Review: Modern Psychopathologies

28268494Modern Psychopathologies: A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal (second edition) by Barrett W. McRay, Mark A. Yarhouse, and Richard E. Butman brings together the most recent and up-to-date material in psychopathology, and presents it to the reader in as an ideal point of reference for both pastors and clinicians. This second edition builds upon the effectiveness and success of the former edition, while at the same time aligning the content with the most recent editions of the standard references in the field of psychopathology (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [DSM-5] and the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems [ICD-10]). This is a full volume that is both sensitive and informative to issues that color the increasingly relevant world of mental disorders.

Like the first edition, this second edition of Modern Psychopathologies is divided into three major sections. The first section tackles the issues related to “Christian” psychopathology. This section provides a basis for recognizing the placement of psychopathologies in the history of pastoral care, classification of mental disorders, and the relationship between sin and psychopathology in the Christian worldview. This section is absolutely imperative to the reader approaching this volume for assistance from a Christian perspective. The second section comprises the bulk of the book and will function as the most used section for most readers. It is here that classifications of psychopathologies are discussed in detail, including problems in childhood and adolescence, anxiety, the development of self, problems of arising from trauma, sexuality and gender, addiction, and more. This section does well in equipping the reader with the “nuts and bolts” of each classification and provides excellent suggestions on pastoral care. The final section is comprised of a single chapter that functions to cast a forward vision for the study of psychopathology in a world plagued with imperfection, but also redeemable in Christ.

I would consider myself to be no more than an interested bystander to the conversations in this book. That said I am hard pressed to critically engage with the content of this book from the perspective of psychopathology. I simply have to nod and agree with those that have devoted their lives to such pursuits. Nevertheless, I would consider myself equipped to analyze the worldview implications of such conclusions, especially for a volume that claims to be a “comprehensive Christian appraisal.” As a layman it is here that I found the most benefit of this volume. It was easy to read, interesting, informative, faithfully balanced, and sensitive to the end user. Moreover, the organization of the volume is perfectly situated to achieve the authors’ goal. As an integrated approach, Modern Psychopathologies is clearly written, expertly informed, and unashamedly biblical.

This is a volume that both pastors and clinicians will enjoy and use often. If you are either, and you are looking for an up-to-date evaluation of this increasingly relevant field of study from a Christian perspective, Modern Psychopathologies: A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal (second edition) by Barrett W. McRay, Mark A. Yarhouse, and Richard E. Butman is the first, and maybe even the only volume you will need. It comes highly recommended!

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Review: We Believe in One God

6966364Following on the heels of the highly acclaimed Ancient Christian Commentary series, the Ancient Christian Doctrine series brings together a five-volume patristic exploration into the substance of what the early church believed about the Christian faith. The series presents a curated display of primary Greek, Latin, Coptic, and Syriac source material from the church fathers, translated into English and organized around the content of the Nicene Creed.

The initial volume of the series, We Believe in One God edited by Gerald L. Bray takes the reader through the opening article of the Nicene Creed (“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen”) and uses it as a framework for an exploration of patristic thought concerning the doctrine of God. Each of the major section opens with the text of the Nicene Creed in Greek, Latin, and English, and the word or phrase being discussed is highlighted for the reader in bold. Before being brought into the commentary from the early church fathers, the readers will meet an introduction to the historical context of the Creed and an overview of the general content of the section. Those who are acquainted with the Ancient Christian Commentary series will be met some with familiarity here.

The comments are organized under the major section by author and each excerpt leads with a single bolded phrase to summarize the content. This makes identifying it quick and easy for the reader to find relevant information, and each excerpt is properly cited for further exploration. Additional material in the volume includes biographical sketches, a timeline of ancient Christian sources, indexes, bibliographies and keys to original language sources.

The usefulness of the Ancient Christian Doctrine series and this volume in particular, is almost bursting at the seams. The organization of the content is well-situated to immerse the reader into the writings of the early church and navigate those waters with ease, and the additional material adds to this exploration. The translations of the excerpts are articulate and easy to read—some of them being translated into English for the very first time. The book itself is beautifully built and will survive ample use for many years. That is, beauty of the content is matched with an equally stunning presentation.

The only shortcoming identifiable in this volume, and to be honest, this is a shortcoming that exists in any volume that attempts a similar task as the Ancient Christian Doctrine series is the lack of larger context for the reader. To be fair, the editors have painstakingly sought to include as much context as possible and did so under the assumption that readers could investigate the larger context for themselves. Nevertheless, a paragraph is generally surrounded by more paragraphs, and those paragraphs are generally surrounded by even more paragraphs within a broader context that may or may not be relevant to the reader’s needs.

The Ancient Christian Doctrine series is a landmark resource that will serve an interdisciplinary audience for many years. The initial volume, We Believe in One God edited by Gerald L. Bray takes the readers on a journey through the landscape of patristic thought concerning the doctrine of God. It is well-organized and perfectly situated to equip the interested reader with a portrait of early Christian belief. From scholars to students, and pastors to the layman, this is a volume that should be referenced by all. It comes highly recommended!

Review: Crossing Cultures in Scripture

9780830844739Marvin J. Newell is senior vice president of Missio Nexus, a network of evangelical mission agencies, churches and training centers in North America. Newell previously served as the executive director of CrossGlobal Link and served as a missionary to Indonesia for twenty-one years. Newell also served as professor of missions and intercultural studies at the Moody Theological Seminary. He is the author of a number of books, the most recent of which being Crossing Cultures in Scripture: Biblical Principles for Mission Practice.

Crossing Cultures in Scripture is a stimulating canonical exploration that presents a biblical theology of culture and God’s activity therein from Genesis to Revelation. Newell divides the book into three major sections: (1) foundational cultural considerations, (2) crossing cultures in the Old Testament, and (3) crossing cultures in the New Testament. The presupposition that guides the overall existence of this investigation is discovered in Newell’s adherence to the Reformation principal of sola Scriptura. For Newell, the Bible is “the first and final authority for all that we believe and practice” and the “primary point of reference” for studying and engaging culture (p. 13). Therefore, when it comes to the task of cultural and crosscultural engagement, for Newell, “the Bible itself is a textbook on cultural understanding” that displays itself within three primary realities: (1) the Bible is the portrayer of cultures, (2) the Bible is a sculptor of cultures, and (3) the Bible is an appraiser of cultures (p. 13-14).

The foundation of Newell’s approach is strengthened by the excellence of his guided cultural tour through the biblical narrative of both the Old and New Testament. The definition of “culture” explored in Newell’s study is bound to human existence. Newell explains, “Culture is the distinctive beliefs, values, and customs of a particular group of people that determine how they think, feel, and behave” (p. 17). As such, Patrick Fung rightly recognizes the usefulness of Newell’s work in his forward to the volume, writing, “Crossing Cultures helps us to both decode the Bible stories from the biblical cultures and to encode the Bible stories for different cultures today, so that God’s message remains relevant and universal” (p. 11). The chapters are numerous (36 chapters total) and brief (roughly 7 pages per chapter). Newell rounds out the volume with several helpful appendices, including a sermon series guide that stretches 13 weeks and allows Pastor or Bible study leaders to engage their people in the content of the book.

There are a number of positive aspect of this book apart from the content. Two of those deserve mention here. First, Newell has including numerous graphs and diagrams throughout the volume to help the reader visualize the content in a manner that cultivates learning and application. There is also a table and figure list at the end of the volume for future reference. Second, each chapter in the volume is organized into at least three section: (1) setting, (2) crosscultural insights, and (3) crossing takeaway. The latter provides the reader with a quick paragraph of easily digestible and applicable content for each chapter.

The Bible is overflowing with cultural significance, and Crossing Cultures in Scripture: Biblical Principles for Mission Practice by Marvin J. Newell helps readers explore it through the lenses of cultural engagement. Newell has provided a stunning parade of the practical importance of biblical theology as it pertains to the life and wellbeing of Christian missions and culture in the twenty-first century. This is a book that will surpass its reputation in usefulness and impact for those actively involved in cultural or crosscultural engagement, which should be every person seeking to faithfully follow Jesus. If you are looking for a book that will both equip and challenge your understanding of Scripture and culture, your time will be well invested here. This book comes highly recommended!

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: The Mosaic of Christian Belief

26598226The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity and Diversity (2nd ed.) by Roger E. Olson is an up-to-date, revised and expanded exploration into the history of Christian doctrine. As with the previous edition, Olson does an excellent service to the reader by thematically tracing the contours of Christianity down through the centuries in and easy-to-read package. Olson carefully unearths much of the consensus teaching to be discovered in the history of the Church, including details surrounding various areas of doctrinal diversity, and adds an additional chapter on the Holy Spirit.

There is much to be excited about here. First, and probably foremost, Olson does an incredible job keeping his audience in focus as he surveys the land of theological belief. Olson makes historical theology exciting and accessible for the nonspecialist. Second, Olson’s overall tone is to be appreciated as he interacts with various figures and ideas that have plagued the history of Christianity—some for good, others not so much. Third, while addressing various doctrines (divine revelation, the Trinity, divine providence, Christology, Soteriology, Eschatology, etc.), Olson constructs a picture (or mosaic) of Christian belief as it has been handed down through the centuries. The benefits of this are immediately accessible to the reader and compound as the journey continues.

Those familiar with Olson’s work will be able to easily detect his theological bias and Arminian presuppositions. This framework is visible throughout and should be noted. However, compared to some of Olson’s other works, The Mosaic of Christian Belief is much more mild and balanced. If you identify with Olson’s tradition, you will likely find his analysis helpful and cooperative in your convictions. Those who do not identify with Olson’s theological tradition will unavoidably approach disagreement more frequently than others. Still, as one who rarely agrees with Olson, for the reasons mentioned above (and more), I found The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity and Diversity to be an excellent (possibly even one of the best) introduction to historical theology.

 

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: Paul and Judaism Revisited

17364976Paul and Judaism Revisited: A Study of Divine and Human Agency in Salvation by Preston Sprinkle is an exciting and refreshing investigation into the thought and theology of Paul as it relates to Second Temple Judaism. This book follows in the footsteps of Sprinkle’s previous work Law and Life: The Interpretation of Leviticus 18:5 in Early Judaism and in Paul (2008). In fact, much of the research and questions answered in Paul and Judaism Revisited arose out of the latter investigation. In both of these works, Sprinkle has shown with clarity the divergence of Pauline thought from that of Early Judaism and thus has provided a significant contribution to the ongoing conversation pegged by the New Perspective on Paul (NPP).

Paul and Judaism Revisited sets out “to compare soteriological motifs in Paul and Qumran in order to better understand how these two Second Temple communities understood divine and human agency in salvation” (p. 36). For Sprinkle, there appears to be no straightforward line of continuity between Paul and the Qumran communities concerning a singular soteriological motif. Moreover, as Sprinkle acknowledges, there doesn’t even appear to be a line of continuity within the Qumran community itself. This diversity adds to the complexity of understanding Paul and does much to undermine traditional and NPP soteriological claims. Sprinkle presents a portrait of Paul that is framed within a Prophetic Restoration structure rather than the Deuteronomic Restoration structure generally found in the Qumran communities.

Paul and Judaism Revisited: A Study of Divine and Human Agency in Salvation by Preston Sprinkle is an excellent book for anyone interested in Pauline thought concerning salvation, the NPP, Second Temple Judaism, and the intersection of any of these areas of study. Sprinkle has offered a fresh and up-to-date exploration of one of the most frequently traveled roads in biblical-theological studies today. While disagreement will assuredly come from those rooted within the NPP, the caliber of Sprinkle’s work cannot be denied, and his presentation should be praised. This is a book that will make you think long and hard about the external influences on Paul’s thought and theology, and provide grounds for reevaluation and consideration therein. As with all of Sprinkle’s books, this book 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: Delivered from the Elements of the World

26598227Peter J. Leithart is President of Thepolis Institute for Biblical, Liturgical, and Cultural Studies in Birmingham, Alabama, and adjunct Senior Fellow of Theology at New St. Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho. Leithart is ordained in the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches. He has earned an M.A.R. and a Th.M. from Westminster Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. Leithart has written numerous books on a wide range of biblical and theological topics. Most recently, Leithart has provided an up-to-date, well-researched, and thoroughly documented investigation into the unique nature and function of the Atonement for everyday life—Delivered from the Elements of the World: Atonement, Justification, and Mission.

Delivered from the Elements of the World is primarily concerned with repositioning the dialogue of atonement towards a more practical and applicable social theory. It is here that Leithart offers a helpful approach that detaches the abstractness of the doctrine and shines a fresh light of practicality into the contemporary conversation. The process of developing this reality is founded in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (specifically Paul’s words “the elementary principals of the world” in Galatians 4) and provides the reader with a host of biblical-theological themes that will cultivate deeper reflection. For Leithart, the person and work of Christ has brought about a required social change that challenges every corner of society, as the world is no longer bound by “elementary principals” but the lordship of Christ—a reality that affects all mankind (p. 203), including Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Jews (p. 239-257).

Delivered from the Elements of the World will be recognized as controversial despite Leithart’s efforts to stay within the confines of orthodoxy. Nevertheless, while there were a few disagreements here and there, I found the overall intention and approach of Leithart’s work to be rather refreshing and creative. It isn’t often that you come across something new and exciting when it comes to the atonement. It tends to be the same conversations and the same debates using the same points of argument and the same biblical references. Leithart’s work is different. It was practical and inviting, and yet scholarly and well-researched. Leithart hypothesizes about the implications of the atonement in such a way that the reader will be challenged more deeply to live within the reality of Christ’s atoning work—and, for that reason alone, Delivered from the Elements of the World: Atonement, Justification, and Mission is a book that should be read and pondered by all. 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.