Book Review – The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic Theology

Jeremy R. Treat. The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014. 320 pp. $26.99.

Crucified KingIn both the church and the academy, there has been an unfortunate separation of the kingdom and the cross. I’ve experienced church and parachurch settings where either kingdom or atonement was emphasized, to the near-exclusion of the other; and in both contexts I have an ache for what is missing. The same dichotomization characterizes theological tomes – works that treat the kingdom hardly ever mention the atonement, and works that deal with atonement hardly mention the kingdom of God. Both kingdom and atonement are significant motifs in Scripture, and focusing on either while discounting/ neglecting the other can have devastating impacts on both one’s theology and ministry/church life.

In The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic Theology, Jeremy Treat provides an in-depth study of the biblical and theological relationship between the kingdom of God and the atoning death of Christ on the cross. “[T]he answer lies ultimately in Jesus, the crucified king, as properly understood within the story and logic of redemption” (25). Here “the story” of redemption is biblical theology and “the logic” of redemption is systematic theology. Because the cross-kingdom divide has much to do with the divide between biblical and systematic theology (with the former emphasizing the kingdom of God whilst largely neglecting the doctrine of atonement and the latter focusing on the doctrine of atonement whilst paying little attention to the theme of the kingdom of God), a holistic, integrative treatment of the themes of kingdom and atonement “will bridge this gap between biblical studies and systematic theology, incorporating insights from both disciplines for both doctrines” (27).

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Music Monday – I Believe in the Scriptures

Spoken word has been really hot in the Christian world for a few years, and most afficionados know and love the Humble Beast artists (like Propaganda) and P4CM artists (like Janette….ikz). Theirs are the videos that go semi-viral in the Christian Twitterverse and Facebookland, but there’s one artist I really like that no one really seems to know about – David Bowden. And his piece “I believe in the Scriptures” is one of my favorite spoken word pieces.

The Bacon Coalition

I don’t know if there’s anyone who reads my blog that isn’t my friend on Facebook or doesn’t follow me on Twitter. Just in case there are, I must point you to the best thing to happen since bacon: The Bacon Coalition. Our Twitter and Facebook accounts launched last week, and our website will launch tomorrow. If you love bacon and enjoy satire, come connect with us! Much of what we satirize relates to theology and Christian culture, but we’ll also hit popular culture, entertainment, current events, etc….we are the definitive source for bacon-centered satire for every square inch of life.


Kingdom and Atonement

This past weekend I read The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic Theology by Jeremy Treat. A full review will be coming soon, but I wanted offer a few preliminary thoughts.

The number of books that fly across my radar is staggering. I have to be pretty selective about what I read, and there are plenty of good and worthy books that don’t necessarily excite me just because, well, there are so many good books and a lot of them say the same thing. The Crucified King excited me immediately when I heard about it because the very title (subtitle, to be exact) brings together two pairs of topics that are unfortunately frequently torn asunder: atonement and kingdom, and biblical and systematic theology. In fact, the dichotomization of the latter in part causes the dichotomization of the former, which is why a comprehensive treatment of kingdom and atonement requires an integration of biblical and systematic the0logy.

In the introduction Treat provides six reasons why the rift between atonement and kingdom developed (pp. 26-29).

  1. reactionary conservative response to the social gospel movement of the early twentieth century.
  2. fragmentation of Scripture ever since the enlightenment – if the Bible is not a unified whole, then there is no need to integrate seemingly incompatible themes.
  3. the “ugly ditch” between biblical studies and systematic theology, since the former tends to emphasize the kingdom of God and the latter focuses largely on the doctrine of the atonement.
  4. the  Gospels (where the kingdom theme is most explicit) have largely been ignored as a source for theology.
  5. oversystematization of doctrines as such the states and offices of Christ. If the cross is only in the state of humiliation, and Christ’s death is interpreted only in terms of his priestly office , it’s hard to see how atonement relates to kingdom.
  6. if one has a mistaken view of either the kingdom or the cross, then obviously the two cannot be properly related.

The Crucified King will probably end up being one of my favorite books of the year. If you have an interest in any of the four topics in the subtitle (atonement, kingdom, biblical theology, systematic theology) you will love this book. But you will especially appreciate it if you lament the dichotomization of either atonement and kingdom and/or biblical and systematic theology and long to see these pairs integrated as they should be. This book is the published version of Treat’s doctoral dissertation at Wheaton under Kevin Vanhoozer.

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon


Saturday Sillies

You’ve probably already seen the hilarious video “St. Patrick’s Bad Analogies.” If not, watch it first for context. Then watch the second video, which is the original video dubbed with Youtube’s closed captioning.

Book Review – Reading Theologically (Eric D. Barreto, ed.)

Eric D. Barreto, ed. Reading Theologically (Foundations for Learning). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2014. 145 pp. $14.00.

reading theologicallyIf you follow my blog, chances are you like to read. Or you’d like to like to read. I read a decent amount, and in the back of my mind there are always thoughts about the practice of reading. Most of these can be classified into two categories: thoughts related to how I can read more, read faster, retain more, synthesize better, etc; and thoughts about holistic integration – whether my reading is causing me to love God and people more or just causing me to become prideful and ingrown, how I can facilitate the overflow of my reading into my life in ministry and service, etc.

I was delighted to find that Reading Theologically actually tackles both these spheres, even though I was only expecting the former (practicals of reading better). Though specifically written for seminarians and those intending to pursue seminary, this book is helpful for all Christians in regards to reading theologically. A compilation of eight chapters by eight seminary instructors from diverse backgrounds, this is a short and readable book that addresses both skills and habits vital to reading theologically as well as impact on and integration with spiritual formation and ministry.

The holistic emphasis can be seen right off the bat in chapter 1, “Reading Basically,” which addresses reading as embodied practice, communal practice, spiritual practice, and transformative practice. These challenge the tendency for seminarians (as well as lay bookworms/intellectuals) to neglect their bodies, communities, devotional lives, and transformation. Chapter 2, “Reading Meaningfully,” offers tools and strategies for reading meaningfully across the various kinds of books required in seminary. This chapter provides an introductory guide to the process of interpretation and reading for theological meaning.

Chapter 3, “Reading Biblically,” is perhaps the most important chapter in this book. Reading biblical and theological books is great; but as Christians, the Bible is our most important book and we must not neglect it. The temptation for seminarians and “bible/theology nerds” is to read about the Bible while neglecting the Bible itself; to depend on the fruits of others’ labors in the Word and cheat on doing the lifting ourselves. This chapter addresses reading the Bible academically (with tips on reading historically, linguistically, and contextually), communally, spiritually, and practically. Again, this chapter is holistic as it addresses not just the academic side of reading the Bible well, but also the importance of reading in community, asking what God is trying to say through a certain text, and how the exegetical process can be applied to a real life situation in service of the church.

The remaining chapters address reading generously (giving other perspectives a thoughtful look as a practice of love), reading critically (how ideological criticism can serve the theological reader), reading differently (why thinking contextually is important to thinking theologically and how to do so), reading digitally (celebrating the blessings as well as challenging the vices of of digital communication), and reading spiritually (how to enhance learning about yourself and deepening your connection with God as you read). The “Reading More” section before the bibliography must not be skipped by anyone serious about becoming a better reader. Several of the texts commended here are seminal for growing in general reading, Bible reading, and theological reading.

Due to the brevity of this volume as well as its nature as a compilation of chapters by different people, you will inevitably read things you wish were fleshed out in more detail as well as find a bit of both repetition and discontinuity. However, its brevity can also be extremely appealing. Someone seeking a book to help them become a better reader is much more likely to read a 150 page book (this one) than a 400 page book (Mortimer Adler’s classic tome on reading well, How to Read a Book). This book should be read by every student in Bible college or seminary and everyone considering these forms of schooling. Though it is specifically written for the formal theological student, this book would in the same way benefit every informal theological student – every Christian who desires to grow in reading theologically.

This book offers excellent practical suggestions for better reading. But what I appreciated most is the holistic emphasis throughout – that reading well is not just about having your nose perpetually in a book, but ultimately it’s about your own spiritual life, serving the church, and reaching out to a lost and broken world. These are vital reminders for seminarians as well as laymen with an academic bent – it is a dangerous thing to be so enraptured and consumed by concepts and ideas that you neglect your soul, your church, and the lost. Reading Theologically both helps the reader gain skills to better handle texts as well as provides impetus and suggestions to better love and serve God and His world.

Purchase: Amazon

See the Foundations for Learning series page here. You can receive 35% off each volume if you sign up for the entire six-volume series.

Many thanks to Shaun and Fortress Press for sending me a free copy in exchange for an unbiased review!

Music Monday – Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery

I was recently asked to play this song for a wedding. It is such a beautiful and powerful modern hymn. Chord chart here. Both Matt Papa and Matt Boswell write biblically faithful, theologically rich songs for the Church.

Verse 1
Come behold the wondrous mystery
In the dawning of the King
He the theme of heaven’s praises
Robed in frail humanity

In our longing, in our darkness
Now the light of life has come
Look to Christ, who condescended
Took on flesh to ransom us

Verse 2
Come behold the wondrous mystery
He the perfect Son of Man
In His living, in His suffering
Never trace nor stain of sin

See the true and better Adam
Come to save the hell-bound man
Christ the great and sure fulfillment
Of the law; in Him we stand

Verse 3
Come behold the wondrous mystery
Christ the Lord upon the tree
In the stead of ruined sinners
Hangs the Lamb in victory

See the price of our redemption
See the Father’s plan unfold
Bringing many sons to glory
Grace unmeasured, love untold

Verse 4
Come behold the wondrous mystery
Slain by death the God of life
But no grave could e’er restrain Him
Praise the Lord; He is alive!

What a foretaste of deliverance
How unwavering our hope
Christ in power resurrected
As we will be when he comes


Book Review – China’s Reforming Churches: Mission, Polity, and Ministry in the Next Christendom

Bruce P. Baugus, ed. China’s Reforming Churches: Mission, Polity, and Ministry in the Next Christendom. Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014. 320 pp. $20.00.

CRCAmongst Christians with a passion for missions, China is on center stage. We certainly recognize the strategic mission field that is this nation of approximately 1.35 billion people, and tremendous evangelistic fruit is being seen as a staggering number are daily becoming Christian. While vehement evangelistic efforts surely need to continue, especially since many of China’s minority groups are considered unreached/unengaged, the astounding growth rate of the church poses critical and urgent needs in relation to church development. In this manner, China’s Reforming Churches is a unique book in that it focuses more on ecclesiology than missiology, more on building up the church than on evangelism (though of course these are connected). “Indeed, the proper goal of the church’s mission has never been just to announce the good news to those who have not heard or to call unbelievers to faith and repentance; the church’s mission also includes establishing a well-ordered church in every land for the welfare of God’s people and perpetuation of the ministry” (17).

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Book Log: June 2014


  1. Interpreting the General Letters: An Exegetical Handbook (Handbooks for New Testament Exegesis) – Herbert W. Bateman IV. The third of a four-volume series (Handbooks for New Testament Exegesis), Interpreting the General Letters is designed to shape the way we think about, study, and teach the General Epistles (Hebrews, James, the Petrine letters, the Johannine letters, and Jude). This book provides valuable background information as well as a step-by-step process for interpreting and communicating the General Letters. Full review here.
  2. Illustrated Life of Paul – Charles Quarles. This is a great introduction to the life and letters of Paul that also provides valuable background information concerning the cities to which he wrote and introduces some of the theology that drove this incredible apostle. Full review here.
  3. The Message of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and Ben Witherington III in Dialogue – Robert B. Stewart, ed. This book presents the dialogues (between Crossan and Witherington) and accompanying papers (by Craig Evans, Amy-Jill Levine & Myrick C. Shinall Jr. , Stephen Patterson, and Darrell Bock) from the sixth annual Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum in Faith and Culture held at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 2010. Three additional pertinent essays are included (by Robert Miller, Craig Blomberg, and David Wenham), and as a whole this book brings together a range of perspectives on historical Jesus research from Evangelical, non-Evangelical, and non-Christian scholars. This is a great read with anyone interested in the field of historical Jesus studies. Full review here.
  4. Titus for You – Tim Chester. The latest in the God’s Word For You series from The Good Book Company, this book, like its predecessors, is great as a devotional and supplemental teaching too. Full review here.
  5. The Theology of the Book of Isaiah – John Goldingay. This book offers an impressively short and accessible introduction into the theology of a very big, very rich, and often confusing book of the Old Testament. The first part draws out the theological themes of each section of Isaiah, and the second part looks at the theology that emerges from the book of Isaiah as a whole. There are rich insights from this book, but Goldingay holds some views that conservative evangelicals might be uncomfortable with (such as multiple authorship of Isaiah). Full review forthcoming.
  6. Jesus as a Figure in History, Second Edition: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee – Mark Allen Powell. This is the first book I would recommend to anyone looking for an introduction to the academic field of historical Jesus studies. Generally books in this area are written by particular scholars from the perspective of their particular methodology, but Powell writes descriptively and in an ideologically neutral tone to report on the history and current trends within this field. Full review here.

Book Review – Jesus as a Figure in History (Mark Allan Powell)

Mark Allen Powell. Jesus as a Figure in History, Second Edition: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013. 288 pp. $30.00.

JesysMy first encounter with historical Jesus research was in a Christian origins and New Testament course at my secular university less than a year after I had become a Christian. While my evangelical faith remained intact through the course by God’s grace, the impression I got about historical Jesus work was that this is the business of non-Christian scholars seeking to debunk the foundational truth claims of Christianity. I went along the next several years with no interest in this field whatsoever, only occasionally brushing shoulders with it unintentionally through apologetics and gospels studies. Needless to say, my opinion of the field based on a very limited and one-sided exposure has changed.1

In Jesus as a Figure in History, Mark Allan Powell provides a very accessible introduction to the field of historical Jesus research from the perspective of a journalist researching an academic movement. Though Powell is a confessing evangelical Christian and has chaired the Historical Jesus Section of the Society of Biblical Literature and was a founding editor of the Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus, he aimed to be descriptive in this book rather than argumentative, writing in an unbiased way with an ideologically neutral tone.

Chapter 1 sets the stage for the rest of the book (which focuses on the scholarship of the past three decades) by providing a brief survey of historical Jesus studies that demonstrates how we got to where we are. Key figures and their contributions to the discipline are introduced, and the various quests for the historical Jesus are defined and explained. Chapter 2 provides an overview of the data and sources historians use to study Jesus (archeology, Roman literature, Jewish literature, New Testament epistles, Synoptic Gospels, Gospel of John, noncanonical gospels, agrapha) as well as a survey of nine key criteria of authenticity that are applied to these sources in historical Jesus research. Though different scholars have different approaches, the sources and methods outlined in this chapter are basic and generally employed by all.

Chapter 3 examines a few snapshots of certain aspects of who Jesus was that have been suggested by modern scholars: Jesus the social prophet (Richard Horsley), Jesus the charismatic Jew (Geza Vermes), Jesus the magician (Morton Smith), Jesus the sage (Ben Witherington III), Jesus the Cynic philosopher (F. Gerald Downing), Jesus the itinerant radical (Gerd Theissen), Jesus the millenarian prophet (Dale Allison), Jesus the mamzer rabbi (Bruce Chilton), and Jesus the purported Messiah (Paula Fredriksen). Chapters 4-9 provide a more in-depth treatment of the work of the “big six” historical Jesus scholars – Robert Funk and the Jesus Seminar, John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, E.P. Sanders, John Meier, and N.T. Wright. In contrast to the snapshots of chapter three, these scholars have all more or less tried to produce comprehensive portraits of Jesus. Each of these six chapters follows a similar structure: overview of the scholar, his method for studying Jesus, resulting portrait of Jesus, and criticisms from the guild.

The concluding chapter provides a summary of key issues in which there continues to be disagreement. Powell addresses the disagreements in method (sources, criteria, approach) as well as disagreements over Jesus’s relationship to Judaism, eschatology, politics, and the supernatural. Whereas Schweitzer sounded a death knell for historical Jesus studies a century ago, today the field is alive and well. The appendices look at the work of scholars who claim Jesus never existed, the relationship between historical Jesus studies and Christian apologetics, and scholars who try to develop a psychological profile for Jesus. I found appendix two particularly interesting as a Christian and as someone who was at one time very engaged in apologetics. Powell takes a look at how Christian scholars engage in this discipline and the challenges therein, focusing unsprisingly on Darrell Bock and Craig Keener. He notes the unfortunate yet unsurprising marginalization of Christian scholars in this field, and also points out some reasons why Christian apologetics has an uneasy relationship with historical Jesus studies.

Jesus as a Figure in History is a phenomenal introduction to historical Jesus research. This kind of descriptive introduction to the field is uncommon; most of the literature is that of a particular scholar sketching his particular portrait of Jesus or writing from his particular perspective. Powell truly does write in an unbiased way. When he presents criticism of a scholar’s work from the guild, he also points out strengths and contributions. This book is also very accessible and doesn’t require any prior knowledge in the field. Powell explains everything very clearly. This is definitely a must-read for anyone with an interest in historical Jesus research that is seeking an overview of the field and the contemporary issues. And though Powell points out an uneasy relationship between historical Jesus research and apologetics, I actually feel that any Christian with a passion for apologetics and evangelism should be acquainted with the field of historical Jesus research. Some non-Christians are very knowledgeable about the work of scholars like Crossan and Ehrman, and it would be a challenge to engage in dialogue without some familiarity with this kind of critical scholarship.

1 Evangelicals without exposure to historical Jesus research should note that this is an academic field dominated by non-Christians/non-evangelicals. Therefore, when you read in this area, you are bound to read things that you fundamentally disagree with and things you find extremely offensive to your faith convictions.

Purchase: Amazon

A free electronic copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.


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