This new release in the New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) stands out among the other volumes in the series that I have reviewed. There is still much scholarly research as well as a host of biblical passages exegeted that I’ve come to expect in this series, but the scope of the subject isn’t as narrow as that found in most volumes. Most surprisingly, too, there is at times what could be used devotionally to be found. Not at the expense of scholarship, but in addition to it. In that sense, it’s quite rich. Maybe this isn’t so surprising after all, as how can you study personal transformation biblically without it turning personal?
The introductory chapter examines what we mean by transformation by looking even at prevailing trends in psychology regarding it. That discussion was nothing short of fascinating and reinforced why we’d better turn to the Bible to see what it has to say on the subject. The next chapter turns to biblical anthropology regarding personal transformation and defines key terms like “heart”, “mind”, “soul “, etc. I was impressed again.
The third chapter scans the Old Testament for personal transformation. The approach mostly takes key characters and states (overstates?) his appraisal of the biblical data. The level of digging into these beloved figures was in no way shallow, even incredibly perceptive at times, but was almost depressing as he was trying to make his case that there was little personal transformation there. He moved my thinking a little but I believe a much stronger positive case could be made than his gloomy analysis. In the next chapter, as he surveys the New Testament, he goes the other way and becomes especially positive on personal transformation and perhaps overlooks a few hiccups in those characters lives. I wonder if his covenantal theology guided him overmuch. Please don’t think I’m downgrading the overall depth and quality of his work, but let’s just say that he is not one of those scholars who’s afraid to persuasively present his conclusions!
Chapter 5 was a masterpiece. He took theology as expressed by key theologians and crafted an exquisite theology of personal transformation. You would never guess in the chapter’s opening paragraphs when he tells you of three broad groups (inner life/ Augustine & Edwards, Christology/ Calvin, piety/Owen) what a profound reading journey you are about to take. Other theologians are mentioned, but the synthesis and collation of theology are where he soars. As I read, I was finding myself agreeing in many ways with all three positions. So did he. My only criticism, and a mild one at that, is that he sometimes switched from biblical theology to trying to ascertain the official Reformed position as if it never crossed his mind that anyone outside a reformed persuasion would read his work.
The book concludes by drawing out the biblical conclusions articulated by some master theologians and reflecting on key biblical passages. His conclusions all make sense to me—as a Bible student and a Christian sometimes sad my transformation hasn’t been more profound. Personal transformation, even biblically, is complicated, but maybe less so after reading this book. Without doubt, this one is a keeper!
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.