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.

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.

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.

Hearers & Doers by Kevin Vanhoozer

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Kevin Vanhoozer is one of our sharpest theological minds today. He so often breaks into territory that no one else tackles. He may wrestle with a multitude of heavy theological works, but he is the guy to bring it to the rest of us. Since his latest subject here is that of making disciples, particularly from a pastor’s point of view, and since there’s a glut in the market on discipleship, he shows the league apart that he works in amongst a world of works that all say the same thing. Make room among all the dime-a-dozen discipleship titles on your shelves for this provocative volume to have a prominent place. This book is one for a pastor to lay as a foundation for our work. The subtitle accurately lets you know what you are getting yourself into: A pastor’s guide to making disciples through Scripture and doctrine.

After a clear introduction, Part One that is made up of four chapters explains why discipleship matters. He champions the importance of theology in making disciples. Chapter 2 is so profound that it could be pulled out of this book and presented as commentary on our age, at least involving fitness and body image which has taken on its own religious pretensions. I shared that chapter with some in my family as making clear things that I was ashamed I had never thought of. The next chapters explain the importance of taking disciples from hearing to doing and in building up the body of Christ.

Part Two in four more chapters digs into working out discipleship. Pastors should be challenged by his analogy of our being the eye doctor and general practitioner of the church. Next, he looks at the disciple as a member of the church, which is sadly so de-emphasized in our day. I found myself not fully agreeing with all he said in the chapter on the communion of saints, but there are some fair correctives there that may keep us from running off into the other ditch. The final chapter, wisely, looks at us as children of God who are disciples as “fitting image of Jesus Christ”.

You can often judge how much I find value in a book by how much I underline and notate throughout. My volume of this book is marked all over with usually something on every page. This book is for those who want to think, so pick it up and read slowly and you will be in for a treat.

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 Message of Discipleship (BST) by Peter Morden

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This latest release in the Bible Speaks Today (BST) series explains the topic of discipleship by careful exposition of key texts. If you are familiar with this series, you know that that is how these volumes on Bible themes work. Peter Morden appears quite comfortable in this format. Personally, I wondered what would be the best texts to consider, and I found that I pretty much agreed with what Mr. Morton has chosen. Partially because of the subject matter, I found this volume to be one of the most devotional that I have read in the series. Mr. Morton comes across as equally adept at handling the devotional aspect. The only tiny criticism that I could find in the volume is that he, perhaps, quoted others a bit much. To be fair, I didn’t actually verify that with the other volumes, but that was my impression as I read. At least, he chose wonderful works to quote, and some you don’t normally see quoted in one of these types of works too.

The 17 chapters, or expositions, are divided into three parts: the foundations of discipleship with four chapters, the resources for discipleship with four chapters, and the practice of discipleship with nine chapters. The chapters on the foundations of discipleship look closely at the ministry of Christ and the call he put on us. The chapter on Isaiah 6 was an excellent addition here as well. In part two there were fine chapters on prayer and the church regarding discipleship, but my personal favorite was a gem of a chapter on discipleship and the Holy Spirit. Part three dug deep into our personal walk with Christ and included the resurrection, holiness, a needy world, daily work, finance, living in dark times, the key of love, making disciples in our world, and a concluding exposition on finishing the course.

Though this book has quality scholarship, I would deem it to be helpful to any Christian reader. The writing is accessible and the message is warm. Mr. Morton is a pastor in addition to being a scholar and it shows throughout.

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 and Union with Christ by Constantine Campbell

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Wow! I knew this book was highly regarded on the influential subject of union with Christ. I’ve seen Constantine Campbell’s name show up all over this issue as well. What surprised me, though, is this book’s laudable design. I cannot think of a more ideal way to examine Paul’s relationship to the theological subject of union with Christ than to simply exegete every passage in the epistles of Paul that touch on the subject. Along the way, Campbell tackles “in Christ”, “through Christ”, “into Christ”, as well as every other conceivable expression on the subject. In addition to exegeting each passage, he outlines the possible uses of the word and categorizes each passage as to its likely usage.

Before all those passages are exegeted, there are two chapters that cover introductory matters and a history of the issue seen through the eyes of the major theological players that have most contributed to how the debate has gone. There’s a lot to evaluate there as Campbell does a fine job explaining the strengths and weaknesses of each theologian. After chapters 3 through 7 exegete all those passages, there are several chapters of theological study. More terms are defined and exegeted as well as major concepts of participation like the body of Christ, Temple and building, marriage, dying and rising with Christ, and the new Adam being explained. There’s one chapter that well explains Trinitarian issues and another that tackles the often-debated relationship of union with Christ and justification. The twelveth chapter defines union with Christ with all the information we gained throughout the book and there’s one final chapter on implications and future directions that will really appeal to scholars. Fortunately, there’s a scriptural index that will make this volume as wonderful a reference as it is a theological read.

To my mind, this volume is without peer for the needs of Bible students and pastors on union with Christ. Without a doubt, it will be my go-to 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.

Old Testament Ethics by John Goldingay

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Mark this down is an interesting addition on a subject that runs as wide a gamut as almost any in biblical studies: Old Testament ethics. Enter John Goldingay who has written both major exegetical commentaries and substantial works on Old Testament theology into the Old Testament ethical debates. To be honest, sometimes he’s just a little too far left for me. On the other hand, if we were to tabulate the top scholars on the Old Testament today, he would make most people’s list. I actually enjoyed this volume more than some others of his that I have reviewed.

He divides the book into five parts with the first 3 being subject oriented. He categorizes those subjects as qualities, aspects of life, and relationships. Part four looks at eight of the most important texts in the Old Testament, or at least texts where ethics would be most discussed. Part five contains seven chapters on various people in the Old Testament who had pronounced ethical dilemmas. In my view, this was an excellent framework to approach ethics in the Old Testament.

I found some of the subjects enlightening while others were provocative. If you’ve read him before, that comes as no surprise. In a few cases, he shocked me by taking a more conservative viewpoint than I anticipated. In a few other cases, I found him a little hesitant. In other words, I sensed he might be afraid he would offend someone a little left of him. That’s just my impression. Impressions are a dime a dozen so you can analyze that for yourself.

In any event, there is some good material here to help you wrestle with these highly-debated subjects. In a book of this nature, it’s not if a writer agrees with you on every point, but if he or she is able to stretch you to think about more sides of the issue than you otherwise would have. On that score, Mr. Goldingay has wonderfully succeeded.

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.

“In Christ” in Paul edited by Thate, Vanhoozer, and Campbell

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This book is a substantial resource on the important doctrinal concepts of union and participation. As the title suggests, the expression “in Christ” is key in the Pauline writings and, perhaps, an important peg to hang New Testament studies on. When I saw the names Michael J. Thate, Kevin J. Vanhoozer, and Constantine R. Campbell listed as editors, I knew this would be a book of significant theological depth. Probably more important for the parts than its whole, this is a book that can be referred to for almost any issue imaginable touching on union and participation.

Vanhoozer himself provides a lengthy introductory article that serves as a grand overview of the subject. The rest of the articles are divided into three parts: Pauline theology and exegesis, some highlights from reception history, and theological reflection. I found the articles in parts one and three more interesting, but that probably has more to do with my tastes rather than any deficiency in part two. Most of the articles are narrow in scope. In other words, they slice off a small part of the overall discussion and examine it thoroughly. I imagine this book will be used more for reference than for being the textbook on the subject. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be shocked to see this work referenced repeatedly in future scholarly articles.

The first five articles by Douglas Campbell, Constantine Campbell, grant McCaskill, Susan Eastman, and Matthew Croasmun were most helpful overall. After that, you received help on baptism in relation to the subject, and the digging into 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, and Philippians on participation. Part two sifts history to see what some of the theological giants thought about the subject before it received its more recent extensive coverage in the scholarly world. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Augustine, Martin Luther, Calvin, John Owen, and Karl Barth all received attention over these six chapters. Part three contained three articles that showed you how much this important theological concept can require new reflection in a variety of other parts of Scripture. Here we looked at going from the Trinity to Christian virtue, participating in the body and blood of Christ, and unity.

There’s no way that any scholar doing detailed work on union and participation will not have this work near at hand for decades to come. In addition, the rest of us can glean from its pages to draw out profound theological reflections.

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.