Review: The Mind of the Spirit

27066913The Mind of the Spirit: Paul’s Approach to Transformed Thinking by Craig S. Keener is both dense with detail and saturated with a familiarity of the Greco-Roman world. This isn’t a book for the faint of heart, but the payoff is well worth the journey. Keener seeks to provide a contrast between the corrupted mind and the transformed mind, not by providing a long list of rules and regulations, but rather by presenting various windows into a new reality (p. 253).

Transformed thinking (or the renewing of mind) is the result of embodying the mindset of Christ and contemplating the things of God. This reality, according to Keener, is a continual and daily undertaking for the believer. Keener explains, “Walking by the Spirit rather than by the flesh requires a continuing, deliberate rethinking and retuning, with many determined decisions to believe God’s truth about our identity, until our brain is rewired enough that the new way becomes the more prevalent way” (p.263). Thus, the renewing of the mind is actualized by regular and predictable patterns of thought and reflection upon the things of Christ.

While this is a necessary task for the believer, and one aided by the transforming power of the gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit, it is likewise an increasingly difficult task. There exists today a tension in this world (and churches) that seems to negate the need for a transformed mind in the life of the believer. Keener rightly reminds the reader that despite the overwhelming joy of a life governed by the transformed mind of the Spirit, such is by no means an escape from the realities of the tension and conflict in this life (p. 258). That is, for Keener, taking up the mind of the Spirit is a daily endeavor that takes discipline and determination despite the world around us.

The aim of The Mind of the Spirit is admirable and Keener has accomplished his purpose therein with much to be praised. Keener’s expertise in the background literature of the New Testament and his deep-seated longing to see the people of God flourish in all that God has for them in this life is contagious. This is a much needed subject of discussion that has, until now received very little serious and scholarly attention. The reader will appreciate the clarity and conviction that Keener has brought to the table, and leave encouraged knowing that such transformation is available today—indeed, available now! This is a book that will be read across Christian disciplines for many years to come. It comes highly recommended!!

 

I received a review copy of this 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.

Advertisements

Review: The Fourfold Gospel

26266705The Fourfold Gospel: A Theological Reading of the New Testament Portraits of Jesus by Francis Watson is a similarly exciting, and yet abbreviated exploration of Watson’s previous tome, Gospel Writing: A Canonical Perspective (Eerdmans, 2013). According to Watson, “The present attempt at a theological reading focuses throughout on the texts within that boundary [previously established in Gospel Writing] and on the theological questions they put to their interpreter, both individually and in their relation to one another” (p. viii). Much of this groundwork is established and revisited in the Prolegomena section that opens the book. It is here that the reader becomes thoroughly equipped for the fascinating journey ahead.

The Fourfold Gospel is divided into two major sections. The initial section seeks to establish each of the four Gospel accounts within the portrait of Jesus offered by the author. These turn out to be perspectives that are not only different in nature, but also complementary. Watson’s care and attentiveness to the overall framework of each Gospel is admirable, and without losing focus of the whole, Watson is able to seamlessly equip readers with the proper lenses needed to observe the major convergences discussed in the second section. It is here that Watson applauds the formative work of Eusebius’ Canon Tables in the establishment of a fourfold Gospel book and further delineates his thesis by examining the shared narrative across all four Gospels.

Overall, I found Watson’s work to be extremely beneficial and informative for reading and understanding the canonical gospels. I appreciated the unified approach that Watson embodied as he wrestled with their similarities and differences, as well as the challenges that have been created by a “gospel harmonies” reading of the narratives. As Watson rightly notes, “gospel harmonies created far more problems than they solved. It seems that the fourfold gospel is not intended to provide a singular “life of Jesus” in which each incident and saying is assigned to its original historical context. Its relation to reality is more complex—and more interesting—than that” (p. 88). This observation alone helps reconcile more internal problems than most other attempts traditionally seen combined, and this is only one of many nuggets to be unearthed in this study.

The Fourfold Gospel: A Theological Reading of the New Testament Portraits of Jesus by Francis Watson is a significant contribution to the ongoing exploration of contemporary Gospel Studies. It is a welcome companion, and, in many ways an extended appendix to Watson’s previous book Gospel Writing: A Canonical Perspective. Watson has invited the reader into a world that had been plagued by the displeasure of recurring academic dust and has effectively breathed within it a newfound sense of vibrancy and life. Watson’s undeniable expertise and his ability to communicate to a broad readership had already position this book for success, even prior to its publication. However, what was previously expected now looks petty compared to what Watson actually delivered. The Fourfold Gospel is a book that you will want to read, and do so more than once. It comes highly recommended!!     

 

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

Review: Invitation to the Septuagint

25538754The Septuagint is arguably the most significant interpretive window into both the Old Testament and the New. It possesses a rich history in arena biblical studies and interest in its usefulness is only growing. However, for students that lack prior exposure to the Septuagint, the complexity of the current scholarly trends therein can be somewhat overwhelming. Invitation to the Septuagint by Karen H. Jobes and Moises Silva has bridged this gap with a comprehensive introduction that is both informative and user-friendly.

Invitation to the Septuagint appropriately begins with a brief introduction that details the use of the Septuagint in the academic context of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Scriptures. Readers will exit this introduction with an established understanding and framework for the pages that follow. The book is divided into three major sections: (1) The History of the Septuagint, (2) The Septuagint in Biblical Studies, and (3) The Current State of Septuagint Studies. The most helpful sections for most readers will be the former two sections. Lastly, there are a number of useful appendixes, such as a glossary, and a list of differences in versification between English versions and the Septuagint.

The second edition of Invitation to the Septuagint has been revised, updated, and significantly expanded to meet the changing needs of the reader since the first edition. The entirety of this volume demands the attention of serious students, but there are also a few noteworthy chapters to highlight here. The two chapters that I found most beneficial, especially after working through the history and language of the Septuagint, were the chapters on the Septuagint for the textual criticism of the Old Testament and the Septuagint and the New Testament. These two chapters displayed the immediate benefit of the Septuagint within biblical studies. The appendixes are likewise worth mention, as they do well in providing both reference and direction for further study.

Invitation to the Septuagint by Karen H. Jobes and Moises Silva has provided both students and scholars with a much needed second edition of their well-received introduction to the Septuagint. Septuagint studies are notoriously complex, but Jobes and Silva have helpfully distilled the need-to-know information and packaged it in a comprehensive, informative, and user-friendly volume. If you are looking for a reliable and accessible source that will provide a helpful reference point without disregarding the necessary “nuts and bolts” of the Septuagint, Invitation to the Septuagint is by far the best available option. It is a book should be read by anyone interested in biblical studies and consulted often. It comes highly recommended.

 

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

Review: Proverbs

9780801030970Tremper Longman III is no stranger to the world of Old Testament wisdom literature. Longman has already authored a number of excellent, top-tier commentaries within this genre, including The Book of Ecclesiastes (1997) and Song of Songs (2001) in the acclaimed New International Commentary on the Old Testament series, as well as the present volume on Proverb (2006; paperback edition 2015) and the volume on Job (2012) in the Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms series, for which he also serves as editor.

The commentary begins with a sizable introduction (66 pages) to orient the reader in the right direction. I have always been an enthusiast of introductions in commentaries and Longman seems to always provide excellent start points. Longman tackles the traditional introductory matters with sophistication, including title, canonicity, place in canon, authorship and date, social setting, text, genre, literary style, structure, ancient Near Eastern background, theology of proverbs, and much more. The discussion surrounding the authorship and date of the book is outstanding and informative, and Longman’s keen awareness of the connection between Proverbs and other ancient Near Eastern proverbs will be eye-opening for the unfamiliar reader.

The commentary proper divides Proverbs into five major parts: (1) Extended Discourses on Wisdom (1:1-9:18), (2) Proverbs of Solomon: Collection I (10:1-22:16), (3) Sayings of the Wise (22:17-24:34), (4) Proverbs of Solomon: Collection II (25:1-29:27), and (5) Sayings of Agur and King Lemuel and Poem of the Virtuous Woman (30:1-31:31). Each chapter of the commentary begins with Longman’s translation of the text and includes a number of helpful explanatory notes. As each chapter unfolds, the reader is guided between interpretation and theological implication, thus serving to build the readers understanding and application of the text. Longman concludes the commentary with a 28-page topical study of Proverbs, including several important themes found threaded throughout the book.

Longman displays a unique familiarity with the Book of Proverbs. His interpretive insights and theological suggestions are exceptionally useful for readers of all backgrounds, and his interaction with other commentators is unparalleled. Moreover, Longman provides plenty of contact with other ancient Near Eastern proverbs—exposure that is beneficial to the reader lacking such previous knowledge. Still, I think one of the most exciting features of the commentary is the topical appendix material. It appropriately addresses the lack of a clear overarching structure within the book and allows the readers to study the Proverbs thematically. Each topic within this section begins with a list of passages addressing the subject, followed by a brief discussion that seeks to synthesize the given topic across Proverbs holistically. Of course, lengthier discussions on each passage can be found in the commentary proper, but this is an indispensable addition to the commentary that the pastor and teacher should covet for years to come.

The Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms: Proverb by Tremper Longman III is easily one of the best single-volume commentaries on Proverbs available. It presents everything needed in a commentary of this size and executes the task with precision. It is readable, informative, and practically useful for readers of all interests and backgrounds. It will benefit both the seasoned and novice reader, and continue to do so for years to come. If you are looking for a commentary that is both engaging and edifying, and one that won’t elude value for such reading, this is a commentary full of riches that you will not want to overlook in the process. It comes highly recommended.

 

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

Review: Introducing World Religions

22504659Charles E. Farhadian is professor of world religions and Christian Mission at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. Farhadian has studied at Seattle Pacific University (BA), Yale University (MDIV), and Boston University (PhD). He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Christianity, Islam, and Nationalism in Indonesia (Routledge, 2005), Christian Worship Worldwide: Expanding Horizons, Deepening Practices (Eerdmans, 2007), The Testimony Project: Papua (Deiyai Press, 2007), Introducing World Christianity (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), and the Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion (Oxford University Press, 2014). Most recently, Farhadian has released what is sure to be the standard undergraduate-level introduction to world religions from the Christian perspective—Introducing World Religions: A Christian Engagement (Baker Academic, 2015).

Introducing World Religions begins with an excellent introduction to prepare the reader for the forthcoming journey into the religious landscape of the contemporary world. This initial section, the persistence of religion, appropriately positions the reader and introduces the study of religion as an academic discipline. First, Farhadian acknowledges the difficulty that arises when one seeks to definitively define “religion.”  Consequently, Farhadian follows the eight characteristics of religion articulated by Watson King (Encyclopedia of Religion, “Religion,” 12:284): (1) traditionalism, (2) myth and symbols, (3) ideas of salvation, (4) sacred objects and places, (5) sacred actions, (6) sacred writings, (7) sacred community, and (8) sacred experience. Second, Farhadian briefly explores the numerous contexts in which the study of religion is discussed (psychological, social, cultural, historical, and environmental), as well as the various theories of religion (psychological, sociological, anthropological, and economical) articulated and affected by figures such as Sigmund Freud, Emile Durkheim, and Karl Marx.

Introducing World Religion covers eight major world religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Taoism and Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and dedicates an entire chapter to new religious movements (i.e. Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientology, etc.). Each chapter has four dedicated sections (contemporary snapshot, origins and concepts, worship and practice, and modern movements) and closes with an annotated timeline, key terms, and a further reading bibliography. Throughout each individual chapter, the reader will encounter a number of important terms that Farhadian has highlighted and defined. These terms are also listed at the end of each chapter and included in the glossary with a brief definition for quick reference. Also, as the subtitle alludes, the reader will encounter frequent “Christian Reflection” sections in which Farhadian helps aid the reader to think through various issues from a Christian worldview. These sections are brief and differ in usefulness, but the reader is sure to appreciate the sensitivity of their inclusion for the overall purpose of the book.

There are always limitations with the amount of content that can be included in an introductory work such as Introducing World Religions. This is especially the case when an author is looking to engage with other religious systems from a specific worldview. Still, I believe that Farhadian has maintained the needed balance between introduction and reflection with precision, and the reader will benefit greatly from his attention to detail. Furthermore, consistently Farhadian exhibits a clear desire to engage the landscape of world religions from a Christian worldview, and do so in such a way that the reader is encouraged to think critically as they interact with other religious systems near and far. The content within the book is clear and well organized for this task. Add a whole host of full-color illustrations, photographs, tables, maps, and sidebar discussions, and you have the recipe for a world-class textbook.

If you are a teacher or professor looking for an engaging textbook that will help you students shape a Christian worldview while engaging world religions, then Introducing Word Religions by Charles E. Farhadian is certain to be a welcomed addition to your course curriculum. If you are a student, pastor, or interested layman who is looking for a solid introduction to the religious landscape of the contemporary world, then Farhadian has provided a top-contender. Introducing World Religions is clear, stimulating, and bursting with useful information for readers of all backgrounds. It comes highly recommended.

 

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

Book Review: Handbook of Religion

18652917Finding a reliable resource that surveys the religious landscape of this contemporary world is a daunting task. Not because there is a lack of resources, but because there is a lack of good resources. In fact, the options for such resources are almost beyond count, but the content therein is often mediocre at best. This is true across the board for all faith systems who actively seek to engage other religious worldviews. However, with the release of Handbook of Religion: A Christian Engagement with Traditions, Teachings, and Practices (Baker Academic, 2014), the once difficult task of sifting through growing mountains of possibilities for useful information has become a whole lot easier for the Christian. Handbook of Religion is a comprehensive compendium of Christian engagement with the various manifestations of religious belief around the world. This type of book is nothing new to the market, but the judicious execution and intentionality interaction of this resource are unique beyond anything else currently available.

Handbook of Religion opens with a strong introduction to properly orient and familiarize the reader with the Christian engagement of other religions. The book is then divided into four subsequent sections: (1) World Religions, (2) Indigenous Religions, (3) New Religious Movements, and (4) Essays. First, the “World Religions” section seeks to interact with some of the major world religions from a Christian perspective (i.e. Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam). Each major world religion is discussed in detail, including interaction with the history, beliefs, and practices of the religious system. Moreover, specific chapters on each major religion are dedicated to Christian contact, theological exchanges, current issues, and adherent essays. Second, the “Indigenous Religions” section seeks to interact with some of the native religions around the world. This section follows the same format as the prior, but the religions are discussed geographically as opposed to with specified titles (i.e. India, China, Europe, Africa, Oceania, etc.). Third, the “New Religious Movements” (NRM) section seeks to interact with some of the more recent religious phenomenon around the world (i.e. Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Satanism, Atheism, etc.). This section, like the prior two sections, follows the same chapter format of discussion. Lastly, the “Essays” section provides a number of useful essays concerned with religious engagement with broader social issues (i.e. science, gender, violence, human rights, environment, etc.).

Handbook of Religion is prosperous in the execution of the intended goal for several reasons. First, the breadth of interaction in this resources reaches every corner of the earth—literally. It is easy to find resources that engage the major world religions from a Christian perspective, but rarely will the reader encounter a comprehensive look into the indigenous religions. This will better prepare the sensitive reader to serve in these areas. Second, the vast diversity of contributors to this volume is incredibly valuable for the reader. A total of fifty-five of the top religion scholars in the world, representing a broad spectrum of Christianity and other religious faith systems, contributed to this volume under the editorial guidance of Terry C. Muck, Harold A. Netland, and Gerald R. McDermott. Third, the inclusion of an “Adherent Essay” brings balance and insight where balance and insight is needed. Fourth, each essay concludes with a brief bibliography. This will help the curious reader investigate deeper as interest arises. Fifth, the generous number of “Study Aid” sections throughout the volume bring the reader in contact with helpful charts, maps, timelines, and sidebar discussions. I personally found the timelines to be extremely helpful when examining the history of the religions, and I think the reader will as well. Lastly, the layout of the volume is extremely user-friendly. This may not seem like a big deal for most, but the content on a page is only as good as it is able to be consumed by the reader. If the content is a burden to consume it is nearly useless. This volume delivers solid and digestible content in an inviting and engaging environment—a combination not often seen, and rarely executed well.

Handbook of Religion: A Christian Engagement with Traditions, Teachings, and Practices may appear as just another mediocre world religion textbook from a Christian perspective, but don’t let your presumptions lead you astray. This volume is comprehensive in scope and judicious in examination. Muck, Netland, and McDermott have assembled an appropriate team for the task of this resource and the reader will benefit greatly from having it on their bookshelf. Normally a review on a book of this caliber would conclude with a recommendation to pastors, teachers, and students, but this would be highly misdirected. If you are a Christian living in this world and engaging those around you, this book should be in arms reach of your nightly reading chair and consulted often.

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