Modern Technology and the Human Future: A Christian Appraisal

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We must have discussions like this one. A couple of decades pass and our very world has changed with smartphones and other electronic devices. It has affected Christians along with everyone else. We are finally pausing to search out the implications of this seismic shift. Several practical Christian books have probed how we might deal with a world that has changed and is not going back. (One by Tony Reinke lies on my desk). In this volume by Craig Gay, however, the broader theological implications are mined. This book is less of how you ought to alter your life in the days to come and more of what does it even mean. Both types of books are needed and I’m rooting for their success.

The author writes with balance. He neither denies his own use of the technology he writes about nor encourages its complete rejection. In fact, his analysis seems to embrace its good at least to the extent of sharing the Gospel and other wholesome features while exercising caution on the other end. Our society has changed. To what extent should a Christian change with it?

To bulk up his premise, the author surveys other paradigm-shifting technological advances from the plow to automated manufacturing. He traces how economic concerns are usually the driving force. He turns his discussion toward theology by considering “ordinary embodied human existence” with the background of the Incarnation of Christ and God’s mission for us.

The book is deep reading. If you find that kind of theological reading difficult, this book will be a challenge. Theological junkies will find it the perfect discussion of an all-encompassing subject. If you can handle academic reading, and enjoy well thought out analysis, this is the book for you.

I received this book free from the publisher. 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.

The Christian Doctrine of Humanity (Crisp and Sanders, Editors)

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This collection of cutting-edge essays on the doctrine of humanity is the sixth installment in a series entitled “Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics”.  They proceed from the Los Angeles Theology Conference hosted by Fuller Theological Seminary. Previous entries addressed Christology, Trinitarian Theology, the Atonement, the Word of God, and the task of dogmatics. A wide-ranging group of specialists is assembled in each case and this time includes Marc Cortez, Hans Madueme, Ian McFarland, Richard Mouw, Lucy Peppiatt, and Frances Young, and total 12 contributors that look at humanity from many vantage points.

Let’s be clear. There’s no shallow wading here. Though these essays are not geared toward a popular audience, they are well written, There’s a good chance, however, that they will go deeper than you get in most volumes. If you’re game, then, this book is an important, challenging read. As I read, it struck me that many of these essays were in the realm where the doctrine of humanity bumps against the other major doctrines—Christology, Eschatology, Pneumatology, among others. Along the way, you will get a clear overview of where scholars are still debating this key doctrine. You will notice as well that current events are bearing on these theological issues as questions of how we personally identify ourselves is addressed as well, yet with a warmness toward biblical clarity and longstanding Christian belief.

All 12 essays were well done. My favorites were Marc Cortez’s look at “Nature, Grace, and the Christological Ground of Humanity”, Hans Madueme’s “From Sin to the Soul: a Dogmatic Argument for Dualism”, and  Lucy Peppiatt’s “Life in the Spirit: Christ’s and Ours”. I took something that helped me from each of them.

I imagine this will be a much-cited and influential book for some time to come as it fully succeeds in what it sets out to do.

I received this book free from the publisher. 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.

Daniel (TOTC) by Paul House

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The Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (TOTC) series scores again. This latest title is at least the tenth release in this current revision of the venerable series (current writers used earlier editions as young Christians in many cases!) and they are all a success—keeping the winning format and scope with more up-to-date scholarship and good writing. Snagging Paul House was a coup for the series too as he has already produced a much-used Old Testament Theology as well as coauthored an Old Testament Survey. To my mind, he worked within the established TOTC format as if it fit him like a glove.

Any commentary on Daniel bears the additional weight of the varying prophetic outlook of the reader. While that’s not an issue in many other books of the Bible, Daniel is second only to Revelation in that dynamic. Many will unfairly rate any commentary on these two books on this issue alone before they read the first paragraph. For the record, the TOTC series has always been amillennial. Though that is not my viewpoint, I’ve always found great insight in these volumes. This volume, too, delivers on many levels in my judgment even though that differentiation of perspective exists.

The Introduction gets to the point as this series demands yet delivers the goods. Some of the more perverse scholarly train wrecks on Daniel that dominate much literature is happily not the focus here. Let’s call it a clear conservative presentation. History is carefully unfolded. Literary, genre, and textual issues are all concisely unpacked. Daniel’s role in the canon is probed before theological themes are presented. Structure gets one paragraph called “Analysis” and a detailed outline.

The commentary itself is well done, again, in the TOTC style. Its best contributions are historical and theological. You will be able to trace easily the flow of the text. A few passages will have the drama of a prophetic outlook that may not match your own, but you will still learn much in the commentary.

I really like this book and am happy to have it at hand for future studies. Highly recommended.

I received this book free from the publisher. 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.

 

The Christian Book of Mystical Verse by Tozer

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This book intrigues me. If for no other reason, these poems, hymns, and prayers moved A. W. Tozer. When I think of what poured forth from his pen, and how it has moved my heart, I’m totally into whatever inspired Tozer.

When I first scoured these pages, I was immediately scolded. Not with a layer of guilt, but with a portion of conviction—I don’t slow down enough even when I read even from my own hymnbook. That deliberate, careful reading was one of Tozer’s secrets that he often tried to expose though usually without our cooperation. He always embraced the label “mystic” even after the term had some ugly baggage hoisted upon its back. The brief Introduction in this book makes the case that is more fully brought out in many of his other writings. Say what you will, but the person Tozer describes as a “mystic” walks with God.

Besides a few hymns (where reading slowly unlocks real treasure), the selections in this collection were unknown to me. Perhaps they aren’t all of equal lyrical value to the reader’s ear, but they are all rich. “Fluff” couldn’t describe any of them. Think more of strong doctrine going after the heart. Other sermons and books can handle the head. There are some expected authors like Wesley and Watts, or even Bernard of Clairvaux, but you’ll see that Tozer must have really loved Frederick William Faber too. And who would have thought of Oliver Wendall Holmes as a mystic!

Your favorites will be different than mine, but they’ll all be good. Look at this stanza from Watts:

Earth, from afar, hath heard Thy fame,

And worms have learned to lisp Thy Name;

But Oh the glories of Thy mind

Leave all our soaring thoughts behind.

 

Or this one by Faber:

O Lord! My heart is sick,

Sick of this everlasting change;

And life runs tediously quick

Through its unresting race and varied range:

Change finds no likeness to itself in Thee,

And wakes no echo in Thy mute Eternity.

 

There’s so much more! The poems are organized around important themes and you can come here for manna when you’re contemplating these subjects.

It’s Tozer. That’s enough to give it the highest rating. It’s his most unusual title and yet is of that same sterling quality. Probably the best book of its kind.

I received this book free from the publisher. 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.

Reformation Commentary on Scripture (OT VIII) on Psalms 72-150

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It’s great to see this work on Psalms completed with the release of this second volume covering Psalms 73-150 in the Reformation Commentary on Scripture series. Editor Herman J. Selderhuis, a church history expert, had already delivered the winning earlier volume on Psalms 1-72. I don’t see how anyone would stop short of getting them together. They are both well-crafted, lovely on the shelf, and effective on the desk.

The only odd feature of this volume is the replication of a guide to the commentary (that’s in every volume in the series), a general introduction, an introduction to the Psalms, a map of Europe in Reformation times, a timeline, and a lengthy section of biological sketches. They are all without alteration in the earlier volume. Perhaps they wanted to ensure the reader’s ability to use as a stand-alone book. In any event, you will want this title for the commentary on Psalms 73-150 covering pages 1-399.

The same painstaking work found in the earlier volume continues to the end of the Psalter. Unlike some commentaries that peter out before the end of a longer biblical book, this one reads like a labor of love. I’m impressed by the amount of research required to distill for us the best the Reformers had. I also appreciate the scope of comment. You might be able to figure out the editor’s favorite Reformers, but you will get much coverage beyond them too. To my mind, the Reformers were at their best in the Psalms.

Look here for treasure that the exegetical commentaries won’t have. They weren’t afraid of practical Christianity and it shows. I highly recommend this book!

I received this book free from the publisher. 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.

Ecclesiastes (Interpretation) by William Brown

 

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William P. Brown, a prolific writer on Wisdom literature, contributes this commentary on Ecclesiastes in the Interpretation Bible Commentary series. I’ve had the privilege of reviewing the better titles in this series, and for its theological offerings, this title is certainly in that category. In fact, it gets its higher ranking for that theology far more than for its academic weight. That’s not to say that he fails to address scholarly issues, just that its theology is its best feature. As expected for this series, the conclusions come from a fairly critical perspective.

In my mind, the Introduction was not the success that the commentary was. His bizarre comparison to the epic of Gilgamesh sent much of the Introduction awry. Why not use Solomon, or at least the Bible, instead of something with such a dubious connection! Brown does seem at least to love Ecclesiastes even if he finds it the strangest book in the canon.

The commentary digs out much theology and well describes “vanity”. If you like to check out either the critical perspective or some theology that’s a little different than what you find other places, then you will want to check out this commentary.

I received this book free from the publisher. 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.

Lamentations (Interpretation) by Dobbs-Allsopp

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This volume on Lamentations by F. W. Dobbs-Allsopp in the Interpretation Bible Commentary series is likely the most referenced volume in the whole series. I’ve seen it mentioned in many places including the most respected listings of valuable commentaries. Its success is partially rooted in its thoroughness compared to others in the series. Here you have 159 pages on the 5 chapters of Lamentations. For comparison, the companion commentary in the series on Jeremiah’s 52 chapters rounds out at 275 pages. You can make some prediction on that coverage alone. Beyond the depth of coverage is the quality of theological reflection itself. There are places the discussion goes off the rails with its critical outlook and troubling conclusions about God to be sure, but Dobbs-Allsopp turns the theological spade to the same profit as the better volumes in this series.

The Introduction is much more thorough than many I’ve read in the series too. There is a broad sweep of several introductory issues including date and authorship with typical critical conclusions before the author slows down for one of his favorite topics: literary features. He defines the genre as “city-lament” and says it’s written in lyric poetry. He carefully weaves through metaphor, diction, wordplay, pun, euphony, alphabetic acrostic, and enjambment. The balance of the Introduction is on theology. I found more value here.

The commentary itself upholds the standards established in the Introduction. As is true of some of the better titles in this series, it competes for the title of the best commentary from the critical perspective. Adele Berlin is its main rival, but the intentions of the two are different. Berlin aims at the scholar while this volume pitches itself to teachers and preachers. Pick according to your need, but this is a successful choice to grasp the critical approach and glean its theological contributions.

I received this book free from the publisher. 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. 

Numbers (Interpretation) by Olson

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This volume on Numbers in the Interpretation Bible Commentary series by Dennis Olson is one of the more favorably reviewed in the whole series. When I saw that it was judged as more academically astute than its companion volumes, I was intrigued to check it out. Its marks for theology rank highly as well. Without doubt, its conclusions spring from a critical perspective just as you will find to be true across the series. To my mind, these reviews are accurate.

The Introduction is quite brief but introduces us to Olson’s highly-regarded ideas about the structure of the Book of Numbers. That provocative view of structure divides Numbers into two parts: Numbers 1-25 and 26-36. It sees the first part as the old generation of rebellion and the other as the new generation of hope. The design within each half is also presented as cohesive. This review of structure is followed by some theological discussion. Everything else is pushed to the commentary section.

The structure Olson loves to highlight becomes a guide in the commentary itself. Besides a few places of too much brevity, the commentary is well done. If you understand the perspective this book brings, you will know what you can find versus what simply must be sought somewhere else.

There are about 5 or 6 volumes that have separated themselves from the others in this series. Mark this book down as one of them.

I received this book free from the publisher. 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.

Spiritual Gifts by Thomas Schreiner

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This book is different than other Thomas Schreiner books I’ve used. That’s not to say it isn’t good, just that it’s different. He’s turned out some impressive exegetical volumes over the years, and though this volume has a scholarly awareness, it can profit any Christian. In my view, it’s pitched at the right level to be a blessing to lots of people. You can tell he’s writing past those obsessed debaters who battle these issues for kicks so he can reach Christians with honest questions on a confusing subject. His tone is more of discussion and gentle persuasion with a keen respect of the reader who might at the end of the day conclude differently than him.

After an introduction, he gives a balanced, gracious critique of the strengths and weaknesses of the Charismatic Movement. The next three chapters dissect the various lists of spiritual gifts in the New Testament. He gives two chapters to reason out what the New Testament really means by “prophecy”. There are two chapters on the explosive issue of tongues. The final two chapters look at arguments pro and con on the cessation of gifts.

His arguments are judicious and have the ring of truth. I found myself nodding “yes” on many pages. I’d call this book a perfect volume to use to make sense of spiritual gifts. You will want to check it out.

I received this book free from the publisher. 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. 

Zachary Taylor by Eisenhower (Presidential Bio. Series)

John S. D. Eisenhower, son of President Eisenhower, writes this concise biography on President Zachary Taylor for The American Presidents Series. That series is at its best on the lesser known president’s because it enables you to quickly read a biography and move on to the next president. Our presidents are mostly a mediocre lot from Van Buren to Buchanan besides, perhaps, Polk. On the other hand, if you give equal weight to these presidents pre-presidential careers, Taylor is one of the most interesting. He was the leading general of the Mexican War. It doesn’t hurt that we without question won that war and added vast territory to our nation. To me, Taylor is far more important in our nation’s history as a general than as a president.

Taylor is shown as a soldier’s soldier. This book well relays his exciting moments (plus a few that weren’t so exciting). At times, his strategy wasn’t above questioning either. He caught a few breaks and called a few good ones too. What could never be questioned was his courage. His traits matched his soldier life–loyal, diligent, and willing to face hardships. The author was a soldier as well and was in his wheelhouse in describing this overarching aspect of Taylor’s life.

The author tells us little of Taylor’s religious point of view other than once saying he wasn’t very religious, though he relayed that viewpoint while telling us that he called for a day of prayer! It could be that the fact that all Taylor’s papers were destroyed in the Civil War while in his son’s possession have obscured our fully knowing Taylor’s religious outlook.

I’m so glad I chose this volume as my read on Taylor. Perfectly paced for my needs and genuinely interesting, this book served up Taylor with nice balance, appropriate depth, and fleshed out in an economy of pages. Worth looking this one up!