The Doctrine of Humanity by Charles Sherlock

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At this point, I’ve been blessed to use several volumes in this too-little-known Contours of Christian Theology series. This one on the doctrine of humanity by Charles Sherlock compares to the best volumes in the series. It dives into the doctrine yet not in such an esoteric way that you are left with little contribution to your thinking. Mr. Sherlock hits on most of the main components in the study of Christian anthropology. He even relates beautifully to the corresponding doctrine of sin in helpful ways. He occasionally relates a viewpoint that you might find subversive (he is not in my opinion as conservative, for example, as Sinclair Ferguson on the Holy Spirit in this series), but his contribution to the big picture of understanding this doctrine is greatly enriched by the arguments and detail he brings to bear.

His first focus, as he calls the divisions of the book, is our being made in the image of God. He looks at that in terms of ancient Israel, our being renewed in Christ, and in a variety of contexts in Christian thought. This section is truly foundational and well done. The next focuses on the human race. He takes a broad view, he reveals his political stance along the way, yet he still offers wonderful food for thought. The final section is on the human person. There’s a chapter on the unique person that covers things like human dignity, freedom, indignity, rights and the sanctity of life and an introduction to thinking about gender roles. He had a chapter each for being a woman and being a man that ran back and forth between fascinating and making you raise an eyebrow. His chapter on the whole person where he got into the body, soul, spirit, and heart was the best in the whole book. After the conclusion, he has two appendices that relate the doctrine of sin to humanity as well as some additional material on gender roles and issues.

Though you may have picked up on my few caveats, the book is still totally engrossing on many levels. Again, it’s one of my favorites in the series and is a must-have in your doctrine of humanity section.

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.

Joshua (NIVAC) by Hubbard

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The word on the street was that this commentary by Robert Hubbard in the NIVAC series was one of the best that the series had to offer and with it now in my hands, I can understand why. That is no small accomplishment when you consider that Joshua has never been thought of as the easiest book of the Bible from which to draw present-day application. That’s not to criticize that wonderful book of Scripture, but to admit that there are many issues in it that do not exactly line up with modern sensibilities. This commentary is full of keen observations and thoughtful application. I really can’t agree with all its historical and textual conclusions, but if you will look past those things what is left is of much value.

The introduction, quite frankly, is a little spotty. He is pretty good at explaining the tension between the viewpoints of Joshua’s day and our own. His brief summary of the contents of the book was fair but not deep. His explanation of Joshua himself brought out some fine points. Again, though he was fair to mention that there is an early date viewpoint out there, I don’t personally agree with his dating. If you do, you’ll like the book even more. He can be quite speculative when he talks about the Deuteronomic influence in the book. His thoughts on the theological themes in the book are much better and a chart demonstrating the echoes of Moses’ life in Joshua’s life was outstanding. After a brief outline, he gives a select bibliography that’s quite lengthy for one of these volumes.

It’s in the challenging passages of Joshua where this commentary comes alive. It takes the NIVAC format of original meaning, bridging contexts, and contemporary significance and uses that template to advantage. The depth of description in the original meaning section was impressive throughout. No one can offer applications that will ring true for every reader in every passage, but this one does a fine job for us.

I would check other volumes for historical matters, but this one delivers explanation and application with the best of them. 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.

Now My Eyes Have Seen You (NSBT) by Robert Fyall

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The wide-ranging, impressive New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) series here jumps into the Book of Job. Perhaps the editorship of D. A. Carson keeps this series running at a high pace, but in any event, I’ve seen this book by Robert S. Fyall often favorably mentioned. The author understands that Job has been subjected to widely differing interpretations. Fyall sees creation and evil as the key to understanding Job.

You may not agree with his total outlook, but the book’s value stands out most of all in its ability to highlight the masterful Hebrew poetry involved while also doing detailed exegesis on several passages that bring to light the key thinking behind the book of Job. What he has to say about the Behemoth and Leviathan was certainly new territory for me. I couldn’t agree with all his conclusions, but they are worth wrestling with. Make sure you take in his concluding chapter on “the vision glorious” as he ties together much of the detail he collects throughout the book.

There’s not a dud in this series and this book has caught the eye of all who write on Job. You had better 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.

The Last Things (Contours of Christian Theology) by David Hohne

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I have no idea why the Contours of Christian Theology series published by IVP flies so far under the radar. Each time I begin to study one of the main areas of systematic theology I always look up the book on it in this series. I’m thrilled that this volume on the Last Things by David Hohne completes the series. It’s clear that the editors have given the authors wide latitude as some of them delved deep in one specific area on that doctrine while others take a broader viewpoint. While I’ve gotten the most out of those that tried to materially illustrate some key overlooked parts of a doctrine, they all are of value. This latest release is of that last type. In fact, it takes the broadest view of any in the series that I have seen.

I have read a blurb that says this volume “offers a Trinitarian theological description of eschatology that is at once systematic, generated from the theological interpretation of Scripture, and sensitive to essential elements for Christian practice”. I must confess that sometimes this volume takes such a broad view in systematic theology that I forget we’re on the subject of eschatology. While the book says many brilliant things, I’m not sure I experienced marked growth in my eschatological understanding. Maybe this book would have served better as a way to view systematic theology at large rather than to say here’s how to think about eschatology. I don’t want to downgrade the book as perhaps the failure was on my end.

To be sure, this book is never sloppy, careless, or trite. The author has thought deeply and makes comments to you likely will not have thought before. He does well explaining the “now-but-not-yet” viewpoint that keeps the Bible in apparent tension. Perhaps you will be as shocked as I am that the Lord’s Prayer is the skeleton that this work hangs upon.

At the end of the day, I’m sure some will love this book more than others while all will acknowledge its scholarship. Without a doubt, everyone who does serious study on systematic theology should have every volume in the Contours of Christian Theology series.

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.

First and Second Samuel by Eugene Peterson

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I’ve enjoyed books by Eugene Peterson over the years. On the one hand, he’s a great spiritual help in our out-of-control world while he is, on the other hand, a fine encourager for pastors. He knows how to make you slow down to think and always pushes you toward thoughtful reflection. What I’m not used to seeing is Peterson showing up in a commentary series. Since this series (Westminster Bible Companion) is directed at laymen I’m not as familiar with it as I am with others. Apparently, it aims to do for laymen what the Interpretation Bible Commentary series might do for pastors or students: give thoughtful theological commentary from a critical perspective. What I’ve learned from a little research is that Peterson has contributed this work and made it unlike the others in the series. Truth be told, nobody cares because Peterson is always worth reading, and for that matter, some may like his style more than the typical ones found in this series anyway.

You will see what I mean the moment you read the introduction. There are almost none of the issues you find in a typical introduction for a commentary. When he talks about story, history, or God, he’s not really talking about them as much about the books of Samuel as he is how we ought to think about them in general. It appears to me that with very little editing he could have written this introduction for any book of the Bible. For the record, he overplays the whole “storyteller” idea too.

In any event, his few paragraphs on every passage are a joy to read as they are so out-of-the-box and spiritually minded. To be sure, sometimes I think he’s talking about something that is not really in the passage at all, yet I’m usually happy to go digging for nuggets where I’m sure to find some. In this book, if you will dig among the stones, you will find those nuggets. This book may not be as valuable as some others I’ve read by Peterson, but as always, it is a good one.

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.

Into His Presence: A Theology of Intimacy With God by Tim Anderson

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I’ve thought for some time that I needed some help on the theology of intimacy with God that was more depth and less fluff. There are so many who claim to be the golden ticket that it is refreshing to find someone who would prefer to dig out what the Scriptures truly say. When you think about it, there are not that many books that help us at this more theological level. There’s probably an experiential book on intimacy with God released every month but that usually doesn’t translate into us knowing anything more about it. Tim Anderson has clearly felt the same way and has made a grand attempt to step into the void. I’m not sure that this book fully settles the question, but it’s the best one I’ve gotten so far to get the discussion started.

Don’t skip his introduction as he makes it about what he’s trying to accomplish and the wide array of thinking that has to be sifted through to make sense of the subject of intimacy with God. The first half of the book comprising four chapters most scratched my itch. His defining intimacy with God forces us to think concretely about all the nebulous thoughts swirling around. Chapter 2 addresses the subject regarding philosophy and theology with some of that theology being the most helpful to me. Chapter 3 on linking the Fall of Man with intimacy with God was one of the best in the book and did clear up some real questions for me. The chapter on God as our Father tied in some important information as well and made sense of the role of fathers in our lives that is often written about today.

The chapter on interpreting biblical images of marriage and Christ perhaps got a little off track and in some cases, I felt split the hair too finely. Some of the pages on hermeneutics and how to interpret the Song of Solomon might have been better in another book too. There were additional chapters that addressed intimacy with the Holy Spirit and how suffering might be involved. A final chapter on songs of intimacy did not materially add to my understanding because I did not know every song discussed. I can see how that would have been a helpful exercise in his class, but I thought it was, perhaps, less effective in the book. Though he was cautious not to go the How-To route, a real theological discussion for how to apply the more pertinent things his book told us might have been in order.

Though I still say we need more, this book is an outstanding start. I appreciate what was shared here and the work that went into it. It’s nice to know that he read so across the spectrum to make sure he got a thorough idea of what’s believed in Christianity. It added something nice to when he discussed the theological directives of Scripture itself. I’ve scribbled several helpful notes from this fine book. Now I just need to figure out myself how to put it all in practice.

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 Mission of God by Wright

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Christopher J. H. Wright is an author who never disappoints. Though he has written commentaries, theological works, and Bible studies, this book on the mission of God now available in paperback is likely his most influential. In fact, his specialty on the mission of God elevates all those other books that he has written, but this one is where he makes his grand case that the narrative of the Bible has mission as its overarching theme. You will likely agree when you take in what he has said.

This book succeeds on so many levels that you might debate where to put it on your shelves. There’s the obvious choice of your mission section, but then you may wonder if it should be among your Bible theology or even Bible survey sections. Finally, it could hold its head high among titles in your deeper theology section too. That is not to say the book is unfocused, but that its explanation of the broad sweep of the Bible gets the job done from all those various vantage points.

The book is divided into four parts: the Bible and mission, the God of mission, the people of mission, and the arena of mission. As you can see, that begins in championing mission as the proper hermeneutic, continues to see God’s hand in mission, followed by the final two parts looking at the Bible from beginning to end and seeing how it sticks without wavering to God on mission. At over 500 pages, it is never shallow nor possessing omissions while never bogging into minutia either.

I’ve always felt that Wright could hold his own with any scholar while outpacing most of them on spirituality. You will see that here. This book will be the top of its class on this subject for decades to come and no Bible student should be without it.

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 Ten Commandments (I) by Patrick Miller

 

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Perhaps you are familiar with volumes in the Interpretation Bible Commentary (IBC) series on various books of the Bible. Those volumes don’t dig too deep in exegesis but excel at providing theological implications within the text. Though that theology is much more liberal than my thinking, I’m often challenged to think of things that I would have otherwise overlooked. I’ve discovered that the Interpretation series has additional volumes on a variety of scriptural topics like this one on the 10 Commandments. What has surprised me when I picked up this volume by Patrick Miller is the depth of content that really unpacks these commandments while still pointing out the theology this series loves.

With every commandment studied Miller explains the commandment in depth, what it means, how it has been applied, the moral issues involved, and how it relates or is expanded to other Scripture. My only complaint is the occasional sentence that totally capitulates to modern progressive norms. The wise Bible student can get around those because this volume digs out too much needed information to miss.

This book impresses me. I can’t imagine ever studying the 10 Commandments as a whole or one of the individual ones without consulting this book in the future. I rank it higher than any IBC I have ever used. I’d even call it the ideal place to begin for study of the 10 Commandments.

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.

1 & 2 Kings (NIVAC) by Konkel

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Professor August H. Konkel produced this commentary on 1&2 Kings in the New International Version Application Commentary (NIVAC) series. Its greatest strength lies in what the series itself aims at: application for our day. Without doubt, the scholarship that undergirds the work is solid, but the scholarly issues that he makes his focus might be less helpful than if he had, say, dove more deeply in the structure or broad themes of the book.

In fact, it is in the introduction that this becomes clear. Perhaps I overgeneralize, but he makes the theme of his introduction that of the Books of Kings being Deuteronomic history.  That emphasis almost exclusively thinks in terms of genre and composition. Even his review of the “prophetic character of Kings” is viewed from that rubric. I feel that there are clearly better options to serve as an overall guide for Kings. If you are of his mind, you will probably rank this volume as “great”.

Despite that caveat, I still can fully recommend this book for its commentary and application. Maybe I’m crazy, but somehow he reminded me of John Walton who has also written in this series. The book increases in value, too, when you consider how few volumes guide us in that last link of the chain called application.

For the record, what was slightly annoying in the introduction was in no way overwhelming in the commentary proper. I should stress again that the scholarship itself is well done. I see much evidence of careful study and thoughtful reflection. He is never trite or trivial, so you will get plenty of needed help for this often-neglected portion of Scripture.

While there are a few volumes in the NIVAC series that I enjoyed a little more, this commentary is a solid effort that I without hesitation recommend for your library.

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.

Colossians & Philemon (BECNT) by G.K. Beale

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Veteran commentator G. K. Beale strikes gold in this commentary on Colossians and Philemon in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (BECNT) series. From the onset, Beale explains that he hopes to make a distinct contribution to Old Testament allusions in Colossians (Philemon has too few to really qualify). Strangely enough, though he handles those allusions with care and thoughtfulness, it is the exegesis itself that compels me to rate it highly. The well-reasoned conservative conclusions, the passion for Scripture, and the guidance offered throughout are what most stands out in this newly released commentary. He will tell you what other scholars have thought yet has a knack for interacting without endlessly droning on. At 500 pages it is not as bulky as some of the modern exegetical commentaries but it still delivers everything that you’re looking for regarding exegesis. Scholars will be quoting it in the future while pastors can use it practically for real help with the text.

His introduction to Colossians first addresses authorship. As you are probably aware, a certain segment of scholarship has been attempting to take Colossians away from Paul for many years. I loved how Beale fairly addresses the arguments for all non-Pauline positions while knocking the props out from under them with the skill that only a seasoned commentator could muster. To my mind, he could be a template for any of the Pauline epistles that are questioned or attributed to pseudonymity.  Next, he well explains the background both of the letter and its historical setting. He proves that he is, in fact, going to be dedicated to working out all the Old Testament allusions to be found in the letter. He mentions the relationship of Colossians to Ephesians and provides a detailed outline of the book. Perhaps the weakest aspect of this introduction is that of structure. Pretty much he just shares the divisions that some other prominent scholars propose.

The commentary itself is excellent. Again, there’s real help on every passage. Just in case you’re not as interested in his beloved Old Testament allusions as he is, he kindly provides those as additional notes at the end of every section.  I checked several passages that I had either studied a great deal or knew might be controversial and really appreciated his contributions.

Though I preferred his Colossians to his Philemon, he did offer some real help both in the short introduction and commentary on Philemon.

This commentary immediately becomes a Top-3 commentary for what’s available today on Colossians and Philemon.

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.