Canon, Covenant and Christology (NSBT) by Matthew Barrett

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At this point, with the multiple titles available in the New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) series, you know you’re going to get something that is at once interesting and theologically weighty. I’m sure the editorship of D. A. Carson contributes to that ongoing quality. In any event, this latest title by Matthew Barrett is as outstanding as any in the series. It’s strong stance on the divine inspiration of Scripture makes it run against the grain of most modern literature, but also makes it of even more value.

To be sure, looking at the Scriptures from a Christological perspective was a brilliant idea. This book reaches the heights that the whole idea suggests to those who love the Bible.

Though this work focuses mostly on Jesus in the Gospels and what we see there about Scripture, it’s impact is even greater. The first chapter reminds us of both the overall importance and perfect credibility of divine inspiration. I particularly enjoyed the comments about Sensus Plenior. The next chapter weaves together critical ideas like progressive revelation, word – act-word revelation, and the covenant. You will not have to agree with every idea about the covenant to be profoundly blessed by this chapter.

Next, the book dives more into the details found in the gospels. There’s a chapter on the Matthean witness, one as a case study on the Word made flesh, one about the idea of living by every word from the mouth of God as found in each of these books, one on the Johannine witness, and a final concluding chapter that takes these issues and discusses their importance to the future of doctrinal studies.

I can’t think of a dud in this series, at least among those that I have looked at, but mark this one down as one of the best!

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.

Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ (2nd Ed.) by Thomas Schreiner

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To label a book “important” or “influential” is probably too often done, but it would be hard to deny that this book has held that reputation for 20 years. Now, Thomas Schreiner takes the time to update his work in this second edition. When we are discussing Paul’s theology, no one book holds the field. In fact, I can’t think of a scholarly subject that has more pages written about it, particularly over the last 30 years or so. In that light, holding an important place in that crowd is quite an accomplishment.

Another reason that some of us might like this book is that several of the other most popular books on the subject are not nearly as conservative or orthodox. Many are mesmerized by the so-called “New Perspective on Paul”. To be clear, this book is not just a book against that perspective, but it will sufficiently address it for a thinking person and put it out to pasture as it belongs. Another feature to help you ascertain its value, is that it follows more of a reformed position in many cases and, perhaps, is most influenced by John Piper whom he mentions in the preface. If you like me are not as reformed as him, as many are not, you will still find incredible value in this book.

He says he does not want to make the book so boring as to interact with every scholar out there. While he may be selective, he is effective. I think it’s fair to say that he does not dodge any relevant issue in Paul’s theology.

Permit me to oversimplify his approach. He takes the position that Paul’s is championing God’s glory in Christ. In other words, Paul is the writer in scripture who most addresses the doctrine of salvation. In that light, he takes what Paul teaches us on a round-robin circuit of systematic theology. Again, he really doesn’t hide from any issue whether it is controversial or not. Some things he addresses are missed by others as well. Don’t miss his chapter on suffering. Still, he holds as the organizing principle that Paul is upholding God’s glory in Christ.

The value of this book is not it’s final conclusions, but it’s help for you to reach yours. In that way, let’s keep those labels of “important” and “influential”.

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 Holy Spirit by Gregg Allison and Andreas Kostenberger

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This inaugural volume in a series entitled “Theology for the People of God” is so ideal that it makes one excited for the whole series. At the same time, this book sets the bar high for those who will write the following titles. Scholars Gregg Allison and Andreas Kostenberger, prolific scholars to be sure, took the time to produce a book we need. As you can guess, the work has a conservative and baptistic bent, but is fair in all the issues and one that everyone should use.

This work is divided into two parts: biblical theology on the Holy Spirit working its way chronologically through scripture followed by systematic theology that digs deep into the doctrine itself and places it in the context of all doctrinal thinking. I found the second half more interesting, but that is not to disparage the first half. It was more a matter of taste and enjoyment of subject. To be sure, it is critically important to explore how doctrines are developed throughout scripture.

The second half on systematic theology began with an outstanding look at the Holy Spirit as part of the Trinity. The chapter on the deity and personhood of the Holy Spirit was just as exceptional. In all, four chapters explore the Holy Spirit both as an Individual and Collective Member of the Trinity. From there, the Holy Spirit’s role in Creation and Providence, the role in scripture, relation to angelic beings, relation to human beings, relation to Jesus Christ, the role in salvation, relation to the church, and the future. As you can see, nothing was left out in systematic theology and all the content presented was level headed, interesting, and enlightening.

As with any work that touches on systematic theology, of course, you will disagree on some points. I did, but none of the major points. My only criticism of the work, and it is a slight one, is I felt that the development of being filled with the Spirit, or being full of the Spirit, and distinguishing it from the baptism of the Spirit, perhaps, fell a little short.

This is an outstanding book that every Bible student and pastor ought to have. I have at least 20 pages in this book especially notated for something I want to remember. For me, that’s a sign of a great book. I say, bring on the rest of those volumes in this series soon!

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.

Including the Stranger (NSBT) by David Firth

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This book has two things in his favor. It’s another of these unique entries in the New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) series, edited by D. A. Carson, that are theologically astute and make a distinct contribution to both scholarship and biblical studies.The other plus is that renowned scholar David Firth contributes this volume in his area of expertise, the Former Prophets which include Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. In fact, Firth has already delivered an outstanding commentary on the books of Samuel. His deft hand shows throughout this volume.

His premise is that a unifying theme of these Former Prophets Is the treatment of strangers or foreigners. It is a theory that he very well may convince you on because (It made sense to me). Even if it isn’t the overarching theme of these books, it is at least in play in a key way.

To my mind even if you don’t agree with his premise, you have something of a fine introduction to each of these historical books of the Old Testament. In fact, I could not imagine studying these books without consulting this work going forward. To me, it almost does what Barry Webb’s “Five Festal Garments” does for the Five Scrolls. Count this another winner in an outstanding 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.

Two New Resources To Study Theology!

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This book that describes Christian theology is a real treat. I say that knowing full well that there are a plethora of such works ranging from overviews of theology all the way to massive, full systematic theologies. To me, it will find an audience among those who need something with real depth yet aren’t quite ready to spend the time that one of those 10-pound systematic theologies requires.

Most everyone has to wrestle with what order to study the great doctrines of theology and the one used here is as good as any. They come in this order: knowing God, God’s Revelation, God the Trinity, God’s attributes and works, humanity and sin, Jesus, Jesus’s saving work, salvation, the Holy Spirit, the Church, the future, and the Christian life.

I felt the beauty of this book is in its understandability. It takes subjects that may be opaque for many and makes them clear. Making the difficult plain is always the factor that ultimately decides the value of a work of this type. It is good theologically, biblically with many scriptures brought to bear, and historically. Knowing what church history says about these subjects is not as important as what is said biblically, but it is important. This work gives these viewpoints in proper proportion. There are also a list of key terms and resources for further study in every chapter. Those key terms will lead you to their other resource released at this time as well called “A Concise Dictionary of Theological Terms.”

There’s probably no work of this type where any reader will agree with every point made, but that is not the issue anyway. What is needed is being introduced to the subject, why it is important, and ultimately what is at stake. This work checks all the appropriate boxes and would be a worthy addition to any student’s 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.

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Released as a companion volume to the fine work entitled “Christian Theology: The Biblical Story of Our Faith”, this work puts a lot of important information at one’s fingertips. In a day when most people will merely Google these terms, a book like this is really needed. You are aware, I hope, that Google doesn’t always give you the right answer or even a good answer. That can be most detrimental with theological subjects. Further, this work explains the term in only a paragraph or two. Fortunately, that brevity does not sacrifice clarity and understanding. Google can’t match that! I recommend this book and its companion volume to any Bible student or pastor. It’s a perfect place to begin for a deeper study of important theological concepts of scripture.

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 Warfare in the Storyline of Scripture by Cook & Lawless

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I’ve never seen a book that approaches spiritual warfare in a better, more grounded way. William Cook and Chuck Lawless team to provide a work that avoids the excesses of most volumes on the subject of spiritual warfare.

It’s almost like they provide us two books in one. The first half of the book approaches the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and traces spiritual warfare as the subject is biblically developed. Really, what could be a better approach to grasping a biblical subject? Further, this half of the book could almost be used as a reference book as well as reading it straight through to develop the concept of spiritual warfare.

The second half of the book approaches the subject from a practical standpoint. Here its balance was even more dramatic. They followed the good advice they gave in telling us to study God rather than studying Satan to understand spiritual warfare. In fact, the usual suspects of such a book are refreshingly absent. No spooky stuff about demons, but rather practical discussion of how Satan works in our lives. What this volume lacks in shock it more than makes up in spiritual value. Five chapters are included in this second section of practical application and covers spiritual warfare in the local church, evangelism, missions, the family, and in leaders. It was so at once convicting and helpful. I’m convinced that this is exactly the sort of thing the Lord intended we dwell on as we process the concept of spiritual warfare.

The authors highlight so effectively the danger of looking into ourselves or our own strength as the open door to Satan entering and establishing a foothold. I needed what I read here!

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.

Why Church? by Scott Sunquist

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It’s good to see a book championing the church. There has been a radical shift in how the world views local churches both culturally and in terms of impact. Scott Sunquist tackles this important subject both historically and biblically and with an eye to the future. He has written it in such a way that it’s not specific to a certain denomination, but looks rather at the core function of the local church.

He comes back to basics in chapter 1 and explains that the two purposes of the church are worship and mission. Chapter 2 is a fine survey of church history from the time of Jesus to the current environment of Post-Chrisendom. We may not be happy about the trends, but he lays them out for us to ponder.

The next five chapters make up his main premise by using five words to describe what a church is supposed to be doing. These words are come, stand, kneel, sit, and go. When he speaks of coming to the church, he is speaking of coming to Jesus in conversion, coming to the body of Christ for community, and finding our identity in the worship of Jesus Christ. His discussion of standing is a call to praise God. He may be less concerned about worship styles than you are, but I do think you will likely agree with his emphasis on the necessity of praise. As you probably guessed, the chapter on kneeling is about worship. He doesn’t approach worship as some touchy-feely, nebulous experience, but rather coming before God in confession and repentance. It’s a good approach I think. The chapter on sitting describes the great importance of sitting still to receive the Word of God. I found it to be quite helpful despite a few possible rabbit trails. The final chapter on going is about taking the church outside of its building and carrying out the mission of Jesus Christ.

There is a later chapter that he calls “healthy body movement”. Here he wrestles with the implementation of all he has discussed with a balancing of his five key elements. Don’t read that as if he has all the answers, but read it as taking suggestion on what you ought to consider as you work through that same dilemma. The epilogue mentions a few things that he did not write about in the book, but should be considered.

I just happened to be doing this review while churches around the world are quiet in the buildings with most services held online during the Covid-19 crisis. It strikes me that perhaps we haven’t given thought to how incredibly powerful and wonderful the local church is in our lives. Maybe this book can help us reflect and plunge forward.

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.

Doing Theology with the Reformers by Gerald Bray

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This book by Gerald L. Bray, a known Reformation expert, isn’t exactly what I expected—it’s better. For some reason, I imagined something of a brief systematic theology cast in the History of the Reformation. There is some of that, to be sure, but much more. It wasn’t until the mid-point of chapter 3 (nearly 100 pages in) before the book really mentioned some of those subjects. My favorite part was those first 100 pages! Mr. Bray writes history with verve. I found the pages turned quite easily. I got more out of it than some far lengthier books for sure.

Whether he talked about Bible interpretation, the Covenants, reformed theology, he always infused it with clear historical context. That he could write so thoroughly and yet so winningly suggests his profound knowledge of his subject. To me, he could sift through reams of data and clearly distinguish what was most significant.

The look of this book might tip you off that it is a companion to the larger Reformation Commentary on Scripture (RCS) series before you even read that it is. There is that distinctive green. More importantly, there is that same labor of love behind its careful scholarship.

You don’t have to follow reformed theology to benefit from this book. It will lead you to clear historical context of a pivotal moment of church history.

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.

God’s Relational Presence by Duvall and Hays

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There are getting to be quite a few large volumes on biblical theology available to Christian readers today. Many of them are scholarly and well done. They may focus the work along different lines – redemption, love, forgiveness, or the kingdom – but don’t dare think of this volume by J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays as an anomaly. This focus on God’s relational presence as the cohesive center of biblical theology makes perfect sense. It will not replace those others described above but it will complement them well. Our God is about relationship and as the authors scan Genesis to Revelation they will prove to you how prevalent it is. Mark me down as at first surprised and then convinced!

This author combination has already proven to work well before in the well-received title Grasping God’s Word and several other projects. Duvall is the New Testament scholar who balances out Hays the Old Testament scholar. Together they have learned how to communicate across the Canon.

I saw no signs of haste. The theme is well carried out while the detail is well fleshed out. In every part of Scripture, they find evidence of this controlling theme or overarching storyline of Scripture and show it to you. Don’t miss the introduction where in the very first paragraph they lay out their basic thesis and explain what they are trying to do to perfection. It well makes you know what to expect across the thorough volume.

Unlike many such books they didn’t just ask us to believe them, they showed us. So many biblical texts are pulled in while the expansive bibliography shows the breadth of scholarship as well. There’s even an occasional chart or graph that is quite instructive.

I found this book more successful in its presentation than some others of its kind and give it the highest recommendation!

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 Church (Contours of Christian Theology) by Edmund Clowney

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By this point, I have used almost every volume in the Contours of Christian Theology series. All these volumes have run between good and great. They all are books to ponder after you’ve already consulted your systematic theologies. None of them are for shallow readers but are for those who are interested in really digging in the theology. This volume on the church by Edmund P. Clowney is one of those that fall on the “great” end of the scale. He has such probing, interesting things to say about the church and handles beautifully where ecclesiology touches on any of the other main doctrines.

There are 18 chapters that cover the church from every conceivable angle and address every theological issue I can imagine on ecclesiology. While I might not agree with a few statements here and there, this volume definitely leans to the conservative point of view. Just check his references and endnotes and see who he quotes. That will make it clear where his perspective comes from.

The beauty of the book was how he took very familiar concepts, exactly those concepts you would imagine you’d find in a book about the church, and said them in new ways that stretched your thinking. He wrote a book of scholarly depth and theological precision without sacrificing clear, persuasive writing. Concepts within ecclesiology are highly debated and rigidly held so there’s little hope that he will fall exactly where every reader does but don’t let that keep you at bay. You will work through all these issues in a much more thorough fashion with far more satisfying results if this book is one you carefully use. A well-done volume!

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.