Book Reviews

Review of The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth: Can Noah’s Flood Explain the Grand Canyon?
Book Reviews , Featured , Old Testament / September 17, 2020

Hill, Carol, Gregg Davidson, Tim Helble, and Wayne Ranney, eds. The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth: Can Noah’s Flood Explain the Grand Canyon?  Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2016, pp. 240, $26.99 hardback. The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth is a collaboration by eleven authors to address the “needless controversy” surrounding the creation of the Grand Canyon (11). The eleven authors are scientists—geologists, paleontologists, hydrologists, biologists—and some are admittedly Christian while others are non-Christian (11, 232-35). Many authors hold teaching positions in institutes of higher learning, while others serve(d) in various agencies such as the National Weather Service and the Los Alamos National Laboratory. All authors have contributed greatly to their respective fields (232-35). In The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth the authors offer a response to scientists who argue that Noah’s flood created the Grand Canyon (flood geology). Flood geologist, in keeping with a literal understanding of Genesis 1-11, argue that the Grand Canyon did not form in billions of years. The authors of The Grand Canyon, however, contend that saying the earth is billions of years old should not be seen as an attack on the Bible (10). They note that of…

Review of Biblical Authority after Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity by Kevin J. Vanhoozer
Book Reviews , Church History , Featured , Theology / September 14, 2020

Vanhoozer, Kevin J. Biblical Authority after Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2016, pp. xii + 269, $21.99, paperback. Kevin J. Vanhoozer writes Biblical Authority after Babel in order to refute “the charge that the Reformation loosed interpretive anarchy upon the world, and that the Reformation is responsible for the pervasive interpretive pluralism that bedevils society, the academy, and the church” (p. 232). He asks, “should the church therefore repent of or retrieve the Reformation” (p. 9)? Vanhoozer believes the latter: the church should ultimately “retrieve certain aspects of the Reformation to meet [these] present challenges” (p. 24), challenges that all hinge on the issue of interpretive authority. Vanhoozer’s book is a systematic exposition of the five Reformation “solas,” intentionally relating them to the issue of interpretive authority. Chapter 1: Grace Alone This chapter “addresses the charge of secularization by locating biblical interpreters and interpretation in the all-encompassing economy of triune communicative activity” (p. 61). “Grace is the way in which God extends himself to the world so that creatures can come to know and love him” (p. 36), which is also to say that grace is “the overarching framework of…

Review of To Think Christianly: A History of L’Abri, Regent College, and the Christian Study Center Movement by Charles E. Cotherman

Cotherman, Charles E. To Think Christianly: A History of L’Abri, Regent College, and the Christian Study Center Movement. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2020,  pp. 320, $31.50, hardback. I owe a great personal debt to Christian study centers. I became a believer at Swiss l’Abri, from an agnostic background at age 19. My wife and I were on staff at the FOCUS Study Center (Fellowship of Christians in Universities and Schools) on Martha’s Vineyard for a number of years. And I was a Senior Faculty Member (a part-time job) at the Trinity Forum Academy (which became the Trinity Fellows Academy) at Royal Oaks, Maryland, for some fifteen years before its closure. Even though my career has been largely in established graduate schools, I am a strong believer in lay education. At a time when many histories of the evangelical movement are critical (sometimes deservedly, but often agenda-driven) it is refreshing to read Charles Cotherman’s perspective. Cotherman, a Vineyard pastor, based To Think Christianly on his University of Virginia doctoral dissertation. This is a marvelous book—informative, engaging, and deeply fascinating. Both the main thesis and the outline are simple. The argument is that l’Abri and Regent College, in two rather different ways,…

Review of The Letter of Jude and the Second Letter of Peter: A Theological Commentary by Jörg Frey
Book Reviews , Featured , New Testament / September 7, 2020

Frey, Jörg. The Letter of Jude and the Second Letter of Peter: A Theological Commentary. Translated by Kathleen Ess. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2018, pp. 560, $69.95, hardback. At 560 total pages, approximately 430 of which are devoted to detailed study of the introductory and exegetical questions that confront interpreters of the slim epistles of Jude and 2 Peter, this commentary on two of the smallest texts included in the New Testament is a mammoth, thoughtful, provocative, and thoroughly welcome contribution to the growing body of scholarship on these letters. Jörg Frey is Professor of New Testament Studies at the University of Zurich. This book was originally published in German in 2015 (Der Brief des Judas und der zweite Brief des Petrus [Theologischer Handkommentar zum Neuen Testament 15.2; Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2015]), and it is likely to be regarded as the most important commentary on Jude and 2 Peter since Richard Bauckham’s 1983 volume on the letters (Jude, 2 Peter [Word Biblical Commentary 50; Waco: Word, 1983]). Although Frey differs from Bauckham on a number of important points, not least the date of 2 Peter and its relationship to the second-century Apocalypse of Peter, the careful historical study of the…

Review of Revelation (Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament) by Sigve Tonstad
Book Reviews , Featured , New Testament / September 3, 2020

Tonstad, Sigve. Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019, 398 pp, $65 hardcover, $29.72, paperback. Sigve Tonstad is a well-established scholar whose work in biblical studies explores issues of theodicy, hope, and ecological hermeneutics. In addition to the volume under review, his English works include The Scandals of the Bible (Pittsburg: PA, Autumn House Pub. 1996); Saving God’s Reputation (New York: NY, T&T Clark, 2006); The Lost Meaning of the Seventh Day (Berrien Springs: MI, Andrews University Press, 2009); The Letter to the Romans: Paul Among the Ecologists (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Press, 2017); God of Sense and Traditions of Non-Sense (Eugene: Oregon, Wipf & Stock, 2016), and numerous articles. Tonstad is a research professor at Loma Linda University. His background as a physician has made his study of Revelation as a book of healing (Rev. 22.3) a personal interest. Revelation is a new addition to the Paideia commentary series by BakerAcademic. As with most commentaries on this challenging book, Tonstad includes the requisite introduction to Revelation. He discusses topics which give the reader a foundation on which to build an interpretation of the book. Among these are: questions of authorship, the relationship between Ancient Roman and Revelation’s visions, interpretative stances…

Review of The Mind of the Spirit: Paul’s Approach to Transformed Thinking by Craig S. Keener
Book Reviews , Featured , New Testament , Theology / August 31, 2020

Keener, Craig S. The Mind of the Spirit: Paul’s Approach to Transformed Thinking. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016, pp. 448, $29.99, paperback. Craig S. Keener (PhD, Duke University), F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary, is one of the most widely read and respected New Testament scholars today.  He has continually published a number of important commentaries, books and essays, particularly concerning the study of the Holy Spirit – these include Gift and Giver (Baker Academic, 2001), Miracles (Baker Academic, 2011), Spirit Hermeneutics (Eerdmans, 2016), Between History and Spirit (Wipf and Stock, 2020) and, not least, his magnum opus four-volume exegetical commentary on Acts (Baker Academic, 2012-2015).  Keener’s The Mind of the Spirit is another academic accomplishment pertaining to the study of the Holy Spirit, with special reference to Paul’s understanding of the transformed human mind.  The main aim of the book is to use the concept of mind – in particular, the mind transformed by and in Christ – found in the Pauline passages to explicate how believers’ righteousness (in terms of one’s status or relationship with God) and/or moral transformation actually take place in the life of believers (pp. xv-xvi). Chapter…

Review of John the Theologian & His Paschal Gospel: A Prologue to Theology by John Behr
Book Reviews , Featured , New Testament / August 27, 2020

Behr, John. John the Theologian & His Paschal Gospel: A Prologue to Theology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019, pp. 338, $120, hardback. Fr John Behr is The Father Georges Florovsky Distinguished Professor of Patristics at St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers, NY. In the Fall of 2020 he will be transitioning to a new position at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. Fr Behr is a widely published and well-respected theologian in both Eastern and Western Christian traditions. John the Theologian & His Paschal Gospel: A Prologue to Theology is Behr’s most recent and comprehensive book on theology proper and his only book on the Fourth Gospel. In the book Behr argues that the “Incarnation should be understood not as a past event, but as the ongoing embodiment of God in those who follow Christ” (p. viii). Behr begins the Introduction by questioning modern assumptions and theological methods that lead much of modern theological scholarship to understanding “Incarnation” as “the assumption [ἀνάληψις] of human nature by a divine person, as ‘an episode in a biography’, such that we can see God in the world in the particular forms or identifying marks of his human body” (p. 29). He argues…

Review of Dogmatic Ecclesiology Volume 1: The Priestly Catholicity of the Church by Tom Greggs

Greggs, Tom. Dogmatic Ecclesiology Volume 1: The Priestly Catholicity of the Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019, pp. lxviii+492, $50.00, hardback. Professor Tom Greggs holds the Marischal Chair of Divinity at the University of Aberdeen. He has authored numerous articles and books, including Theology Against Religion: Constructive Dialogues with Bonhoeffer and Barth (T&T Clark, 2011), Barth, Origen, and Universal Salvation: Restoring Particularity (OUP, 2009), and the forthcoming The Breadth of Salvation: Rediscovering the Fullness of God’s Saving Work (Baker Academic, 2020). In Dogmatic Ecclesiology Volume 1: The Priestly Catholicity of the Church, Greggs presents us with the first entry in a three volume project. The themes of the three volumes reflect a coordination of the threefold office of Christ as priest, prophet, and king with the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed’s description of the church as catholic, apostolic, and holy. Volume 2, then, will address the church’s “prophetic apostolicity,” while volume 3 will attend to its “kingly holiness” (p. xxi). As if such a project was not ambitious enough already, each volume will follow the same outline. For example, chapter 1 in each book will address the Spirit’s role through the lens of the volume’s unique theme, chapter 2 in each book…

Review of Theology as a Way of Life: On Teaching and Learning the Christian Faith by Adam Neder

Neder, Adam. Theology as a Way of Life: On Teaching and Learning the Christian Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019, pp. 176, $18.99, paperback. Adam Neder is Bruner-Welch Professor of Theology at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. Neder offers readers a short, engaging, and wise book on the art of teaching the Christian faith. Neder begins by urging teachers to move beyond communicating theological knowledge by guiding students to “exist in what one understands” (p. 4). In order to accomplish this task, Neder alerts his readers that he draws deeply upon the work of Barth (of whom this book began as a conference paper on Barth’s Evangelical Theology), Kierkegaard, and Bonhoeffer. Neder wants readers to know that he believes this book is useful not only for professors, but that connections for congregational ministry are “always just beneath the surface” (p. 9). Following his introduction, Neder begins the second chapter by claiming: “Anthropology is the soul of pedagogy” (p. 15). He unpacks loaded claims such as this, but also peppers his book with enough unexplained nuggets to cause the reader to pause and think. This chapter provides the foundation for Neder’s philosophy of teaching: the art of teaching the Christian…

Review of A Big Gospel in Small Places: Why Ministry in Forgotten Communities Matters by Stephen Witmer

Witmer, Stephen.  A Big Gospel in Small Places: Why Ministry in Forgotten Communities Matters.  Downers Grove: IVP, 2019, pp. 204, $18, paperback. Stephen Witmer is the lead pastor of Pepperell Christian Fellowship in Massachusetts and is an adjunct professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Witmer is cofounder of Small Town Summits, an organization partnering with the Gospel Coalition, which serves rural pastors serving in rural churches in the New England area. Witmer has written Eternity Changes Everything and numerous articles for websites such as Gospel Coalition and Desiring God. Many Christian ministries and books have focused on the importance on reaching large, strategic cities in urban areas because they are the center for culture and, as a result, are seemingly more important that rural areas.  However, Witmer makes the case that since over three billion people live in rural areas—nearly half of the world’s population—rural areas are important and need fruitful ministry. Witmer uses the term “small places” to refer to areas that are relatively small in population, influence, and economic power, but are worth the investment from potential pastors and ministry leaders (p. 22). Witmer seeks to answer how to to have fruitful ministry in rural contexts…