Book Reviews

Review of Idealism and Christianity, 2 volumes, edited by Farris, Hamilton, Cowan, and Spiegel
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / April 11, 2017

Joshua R. Farris and S. Mark Hamilton (eds.). Idealism and Christian Theology. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016, pp. 256, $100, hardback. Steven Cowan and James Spiegel (eds.). Idealism and Christian Philosophy. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016, pp. 224, $100, hardback. What does idealism have to do with Christianity? In Bloomsbury’s two-volume series, editors Joshua Farris, Mark Hamilton, Steven Cowan, and James Spiegel set out to answer this question. Reflection upon Edwardsean and Berkeleyan idealism has lead them to advocate for a reevaluation of idealism’s compatibility with Christian theology. Together they have assembled a wide array of scholars whose personal commitment to idealism varies, but nevertheless each endorses a particular virtue of idealism. Since space forbids a detailed interaction with each chapter of this series, I have instead opted for a thematic summary and a meta-criticism concerning the enterprise of Christian idealism. The summary might also serve as a recommended reading plan of the two volumes, reorganized according to what I take to be the major contribution from each author. Many of these chapters do a refreshingly excellent job of writing historically informed analytic theology or philosophy, which was a chief aim of the editors of volume one. Consequently, my classification of prolegomena,…

Review of Modern Art and the Life of a Culture: The Religious Impulses of Modernism by Anderson and Dryness

Anderson, Jonathan A., and William A. Dyrness. Modern Art and the Life of a Culture: The Religious Impulses of Modernism. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2016, pp. 374, $24, paperback. An Associate Professor of Art at Biola University, Jonathan A. Anderson is himself an artist and art critic. He has also afforded his artistic sensibilities to theological conversations, having coauthored the book Renewing Christian Theology: Systematics for a Global Christianity (Baylor University Press, 2014). William A. Dyrness is a respected scholar in the field of theology and the arts and has authored several books, including Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue (Baker Academic, 2001), Reformed Theology and Visual Culture: The Protestant Imagination from Calvin to Edwards (Cambridge University Press, 2004), and Poetic Theology: God and the Poetics of Everyday Life (Eerdmans, 2011). Additionally, he is Fuller Theological Seminary’s Professor of Theology and Culture. In Modern Art and the Life of a Culture, Anderson and Dyrness have combined their expertise to provide a treatment of modern art that is historically accurate, aesthetically conscientious, and theologically grounded. Anderson and Dyrness wrote Modern Art and the Life of a Culture as a response to Hans Rookmaaker’s influential book Modern Art and…

Review of Representing Christ: A Vision for the Priesthood of All Believers by Anizor and Voss
Book Reviews , Theology / January 31, 2017

Anizor, Uche and Hank Voss, Representing Christ: A Vision for the Priesthood of All Believers. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2016, pp. 208, $20, paperback. Uche Anizor (PhD, Wheaton College) and Hank Voss (PhD, Wheaton College) come eminently qualified to speak about the priesthood of believers, a term popularized by Martin Luther but a biblical concept rarely understood and practiced over the centuries. Anizor is an associate professor of biblical and theological studies at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University and author of a book on a related topic: Kings and Priests: Scripture’s Theological Account of Its Readers (Pickwick, 2014).  Hank Voss, on the other hand, is a theological practitioner as national church planting direct at World Impact and senior national staff with The Urban Ministry Institute of Los Angeles.  Both have a passion for the topic and a vested interest in seeing the body of Christ put into practice the biblical doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. Their desire is to develop a “theological vision” (p. 21) of the doctrine of the people of God as priests in God’s kingdom as part of their “identity in Jesus Christ” (p. 21). They describe their thesis for this “well-rounded…

Review of Freewill and Theism: Connections, Contingencies, and Concerns edited by Timpe and Speak
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / January 24, 2017

Timpe, Kevin and Daniel Speak, eds. Free Will and Theism: Connections, Contingencies, and Concerns. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016, pp. 316, $85. In this collection of essays, readers will encounter an interesting array of topics related to free will and philosophical theology. For example, essays cover issues related to divine providence, the doctrine of hell, the problem of evil, the doctrine of divine conservation or divine sustaining of the universe, and the compatibility of God’s freedom with His essential perfection. Even though these essays cover different topics, there is one major question that runs throughout the entire book: does something about theism entail libertarian or compatibilist accounts of freedom? One of the most impressive features of this volume for me is the editing of the essays. The contributors are not directly debating one another. It is not the case that one contributor writes an essay, and then another contributor responds to the original essay. However, the reader will often feel like she is reading a debate between dialogue partners. The editors have selected the contributors carefully in this regard. In many of the essays, a contributor has written up a nice summary of arguments that he or she has…

Review of From Topic to Thesis: A Guide to Theological Research by Michael Kibbe
Book Reviews , Theology / January 3, 2017

Kibbe, Michael. From Topic to Thesis: A Guide to Theological Research. Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2016, pp. 152, $12, paperback. As I have taught classes at both the undergraduate and graduate/seminary level one of the things that I have noticed that students struggle with most is academic writing. The struggle in writing is nearly universal among students. Kibbe’s From Topic to Thesis is a very helpful tool that will help students through the beginning stages of the writing process, stages that are often ignored by students and under taught by faculty. Kibbe starts his guide for students with an introduction. He starts the introduction with a discussion of process by noting that students should move from topic to thesis and not from topic to paper, which students often do. Kibbe also briefly outlines the history of theological research and gives a discussion of how theological research is similar and distinct from other areas of research. He ends the introduction with a discussion of key terms and a discussion of bibliography. Chapter one is focused on finding direction. In this chapter Kibbe brings out a number of important points when writing. Kibbe starts this chapter with a discussion of four…

Review of A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal their Complete Truthfulness by John Piper
Book Reviews , Theology / December 6, 2016

Piper, John. A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016, pp. 304, $24.99, hardcover. John Piper (DTheol, University of Munich) served for 33 years as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN. He is the founder of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. Over the years, Piper has written over 50 books, each dedicated to connecting man’s joy and satisfaction with the glory of God. A Peculiar Glory is no exception. In this most recent book, Piper connects certainty of mind in the truthfulness of the word of God with the direct revelation of God’s glory through the Christian scriptures. His argument is that the truthfulness of the Word of God is self-attesting as God’s glory shines through with a peculiar light, enlightening the mind and satisfying the soul. In summary, Piper’s argument is a defense of verbal-plenary inerrancy. He argues for the complete truthfulness of the Old and New Testaments in all they claim. However, the distinctiveness of Piper’s project is to provide a warrant for the believer’s certainty and trust in this claim. How can one come to know (with certainty) the truthfulness of the Word of God?…

Review of Christological Anthropology in Historical Perspective by Mark Cortez
Book Reviews , Theology / November 29, 2016

Cortez, Mark. Christological Anthropology in Historical Perspective: Ancient and Contemporary Approaches to Theological Anthropology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, pp. 272, $27.99, paperback. Marc Cortez is currently associate professor of theology at Wheaton College. His prior works include Theological Anthropology: A Guide for the Perplexed (T&T Clark, 2010) and Embodied Souls, Ensouled Bodies: An Exercise in Christological Anthropology and Its Significance for the Mind/Body Debate (T&T Clark, 2008). As the title of these previous monographs indicate, Cortez has an interest in theological anthropology. The recently published Christological Anthropology in Historical Perspective: Ancient and Contemporary Approaches to Theological Anthropology represents his third full length contribution to this field. What makes us human? This is a question upon which much ink has been spilled. Most studies attempting to answer this question have tended focus on one of several topics: 1) human origins, 2) ethics, and 3) the imago dei. What Cortez brings to this already oversaturated field is a rethinking of the methodology upon which so many of these studies are founded. Cortez’s approach to theological anthropology is strictly Christological. Although this book is not primarily a constructive proposal but a study of historical Christological anthropologies, Cortez reveals his constructive method which…

Review of A History of Western Philosophy and Theology by John Frame
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / November 8, 2016

Frame, John. A History of Western Philosophy and Theology. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2015, pp.xi + 875, $59.99, hardback. John Frame holds the J. D. Trimble Chair of Systematic Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Frame’s A History of Western Philosophy and Theology is just one book among many that he has authored—books that span a wide range of subjects, including theology, apologetics, ethics, worship, and philosophy. A History of Western Philosophy and Theology is a culmination of sorts of Frame’s labor in expounding upon Reformed Christianity’s doctrines and applications. Frame’s latest work is a helpful account of not only the history of Western philosophy, but also of the sometimes contentious, sometimes harmonious, relationship between theology and philosophy. Frame seeks to tell a “philosophical” story in his History—one in which he attempts to “analyze and evaluate” the history of Western philosophy “from a Christian point of view” (p. xxvi). In a day when histories of philosophy have ignored theology’s contribution to philosophical thought (or, at the very least, relegated such contribution as irrelevant to the scope of philosophy), Frame sees little difference between the two disciplines (p. xxv). More importantly, the Bible speaks to…

Review of Five Views on The Church and Politics eds. Gundry and Black

Stanley N. Gundry, series editor for the Counterpoints Series, and Amy E. Black, general editor. Five Views on The Church and Politics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015, pp 240, $19.99, softcover.   Zondervan’s Counterpoints series exists to provide a forum for Christians to discuss and critique different views on important biblical, theological, and cultural issues. This volume on the relationship between the church and politics seeks to navigate this challenging topic with clarity and substantive dialogue. The five views represented are the Anabaptist (or Separationist), the Lutheran (or Paradoxical), the Black Church (or Prophetic), the Reformed (Transformationist), and the Catholic (or Synthetic). Amy E. Black (Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology) serves as the general editor of this volume, and her contribution is especially helpful to students engaging this discussion. Black is Professor of Political Science at Wheaton College and is a prolific author of several noteworthy books and articles. Black’s introductory essay succinctly summarizes the wide array of responses centuries of Christians have offered in response to one’s allegiance to Christ and the rights and responsibilities that earthly citizenship requires. Black carefully articulates the four major theological traditions (Catholic, Reformed, Lutheran, and Anabaptist) who have a distinctive set of teachings or…

Review of God the Trinity: Biblical Portraits by Malcolm Yarnell
Book Reviews , Theology / October 25, 2016

Yarnell III, Malcolm B. God the Trinity: Biblical Portraits. Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2016, pp. xi + 260, $29.99, hardback. God the Trinity: Biblical Portraits presents a nuanced exegetical case that “the pattern of the Trinity is woven into” (p. 5) the fabric of the various Old and New Testament literature. Throughout the work, author Malcolm Yarnell (D. Phil., Oxford), Research Professor of Systematic Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, balances close theological exegesis with a desire to help the community of believers understand life in the Trinity. The opening chapter serves to introduce the case made in the sequel, appropriately beginning with Yarnell’s hermeneutic. Eschewing “propositionalism” (the insistence, bequeathed by the Enlightenment, that doctrinal claims must be propositional claims), Yarnell instead utilizes the historical critical method—although not indiscriminately (decrying its occasionally “acidic” use [p. 79], as well as its tendency to blunt our reading of the fathers [p. 98]). Each chapter (save chapter four) centers on the unpacking of a selected biblical passage, each yielding a complementary portrait of God (the fitting metaphor of portraiture is used throughout). Chapter one rounds out with a consideration of Matthew 28:16-20, highlighting the portrayal of the divine persons as in…