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Book Review – What Christians Ought to Believe (Michael Bird)

Michael F. Bird. What Christians Ought to Believe: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine Through the Apostles’ Creed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2016. 240 pp. $24.99.

WCOBDr. Michael Bird‘s latest offering, his most accessible book yet, is both enlightening for the average person in the pew and edifying for the student and scholar. Bird spends the first two chapters of What Christians Ought to Believe providing an introduction to creeds and an apologetic for why we need them. To a Christian world where the dominant creedal affirmation is “no creed but the Bible,” he argues that “by ignoring the creeds those who consider themselves to be orthodox are effectively sawing off the theological branches upon which they are sitting” (13). Bird shows how creeds are biblical, summarize the New Testament tradition, and marked out the boundaries of the faith. He provides an overview of the canonization process that demonstrates that the creed and canon were mutually creating and mutually reinforcing. Finally, he argues that creeds can both invigorate our faith and provide a sure anchor for biblical faith.

The rest of the book (twelve chapters) is devoted to a systematic exposition of the theology of the Apostles’ Creed. Beginning with “I believe,” Bird explores the meaning of (Christian) faith itself and reveals it to be “our trusting response to what God has done for us and promised us in the gospel, which in turn pervades every aspect of our lives” (46). In illuminating the fatherhood and omnipotence of the Creator-God he addresses the controversial issues of the patriarchal language and the creation accounts and shows how the ultimate issue in both cases is the identity of God and our relationship to him. Bird introduces the doctrines of incarnation and hypostatic union as well as some of the Christological heresies; he helpfully spends a chapter on the life and ministry of Jesus (which is not mentioned in the Creed), showing how “Jesus’s messianic career is not simply the hors d’oeuvres to the atonement” (87) and probing the depths of what it meant to call Jesus “Lord.” He engages with critical views of the virgin birth but also highlights five dimensions of the its true significance (it was not so that Jesus would be without sin!).

In regards to the atonement, Bird interestingly points out that while the early church formulated statements about the nature of Christ, it never attempted to reach a consensus on the precise mechanics or effect of the atonement. He provides a good overview of the main theories of atonement and rightly notes that while each is saying something true, some have a greater capacity than others to be the integrating theory. In a move that will surely ruffle some conservative feathers, Bird notes that he favors Christus victor as that integrating theory. Unlike many modern versions of the Apostles’ Creed, Bird uses “He descended to the dead” rather than “He descended to hell.” He helpfully explains the Descensus ad Inferos (explicating what the Bible says about Hades/Sheol and what Christ did there on Holy Saturday) and points out the main facets of the significance of the resurrection. The next chapter on the ascension is particularly helpful, as the ascension is probably the most neglected facet of Jesus’s career; it’s not just “Jesus’s return trip to heaven” (162). In expounding upon the person and work of the Holy Spirit, Bird warns us of the twin dangers of neglecting the Holy Spirit and overemphasizing his manifestations. He passionately argues for the importance of ecclesiology, of the church being part of the content of theology rather than just its packaging (193), and finally, reminds us that heaven is not the end of the world.

What Christians Ought to Believe is one of the best examples of scholarship serving the Church. In this book, one of the finest biblical scholars of our day has written an accessible, popular-level  introduction to the basics of the Christian faith. Biblical, theological, and historical concepts are simplified but not simplistic, and at every turn informed by responsible and robust scholarship. This is a great book for intellectually oriented new believers, Christians just starting to get serious about doctrine, as well as mature believers and beginning formal theology students. I can also see this being a great book to study together with someone you are discipling or in small groups. Most of all, this book needs to be devoured by any and all who are either anti-creed or have never studied the Apostles’ Creed.

Many thanks to Mike for having a copy sent to me! I’ll buy you a cup of coffee at SBL 😉

Purchase: Amazon | Westminster

 

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Book Review – Heal Us, Emmanuel: A Call for Racial Reconciliation, Representation, and Unity in the Church

Doug Serven, ed. Heal Us, Emmanuel: A Call for Racial Reconciliation, Representation, and Unity in the Church. Oklahoma City, OK: White Blackbird Books, 2016. 326 pp. $16.99.

heal usI tried countless different ways to introduce this review, but they were all either risky (i.e. potentially controversial and/or off-putting) or trite (because of vagueness and generality). I tend to not say much online on issues of racial injustice and racial reconciliation because I’ve seen online conversations crash and burn as two sides misunderstand and offend/hurt each other, and I didn’t want a touchy introduction to turn people away from reading this review. Heal Us, Emmanuel is an important book for the Church, especially its more conservative wing. No matter where you stand on race issues, my hope is that you will read the entirely of this review and consider reading the book. Written by 30 PCA pastors and leaders of various ethnic backgrounds and ministry contexts, this diverse collection of essays chronicle personal journeys into awareness of racial inequality/injustice and stories of racial reconciliation, provide historical insight into some of the issues and biblical/theological rationale for pursuing ethnic diversity, unity, and reconciliation, and issue a passionate plea for the church to labor to break down dividing walls of ethnic hostility.

The essays in Heal Us, Emmanuel are divided into six sections. One of the hardest and most important things to do in the race conversation is to listen, so it’s fitting that the first section is entitled “An Invitation to Listen.” Here, five minority voices (four African Americans and one Asian American) share their painful experiences of racism and racial injustice, as well as stories of astounding gospel-empowered forgiveness and reconciliation. The opening essay by Rev. Lance Lewis kicks off the book well, as he expounds upon the weaknesses of the typical political mindset with which we approach issues of race and ethnicity and calls us to embrace a biblically grounded redemptive mindset. The second section is entitled “Awakening to Privilege” and contains five essays written by Caucasian Americans. The first essay by Rev. Dr. Timothy R. LeCroy is detailed, multifaceted, and gripping from beginning to end. He chronicles his journey from oblivious to racist to seeing the reality of systemic racism. He tells of the mighty move of the Holy Spirit at the 2015 PCA General Assembly when a resolution was proposed for the denomination to repent of its sins during the Civil Rights Era, and the confession, repentance, and prayer for healing that ensued for about an hour. LeCroy notes his subsequent realization that he needed to be active with regard to these issues not only at the denominational level but also in his local context, and detailed his following steps he took of confession from his pulpit and in the local paper and making contact with a local African American pastor. Finally, he tells of what he saw and heard of the University of Missouri protests locally versus the distortion by national conservative media.

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Commentary on Hebrews (Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation) by Thomas R. Schreiner

Thomas R. Schreiner. Commentary on Hebrews (Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation). Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2015. 560 pp. $39.99.

BTFCP_CommentaryOnHebrews_CVR_R2.inddIn the mist of a tremendous flourishing of evangelical publishing on biblical theology, for years I had longed to see a biblical theology study Bible and a commentary series from the perspective on Biblical theology. To my joy, in the last year we have seen both. The latter presented itself in the form of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible (D. A. Carson ed.), and the former saw its inaugural volume on Hebrews by Dr. Thomas Schreiner (Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation series from B&H Academic).

Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation Series
Though there are different schools of biblical theology that define and pursue the discipline differently, the general editors of this new series (T. Desmond Alexander, Andreas J. Köstenberger, and Thomas R. Schreiner) define biblical theology as, in essence,

the theology of the Bible, that is, the theology expressed by the various biblical books on their own terms and in their own historical contexts. Biblical theology is the attempt to understand and embrace the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors. What is more, biblical theology is the theology of the entire Bible, and exercise in whole-Bible theology (ix, emphases original).

While the volumes will discuss typical introductory matters and provide verse-by-verse exegetical commentary, their two primary distinctive contributions are conveyed in the series title. First is biblical theology – each volume will explore the contribution of the given book or groups of books of the Bible to the theology of Scripture as a whole and provide “thorough discussion of the most important themes of the biblical book in relation to the canon as a whole…in the context of the larger salvation-historical metanarrative of Scripture” (xi). Second is Christian proclamation, seeking to relate biblical theology to our own lives and the life of the church, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry of teaching and preaching the Word.

Commentary on Hebrews (Thomas Schreiner)
The biblical-theological emphasis of Schreiner’s volume on Hebrews shows up mainly in the introduction and conclusion. After briefly addressing typical introductory matters such as date, authorship, destination, etc. in an accessible way that does not get bogged down in technical details, Schreiner spends more than half of the introduction on biblical-theological matters. First, he situates Hebrews in its canonical context, tracing redemptive history from Genesis through the Gospels and pointing out along the way the significant types of Christ and salvation and how Hebrews speaks of their fulfillment. For example, after mentioning Leviticus 10 Schreiner notes how Hebrews focuses on the inadequacy of the sacrificial system and emphasizes the inauguration of a new and better covenant because the old was a failure. He ties the sin of the wilderness generation in Numbers to the warning Hebrews makes of the example of Israel. He notes how Hebrews picks up on the theme of rest in Joshua as a type and anticipation of a greater rest to come. From the Gospels, Schreiner notes themes such as Jesus being the new David promised by the prophets.

Second, Schreiner discusses four structures that undergird the biblical theology of Hebrews. The first is promise/fulfillment, where Schreiner points to how Hebrews proclaims certain OT predictions to have now been fulfilled. Jesus is the Davidic king promised in the OT who would establish God’s kingdom; He is a priest in the order of Melchizedek (Ps 110:4) in his humanity, participation in summering, and resurrection; He has sat down at the right hand of God (Ps 110:1). The second structure is the tension of inaugurated eschatology, seen in Jesus’s reign, salvation, sanctification, perfection, the warning passages, the call to faith, and rest. Third, concerning typology, Schreiner helpfully emphasizes that the correspondences were intended by God and not merely used by Him as illustrations, and that typology is characterized by escalation. In Christ we have a better prophet, a better priest, a better king, a better covenant, a better land, and better promises. The final structure noted by Schreiner is spatial orientation (i.e. the relationship between heaven and earth); while some scholars treat this topic within typology, Schreiner separates it because of Hebrews’s distinctive emphasis on the subject. Whereas key themes that give structure to the letter are investigated as structures of thought, the conclusion provides additional biblical-theological insight by dealing with some of the central themes (e.g. God, Jesus, the New Covenant, etc.) in their own right.

I look forward to digging into Schreiner’s commentary on Hebrews and eagerly anticipate each forthcoming volume in this series. These commentaries will provide rich biblical-theological and practical insight that can’t be found in other commentaries, from some of the best evangelical scholars of our day. Find out more about the series, including the list of volumes and contributors, here.

Thanks to B&H Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon | Westminster

 

Bible Review: UBS5/NIV11 Diglot

ubs 5Last fall when I was just starting my formal biblical/theological education Zondervan sent me a copy of their new The Greek-English New Testament: UBS Fifth Revised Edition and New International Version, and it quickly became the Bible I carried around with me every day (as an aside, TEDS seems to be an NA campus, so my red UBS did draw a fair bit of attention amidst seas of blue at the library and in the classrooms!).

The first reason why I was excited about this diglot stems simply from the fact that I didn’t own a UBS, and the only NIV I possessed was in the form of the new NIV Zondervan Study Bible, an excellent resource but too massive of a tome (I believe slightly bigger and heavier than even the ESV study Bible) to lug around every day. So I was rather excited to have the UBS5 and NIV 2011 together in one sleek, pretty package (see pictures below for a size comparison and infographic of UBS5 features) since I made heavy use of both the Greek and English NT virtually daily for classes. In addition to translation and exegetical work, I try to read a slightly larger portion of the GNT every day; I like to read the portion in English after reading the Greek since I’m still a newbie, so having them in parallel is very convenient. Some discourage new language students from using diglots because of how easy it is to “cheat” and short circuit the process, but it’s easy to not do that (just cover the English side and don’t look at it), and there are far easier/worse ways to cheat nowadays with Bible software).

diglot size comparisonubs5-infographic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond the differing critical apparatus, one unique feature of the UBS that I was not aware of until it was mentioned by my exegesis professor is the appendices of OT quotes and allusions. There’s an index of quotes in OT order, an index of quotes in NT order, and an index of allusions and verbal parallels. One downside of the effort to making the English parallel the Greek is that often the English page will have just a few sentences and/or cut off mid-sentence (see picture below for an example).While this sometimes looks and feels slightly awkward, I think this is an inevitable feature of a diglot and a small price to pay for the conveniences of the format. Overall, I love the new Zondervan Greek-English New Testament: UBS Fifth Revised Edition and New International Version. It’s my go-to New Testament for class, research, and devotional reading.

diglot

Thanks to Zondervan and Academic PS for the review copy!

Book Review – Christ Among the Messiahs (Matthew Novenson)

Matthew W. Novenson. Christ Among the Messiahs: Christ Language in Paul and Messiah Language in Ancient Judaism. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2012 (paperback 2015). 256 pp. $35.00.

MessiahsChrist Among the Messiahs is a revision of Novenson’s dissertation at Princeton Theological Seminary under Beverly Gaventa. Originally published in hardcover three years ago as a typical monograph costing a kidney, it was reprinted a few months ago as an affordable paperback and there was great rejoicing in the biblical studies land. Against the majority view among scholars that “Messiah” did not mean anything determinative in ancient Judaism and the somewhat bewildering corollary that when Paul used χριστός he did not mean it in any of the its (nonexistent) conventional senses, Novenson argues that χριστός in Paul means “messiah” and that “Christ language in Paul is actually an invaluable example of messiah language in ancient Judaism” (3).

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Two New IVP Books on Paul

Last month IVP Academic released two new books on Pauline soteriology, and since this is one of my perennial favorite topics, I couldn’t wait to dig into both. I’ve just started them, but I wanted to highlight them now especially for those looking for winter break reading and/or last-minute Christmas gifts. This description is overly simplistic and not entirely true, but these two books are in some ways foils of each other, and I wonder if they were intentionally released in close proximity for this reason. No matter where you stand on Paul, it’s good to periodically read and engage with arguments and insights from the other camp. As such, both of the following books are good reading regardless of your perspective on Paul (pun intended).

Michael Allen and Jonathan A. Linebaugh, ed. Reformation Readings of Paul: Explorations in History and Exegesis. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015. 280 pp. $28.00

RefPaulFrom the title and editor names alone, the Reformed/Lutheran persuasion of the book jumps out immediately. But while many of the contributing authors belong to these theological camps and several teach at their flagship seminaries, there are also surprises (such as the presence of John Barclay) that indicate at once that Reformation Readings of Paul is not a polemic for the “old perspective.” Instead, it’s an attempt to invite the Reformers into the discussion on their exegesis and theology of Paul. While the enduring question of the past 40 or so years in Pauline studies has been whether the Reformers read Paul correctly (although the question seems settled in the academy with the prevailing view a resounding “no”), this book challenges us to see whether we’ve read the Reformers correctly. As editor Linenbaugh writes in the introduction,

While contemporary writing on Paul is littered with references to the “Lutheran Paul” or the Paul of the Reformation,” what is equally conspicuous is the absence of detailed engagement with the exegesis and theology of the Reformers.

(p. 13)

Reformation Readings of Paul pairs together historical theologians and Pauline scholars to examine how certain Reformers treated certain parts of the Pauline corpus: David Fink and John Barclay on Luther/Galatians, Robert Kolb and Mark Seifrid on Melanchthon/Romans, Brian Lugioyo and Wesley Hill on Bucer/Ephesians, Michael Allen and Dane Ortland on Calvin/Corinthians, and Ashley Null and Jonathan Linebaugh on Cranmer and the corpus Paulinum. The first essay in each pair is descriptive and tends to set up the historical context and provide background to the Reformer as an exegete. It also gives a glimpse of how the Reformer exegeted the text – his tools and interlocutors, his structuring of the epistle and its argument, as well as his broad theological conclusions.  The second essay is evaluative and builds on the first. The Pauline scholar curates a conversation between the Pauline text(s) and their interpretation, interacting with the reading of the Reformers. Problems and questions are noted and recent challenges to the Reformer’s reading are addressed, both what he got right and what he got wrong.

Gerald Bray’s concluding essay paints a picture of the factors that shaped the Reformers, from the Patristic tradition to the Renaissance to the medieval university to the theological crisis of the Reformation. Bray draws many connections between the developed medieval system and Second Temple Judaism, noting that while premodern Christians knew nothing about it, the medieval church came remarkably close to replicating it. “Advocates of the ‘new perspective’ on Paul who criticize Luther for failing to understand the spiritual nature of Second Temple Judaism do not show that they realize this, and so they fail to grasp just how much Luther’s background resembled that of Saul the Pharisee” (272).

Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon


A. Chadwick Thornhill. The Chosen People: Election, Paul and Second Temple Judaism. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015. 288 pp. $35.00

chosenIt’s immediately apparent that this book is from an alternate viewpoint than the first, and this is confirmed just a few pages into the book in the first chapter. Thornhill notes that while he has some critiques of Sanders’s view, he is largely in agreement with Sanders’s covenantal nomism as a correction of the traditional view of how one “got saved” in early Judaism. The lack of attention paid to election in the NPP is part of what prompted Thornhill’s study in The Chosen People, which explores “how Jewish authors spoke of election and how this background knowledge relates to Paul” (16).

The Chosen People had its genesis in Dr. Thornhill’s PhD dissertation at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary under Dr. Leo Percer, with Dr. Gary Yates and Dr. Michael Heiser as readers. With social, historical, and literary sensitivity, Thornhill examines relevant Qumran, apocryphal, and pseudepigraphal texts to elucidate the thought world of late Second Temple Judaism in relation to election. Thornhill finds that election in both late Second Temple literature and Paul was largely a collective reality; in the rare instances in which individuals were in view, soteriological standing was not in view, but rather, their character or representation of the group. Election in both groups of texts was also corporate, conditional, and remnant-oriented. Furthermore, both simultaneously emphasize divine initiative and human responsibility. Probably most controversial will be Thornhill’s re-reading of Romans 8:26-11:36, a pillar text for the traditional Reformed understanding of election. Rather than predestination of the individual believer to salvation, for him Romans 9 is about Gentile inclusion in the people of Israel.

Among Jews of the period, the concept of election came to signify the “true Israel” or “remnant,” meaning those Israelites who remained faithful to the covenant. For Paul the terminology takes on quite the same meaning. In referring to those who have trusted in Jesus as “elect” or “chosen” or “called,” Paul claims that it is those who have been united with God’s Messiah who are actually in right standing with God. Torah-faithfulness apart from obedience to the good news of God expressed through Jesus has become useless. For Paul, obedience to God comes only through identification with Jesus. Thus Jesus’ own faithfulness both grounds the faithfulness of the believer and brings God’s declaration of “rightness” to them.

(p. 257)

 

For more detail on this book, check out Ben Witherington’s interview with the author (Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).

Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon

Fool’s Talk (Os Guiness)

Today’s post is a guest review by Nate Pickowicz, planter/pastor of Harvest Bible Church in Gilmanton, New Hampshire. You can follow him on Twitter and check out more of his writing at Entreating Favor.

Os Guiness. Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014. 270 pp. $22.00.

Fool's TalkBeing relatively unfamiliar with Os Guinness’ work, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but very quickly, I came to realize that he has established himself as an authority in the area of philosophy and Christian apologetics. Early on, he admits that Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion is the culmination of many decades of work, and it shows. Frankly, I was overwhelmed and astounded with the breadth of his knowledge and his ability to size up cultural phenomena and see issues as they really are.

At the forefront, Guinness clearly states the problem and the point of the book: “We have lost the art of Christian persuasion and we must recover it.” (p. 17) Further, he cites the recent problem where “apologetics has lost touch with evangelism” (p. 18) and argues that they must be merged; the goal is not to win arguments, but people.

Guinness puts forth twelve chapters, each with a distinct aspect of the problem coupled with solutions. In truth, each chapter felt like it could have been expanded into its own book. His solutions were often multi-faceted and simply cannot be boiled down to a step-process; he argues that it is more of a methodological artform (pp. 33-38).

As an apologist, Guinness argues against the popular dismissal of apologetics by Christians today, who themselves would argue against apologetics and for evangelism alone. He addresses the charge head-on and he’s convincing, noting that we need to be able to defend what we believe (pp. 49-51).

For the majority of the book, I tracked with Guinness. Even though there were aspects of his theology I found troubling, his insights into culture, atheism, and the need for defending the faith was incredibly helpful. In fact, his teaching on “The Way of the Third Fool” in chapter 4 was brilliant!

Toward the end, however, it became clear that something was wrong; two things, actually:

First, Guinness never deals with the gospel, nor the need for Jesus Christ. His assessment is that every person is leading an unfulfilled, unexamined life (p. 232) and must ultimately come to a place of realization that he/she must find “a better answer” (p. 237). Guinness places the responsibility for salvation squarely on the shoulders of what he calls “the seeker” (p. 231). He writes, “Everything depends on the invitation and challenge to the searcher to start moving.” (p. 232) He even seems to present Christianity as one option of many—a menu of religions—and our job is to help them make an informed choice to follow Jesus.

But Guinness never directly deals with the gospel, other than to note the term sporadically. He uses gospel-like language (he repeatedly refers to “the incarnation, the cross and the Holy Spirit” (185) but does not explain it) but never addresses why a person needs Jesus Christ. He’s fond of talking about the faith “journey”, noting that at the point of belief,

The journey changes. It is no longer a journey toward meaning. Instead, the journey itself is made into the meaning. Better to travel hopefully, it is said, than to arrive. The search is its own reward. The search for meaning becomes the meaning of the search, and the search goes on and on without end.” (p. 250)

And so, the goal of the Christian life is the search for meaning, which never ends?! He says nothing about the holiness of God, the righteous standard of God, the law of God, the Fall, the sinfulness of man, the need for an atoning sacrifice, the wages of sin being death, or of the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ on the cross! Apart from a brief few paragraphs on the notion of repentance (43), Guinness is silent with regards to the need for sinners to repent or else suffer judgment.

I humbly ask: What good is a book about apologetics if the gospel is never defined or explained? In Fool’s Talk, the Christian faith is reduced to a mere moralistic spiritual journey by which “seekers” find a greater meaning to life.

This leads to the second major problem: Guinness’ definition of “Christian” is too broad. Certainly, one cannot judge the inner contents of the heart of another, but the parameters by which we mark out the Christian faith must never be wider than what the Bible defines (cf. Matt 7:13-23; 1 Cor. 15:3-4).

Guinness makes frequent references to Christian believers throughout his book, but frankly, I was shocked at who he included on his list. For example, he writes

The Christian faith has always been a distinguished line of brilliant, creative persuaders, such as Blaise Pascal, Jonathan Swift, Soren Kierkegaard, G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis ad Malcom Muggeridge.” (p. 178)

In another place, Guinness fawns adoringly over the “moral courage” of Pope John Paul II (p. 204), even juxtaposing him positively against other errant Protestant, Catholic, and evangelical groups (p. 210).

But, Sayers? Kierkegaard? Pope John Paul? These are Guinness’ examples of faithful Christians? It has yet to be seen if many of the believers on his list affirm the biblical gospel. Oddly enough, he singles out D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones as an “attack[er] of apologetics” (p. 214); no other mention is given to him or any other Conservative Protestant believer. In fact, Guinness loads up his book with quotes and anecdotes from philosophers, yet cites only 45 New Testament Scriptures in 270 pages!

What is perhaps the most painfully ironic bit is that Os Guinness titles his book Fool’s Talk—a reference to God speaking through Balaam’s ass (p. 60). However, I cannot help but think of 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. The apostle Paul calls Christians “fools” because the truth of the gospel is unfathomable to the deceived and unbelieving world. And to profess “nothing… except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (2:2) is perhaps the most boisterous foolishness.

However, Guinness abdicates his responsibility as a Christian apologist to declare the “foolish” truths of God—that humankind has sinned against a holy God (Rom 3:23) and that the wages of that sin is eternal death (Rom 6:23); that sin is undeniable and must be confessed to be forgiven (1 John 1:8-10), and that true confession of sin and belief in Christ lead to salvation (Rom 10:9-10); that apart from trusting in Christ alone, no one will see the Father (John 14:6; Eph 2:8-9); that unbelievers will be judged (2 Thes 1:7-10), but God’s wrath is satisfied because of Christ’s propitiatory and substitutionary death on the cross (Rom 3:25; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb 2:17; 1 John 2:2). Guinness doesn’t even hint at any of this.

In the end, Fool’s Talk does not represent “the foolishness of God” displayed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It presents a gospel that says that people can choose to follow Jesus merely as a way of life, and by doing so may find true meaning. He writes,

When people take that step of committed faith and set out with us to be followers of Jesus, our task as Christian advocates is over, and from then on they join us as sisters and brothers on the long way home.” (p. 252)

But up to this point, no semblance of the gospel has been given. In fact, Guinness’ gospel is one that swings the gate open so wide, every person in history who claims the name of Jesus is labeled “Christian” regardless of how actively they have undermined the authority of Scripture or mocked Jesus Christ.

But this is not the gospel of Christ or the apostles or the Scriptures, nor is it a gospel worth defending.

Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

Connect with Nate: Twitter | Entreating Favor

 

 

Jesus, Paul, and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N. T. Wright

My review of Jesus, Paul, and the People of God was just published over at Exegetical Tools. Edited by Richard Hays and Nicholas Perrin, this book brings together the proceedings of the 2010 Wheaton Theology Conference and is a very enjoyable read for anyone with interest in Jesus studies and Pauline studies, obviously with extra drawing power for those who want to critically interact with N. T. Wright’s contributions in these two areas of NT scholarship. As I mention in the review, my favorite essay was probably Vanhoozer’s – “Wrighting the Wrongs of the Reformation? The State of the Union with Christ in St. Paul and Protestant Soteriology.” Since his aim is “to encourage peace talks between New Perspectives and Old Protestants” (236), this is an important essay for those who identify with either camp. As an “Old Protestant,” I find this piece to be illuminating, nuanced, witty, and an important corrective for those with a traditional Reformation understanding of justification who write off Wright completely. Furthermore, because I’m particularly interested in the topic of union with Christ, I appreciated Vanhoozer’s contention that the key to incorporated righteousness reconciling old and new perspectives is both sides giving more attention to union with Christ.

What fortuitously has been called the ‘new perspective’ on Calvin’s soteriology anticipates, though not always for the same exegetical reasons, some of what the New Perspective has aimed to discover about Paul’s theology. In particular, what Calvin does with Paul’s notion of union with Christ provides fertile ground for a meeting of old and new perspective minds. Reading Calvin read Paul on union with Christ illustrates what systematic theology at its best can contribute to the discussion: not an imposition of some foreign conceptual scheme onto the text but rather a conceptual elaboration of what is implicit within it. It may also show us that there is more truth and light yet to break forth out of the research program we know as Protestant soteriology (247, emphasis original).

Check out the review for an overview of each of the essays. TL;DR: everyone interested in the topic of justification vis-à-vis the Old/New Perspective on Paul debate must read Vanhoozer’s essay; but the entire book is great for all students and scholars of the NT.

Many thanks to my friends at IVP Academic for the review copy!

Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King (Bateman, Bock, & Johnston)

Herbert W. Bateman IV, Darrell L. Bock, and Gordon H. Johnston. Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2012. 528 pp. $36.99.

Jesus the MessiahIn Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King, three leading biblical scholars bring their differing expertise to provide a survey of “contextual-canonical, messianic, and christological developments of God’s promise of ‘Messiah’ within the larger framework and unfolding of Jewish history in canonical and extracanonical literature” (20). Gordon Johnson covers the Hebrew Bible, Herbert Bateman IV covers intertestamental literature, and Darrell Bock covers the NT. By using the Hebrew Scriptures as the starting point, Jesus the Messiah already differs significantly from certain streams in biblical scholarship that ignore Jesus’s Jewishness and view him primarily through Graeco-Roman lenses (e.g. John Dominic Crossan). However, their approach has a significant difference from others that see the foundational value of the Hebrew Scriptures as well: in distinction from Evangelicals who use a single reading strategy and see direct prophecies in many OT texts, Bateman et al. argue that “these texts do not need to be only direct prophecies for them to reveal a messianic connections [sic] and fulfillment in Jesus…while the wording is ultimately messianic, it is often more implicitly stated and becomes clearer only as the entirety of God’s portrait of messiah is eventually and fully disclosed” (25, italics original).

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Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? Three Views on the Bible’s Earliest Chapters

Charles Halton ed. Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? Three Views on the Bible’s Earliest Chapters. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015. 176 pp. $16.99.

Genesis CounterpointsIn contemporary evangelicalism there’s hardly a biblical/theological topic more divisive than that of origins. The various topics under this umbrella (such as creation versus evolution, an historical Adam, etc.) are all impacted by how we interpret the early chapters of Genesis. Hence, though recent years have seen a large number of books published in the area of origins (including one on the historical Adam from the same series as the volume currently under review), Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? offers a unique and complementary perspective by addressing the topic from the perspective of the genre of Genesis 1-11. As editor Charles Halton notes in the introduction, “Readers will first need to understand the genre of the text and how it worked within the author’s cultural environment before they will be able to successfully address the question: ‘What does this text mean?'” (18). Each of the contributors address four issues in their essays: the genre of Genesis 1-11, why this is the genre of Genesis 1-11, the implication of this genre designation, and the application of their approach to the interpretation of the story of the Nephilim (6:1-4), Noah and the ark (6:9-9:26), and the Tower of Babel (11:1-9). Following the common structure of Zondervan’s Counterpoints series, each essay is followed by a response by each of the other contributors.
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