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!

Advertisements

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: 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.

Review: Destroyer of the gods

29894928Larry W. Hurtado is Emeritus Professor of New Testament Language, Literature and Theology in the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh. Hurtado has authored numerous books related to early Christianity, including Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity and The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins. Most recently, Hurtado has written a blockbuster of a book and thought-provoking investigation into the distinctiveness of early Christianity within the Greco-Roman context.

Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World is an important and well-thought monograph that explores various aspects of the early Christian movement. The goal of the book is to display the uniqueness of early Christianity in the vast religious landscape of the Greco-Roman world. The book begins with a quick survey of early Christianity through the lenses of non-Christians, including both Jewish and Pagan critiques of Christians. Hurtado concludes, “a good many outsiders, who were the overwhelming majority of the populace, regarded Christians and Christianity as objectionably different and certainly not simply one group among an undifferentiated lot” (p. 35). It is this discovery that establishes the subsequent chapters as the reader is guided through the distinctiveness of early Christian ethics, worship, and more.

The entire book is fascinating and chocked full of rich historical commentary on the Christian movement of the second century. However, one of the most exciting chapters in the book has to do with the early Christian interest with the written word. That is, according to Hurtado, the early Christian movement was particularly interested in books—a “bookish” religion. The implications of this fly in the face of the popular misnomer that early Christians were primarily concerned with oral tradition rather than written words. Early Christianity, according to Hurtado, was uniquely fond of reading, writing, copying, and circulating text. In fact, the modern book likely discovers its origins in the early Christian utilization of the codex. Thus, Hurtado concludes, “the young Christian movement [was] distinctively text oriented in context of the varied religious environment of that time . . . ‘textuality’ was central, and, from the outset, early Christianity was, indeed, ‘a bookish religion’” (p. 141).

Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World by Larry W. Hurtado is a worthwhile investment for anyone interested in early Christianity. Hurtado is usually lucid in his presentation, but this book easily tops the charts of Hurtado’s life works. The reader will likely appreciate Hurtado’s interaction with contemporary scholarship and sensitivity to make the subject matter accessible to a wide range of readership. While much more could surely be said about Hurtado’s treatment of early Christian ethics and worship, in my opinion, the chapter outlined above is alone worth the price of the book. 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: What Christians Ought to Believe

27840609Creeds have functioned as educational instruments in the life of the Christian Church since its inception. One of the most formative of such Creeds, especially within early Christianity was the Apostles’ Creed. It is here that orthodoxy concerning the basic beliefs of the Christian faith has been both preserved and passed to subsequent generations. In What Christians Ought to Believe: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine through the Apostles’ Creed, respected New Testament scholar Michael F. Bird uses the framework of the Apostles’ Creed and establishes a working and palpable summary of core Christianity.

What Christians Ought to Believe is a brief book that would be ideal as an entry level college or adult Sunday school textbook. Bird covers the entirety of the Apostles’ Creed and provides clear and witty (both characteristic of Bird) explanation along the way. For example, the section titled “Believing in the Father” includes numerous subsections, such as the one true God, the triune God, a father of us all, God Almighty, creator and creation, and more. These subsections are functional explanations of the theological implications to be understood (according to Bird) from within the specific line or phrase from the Apostles’ Creed—in this case, “…God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.”

The book opens with a helpful introduction that allows the reader to better grasp the usefulness of Creeds within our increasingly Creed-less Christian culture. This introduction both justifies Bird’s work and sets the stage for the exploration that follows. Each chapter concludes with a summary of the “Story” to bring the pieces of the study together and a recommended reading for further study—many of which will point the reader to Bird’s larger work Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction (Zondervan, 2013). After walking the reader through the various aspects of the Apostles’ Creed, Bird closes the volume with an appendix on the early text and tradition of the Creed and a number of indexes.

Overall, I was very impressed with the brevity and clarity of this volume. Bird is generally an engaging author, and this volume exemplifies that characteristic well. As with any work related to Christian theology, the opportunity for disagreement with the author will arise at numerous points. However, as one who sometimes disagrees with Bird, I found his treatment here both evenhanded and well-informed. Consequently, after some consideration, I will likely be using this book in the near future as the basis for an adult education curriculum. It’s an easy to read, thought-provoking, and engaging introduction to the Christian faith that is firmly grounded in the history of the Christian church. 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.

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.

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: Saving the Bible from Ourselves

26598225Glenn R. Paauw is vice president of Global Bible Engagement at Biblica and senior fellow at the Institute for Bible Reading. He has a deep-seated passion for engaging people in the Bible and allowing such engagement to penetrate everyday life. Saving the Bible from Ourselves: Learning to Read and Live the Bible Well is the fruit of such passions and Paauw’s ambitious attempt to provide a refreshingly new paradigm for everyday Bible engagement.

Saving the Bible from Ourselves introduces seven new perspectives on Bible reading that allow the reader to slowdown and engage the biblical text with intentionality. Paauw’s objective is to help readers rediscover a “big reading” of Scripture. As Paauw explains, “My core argument is that for most of us, most of the time, small readings prevail over big readings . . . small readings [are] those diminished samplings of Scripture in which individuals take in fragmentary bits outside of the Bible’s literary, historical, and dramatic contexts” (p. 11). It is here that the Bible needs saving, according to Paauw. Not because of internal defect or shortcoming, but because small readings have “buried it, boxed it in, wallpapered over it, neutered it, distorted it, isolated it, individualized it, minimized it, misread it, lied about it, debased it and oversold it” (p. 16).

As the book unfolds, Paauw carefully guides the reader towards a multifaceted problem which allows them to observe and implement a resolution that will last. The broader problem can be summarized as follows: (1) the contemporary Bible is far too cluttered and distracting for long periods of digestion; (2) such clutter results in the tendency to read less when our soul desires to read more; (3) such minimal Bible consumption results in a diminished historical and literary awareness, as well as oversight of the larger biblical narrative. It is here that Paauw calls for a Bible reading revolution—a revolution that removes itself from its dependency upon study aids and Bible clutter, and seeks to reengage itself with the bigger picture of the biblical narrative.

Saving the Bible from Ourselves: Learning to Read and Live the Bible Well by Glenn R. Paauw is the type of book that should be received with open arms from anyone serious about their Christian faith. It is a book that will challenge your current reading practices and reorient your heart towards a proper method of Bible engagement. I couldn’t recommend it more!

 

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.