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: Arminian Theology

9780830828418Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities by Roger E. Olson has bridged a much-needed gap in the theological community for nearly a decade. This is especially the case for those who are deeply engaged in the age-old discussion between Calvinists and Arminians. As is frequently the case in these sorts of discussions, the two sides of the debate tend to approach the subject matter without a preexisting desire to accurately understand the other’s theological system. This reality has unfortunately brought about a countless number of myths and misunderstandings on both sides of the discussion. It is here that Olson has provided an exploration that promises to find relevancy for readers of all theological persuasions.

The book begins with a brief introduction to set the stage. Olson does well in turning the reader towards the historical narrative of Arminian theology and allows the observation of its rootedness in the history of Christianity to become the foundation of the content that follows. Olson’s purpose is, “to correctly delineate true Arminian theology and to begin to undo the damage that has been done to this theological heritage, both by critics and friends” (43). This attempt to provide clarification to Arminian theology is separated by 10 myths commonplace within the overall conversation among Calvinists and Arminians. Each of these 10 myths are addressed in detail, and an affirmation of Classical Arminianism is established and explained.

The tone of this book is exceptional and set forth properly in the introduction, as Olson explains, “the purpose of this book is not persuasion (except to a fair understanding of Arminian theology) but information” (43). This desire should resonate with all readers. On a personal note, I was admittedly suspicious about reading this book because of some of Olson’s other books I found to be less than helpful on the same topic. This book, however, was a breath of fresh air in many respects. Olson’s explanation and approach to each of the myths is both charitable and appropriate, and while there is considerable overlap throughout the book as each myth is addressed individually, I continually found the content presented therein to be insightful and informative.

The predominant weakness of the book, and one that I would have liked to have seen be a strength rather than a weakness is the lack of clear documentation concerning the various myths presented. That is, while Olson does provide documentation, it would have been helpful had he attempted to further substantiate the various myths (generally prorogated by Calvinist, although he does mention some Arminian blunders as well) with documented support. This doesn’t mean that I think Olson’s list of myths is wrong or incorrect, quite the contrary. Rather, simply that I would have liked to see more documentation to further evaluate his claims. Additional, while I necessarily wouldn’t consider this a weakness of the book, it must be stated that not all readers (myself included) will find Olson’s defense of such myths to be persuasive and/or representative of Arminianism as a whole.

Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities by Roger E. Olson is a unique example of why clarity and understanding matters in a theological debate. Olson rightly identifies an ongoing problem and sought to bring a much-needed resolution. This is an important book that you will want to read regardless if you are an Arminian or a Calvinist, or neither. It is a book that brings much transparency and thoughtfulness to a discussion that sometimes feels like a dead horse, and something that can’t be continually beat if a dialog is going to progress forward. If you value accurately representing the position that you are arguing for or against, then Arminian Theology is a book that will make that desire into a reality. I don’t know why it took me this long to read it. 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: Rethinking Hell

21998685The nature and duration of Hell have been a point of theological controversy for centuries. The majority of Christians today understand Hell as a place where, upon death, the unsaved are eternally damned to be tormented and punished day and night. This is a tough pill to swallow. More recently, with the work of Edward Fudge (though Fudge was certainly not the first to rethink these issues) and others, many Christians today have begun reconsidering the doctrine of Hell. The above-mentioned pill gets easier to swallow as opinions grow further and further from Christian orthodoxy. Still, for many, a balance of biblical and theological faithfulness has come to rest on a positioned known as Conditional Immortality (or Annihilationism).

Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism edited by Christopher M. Date, Gregory G. Stump, and Joshua W. Anderson brings together a fascinating collection of excerpts from well-respected evangelical thinkers concerning the nature of Hell and Conditional Immortality. The contributors of this volume include Edward W. Fudge, John R. W. Stott, Clark Pinnock, John W. Wenham, E. Earle Ellis, Anthony C. Thiselton, Roger E. Olson, Ben Witherington III, and much more. While it should be said that there is nothing presented in this volume that is inherently new, either by way of argument or article, the convenience of having such an exemplar roster of contributors under a single roof and the scope of material presented makes this volume indispensable to the ongoing conversation.

The book is comprised of six major sections: (1) Rethinking Hell, (2) Influential Defenses of Conditionalism, (3) Biblical Support for Conditionalism, (4) Philosophical Support for Conditionalism, (5) Historical Considerations, and (6) Conditionalism and Evangelicalism. These six sections provide a good sense of the overall scope of the book. Moreover, there are a number of standout articles in this volume that are worth mentioning, including, “New Testament Teaching on Hell” by E. Earle Ellis, “Claims about ‘Hell’ and Wrath” by Anthony C. Thiselton, and “Conditionalism in the Early Church” by LeRoy E. Froom. I could easily list more articles but these are definitely among the top three. The only hesitancy that I have with this volume, apart from not being fully persuaded by the Conditionalist claims, is the overstated identification with Evangelicalism. Many of these authors should not be considered as evangelicals. But, then again, what is the definition of evangelicalism today anyways?

Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism edited by Christopher M. Date, Gregory G. Stump, and Joshua W. Anderson is an excellent introduction to Conditionalism. The editors have brought together some of the most influential articles from some of the most well-respected contributors to the conversation. This is a volume that will challenge your understanding and make you think long and hard about your traditions. It presents an important conversation that needs to take place more often, and I believe that this book will help that need become a reality. 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: Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary

23493027The Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary is a comprehensive reference tool produced with the Bible teacher, pastor, and student in mind. This new one-volume commentary covers both the Old and New Testament. Each book of the Bible includes a brief introductory section that aims to provide a detailed overview of the circumstances of writing, including the author and background, the message and purpose, contribution to the Bible, structure, and outline of the specified book. The content of the commentary is arranged in a section-by-section format that seeks to help the reader gain a greater sense of understanding of the bigger picture of the biblical book, and the numerous illustrations throughout helpfully drag the reader into the biblical world with minimal effort. Each book of the Bible closes with a healthy bibliography that allows the reader to further explore specific interests of study.

Many readers will undoubtedly find the content of The Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary strangely familiar. That is because the basis of the commentary itself is the HCSB Study Bible. E. Ray Clendenen and Jeremy Royal Howard explain such in the preface, writing, “The basis of this one-volume commentary is the award winning HCSB Study Bible. Those verses that escaped comment in the original work due to space limitations have been included in the present work, with comments provided by E. Ray Clendenen” (p. IX). In other words, The Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary is essentially the study note content of the HCSB Study Bible with some additional comments and complementary illustrations reformatted and repackaged.

Should the reader who already owns the HSCB Study Bible seek to add The Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary to their library? This is ultimately going to be a decision that the reader must make. Still, two comments are in order that may help the decision process. First, after spending a good hour and a half intentionally flipping through the pages comparing content between the two resources I found little that differed from the HSCB Study Bible. There is additional content, but it’s minimal at best. Second, for most readers, I think that the format of The Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary is to be preferred over the HSCB Study Bible. It’s clean, easy to read, and user-friendly. Not that such characteristics are absent from the HSCB Study Bible, but rather The Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary is going to be a much better option if the study note content is your primary target for pulling the HSCB Study Bible off the shelf.

The Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary is an excellent one-volume commentary. It’s comprehensive and yet concise. It’s user-friendly and well formatted. It has a clear objective, and it accomplishes that objective with excellence. Takes the award-winning study notes from the HSCB Study Bible, written by some of today’s leading biblical scholars, expand the content slightly, add numerous illustrations, maps, and photographs, pack it between a high-quality hardcover binding, and you have the recipe for something amazing—a future best-seller. Regardless if you own the HSCB Study Bible or not, The Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary is a resource you will want on your shelf. It comes highly recommended.


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.

Review: Institutes of the Christian Religion

20_Calvin_Institites_vol_1There are few literary works more influential to the Christian faith than the Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin. It still stands among the greatest literary achievements in both Christian theology and Western literature. It is the accomplishment of a life devoted to the study of Scripture and the ministry within the church. The Institutes of the Christian Religion as it is known today is the product of several important additions and revisions on the part of Calvin during his lifetime (1536, 1539, 1543, 1550, and 1559 in Latin; 1541 in French). The final edition (1559) was roughly five times the length of the first (1536) and comprises what we now know today in English as the Institutes of the Christian Religion.

While the Institutes of the Christian Religion have never been a stranger to the English-speaking world—Thomas Norton produced the first English translation of the definitive 1559 edition of the Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1561—the most recent English translation was produced over five decades ago. Still, prior to the publication of the present volumes translated by Ford Lewis Battles and edited by John T. McNeill, the most recent English translations were the result of John Allen (1813) and Henry Beveridge (1845)—the latter still being the most widely used English translation today. But the date of publication isn’t the only thing that makes the Battles/McNeill translation the preferable choice when choosing an English translation of the Institutes of the Christian Religion for the contemporary reader.

First, the editorial notes and guidance brought to the Institutes of the Christian Religion by John T. McNeill are indispensable for the detailed study of the text. For example, throughout the Battles/McNeill translation the small letters a-e articulate which stage of development each portion of text were added (a=1536; b=1539; c=1543; d=1550; e=1559). Battles/McNeill have done the readers an enormous favor and painstakingly traced the material of the 1559 edition back to the earlier editions. Second, the inclusion of a bibliography and a monograph-sized compilation of index material demonstrate the Battles/McNeill translation to be worth its weight in gold. This inclusion is helpful for quick reference and detailed study and is sure to be a selling point over the other available translation options. Third, the Battles/McNeill translation includes a whole host of useful in-text Scripture references enclosed in brackets (i.e. [1 Tim. 3:1-7]), as well as footnotes for citations and allusions throughout. While much of the reference may not be original to Calvin himself, with this understanding aside the inclusion of such feature makes for an enriched experience for the reader.

When it comes to English translations of the Institutes of the Christian Religion the options are plentiful. Still, none compare to the depth and magnitude of the volumes translated by Ford Lewis Battles and edited by John T. McNeill. It proves to be much more than a modern translation of a literary classic. In fact, it has been recognized as the definitive English translation for over fifty years, and for good reason. If you are looking to read the Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin for the first time or the forty-first time, from the translation itself to the last index, the Battles/McNeill translation is worth every penny of your investment. Just be sure to make room on your bookshelf because the volumes are massive!


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.

Review: The Resurrection of Jesus

9780830827190Discussion surrounding the resurrection of Jesus has traditionally hosted a long list of scholarly voices. Still, few names are more present to the contemporary conversation than Michael R. Licona (PhD, University of Pertoria). Licona is Associate Professor of Theology at Houston Baptist University. He is the author of Paul Meets Muhammad: A Christian-Muslim Debate on the Resurrection (Baker, 2006) and coauthor with Gary Habermas of the award-winning book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Kregel, 2004). Licona is also the author and/or contributor to a number of academic articles relating to various topics surrounding Jesus and the resurrection. Still, Licona’s most lasting contribution to the discussion of the resurrection to date is his massive doctoral dissertation turned monograph case study, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (IVP Academic, 2010).

Licona begins The Resurrection of Jesus with an excellent survey of the various theories and methods that relate to the task of a historiographical approach. This is an important starting point for the reader as it effectively builds the framework for the next 600+ pages. Subsequently, Licona investigates the objections to historical considerations of miracle-claims purported by individuals such as David Hume, Bart D. Ehrman, John P. Meier, and many more. Licona displays how each objection fails and why the hesitancy for such historical approach to the investigation of miracle-claims is unwarranted. Again, this further builds the framework of Licona’s conclusion and the reader is certain to appreciate the care take in his evaluation. Following the introductory matters of the first few sections, Licona systematically evaluates and analyzes the historical sources and evidence before weighing the various critical approaches to such. This is the crux of Licona’s effort and he presents his position in a fair and articulate fashion.

The Resurrection of Jesus is the most comprehensive historical investigation on the event of the resurrection that I have encountered to date. Licona leaves no corner of the conversation untouched, and the high points of the book are many. However, for the sake of space, I will name two. First, I think that many readers will find the evaluation of the historical sources in chapter three to be extremely helpful and carefully examined. Licona discusses both canonical and noncanonical sources, as well as Christian and non-Christian writings from the initial centuries of the Christian church. Each source is individually evaluated in regards to its importance in the historicity of the resurrection, and Licona does an excellent job approaching the sources objectively. Second, after evaluating the sources and beyond, Licona provides outstanding interaction with the various resurrection theories. This section is helpful in allowing the reader to digest and put the resurrected puzzle pieces together in the shape of Licona’s historiographical approach—although Licona is good about not telling you what to believe, but rather how to think.

The Resurrection of Jesus is a phenomenal work that deserves a permanent space on the bookshelf of anyone interested in wrestling with the implications of the resurrection for the Christian worldview. Licona is trustworthy in his examination of the evidence, and the fact that this is a polished presentation of his doctoral dissertation written at a secular university under skeptical eyes makes it even more intriguing. To be fair, this book isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s big, really big! It’s detailed, really detailed! But, if you are looking for a comprehensive examination into the historicity of the most important event in the history of mankind, then The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach by Michael R. Licona will be worth twice its weight in gold.
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.

Review: Luke: A Commentary

Fowl_Ephesians_NTL CoverJohn T. Carroll is the Harriet Robertson Fitts Memorial Professor of New Testament and Director of the Program for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Union Presbyterian Seminary. Carrol received an M.Div. and Ph.D. in New Testament Studies from Princeton Theological Seminary, and has since spent the bulk of his academic career primarily within the arena of Lukan studies. Carroll authored and/or edited a number of books, including, Response to the End of History: Eschatology and Situation in Luke-Acts (1998), The Death of Jesus in Early Christianity (1995), The Return of Jesus in Early Christianity (2000), and The Word in This World: Essays in New Testament Exegesis and Theology (2004). Carroll has also published a long list of articles on Luke-Acts and various topics within New Testament Studies. Most recently, Carroll has contributed this present commentary, a good-sized volume on the Gospel of Luke, released as part of the critically acclaimed New Testament Library series: Luke: A Commentary 

Carroll is a fairly well-known scholarly voice within the world of New Testament and Lukan studies, and this commentary visibly parades his expertise. The commentary begins with a bibliography of up-to-date commentaries, monographs, books, and essays related to the Gospel of Luke. If you enjoy these sections, peruse them often, and are well acquainted with Luke-Acts material this section will be reviewable and up-to-date, but far from comprehensive. If none of the above describes your interest, then you can rest assured that Carroll has at least provided a solid and current bibliography of the Third Gospel to catapult your studies. Subsequently, Carroll provides the reader with a useful introduction. Carroll briefly surveys the traditional introductory categories (i.e. authorship, date, purpose, etc.), and addresses how to approach the reading of the Third Gospel and previews the central theological and ethical concerns and commitments therein. The reader will find the introductory section to be a goldmine of helpful information for interacting with Carroll in the commentary ahead. It is an essential and recommended first stop.

The commentary itself is wrought with exegetical and theological insight. Carroll is excellent when it understanding the literary themes and intertextuality within the Gospel of Luke. Each section in the commentary is based on the authors original translation of the Greek text and littered with textual notes. Carroll follows closely with the textual basis of the NA28 and notes clearly when he favors alternative readings. Interestingly, in a number of sections in the commentary Carroll favors the shorter readings attested by the Western text, especially Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis (D). This is seen in his commentary and translation of several verses within Luke 22 and 24. For example, Carroll does not find Luke 22:43-44 original, but provides a lengthy textual note detailing his decision (p. 444). Because of the flexible text choice within the commentary, many readers will be reluctant to engage Carroll’s work. But this would be an unwarranted endeavor. If anything this should provide added value to your library.

Still the textual decisions may not be the only hindrance for the conservative reader. Carroll affirms “Luke” as the author, but neglects to affirm traditional Lukan authorship. In other words, Carroll names “Luke” as the author but is unwilling to tell affirm that the “Luke” writing the gospel is the individual traditionally understood to be the author (p. 2). Moreover, Carroll is comfortable dating the Third Gospel well into the early second century (75-125 CE). This assertion is largely based on his assumption that Luke consulted the Gospel of Mark (a fair assumption), and that Mark is dated around 70 CE. Therefore, Luke would have had to consult Mark sometime after 70 CE. The problem most will recognize is that there is no real difficulty dating Mark in the mid-50’s. In other words, Luke could have still consulted Mark and completed his gospel account by the early 60’s. Many conservative scholars have argued this point well and in much more depth. But, similar to the textual issue in the prior paragraph, to overlook interaction with Carroll because of these disagreements would be naïve and unwarranted.

Luke: A Commentary is an up-to-date examination of one of the most significant accounts of the person and work of Jesus Christ in all of Scripture. John T. Carroll has provided a well-researched presentation of the current conversation among New Testament scholars, and added additional ground with his sensitivity to literary themes and intertextuality. Carroll’s translation and textual notes are indispensable, and his selective favoritism of Codex Bezae is interesting and helpful for the trained reader. If you are looking for a strong commentary on the Gospel of Luke from a critical perspective, then John T. Carroll has provided you with a commentary that cannot be overlooked. It will be off my bookshelf often.


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.

Review: The Rule of Faith

PrintEverett Ferguson is no stranger to the many discussions that center around the life and theology of early Christianity. Ferguson is Emeritus Professor of Church History at Abilene Christian University and holds numerous academic and scholarly honors. Ferguson has a doctoral degree with distinction in History and Philosophy of Religion from Harvard University. He is also the author of a long list of important works pertaining to the history of Christianity, including, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, 2nd edition (Routledge, 1997), Church History, Volume One: From Christ to Pre-Reformation: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context, 2nd edition (Zondervan, 2013), Church History, Volume Two: From Pre-Reformation to Present Day: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context (Zondervan, 2013), and Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 3rd edition (Eerdmans, 2003).

Most recently, Ferguson has brought together a small but welcomed addition to the growing Cascade Companion series. The Rule of Faith: A Guide fits well within the overall aim of this ambitious series, as it couples academic rigor and readability with intentional precision. Ferguson presents the “rule of faith” (or regula fidei) as a necessary companion to the well-known creeds of early Christendom and something that developed as an outcome of the written Scriptures. It is the summary of apostolic preaching and teaching, found most authoritatively in the canon of Scripture (p. xi). But, interestingly enough, as Ferguson articulates clearly in the initial chapters of the book, the “rule of faith” obtained ecumenical support far before the fourth and fifth centuries. In other words, Ferguson demonstrates without a shadow of a doubt, a clear consensus among early Christian writers concerning some of the most foundational tenets of the Christian faith prior to the traditionally agreed upon date for the canon of Scripture.

Ferguson begins the journey with a survey of the “rule of faith” in early Christian literature and guides the reader through the fluidity of terminology that unites the underlying concept among the primary sources. Chapter one and two are necessary starting points for the unfamiliar reader, but I think Ferguson’s handling of the passages will benefit the familiar reader as well. Chapter three brings clarity to the concept as Ferguson guides the reader through interpretation of the “rule of faith” among the various early Christian authors. This section is well written and appropriately placed within the book. Chapter four outlines the history of the study of the “rule of faith” and familiarizes the reader with the various theories that emerge within the discussion. This section is helpful and builds a context for the fifth chapter in which Ferguson carefully summarizes and articulates the function of the “rule of faith” in the life and practice of the early Christian communities. Lastly, Ferguson applies the academic investigation of the “rule of faith” to the contemporary church, suggesting it’s usefulness in bringing to bear a succinct statement of core doctrine, discerning a center from the periphery in Christian doctrine, testing teaching, as well as keeping the focus on Christ and his story.

The Rule of Faith: A Guide is a helpful little book that successfully examines an often overlooked reality within early Christianity. Despite the lack of the Bible as we know it today, the early community of God’s people overtly gathered themselves around a common core of beliefs—the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Everett Ferguson was an ideal candidate for the task that a book of this caliber required, and his contribution is sure to be enjoyed by readers of all educational backgrounds. It’s an intentionally short read that is guaranteed to perk interest in the right places. If you are looking for an intriguing and well-written study on one of the most foundational aspects of early Christianity, then look no further.


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.

Review: Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box

527176Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box is the result of the intentional gathering of some of today’s leading theologians and biblical scholars for the purpose of training and equipping the church with expert guidance. This collection includes four introductory books that will provide the reader with everything needed to understand the Bible and apply its teachings to everyday life—Christian Beliefs (Zondervan, 2005), Journey into God’s Word (Zondervan, 2008), Introducing the Old Testament (Zondervan, 2012), and Introducing the New Testament (Zondervan, 2010). Each of these four books are abridgments of larger works that have functioned as standard seminary textbooks for years. While Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box is certainly no substitute for a seminary education, it does present itself as a useful product to be used within in the context of adult education. However, before I speak to the usefulness of the product, I would first like to summarize the four books included.

283692Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know
by Wayne A. Grudem (edited by Elliot Grudem) is an abridged version of Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith (Zondervan, 1999), which is itself an abridgment of Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Zondervan, 1994). Both earlier editions remain bestselling textbooks for both undergraduate and seminary courses. In essence, Christian Beliefs is a refined collection of the twenty most need-to-know beliefs of the Christian faith. Elliot Grudem has done a fantastic job synthesizing the larger work of his father, making it more accessible for the target audience. The book also includes two helpful appendices. The first includes historic confessions of faith (i.e. Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, Chalcedonian Creed, and the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy), and the second includes an annotated bibliography of various systematic theologies for further study.

Journey-Into-God-s-Word-Duvall-J-Scott-9780310275138Journey Into God’s Word: Your Guide to Understanding and Applying the Bible by J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays is an abridgment of Grasping God’s Word, 2nd ed. (Zondervan, 2005; third edition in 2012). Duvall and Hays are both excellent teachers and their textbook is used at the college and seminary level around the English-speaking world. Journey Into God’s Word is the product of a frequent request of the authors by pastors and leaders for something more accessible to the local church (p. 9). Consequently, Journey Into God’s Word was created with for the adult education setting, and the content therein displays such consistently. It is both accessible and practical for the average reader. Moreover, for the leader or teacher, Duvall and Hays have a suggested 8-week teaching schedule for optimal use.

51THcwHobLL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Introducing the Old Testament: A Short Guide to its History and Message by Tremper Longman III is based on the bestselling textbook An Introduction to the Old Testament, 2nd ed. (Zondervan, 2006). Longman uniquely and individually covers all the Old Testament books, discussing each book’s content, authorship and date, genre, and connection to the gospel. This last section, connection, creates a helpful and unique reading experience for the reader. Helpful in the sense that Longman guides the reader to the immediate benefits of studying the Old Testament, unique in the sense that few Old Testament introductions provide this information with the precision of Introducing the Old Testament. This makes comprehension and enjoyment an immediate benefit for the reader.

Introducing_the_New_Testament-_A_Short_Guide_to_Its_History_and_MessageIntroducing the New Testament: A Short Guide to its History and Message by D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo (edited by Andrew David Naselli) is based on the widely used textbook An Introduction to the New Testament, 2nd ed. (Zondervan, 2005). Similar to the companion volume on the Old Testament, Carson and Moo guide the reader through the New Testament as they individually discuss all of the New Testament books, including, content, authorship, genre, date, place of composition, audience, purpose, and contribution to faith. This last section, contribution, like the volume on the Old Testament, brings immediate application and benefit to the study of the New Testament. Each chapter closes with a helpful bibliography to guide the reader into further study.

As director of adult education at my local church, I was immediately intrigued by Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box. I had previously used Christian Beliefs for a course that I taught but never required the students to purchase the book. It functioned more as a personal guide for gauging the appropriate level of content for the course rather than a textbook. Still, after the course was finished I wished that my students had something that could catapult them in the right direction for further engagement. In other words, I wish that I used the book more immediately in class and had the students purchase a copy for themselves. The other volumes in this collection display an equal level of usefulness, and at approximately 160 pages each is easily digestible in an 8-week course.

More recently, I have taken up the task of developing a sturdier foundation for our adult education program. This has involved writing new course curriculum, worksheets, PowerPoint presentations, etc. The goal has been to build out 3-4 foundational course to function as the framework of our adult education effort, and Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box just made that task a whole lot easier. Churches and members will now have the option to purchase the box set, including all four volumes, and the students will have then bought the course material for the foundational classes being offered. This would work extremely well accompanied with a certificate of completion for each course or the entire core program.

Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box includes everything the reader will need to learn the basics of Christian theology, biblical interpretation, the Old Testament, and the New Testament. This collection brings together four introductory books by some of today’s leading theologians and biblical scholars. Each of the four books is an abridgment of a larger and more technical work, and each of them remains widely used in colleges and seminaries around the world. While Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box is certainly no substitute for a seminary education, it is an ideal collection of core resources for the context of Christian adult education. Still, even if you are not a teacher or pastor looking to bring substance to your adult education program, this collection will provide you a sure foothold for understanding the Bible and applying its teachings to your life.


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.