Review: Dictionary of Christianity and Science

30649305Dictionary of Christianity and Science is the collective work of over 140 international scholars brought together under the editorial oversight of Paul Copan, Tremper Longman III, Christopher L. Reese, and Michael Strauss. Dictionary of Christianity and Science contains some of the highest standards of research and review, and presents a fair-minded assessment of nearly every corner of the intersection between the Christian worldview and modern science. Together with over 450 articles written on key terms, theories, individuals, debates, and more, by leading scholars and experts in the field, Dictionary of Christianity and Science has rightly positioned itself as the definitive on science and Christian belief.

The organization and format of the Dictionary of Christianity and Science is superb and unlike any other dictionary I’ve seen or used. First, the entries are well-balanced and the contributors are top-tier in the field of the topics they addressed. This is of course of first importance when it comes to any dictionary of this caliber, but this is especially the case for one that boasts itself as a definitive work. Second, the format and organization of Dictionary of Christianity and Science is easy to use and ideal for a resource of this scope. Apart from standard articles on key terms, theories, individuals, and such, the editors have also included multi-view essays on a number of controversial topics—most of which pertain to various aspects of the creation/evolution debate. Additionally, there are introductory articles that function differently than a standard essay and focus on the central facts of a topic in a shorter and more concise form. Third, as one would expect coming to a dictionary, Dictionary of Christianity and Science provides solid, succinct answers to somewhat complex and challenging topics. This provides a clear basis for both understanding and further investigation, which can be explored in the curated bibliography that follows each essay. Lastly, the ground covered in Dictionary of Christianity and Science is simply amazing for its size. To be fair, it is small print crammed into tight double columns, but the riches of information that can be harvested from its pages is simply incredible. Readers will find something new and exciting, or at least interesting, on every page of this dictionary.

While the praises for Dictionary of Christianity and Science certainly outweigh its failed opportunities, there are at least two areas I found difficult or unsatisfying as I interacted with its content over the last few months. First, although there is a decent cross-reference system (using bold text throughout), I found that the navigation between the articles was not as easy as it could have because of some of the sub-titles within articles (e.g. Age of the Universe and Earth [Billions-of-Years View]; p. 28). Also, when I first began reading through the dictionary, I found the bolded text to be distracting and overused in some cases. This turned out to be only a momentary discomfort as I continued to use the resource. Second, I found the “References and Recommended Reading” section to be lacking in many cases, and even a bit unbalanced at times. While I’m neither a scientist nor a student of science, I am familiar with much of the literature and names from that side of the discussion, and would have liked to have seen maybe a bit more representation in the bibliography. That said, what is listed, as far as I could tell during my use of the resource, is well-positioned to point the reader in the right direction.

Apart from a few minor (possible) shortcomings, Dictionary of Christianity and Science edited by Paul Copan, Tremper Longman III, Christopher L. Reese, and Michael Strauss is a fantastic resource that will be unlike anything else on your shelf. The contributors to this volume are to be commended and the editors are to be praised for their work in bringing this phenomenal dictionary into publication. If you are interested in the intersection between the Christian worldview and modern science, then Dictionary of Christianity and Science should be at the top of your wish list and kept within an arm’s reach. It will be used often and unsurpassed for the foreseeable future, and it comes highly recommended!

Review: No God but One

27840555Nabeel Qureshi is a New York Times best-selling author and an internationally recognized speaker. Qureshi received an MD from Eastern Virginia Medical School, an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University, an MA in Religion from Duke University, and is currently pursuing a PhD in New Testament studies at Oxford University. Qureshi is well-known Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity. It was here that he recounted much of the story of his faith conversion from Islam to Christianity. Now, in this much anticipated sequel, Qureshi provides readers with an outline of the evidence that ultimately moved his heart away from Allah and towards Jesus.

No God But One: Allah or Jesus? addresses the major questions at the interface of Islam and Christianity. The book is divided into ten specific questions: (1) Sharia or Gospel? (2) Tawhid or the Trinity? (3) Muhammad or Jesus? (4) The Quran or the Bible? (5) Jihad or the Crusades? (6) Did Jesus die on the cross? (7) Did Jesus rise from the dead? (8) Did Jesus claim to be God? (9) Is Muhammad a Prophet of God? (10) Is the Quran the word of God? The breadth of coverage is impressive and the reader will certainly benefit from Qureshi’s lucid writing.

While Qureshi doesn’t address every concerning issue related to the Muslim/Christian dialogue, he does cover most of the major issues the reader should be familiar with in the conversation if they are approaching this book with questions. Not to mention, this book is slightly narratival in scope, and thus, Qureshi is primarily concerned with walking the reader through the theological and historical questions that ultimately persuaded him to faith in Christ. This is a benefit for the target audience. Qureshi is engaging and careful in his presentation, and he does well to balance need-to-know information without getting “too academic.” This will be considered both a strength and a weakness for most readers—a strength in that Qureshi has provided an introduction that requires little intellectual taxation and will be useful for ministry; a weakness in that a popular level book of this caliber will ultimately leave some readers left wanting.

No God But One: Allah or Jesus? by Nabeel Qureshi is a much anticipated sequel that offers the reader an honest appraisal of some of the major questions that continue to linger at the interface of Islam and Christianity. Qureshi is lucid and informative without being overbearing and overly academic. It is clear that Qureshi has sincerely wrestled with these questions before bringing the reader into the journey. While Qureshi clearly affirms a Christian bias given his faith journey, if you are looking for an honest and balanced introduction to the Muslim/Christian dialogue from a somewhat autobiographical perspective, Nabeel Qureshi’s No God But One: Allah or Jesus? is a book I would highly recommend engaging.

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!

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: The Baptist Story

23492913The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement by Anthony L. Chute, Nathan A. Finn, and Michael A. G. Haykin is a landmark textbook on the history of the Baptist movement. Chute, Finn, and Haykin guide the reader through roughly four hundred years of Baptist history characterized by three key interrelated themes: “promoting liberty of conscience, following Christ’s will in our individual lives and churches, and proclaiming the gospel everywhere” (p. 344). Still, Chute, Finn, and Haykin are well aware that Baptists haven’t always lived up to these ideals, and to the benefit of the reader, the authors aren’t afraid of being transparent along the way.

The Baptist Story is divided into four major sections: (1) Baptists in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, (2) Baptists in the Nineteenth Century, (3) Baptists in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries, and (4) Baptist Beliefs. The majority of the book is devoted to the earlier years of the Baptist movement, namely the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, as these years are instrumental to the modern expression of the Baptist story. Chute, Finn, and Haykin do the reader a favor therein by integrating stories of non-English speaking Baptists, ethnic minorities, women, and minority theological traditions within the context of historic, orthodox Christianity.

One of the clearest strengths of The Baptist Story is its treatment of the African-American Baptist tradition. Chute, Finn, and Haykin rightly credit George Liele, a freed slave turned Baptist missionary, with being the pioneer of the Baptist missionary movement. Liele planted a church in Savannah, Georgia, prior to the close of the eighteenth century, before relocating to Jamaica as an indentured servant, where he formed a small congregation in 1783—a decade before the missionary work of William Carey in India. The story and impact of George Liele is both encouraging and inspirational, and Chute, Finn, and Haykin do well in making it a central treatment of the book.

There are a number of other strengths that could be mentioned, including the usefulness of the volume within the classroom setting, the clear and concise communication of each of the most significant events and themes within the Baptist movement, the intentional desire to uncover and unearth unfamiliar faces within the Baptist tradition, the utilization of photographs and textboxes throughout, and much more. However, the omission of several important figures and events proves to be an unfortunate weakness to an otherwise outstanding book. For example, while Chute, Finn, and Haykin rightly recognize R. Albert Mohler as a significant Baptist voice at the turn of the century, it would have been appropriate to say more than a few sentences about the controversy at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary when Mohler became president (p. 289). For some these omissions will be minor, but for others, the omissions of such significant events and figures may compromise the usefulness of the book. I stand with the former.

The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement by Anthony L. Chute, Nathan A. Finn, and Michael A. G. Haykin is an excellent and engaging journey through the historical landscape of one of today’s most influential religious groups. Chute, Finn, and Haykin are well-positioned tour guides for this journey, and the reader is certain to benefit greatly. If you are looking for a book that will educate and encourage your heart toward the mission of Christ, past, present, and future, then this book 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: 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.