Book Reviews

Review of Reenchanting Humanity: A Theology of Mankind by Owen Strachan

Strachan, Owen. Reenchanting Humanity: A Theology of Mankind. Ross-shire: Mentor Publishers, 2019. 432 pages. $39.99. There is significant interest in the questions concerning humankind. The uptick in philosophical, scientific, and theological literature both of a popular sort and an academic sort is evidence of this fact. Owen Strachan in his Reenchanting Humanity contributes to the body of literature on theological anthropology. In it, Owen Strachan raises questions, both historical and contemporary, on the anthropos and offers some answers to them. While it appears to be an academic textbook, it is more of a trade book. Reenchanting Humanity is a lot like a commercial boat with some features of a ship. However, this would fail to take into account the less obvious ships, like a submarine that can move underwater, or a ship that can fly in the air above water. In many ways, Owen Strachan’s Reenchanting Humanity is like one ship, but it falters in accounting for the different kinds of ships. Reenchanting Humanity takes its inspiration from Charles Taylor’s ‘enchantment’ in his The Secular Age. While Strachan does not offer a definition of Taylor’s term, the reader might work this out if they already have a basic understanding of Taylor’s…

Review of Maurice Blondel: Transforming Catholic Tradition by Robert Koerpel

Koerpel, Robert. Maurice Blondel: Transforming Catholic Tradition. South Bend, IN: Notre Dame Press, 2018, pp.278, $55.00, hardback.  In the introduction to his book, Robert Koerpel insightfully observes that it is a “paradox of history that Blondel has become one of the most influential, least well-known, and consistently misunderstood figures in Catholicism” (p. 2). Indeed, Blondel’s philosophy of action, which led to accusations of immanentism as well as naturalism, nevertheless infiltrated French theology to such an extent that twentieth-century French debates over the relationship between nature and the supernatural are inconceivable apart from his philosophy. Koerpel’s focus, however, is to revisit a different area of Blondel’s influence—his idea of tradition, which Blondel developed at the height of the Modernist Controversy. During this time Blondel’s orthodoxy was questioned within circles of ecclesial influence. Blondel’s essay, History and Dogma (1904), emerged out of the controversy, and yet took hold in the French theological imaginary in a way that extended far beyond that particular debate with Alfred Loisy. As Koerpel notes, key Catholic figures such as Jean Daniélou, Yves Congar, Marie-Dominique Chenu, Edward Schillebeeckx, Karl Rahner, and Henri de Lubac all sought to recover a deeper sense of the meaning of tradition, and to…

Review of 15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me by Hansen and Robinson

Hansen, Collin and Robinson, Jeff.  15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018, pp. 155 , $17.99, Paperback. 15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me is a multi-author work.  Each of the authors, however, demonstrate that at least a portion of their vocational ministry consists of time serving pastorally over a local congregation of believers.  This equips each of the authors to be able to speak extensively and practically to the arena about which they wrote, giving the reader both confidence in their ability to assess and explain the situations involved but also the practical guidance for how to maneuver difficult situations that arise within the context of local church ministry. In this work the various authors seek to establish, encourage, and root the reader in the practical realities that accompany life in the local church.  Each individual seeks to address a  different topic someone might encounter in vocational ministry that was potentially not covered during a stint of studying at a seminary.  The first chapter argues that simply because an individual has education it does not make them competent for ministry, giving practical guidance in what to focus on and how to love people more than the knowledge…

Review of Decisional Preaching by Jim Shaddix

Shaddix, Jim. Decisional Preaching. Spring Hill, TN: Rainer Publishing, 2019, pp.147, $11.47, paperback. Dr. Jim Shaddix is Professor of Preaching, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Wake Forest, NC), holding the W. A. Criswell Chair of Expository Preaching, also serving as Director for the Center for Preaching and Pastoral Leadership. He has made homiletic contributions to numerous multi-authored works and along with Jerry Vines has co-authored Power in the Pulpit (Moody, 1997/2017) and Progress in the Pulpit (Moody, 2017). He has authored The Passion-Driven Sermon (B&H, 2003). Decisional Preaching is a much-needed book for every practitioner of Christian preaching seeking to discern the difference between pulpit manipulation and biblical persuasion. Seasoned homiletician Jim Shaddix takes the reader from stem to stern on the necessity, purpose, and practice of the persuasive elements of preaching. The book unfolds in six chapters: “Confessions of a Spurgeonist” (argumentation for decisional preaching); “Preparing to Call for Decisions” (preparation of the preacher through Word and Spirit); “Decisional Qualities of Sermon Foundation (utilizing persuasion in the sermon’s formal elements); “Decisional Qualities of Sermon Function (using persuasion in the sermon’s functional elements); “Decisional Qualities of Sermon Force (understanding the sermon style issue of force and its expression); and finally “Public…

Review of Four Ministries, One Jesus: Exploring Your Vocation with the Four Gospels by Richard A. Burridge

Burridge, Richard A. Four Ministries, One Jesus: Exploring Your Vocation with the Four Gospels. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2019, pp 242, $17.09, paperback. Rev. Professor Richard A. Burridge is the Dean of King’s College London where he serves as a professor of biblical interpretation. In 2013 he became the first non-Catholic to receive the prestigious Ratzinger Prize. Burridge is a member of the General Synod of the Church of England and served on the Evaluation Committee for ordination and theological education. Four Ministries, One Jesus examines the somewhat mysterious “call” of those entering into vocational ministry. Though designed with the Anglican context in mind, Burridge addresses all faith traditions in his engaging and articulate manner. The introduction to Four Ministries, One Jesus clarifies that this edition began as a collection of addresses given at an ordination retreat for the Diocese of Peterborough in England and serves as the foundational context for the instructions given by Burridge. The author divides the gospels into four categories of ministry: the teaching ministry of Christ in Matthew, the pastoral care of Christ in Luke, the suffering servant in Mark, and the divine spiritual life of Christ in John. Each chapter includes a perspective on…

Review of My Story of Overcoming Anxiety and the Practices that Brought Peace by J. P. Moreland

Moreland, J. P. Finding Quiet: My Story of Overcoming Anxiety and the Practices that Brought Peace. Grand Rapids, Mi: Zondervan, 2019, pp. 220.    J. P. Moreland is distinguished professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and director of Eidos Christian Center. With degrees in philosophy, theology and chemistry, Dr. Moreland has taught theology and philosophy at several schools throughout the United States. The author has numerous books, he has also served with Campus Crusade, planted two churches, and spoken at hundreds of college campuses and churches. Dr. Moreland has been recognized by The Best Schools as one of the 50 most influential living philosophers in the world (back cover). Finding Quiet (FQ) is an autobiographical testimony by Dr. Moreland about the trials and victories he has had over clinical depression which lasted for decades in his life. He writes in the Preface “The book you hold in your hands is an honest revelation of my own struggles with anxiety and depression, along with a selection of the significant spiritual, physical, and psychological ideas and practices that have helped me most. I am not a licensed therapist, and this book is not meant to be a substitute for professional or…

Review of Leadership in Christian Perspective: Biblical Foundations and Contemporary Practices for Servant Leadership by Irving and Strauss

Irving, Justin A. and Strauss, Mark L. Leadership in Christian Perspective: Biblical Foundations and Contemporary Practices for Servant Leadership. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019, pp.218, $22.99, pb. Leadership books set themselves to a series of common tasks—they promise to encourage, inspire, equip, and motivate leaders and organizations to greater effectiveness and increased success. Typically, the warrant for such a book is the success and effectiveness of its author, a highly qualified exemplar whose personal use of the methods testifies to its implicit worth. Irving and Strauss, in their 2019 volume Leadership in Christian Perspective: Biblical Foundations and Contemporary Practices for Servant Leaders, are not those kinds of figures. Instead, what they have done is bring together biblical commentary (from Strauss), together with a broad summary of insights from research into leadership models (from Irving), in a topic by topic survey of what they consider to be the key qualities of ‘servant leadership.’ The result is a competent if forgettable book on ‘Christian’ leadership. The governing idea for Irving and Straus’s book is that “the most effective approaches to leadership move leaders from a focus on follower control to a focus on follower empowerment” (p. 12). Toward this goal they…

Review of Come, Let Us Eat Together: Sacraments and Christian Unity edited by George Kalantizis and Marc Cortez

Kalantizis, George and Marc Cortez, eds. Come, Let Us Eat Together: Sacraments and Christian Unity. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2018, pp. 238, $26, paperback. This edited volume is the proceedings of the 2017 Wheaton Theology Conference jointly sponsored by the Wheaton College Department of Biblical and Theological Studies (with which both editors are affiliated) and the Wheaton Center for Early Christian Studies. It brings together scholars from diversely ecumenical backgrounds to investigate theologically the role the sacraments play in bringing about, promoting, or inhibiting unity between Christians. Although such sacraments (or sacramental rites or ordinances) as baptism and holy orders receive some attention, as the title might indicate, the essays in this volume focus primarily on the sacrament/ordinance of the Eucharist. As such, this volume contributes to the renaissance, of sorts, of theological engagement with the doctrine of the Eucharist. This recent renaissance comes in the wake of George Hunsinger’s The Eucharist and Ecumenism (Cambridge University Press, 2008) and has been followed by David Grumett’s Material Eucharist (Oxford University Press, 2016), James Arcadi’s An Incarnational Model of the Eucharist (Cambridge University Press, 2018), and J. Todd Billings’ Remembrance, Communion, and Hope (Eerdmans, 2018). I here offer some comments on…

Review of Remembrance, Communion, and Hope: Rediscovering the Gospel at the Lord’s Table by J. Todd Billings

Billings, J. Todd. Remembrance, Communion, and Hope: Rediscovering the Gospel at the Lord’s Table. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2018, pp. 217, $25, paperback. J. Todd Billings is the Gordon H. Girod Research Professor of Reformed Theology at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, USA. He has written extensively on systematic and historical theology in the Reformed tradition. In addition to his academic work, Billings is an ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America. The balance of academic rigor and pastoral sensitivity that is part of Billings’ own persona permeates his theological approach to the Lord’s Supper in this text. This book is a theology of the Eucharist in the Reformed tradition. Billings unabashedly theologizes from within a broad Reformed mode that takes seriously—and with relative authority—the confessional tradition of this theological and ecclesial family. Billings begins, however, with surfacing the need for a book of this nature in the contemporary Protestant scene. He helpfully diagnoses the functional theologies that often undergird the Sunday morning experience in North American churches today. In many churches, a conjunction of an overly individualistic and judicial understanding of the gospel and an overly cognitive engagement with the Eucharist, result in an anemic worship experience….

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…