Book Reviews

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…

Review of The Theology of Benedict XVI: A Protestant Appreciation edited by Tim Perry

Perry, Tim (ed). The Theology of Benedict XVI: A Protestant Appreciation. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019, pp. 314, $25.99 hardback. Tim Perry, adjunct professor of theology at St Paul University (Ottawa) and Trinity School for Ministry (Ambridge), is editor of this wide-ranging volume on the theology of Benedict XVI. Leading Catholic theologian, Matt Levering, describes the publication as being in ‘the top handful’ (p.282) of studies on Ratzinger’s thought and this judgment rings true given the calibre of the various essays. The fifteen contributors span a range of denominations (e.g. Southern Baptist, Anglican, OPC, and Lutheran) and in their trawl of Joseph Ratzinger’s voluminous writings manage to cover virtually every aspect of contemporary theology. Trinitarian thought, Christology, revelation, tradition, theological method, hermeneutics, the relationship between faith and reason, theological anthropology, prayer, catechesis, Mariology, ecclesiology, priesthood, the theological virtues and liturgy all come into play in this evangelical homage to one of Catholicism’s finest living theologians. Benedict XVI emerges from this study as an outstanding theologian of culture whose trenchant critique of current societal and theological trends will both enrich and challenge  those standing on the other side of the Tiber. This image of Benedict is exemplified in Ben Myers’ opening essay….

Review of the Kingdom of God and the Glory of the Cross by Patrick Schreiner

Schreiner, Patrick. The Kingdom of God and the Glory of the Cross. Short Studies in Biblical Theology. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018, pp. 159, $14.99, paperback. Patrick Schreiner is assistant professor of New Testament at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. In addition to The Kingdom of God and the Glory of the Cross, Schreiner has published The Body of Jesus and other articles and essays. The Kingdom of God and the Glory of the Cross is part of Crossway Publisher’s Short Studies in Biblical Theology series. According to the series editors, “The purpose of Short Studies in Biblical Theology is to connect the resurgence of biblical theology at the academic level with everyday believers” (p. 11). Each volume is written with readers who have no theological training in mind. Schreiner defines the kingdom of God as “the King’s power over the King’s people in the King’s place,” a definition similar to those put forth by other evangelical scholars. While recognizing all three elements are essential, Schreiner expresses concern that evangelicals often focus on the King’s power or rule (p. 15). The neglect of people and place has often led to the abstraction of the kingdom out of its narrative framework. While…

Review of From Chaos to Cosmos: Creation to New Creation by Sidney Greidanus

Greidanus, Sidney. From Chaos to Cosmos: Creation to New Creation. Short Studies in Biblical Theology. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018. pp. 213. $15.99. Paperback. Sidney Greidanus (ThD, Free University of Amsterdam) is a retired professor of Calvin College, the King’s College, and Calvin Theological Seminary. He retired from full-time teaching in 2004, and has since then been mainly writing commentaries for preachers. His recent book From Chaos to Cosmos: Creation to New Creation is one volume in a series entitled Short Studies in Biblical Theology edited by Dane C. Ortlund and Miles V. Van Pelt. The purpose of this series “is to connect the resurgence of biblical theology at the academic level with everyday believers” (p. 13). Each volume in the series is also written in a simple manner so that those who may not have had any theological training can easily interact with the text of the author. Greidanus’s book traces the dual theme of chaos–cosmos from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 (p. 15). Greidanus’s purpose for the book is to deepen” one’s “understanding of the original creation and the coming new creation,” which “helps us see not only the unity of the Scriptures but also the centrality of Christ…

Review of A Pastoral Rule for Today: Reviving an Ancient Practice by Burgess, Andrews, and Small

Burgess, John P., Jerry Andrews, and Joseph D. Small. A Pastoral Rule for Today: Reviving an Ancient Practice. Pp. x, 190. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2019. $20.00. John P. Burgess is Professor of Systematic Theology at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and author of Holy Rus’: The Rebirth of Orthodoxy in the New Russia (2017), and Encounters with Orthodoxy: How Protestant Churches Can Reform Themselves Again (2013). Jerry Andrews is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in San Diego California. Joseph D. Small is retired director of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Theology and Worship, and author of To Be Reformed: Living the Tradition (2010), and Proclaiming the Great Ends of the Church (2010). A Pastoral Rule for Today “emerged out of an initiative of the Office of Theology and Worship of the Presbyterian Church (USA) called Re-Forming Ministry” (p. ix). The book is the culmination of denominational dissatisfaction with the current state of pastoral ministry and a successful attempt by three significant figures to “analyze the current situation of the church and to propose ways to strengthen the theological foundations of pastoral ministry” (p. ix). “While other members of the initiative pursued different areas of concern,” Burgess, Andrews, and Small committed…

Review of From Adam and Israel to The Church: A Biblical Theology of the People of God by Benjamin L. Gladd

Gladd, Benjamin L. From Adam and Israel to The Church: A Biblical Theology of the People of God. Essential Studies in Biblical Theology. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2019, 182 pp. $22, paperback. Benjamin Gladd is Associate Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, MS. His published works include similar topics such as this volume under review, particularly his collaborative work with G. K. Beale. Readers interested in these topics should consult G. K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd. Hidden But Now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Divine Mystery. Downers Grove: IVP, 2014. In this new volume, Gladd states that From Adam and Israel to The Church examines the figure of Adam, Israel, Christ and the Church through the lens of the image of God (p. 4). He asserts that the image of God should be understood in the offices of king, priest, and prophet, and then he demonstrates how Adam and Eve fill these offices (pgs. 12-19). Like his previous work, on this point his analysis depends largely upon Eden as temple. Chapter two examines how the fall of humanity led to the abuse of the authority that comes from the image of God. In response, he introduces…

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 Ten Commandments: What they Mean, Why They Matter, and Why We Should Obey Them by Kevin DeYoung

DeYoung, Kevin. The Ten Commandments: What they Mean, Why They Matter, and Why We Should Obey Them. Wheaton: Crossway, 2018, 203 pages, $17.99, Hardback. At the time of printing, and according to the back cover of the book, Kevin DeYoung serves as a pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina, and also as an assistant professor of systematic theology at the Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte. DeYoung completed his PhD at the University of Leicester. His book begins with a quick tour of secular feelings about the Ten Commandments. This tour becomes the impetus for posing and answering two questions in the introduction: “Why should we study the ten commandments?” and “Why should we obey the Ten Commandments?” The answers to those questions lead to the following ten chapters, each presenting one commandment. These chapters focus on Christian understanding and application, starting with the first commandment in a chapter he titles “God and God Alone.” “God and God Alone” begins with an appeal to true faith in the true God, then focuses on how the commandments underpin modern society and moral law (p. 30). From there, he works through the first commandment, examines the Heidelberg Catechism to understand…

Review of Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theologians for a Post-Christian World by Wolf Krötke

Krötke, Wolf. Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theologians for a Post-Christian World. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019, 272 pp., $48, hardcover. Wolf Krötke (b. 1938) is professor emeritus of systematic theology at Humboldt University in Berlin, where he began teaching in 1991 and retired in 2004. A student of Eberhard Jüngel (one of Karl Barth’s most distinguished pupils), Krötke was the recipient of the international Karl Barth Prize in 1990, and he is one of the few theologians today who have done detailed work on both Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. However, as John Burgess notes in his translator’s preface, “while Professor Krötke is regarded in Germany as a major theological voice and a superb interpreter of Barth and Bonhoeffer, little of his work has been translated into English” (ix). This book serves to remedy this issue. Although the title suggests otherwise, this book is not about Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Instead, it is a collection of seventeen translated essays about Barth or Bonhoeffer, all previously published in German, from across Krötke’s career (the earliest in 1981, the latest in 2013). The first eight essays are about Barth, and the final nine are about Bonhoeffer. In lieu of…