Book Reviews

Review of Singleness and the Church: A New Theology of the Single Life by Jana Marguerite Bennett

Bennett, Jana Marguerite. Singleness and the Church: A New Theology of the Single Life. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. 272, $29.95, hardback. In this fresh reflection on singleness, theological ethicist, Jana M. Bennett, provides both a strong critique and hopeful corrective of American relationship culture. She writes as a Catholic scholar yet engages the American Protestant context just as insightfully—identifying the ways the church has often mirrored negative cultural narratives about singleness. The overall goal of this book is to magnify relational experiences often overlooked by the modern Christian community, specifically those in impermanent single states, and to acknowledge the ways these persons may uniquely witness to Christ and the church. Simultaneously, she encourages ways the church can be more of a witness to this community. To begin, she proposes that one of the main problems facing current conceptions of singleness is the tacit assumption that to be single is to be lonely. She calls upon the Christian tradition which affirms both marriage and singleness for what it means to be the church, and that being lonely is neither specific nor necessary to singleness. Here, she also sets up the structure of the remainder of the book, which will…

Review of New Models of Religious Understanding edited by Fiona Ellis
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / July 9, 2018

Ellis, Fiona, ed. New Models of Religious Understanding. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, pp. 256, £55, hardback. Emerging out of research conducted by the Centre for the Philosophy of Religion in Heythrop College, London, New Models of Religious Understanding (ed. Fiona Ellis) offers reflections on a refreshing new approach to the philosophy of religion. Attempting to build bridges between the analytic and continental traditions, the contributors to this volume present a method of doing philosophy of religion which moves away from ontological and metaphysical questions about the existence and nature of God. This new approach is concerned with religious practice more than belief, the kinds of knowledge and understanding that are valuable in religious discourse, and the ways in which religious or spiritual realities might become accessible only to those who enquire after them in the right way. Religious understanding is not a matter of what we know, but of what we do, how we do it, and how what we do opens up new facets or aspects of reality to us. Despite containing contributions from eleven different authors, the book has a remarkable consistency of approach throughout; Fiona Ellis identifies two key themes in her introduction. First, the contributors…

Review of Kingdom Through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants by Gentry and Wellum

Gentry, Peter J. and Stephen J. Wellum. Kingdom Through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2012, pp. 848, $45.00, hardback. Peter J. Gentry serves as Donald L. Williams Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and as Director of the Hexapla Institute. Stephen J. Wellum serves as Professor of Christian Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and as Editor of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. In Kingdom Through Covenant, Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum establish a biblical and systematic theology designed to “show how central the concept of ‘covenant’ is to the narrative plot structure of the Bible, and secondly, how a number of crucial theological differences within Christian theology, and the resolution of those differences, are directly tied to one’s understanding of how the biblical covenants unfold and relate to each other” (p.21). In effect, they contend that to know the covenants rightly is to know the Scriptures rightly (pp. 139, 603, 611). As such, they examine each OT covenant so as “to speak on its own terms” (p. 113) by aligning interpretation to 1) its immediate textual context, especially emphasizing a historical-grammatical hermeneutic of a covenantal…

Review of Maximal God: A New Defence of Perfect Being Theism by Yujin Nagasawa
Book Reviews , Theology / June 28, 2018

Nagasawa, Yujin. Maximal God: A New Defence of Perfect Being Theism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017, pp. 256, $60. Yujin Nagasawa is a professor of philosophy at the University of Birmingham, and the co-director of the John Hick Centre for the Philosophy of Religion. He has published books on phenomenal consciousness, miracles, and the existence of God. In Maximal God, Nagasawa examines the claim that God is a perfect being, and the role this plays in developing the ontological argument for the existence of God. Maximal God is comprised of 7 chapters. Chapter 1 considers the conceptual, historical, and cognitive roots of perfect being theism. According to Nagasawa, perfect being theism affirms that God is the greatest metaphysically possible being. This entails that God is value commensurate with all other possible beings. In other words, the greatness of God can be compared with the greatness of all other possible beings such as humans, aardvarks, and escalators. As Nagasawa notes, most philosophers and theologians assume that perfect being theism entails The Omni God Thesis. The Omni God Thesis says that God is an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent being. Throughout Maximal God, it is Nagasawa’s contention that perfect being theism does not need…

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 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 All that is in God: Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Christian Theism by James E. Dolezal
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / February 8, 2018

James E. Dolezal, All That Is In God: Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Christian Theism. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2017, pp162, $18. James E. Dolezal is an assistant professor at Cairn University’s school of divinity. He has previously published on the doctrine of divine simplicity. In his new book, All That Is In God (ATIIG), Dolezal offers a concise defense of classical theism. On classical Christian theism, the triune God is a necessarily existent being who is simple, immutable, impassible, and timeless. ATIIG contains seven chapters that take the reader through these classical attributes and the doctrine of the Trinity. ATIIG also offers a critique of contemporary evangelical attempts to modify or reject the classical understanding of God. Various contemporary evangelical theologians and philosophers have rejected this understanding of God in favor of a God who enters into a genuine give-and-take relationship with creation. Dolezal labels such thinkers “theistic mutualists.” Dolezal notes that theistic mutualism comes in a variety of forms such as process theism and open theism, but his main target in ATIIG tends to be Calvinists and social trinitarians. It is worth noting that the term “theistic mutualism” is a neologism of Dolezal’s own making….

Review of Searching for Adam: Genesis & the Truth about Man’s Origin edited by Terry Mortenson
Book Reviews , Old Testament , Theology / January 30, 2018

Mortenson, Terry. ed. Searching for Adam: Genesis & the Truth about Man’s Origin. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2016, 524 pp, $24.99, paperback. The debate over evolutionary theory and biblical history still stirs significant controversy in the American Church. Related topics like the age of the earth and the special creation of mankind factor into an ever-growing body of literature on the subject. But many readers struggle to understand why this debate matters and why Christians can’t just “agree to disagree.” The urgency of the “so what” question drives this new volume. Terry Mortenson (Ph.D., history of geology) has assembled a collection of fresh essays to address one issue: the significance of belief in a recent, special creation of Adam and Eve. His contributors hail from a wide variety of fields, from Bible, theology, and hermeneutics to biology, genetics, anthropology, and archaeology. Mortenson and his team seek to clear up misconceptions about the young-earth creationist perspective while offering a scientifically informed and fundamentally biblical apologetic for the supernatural origin of Adam. This book launches a two-pronged advance of the young-earth understanding of the origin of mankind. First, chapters one through seven offer a biblical and theological presentation rooted in a…

Review of Trinitarian Ontology and Israel in Robert W. Jenson’s Theology by Sang Hoon Lee
Book Reviews , Theology / December 28, 2017

Lee, Sang Hoon. Trinitarian Ontology and Israel in Robert W. Jenson’s Theology. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2016, pp. 196, $25, paperback. With articles forthcoming in a number of respected journals, Sang Hoon Lee is currently one of the pastors at Raynes Park Korean Church in London, England. The present monograph is a revised version of his doctoral thesis at the University of Aberdeen. In it, Lee clarifies a commonly misunderstood, if not neglected, aspect of Robert Jenson’s (1930-2017) later thought. Namely, the (often implicit) way in which the later Jenson holds onto his “trinitarian (onto-)theology” while developing, as a result of the former, a post-supersessionistic account of Judaism—two inextricable emphases that interpreters of Jenson have found difficulty in properly acknowledging and/or holding together (p. 1; whereas supersessionism is the long-held notion that God’s mosaic covenant with Israel has been superseded by the new covenant associated with the coming of Christ, so that the Christian church effectively supersedes Israel as the people of God, post-supersessionism—synonymous with non-supersessionism—is the belief that God’s original covenant with Israel continues on even in the church age for it was irrevocable). Lee thus writes to “make explicit the crucial links” (p. 1) within the corpus of…

Review of Rethinking the Concept of a Personal God: Personal Theism, and Alternative Concepts of God edited by Schärtl and Wegener
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / December 26, 2017

Thomas Schärtl, Christian Tapp, and Veronika Wegener, eds. Rethinking the Concept of a Personal God: Classical Theism, Personal Theism, and Alternative Concepts of God. Münster: Aschendorff Verlag, 2016, pp. 249, $76.00. In this collection of essays, a set of German and English speaking theologians and philosophers come together to discuss competing conceptions of God. To be honest, this collection of essays was a bit of a struggle for me. There are several reasons for this that are worth noting. In several of the essays, it was not clear that the authors were using demarcations that I would use to distinguish between competing conceptions of God. To be sure, this is not necessarily a strike against the book. It just shows a particular disconnect that I felt with the authors. For example, in Oliver Wiertz’s essay, “Classical Theism,” Wiertz takes the reader through a carefully nuanced account of perfect being theology for the purposes of defending classical theism. This is a well-written and rigorously argued paper. However, Wiertz makes it clear that the classical theism that he is defending is the God of open theism. On open theism, God is temporal, passible, mutable in certain respects, and lacks exhaustive foreknowledge of…