Review: The Mission of God

788754Christopher J. H. Wright (PhD, University of Cambridge) is International Ministries Director of the Langham Partnership, which provides literature, scholarships, and homiletical training for pastors in Majority World churches and seminaries. Wright is an internationally recognized Old Testament scholar, an Anglican clergyman, and the author of several important books, including Christian Mission in the Modern World, Old Testament Ethics and the People of God, Knowing the Father Through the Old Testament, Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament, and Knowing the Holy Spirit Through the Old Testament.  

A common theme that seems to have characterized the heartbeat of Wright’s scholarship is the mission of God as a biblical-theological framework that motivates the Christian life. It is here that Wright’s magisterial volume, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative offers readers an unparalleled look into the overarching metanarrative of the Scriptures—God’s redemptive plan to restore all creation to himself.

The Mission of God is separated into four major sections. The initial section functions to set the conversation on the proper path. Wright explores the identity of a missional hermeneutic and looks to encourage readers to observe the biblical-theological theme of mission throughout the Bible.The second major section is an exploration into the rationale of the mission of God. That is, God has always sought to make himself known to his creation, and thus, the mission of God is built within the very fabric of the biblical metanarrative. Wright explores this reality in the Old Testament and the New, and then uses idolatry as a type of test case to display God’s desire to be known as the one true God among the nations.

The third major section comprises the bulk of the book and shifts attention from the mission of God to the people of mission. Much of this section is devoted to developing a portrait of mission in the Old Testament (although Wright does discuss the implications of the New Covenant and the mission of God in the New Testament). Wright gives attention to Noah, Abraham, Moses, the Exodus, the Jubilee year, and David. The final major section brings attention the arena of the mission of God, namely God’s creation and the nations. Wright offers a consistent and refreshing presentation of God’s desire for people from all of the inhabitants of this world and directs the reader’s attention to God’s consistent heartbeat for the nations in the Old Testament and the New.

The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative by Christopher J. H. Wright is an excellent example of how biblical theology can bring purpose to the Christian life. Wright guides the reader from Genesis to Revelation and provides a consistent and compelling portrait of God’s missional heart for the nations. The Mission of God is a book that will open eyes to the missional undertone of the biblical narrative and encourage readers to participate the mission of God. The reader will appreciate the heavy dependence on the Old Testament and Wright’s unique ability to capture the whole of Scripture in his forward-looking approach. It comes highly recommended!

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Review: Ephesians (NTL)

13746539Stephen E. Fowl is Professor and Chair of Theology in the Department of Theology at Loyola University, Maryland. Fowl received his MA from Wheaton Graduate School and PhD from the University of Sheffield, where he completed his dissertation on the Christ-Hymn material in the Pauline corpus. Fowl is the author of numerous books and articles, including a commentary on Philippians in the Two Horizons New Testament Commentary series. Most recently, Fowl joined the ranks of the top contributors in the New Testament Library series with his excellent volume on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

Ephesians: A Commentary is confidently positioned as one of the most useful volumes to arise out of the New Testament Library (NTL) series in recent years. The commentary begins with a quick introduction that tackles all of the expected introductory matters with precision. Fowl is fairly conservative in his approach, but he hesitates to take a firm position on Pauline authorship. Fowl explains, “I find the arguments so finely balanced that my decision about this could vary from day to day” (p. 28). One of the more interesting angles Fowl takes to discuss the authorship of the letter is the use of the Old Testament and its relationship to the undisputed letters of Paul. Fowl concludes the introduction with a section on the recipients and occasion of the letter, and again, he remains largely agnostic after evaluating the evidence.

The commentary proper is judiciously presented. Two features deserve mention here. First and foremost, like the other volumes in the NTL series, Fowl provides the reader with an original translation and textual notes. I’ve continually found this to be one of the most helpful features of the NTL series, and Fowl does not disappoint. Fowl’s textual notes are lengthy and well positioned to provide the keen reader with the information needed to establish the sometimes difficult text. Second, the exegetical handling of the text is brief and pointed, and Fowl quickly moves towards theological exposition. This shift in focus will be predictable for those familiar with Fowl’s work within the theological interpretation of Scripture movement.

There is no shortage in sight when it comes to choosing a commentary on the book of Ephesians. Still, with the market as saturated as it is, Ephesians: A Commentary by Stephen E. Fowl is an option well worth exploring. Fowl is both clear and to-the-point in his exegesis of the text, and his presentation is one of the more balanced critical approaches to the letter. While I don’t see this volume superseding Hoehner (2002), Lincoln (1990), or Thielman (2010) in its usefulness, I foresee its use being well-positioned for the busy pastor looking for theological application that is rooted exegetically within the text. If you are in the market for a well-written commentary that will get you into the text and theological insights quickly, Fowl’s work will outfit you well. It comes highly recommended!

Review: I & II Timothy and Titus (NTL)

14876101Raymond F. Collins is a Catholic priest of the Diocese of Providence and Professor Emeritus of New Testament at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. Collins has authored numerous books, including several New Testament commentaries, such as First Corinthians in the Sacra Pagina series (2007) and Second Corinthians in the Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament series (2013). Collins has written broadly in the field of New Testament and Pauline Studies, and thus the present commentary on the Pastoral Epistles is situated firmly within his academic wheelhouse.

As part of the highly acclaimed New Testament Library series, indeed the inaugural volume of the series, I & II Timothy and Titus: A Commentary is exemplar in almost every respect. Collins opens with a brief introduction to the Pastoral Epistles before treating each epistle individually. Unsurprisingly, Collins assumes the so-called “scholarly consensus” concerning the authorship of the epistles as occurring sometime after the death of Paul. Thus, for Collins, the composition of the Pastoral Epistles is pseudepigraphical in nature and the author is appropriately designated by the title “the Pastor.” Those that touchdown outside of this critical consensus concerning the Pauline authorship will appreciate Collins’ survey of the issue, but likely find his conclusions lacking in argumentative substance. Collins likewise discusses the nature of the Pastorals and their difference from other epistles, the literary from of the epistles, etc. Again, the introduction is brief, but Collins does well to cover some of the necessary grounds.

The commentary proper handles each epistle individually and includes a condensed introduction on each epistle, an outline of the content, and the treatment of the text. Collins has also included ten excursus sections scattered throughout the volume. The excursus sections cover topics such as Christians in the world, faith, church order, the Pastor’s perspective on women, etc. Much of Collins’ treatment is flavored with a reliance upon an underlying presence of Hellenistic motifs within the Pastorals. This is brought out several times in the commentary, including the notorious passage on women in 1 Timothy 2:9-15. Collins approach is unique, and the reader will likely benefit from the vantage point that he presents. However, one of the more disappointing aspects of the volume is the lack of an author translation (NRSV is used) and the accompanied textual notes that are present in the subsequent volumes of the series. This is particularly evident with passages such as Titus 2:13, which typically should have provided an alternative translation and commentary around the reasoning of such. Both are unfortunately lacking here.

I & II Timothy and Titus: A Commentary by Raymond F. Collins is an excellent commentary. It provides a clear and consistent treatment of the Pastorals from a critical, Catholic perspective. In any case, the reader should appreciate Collins’ approach, as it will compliment other volumes on the Pastorals extremely well. I don’t see this volume replacing Mounce (2000), Knight (1992), or Towner (2006), but it is certainly worth the investment for those interested in the Pastorals, It comes highly recommended!

Review: Intermediate Greek Grammar

27066901David L. Mathewson (Ph.D., University of Aberdeen) is Associate Professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary. Mathewson has written two important volumes on the Book of Revelation, including Verbal Aspect in the Book of Revelation (Brill, 2010) and Revelation: A Handbook on the Greek Text (Baylor University Press, 2016) in the highly acclaimed Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament series. Elodie Ballantine Emig (MA, Denver Seminary) is an instructor of New Testament Greek at Denver Seminary and has been teaching New Testament Greek for over three decades. Together Mathewson and Emig have delivered an intermediate Greek textbook that students will enjoy as a first-stop resource for building a transitional foundation from basic to advanced Greek.

A number of helpful intermediate Greek grammars have been released this year. The most recent of which is the multi-authored Going Deeper with New Testament Greek: An Intermediate Study of the Grammar and Syntax of the New Testament (B&H, 2016). This upsurge in linguistic attention is a welcomed reality for Greek enthusiasts everywhere, and Mathewson and Emig have added a unique contribution to this excitement. The differentiator is observed in the minimalist approach Mathewson and Emig have sought to establish, which is further accompanied by an informed understanding of the recent advances in the study of NT Greek. The combination of these two characteristics offers a clear, up-to-date, and student-friendly Greek grammar that provides the reader with an enough information to build a foundation without taking a journey too far into the grammatical forest of concepts and labels.

As mentioned above, one of the distinctive features of this volume is its minimalistic approach to Greek grammar. That is, Mathewson and Emig have sought to eliminate the perceived duty of a grammar to “uncover the most meaning possible in each grammatical form and construct,” which is frequently supplemented by “the multiplication of categories, labels, and rules for their usage” (xvii). Consequently, Mathewson and Emig have “kept categories and labels to a minimum” for the purpose of relieving “the student from the burden of learning an unwieldy list of case or tense labels,” which “greatly streamlines the choices and categories for which the students are responsible, thereby freeing them up to focus on entire text instead of isolated details” (xix). In short, while recognizing the importance of extended categories and labels, Mathewson and Emig have taken a different approach to better assist the reader in grasping the larger grammatical picture.

The benefits of Intermediate Greek Grammar are numerous. First, and probably foremost, as one who has read and reviewed a number of intermediate Greek grammars (including Going Deeper with New Testament Greek), the minimalist approach that Mathewson and Emig have presented really does free the reader from the burden of rigorous case and label memorization. Not that such should be completely ruled out of one’s linguistic journey (in fact, it is imperative), but for many readers, such will be more applicable after the minimalist foundation is laid. Second, Mathewson and Emig have provided ample “fresh examples” throughout the book. That is, whenever possible, Mathewson and Emig have sought to use unconventional examples to illustrate the concepts. This choice will be helpful for readers familiar with the landscape of Greek grammars and the traditional passages used therein. Third, the “For Practice” section that concludes each chapter intentionally seeks to position the reader to move beyond isolated passages to longer portions of Scripture, often highlighting the concept discussed in the chapter. That said, I think the minimalist mindset may have overflowed too far into this section, as the scope of the exercises is just that, minimal.

Intermediate Greek Grammar: Syntax for Students of the New Testament by David L. Mathewson and Elodie Ballantine Emig is a breath of fresh “grammatical” air. Mathewson and Emig have provided readers with an intermediate Greek grammar that seeks to bring the student into the grammatical world with minimal distractions. The result is a clear, student-friendly grammar uniquely submerged in the recent advances in New Testament Greek. While the minimalist approach should not be the final stop in one’s linguistic journey, it is well-situated as the first. It would be difficult to recommend any other resource as a proper stepping stone into the world of intermediate Greek grammar. This book promises to establish a foundation of fertile soil with which other traditional New Testament Greek grammars will plant seeds and continue to grow. It could not be recommended more highly!

Review: Partners in Christ

26267453John G. Stackhouse Jr. is Samuel J. Mikolaski Professor of Religious Studies and Dean of Faculty Development at Crandall University in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. Stackhouse received his M.A. from Wheaton College and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He is probably most well-known in the United States for his contribution to the ongoing debate regarding the nature of Hell, namely through his work with Rethinking Hell. Stackhouse has published more than a few peer-reviewed articles on a variety of subjects, and authored, co-authored, edited, or co-edited numerous books—one of the most recent of which is a revised, expanded, and newly named edition of his influential work Finally Feminist.

Partners in Christ: A Conservative Case for Egalitarianism evenhandedly explores the contours of the evangelical gender debate. As the title and subtitle suggest, Stackhouse advocates for an egalitarian position of biblical gender equality. However, Stackhouse’s approach therein gazes past the polemic tenor typically associated with the debate to provide a hermeneutical basis for recognizing the issues amid a diverse corpus of writings. For Stackhouse, the cultural movement towards egalitarianism seems to become a resting place for his argument. Certainly, he is more nuanced in his presentation, but much of his presuppositions as he approaches the subject appear to be rooted here. He covers almost all the standard objections to the egalitarian position as he builds his case. However, strangely enough, he doesn’t seem to interact much with the claims that Paul grounds his argument in creation rather than culture.

There is much to be praised about this book. First, and probably foremost, the reader will truly appreciate the level of honesty that Stackhouse brings to the discussion—even affirming both sides of the debate at points. Second, Stackhouse does well to identify the so-called “pattern of doubleness” throughout the biblical narrative. This “pattern of doubleness” usually involves “a complex interweaving of both the standard privileging of men and of the affirmation of men and women as equal to each other” (p. 81). It affords a Stackhouse the ability to honestly examine the cultural limitations of the biblical text, while at the same time illuminate the equality underlying the biblical authors. Third, Stackhouse is a gifted communicator and his work on this subject is clearly established and well-executed. It’s an evenhanded and enjoyable read that is sure to be recommended for years to come.

Partners in Christ: A Conservative Case for Egalitarianism by John G. Stackhouse Jr. is a truly exciting treatment of an age-old debate. The reader will get what they expect and so much more. This book should be engaged from either side of the discussion as a model of intellectual honesty. If you are interested or engaged in the gender equality debate, please don’t pass this book up. It comes highly recommended from this complementarian!                    

 

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: Discovering Biblical Equality

689390The role of women in ministry has been a debated topic within evangelical circles for over a century. Numerous books and articles have been written on both sides of the issue—some more helpful than others. Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementary Without Hierarchy edited by Ronald W. Pierce, Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, and Gordon D. Fee is unquestionably one of the most accommodating defenses of biblical equality or egalitarianism one the market today.

Discovering Biblical Equality is a collaborative effort of some of the most well-known and respected biblical scholars and theologians associated with the egalitarian position, including the likes of Richard Hess, Gordon Fee, Craig Keener, I. Howard Marshall, and much more. Divided into five major sections, Discovering Biblical Equality addresses historical, biblical, theological, cultural, and practical issues related to the ongoing debate. Each of the major sections includes several articles on various topics or sub-issues, and each is aligned with appropriate contributors for the specific matter addressed. Like nearly all multi-authored works, some articles are more helpful than others. However, Discovering Biblical Equality is well-rounded in its choice of topics and contributors, and thus, fairs better than similar multi-authored works.

As someone who identifies as a complementarian (the position that this book is arguing against), I found myself in fundamental disagreement with almost every article (which was expected before engaging with it). However, I was thoroughly impressed with the level of interaction with the other side that is present in this volume. A number of articles stood out, including Craig Keener’s treatment of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, Richard Hess’ treatment of Genesis 1-3, Linda Belleville’s treatment of 1 Timothy 2:11-15, Kevin Giles’ treatment on the subordination of Christ and the subordination of women, and Gordon Fee’s treatment on hermeneutics and the gender debate. That said, from what I can tell, nearly everything in this book has been addressed from the complementarian side prior to its publication (see Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth by Wayne Grudem).

Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementary without Hierarchy edited by Ronald W. Pierce, Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, and Gordon D. Fee is a worthwhile investment for anyone interested in the gender debate. The editors have brought together the best in the field to tackle the most pressing questions driving the discussion. While it may not be groundbreaking by way of new argumentation or evidence, Discovering Biblical Equality is clearly established as the best introductory work from an egalitarian perspective. 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: Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview

148102Together with the disciplines of biblical studies and theology, philosophy is widely recognized as an indispensable model for constructing a Christian worldview. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview accompanies the reality of this statement to the examination room. What is accomplished by such scrutiny? The result is this definitive introduction by two of the most qualified voices in contemporary Christian philosophy, J. P. Moreland, and William Lane Craig.

Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview is divided into six major sections: (1) Introduction, (2) Epistemology, (3) Metaphysics, (4) Philosophy of Science, (5) Ethics, and (6) Philosophy of Religion and Philosophy of Theology. Each section (apart from the introductory section) contains a number of important chapters. Throughout the book, the reader will discover a number of charts and diagrams to help illustrate the concepts being discussed. Keywords are also bolded to help readers recognize their importance in context, and each chapter ends with a summary and a checklist of terms and concepts. Moreland and Craig close the volume with a “further reading” bibliography specific for each chapter and a few indexes. However, what is missing from this volume, in my opinion, is the inclusion of chapter summary questions and a glossary of the terms and concepts used throughout the book. These additions would make the volume more accessible for classroom purposes and self-reflection.

I am admittedly not one with a deep interest in philosophy. I recognize its importance and enjoy its discussions, but I tend to spend more time in the world of biblical studies and other related disciplines than philosophy. That said, I found Moreland and Craig to be extremely accessible and clear in their presentation throughout, even in some of the complex areas of epistemology and metaphysics. However, it should also be noted that this is certainly a college-level (possibly even a graduate-level) philosophy textbook and it does anticipate the reader is at least vaguely familiar with its material. Moreland and Craig do well in guiding the novice reader, but there is truly only so much guidance that can be offered if significant ground is going to be covered, and significant ground is covered in this volume.

Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview by J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig is a first-rate, one-stop reference work worth occupying the shelf space of any serious student of philosophy, theology, or apologetics. It’s not a resource that everyone will enjoy. But, for those who will, Moreland and Craig have provided a treasure-trove of philosophical riches that will effectively establish a foundation for the Christian worldview. 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: Theology of Work Commentary Series

screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-9-41-23-pmWe spend more time working than all other activities combined. Work is an essential component of daily life and paramount to our identity as individuals created in the image of God. Still, there appear to be few things more problematic to reconcile with the Christian life than work. Why is there such a vast chasm standing between work and faith? How should faith and work connect and be nurtured within the Christian life? What does the Bible say about work and how should it influence and shape the way Christians work? These are the sort of questions that have motivated the existence of the Theology of Work Project, and propelled the development of a truly unique and valuable collaborative effort.

Theology of Work Bible Commentary is the shared fruit of both seasoned biblical scholarship and professional insight. Some of the more noteworthy contributors include Daniel I. Block, Duane A. Garrett, Jonathan T. Pennington, Bruce Waltke, and more. Still, the most unique aspect of this commentary is discovered in the wider roster of individuals involved. The Theology of Work Project brought together a team of leading executives from various professions, ministry leaders, and biblical scholars, and then tasked them with the responsibility of exploring the whole Bible and building a bridge between the workplace and the Christian life. The result was a one of a kind commentary that systematically pointed the reader towards the joy and responsibility of work as worship to God.

There is much to be praised about the Theology of Work Bible Commentary. It is both scholarly and in-depth while being accessible and immediately applicable to readers of all backgrounds. In fact, the practical nature of this commentary is the most praiseworthy feature to be enjoyed by all readers—in particular for the working pastors and the ordinary working Christians. The editorial team has done the readers a tremendous service by removing layers of scholarly jargon without compromising the scholarship within, and thus producing a commentary that is useful for all with a substance that will last. Each section of the commentary is easily digestible and examined within larger units of the biblical book.

I was shocked to discover how much the Bible had to say about the nature and function of ordinary work. It is true that work consumes the majority of our daily lives, and yet, our faith is the foundation from which we are called to operate therein. In other words, work and faith are not mutually exclusive, but rather should be understood as a unified framework with which we are to view the world. That is, our faith demonstrates itself most clearly in the work we do! The overarching heartbeat of this reality is traceable from Genesis to Revelation, but the Theology of Work Bible Commentary offers more than an explanation of this truth. The reader will discover clear and practical examples of how a proper theology of work can function to bridge a gap that is far too often avoided.

Theology of Work Bible Commentary is a unique resource that provides valuable insight and practical guidance into the function and role of work in the Christian life. From Genesis to Revelation, the reader will be encouraged and empowered to both embrace and rejoice in the God-given responsibility of work. Human beings have been commissioned by God to exercise dominion over the earth, and to be fruitful and multiply. God has commanded those created in his image to operate as people with a clear and identifiable theology of work. It should be deeply ingrained into the very fabric of our being. This is a whole Bible commentary that will quickly turn that command into reality as the readers’ eyes are opened to the significance of work as a mode of worship and service in the Christian life. This is a must have series for every pastor looking to encourage his congregation to live beyond Sunday. It comes highly recommended!!

 

I received a review copy of this series 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: A Time to Keep

29894929Ephraim Radner is professor of Historical Theology at Wycliffe College, Toronto. Radner earned both an MDiv and PhD from Yale University. He is the author of several books and articles, including A Brutal Unity: The Spiritual Politics of the Christian Church, The World in the Shadow of God: An Introduction to Christian Natural Theology, and the volume on the book of Leviticus as part of the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible. Most recently, Radner released an exciting anthropological investigation into the nature and function of mankind in relation to his time and being here on earth.

A Time to Keep: Theology, Morality, and the Shape of Human Life explores significant territory and wrestles with noteworthy questions—many of which we may have never even thought to ask. For Radner, mankind is a relational being created and shaped by God for redemption and death. That is, as creatures, mortality should continually remind us that death is but a doorstep away. Because the number of days are finite for God’s creatures, time here on earth is to be understood as both vocational and purposeful. Thus, Radner guides the reader to reflect upon the frailty of life as it was intentionally created by God and challenges them to make the most of it for him daily. Life, for Radner, is graciously given by God for his glory, and thus, he has sought to establish his presence in this world through the specific nature and function of his creatures. Still, Radner does much more than establish the above reality. He also spends a good amount of time and energy exploring the Bible to construct a biblical portrait of humanity, including issues related to human sexuality, gender, and even bodily fluids (yes, bodily fluids) in relation to cleanliness and Leviticus 15.

Radner has creatively (and I would even go as far as to say, masterfully) woven some of the most intricate details of biblical anthropology with that discovered in the overarching implications of human life that is both purposeful and sustained for divine fruitfulness. The reader will likely leave with numerous questions, but a new perspective on life should be the Radner’s guarantee. A Time to Keep is a book that (while more advanced than some may choose to enjoy) will deeply encourage your heart and enrich your understanding of God’s creative work in mankind. Radner effectively teaches both the heart and the head, and thus succeeds in transforming a worldview that recognizes the real point of life. This is a book worth weighing through! 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.