Book Reviews

Review of Faith and Humility by Jonathan L. Kvanvig

Kvanvig, Jonathan L. Faith and Humility. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, pp. 219, $54, hardback. Jonathan L. Kvanvig is Professor of Philosophy at Washington University-St. Louis. This particular monograph came out of a project funded by the Templeton Religion Trust and the contents of Kvanvig’s Wilde Lectures, delivered at Oxford University in the spring of 2017. His work in philosophical theology expands far beyond the topics of faith and humility and includes questions of heaven and hell, a defense of Philosophical Arminianism as an alternative to Molinist accounts of divine providence, and serious reflection on the nature and possibility of omniscience. And, lest anyone might wonder what my own view of the merits of this book might be: it is excellent and a must-read for anyone working in philosophical theology. In Faith and Humility, Kvanvig first argues that faith fundamentally is a disposition in service of an ideal (i.e., a functional account of the nature of faith that allows for a wide range of cognitive and affective components). Second, he argues that the best construal of the nature of humility is as a virtue of attention, where one possesses humility insofar as one possesses the excellence of attending to oneself…

Review of The God Who Goes Before You: Pastoral Leadership as Christ-Centered Followership by Michael S. Wilder and Timothy Paul Jones

Wilder, Michael S. and Timothy Paul Jones. The God Who Goes Before You: Pastoral Leadership as Christ-Centered Followership. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2018. $29.99. Michael S. Wilder and Timothy Paul Jones are both serve as professors at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.  Professor Wilder is J.M. Frost Associate Professor of Leadership and Discipleship, and Professor Jones is Associate vice president for the Global Campus and also serves as Gheens Professor of Christian Family Ministry. Both are scholars but also have served as shepherds of local congregations. Many of the books on leadership in church or in religious or denominational settings rely heavily on secular and pragmatic theories with faint references to biblical passages. According to Wilder and Jones, this often leads to confusing or non-applicable theories for leadership in religious settings. As a corrective, Wilder and Jones embark on a different path in presenting leadership from a more substantive biblical perspective. According to the authors, their approach leads avoids using oversimplified biblical concepts, or worse, worldly principles in forced applications for leadership in religious context. By pointing out the shortcomings of the current anthology of leadership books, the authors survey the whole canon of Scripture, overviewing themes…

Review of Invitation to Biblical Hebrew Syntax: An Intermediate Grammar by Russell T. Full and Kyoungwon Choi
Book Reviews , Featured , Old Testament / August 6, 2019

Fuller, Russell T., Kyoungwon Choi. Invitation to Biblical Hebrew Syntax: An Intermediate Grammar. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2017, pp. 528, $64.99, hardback. Building upon the foundation laid in Invitation to Biblical Hebrew: A Beginning Grammar, Russell Fuller and Kyoungwon Choi present an intermediate grammar which leads students of Biblical Hebrew (BH) towards internalization and mastery. The text is unique among similar intermediate grammars in its use of traditional Arabic/Semitic linguistic categories and pedagogy, while ignoring modern linguistic jargon.  Most directly stated, this means analysis presented from linguistic scholars like Elizabeth Robar, Jan Joosten, T. Muraoka, Cynthia Miller-Naudé, and others is not incorporated in favor of traditional Semitic analysis.  This makes the text accessible to most intermediate students, yet confusing for those who have been exposed to the more modern syntactical terminology. Invitation to Biblical Hebrew Syntax: An Intermediate Grammar is divided into three sections, each working together using the pedagogical method put forward in the introduction.  The first main section is titled “Syntax” and consists of grammatical explanations and categories with examples throughout.  Each chapter ends with extensive exercise questions to reinforce the concepts, as well as drills for identifying grammatical categories and constructions from the Hebrew Bible. A detailed…

Review of Interpreting the Old Testament Theologically: Essays in Honor of Willem A. VenGemeren edited by Andrew T. Abernathy
Book Reviews , Featured , Old Testament / July 30, 2019

Abernathy, Andrew, T, ed. Interpreting the Old Testament Theologically: Essays in Honor of Willem A. VanGemeren. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2018, $33.99, hardback. The present volume is a Festschrift in honor of Willem A. VanGemeren, Professor Emeritus of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. To honor his legacy, as indicated by the title, the focus of the essays is the theological interpretation of the Old Testament, a task over which VanGemeren has labored for decades. The movement known as Theological Interpretation of Scripture (TIS) has garnered more widespread support in recent years. VanGemeren is, in many ways, a forerunner of this movement—a point noted by several contributors. Following an introduction by the editor (pp. 17–21), this volume’s 21 essay contributions are divided into three sections: 1) Theological Witness Gleaned Through Interpretive Practices, 2) Theological Witness in Specific Old Testament Books, and 3) Theological Witness Amidst Community. Both a Scripture and an author index follow the essays. The group of contributors is composed primarily of Old Testament scholars, but also includes one New Testament scholar, one systematic theologian, and one former seminary president who now occupies a pastoral position. Each contributor was asked to allow the following Christological…

Review of Common Ground: Talking about Gun Violence in America by Donald V. Gaffney

Gaffney, Donald V. Common Ground: Talking About Gun Violence in America. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2018. pp. 160, $15, paperback. Donald Gaffney is a Disciples of Christ minister and alumnus of Sandy Hook Elementary School. Since the massacre in 2012, Gaffney has been invested in conversations surrounding gun violence, including through support of the Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit organization founded and led largely by family members connected to the Sandy Hook shooting with the goal of decreasing gun violence. As the title would suggest, Gaffney attempts to address the topic of gun violence through a call for self-reflection, mutual understanding, and productive conversation rather than through explicit advocacy for a singular political agenda.            Common Ground contributes a unique voice to the politically heated topic of gun violence as it provides regular opportunity for the reader to reflect on forces which often undergird espoused positions. In the first two chapters, Gaffney focuses on how perspectives on gun violence have evolved, first through individual narratives and then in the broader narrative of American culture. He focuses on the narratives of Suzanna Hupp and Gabrielle Giffords, both of whom suffered from gun violence, yet arrived at differing positions as to…

Review of Urban Ministry Reconsidered: Context and Approaches edited by Smith, Boddie, and Peters

Smith, R. Drew, Stephanie C. Boddie, & Ronald E. Peters, eds. Urban Ministry Reconsidered: Context and Approaches. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2018. pp. 320, $24.71, paperback. When one speaks of contemporary cultures, it is customarily understood that cultures are shaped by members of a particular society that share a set of practices and beliefs that are dominant or ubiquitous to that particular group. Additionally, when speaking of culture, it is also understood that culture also comprises the activities and values produced out of interaction with principal objects that include, but are not limited to, religious beliefs and practice. With that general classification in mind, the book Urban Ministry Reconsidered attempts to answer the question: what does it mean to minister to societal groups and cultures in urban spaces? The question is grappled by each contributor, who at the conclusion of their chapters suggests means by which ministries can provide or modify their ministerial approaches to an urban community’s context and needs. Urban Ministry Reconsidered offers various insights that explore the complex and varied cultural contexts that have led to new conceptualization and arrangements for urban ministry. From the onset, a caveat is given as the editors make it clear that…

Review of Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament by John D. Currid
Book Reviews , Old Testament / July 18, 2019

Currid, John D., Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament. Wheaton, Il: Crossway, 2013, pp. 153, paperback. John D. Currid (PH,D., University of Chicago, is the Carl McMurray Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC.  He lectures worldwide on biblical and archaeological topics. He serves as Pastor of Teaching and Preaching at Sovereign Grace Church (PCA) in Charlotte. He has authored many books and journal articles. The title of the book Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament (AG) is an accurate statement of the contents.  In the prologue, he acknowledges that the main content of the book was presented at a conference at Reformed Theological Seminary—Charlotte in 2007.  He states that: “the book is about the relationship between the writings of the Old Testament and other Ancient Near Eastern literature.”  “And so, the question for modern minds in this regard is, what precisely is the relationship of the Old Testament to Near Eastern Literature?” The book is divided into 11 chapters: A Brief History of Ancient Near Eastern Studies. The Nature of Polemical Thought and Writing. Genesis 1 and Other Ancient Near Eastern Creation Accounts. Ancient Near Eastern Flood…

Review of Paul and the Gift by John M. G. Barclay
Book Reviews , New Testament / July 15, 2019

Barclay, John M. G. Paul and the Gift. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2015, xvi + 656 pp., $70, hardback.  In one sense, Paul and the Gift is a book about many things. It includes anthropology and the history of interpretation. It is a comparison of Paul and Second Temple Jewish authors. It is part Pauline theology, part commentary on Galatians and Romans. In another sense, though, Barclay’s monograph is a book about one thing: grace. While its methodology traverses a wide array of disciplines relevant to biblical studies, its content never strays far from the concept of beneficence. Barclay, who a decade and a half ago succeeded James D. G. Dunn as Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at Durham University, has proved himself a fitting heir to that professorship. Prior to Paul and the Gift, Barclay was perhaps best known for Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora (1996), an overview of Jewish reactions to the wider culture, as well as many well regarded articles, chapters, and edited volumes on Paul and Hellenistic Jews. But it is Paul and the Gift that secures his legacy. With it, he presents Paul’s theology of grace from a genuinely new perspective — no small feat! —…

Review of Das Alte Testament als deutsche Kolonie. Die Neuerfindung des Alten Testaments um 1800 by Simon Wiesgickl
Book Reviews , Old Testament / June 7, 2019

Wiesgickl, Simon. Das Alte Testament als deutsche Kolonie. Die Neuerfindung des Alten Testaments um 1800. Beiträge zur Wissenschaft vom Alten und Neuen Testament (BWANT), Band 214. Netherlands, 2018, pp.262, €75,00. The main point of this book is that both Orientalism and colonizing in practice were driven by German biblical scholarship of the OT. There is a need for a critical history of commentary, which this book seeks to meet. Roland Boer has pinpointed Martin Noth but the problem goes further back; German scholarship has not been self-aware (cf. E. Stegemann).  We see it already well documented in recent histories of philosophy, e.g. Hegel’s Master-Slave derived from discussion of slave trade in Haiti. When Schiller observed that less developed peoples remind us of childlike love, this is part of the same ‘primitivism’ to which the likes of Herder and the Humboldts subscribed. Despite being a fascinating account there are times when the book ‘jumps’ or even doubles back on itself, repeating or expanding points already half made elsewhere. Secondary literature is rather dealt with as it goes along, like more flavouring thrown into the soup as it simmers,  and usually added uncritically. In Search of the Hebrew People. Bible and Nation in…

Review of Art as Spiritual Perception: Essays in Honor of E. John Walford edited by James Romaine

Romaine, James, ed. Art as Spiritual Perception: Essays in Honor of E. John Walford. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012, pp. 288, $40, hardback. E. John Walford is an important figure in the engagement of Protestant evangelical theology with art historical studies. His interest in this relationship has been fuelled by a dual concern with the relative paucity of religious voices in the literature of art history and criticism, not least in scholarly readings of seventeenth-century Dutch landscape painting, and the related issue of the spiritual substance of artworks. These concerns reflect aspects of his own life journey as an art lover who converted to Christianity in his twenties and as a former student of the late art historian Hans Rookmaaker at the Free University (Vrije Universiteit) of Amsterdam. These interests, and the various ways they have been expressed in Walford’s career—not merely in publications (most notably Jacob van Ruisdael and the Perception of Landscape and Great Themes in Art), but also in teaching art history courses in Amsterdam and at Wheaton College, Illinois—are highlighted in this Festschrift’s Forward entitled “Mentoring Eyes” by Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker, daughter of Hans Rookmaaker. She shows, in what is a fittingly generous and clearly personal tribute (Hengelaar-Rookmaaker…