Book Reviews

Review of Petitionary Prayer: A Philosophical Investigation by Scott A. Davison

Davison, Scott A. Petitionary Prayer: A Philosophical Investigation. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2017, pp. 189, $75.00, hardback. Scott Davison is Professor of Philosophy at Morehead State University. His other writings on petitionary prayer appear in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology, and The European Journal for Philosophy of Religion. This monograph is his first full-length treatment of the subject. Petitionary prayer is a practice which is central to Christian piety, yet, few Christians stop to ask, does prayer make a difference to God? One almost assumes that it does, or else prayer seems to be redundant. Scott Davison, in Petitionary Prayer: A Philosophical Investigation, poses this type of question as follows: “Assuming that the God of traditional theism exists, is it reasonable to think that God answers specific petitionary prayers? Or are those prayers pointless in the sense that they do not influence God’s action?” (p. 8). In attempting to answer this question, Davison refrains from interjecting his own religious beliefs and seeks instead to “write as a philosopher trying to be responsible for what we know from reason about metaphysics, epistemology, and value theory” (p. 4). He explains that he will defend…

Review of A Reader’s Guide to the Bible by John Goldingay

Goldingay, John. A Reader’s Guide to the Bible. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2017, pp. 192, $18.00, paperback. John Goldingay is the David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament at the Fuller Theological Seminary School of Theology and is a prolific author in Old Testament theology, as well as in Isaiah and Psalms studies. In A Reader’s Guide to the Bible, Goldingay aims to provide his readers with an introduction to the main events, people, places, themes, and structure of the Bible. Assuming that his readers know little to nothing about the Bible, the author highlights the Bible’s key events (chapter one) and describes the geographical features of the lands of the Bible, primarily that of Palestine (ch. 2). He then breaks down most of the rest of the book into two helpful categories: “God’s story” (Part II, five chapters long) and “God’s word” (Part III, five chapters long) (p. 2). Since most of the Bible consists of the Old Testament, Goldingay focuses on discussing the story of God’s dealings with the nation of Israel. However, for Goldingay, the story of God’s relationship with his people culminates with the coming of Jesus Christ, his cross work, and the birth of…

Review of Evolution and the Fall edited by William T. Cavanaugh and James K. A. Smith

Cavanaugh, William T. and James K. A. Smith, eds. Evolution and the Fall. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2017, pp. 261, $26, paperback. A wide spectrum of twentieth century theology was marked by a revision of the doctrine of the origins of sin. In most cases, concern about evolutionary science, and especially the science of human origins, was a powerful motivation. The origins of sin were recast in various forms—either as mythopoetic, metaphysically inevitable, or the consequence of a certain sort of freedom—in a way that led the doctrine away from the problems posed by evolution, but also led it away from important traditional claims, for example, that all humans became sinners by the voluntary act of the first two human beings. Because of these novelties, or because of their perceived consequences, many evangelicals and other traditionally-minded theologians declined to follow many of the great twentieth century thinkers down this path. Yet the problems that prompted the revision of the doctrine have, if anything, grown in recent decades. There is thus a renewed urgency, but also a renewed spirit of openness from traditionally-minded thinkers for reconsidering if, and if so, how, to think of the Fall in light of evolution. As…

Review of Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who They Were and Why You Should Care by C. John Collins

Collins, C. John. Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who They Were and Why You Should Care.  Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011, pp. 192, $16.99, paperback. John Collins is professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary in Saint Louis, Missouri. In Did Adam and Eve Really Exist, Collins uses his skills in Hebrew linguistics and biblical theology to discuss an issue that finds itself at the intersection of science and faith. Collins has also published Faith and Science and a commentary discussing his linguistic and theological analysis of Genesis 1–4. The traditional view of Adam and Eve throughout most of church history has been that they were actual people through whom all other human beings descended and through whom sin entered into the human experience. Modern scientific claims, however, have caused much skepticism concerning this traditional view and have led many Western Christians to abandon belief in a historical Adam and Eve. In Did Adam and Eve Really Exist, Collins argues that the traditional view (or some variation of it) does the best job accounting for the biblical materials and our everyday experiences as human beings. In doing so, his goal is to establish what he refers to as “mere historical-Adam-and-Eve-ism” (alluding…

Review of How to Understand and Apply the Old Testament: Twelve Steps from Exegesis to Theology by Jason DeRouchie
Book Reviews , Old Testament / June 12, 2018

DeRouchie, Jason. How to Understand and Apply the Old Testament: Twelve Steps from Exegesis to Theology. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2017, pp. 640, $39.99, hardback. While there are many introductory books on the Old Testament (OT), there are few which walk both beginning and advanced students together through each step of the exegetical process leading into theology and application.  Jason DeRouchie does just that in How to Understand and Apply the Old Testament: Twelve Steps from Exegesis to Theology. The book lays out a step-by-step guide to OT Exegesis intended to be accessible, yet complete. DeRouchie currently serves as an elder of Bethlehem Baptist Church, is Professor of OT and biblical theology at Bethlehem College & Seminary and received his Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. DeRouchie has published and contributed to other books on the OT including What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survey of Jesus’ Bible. He has also recently published an elementary Hebrew Grammar with Duane Garrett titled A Modern Grammar for Biblical Hebrew. The stated goal of the book is to provide a twelve-step guide to interpreting the OT, with a focus on textual analysis, synthesis, and significance. DeRouchie guides his readers…

Review of Metaphysics and the Tri-Personal God by William Hasker
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / May 24, 2018

William Hasker, Metaphysics and the Tri-Personal God. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017, pp. 269, £25.00, paperback. In this impressive study William Hasker, the Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Huntington University, takes on the task of analysing the trinitarian three-in-one problem. That is, how we should understand the theological statement that “God is three persons in one being.” Hasker seeks to establish, first, the foundations of the doctrine of the Trinity and, second, articulate and defend social trinitarianism (ST). Previous philosophical interactions with central Christian doctrines have often been accused of lacking historical and contextual awareness. It is Hasker’s goal to show that this picture is mistaken, and to demonstrate how the emerging field of analytic theology is not only philosophically rigorous, but that it carefully considers the witness of Scripture and the importance of Church history. The book is structured into three sections. The first section outlines the presuppositions for Hasker’s analytical endeavour. As Hasker remarks, it is difficult to attribute the label “social trinitarianism” to any ancient thinker, given that the ontological model for ST grew out of modern categories – especially with regards to philosophy, psychology, and sociology (p. 24). Nevertheless, Hasker—equipped with Plantinga’s definition of Persons as…

Review of Thomas Aquinas (Great Thinkers) by K. Scott Oliphint
Book Reviews , Church History / May 22, 2018

Oliphint, K. Scott. Thomas Aquinas (Great Thinkers). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2017, pp. 145, $14.99, paperback. Scott Oliphint serves as professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. He studied directly under Cornelius Van Til, the father of present-day presuppositional apologetics. Oliphint champions Van Til’s view in the twenty-first century through his publications, such as, Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith; Revelation and Reason: New Essays in Reformed Apologetics; as well as the editor for numerous books on Cornelius Van Til, including: The Defense of the Faith; Christian Theistic Evidences, and Common Grace and The Gospel. His latest contribution, Thomas Aquinas, is one book in a series of publications reviewing “Great Thinkers,” which seek to understand and evaluate influential theologians and philosophers throughout church history. At the outset of the book, Oliphint states his interest in this book is to argue that Reformed Thomism cannot be reconciled with historic Reformed theology. “Whatever ‘Reformed Thomism’ might be,” says Oliphint, “or might mean, in our current context, it cannot be a synthesis of biblically foreign Thomistic teachings and a consistent, biblical theology” (p. 3). He believes Reformed theologians either cannot incorporate Aquinas’s views into their…

Review of Framing Paul: An Epistolary Biography by Douglas A. Campbell
Book Reviews , New Testament / March 21, 2018

Campbell, Douglas A. Framing Paul: An Epistolary Biography. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014. Pp. xxii + 468, $39, paperback. Douglas Campbell has achieved prominence through two monographs, The Quest for Paul’s Gospel (2005) and The Deliverance of God (2009), which place him broadly within the “apocalyptic” perspective on the apostle Paul, over against “Lutheran,” salvation-historical, or New Perspective views. He holds the position of Professor of New Testament at Duke Divinity School. He is also the resident provocateur in the field of Pauline studies, and this his third tome, Framing Paul, proposes a fresh chronology of Paul’s life and letters that differs in significant respects from the current consensus. In his first chapter, “An Extended Methodological Introduction” (pp. 1–36), Campbell sets out a methodology to “frame” the apostle’s letters — that is, to give an at least provisional account of the contingent circumstances of all the books bearing Paul’s name (see esp. pp. 11–18) — that avoids the “vicious circularity” (p. 13) often present in such a project. Campbell criticizes the common practice of suggesting a particular doctrine (e.g., justification) as Paul’s “coherence” (utilizing J. C. Beker’s terminology) that is drawn particularly from a subset of his letters (in this case,…

Review of How to Read & Understand the Biblical Prophets by Peter J. Gentry
Book Reviews , Old Testament / March 15, 2018

Gentry, Peter J. How to Read & Understand the Biblical Prophets. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017, pp. 141, $18, paperback. How to Read & Understand the Biblical Prophets is a student oriented look at the unique hermeneutical issues at hand when interpreting the prophets of the Old Testament. Author Peter J. Gentry (PhD, University of Toronto) is the Donald L. Williams professor of Old Testament Interpretation at South Baptist Theological Seminary and director of the Hexapla Institute. His other academic works include Kingdom Through Covenant (Crossway, 2012). His expertise is clearly at the fore as he seeks here to make the prophets, major books of the Old Testament, approachable to the Christian student. How to Read & Understand The Biblical Prophets achieves in every way its titled purpose, and is an introductory work of the highest order. Gentry sets out with a clear goal through How to Read. His stated purpose is to define seven central characteristics of prophetic literature that are vital for understanding. By understanding these prophetic literature characteristics, Gentry hopes that they “will help Christians comprehend these texts for themselves, perhaps for the first time with real understanding” (p. 14). Each of the characteristics of prophetic literature that…

Review of Covenant and God’s Purpose for the World by Thomas R. Schreiner
Book Reviews , New Testament , Old Testament / February 27, 2018

Schreiner, Thomas R. Covenant and God’s Purpose for the World. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017, pp. 136, $14.99, paperback. Thomas Schreiner is the James Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a Pauline scholar and has written numerous books and articles. This most recent book is in Crossway’s series, “Short Studies in Biblical Theology.” It is the fourth book in the series. The series is focused on giving a reading of the Bible that is unified and sees Jesus Christ as the culmination of the biblical story. Schreiner begins his book carefully noting that his intent is not to argue that covenant is the “center” of biblical theology (p. 11). While covenant is an important notion in Scripture, Schreiner wants to avoid the language of center or heart when discussing biblical theology. While, for Schreiner, covenant is not the central theme of the Bible, he does go on to say, “we can’t grasp how the Scriptures fit together if we lack clarity about the covenants God made with his people” (p. 12). Thus, before the study can go too far Schreiner proposes a definition of covenant: “a covenant is a chosen relationship in which…