Book Reviews

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…

Review of Being Human in God’s World: An Old Testament Theology of Humanity by J. Gordon McConville
Book Reviews , Old Testament / April 29, 2021

McConville, J. Gordon. Being Human in God’s World: An Old Testament Theology of Humanity. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016, pp. 228, $10.00, paperback. J. Gordon McConville is a veteran Old Testament scholar who works as a professor of Old Testament theology at the University of Gloucestershire. His numerous books, articles, and commentaries in Old Testament exegesis and theology make him an ideal candidate for writing an Old Testament theology of humanity. Being Human in God’s World is not a systematic theological investigation of anthropology but rather a biblical theology and spirituality (p. 5). That is, in considering the Old Testament’s perspective on humanity, the reader is challenged to be transformed by it. McConville writes as a Christian and believes the Old Testament’s perspective on humanity can help Christians better understand Christ’s humanity (p. 3). Chapter one discusses humanity’s creation in the imago Dei. McConville states that the imago Dei “tends to open up questions about God and the human being rather than close them down at the outset (p. 29). He argues the imago Dei refers primarily to the interaction between humans and fellow humans (e.g., relationality), humanity, and creation (e.g., representing God’s presence), and humanity and God (e.g.,…

Review of Christian Dogmatics: An Introduction by Cornelis van der Kooi and Gijsbert van den Brink
Book Reviews , Theology / April 26, 2021

Van der Kooi, Cornelis and Gijsbert van den Brink. Christian Dogmatics: An Introduction. Translated by Reinder Bruinsma with James D. Bratt. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2017, pp. xiv + 806, $45, hardback. In this wonderfully rich one-volume introduction to Christian theology, two seasoned full professors who work in a wide-array of traditional and interdisciplinary specialties at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam have come together to offer an up-to-date entry-level textbook to the field that is, for the most part, both appropriately thorough and lucidly accessible. I say “for the most part” because there are several places in which, with regard to content, more should have been said or covered, and there are a few instances in which the syntax could have been more clear (e.g., when referents like “the latter” and “the former” have been used in a somewhat confusing manner). While the English edition at hand (2017) is at times more current than the critically-acclaimed Dutch original (2012) with regard to certain discussions and especially their associated bibliographic materials, the authors’ editorial decision to rely less upon “sources that are available only in Dutch” for the present translated version is somewhat unfortunate as there are certainly some who would have benefited…

Review of Basics of Hebrew Accents by Mark D. Futato Sr.
Book Reviews , Old Testament / April 23, 2021

Futato, Sr., Mark D. Basics of Hebrew Accents. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020, pp. 112, $17, paperback. Mark D. Futato, Sr. earned a Master of Divinity from Westminster Theological Seminary and a Master of Arts and the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Semitic Languages and Literature from The Catholic University of America. He serves as the Robert L. Maclellan Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, and the founding host and teacher for the Daily Dose of Hebrew website. He has authored numerous journal articles and books, including Beginning Biblical Hebrew and the Psalms volume in the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary series. Modern editions of the Hebrew Bible reproduce a system of vocalization and accentuation developed and preserved in Tiberias by medieval Jewish scribes known as the Masoretes. While many pupils study the vowels when learning Hebrew, fewer grasp the mechanics and benefits of the Hebrew accents. Mark Futato’s Basics of Hebrew Accents aims to correct this deficiency. In five chapters, Basics of Hebrew Accents introduces the Tiberian Hebrew accent system’s symbols, functions, and practicality. Chapter one introduces the symbols and names of the Masoretic accents. Futato surveys three roles for the accents. The accents indicate syllable…

Review of Divine Omniscience and Human Free Will: A Logical and Metaphysical Analysis by Ciro De Florio and Aldo Friderio
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / March 22, 2021

De Florio, Ciro and Aldo Friderio. Divine Omniscience and Human Free Will: A Logical and Metaphysical Analysis. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Frontiers in Philosophy of Religion, 2019, pp. 264, $80, Hardcover. The problem of divine foreknowledge and human free will exists at the impasse of two seemingly independent, yet, arguably mutually exclusive propositions: that God has foreknowledge of future contingents and that human beings possess libertarian free will. Roughly stated, if God knows at some past time (say, the creation of the world) that tomorrow I will drink coffee for breakfast, then, when tomorrow arrives, it seems that I am not free to do anything other than drink coffee (call this the foreknowledge dilemma). In their recently co-authored book, Divine Omniscience and Human Free Will, philosophers Ciro De Florio and Aldo Frigerio highlight an often overlooked aspect of the foreknowledge dilemma, namely, the metaphysics of time, arguing that solutions to the problem that do not account for the nature of time often are found wanting. Thus, the authors’ primary goal is not to provide a solution to the problem; rather it is to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of the most common solutions in light of differing metaphysics of time. The book consists…

Review of Vol I. Alpha-Gamma. Historical and Theological Lexicon of the Septuagint, edited by Eberhard Bons
Book Reviews , Old Testament / March 15, 2021

Vol I. Alpha-Gamma, Historical and Theological Lexicon of the Septuagint, edited by Eberhard Bons. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2020. pp. 990, $405.00 The Historical Theological Lexicon of the Septuagint (HTLS) is a landmark work by Mohr Seibeck. The editors were Eberhard Bons and, until June 2020, by Jan Joosten.[1] The work began as a research project funded by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche in 2010. This present volume represents the first fruits of their labor. The present volume is the first of a four-volume series that will cover over 600 words and word groups. The articles all cover six-sections moving from general Greek usage to Christian writings. Greek literature (from Homer and Hesiod to the Second Sophistic) Papyri and inscriptions (epigraphic evidence, with a focus on documentary texts) Septuagint (as delimited in Rahlf’s edition) Jewish literature in Greek (OT Pseudepigrapha, Philo and Josephus) New Testament Early Christian literature (up to the end of the second century C.E.) The aim of the HTLS: studying Septuagint words in their broader ancient context. The purpose of the six sections is to address whether a given word is attested in either one of the six sections. If so, an entry will have a maximum of…

Review of Facing West: American Evangelicals in an Age of Global Christianity by David R. Schwartz

Swartz, David R. Facing West: American Evangelicals in an Age of Global Christianity. New York: Oxford University Press, 2020, pp. 322, $34.95, hardback. David R. Swartz, Associate Professor of History at Asbury University, has written a pathbreaking study of the complex interactions between American and non-Western evangelicals since World War II. Facing West deserves a broad readership and will become a standard text for students and specialists studying the changing demographics of evangelical Christianity and how they have reshaped evangelical culture, theology, and politics. Equipped with extensive archival research and interviews, Facing West portrays one major theater in the seismic demographic changes in Christianity in the last century. In 1900, about eighty percent of all Christians lived in North America and Europe. In 2000, the clear majority of all Christians lived outside of North America and Europe. A change so large has affected all major Christian traditions, including and especially evangelicalism. Because of their commitment to missions and decentralized structure, successive generations of evangelicals spread the gospel and planted churches in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Most of the new churches indigenized their leadership and, by the 1960s, began to significantly recontextualize Western evangelicalism for their own communities. The “global reflex”…

Review of The First Biography of Jesus: Genre and Meaning in Mark’s Gospel by Helen Bond
Book Reviews , New Testament / March 12, 2021

Bond, Helen. The First Biography of Jesus: Genre and Meaning in Mark’s Gospel. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2020, 336 pp., $42.99, hardcover. Helen Bond is the head of the divinity school at the University of Edinburgh and has served as professor of New Testament since 2000. She has published extensively on topics related to Jesus, the Gospels, and their first-century environment, and her work in these areas is evident in this thought-provoking and well-researched volume. Bond operates on the assumption that establishing a text’s genre is key to interpretation, and since Mark is the earliest Gospel written, this is especially important in understanding Jesus and the particular ways in which the evangelists portrayed him. Along with much of recent scholarship, Bond argues that Mark’s work belongs to the category of ancient bioi, exhibiting many of the literary conventions of this genre. From the introduction she labors to show that genre is far more than a stylistic device, but profoundly influences how the author depicts his subject as well as how the author understands the world. Seeing Mark as a biographer, she contends, is essential for understanding what he wanted to communicate about Jesus, and how he shaped, reappropriated and reconfigured…