Book Reviews

Review of Say It!: Celebrating Expository Preaching in the African American Tradition edited by Eric C. Redmond

Redmond, Eric C. ed. Say It!: Celebrating Expository Preaching in the African American Tradition. Chicago: Moody, 2020, 240 pages, $14.99, paperback. What does the Great Migration have to do with exposition? Much! The Black Church in the United States has a beautiful yet painful history. The African American preaching tradition arose in this context, producing notable preachers including John Jasper, Richard Allen, Francis J. Grimké, Martin Luther King, Jr., Gardner C. Taylor, James Earl Massey, and E. K. Bailey. Historically, African American preaching has been underresearched and underpublished. However, times are changing, and homiletical treasures are being unearthed and offered to Christ’s people. Eric C. Redmond (Ph.D., Capital Seminary and Graduate School) has assembled a top-notch lineup of African American homileticians in Say It! to “demonstrate the power of exposition in the cradle of the black pulpit” (back cover). Redmond is a Professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute and an Associate Pastor of Preaching, Teaching, and Care at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, IL. He has published several books and articles, including Where Are All the Brothers? Straight Answers to Men’s Questions About the Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008) and Christ-Centered Exposition: Jonah (Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 2016)….

Review of Restless Devices: Recovering Personhood, Presence, and Place in the Digital Age by Felicia Wu Song

Song, Felicia Wu. Restless Devices: Recovering Personhood, Presence, and Place in the Digital Age. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. pp. 216. How do we understand personal identity in a time where we do not simply go online, but we live online? Song’s work in Restless Devices examines the question of personal identity in a digital age through the lens of an unapologetic Christian theological anthropology. It takes a supple voice and keen mind to navigate the complexities of digital media to an overwhelmingly uninformed audience about the ethical issues behind technology used every day. The expertise and tenure of Song’s work here shine in the landscape of the contents of Restless Devices. Anyone studying the ethics of technology understands the complexity of the relationship between the device as a mere instrument and the device as an implement of power. For example, Part 1 (“Being at Altitude; The Terms of Agreement; and The Industrialization of You and Me”) examines how “smart” technologies shape the user through the values laden by the producers of said technology (cf. Jürgen Habermas’ economic thesis). Tech companies use and exploit behavioral psychology and insights from neuroscience to make addictive products without much concern for the ethical…

Review of Disability and The Church: A Vision for Diversity and Inclusion by Lamar Hardwick

Hardwick, Lamar. Disability and The Church: A Vision for Diversity and Inclusion. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021, pp. 199, $12.99, paperback. Lamar Hardwick, known as “the autism pastor,” is a strong advocate for people with disabilities. Hardwick is the lead pastor of at Tri-Cities Church in East Point, GA and the author of Epic Church and I Am Strong: The Life and Journey of an Autistic Pastor. Lamar has not always had his current reputation as “the autism pastor.” For many years, Lamar struggled with interpersonal relationships and social anxiety. At the age of thirty-six, doctors diagnosed Hardwick with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In Disability and the Church, Hardwick includes eight chapters devoted to creating an inviting atmosphere for people struggling with a disability. According to Hardwick, the disabled community is the largest minority in the world (p. 12). For Hardwick, many churches are failing at their responsibility to be an inclusive Christian institution. Hardwick explores various avenues through which the church should implement diversity and disability strategies in the body of Christ. If the church wants to make a kingdom impact, Christians must recapture God’s intent of inclusion and access into God’s kingdom (p. 18). In the opening chapter,…

Review of Theology, Horror and Fiction: A Reading of the Gothic Nineteenth Century by Jonathan Greenway

Greenaway, Jonathan. Theology, Horror and Fiction: A Reading of the Gothic Nineteenth Century. New York: Bloomsbury, 2021, 198pp, £80, Hardback. Dr Jonathan Greenaway is currently a Researcher in Theology and Horror at the University of Chester. He is working on a Templeton Religion Trust-funded project to explore the theological importance of all forms of horror media. His background in literary studies, and Gothic fiction in particular, appropriately underpins the conceptual framework for this book, which arises from his doctoral studies at the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies. The book is made up of five substantive chapters plus an introduction to ‘Gothic and Theology’ (as opposed to ‘Religion’) and a brief conclusion. Greenaway’s aim is to reposition critical understandings of the role of theology in Nineteenth Century Gothic writing, which in his view have been neglected in recent literary studies. He suggests that Gothic fiction may be read as engaging with theological positions in a variety of ways which are generative of new ideas in the fields of both theology and Gothic studies. Greenaway argues that taking an approach of ‘theological hospitality’ towards these texts opens up a productive dialogue, contributing to an understanding of their contexts as well as informing…

Review of God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering: Theodicy without a Fall by Bethany N. Sollereder

Sollereder, Bethany N. God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering: Theodicy without a Fall. New York, NY: Routledge, 2019, pp. 202, $48.95, paperback. Bethany Sollereder (PhD, Exeter) is a systematic theologian and postdoctoral fellow in the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford.  She writes on theodicy, animals, interpretations of Genesis, and science and religion. Sollereder’s outstanding book asks how “a good and loving God [can] create through an evolutionary process involving such suffering, death, extinction, and violence” (p. 4).   It is not a defense of Christian theism in light of the violence of evolutionary history, but an exploration of ways to understand the God-world relation in light of what is so baffling about evolution. Taking a line from Christopher Southgate, she explains her project “arise[s] out of protest and end[s] in mystery” (p. 4). Blending an account of love borrowed from Aquinas and an Open Theist take on divine action, Sollereder tells a creative, complex, and at turns, mystifying story. She argues the disvalue of evolutionary suffering is a necessary byproduct of God’s generous gift of being to creatures and refusal to ‘micromanage’ (p. 183) the trajectory of any individual or species’ growth and development.  Furthermore, no disvalue is beyond the…

Review of To Aliens and Exiles: Preaching the New Testament as Minority-Group Rhetoric in a Post-Christendom World by Tim MacBride

MacBride, Tim. To Aliens and Exiles: Preaching the New Testament as Minority-Group Rhetoric in a Post-Christendom World. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2020. pp. 254, $51, hardcover. Tim MacBride (ThD, Australian College of Theology) serves as Head of the Faculty of Bible and Theology at Morling College in Sydney, Australia. At Morling, MacBride teaches New Testament and Homiletics. Prior to joining the faculty, MacBride pastored a church in Sydney’s south suburbs for twelve years. To Aliens and Exiles is MacBride’s third book on preaching New Testament rhetoric. MacBride’s two previous books on preaching include his doctoral thesis, Preaching the New Testament as Rhetoric (Wipf & Stock, 2014), and Catching the Wave: Preaching the New Testament as Rhetoric (InterVaristy Press, 2016), in which he simplified his doctoral thesis for a non-academic audience. MacBride has also written several articles on preaching and a book on patronage in John’s Gospel. In To Aliens and Exiles, MacBride offers Christians a lens to understand how to articulate the faith from a minority group position. Such a minority position was the context in which the New Testament was written. Indeed, MacBride posits, Christians have always been a minority. How to instruct the Church to interact with the…

Review of Autism and the Church: Bible, Theology, and Community by Grant Macaskill

Macaskill, Grant. Autism and the Church: Bible, Theology, and Community. Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2019, pp. 236, $34.95, hardback. Grant Macaskill is Kirby Laing Chair of New Testament Exegesis since 2015. Prior to this, he had taught as Senior Lecturer in New Testament at the University of St Andrews. His research engages with the New Testament as a coherent body of theological literature emerging from the diverse contexts of late Second Temple Judaism. His publications have included extensive treatments of theological issues in the New Testament, notably “Union with Christ”. In many ecclesial settings, it goes unnoticed that the church’s autistic members are a gift. In his book, Grant Macaskill has written in a tone of faithful hope about Autism and the Church within an awareness of the sorrow that can accompany being overlooked in such contexts. This book is an example of a biblical theology which dispenses neither of the participatory nature of the church in its reading practices nor the social and scientific research required to write informatively about autism. Macaskill submits the rigour of theological scholarship to its pastoral significance making serious reflection accessible to a larger range of readers than simply those inside the university. The…

Review of The Eternal Covenant: Schleiermacher on God and Natural Science by Daniel James Pedersen

Pedersen, Daniel James. The Eternal Covenant: Schleiermacher on God and Natural Science. Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2017, pp.xli+187, $114.99, hardback. The focus of this work is the “eternal covenant” between the Christian faith and natural science that is commended in the work of Friedrich Schleiermacher. As the introduction rehearses, two interpretations of this proposal have dominated the literature: a “separationist model”, in which there is a rigid demarcation of the disciplines, and an “accommodation model”, in which the Christian faith always has to accommodate advances in natural science. But Pedersen considers both models flawed: not only do they fail to account for the terms “eternal” and “covenant”; they also fail to consider that the “eternal covenant” is not so much a methodological proposal as a carefully argued conclusion, undergirded by “a host of claims and commitments supported by argumentation” (p. 12). To demonstrate this latter position is the principal task which this book sets itself, and its proving ground is Schleiermacher’s major work in Christian dogmatics, Christian Faith. The ultimate starting-point for all Schleiermacher’s claims and commitments in Christian Faith is, famously, the feeling of absolute dependence. Crucially, however, Pedersen observes that these claims and commitments can be held on…

Review of Not Your White Jesus: Following a Radical, Refugee Messiah by Sheri Faye Rosendahl

Rosendahl, Sheri Faye. Not Your White Jesus: Following a Radical, Refugee Messiah. Westminster John Knox Press, 2019. pp. 204, $16.00, paperback. What would it look like to rediscover the power behind the “red letters” in the gospels during an era of rampant racism, hatred, and division? In Rosendahl’s Not Your White Jesus: Following a Radical, Refugee Messiah, she encourages us to step out of our institutional thinking about the church and challenges the image and ideals of the Americanized, blond-haired, and blue-eyed Jesus. She puts forth the invitation to become followers of a radical, Palestinian, brown-skinned Jew—Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Rosendahl’s work is a bold critique on the Christian church in the United States, arguing that American cultural and nationalistic identity has deeply influenced and warped Christianity that it is currently unrecognizable to the way of life that the Jesus of the gospels taught and lived (pp. 16-17). She addresses the election of Donald Trump, writing with candor to a Christian audience that, as she believes, has forgotten Jesus’ original message (pp. 100-101). Divided into two parts, part one focuses on the profile of the radical, refugee Messiah, while part two examines current issues such as war, racism, nationalism, consumerism,…

Review of Unsettling the Word: Biblical Experiments in Decolonization edited by Steve Heinrichs

Heinrichs, Steve, ed. Unsettling the Word: Biblical Experiments in Decolonization. Orbis, 2019. pp. 303, $25, paperback. Steve Heinrichs, editor and contributor of Unsettling the Word, is the Director of Indigenous-Settler Relations for the Mennonite Church of Canada. He is an ardent activist for Indigenous peoples and passionate about what he sees as the church’s call to solidarity and reconciliation with this oppressed community. As evidence of such passion, Heinrich was a faith leader who was arrested and served seven days in prison for being with the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. Along with them, he was protesting the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans-Mountain pipeline in Burnaby, B.C. His book, Unsettling the Word, is a timely and conscience-stirring work that seeks to liberate scripture from the traditional lens of settler colonial societies. The book is not an orthodox monograph, but a compilation of 68 independent interpretive stories and poems by a diverse group of scholars, poets, artists, and activists who desire to free scripture from those who have utilized the Bible as a “weapon to dispossess Indigenous and racialized peoples of their lands, culture, and spiritualties” (p. iii). It wrestles with scripture, both “re-imagining and re-interpreting the ancient text for the…