Book Reviews

Review of Integrative Preaching: A Comprehensive Model for Transformational Proclamation

Anderson, Kenton C. Integrative Preaching: A Comprehensive Model for Transformational Proclamation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017, pp. 208 pages, $22.99, paperback. Kent Anderson’s contribution to the field of homiletics is multifaceted. In addition to authoring several books in the field, he has provided an online preaching resource, www.preaching.org, for more than two decades. Anderson describes his recent contribution to homiletics, Integrative Preaching, as his “most comprehensive [book]” and “the best that [he has] to offer” (p. vii). In the final chapter of his previous work, Choosing to Preach (Zondervan, 2006), Anderson introduced his idea of the integrated sermon. Thus, Integrative Preaching is the full expression of this homiletical model, and it is presented in the following four parts. In Part One, Anderson suggests that the imagery of a cross as the best way to understand his integrative model. Among various points, the cross shows the intersection of vertical and horizontal axes, and it pictures the addition of diverse elements without compromising the nature of each element. In this way, integrative preaching is “not a choice between options but the addition of one to the other – head plus heart and heaven added to the human” (p. 9). In Anderson’s…

Review of The Prince of this World by Adam Kotsko

Kotsko, Adam. The Prince of This World. Stanford: California, Stanford University Press, 2017, pp. 240, $22.95, paperback. In this engaging study of the Devil, Adam Kotsko, assistant professor of humanities at Shimer College, offers a rigorous piece of political theology. Whilst making a trenchant contribution to critiques of contemporary modernity, this book will appeal to both specialists and a general audience alike. The introduction recalls the testimony of police officer Darren Wilson, who claimed to be frightened of Michael Brown, the young, unarmed black man he shot and killed. Brown was “no angel”—Wilson euphemistically positioned his victim as not just criminal, but as actively demonic. Yet, if anyone is the demon in this situation it must be the personification of racist structural violence. From somewhere has sprung “a profound theological reversal,” (p. 4) where the demonic, once the theological tool of the oppressed seeking to explain their sufferings, becomes a weapon of those who oppress. With this context, Kotsko argues that this theological discourse on the devil, the demonic and of evil emerges from a long and under-acknowledged heritage and sets himself the task of tracing the story of how this reversal has taken hold. Chapter one explores the confrontation…

Review of The Christian Idea of God: A Philosophical Foundation for Faith by Keith Ward
Book Reviews , Featured , Philosophy , Theology / December 27, 2018

Ward, Keith. The Christian Idea of God: A Philosophical Foundation for Faith. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017, pp. 229, $32.99, paperback. Keith Ward, Regius Professor of Divinity (Oxford University) and Professor of Philosophy of Religion (University of London), launches in this book a thorough case for what he calls personal idealism. While this book builds successively on previous publications (particularly More than Matter? and Christ and the Cosmos), it explores in further depth the fruitfulness of framing the Christian faith within an idealist framework. Ward is a stern critic of materialism and in The Christian Idea of God he gives further reasons for maintaining that mind is prior to matter. The first part, “The Nature of Mind”, explores the distinctiveness of personal idealism, the epistemic priority of experience, and the objectivity of value (chapters 1-7). On this version of idealism, there is no strict separation between the universe and God; rather they form a unity, “though one in which the mental or spiritual aspect has ontological and causal priority” (p. 11). Indeed, the universe should be understood as a developing and progressing self-expression of God. But, why should we take idealism to be true and what can be said…

Review of The Story of Scripture: An Introduction to Biblical Theology by Matthew Y. Emerson

Emerson, Matthew Y. The Story of Scripture: An Introduction to Biblical Theology. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2017, $19.99, hardcover. Matthew Emerson (Ph.D. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is associate professor of religion and holds the Dickinson Chair of Religion at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Emerson’s work in this volume is a part of the Hobbs College Library Collection at Oklahoma Baptist University which promises to offer additional volumes in the areas of Bible, theology, and Christian ministry. In under one hundred pages, Emerson captures the essence of biblical theology for those training for Christian ministry. Consisting of six succinct chapters, the book begins with a helpful introduction to the discipline of biblical theology in its historical and academic background. Anyone new to this field will appreciate Emerson’s overview and clarity. Following an evaluation of Johannes Gabler’s contribution to the discipline, Emerson explains three primary schools or approaches: the Dallas School which focuses attention on the Israel/Church relationship; the Chicago School which seeks to understand how any given text fits within the overall biblical narrative; the Philadelphia School which asks similar questions of the previous approaches, but also investigates aspects of literary context. Emerson then moves beyond these helpful categories…

Review of Paul: A Biography by N. T. Wright
Book Reviews , Featured , New Testament / December 4, 2018

Wright, N.T.  Paul: A Biography. San Francisco, CA: HarperOne, 2018, pp 464, $29.99, Hardcover. N.T. Wright is widely known as one of the most prominent Pauline scholars of today and a retired Anglican bishop.  He has gained much attention in the academic field for his view on the new perspective on Paul, which has stirred up much debate among Pauline scholars.  One of his most recent works that addresses this issue is Paul and the Faithfulness of God, which was published by Fortress Press in 2013. Currently, the author holds the position of Chair of New Testament and Early Christianity at the School of Divinity of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. In this book, Wright takes a biographical approach in dealing with Paul’s life and theology.  He begins with Paul’s upbringing as a young Jew living in Tarsus, and takes the readers through Paul’s entire life until the final years before his death.  In order to help the reader better understand the shaping and substance of Paul’s theology, Wright traces through known aspects of Paul’s missionary journeys while filling in gaps of knowledge with his thoughtful speculations.  The author divides his work into three parts: the beginning of Paul’s…

Review of The Crosses of Pompeii: Jesus-Devotion in a Vesuvian Town by Bruce W. Longenecker
Book Reviews , New Testament / November 29, 2018

Longenecker, Bruce W. The Crosses of Pompeii: Jesus-Devotion in a Vesuvian Town. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2016, pp. 366, $39,00, paperback. Bruce Longenecker undertakes a historical study in this book that inquires into the evidence for Jesus-devotion in the Roman city of Pompeii prior to its destruction when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE. He finds the answer by looking at cross-shaped symbols in the city’s archeological record. Having previously taught in the UK, Longenecker is the W. W. Melton Chair of Religion at Baylor University. Among his previous publications, Remember the Poor: Paul, Poverty, and the Greco-Roman World (Eerdmans, 2010) and The Cross before Constantine (Fortress, 2015) are particularly pertinent to the volume currently under review. The book begins with an account of its origins. Longenecker began to study the Vesuvian region in order to understand better the concrete realities of first-century life in which early Christianity developed. After noting that certain traditional elements in Vesuvian scholarship are being reevaluated in fresh ways, he locates his book as part of this scholarly movement. The book “will demonstrate that first-century Jesus-devotion did, in fact, have a Vesuvian foothold in the town of Pompeii” (p. 8). For readers accustomed to studying early Christian…

Review of Knowledge, Belief, and God: New Insights in Religious Epistemology edited by Benton, Hawthorne, and Dabinowitz
Book Reviews , Philosophy / November 20, 2018

Benton, Matthew, John Hawthorne, and Dani Dabinowitz, eds. Knowledge, Belief, and God: New Insights in Religious Epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, pp. 345, $70.00. Reformed epistemology is roughly the thesis that religious belief can be justified or warranted apart from argumentation. As the editors of Knowledge, Belief, and God note, Reformed epistemology is the dominant position in the epistemology of religion (p. 3). While there has been a lot of work done in the 90s and 00s, discussing how belief in God can be properly basic, the editors aim to produce a new volume discussing recent developments within the field. The volume is broken up into the following four sections: Historical, Formal, Social, and Rational. The historical section addresses traditional problems in the field of epistemology of religion with recent developments in analytic epistemology. For example, Charity Anderson’s interesting essay applies Maria Lasonen-Aarino’s work on knowledge and defeat to Hume’s arguments against miracles. Anderson argues that a subject can possess knowledge that a miracle occurred, while her belief at the same time fails to meet the standard of reasonability. Other interesting essays in this section include Richard Cross’ essay on Scotus and Aquinas. Here, Cross discusses Scotus’ and Aquinas’…

Review of The Brain, the Mind, and the Person Within: Enduring Mystery of the Soul by Mark Cosgrove
Book Reviews , Philosophy / November 13, 2018

Cosgrove Mark. The Brain, the Mind, and the Person Within: The Enduring Mystery of the Soul. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2018. 180 pp.  $18.00. 978-0825445262. Is there a nexus to be found between the fields of neuroscience and theology? According to Cosgrove’s short work The Brain, the Mind, and the Person Within, there is ample evidence that suggests the two fields belong together. While many introductory works on neuroscience and neurobiology are filled with technical jargon and philosophical esoterica, Cosgrove has an eye towards pedagogy without falling into the temptation of oversimplification or over-extrapolation. Over ten short chapters, Cosgrove carefully introduces and discusses the state of the question concerning the anatomy, functionality, and theology of the mind. Chapters 1 and 2 introduce the reader to the mysteries found within the studies of the brain. Glial cells and neurons make the person, but the mind is no mere combination of chemicals (p. 27 ff). According to Cosgrove, it is problematic to accept the mind as a “machine” view of the human brain. For consciousness exist in four realms: (1) Frontal Lobes (time), Parietal Lobes (meaning), Temporal Lobes (symbols), and Corpus Callosum (imagination) (p. 30–34). Chapter 3 further explores the transmitter chemicals (NE,…

Review of Chanting the Hebrew Bible: The Art of Cantillation, 2nd Edition by Joshua R. Jacobson
Book Reviews , Old Testament / November 6, 2018

Jacobson, Joshua R. Chanting the Hebrew Bible: The Art of Cantillation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2017, pp. xxx + 844, $90.00, hardback or eBook (PDF). “Don’t be attracted to any interpretation that conflicts with the punctuation of the te‘amim; don’t even listen to it!” (Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra, p. 23). Whether or not you agree with Ibn Ezra’s claim, the sad reality must be faced: most students of biblical Hebrew cannot even read the te‘amim [accents] so as to discern their meaning. Joshua Jacobson presents a monumental work to remedy this situation. Now expanded into a second edition, Chanting the Hebrew Bible introduces readers to the Masoretic accent system and guides them all the way up to “the art of cantillation.” Jacobson (D.M.), professor of music and director of choral activities at Northeastern University, teaches and conducts around the world. He had published hundreds of compositions, arrangements, and articles. His background in Jewish literature, musical performance, and experience as a cantor instructor allows him to produce such an encyclopedic guide. Chanting the Hebrew Bible provides readers with a tool to learn interpreting, reading, and singing the Hebrew Bible according to the Masoretic tradition. Jacobson divides this massive volume…

Review of Flawed Perfection: What it Means to Be Human; Why it Matters for Culture, Politics, and Law by Jeffrey A. Brauch
Book Reviews , Ethics , Philosophy , Theology / November 2, 2018

Jeffrey A. Brauch. Flawed Perfection: What it Means To Be Human; Why it Matters for Culture, Politics, and Law .(Bellingham: Lexham Press, 2017). 344 pages. $15.99. Theological anthropology is a thriving area of study. Part of the reason for this growth is due to the growing studies from the brain sciences and psychology, which have and continue to raise interesting and thought-provoking implications for what it means to be human. Another reason for the growing interest in theological anthropology has to do with the growing tensions within the broader cultural conversation on what it means to be human. Jeffrey Brauch enters these discussions as a fresh voice. He argues that, at the heart of this conversation, to be human means that we are created with dignity, value, personal responsibility, but we are also marked the Fall—in other words, Flawed Perfection. Flawed Perfection is not your typical book on theological anthropology, however. It is unusual, but I mean that positively. Brauch is not integrating classical theological anthropology with one of the sciences or re-branding it with a particular philosophy. Brauch, also, is not writing, primarily, with the academic in mind. He writes with a broad audience in view. As a legal expert…