Book Reviews

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,…

Review of When Bishops Meet: An Essay Comparing Trent, Vatican I, and Vatican II by John W. O’Malley
Book Reviews , Church History , Theology / April 15, 2020

O’Malley, John W. When Bishops Meet: An Essay Comparing Trent, Vatican I, and Vatican II. Cambridge: Harvard Belknap, 2019, pp. 240, $24.95, hardback.  John W. O’Malley, professor of theology at Georgetown University, has established himself as one of the most learned and thoughtful historians of the great councils of post-Luther Roman Catholicism. Having previously published separate monographs on the Council of Trent and on the First and Second Vatican Councils, this slim volume represents a capstone to his work in this area, offering a reflection upon how modern Catholicism has developed since the Reformation with particular focus on its conciliar actions. The book is arranged thematically rather than chronologically, with each chapter comparing the Councils in terms of a particular topic. Part One raises three basic questions: What do Councils do? Does Church teaching change? Finally, who is in charge? Part Two looks at the categories of people involved: popes and their curia, theologians, laity, and The Other—meaning non-Roman bodies, Orthodox, Protestant, and non-Christian. Part Three then asks what difference the Councils made and whether there will be another one. Protestant readers will find much that is of interest here. O’Malley is adept at explaining the different dynamics of the…

Review of Maurice Blondel: Transforming Catholic Tradition by Robert Koerpel

Koerpel, Robert. Maurice Blondel: Transforming Catholic Tradition. South Bend, IN: Notre Dame Press, 2018, pp.278, $55.00, hardback.  In the introduction to his book, Robert Koerpel insightfully observes that it is a “paradox of history that Blondel has become one of the most influential, least well-known, and consistently misunderstood figures in Catholicism” (p. 2). Indeed, Blondel’s philosophy of action, which led to accusations of immanentism as well as naturalism, nevertheless infiltrated French theology to such an extent that twentieth-century French debates over the relationship between nature and the supernatural are inconceivable apart from his philosophy. Koerpel’s focus, however, is to revisit a different area of Blondel’s influence—his idea of tradition, which Blondel developed at the height of the Modernist Controversy. During this time Blondel’s orthodoxy was questioned within circles of ecclesial influence. Blondel’s essay, History and Dogma (1904), emerged out of the controversy, and yet took hold in the French theological imaginary in a way that extended far beyond that particular debate with Alfred Loisy. As Koerpel notes, key Catholic figures such as Jean Daniélou, Yves Congar, Marie-Dominique Chenu, Edward Schillebeeckx, Karl Rahner, and Henri de Lubac all sought to recover a deeper sense of the meaning of tradition, and to…

Review of A Latin-Greek Index of the Vulgate New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers by Theodore A. Bergren
Book Reviews , Church History , New Testament / January 9, 2020

Bergren, Theodore A. A Latin-Greek Index of the Vulgate New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2018, pp. 274, €114.00, hardback. Readers who are interested in textual criticism of the New Testament will recognize the value of the Old Latin and Vulgate translations for accessing early forms of the text. The translations make available textual forms from roughly the second through the fourth centuries, while the impact of the translations on the biblical text and wider Christian history extends much further. Although the Latin translations are sometimes overlooked in New Testament textual criticism because of the number of Greek manuscripts that are extant, students of the Apostolic Fathers are not in the same fortunate position. For many texts that have been brought together in this collection, the Latin translations provide key textual evidence due to the paucity of manuscripts. Theodore Bergren’s index offers an important resource for anyone interested in Greek and Latin texts in early Christianity. Bergren is an emeritus professor in the Religious Studies Department at the University of Richmond. He has written commentaries on Fifth and Sixth Ezra and has also compiled A Latin-Greek Index of the Vulgate New Testament (Scholars, 1991). He is thus…