Bock, Darrell and Mitch Glaser, eds. The People, the Land, and the Future of Israel: Israel and the Jewish People in the Plan of God. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2014.
This book is a collection of conference papers. Many of the contributors are scholars, but the scholars are speaking to a broad audience. The book divides into four parts: The Hebrew Scriptures; New Testament; Hermeneutics, and Church History; Practical Theology. While some of the essays were disappointing in their coverage, I appreciated the basic surveys of biblical material provided by Merrill, Kaiser, Wilkins, Bock, and Vanlaningham. Michael Vlach provided a helpful précis of historical material covered at greater length in his book Has the Church Replaced Israel? John Feinberg and Mark Saucy also wrote outstanding essays on Israel and Israel in the Land being theological necessities. Saucy looks at the storyline of Scripture and notes the significance of Israel throughout the storyline, with special attention given to the New Covenant. One salient point that Saucy made was that changes in temple and cult were predicted by the prophets. The prophets do not prophesy the obsolescence of Israel or the land, however. Much to the contrary. Feinberg looks at Daniel 9:24-27; Zechariah 12; and Isaiah 19:16-25, demonstrating that Israel must be in the land for these prophecies to be fulfilled.
But the essay that is worth the price of the book is Craig Blaising’s essay on hermeneutics. He recognizes that the hermeneutical discussion has moved well beyond spiritualizing vs. literal interpretations. Those who do not see a future for national Israel typically appeal to genre considerations or typology, and they seek to operate within grammatical-historical hermeneutics. In Blaising’s words, these interpreters “do not claim to have read into the text meaning that is alien to it.” Instead, they claim to be “recognizing a typology embedded in the text” (156). Blaising argues that the supercessionist system needs to be evaluated by four criteria: are its interpretations “comprehensive,” “congruent” with the passages being considered, internally “consistent,” and “coherent” as a system. He goes on to demonstrate that supercessionists do not meet these criteria. His most telling point falls under the congruent heading. He notes that a promise differs from types “A promise entails an obligation. When somebody makes a promise, they’re not just stating something; they’re doing something. They are forming a relationship and creating an expectation that carries moral obligation” (160). The book of Hebrews recognizes many types in the Old Testament, but it says that two things are unchangeable: the promise and the oath (Heb. 6:18). The land promise would fall into the category of that which is unchangeable, since it is promised with an oath, rather than into the category of type.
Riley-Smith, Jonathan. The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam. Bampton Lectures in America. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.
This is a good overview of the state of scholarship on the crusades at present. Riley-Smith undercuts a number of popular misconceptions that crusades scholars have abandoned. For instance, he notes that Muslim resentment for the crusades is a rather recent phenomenon, dating back to the 19th century. Christian embarrassment at the crusades is also relatively recent. He demonstrates that support for the crusades were not marginal in Roman Catholic thought. (An aberration from Riley-Smith’s careful argumentation is his attempt to tie Protestants to the crusades. Luther’s argument that Christians may defend themselves against the Turks falls short of advocating crusade. Riley-Smith says there is a parallel between Luther and Catholic crusaders because both emphasize repentance and prayer. But surely repentance and prayer in war do not a crusade make. What is more, the Reformation was a protest against the penitential system that lay at the heart of the crusades.) Riley-Smith does a good job giving attention to the religious aspects of the crusades. While not defending the crusades, he does note that they were supposed to adhere to just war theory. This meant that they had to be reactive wars, wars taking back territory that had been lost. They could not be wars that led to forced conversions (though he notes crusades in the Baltic regions came close to violating these principles). He also describes the way that the crusades were tied to the Catholic penitential system. Contrary to the popular idea that crusaders were primarily motivated by financial gain, Riley-Smith notes that the crusades were dangerous endeavors that were more likely to cost a man everything, including his life, than to lead for wealth. Because of this, going on a crusade could be considered an act of penance that would lead to forgiveness of sins. Also interesting was Riley-Smith’s description of crusading sermons. He notes that one guide for crusading preachers instructed that “an invitatio should be accompanied by a hymn. . . . So as a preacher bellowed out his passionate appeal a choir would strike up and would presumably continue singing as men came forward to commit themselves publically” (38). The attention to these kinds of religious details make Riley-Smith’s book an excellent brief introduction to the crusades.
Stander, Hendrick F. and Johannes P. Louw, Baptism in the Early Church. Leeds, UK: Evangelical Press, 2004.
In this book two South Africa paedobaptists survey the writings of the early church and conclude that credo baptism was the common practice of the early church until the fourth century. Though not as detailed as Everett Ferguson’s survey, Stander and Louw do give a good survey of the evidence. They also often provide lengthier quotations of the primary sources than Ferguson does.
Ferguson, Everett. Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009.
This is a comprehensive survey of written and artifactual evidence concerning baptism. Ferguson reaches three primary conclusions. First, baptism was primarily done by immersion throughout this time period. Other modes were used only in emergency situations. Second, paedobaptism emerged slowly over time. Not until the fourth century did it become widely accepted. Third, baptism was considered to be the point of regeneration, reception of the Spirit, and the reception of other salvific blessings. Ferguson is a member of the Churches of Christ. The conclusions he reaches are consistent with Churches of Christ doctrine. In general, however, I thought that Ferguson was giving a fair presentation of the data. I remain unconvinced, however, of his claim to find baptismal regeneration in the New Testament texts (though I grant that it is clearly found in the church fathers). He also seemed averse to finding the doctrine of original sin in fathers prior to Augustine. These caveats aside, this is the resource that has collected all the data on baptism in the early church.
Abrams, Douglas Carl. Selling the Old-Time Religion: American Fundamentalists and Mass Culture, 1920-1940. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2001.
Abrams discusses Fundamentalist’s relationship to both consumer culture and popular culture. He documents that fundamentalists both embraced and rejected aspects of both kinds of culture. Abrams also the reactions of Fundamentalism to culture. For instance, he critiques the general embrace of consumer culture by Fundamentalists. Overall, an excellent resource.
Hoffmeier, James K. Ancient Israel in Sinai: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Wilderness Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Hoffmeier continues his case that indirect evidence lends credence to the Bible’s account of the Israel in Egypt and, in this book, in the Wilderness. For instance, in one chapter he looks at the names in the genealogies in Numbers and notes that a good number of them are of Egyptian derivation. This argues for the authenticity of the sojourn in Egypt. He also discusses issues such as the location of the Red Sea crossing and Mount Sinai, and the path taken in the Exodus. His point in these discussions is that the accounts in the Pentateuch are located in real places rather in than in a mystical realm in which such routes and locations cannot be evaluated. I think Hoffmeier’s point stands even if one wishes to argue for different locations. The very fact that he can make an argument for one location and that someone else can examine the evidence and make a case for another location proves Hoffmeier’s point that these accounts are of such a nature that such discussions are possible and profitable. This would not be the case with myth. Hoffmeier also takes on the inconsistency of critical approaches to Scripture. For instance, he notes that a historical treatise by a 3rd century BC historian that is preserved only in quotation in other sources (e.g., Josephus and Eusebius) is still used today as the basis for our sequencing of the early Egyptian dynasties. With the Bible we have a much better manuscript tradition that reaches back in time closer to the original documents and events. For instance, some of the Dead Sea Scrolls date back to the first and second centuries B.C. But the critics insist on dating the Pentateuch late and reject countervailing evidence. The Bible is rejected as a “historical partner.” Hoffmeier raises the question of why, despite claims that the Bible should be treated like any other book, it is treated like no other book. His supposition: “Either they want the material to be late so as to fit a particular theory or model they advocate, or they want sources to be late (operating under the assumption that later sources are poor sources) so as to discredit the historical reliability of the Bible. This in turn allows them to reconstruct the history, social framework, and moral or religious traditions in a manner that is more aligned with their own view of things” (18).
Caro, Robert. The Path to Power. The Years of Lyndon Johnson. Knopf, 1982.
This is part one of a five part biography of Lyndon Johnson. Though lengthy, Caro is an engaging writer. It is hard to put these biographies down. Some of the length is devoted to setting the background. For instance, the book begins with a fascinating history of the Texas Hill Country.
Caro does not pull his punches, but he’s not writing a hatchet job, either. HIs interest is in how power is gained and used. LBJ is his case study.
Austen, Jane. Persuasion.
Garretson, James M. A Scribe Well-Trained: Archibald Alexander and the Life of Piety. Profiles in Reformed Spirituality. Edited by Joel R. Beeke and Michael A. G. Haykin. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage, 2011.
Like the other books in this series, A Scribe Well-Trained provides readers with a brief biography of its subject, bite-sized devotional readings by the subject, and a guide for additional reading. I find these books warm my heart toward God.
Block, Daniel I. For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2014.
This is, as the title indicates, a biblical theology of worship. Each chapter covers a topic, moving from the First Testament, as Block prefers to call it, through to the New Testament and on to present-day application. The topics covered range from worship in daily life and in the family to the elements of corporate worship such as ordinances, preaching, prayer, and music. Block mounts a defense of the relevance of the Old Testament in guiding present worship practices (while appropriately noting discontinuities). While differing with Block on a few points, overall I found his exegesis and applications sound. Highly recommended.
Guy, Laurie. “‘Naked’ Baptism in the Early Church: The Rhetoric and the Reality,” The Journal of Religious History 27, no. 2 (June 2003): 133-42.
In researching baptism in the early church, I noticed that numerous sources indicated that those baptized were naked. This obviously raises a moral question for the baptism of women, since the priests who baptized were men. Guy addresses this issue. He notes that “there are three commonly held conclusions, one of which would seem to be wrong: 1. Baptismal candidates were baptized naked 2. Baptism was administered by male clergy 3. Judeo-Christian sense of modesty would not allow a religious practice where female nakedness was exposed to male gaze.” Guy begins with the third conclusion and is able to affirm from contemporary sources, especially those dealing with the baths, that it is true. Likewise, the second conclusion is true. Several of the church fathers explicitly address the issue of women administering baptism, and they forbid it. Guy argues that it is the first conclusion which must be modified. He makes the case that naked in biblical Greek does not necessarily meaning entirely unclothed. For instance, Peter in John 21.7 could have been still clothed in a tunic or smock. He finds evidence in Chrysostom that baptismal candidates could be considered naked while still wearing a chiton, which would enable them to be modest. In other words they were not fully clothed by normal standards but still clothed. Guy argues that the rhetoric of nakedness, however, is used for the purpose of emphasizing the new birth.
Sanford, John C. and Robert Carter. “In Light of Genetics… Adam, Eve, and the Creation/Fall.” Christian Apologetics Journal (2014).
An article by two creationary scientists with expertise in genetics challenging recent claims that genetics disproves a historical Adam. The outline of their article is as follows:
1. Humans are fundamentally different from all other life forms in terms of functionality.
2. Humans are profoundly different from all other life forms in terms of our genome.
3. The direction of genetic change is down, not up. Humanity is devolving due to mutation.
4. The information that specifies ‘man’ cannot arise via random mutations and natural selection.
5. The “junk DNA” paradigm has collapsed and is no longer a valid rescue mechanism for Darwinism.
6. All human beings are amazingly similar genetically—pointing toward a recent Adam and Eve.
- Demise of the evolutionary bottleneck theory.
- Demise of the evolutionary Out-of-Africa theory.
7. The limited amount of diversity within the human genome is best explained in terms of:
- Primarily, designed diversity (heterozygosity) within the biblical Adam and Eve.
- Secondarily, degenerative mutations that have accumulated since the Fall.
8. The number of “linkage blocks” and the limited degree of recombination seen within human chromosomes appears to be consistent with an original population of two individuals that gave rise to all humanity in the last 10,000 years.
9. The origin of people groups is best understood in the context of Adam/Flood/Babel, only requiring population fragmentation, rapid dispersal, founder effects, assortative mating, and limited selection.
10. There is clearly a singular female ancestor of all humans (“Mitochondrial Eve”), her basic DNA sequence is easily discernable in humans alive today, and it is not more similar to chimpanzee.
11. There is clearly a singular male ancestor of all humans (“Y Chromosome Adam”), his DNA sequence is largely known, and it is not at all similar to that of chimpanzee.
12. Molecular clocks and other dating methods most consistently point to a young genome.