Book Reviews

Review of Whence and Whither: On Lives and Living by Thomas Lynch

Lynch, Thomas. Whence and Whither: On Lives and Living. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2019, pp. 248, $18, paperback. Thomas Lynch is a funeral director, critically acclaimed poet, essayist, and the author of five collections of poems and four books of essays. His notable work titled, The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade (1997), won the Heartland Prize for non-fiction, the American Book Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Widely considered one of the most skilled writers and thinkers on death and the meaning of living, Lynch’s work has appeared in several internationally influential publications, including the New Yorker, Harper’s, The New York Times, and the Paris Review, among others. Lynch is also a frequent guest poetry reader, keynote speaker on the topics of the last things, the life of faith, and medical ethics, in venues all over the English-speaking world, as well as a guest lecturer in universities, churches, institutes, and libraries. In the preface to Whence and Whither, Lynch presents the overall premise of the book, which also stands as the common human predicament—“every human whoever was or is or will be will wrestle with these mysteries: the beauty of our being and…

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 The Tyndale Greek New Testament edited by Jongkind and Williams
Book Reviews , New Testament / February 27, 2020

Jongkind, Dirk and Peter J. Williams, eds. The Greek New Testament. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017, pp. 526, $39.99, hardback. Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge, England, and edited by Dirk Jongkind and Peter Williams, The Greek New Testament (TGNT) is a new critical edition of the Greek NT. Based on the critical edition by Samuel Prideaux Tregelles (1813-1875), it utilizes a documentary approach that “aims to present the New Testament books in the earliest form in which they are well attested” (p. vii). The focus of the work, therefore, is on “directly verified antiquity” (p. 507) as seen in the text and the features of the earliest Greek manuscripts. In terms of its structure, the edition is simple and straightforward: a two-page preface is followed by the Greek text of the NT, which is in turn followed by a twenty-page introduction to the edition that explains some of its features. Since the focus of the edition is on the “directly verified antiquity” of the text and features of the earliest manuscripts, it is distinct in several ways from the Nestle-Aland and United Bible Societies Greek New Testament editions (NA28 and UBS GNT5, respectively). First, the text of the critical edition is…

Review of 15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me by Hansen and Robinson

Hansen, Collin and Robinson, Jeff.  15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018, pp. 155 , $17.99, Paperback. 15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me is a multi-author work.  Each of the authors, however, demonstrate that at least a portion of their vocational ministry consists of time serving pastorally over a local congregation of believers.  This equips each of the authors to be able to speak extensively and practically to the arena about which they wrote, giving the reader both confidence in their ability to assess and explain the situations involved but also the practical guidance for how to maneuver difficult situations that arise within the context of local church ministry. In this work the various authors seek to establish, encourage, and root the reader in the practical realities that accompany life in the local church.  Each individual seeks to address a  different topic someone might encounter in vocational ministry that was potentially not covered during a stint of studying at a seminary.  The first chapter argues that simply because an individual has education it does not make them competent for ministry, giving practical guidance in what to focus on and how to love people more than the knowledge…

Review of How to Understand and Apply the New Testament: Twelve Steps from Exegesis to Theology by Andrew Naselli
Book Reviews , New Testament / February 19, 2020

Naselli, Andrew David. How to Understand and Apply the New Testament: Twelve Steps from Exegesis to Theology. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2017, pp. 432, $30, hardback. Andrew David Naselli is Associate Professor of New Testament at Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is also a pastor at the North Campus of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Moundsview, Minnesota. Before coming to Minnesota in 2015, Dr. Naselli was D.A. Carson’s personal research assistant. In addition to his teaching and pastoral responsibilities, he writes regularly at Andynaselli.com and has written many scholarly and lay-level journal articles and books. In fact, he is currently one of the editors of a massive dictionary project: G. K. Beale, D. A. Carson, Benjamin L. Gladd, and Andrew David Naselli, eds. Dictionary of the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, forthcoming [~2022]). Dr. Naselli’s How to Understand and Apply the New Testament: Twelve Steps from Exegesis to Theology (HUANT) is his only book on New Testament hermeneutics. HUANT is the companion volume to Jason S. DeRouchie’s How to Understand and Apply the Old Testament: Twelve Steps from Exegesis to Theology (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2017). The sheer volume and diversity of…

Review of An Obituary for “Wisdom Literature”: The Birth, Death, and Intertextual Reintegration of a Biblical Corpus by Will Kynes
Book Reviews , Old Testament / February 14, 2020

Kynes, Will. An Obituary for “Wisdom Literature”: The Birth, Death, and Intertextual Reintegration of a Biblical Corpus. Oxford University Press, 2019. 352pp. $78.24, hardcover. An Obituary of “Wisdom Literature” divides into four sections: Introduction, Historical Metacriticism, Genre Methodology, and The Reintegration of Wisdom Literature. The introduction establishes Will Kynes’ methodological critique of wisdom literature. Wisdom literature is a modern scholarship invention and Johann Bruch is the Wellhausen of Wisdom (p. 4). Kynes’ genre-method combines theories of a constellation metaphor and turns the referent into a three-dimensional reference (p. 12). Scholars should put to death wisdom literature as a genre, then reevaluate wisdom: categories, genre, schools, and concept (p. 18). Wisdom must first be understood as a concept and not a category that unites other corpora together (p. 22). Section I focuses on Kyne’s Historical Metacriticism on wisdom literature and he divides the section into three chapters. The first chapter describes the rise of wisdom literature as a category and the rational for the demise of wisdom literature. The imminent demise arose through the spread of wisdom literature into every discipline with an ever-changing definition.  The second chapter buttresses Kynes’ argument on the historical precedent of the definition of wisdom literature…

Review of Decisional Preaching by Jim Shaddix

Shaddix, Jim. Decisional Preaching. Spring Hill, TN: Rainer Publishing, 2019, pp.147, $11.47, paperback. Dr. Jim Shaddix is Professor of Preaching, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Wake Forest, NC), holding the W. A. Criswell Chair of Expository Preaching, also serving as Director for the Center for Preaching and Pastoral Leadership. He has made homiletic contributions to numerous multi-authored works and along with Jerry Vines has co-authored Power in the Pulpit (Moody, 1997/2017) and Progress in the Pulpit (Moody, 2017). He has authored The Passion-Driven Sermon (B&H, 2003). Decisional Preaching is a much-needed book for every practitioner of Christian preaching seeking to discern the difference between pulpit manipulation and biblical persuasion. Seasoned homiletician Jim Shaddix takes the reader from stem to stern on the necessity, purpose, and practice of the persuasive elements of preaching. The book unfolds in six chapters: “Confessions of a Spurgeonist” (argumentation for decisional preaching); “Preparing to Call for Decisions” (preparation of the preacher through Word and Spirit); “Decisional Qualities of Sermon Foundation (utilizing persuasion in the sermon’s formal elements); “Decisional Qualities of Sermon Function (using persuasion in the sermon’s functional elements); “Decisional Qualities of Sermon Force (understanding the sermon style issue of force and its expression); and finally “Public…

Review of The Extravagance of Music by David Brown and Gavin Hopps
Book Reviews , Christianity & Culture , Theology / February 10, 2020

Brown, David and Gavin Hopps. The Extravagance of Music. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillan, 2018, 352 pages, $89.99, Hardcover. David Brown is an Anglican Priest, Emeritus Professor of Theology, Aesthetics and Culture, and Wardlaw Professor at the University of St Andrews. His work explores the relationship between theology and philosophy, and most recently, the interactions between theology and the arts. Gavin Hopps is Senior Lecturer in Literature and Theology, and Director for the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts (ITIA) at the University of St Andrews. His research focuses on theology and the arts, with particular interests in Romantic literature and contemporary popular music. The Extravagance of Music presents an optimistic and generous understanding of music’s potential to allow for divine encounter. At the heart of the book is the notion that music is inherently “extravagant”—a term that Brown and Hopps root in its medieval origins, extrā vagārī, meaning to stray outside boundaries or to go beyond limits. This “generous excess” that music provides can potentially mediate our experiences of a similarly generous, extravagant God. The study challenges previous well-chartered but significantly more constrained conceptions of the theological possibilities of music. These have tended to focus on certain styles, or…

Review of The Story of Creeds and Confessions: Tracing the Development of the Christian Faith by Fairbairn and Reeves
Theology / February 7, 2020

Fairbairn, Donald and Ryan M. Reeves. The Story of Creeds and Confessions: Tracing the Development of the Christian Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019. xi+396pp. Pb $34.99. The creeds and confessions of the Christian Church remain fundamental benchmarks of the faith that have survived the test of time and will continue to guide theological developments in the future. As this book reminds us, there is a lot of history behind the formation of these key texts, and not all of it has been pleasant. Controversies have flared up and sometimes led to unfortunate consequences that still defy resolution. However, the ecumenical spirit of our age has allowed us to re-examine this past more objectively than was once the case and to recognize that differences that once led to division may have been due to misunderstandings and/or extraneous factors that are no longer relevant. In weaving their way through these complexities, the authors of this book have done a magnificent job of condensing their material in a way that makes it digestible for the beginning student without cutting corners or being unfair to positions with which they might disagree. Every Christian, of whatever background, will be able to use this…

Review of Atonement by Eleonore Stump
Book Reviews , Theology / February 5, 2020

Stump, Eleonore. Atonement. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019, pp. 560, $80.00, hardback. Eleonore Stump is the Robert J. Henle Professor of Philosophy at Saint Louis University and an Honorary Professor at the Logos Institute for Analytic and Exegetical Theology. Stump has authored or edited a number of works on Medieval philosophy and theology. Her Gifford Lectures, titled, “Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering” was published by Oxford University Press. In Atonement, Stump sets out to put forth a new account of the doctrine of atonement. To get to her account of atonement, Stump wanders through the darkness (or light?) of a number of theories of atonement, psychological literature on shame and guilt, medieval accounts of the will, and contemporary neuroscience. Eventually she dubs her account, “the Marian interpretation” of atonement, after any of the number of Marys in the Bible (p. 378). What exactly is this “Marian account” of atonement? First, I should mention that her understanding of “atonement” avoids “narrow” understandings of atonement that equate atonement with removing guilt by means of Christ’s crucifixion and death. Instead, Stump opts for a broader understanding of atonement, one that takes seriously the etymology of the word—”at-one-ment”—and uses the…