The Liebster Award

LiebsterFolks, I am utterly shocked, but apparently chain mail is not just for silly Facebook trivialities and emails threatening 10 years of bad luck for not forwarding. It turns out that Bible geeks do this type of thing as well! I am honored to be nominated for this most illustrious Liebster Award by biblioblogger extraordinaire, V. Philips Long. Oops, I mean, Phil Long. It’s also nice to now share something in common with King Biblioblogger Jim West besides a mutual hatred for heretics named Joel Watts. Anyway, onto the rules:

“The Rules” according to the Wording Well, in order to accept the nomination you must follow these following guidelines:

  • Post the award on your blog.
  • Thank the blogger who presented this award and link back to his/her blog.
  • Write 5 random facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 5 bloggers (they should have less than 300 followers).
  • Answer 5 questions posted by the presenter and ask your nominees 5 questions.

Phil’s Questions

  1. You can only listen to one CD/record for the rest of your life – what is it? Wow, this is really tough. I listen to a lot of music, and a lot of different styles. I think I’d go with Season One by All Sons & Daughters. A lot of the music I like I  end up playing on piano but I was never very happy with my attempts to play this album, so I need to listen to it in order to enjoy it.
  2. What book most shaped the way you think today? (Bonus points for not saying Atlas Shrugged) I’m also assuming that the Bible is not allowed as an answer. This is also a very tough question to answer because I read so much, so I’m going to cheat by naming an author instead of a book. Hands down, D. A. Carson has shaped the way I think more than any other author.
  3. What movie are you most embarrassed about liking? I don’t really watch movies, but back in the days of my youth when A Walk to Remember Came Out, I loved it despite the horrible acting, predictable plotline, and cheesy music. I was and continue to be embarrassed about how much I liked that movie, how many times I watched it, and the fact that I cried like a baby every time.
  4. You get to meet with the Pope alone for five minutes – what do you say to him? If I’m feeling gutsy, maybe I’d try to convert him to Protestantism :P (no, not really. I have no idea)
  5. Which Simpsons character is your favorite? I haven’t watched The Simpsons enough to have a favorite character. I didn’t watch much TV growing up, and when I did watch TV it was PBS (if you couldn’t already tell that I’m a total stereotypical nerd, I’m sure it’s entirely obvious now). My brother and I really loved Arthur, because we reminded each other and our parents of Arthur and D. W.

5 Random Facts About Me:

  1. I lived in Germany as a wee young lass, but forgot German very rapidly after moving to the States. I can’t wait to learn German (again) just to see if it’s really true what they say, that if you forget a language you mastered when you were young, you pick it back up very easily.
  2. I’m also fluent in Mandarin and at one point spoke Spanish fluently as well (after years of not having any opportunity to speak it I’m very rusty).
  3. I went through an emo stage.
  4. I have a tattoo from my heathen days that reminds me of what the Lord saved me from and how He has completely changed my life.
  5. I was in London during the 2012 Summer Games with a performing arts ministry.

5 Bloggers I Nominate (It appears no one has been following the subscribers rule, so I’m ignoring it as well)

  1. Joel Watts at Unsettled Christianity (despite our differences and his recent declaration about eradicating Calvinism in 2015, he’s a nice chap with a quality blog)
  2. Nick Norelli at Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (the granddaddy of book reviewers)
  3. Nick’s brutha from anutha mutha Esteban Vasquez at Vox Stefani (who’s brilliant but only blogs once every 10 years)
  4. Tim Bertolet, my Reformed partner in crime in the Twitterverse at The Voyages
  5. Clifford the Big Red Dog at Theological Musings (Cliff’s been pretty awesome with helping me be a better nerd)

I look forward to coffee at SBL eventually with all my lovely nominees :)

5 Questions for my Nominees

  1. If you could have any super power what would it be, and who would your arch-nemesis be?
  2. Middle Earth or Narnia and why?
  3. What’s your favorite biblical/theological topic/area?
  4. Favorite scholars?
  5. If you’ve been to SBL, describe a favorite memory. If not, describe what you’d be most excited about if you were going next year.

Aaaaaand that’s all folks!

Saturday Sillies

Horus Ruins Christmas

And here is last year’s Christmas humor – The Twelve Doctrines of Christmas.

A Nerd-tastic November

Last week I mentioned that I would post a personal update soon since November was so awesome. Well, here it is, as promised. Last month is a serious contender for “best month of my life” so far. I visited TEDS from the 9th-10th, and it was an incredible experience on two levels. On one level, it was amazing/surreal just because it’s TEDS. Because so many of my favorite scholars teach or have taught there, it’s always had a special place in my heart and a visit would have been immensely enjoyable even if I wasn’t planning on attending. And come on, it’s like the Hollywood of evangelical biblical/theological studies. Shortly before my visit I wrote (what I thought was) a funny Facebook post comparing the faculty lunch to the Red Carpet, channeling Joan Rivers. I was also kind of imitating Mike Bird’s pre-SBL posts, but no one thought it was funny (perhaps I shouldn’t attempt humor again and just settle with being a stereotypical boring academic?).

Anyway, on a second level, of course visiting the campus was extremely exciting because of the fact that I will be attending next fall. I arrived a bit early, so guess what I did? You probably guessed correctly. I checked out the library. Rolfing Library is a glorious place. Glorious. I can’t wait to hang out there during winter and summer breaks. Seriously, if you need to find me between mid-December 2015 and early January 2016, I’ll most likely be in the WUNT stacks.

In addition to the official program, I had the chance to meet up with a PhD student who I was connected to on social media, as well as Dr. Constantine Campbell. I was so unbelievably nervous meeting with Dr. Campbell and made a bit of a fool out of myself, so I just have to hope that either 1) he forgot about it/me, or 2) I impress him so much in class that it becomes irrelevant :D

Moving on from my TEDS visit, the month just kept continuing in awesome-ness. First of all, when I got home from TEDS there was a package of review books waiting for me from IVP Academic. Picture below. I’ve already reviewed Paul & Judaism Revisited and Hidden But Now Revealed.

review

Not too long after, I got a shocking, delightful email from someone who was trimming down her library and offered for me to come take whatever I wanted. I truly cannot describe how I felt as I plundered her library and then incorporated the books into my own. You will understand when you see the loot below. Beyond the awesomeness of the books in and of themselves, there’s something else about this experience that I’m cherishing and it is that she said, “Consider this a further confirmation of the Lord’s calling!”

EV

Ok, so with such a huge book acquisition, most people probably wouldn’t buy more books for a long, long, time, right? Well….ummmm….I don’t have a problem, I really don’t. I can stop any time I want. Ok, ok, here is why my purchase was justified. First of all, if you’re reading this and you were involved with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship as a student, did you know that there is an IVP Book Club just for you?? Yes, there is! And you get 50% off your first purchase and 40% off for life!! Needless to say, I had been working on my list for a long time for a first order. And I had to keep trimming it down to just what I thought would be the essentials. I had been thinking about getting the whole black dictionary set, so it was a huge blessing to only have to purchase two volumes to complete my collection because of my most providential good fortune earlier in the month. My purchase is below. And it’s truly not a lot at all, given what draft 1, 2, and 3 of my list looked like. The order arrived the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, so I read Christ, our Righteousness and Paul and the Law over the long weekend.

order

 

And finally, with Amazon’s annual Black Friday extra 30% off coupon, I bought my first GNT, an NA28.

There it is, my lovely nerds! Hope you’ve enjoyed this summary of my nerd-tastic month. It goes down in my personal history as the best, nerdiest pre-seminary month of my life :)

 

Brief Thoughts on the NKJV Study Bible

I never put publisher blurbs in my book reviews because I find that kind of pointless, but I offer it here because I think it’s the best way for you to see the features of this study Bible.

The NKJV Study Bible, the most comprehensive study Bible available, now in a full-color edition with added features! The acclaimed NKJV Study Bible is the most complete study system for all who desire accurate study in God’s Word. The Second Edition includes more features to make it the best all-purpose study Bible. Using the trusted New King James Version, The NKJV Study Bible has “the mind of a scholar and the heart of a pastor.” Nelson’s skilled team of scholars has produced the system to reach for when study in God’s Word is the goal.

Features include:

  • NEW attractive full-color page design
  • NEW stunning Bible-land photos and graphics
  • NEW in-text maps and charts
  • Full cross-references with textual notes
  • Word studies and indexes
  • Bible Times and Culture Notes
  • Book introductions, outlines, and timelines
  • Reader-friendly notes and articles ideal for extended study
  • Deluxe NKJV Concordance including proper names

My Thoughts
I don’t feel the need to comment on the general features and study helps because they are the elements typically found in study Bibles. Instead, I will comment on the type of person this study Bible would be good for. The publisher’s description mentions that this is the best “all-purpose study Bible,” and I would agree with that. I agree with that statement because the study notes don’t take a position on controversial issues (at least, in what I’ve read. I’m assuming it’s the case throughout) such as Calvinist versus Arminian views of election, gender roles, etc. I have heard people complain about the ESV study bible being “too Calvinist” and/or “too complementarian,” so in distinction the NKJV Study Bible wouldn’t be perceived as “too” anything. It’s a good general study Bible for an average Christian who either hasn’t come to strong doctrinal positions yet, or holds strong positions but prefers study notes that are neutral and when relevant outlines various positions without trying to demonstrate that the Scriptures clearly articulates one view versus another. For general study Bibles, the notes and helps contained in the NKJV Study Bible are definitely the most robust I’ve seen. I don’t think it’s as comprehensive as the ESV Study Bible (and so would disagree with the publisher’s description of this being the most comprehensive), but as mentioned previously, the at times obvious “sectarian” bent of the ESV Study Bible can be a turn-off for those opposed to the views therein.

Summary: Not as comprehensive as the ESV Study Bible, but a good study Bible for those turned off by the Calvinist/Complementarian bent of ESV Study Bible. This evaluation, of course, does not consider the fact that they are different translations but is merely evaluating the helpfulness of the notes and features as aids to study of the word.

Purchase: Amazon

I received a free copy of this Bible in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review – The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ (Bruce Ware)

Bruce A. Ware. The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. 288 pp. $15.99.

WareIn a rightful zeal for defending the full deity of Christ, evangelicals can be susceptible to the danger of downplaying His full humanity. The average Christian probably understands the meaning and significance of Christ’s deity much more than His humanity. But the latter is just as integral as the former to the mission Christ accomplished on the earth, and in The Man Christ Jesus, Ware demonstrates this biblically and theologically in a lay-accessible introduction to the humanity of Christ that is at the same time devotional, doxological, and practical.

Ware begins in Chapter 1 by focusing on the Christ-hymn of Philippians 2 to explain the kenosis. Then, in Chapter 2, he argues (while stressing Christ’s deity and Him living on earth as the God-man) that it is the humanity of Christ that was His primary reality in His day-to-day life on the earth. Chapters 3 and 4 flesh this out by exploring how Jesus increased in wisdom and grew in faith, respectively. While in His divine nature Christ had perfect wisdom and faith, in His human nature He grew in these areas through the Spirit working through “ordinary” means available to all of us. “He learned to obey increasingly difficult demands with their accompanying increasingly difficult opposition and affliction through the whole of his life, which prepared him for the greatest of all divine demands upon him and the greatest attending suffering he would or could ever experience” (p. 64, emphasis original).

In Chapter 5, Ware explores the question of how we can account for the genuineness of Christ’s temptations while holding to divine impeccability. Chapter 6 looks at the issue of why Christ had to come as a man and gives twelve theological reasons why His male gender was essential to His incarnational identity and mission. This chapter will likely ruffle egalitarian feathers. Chapter 7 expounds upon why Jesus had to be a human being in order to die the atoning death for our sins. This chapter goes into the issue of Christus Victor versus penal substitution and demonstrates how the latter is the grounds for the former. Finally, chapter 8 covers how the resurrection, reign, and return of Christ are all tied to His humanity, focusing especially on His reign because this is the area typically thought of in relation to His deity rather than humanity.

The Man Christ Jesus is an excellent book for the average person in the pew. Ware expounds upon deep, profound biblical truths in a lay-accessible way. There is also a devotional flavor, as Ware frequently exhorts the reader to marvel at the magnificent truths he is illuminating. This is refreshing and welcome, since devotional books tend to lack substance and theological books tend to lack doxology and exhortation. Furthermore, each chapter ends with practical points and discussion questions, making this a great book for small group study.

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

I received a free digital copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday Sillies

This little gem popped up yesterday and has already gone somewhat viral among Bible nerds. I post it here for those who might have missed it. It’s not just funny, but brilliant. And the fact that it’s a parody of a song from Pirates of Penzance makes it even awesomer – this was one of the first operas I ever saw. Enjoy, nerds!

Book Review – Paul & Judaism Revisited: A Study of Divine and Human Agency in Salvation (Preston Sprinkle)

Preston M. Sprinkle. Paul & Judaism Revisited: A Study of Divine and Human Agency in Salvation. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2013. 256 pp. $24.00.

SprinkleDepending on one’s affinity to the debates surrounding the NPP (New Perspective on Paul), the very title of this book (harking to Sanders’s groundbreaking 1977 volume Paul and Palestinian Judaism) either elicits a groan (“Another book on this topic? What else could possibly be said?) or delighted interest. Pauline studies is probably my favorite area of biblical studies, and soteriology is hands-down my favorite locus of systematic theology; therefore, I was very drawn to Preston Sprinkle’s Paul & Judaism Revisited, and curious about whether he’d bring anything new to this hotly debated, over-saturated area of NT studies.

In this book, Sprinkle explores in depth things he noticed but didn’t focus on while researching the use of Leviticus 18:5 in Paul and Judaism for his doctoral dissertation. Specifically, this book “revisits” the soteriology of Paul and Judaism. However, because of both the anachronism of soteriology and the diversity of Second Temple Judaism, Sprinkle further qualifies his study by defining soteriology with “the basic sense of the restoration God brings to those who belong to his covenant community” (34, emphasis original) and focusing on the Dead Sea Scrolls; in other words, Paul & Judaism Revisited compares and contrasts Paul’s soteriology with the soteriology of the DSS. The goal is to see how the two understood divine and human agency in salvation and to draw conclusions about continuity and discontinuity.

Sprinkle sets up the foundation of the study by looking at OT patterns of restoration. Specifically, he notes the presence of both Deuteronomic (God promises restoration in response to Israel’s repentance) and Prophetic (God promises unilateral restoration) patterns. These patterns are then noted throughout the rest of the study in relation to Paul and the DSS as Sprinkle examines five motifs in the two corpuses: restoration from the curse of the law, the eschatological spirit, anthropological pessimism, justification, and judgment according to works.

Sprinkle demonstrates that restoration is more Deuteronomic in the DSS and radically Prophetic in Paul. In regards to the eschatological work of Spirit, Qumran texts demonstrate a variety of views on the spectrum between Deuteronomic and Prophetic whereas Paul is shown to believe that the eschatological gift of the Spirit is unilateral. Hence, in regards to this motif there is a spread of continuity and discontinuity between Paul and Qumran.

Moving on to anthropology, Sprinkle demonstrates, unsurprisingly, that Paul had a very pessimistic anthropology in the sense that because of sin’s enslaving power, humanity does not possess the unaided ability to turn to God. However, in the Scrolls we have both a view very similar to Paul’s (e.g. in 1QHa), as well as a much more optimistic anthropology (e.g. in CD). In the DSS, pessimistic anthropology is usually found in hymnic material, whereas optimistic anthropology is found in ethical/didactic texts. In agreement with Sanders, Sprinkles attributes this to the divine/human contrast that tends to be found in hymnic material, which naturally draws out pessimism. Sprinkle’s illumination about the upshot of the respective anthropologies is also interesting – whereas Paul believed in a total transference, in Qumran texts the transference is limited to new knowledge through hermeneutics.

Next, Sprinkle examines Pauline and Qumran texts that deal with justification of the ungodly, justification and Abraham, and justification and Habakkuk 2:4. The chapter ends with a look at 1QS 10-11 which seems very Pauline, but upon closer examination is seen to reveal more discontinuity with Paul than is often recognized. “While there are some aspects of continuity in their views of justification, Paul’s emphasis on God’s initial act of justification of the ungodly through grace is unparalleled – even rebutted – in the Scrolls” (170). The subsequent chapter is devoted to the topic of final judgment according to works. Qumran and Paul agree that judgment will be according to works, but the phrase “according to” is ambiguous. Sprinkle demonstrates that there’s discontinuity in relation to the strength of divine agency in obedience as well as the role of the Christ event for final justification. Before the conclusion, the penultimate chapter surveys other Second Temple texts in order to situate this study within its wider context.

Paul & Judaism Revisited is an excellent book for anyone with interest in Pauline soteriology, Second Temple Judaism, or the relationship between these two. Whereas there can be a tendency on this topic to firmly identify with one side (“new” versus” old” perspective on Paul), to caricature the other, and to make sweeping statements, Sprinkle eschews labeling himself and presents a very balanced, nuanced, and fair study. Though he generally comes to classic/”old” conclusions, Sprinkle doesn’t try to make the evidence say more than it actually does (e.g. when there’s too much diversity in Qumran texts to make a general summary about their view on a particular issue, he states so. Continuity with Paul is clearly drawn out when present). In addition, Sprinkle does a good job of demonstrating that at times even when there seems to be continuity, upon further study one discovers significant differences as well. The upshot of all this is that there is not clear, wholesale continuity or discontinuity between Paul and Qumran. “At the very least, therefore, this study should deter careless assertions made by scholars and students on both sides of the debate…Extreme new (continuity) or old (discontinuity) perspectives on Paul are not, to my mind, historically viable” (239). Finally, for students and scholars with research interest in Paul and Judaism, Sprinkle’s work shows that there is more work to be done in this area and models a way in which new insights can be discovered.

My only dissatisfaction with this study, and a lingering question in my mind throughout the whole work, concerns the very presence of the Deuteronomic and Prophetic patterns of restoration in Scripture. What are the implications of this seeming dichotomy on the unity of Scripture? And if it’s not in fact a dichotomy, how do they come together in a biblical soteriology? In other words, it would seem from demarcating these two patterns that there is discontinuity within the OT itself, and between the OT and Paul (and not just Qumran and Paul, the subject of this book). Even though these questions are outside the scope of Sprinkle’s study, I think it would have been beneficial if chapter 2, which introduces these two patterns, had briefly addressed some of these issues since these two patterns are the lens through which the motifs in the rest of the book are seen and therefore recur over and over again.

Many thanks to IVP Academic for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review!

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

Book Review – Urban Apologetics: Why the Gospel is Good News for the City (Christopher Brooks)

Christopher W. Brooks. Urban Apologetics: Why the Gospel is Good News for the City. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2014. 176 pp. $16.99.

Urban ApologeticsI have had a passion for apologetics for as long as I’ve been a Christian; this is probably mainly due to the fact that I was a staunch atheist my whole life prior to the Lord radically saving me during my undergraduate studies. I had to wrestle immediately with all the intellectual problems I had personally had with theism in general and Christianity specifically, and coupled with my immediate passion for evangelism, I soon found that my own inquiries were very helpful for my witnessing relationships. I didn’t realize at the time that this is because I was in a highly intellectual environment (which had been my general context my whole life). I know how to navigate conversations with explicitly non/anti-Christian people who bring up the expected objections concerning cosmology, the veracity of Scripture, the deity of Christ, etc…but how do you do evangelism in a context in which most profess to be Christian, where intellectual/philosophical objections are generally absent but a whole host of Lordship issues are present that have you wondering whether someone’s really “saved”?

Given this background, I’m sure it’s entirely obvious why I gravitated toward this new book, Urban Apologetics. Every book I’ve ever read on apologetics, every lecture I’ve ever heard on the topic, every conversation I’ve had on apologetics has had an academic bent, addressing the defense of the Christian faith from classical, evidential, and presuppositional perspectives. Urban Apologetics is entirely unique, as Carl F. Ellis Jr. notes in the foreword: “Traditional apologetics has largely remained silent on many forms of controversy and unbelief associated with contemporary realities of the ‘hood.’ Urban Apologetics is a welcome contribution to filling this gap” (8). Christopher Brooks wrote this book to debunk the myth that there’s no audience for urban apologetics  and no space for urban apologists in the conversation, and to “bring about a greater connection between urban Christians and those who do the work of apologetics and theology” (15). He wrote this book both for urban Christians desiring to evangelize their own communities, and those outside that culture who desire to reach inner cities with the gospel.

For those of us who are entirely foreign to life in the inner city and the unique challenges and objections to Christianity therein, the following is very illuminating:

Certainly, there is a need for Christians who are trained in the academic disciplines of theology, archeology, and textual criticism, but the vast majority of situations one encounters in urban ministry settings have to do with the moral reservations many struggle with concerning their faith. In the inner city, there is a collective heart cry that questions if God is just and if He can be trusted. There is also the brute utilitarian skepticism that questions the viability and workability of Christian ethics. Simply put, many have come to the harsh conclusion that if it doesn’t work, then no matter how smart and systematic our answers are, they are a waste of time. This means the message urban apologists present to their audiences must be biblical, relevant, and workable.

(Brooks 21)

Urban Apologetics proceeds to give an introduction to several issues in the context of the inner city: ethics, abortion, sexuality, family, religious pluralism, and social justice. Brooks illuminates the situation in the inner city, provides a biblical view of the issue, and gives suggestions for engaging the issue in an inner-city context. While the issues highlighted are more prevalent in the inner city, they are generally relevant everywhere in our culture. Therefore, while this book is especially helpful for those seeking insight into how to connect with people for the sake of the gospel the inner city, it’s enlightening for all as a primer on the cultural/ethical issues of our day.

My only quibble with this book actually has to do with the title, and maybe this is just because of my cultural background (intellectual, “white suburbia”) and the issues I’ve always associated with apologetics. While I think all the insight and issues addressed in this book are helpful, I see them as issues of biblical ethics and worldview, not apologetics. I firmly believe in the importance of the social/cultural issues highlighted in Urban Apologetics and the need for Christians to be able to speak biblically and convincingly on these issues, engaging not just the mind but also the heart. I believe all the issues addressed can and should be connected to the gospel. However, I just think that labeling the book with “apologetics” is misleading because issues of sanctity of life, sexuality, etc. are discipleship issues for Christians, not barriers you have to get over in order to share the gospel with someone (this is ignoring the dimension of cultural engagement and only speaking from the perspective of apologetics and evangelism. this is also not saying that these cultural/ethical issues should be ignored if they come up in evangelism). Apologetics should exist for the purpose of evangelism, and a biblical ethic/worldview cannot be formed before someone is born again and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

Again, I think this book is very helpful for Christians who are familiar with traditional apologetics but are looking for an introduction to addressing the cultural/social issues of our day, and especially for those looking for a window into the inner city. I also recognize that perhaps my discomfort with labeling this book and these issues with “apologetic” has to do with my personal tradition and convictions in the area of apologetics and theology. For those who disagree with me, please know that my heart is to keep the main thing the main thing, and for the gospel to not be lost in our apologetic endeavors. Then again, traditional apologetics has this problem too; you can talk theodicy theoretically until you’re blue in the face, and never actually share the gospel and call someone to repentance. So in the end, may our goal in all our apologetic endeavors be for the sake of the “simplicity” of declaring the gospel, for faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the Word of Christ.

Thanks to Kregel Academic for providing a copy of this book for an honest review!

Purchase: Amazon

 

Book Log – November 2014

I often start these book logs with a few sentences on my life, since I don’t generally write anything personal on my blog. As I started writing it this time around though, it got a bit long and I decided to just do a separate personal post in the coming days. Up until very recently my life was pretty static and unexciting….but things are a-changin!! Now onto the month in books.

  1.  Paul and Union with Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study – Constantine Campbell. This book received the Christianity Today 2014 Book Award in biblical studies. It really is a must-read for all serious students of the NT, especially if you have special affection for the topic of union with Christ. Hear Dr. Campbell talk about this book in this short (3:40) interview.
  2. Is there A Doctor in the House?: An Insider’s Story and Advice on Becoming a Biblical Scholar – Ben Witherington III. Written by one of the most accomplished and renowned evangelical NT scholars of our time, this is an enjoyable and helpful read for any with interest in pursuing academia in biblical studies. It doesn’t have as much practical advice as I had expected (Nijay Gupta’s Prepare, Succeed, Advance is probably more straightforward guidelines) and is instead more anecdotal. You feel like you’re having a conversation with him.
  3.  Hidden But Now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery – G. K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd. This book starts with a study of the use of mystery in the book of Daniel that provides background for the rest of the book, a study of every occurrence of mystery in the NT. Because of the key NT doctrines to which the concept of mystery is connected, as well as implications on hermeneutical issues concerning the NT use of OT, this book is an important and fruitful one to read. Full review here.
  4. The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth Believing – Jonathan Dodson. This is a helpful and refreshing book on evangelism for Christians disillusioned by traditional conceptions and methods. It’s marked by a sensitivity to the culture, an awareness of the importance of relationship, and an emphasis on the Holy Spirit. Full review here.
  5. The Gospel of the Lord: How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus – Michael Bird. The latest from NT Jedi Michael Bird, this book is “concerned primarily with the questions of how the Gospels came to be, what kinds of literature they are, and how they relate to Christian discourse about God” (viii). The Gospel of the Lord covers topics such as models of oral tradition, the Synoptic Problem, the Johannine Question, and the genre and goal of the gospels. This book is a great introduction to critical issues of gospels study, especially for those with academic interest. It provides a fantastic survey of literature and gives the budding scholar a great birds-eye view of the history and current landscape of Gospels study. Full review forthcoming
  6. Christ, Our Righteousness: Paul’s Theology of Justification – Mark Seifrid. I’ve read a lot on Jesus and the Gospels this year, but I’m returning to my first love – Paul. I don’t care that Gospels is the Lady Gaga of NT studies and that everyone hip in NT is moving over to Gospels – I gotta follow my heart :P Anyway, in this volume of IVP Academic’s “New Studies in Biblical Theology” series, Seifrid offers a detailed examination of justification by faith in the Epistle to the Romans followed by a brief survey of the theme in the rest of the Pauline corpus as well as the rest of the NT. Along the way, he ties justification to important themes such as the law and final judgment, interacting critically with the New Perspective on Paul.
  7. Paul and the Law: Keeping the Commandments of God – Brian Rosner. Rosner rejects the sacred partitioning of the law into moral, ceremonial, and civil; “the question is not which bits of the law Paul is referring to in a given instance of nomos, but the law as what” (p.29, emphases original). His thesis is that Paul understood the law as three moves: repudiation (as law-covenant), replacement (by ethics arising from the gospel), and reappropriation (as prophecy and wisdom). This is a helpful and accessible book on an important and perennially debated topic.
  8. Heaven (Theology in Community series) – Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson, ed. The latest in Crossway’s Theology in Community series, Heaven like its predecessors, brings together an all-star team of evangelical biblical scholars and theologians who love the church and are involved in various forms of ministry. The book is lay-accessible, practical, and free from technical jargon while biblical and theological. Great book about heaven for laypeople. Full review here.

Book Review – Heaven (Christopher Morgan & Robert Peterson, ed.)

Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, ed. Heaven (Theology in Community). Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014. 288 pp. $18.99.

HeavenHow often do you think about heaven? What comes to mind when you do think about the subject? Popular Christian conceptions of heaven range from misguided to bizarre. Many see heaven exclusively or mainly as the place Christians go when they die, and/or as a “boring” place of perpetual harp-playing on clouds and church services. Books on heaven that line the shelves of Christian bookstores are mainly stories of those who claim to have visited heaven (whether in a vision or in a story of dying and being brought back to life), but these depictions are often starkly different from the biblical picture. There is a great need for the average Christian to have a robust theology of heaven informed by the Bible as opposed to these popular but unbiblical books, and Heaven, the latest in Crossway’s Theology in Community Series, is the perfect resource for this need.

Like the other volumes in the series, Heaven brings together an all-star team of evangelical biblical scholars and theologians who love the church and are involved in various forms of ministry. This series offers one of the best examples of scholarship for the church, bridging the academy and the church. Top-rate scholarship is presented in an accessible package, providing robust content without much technical jargon. In the place of academic tangents that would seem irrelevant to the average person in the pew is practical content for the typical lay Christian.

After an introductory chapter, the next five chapters of Heaven surveys what the Bible says about the subject. “We need not wait until Revelation 21–22 to start seeing the heights of heaven. The whole Bible is the story of heaven above coming down to earth, deity coming down to humanity, grace coming down to the unde­serving, to lift them up” (43). Several of these chapters touch on inaugurated eschatology and correct the common misconception of a disembodied existence in heaven being the end goal of redemption.

After the biblical survey, Chapter 7, “Pictures of Heaven, traces five of Scripture’s most impor­tant pictures of heaven (heaven and earth, Sabbath rest, the kingdom of God, the presence of God, and the glory of God) through the four stages of the biblical storyline of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. Next Chapter 8 presents an overview of how God’s people have historically understood the doctrine of heaven and chapter 9 addresses angels. Chapter 10 addresses an issue that tends to be far from our minds and hearts here in the west – persecution. This chapter draws out important connections between persecution and heaven, for “the primary pur­pose of biblical eschatology is neither to pander to our inquisitiveness about what will happen in the last days nor to inflame our greed for treasures in heaven but to encourage the faithful to persevere along the costly path of obedience” (227). The concluding chapter addresses the hope of heaven.

Heaven in the Theology in Community series is a book for all lay-Christians serious about their faith. It’s a book pastors, bible study leaders, and all involved in ministry and leadership should read and recommend to those they teach and lead. This book is an excellent introduction to the subject of heaven that is at once biblically/theologically profound and yet practical and accessible.

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

I received a free digital copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for an honest review.

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