date exploration into some of the similarities and differences between current theological trends shaping Mormonism and Evangelical Christianity, the present volume is a suitable entry point.

 

I received a review copy of these books 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.

 

Review: Compact Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 3.48.12 PMFor the student of the Greek New Testament, there exists no shortage of Greek-English lexicons. So, why then look to buy another Greek-English lexicon? The answer is likely simpler than one might think. For the sake of brevity, I will list three reasons here: (1) portability, (2) price point, and (3) practical usefulness.

First, it goes without saying, but, a lexicon such as the Compact Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament is not going to replace a gold-standard work such as A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BDAG), nor is that its intention. The scope of the entries is comprehensive and wide-ranging, but its size remains concise. Mark A. House has done an excellent job providing the reader with the need to know information about a given Greek word—some more than others—and keeping the volume truly compact. Those familiar with BDAG and similar lexicons know that it’s not an easy travel companion. However, the trim size of the Compact Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (7.3 in. x 4.8 in. x .3 in.) is ideal for the daily commute.

Second, let’s be honest, lexicons aren’t cheap. A lot of scholarly effort goes into the production of such works and the price point is reflective. But, with a price tag of only $19.99, the Compact Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament is not going to break your bank. This is a huge bang-for-your-buck if you are looking to obtain accurate lexical information on a budget. But, again, the Compact Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament should be used as a companion rather than a replacement to other, pricier, lexicons such as BDAG—especially for the serious student of the Greek New Testament.

Third, a lexicon can only be as useful as it is accessible to the intended audience. If it’s not useful it’s not worth buying, regardless of the price point. It is here that the Compact Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament shines the brightest. The organization and layout of the lexicon are ideal for quick reference, rather than long study. This is important for the end-user because the intended use of a “compact” lexicon is almost always going to be for the purpose of quick reference, not an in-depth study. Moreover, for some of the more significant entries, the Compact Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament includes grammatical, etymological, other extraneous information, as well example passage where the word occurs.

The Compact Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament is an expanded revision of Alexander Souter’s popular A Pocket Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (Oxford, 1916). Mark A. House has effectively retained the usefulness of Souter’s work and added several appropriate and important update—both in content and aesthetic appeal. From the portability to the practical usefulness of the Compact Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, and everything in between, the reader will do well having this work nearby. If you are looking for a user-friendly supplemental aid for your study of the Greek New Testament, then look no further. This book will be off your shelf often.

 

I received a review copy of these books 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.

Review:The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary

499353_1_ftcThe Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary is a time-tested Bible reference resource that has now been further revised, updated, and expanded for the contemporary reader. It’s not often that a dictionary remains at the top of the best-sellers list, but for the last twenty-five years The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary has been the go-to resource for teachers, pastors, and Bible students around the English-speaking world. With nearly 400 contributors, more than 6,500 articles, and over 1,700 pages, The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary is both comprehensive, concise, and clear. Each article begins with a concise definition followed with a more developed treatment of the topic. Moreover, The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary boasts roughly 700 beautiful full-color photos, maps, charts, and reconstructions that help illuminate the biblical world like never before.

The scope of The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary is quite impressive and the articles are consistently well-written and thorough. This completely revised third edition of the best-selling dictionary brings up-to-date archeological information, theological conversation, and more. The usefulness of this resource cannot be overstated, but for the sake of space a few highlights are worth mentioning. First and foremost, each biblical book has an “at a glance” section that allows the reader to quickly capture necessary information related to any of the sixty-six canonical books of the Old and New Testament. This section includes author, date, setting, genre, and major themes. Second, the articles are consistently written from a conservative evangelical perspective and unashamedly seek to tackle related issues from within that framework. Third, the articles are broad and reach into other related disciplines outside the narrower confines of many Bible dictionaries, such as the inclusion of articles on Flavius Josephus, Textus Receptus, and even includes an article on the Weather. Lastly, a pronunciation guide is provided for all proper nouns and other hard-to-pronounce words. This is a helpful feature that displays well the detailed thought that went into the production of The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary.

The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary has been updated once again. Now packaged between an all new contemporary designed hardcover, The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary has received a much-needed facelift. But the cover isn’t the only thing that changed. The content has been finely combed and updated to reflect the most accurate and up-to-date archeological information and theological conversations. The format has been revised and additional and updated illustrations have been utilized. In short, if you are looking for an up-to-date one-volume Bible dictionary, then few resources available are going to compare to the usefulness of The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. It’s the first off my shelf when I need a quick answer to an imminent question and the last to be closed at the end of a study. It comes highly recommended.

 

I received a review copy of these books 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.

Review: Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary

23493027The Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary is a comprehensive reference tool produced with the Bible teacher, pastor, and student in mind. This new one-volume commentary covers both the Old and New Testament. Each book of the Bible includes a brief introductory section that aims to provide a detailed overview of the circumstances of writing, including the author and background, the message and purpose, contribution to the Bible, structure, and outline of the specified book. The content of the commentary is arranged in a section-by-section format that seeks to help the reader gain a greater sense of understanding of the bigger picture of the biblical book, and the numerous illustrations throughout helpfully drag the reader into the biblical world with minimal effort. Each book of the Bible closes with a healthy bibliography that allows the reader to further explore specific interests of study.

Many readers will undoubtedly find the content of The Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary strangely familiar. That is because the basis of the commentary itself is the HCSB Study Bible. E. Ray Clendenen and Jeremy Royal Howard explain such in the preface, writing, “The basis of this one-volume commentary is the award winning HCSB Study Bible. Those verses that escaped comment in the original work due to space limitations have been included in the present work, with comments provided by E. Ray Clendenen” (p. IX). In other words, The Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary is essentially the study note content of the HCSB Study Bible with some additional comments and complementary illustrations reformatted and repackaged.

Should the reader who already owns the HSCB Study Bible seek to add The Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary to their library? This is ultimately going to be a decision that the reader must make. Still, two comments are in order that may help the decision process. First, after spending a good hour and a half intentionally flipping through the pages comparing content between the two resources I found little that differed from the HSCB Study Bible. There is additional content, but it’s minimal at best. Second, for most readers, I think that the format of The Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary is to be preferred over the HSCB Study Bible. It’s clean, easy to read, and user-friendly. Not that such characteristics are absent from the HSCB Study Bible, but rather The Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary is going to be a much better option if the study note content is your primary target for pulling the HSCB Study Bible off the shelf.

The Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary is an excellent one-volume commentary. It’s comprehensive and yet concise. It’s user-friendly and well formatted. It has a clear objective, and it accomplishes that objective with excellence. Takes the award-winning study notes from the HSCB Study Bible, written by some of today’s leading biblical scholars, expand the content slightly, add numerous illustrations, maps, and photographs, pack it between a high-quality hardcover binding, and you have the recipe for something amazing—a future best-seller. Regardless if you own the HSCB Study Bible or not, The Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary is a resource you will want on your shelf. It comes highly recommended.

 

I received a review copy of these books 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.

Review: Institutes of the Christian Religion

20_Calvin_Institites_vol_1There are few literary works more influential to the Christian faith than the Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin. It still stands among the greatest literary achievements in both Christian theology and Western literature. It is the accomplishment of a life devoted to the study of Scripture and the ministry within the church. The Institutes of the Christian Religion as it is known today is the product of several important additions and revisions on the part of Calvin during his lifetime (1536, 1539, 1543, 1550, and 1559 in Latin; 1541 in French). The final edition (1559) was roughly five times the length of the first (1536) and comprises what we now know today in English as the Institutes of the Christian Religion.

While the Institutes of the Christian Religion have never been a stranger to the English-speaking world—Thomas Norton produced the first English translation of the definitive 1559 edition of the Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1561—the most recent English translation was produced over five decades ago. Still, prior to the publication of the present volumes translated by Ford Lewis Battles and edited by John T. McNeill, the most recent English translations were the result of John Allen (1813) and Henry Beveridge (1845)—the latter still being the most widely used English translation today. But the date of publication isn’t the only thing that makes the Battles/McNeill translation the preferable choice when choosing an English translation of the Institutes of the Christian Religion for the contemporary reader.

First, the editorial notes and guidance brought to the Institutes of the Christian Religion by John T. McNeill are indispensable for the detailed study of the text. For example, throughout the Battles/McNeill translation the small letters a-e articulate which stage of development each portion of text were added (a=1536; b=1539; c=1543; d=1550; e=1559). Battles/McNeill have done the readers an enormous favor and painstakingly traced the material of the 1559 edition back to the earlier editions. Second, the inclusion of a bibliography and a monograph-sized compilation of index material demonstrate the Battles/McNeill translation to be worth its weight in gold. This inclusion is helpful for quick reference and detailed study and is sure to be a selling point over the other available translation options. Third, the Battles/McNeill translation includes a whole host of useful in-text Scripture references enclosed in brackets (i.e. [1 Tim. 3:1-7]), as well as footnotes for citations and allusions throughout. While much of the reference may not be original to Calvin himself, with this understanding aside the inclusion of such feature makes for an enriched experience for the reader.

When it comes to English translations of the Institutes of the Christian Religion the options are plentiful. Still, none compare to the depth and magnitude of the volumes translated by Ford Lewis Battles and edited by John T. McNeill. It proves to be much more than a modern translation of a literary classic. In fact, it has been recognized as the definitive English translation for over fifty years, and for good reason. If you are looking to read the Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin for the first time or the forty-first time, from the translation itself to the last index, the Battles/McNeill translation is worth every penny of your investment. Just be sure to make room on your bookshelf because the volumes are massive!

 

I received a review copy of these books 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.

Review: The Resurrection of Jesus

9780830827190Discussion surrounding the resurrection of Jesus has traditionally hosted a long list of scholarly voices. Still, few names are more present to the contemporary conversation than Michael R. Licona (PhD, University of Pertoria). Licona is Associate Professor of Theology at Houston Baptist University. He is the author of Paul Meets Muhammad: A Christian-Muslim Debate on the Resurrection (Baker, 2006) and coauthor with Gary Habermas of the award-winning book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Kregel, 2004). Licona is also the author and/or contributor to a number of academic articles relating to various topics surrounding Jesus and the resurrection. Still, Licona’s most lasting contribution to the discussion of the resurrection to date is his massive doctoral dissertation turned monograph case study, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (IVP Academic, 2010).

Licona begins The Resurrection of Jesus with an excellent survey of the various theories and methods that relate to the task of a historiographical approach. This is an important starting point for the reader as it effectively builds the framework for the next 600+ pages. Subsequently, Licona investigates the objections to historical considerations of miracle-claims purported by individuals such as David Hume, Bart D. Ehrman, John P. Meier, and many more. Licona displays how each objection fails and why the hesitancy for such historical approach to the investigation of miracle-claims is unwarranted. Again, this further builds the framework of Licona’s conclusion and the reader is certain to appreciate the care take in his evaluation. Following the introductory matters of the first few sections, Licona systematically evaluates and analyzes the historical sources and evidence before weighing the various critical approaches to such. This is the crux of Licona’s effort and he presents his position in a fair and articulate fashion.

The Resurrection of Jesus is the most comprehensive historical investigation on the event of the resurrection that I have encountered to date. Licona leaves no corner of the conversation untouched, and the high points of the book are many. However, for the sake of space, I will name two. First, I think that many readers will find the evaluation of the historical sources in chapter three to be extremely helpful and carefully examined. Licona discusses both canonical and noncanonical sources, as well as Christian and non-Christian writings from the initial centuries of the Christian church. Each source is individually evaluated in regards to its importance in the historicity of the resurrection, and Licona does an excellent job approaching the sources objectively. Second, after evaluating the sources and beyond, Licona provides outstanding interaction with the various resurrection theories. This section is helpful in allowing the reader to digest and put the resurrected puzzle pieces together in the shape of Licona’s historiographical approach—although Licona is good about not telling you what to believe, but rather how to think.

The Resurrection of Jesus is a phenomenal work that deserves a permanent space on the bookshelf of anyone interested in wrestling with the implications of the resurrection for the Christian worldview. Licona is trustworthy in his examination of the evidence, and the fact that this is a polished presentation of his doctoral dissertation written at a secular university under skeptical eyes makes it even more intriguing. To be fair, this book isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s big, really big! It’s detailed, really detailed! But, if you are looking for a comprehensive examination into the historicity of the most important event in the history of mankind, then The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach by Michael R. Licona will be worth twice its weight in gold.
I received a review copy of these books 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.