Plato, The Trial and Death of Socrates. 3rd edition. Translated by G. M. A. Grube. Revised by John M. Cooper. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2000.
Includes the dialogues Apology, the Euthyphro, the Crito, and the death scene from the Phaedo. As the title to this collection indicates, all four of these works deal with the trial and death of Socrates. They seem to be a good introduction to the Socratic method.
Rutledge, Fleming. The Battle for Middle-earth: Tolkien’s Divine Design in The Lord of the Rings. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.
Rutledge maintains that beneath the storylines of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Tolkien communicated a spiritual message. Rutledge’s thesis is most convincing when she demonstrates that ways in which Tolkien’s basic worldview shaped the story. For instance, she rightly highlights the theme of providence that runs throughout these works. She is less convincing when she tries her hand at allegory. Did Tolkien really intend the rangers of Ithilien to represent the base communities of South American liberation theology? (And why did all political applications of Tolkien’s work hew to the left?) Overall Rutledge is often insightful though frequently misguided.
Van Asselt, Willem J., ed. Introduction to Reformed Scholasticism. Translated by Albert Gootjes. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011.
This book would certainly interest any student of church history interested in theology in the post-Reformation era. However, the book has relevance also to those with little interest in either Reformed theology or post-Reformation scholasticism. Neo-orthodox theologians often caricatured Reformed Scholastics as being dry, rationalistic, rigid, and propositional as opposed to being warm, exegetical, and personal. Since the scholastics, both Lutheran and Reformed, refined and established the orthodox doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy (received by Fundamentalists via Old Princeton), neo-orthodox theologians often used their caricature to attack the doctrine of inerrancy. Though inerrancy is not the focus of this volume, Van Asselt and the other contributors to this book do an admirable job of setting the Reformed Scholastics in their historical context and in demonstrating the neo-orthodox caricature to be false.
Ward, Michael. Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
C. S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles have often been criticized for not being as carefully crafted or coherent as Tolkien’s fantastic creations. Critics have wondered why the Narnians have a Christmas or why Bacchus appears at the liberation of Narnia from Miraz. Ward argues that Lewis did have a coherent vision for these books: each book is intended to evoke one of the seven medieval planets. For instance, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was meant to evoke the spirit of Jupiter, Prince Caspian that of Mars, and so on. Ward demonstrates the plausibility of this thesis by demonstrating the importance of the medieval view of the heavens to Lewis in his scholarly writings, his poetry, and his other fiction (especially the Space Trilogy). Ward is able to demonstrate from these writings that Lewis had definite ideas about what each of the planets was intended to represent or evoke. He then seeks to connect each of the Chronicles with one of these planets. Ward is at his most convincing when he can show that his thesis can explain the presence of incongruous material in the Chronicles. The major obstacle to Ward’s thesis (which he does address) is the lack of any documentary evidence that Lewis really intended what Ward says he did. One other caution (made, I believe, by Alan Jacobs) is that Ward’s thesis should be seen as illuminating one aspect of the Chronicles rather than the key that unlocks the whole.
Howe, Daniel Walker. What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848. The Oxford History of the United States. Edited by David M. Kennedy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Howe’s book is another excellent entry in the Oxford History of the United States series. Howe does not quite measure up to the works of Wood and McPherson, which flank it, but it is nonetheless and excellent work. Positively, he gives religion significant coverage in his history, but, negatively, his summaries of American religion were not always accurate. More difficult to evaluate is Howe’s evident bias for John Quincy Adams (the book is dedicated to him) and against Andrew Jackson. Howe, I believe, is correct in his moral evaluations of these two men (as well as in his negative evaluation of Polk). Furthermore, I believe moral evaluation is appropriate in historical works. Nonetheless, I felt the need to turn to Remini and Wilentz to get a better understanding of the "other side," as it were. I’m glad I bought Howe, and I’m glad a library was available in which I could refer to the other two works.
Habel, Norman C. The Land is Mine: Six Biblical Land Ideologies. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995.
Carson’s critique of Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture could easily be adapted to Habel. Habel finds competing land ideologies in different parts of Scripture. As Carson notes with regard to Niebuhr, this prompts "questions about whether they are alternatives or components of a bigger pattern—a pattern that begins to emerge when we follow the Bible’s story line in the categories of biblical theology." It can also raise questions about how accurately Habel is reading the text in some instances. I found the book to have some helpful insights on particular passages here and there, but overall Habel’s conception of the nature of Scripture distorts his approach to Scripture.
Payton, James R., Jr. Irenaeus on the Christian Faith: A Condensation of Against Heresies. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2011 [Introduction, Books 4 and 5 of Against Heresies, with some supplementation from ANF]
Payton realized that much of the helpful theological material in Against Heresies remains inaccessibly buried to most Christians. The recitation of Gnostic beliefs in the first several books of Against Heresies discourage readers from pushing forward to theologically rich passages. Furthermore, until recently Against Heresies was only available in an older 19th century translation (the more recent translation in the ACW series remains incomplete).
Payton seeks to remedy these defects by updating the language and style of the older translation and by excising Irenaeus’s detailed discussions of Gnosticism and leaving behind his theologically rich teaching.
In books 4 and 5 Irenaeus covers such matters as the law and the Christian, the relation of Israel and the church, the relation of the two testaments, the incarnation, the nature of man, the resurrection, election and free will, eternal punishment, and the restoration of creation.
Irenaeus of Lyons. Proof Of The Apostolic Preaching. Ancient Christian Writers. Edited and translated by Joseph P. Smith. New York: Paulist, 1952.
In this work Irenaeus first traces out the storyline of Scripture under the headings of Creation, Fall, and Redemption. He then examines Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah and the transformation brought about the New Covenant. This is a very enjoyable read. Though not a biblical theology in the modern sense it has some affinities with the kind of biblical theology that traces out the storyline of Scripture.
Holmes, Michael W. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007.
The Apostolic Fathers preserve the writings of those who followed the apostles. The most edifying of these books are First Clement and the Letter to Diognetus. The least edifying are probably The Epistle of Barnabas and The Shepherd of Hermas. Works like the letters of Ignatius fall in between. I’ve never found these letters particularly engaging. However, in this last time through them it occurred to me that the thesis that these letters represent the emergence of an episcopalian form of government may be incorrect. It seems to me that it is just as reasonable to understand Ignatius to be describing a form of government in which one overseer exists as primus inter pares with the other elders of an assembly. If so, then Ignatius may reflect continuity with the New Testament rather than a departure from it.
Guthrie, George H. The Structure of Hebrews: A Text-Linguistic Analysis. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994.
This book provides a very helpful introduction to text-linguistics / discourse analysis combined with an proposal about the structure of Hebrews that is overall quite convincing. In brief, Guthrie posits and interweaving of expositional and exhortational sections in Hebrews. These various sections are demarked and linked with variety of devices (e.g., inclusio, hook words). The expositional sections follow this line of reasoning: "The Son Superior to the Angels (1:5-14) → The Son Became Lower than the Angels (i.e., Among Men) to Deliver Men from Sin (2:10-18) → The Son, on the Basis of His Identification with Men, is Taken from Among Men and Appointed as High Priest (5:1-7:28) → Because of His Appointment, He is Able to Offer a Superior Offering in Heaven (8:3-10:18)" (Based on Fig. 30, Guthrie, Structure of Hebrews, 127; text taken from figure verbatim; structure of figure not preserved). Central to the exhortational sections are the five passages in Hebrews that warn against apostasy from God’s Word.
The other exhortational sections come in four groups: 3:1-4:11, faithfulness; 5:11-6:3 and 6:9-12, reason for warning, reason for hope; 10:32-12:24, endurance; ch. 13 concluding exhortations. The exhortational sections are all linked closely with the warnings. 3:1-4:11 has warning passages on either side of it. The same is true of the third group, 10:32-12:24. The second group has a warning passage in its midst. The fourth group follows a warning passage. When put together, it becomes clear that the exposition focuses on the Son: his superiority, his humiliation, his priestly office, and his priestly work. The exhortations focus on warnings against turning away for the word or message that God has entrusted to them and on admonitions toward faithfulness and endurance in their faith. The teaching about the Son provides the doctrinal foundation for the exhortations.
Liederbach, Mark and Seth Bible. True North: Christ, the Gospel, and Creation Care. Nashville: B&H, 2012.
The authors decided to write this book after attending two conferences on evangelicals and the environment. They noticed the absence of Scripture in the presentations. When present the Scripture was used in a superficial way. This book is not designed to address the scientific aspects to the debate. Rather it is intended to lay a biblical and ethical foundation. The authors’ overall argument is sound, but some of their exegesis is left wanting (e.g., finding the Trinity in the plural Elohim; their interpretation of Gen. 2:15).
Locke, John. "A Letter Concerning Toleration." In Locke, Berkeley, Hume. Great Books of the Western World. Edited by Robert Maynard Hutchins. Chicago: Encylcopaedia Britannica, 1952.
Locke argues that a commonwealth should be concerned about securing the "civil interests" of a society and not religious interests. Lock says that magistrates do not have power in the area of religion because (1) God did not grant them this authority, (2) true religion is a matter of heart persuasion while a magistrate can only use force, and (3) laws cannot save souls. On the other hand he takes the church to be a "voluntary society" that gathers for "the public worshipping of God." As a voluntary society the church may only regulate the lives of those who join with it. Furthermore, he limits the interests of the to "the salvation of souls" and says "it in no way concerns the commonwealth." The church many excommunicate, but it cannot exact civil penalties, or deprive a person of his rights or property. The magistrate likewise cannot interfere with the rights of worship except as they would touch on his normal sphere of influence (e.g., he may prohibit child sacrifice because this is something the state would allow no private person to practice). But the magistrate is not responsible to punish every sin but only the sins that affect the commonwealth. His only goal is the prosperity of the commonwealth. Locke raises the question of the magistrate legislating something contrary to a person’s conscience. Locke says that this will rarely happen, but if it does the person should submit to the law or its consequences. Locke, however, does not extend toleration to the atheist, for he holds that atheism undermines all civil society.
Locke gets many things right in this letter, but he wrongly restricts the interests of the church to the salvation of souls alone. The church is also concerned about the discipleship of people in every area of life. This means that that conflicts between conscience and law are more frequent than Locke anticipated (especially as societies become more pluralistic and different moral codes strive to influence the laws).
Douglas J. Moo, “Nature in the New Creation: New Testament Eschatology and the Environment.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 49, no. 3 (September 2006): 477-81.
Moo notes in the article’s introduction that Christians are often (wrongly) accused of a theology that undermines responsible environmental action. He concedes, however, that little has been done to develop a NT theology of nature (more has been done in the OT). Moo begins with Romans 8:19-22, which he understands to affirm that the natural world will be redeemed, as Isaiah predicted it would be, when God’s people are glorified. Moo concedes that Paul’s affirmation of the natural world’s redemption seems in tension with Revelation 21 and 2 Peter 3, which seem to describe the anihilation of the world. But Moo counters this reading. Language of heaven and earth fleeing or passing away need not describe the passing of the physical world. Likewise λυω words need not indicate annihilation (evangelical scholars rightly resist this conclusion when applied to humans and eternal punishment). Though Moo does not deny a fiery judgment at the end, he notes this does not mean the earth is annihilated. Here the Flood serves as a parallel. Positively, God states in Revelation 21:5, "I am making everything new." Moo notes that this favors restoration over replacement. He concludes that the resurrection body is the best analogue. Moo next turns to Colossians 1:20. He critiques the sloppy application of this verse to environmental concerns. He concludes that the verse is predicting the bringing about of universal shalom. This is "secured in principle" by Christ’s crucigixion, but it is not yet established. Moo concedes that the natural world is not at the forefront of Paul’s teaching in this passage, but he does believe it is included. Moo next turns to Gal. 6:15 and 2 Cor. 5:17. Though, again, these passages focus on human transformation, Moo believes that this is part of a broader renewal of all creation (indicated by the terminology of "new creation" as opposed to "new creature" and by the influence of language from Isa. 43:18-21 on 2 Cor. 5:17. Finally, Moo turns to the themes of Dominion, stewardship, and the image of God. Moo concludes that the dominion mandate makes human management of the creation inevitable. Moo holds that stewardship is a good description of the kind of dominion exercised. The image of God in man is understood by Moo as relational, and he includes man’s relation with creation to be part of that image. The fallen image is restored as right relationships are restored.
Moo draws the following conclusions from his survey of these key New Testament texts. First, the natural world is not at the forefront of New Testament teaching, but it is connected to important aspects of God’s redemptive work. Second, Moo rejects the idea that a futurist eschatology undermines Christian environmental stewardship. Third, holding to a renewal of the earth (rather than its annihilation and replacement) does elevate the importance of the creation. Moo concludes that Christians should be committed to a restoration of creation, while also recognizing that "ultimate success" will come only with Christ’s return. Fourth, love for God and other humans should motivate Christian environmental concerns. Fifth, Christians need wisdom in environmental matters. The dominion mandate means that Christians cannot be hostile toward technology and yet must also manage the earth’s resources well. Wisdom is needed to know when "intervention" or "conservation" is the best way to steward creation. Finally, Moo notes that inasmuch as materialism and hedonism contribute to environmental harm, that Christians should be at the forefront of those who model a new way of living.
Von Rad, Gerhard. "The Promised Land and Yahweh’s Land in the Hexateuch." In The Problem of the Hexateuch and Other Essays. Translated by E. W. Trueman Dicken. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966.
Sadly, von Rad spends his time chasing phantasmal sources and relating the land theme to these sources. As a result he says very little of theological value in this essay.