The Ten Commandments by Peter Leithart

I knew I’d like this book. Sometimes you encounter an author that just seems to ring the bell for you each time you read them. Over the last three years, I’ve taken on 5 or 6 such writers and Peter Leithart is one of them. Where others strain to say something, he sees something. In what must induce jealousy from the cardboard writers of our day who take one catchy phrase for a title only to squeeze the life out of it for around 200 pages, along comes Leithart and says more in one page, or maybe one paragraph, than they do in their whole production. Adding injury to their insult, not only does he have something to say, but he can turn a phrase better than them in their pedestrian efforts where they think hip and cute is the real deal.

This one scores the high praise like others of his I’ve read. What’s funny is that it lacks polish. At times, it’s almost a stream-of -consciousness affair. He gives a line or two with some brilliant observation and then goes on to something else as if it wasn’t as grand as it really was. I say that though I at times strongly disagree with him (though that was far less the case here than in his work on baptism in this series). The book is kind of short too. You could read it quickly, though that would be the dumbest thing you could do. I’m not giving caveats, to be sure, as this book is beyond criticism, but really marveling at how he wrote and still how profoundly good it was.

I learned so much that either I didn’t actually know anything about the Ten Commandments in the first place, or we really have something special here.

I’ll suggest this to you—read just the material on the First Commandment alone and if you don’t love this book by then, then I for sure don’t know anything about reviewing books.

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.

Reformed Dogmatics by Vos

It’s hard to image a new title (in English at least) from a popular writer who has been dead 70 years. But that is what we have here. Geerhardus Vos is renowned for his work on biblical theology and his highly influential “The Pauline Eschatology” and here we have uncovered for us a work from earlier in his career.

First, let’s dispense with the ridiculous criticism that some throw at the pages of this volume. Some accuse the pages of being too thin with too much bleed, but they are exactly what many Bibles use with no disadvantage. If you dislike the thinner pages, you can get this title as a multi volume set. Still, this volume is attractive and will be easy to read.

With that settled, we can now consider Vos’ work itself. Be sure to read the Preface as it gives interesting background on Vos and this work of systematic theology itself. It really prepares you for what you are going to be getting. It reminds you that he was Dutch (you may be aware of Dutch Reformed theology) and specifically his “affinity” with Herman Bavick (which may also orient you). You will also see how to distinguish it from his more famous Biblical Theology.

Next, you will notice that you are reading from one teaching students. In fact, he uses a question and answer format. Perhaps they are not all the questions that you’d like asked, but they are informative and shrewdly work through what Vos was wanting to impart. I imagine his students were far more instructed than they imagined and we likely will glean far more than the simple design might at first suggest.

Further, you might have to dig to find certain subjects. For example, when I was looking for his section on the Holy Spirit, I had to seek till I found it under the Trinity. A little digging will get you to most everything you’re looking for.

His theological prowess is on display throughout. This work is not like some of the most popular systematic theologies, but aims more at clarity and profundity. Consider it a great change up as you grab your pile of systematic theologies. It’s worthy of a place.

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.

A Theology of Paul and His Letters by Douglas Moo

Every volume I’ve encountered in this Biblical Theology of the New Testament (BTNT) series has been excellent. As much, or maybe more, than the others this volume by Pauline scholar Douglas Moo shows expert handling. You wonder if there are absolutely no issues however minute that Moo doesn’t know all about involving Paul. Having written major, and I might add well received, commentaries on Romans, Galatians, Colossians, and Philemon, who could have been better positioned to write this work? As he relates in the preface, he worked on this project over 15 years. It was bound to be good and it is.

When I first picked up this volume, my thought was that it seemed to be laid out differently than the others in the series. The design appeared pedestrian and early on he relayed that he felt more comfortable in the trees than in the forest, that he enjoyed exegeting a text more than taking these big-picture views. Naturally, I lowered my expectations…until I read far enough to realize that he had misled me. The design was perfect because of the excellent work he did within it. Further, I felt he took me high enough to get a clearer forest view than I had. He knew every ditch that scholarship had run into, but he stayed on the highway. He wrote as one of whom Paul’s writings had pierced his heart after filling his head. Are we so jaded these days that we have forgotten just how much that can elevate a work like this one?

I enjoyed chapter 2 on the shape of Paul’s thought. In fact, it well illustrates what I said above. He sifted so much of the scholarly refuse to blaze a straight path to the mountain top. Along the way, you saw his honesty too. He had occasional small deviations to the normal conclusions of the bunch he runs with, but he seemed bound to tell where his studies took him. Let’s call it refreshing.

After that chapter you are better equipped to traverse his discussion of Paul’s life and ministry. After that, he takes each Pauline epistle in turn. You will feel in the hands of a master throughout. It is not a commentary, but has as much awareness as found in one.

Part 3 backs up and talks about the collective theology that you’ve already been collecting in the book to that point. Read enough to get his concept of the “New Realm”. It really unifies his entire presentation. Taking the three parts of this book together is somewhat akin to looking at Paul through a prism. Paul’s lofty contribution is key to our faith and worthy of such a grand view. This book provides such a view in a way that few ever have.

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.

Others in the series:

https://thereaganreview.com/2017/08/19/a-theology-of-james-peter-and-jude-by-davids/

https://thereaganreview.com/2017/03/31/a-theology-of-johns-gospel-and-letters-by-kostenberger/

https://thereaganreview.com/2017/03/12/a-theology-of-marks-gospel-by-david-garland/

https://thereaganreview.com/2012/07/26/a-theology-of-luke-and-acts/

The Glory of God and Paul (NSBT) by Morgan and Peterson

Wonder what they will say? That was my first thought when I saw this title by Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson in the NSBT series. The glory of God is a concept that you think is self-apparent, at least until you try to express it. Then circular definitions and hollow platitudes roll off your lips. To be truthful, this title upon hearing of it didn’t excite me as some in this series, but equally in truth, I am excited to think upon what it showed me. The glory of God is a subject, as shown here, that pervades Scripture and clearly must be crucial to understanding our God.

The first two chapters take you to school on the glory of God. The various ways scholars define it is brought out, not just to ascribe scholarly labels, but to reason through to real understanding. Explaining God’s glory as being both intrinsic and extrinsic was the apex for taking the reader to mastery of the subject. This section was so worthwhile and revealing.

The reason the title of the book adds “and Paul” is because in the subsequent chapters the concept of the glory of God is fleshed out in the epistles of Paul. The theology and the exegesis of specific passages seemed spot on.

The variety and quality of this series always impresses as is certainly the case 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.

Now and Not Yet (NSBT) by Dean Ulrich

The NSBT series marches on with this interesting look at the significance and theology of Ezra and Nehemiah. The NSBT series is truly a random series, but the volumes are often fascinating. We never know what is coming next in the series, but we’d be remiss not to find out. Dean Ulrich does good work here.

The title Now and Not Yet suggests the track the book will run. That thought that is found in many prophetic writings here tells of a new chapter for God’s people that will more fully climax in Christ. Many are reluctant to develop that line of thinking in the scholarly world, so we appreciate the openness here to embrace it.

Throughout this book we are confronted with Ezra-Nehemiah as if it were one book rather than two. He makes a good case and at the least it does no harm to study with that design. Though I enjoyed what he gave us, I wish he had developed the structure even more.

Chapter two well explained the big picture of biblical theology. Chapter three explained the history of the return from exile but the nuggets were all in the theology developed.

In a creative turn, the next three chapters address rebuilding the temple, rebuilding the people, and rebuilding the wall. That told the story in a framework that allowed the theology to bud. Chapter 7 shows what worked and what fell short. There his now-and-not-yet theme fully bloomed.

Isn’t it wonderful that these NSBT volumes keep coming along? I want them all, don’t you? This one is a sample of why.

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 Identity and Attributes of God by Terry Johnson

I must best describe this book as pure joy. I’d heard good things about it, but had been warned that it is heavily imbibed with quotations. To my mind, that usually doesn’t work. In those cases the author seems more of a compiler than a writer. I wondered going in if this would be more of a good reference than a good read. The more I read, the more my weak expectations were proven wrong.

The book is full of quotations, so how did the author pull it off? By picking the very best quotes, by seamlessly weaving them into the work, and by then writing thoughtfully around them. In the end, you get rich theology for your mind and warmth for soul. This is not a compilation. This is a book!

This book doesn’t address ever attribute, but covers some of the most important ones to ingest. After a discussion of God, the Trinity, and what the incommunicable attributes are, those of God as Creator and of His providence are brought to light. One of the best sections was holiness. Another favorite was goodness. I gained so much from it. The one on love started slower but really pierced my heart by end.

The book ends abruptly, but the author has delivered another volume on other attributes from another publisher.

You’ll see a pastor’s heart and a theologian’s precision throughout your read of this precious book. If this book doesn’t help you, I doubt you’re even trying.

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.

Christian Theology by Adam Harwood

Here’s a new Systematic Theology that fulfills a distinct need on two fronts. First, it’s a bit more manageable than most systematic theologies without sacrificing the needed depth. Second, it’s from a distinctly Baptist perspective. In that vein, it doesn’t follow the Calvinistic approach that clearly dominates the systematic theology market. That difference means you get more perspective as several other popular volumes are so closely aligned as to render some redundant.

There’s also a unique presentation here that allows one new avenues of thinking. As I was reading, I was struck with how this material was obviously honed through years of interacting with students. Every section was quite approachable and useful. Only in the section on Last Things did I feel he left some questions unanswered, or at least gave a briefer treatment.

Who would benefit most from this book? Pastors will appreciate it for sure. It would also be a boon to one embarking on their first attempt at a really deep, thorough study. Several other such volumes might sink your studies by their opaque style, but that is not the case here. Even if you can handle those volumes, this one still gives a different perspective like I mentioned before that makes it still particularly valuable.

I keep a stack of 3-4 systematic theologies always close by. This one will join them on that often-used pile.

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.

Sermons and Addresses of George Smeaton

Here’s an attractive new volume by popular older theological writer George Smeaton. You probably are aware of his influential writings on the Holy Spirit and the Atonement that have been around for 140 years. In this new release sermons and addresses are collected and presented to us in one book.

The book begins with a fine biographical sketch by John Keddie. This is particularly valuable since there has been so little written on Smeaton. Since there’s so little for Keddie to draw from, there’s much more on his career than his personal life. His ministry and theological writing are well described as well as several theological controversies of his time that he was involved in. Next, the Introduction gives a few details on these sermons and addresses. What is unique about these addresses are how they really add to a biographical understanding of Smeaton themselves.

The first five are excellent sermons that have both an exceptional theological basis and a clearly experiential side. The next two look at the profound revival of his time. The one “The Improvement of a Revival Time” makes you pine for what we know so little of. The last several are excellent yet give good historical background and strong encouragement particularly for preachers.

This beautiful hardback is the perfect setting for these writings. I think you’ll like 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.

Transfiguration and Transformation by Hywel Jones

Linking the Transfiguration of Christ to our transformation as believers in Christ is intriguing to say the least. I’ll confess that I never thought of the connection before I came across this book. The connection isn’t fabricated as both spring from the same word in the New Testament.

In a Preface entitled “A Biblical ‘Metamorphosis’”, Jones takes the time to prove linguistic connection and explains why it might be a rich vein to mine. Then the book divides into two main parts taking the Transfiguration and our transformation in turn. At first, I thought his presentation of the Transfiguration began slowly. As I came to realize, he was laying a solid foundation. Perhaps some issues he addresses are not ones you’d ever be concerned with, but he seems determined to counter all criticisms and restore what should have always been a lofty status. As he proceeds, the discussion grows much richer.

When he switches to transformation, rather than addressing critical challenges he reorients to theological challenges. Again he builds his foundation slowly, but really builds on the framework of regeneration, sanctification, and glorification. Whether you’d agree with his theological viewpoint or not, it’s the discussion of individual passages that address transformation that renders the most aid to our contemplation of transformation.

This book addresses more scholarly concerns than I am used to seeing in a BOT volume, but it is an interesting study. I always appreciate someone who can open the Bible and show me something I have never put together before. That is what happens 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.

Psalms (EBTC) [2 volumes] by Hamilton

Mark down these two volumes on Psalms by James Hamilton Jr. as my new favorite in this newer Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary (EBTC) series. Strangely enough, in this series that emphasizes theology it isn’t the theology that makes me rate it so highly (though the theology is excellent), but the overall approach to the Psalms themselves. In short, he sees an overarching structure and unity that presents a purposeful, carefully planned presentation rather than a loose collection with no more interconnection than a hymn book. You know how a hymn book works—each new edition drops a few songs while adding others with no loss other than if the changes involved your favorite song or not. There’s no overall theme to affect. Hamilton doesn’t want us to see the Psalms that way. I’m convinced he’s right.

More than the proclamation that the Psalms are a unity and interconnected, the details that Hamilton marshals and presents are profound. As you read, you catch yourself saying, of course that’s right! You might might disagree on a few details but there are too many to dodge. I’ve always felt this must be true of the Psalms and how I enjoyed reading the labor shown here to work it out.

There’s a second reason to love this commentary. It stands above the pack in an even more fundamentally important category. I’ve had the privilege to review many commentaries and have had occasional opportunity to declare that a particular commentary presents well-argued conservative conclusions. On a high level that’s true here too, but there’s more. I can’t recall ever reading such an impassioned exhibition in a major commentary series for the necessity of seeing Scripture as the inspired Word of God. Scholarship frowns too often on childlike faith and so even many scholars who possess such faith write as if they hear the eggshells breaking under their feet. They write in a subdued manner as if someone might show up and make them sit in the corner, or worse, call them out as not a REAL scholar. Hamilton didn’t take that defensive position. Let’s just say he was on offense and turned the discussion on its head so much so that it’s those other scholars who can take their place in the corner. What a breath of fresh air! He wasn’t brash, but he just brought the discussion back into the light of day. We hold a book in our hands that is a production of the Almighty. How can we believe less than what he shared here? How did scholarship lose sight of the big picture? I have the highest admiration for what I read here.

Everything else was on target in this commentary. The exegetical depth of the comments are as far as the parameters of the series allows and give real help. Why should I say more? You can already tell these two volumes are 5 star all the way to me.

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.