Book Reviews

Review of Calvin, the Bible, and History: Exegesis and Historical Reflection in the Era of Reform by Barbara Pitkin

Pitkin, Barbara. Calvin, the Bible, and History: Exegesis and Historical Reflection in the Era of Reform. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2020, pp. xii + 250, £64.00, hardback. Barbara Pitkin is Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at Stanford University, where she teaches on the history of Christian thought, including the sixteenth-century reformations and the history of biblical interpretation. She is the author of What Pure Eyes Could See: Calvin’s Doctrine of Faith in its Exegetical Context (OUP, 1999), editor of Semper Reformanda: Calvin, Worship, and Reformed Traditions (V&R, 2018), and co-editor with Wim Janse of The Formation of Clerical and Confessional Identities in Early Modern Europe (Brill, 2006). Pitkin also serves as an editor for the Sixteenth Century Journal and is a former president of the Calvin Studies Society.  In Calvin, the Bible, and History, Pitkin investigates Calvin’s biblical exegesis through a series of case studies and seeks to show how he was consistently historically attuned. Though Pitkin argues that Calvin was not a historian per se, she demonstrates that Calvin was an astute exponent of the Bible as history. Chapter 1 functions as the book’s introduction, which summarises, in broad terms, how Calvin’s biblical interpretation was influenced by…

Review of Contemplating God with the Great Tradition: Recovering Trinitarian Classical Theism by Craig A. Carter

Carter, Craig A. Contemplating God with the Great Tradition: Recovering Trinitarian Classical Theism. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2021, pp. 352, $32.99, paperback. Craig A. Carter currently serves as research professor of theology at Tyndale University in Toronto, Ontario, and he serves also as theologian in residence at Westney Heights Baptist Church in Ajax, Ontario. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of St. Michael’s College and has published multiple books within the discipline of theological studies. Carter is both Reformed and Baptist, confessing the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689). The book at hand is the second part of a trilogy that aims to recover important insights from the classical Christian tradition. The first installment was Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition: Recovering the Genius of Premodern Exegesis, which took up the subject of classical theological hermeneutics. In Contemplating God with the Great Tradition (CGGT), Carter argues that Christians today should be intentional with retrieving and confessing the doctrines of God and the Trinity that were developed by the pro-Nicene patristic fathers along with the hermeneutics and metaphysics they used in so doing. This retrieval is necessary if Christians are to confess the doctrines of God and the…

Review Article of The Growing Tree of the Global Church: Review Article of Robert F. Rea and Steven D. Cone, A Global Church History: The Great Tradition Through Cultures, Continents, and Centuries by Rea and Cone
Book Reviews , Church History / December 28, 2021

The Growing Tree of the Global Church: Review Article of Robert F. Rea and Steven D. Cone, A Global Church History: The Great Tradition Through Cultures, Continents, and Centuries (London: T. & T Clark Bloomsbury, 2019), pp. xxviii + 847. Michael McClymond Professor of Modern Christianity, St. Louis University When I attended a Protestant seminary in the 1980s, our assigned text for general church history was the venerable work by Williston Walker, D.D., L.H.D., Ph.D. (1860–1922), who had graduated from Amherst College in 1883, from the Hartford Theological Seminary in 1886, from Leipzig University (PhD) in 1888, and then taught and Hartford Seminary, before proceeding to Yale University, where he taught after 1901.  By the time I first encountered it, Walker’s book had already been revised and updated by a team of three scholars from Union Theological Seminary in New York City, first in 1956 (2nd ed.), and then again in 1970 (3rd ed.). A side-by-side comparison between the 1918 and third (1970) editions shows that the essential framework of the original 1918 book—published as soldiers battled in the trenches of World War I—had not appreciably altered, except within the final section of the six-hundred-page book.  “English Unitarianism” was expanded to include both English…

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 Brand Luther: How an Unheralded Monk Turned His Small Town into a Center of Publishing, Made Himself the Most Famous Man in Europe—and Started the Protestant Reformation by Andrew Pettegree
Book Reviews , Church History / October 5, 2021

Pettegree, Andrew. Brand Luther: How an Unheralded Monk Turned His Small Town into a Center of Publishing, Made Himself the Most Famous Man in Europe—and Started the Protestant Reformation. New York, NY: Penguin Random House, 2016, pp. 400, $18, paperback. Andrew Pettegree is Professor of Modern History at the University of St. Andrews and Founder of the university’s esteemed Reformation Studies Institute. His recent monograph, Brand Luther: How an Unheralded Monk Turned His Small Town into a Center of Publishing, Made Himself the Most Famous Man in Europe—and Started the Protestant Reformation, was warmly welcomed by Reformation scholars and, given its release by a popular rather than academic press, interested lay people across the world in anticipation of the Reformation’s 500th anniversary. As its long subtitle suggests, this book tells two complementary stories—Luther’s personal journey and Wittenberg’s journey from relative insignificance to international fame in only a few short decades. These two stories are woven together by the printing press. According to Pettegree, without Luther’s pen Wittenberg would have continued to exist in obscurity during the sixteenth century. Yet without Wittenberg’s assets, Luther’s voice would have been lost in the academic debates of his time.  Pettegree examines how a localized…

Review of Mother of Modern Evangelicalism: The Life & Legacy of Henrietta Mears by Arlin C. Migliazzo
Book Reviews , Church History / September 28, 2021

Migliazzo, Arlin C. Mother of Modern Evangelicalism: The Life & Legacy of Henrietta Mears. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2020. Pp. xviii + 338. $29.99, paperback. A “human dynamo” for the Lord is how the Christian Century described her in 1950 (p. 253). Recounting the most successful church in the Southwest of the time, First Presbyterian of Hollywood, the Century’s reporter spent about as much time detailing the senior pastor, as it did enchanted by a 60 year-old, bespectacled, matronly-appearing single woman who headed its renowned Christian education program and had the L.A. youth hooked on Christianity: Henrietta Mears. In this first scholarly biography of Mears (1890-1963), we get to see clearly why. Through a rich and vivid chronicle of Mears’s life, Migliazzo, Emeritus Professor of History at Whitworth University in Washington State, offers us deep insight into her personality and an enriched understanding of her multifaceted public ministry. The book deftly and sensitively portrays this remarkable–and previously underappreciated–“architect” (p. 263) at the heart of American Evangelicalism’s transformative mid-century moment. If sobriquets are any index of influence, Migliazzo shows us how, from the 1920s to the 1950s, Mears was, quite simply, Evangelical America’s “Teacher.” The book’s journey begins with a thoughtful survey…

Review of Hild of Whitby and the Ministry of Women in the Anglo-Saxon World by Anne Inman
Book Reviews , Church History / December 17, 2020

Inman, Anne. Hild of Whitby and the Ministry of Women in the Anglo-Saxon World. London, UK: Lexington Books/Fortress Academic, 2019, 223 pages, $95.00, hardcover. Anne E. Inman’s Hild of Whitby and the Ministry of Women in the Anglo-Saxon World clearly distills insights from years of teaching, service within the church, and research into a compact and lucid account not only of the life of Hild of Whitby, but of the roles of women in the early medieval church. In a book that offers as much perspective on modern debates about the roles of women as it does historical theology and Christian practice, both Inman’s theological training and practical experience are apparent. Inman uses the life and ministry of Hild of Whitby to frame an account of the ministry and roles of women in the seventh century church, prior to the merging of the Celtic and Roman traditions. This approach works well, although we have no surviving writings from Hild and limited information on her life, filtered primarily through the works of Bede. Yet, Hild appears throughout seventh- and eighth- century texts, as her life and ministry intersected with many (if not most) of the major political and religious figures of…

Review of To Think Christianly: A History of L’Abri, Regent College, and the Christian Study Center Movement by Charles E. Cotherman
Book Reviews , Church History , Theology / September 10, 2020

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 A Week in the Life of a Greco-Roman Woman by Holly Beers

Beers, Holly. A Week in the Life of a Greco-Roman Woman. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2019, pp. 172, $17.00, paperback. Dr. Holly Beers is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Westmont College, having previously taught at Bethel Seminary and North Central University. Beers is a Luke-Acts scholar, and earned her PhD in New Testament from the London School of Theology. Adding to her list of publications is the current book under review, A Week in the Life of a Greco-Roman Woman. This book is part of InterVarsity’s “A Week in the Life” historical-fiction series, which aims to illuminate the world of the New Testament. Other works in this series examine the week in the life of Corinth, the fall of Jerusalem, Rome, Ephesus, a slave, and a centurion. Beers’ volume follows the daily life of a woman, Anthia, throughout one week of her life, with each of the seven chapters being told from the perspective of one day of the week. This creative work of historical-fiction reads like a captivating novel, as characters develop, interact with one another, and are exposed to Paul’s teaching about Jesus—who presents a challenge to the cultural worship of Artemis. Readers gain insights on…

Review of The Spirit of Methodism: From the Wesleys to Global Communion by Jeffrey W. Barbeau
Book Reviews , Church History / July 6, 2020

Jeffrey W. Barbeau, The Spirit of Methodism: From the Wesleys to Global Communion. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2019, pp. 224, $20, paperback. Jeffrey W. Barbeau, professor of theology at Wheaton College, has written a history of Methodism at a moment of crisis within the United Methodist Church. As this review is being written, the specter of conflict threatens to divide that denomination. The debates over sexuality that drive this conflict have been going on for several decades, but seem to be coming to a head. Many United Methodists feel anything but united. Barbeau writes with the hope that a coherent history of Methodism will help readers gain some perspective: “If the future of the movement seems uncertain to many American Methodists today,” he writes, “at least part of the problem is a persistent myopia” (p. 101). To address that myopia, Barbeau has produced a short, easily-read survey of the history of Methodism, or more accurately, “Methodisms.” The Spirit of Methodism rightfully covers not just Methodism in Great Britain and the United States, but in south Asia, east Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Barbeau also reminds readers that Methodism is not just the United Methodist Church, but also other Methodist,…