Schreiner, Thomas R. The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013.
In this biblical theology Thomas Schreiner studies the themes of the books of the Bible (Paul’s epistles are grouped together in a single section, as are some other smaller sections, like Luke-Acts). Schreiner either follows a thematic approach or a literary one in which he traces the main themes of successive sections. Overall, his comments are insightful and the book gives a good overview of Scripture’s main themes.
Bird, Kai. The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames. New York: Crown, 2014.
Lewis, C.S. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Witherington III, Ben. "Not So Idle Thoughts about Eidolothuton" Tyndale Bulletin 44.2 (1993) 237- 254.
Witherington argues that all the occurrences of εἰδωλόθυτος refer to food eaten in the temple precincts. It does not refer to meat offered to idols that is served outsides the temple precincts. The weakest point of Witherington’s argument is that the three items restricted in for Gentile Christians in Acts 15 don’t seem to have to do with what went on in the temple, as the must in Witherington’s argument. He admits in a footnote that strangling was not a common practice in Greek and Roman temples and chalks it up to James being a provincial Judean who didn’t really know much of what went on in Roman and Greek temples. I don’t find that line of reasoning persuasive (nor did Thiselton). (I do, however, think that Witherington is correct that Acts 15 is not about keeping a modicum of Jewish or Noachic food laws.) Garland objects to Witherington on the grounds that all the early Church Fathers also exclude eating from the marketplace meat specifically identified as idol-meat. He notes that if Witherington’s view is correct then all subsequent early interpreters of Paul misunderstood, which Garland finds unlikely.
Gerhard, Johann. On the Nature of Theology and on Scripture. Saint Louis: Concordia, 2009.
Gerhard is a Lutheran scholastic who followed Martin Luther and Martin Chemnitz as the great Lutheran scholar of the third generation of Lutheranism. Reading his On the Nature of Theology should dispel the notion that the Protestant scholastics were rationalists or without real piety. Gerhard rightly argues that theology is not derived from reason but that reason is a tool to be used in understanding Scripture. His treatment of Scripture is excellent. He has one of the most detailed discussions of why the Apocryphal books are not to be included in the canon that I’ve read. Indeed, I sometimes wonder if the Protestant scholastics have been maligned because their opponents would rather dismiss them than engage their careful, detailed arguments.
Wright, Lawrence. The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. New York: Knopf, 2006.
Eliot, George. The Mill on the Floss.
McKenzie, Robert Tracy. The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us About Loving God and Learning from History. InterVarsity, 2013.
The primary question that McKenzie is answering in this book is how Christians should practice the discipline of history. He uses the story of the first Thanksgiving as a case study. Readers will therefore learn a about the Reformation, Puritans, Separatists, their culture, and their beliefs. This is a valuable part of the book. But readers will get more. They will also learn how to appreciate Christian forbearers without turning them into idols. They will learn the benefit of challenging one’s modern ideas by exposure to historical ones. They will learn that historical honesty is more important that using history for political purposes: Christian or otherwise. Highly recommended.
Beeke, Joel. Developing Healthy Spiritual Growth: Knowledge, Practice and Experience. Grand Rapids: Evangelical Press, 2013.
This brief book of three sermons on Colossians 1:9-14 has been the most spiritually nourishing book that I have recently read. It led me to desire to know Christ more, to follow him better, and to grow in my experience of the Spirit’s sanctifying work.
Head, Peter. "Graham Stanton and the Four-Gospel Codex: Reconsidering the Manuscript Evidence," in Jesus, Matthew’s Gospel and Early Christianity.
Head argues that the manuscript evidence does not support Stanton’s argument that the acceptance of the four Gospels was linked with four-gospel codices.
Brack, Jonathan M. and Jared S. Oliphint. "Questioning the Progress in Progressive Covenantalism: A Review of Gentry and Wellum’s Kingdom through Covenant," Westminster Theological Journal 76 (2014): 189-217.
Brack and Oliphint critique Gentry and Wellum’s Kingdom through Covenant on three grounds. First they challenge their exegetical methodology, next they challenge their understanding of covenant theology, third they challenge their understanding of the New Covenant. I find Brack and Oliphant’s critique on the first two points valid and helpful. I think they go astray on the third point.
The methodological critique focuses on the use of ANE background material. I believe that Brack and Oliphint are correct to welcome insights from ANE background while at the same time insisting that material external to Scripture not be allowed to supersede Scripture itself―including Scripture’s own canonical interpretation of Scripture. In addition to displacing Scripture itself, Brack and Oliphint note two additional problems with privileging background material in one’s hermeneutical method. First, it may neglect to note how Scripture transcends cultures. Second, it fails to acknowledge that the original audience often did not understand Scripture. "Conjecture on what would have been adequately understood by Scripture’s original audience is a poor test for what qualifies as biblical exegesis" (195).
In the article’s second section Brack and Oliphint critique Gentry’s treatment of the covenant’s and Covenant Theology. They note that their treatment of covenant theology relies on the writings of Michael Horton and Doug Wilson while neglecting the diversity that really existed among the key covenant theologians. Differences over whether the Mosaic Covenant is part of the covenant of grace or covenant of works or whether the covenant of grace is the new covenant or encompasses all (or most) of the covenants. I think this is a valid criticism. Ironically the treatment of Dispensationalism is much better (this aspect of Kingdom through Covenant is not dealt with by Brack and Oliphant). All too often Covenant Theologians treat Scofield as representing all of Dispensationalism, with perhaps a nod to later developments. To their credit Wellum and Gentry avoid caricature and represent Dispensationalism in all its variety.
Ironically, in the third section Brack and Oliphint are the ones who forget the diversity of Covenant Theology and are the ones who impose an external paradigm on Scripture rather than giving the text priority. In this section they object to Wellum and Gentry’s argument that, unlike the OT covenants, the members of the new covenant are not a mixture of believers and unbelievers. They also downplay the progress from the OT to the new covenant indicated by the newness of the indwelling Spirit for new covenant believers. On this count I find the Exegetical arguments favoring Wellum and Gentry’s position to be stronger. Brack and Oliphint, on the other hand, made primarily theological arguments that depended on their paedobaptist version of covenant theology. They read statements about the necessity of the Spirit indwelling made in the New Testament back into the Old Testament. And though they in another context noted works like Pascal Denault’s, which answered their theological objections, they failed to acknowledge that the objections they raised do have answers that Baptist theologians have provided. This part of the paper was disappointing. Because it raised old arguments without engaging response to those arguments, it failed to advance the discussion.
From my theological perspective, I think the real value of this review is its discussion of ANE material in one’s hermeneutics. The errors the critique seem to be spreading at present, and I believe their critique on this point to be spot on.
Edwards, Jonathan. "The Mind." In Scientific and Philosophical Writings. Edited by Wallace E. Anderson. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980. [Also read much of the editor’s introduction]
Edwards’s idealism is far from convincing, but the editor’s introduction helpfully explains the materialist challenge to Christianity that Edwards was seeking to counter. Some of the most interesting aspects of the essay to my mind was the discussions of aesthetics. Edwards ties aesthetics to proportion. Thing with proportion are beautiful. This means there can be things that are ugly when viewed narrowly, but which are beautiful when seen in a larger context in which proportion becomes evident. Ethically this explains how something sinful can appear beautiful when viewed narrowly. But when viewed from the broadest perspective, it would not be so.
Michael J. McClymond and Gerald R. McDermott. "God as Trinity." "The End of God in Creation." "Providence and History." The Theology of Jonathan Edwards. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
I find Edwards’s account of the Trinity overly speculative and unhelpful. His view on the end of God in creation I find superlatively biblical and essential reading for all literate Christians. Edwards’s history of redemption I find to be a mixed bag. I really like what he is attempting, but I don’t always find his typology convincing. McClymond and McDermott provide very helpful summaries of all three of these topics.
Warfield, Benjamin B. "John’s First Word." In Benjamin B. Warfield: Selected Shorter Writings. Edited by John E. Meter. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1970. pp. 148-50.
Warfield’s main point is that Jesus is the One who reveals the Father’s glory. That is why he is pictured as the Word and the light, the One tabernacling among God’s people and exegeting the Father.