Book Reviews

Review of Exegetical Gems from Biblical Hebrew: A Refreshing Guide to Grammar and Interpretation by H. H. Hardy II
Book Reviews , Old Testament / July 21, 2020

Hardy II, H. H. Exegetical Gems from Biblical Hebrew: A Refreshing Guide to Grammar and Interpretation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019, pp. 224, $19.99, paperback. H. H. Hardy is associate professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where he has served since 2014 (back cover). Dr. Hardy earned his PhD at the University of Chicago. Alongside teaching, Dr. Hardy is the author of numerous academic publications. Hardy wrote Exegetical Gems from Biblical Hebrew to college and seminary students and former students of Hebrew (xiv-xv). The concept of the book developed in response to students questioning the value of learning Biblical Hebrew (xiii). As a resource to college students, the design of the book follows popular Hebrew grammar structures: nouns, adjectives, verbs, particles, and clause structure (xiv). Hardy suggests that Hebrew instructors use this volume as a weekly supplement alongside a Hebrew grammar to motivate student’s desires to learn Hebrew (xv). The thirty chapters are roughly organized the same. Each chapter receives an introduction, overview, interpretation, and recommendations for further reading. The numerous chapters make listing each chapter cumbersome, but students of Hebrew will have a rough layout in mind from previous studies. The book’s…

Review of Divine Action and Divine Agency: Systematic Theology Volume III by William J. Abraham
Book Reviews , Theology / July 14, 2020

Abraham, William J. Divine Action and Divine Agency Volume III Systematic Theology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018, pp.284, £75.00, hardback.   The third in a projected tetralogy, this volume sketches an entire systematics that follows a traditional credal structure. Abraham’s goal is to rescue Christian theology from the Procrustean constraints of an epistemological preoccupation with the problem of divine action. Recent projects, he claims, have worked with a “closed concept” which narrows the scope of God’s work attested in Scripture and tradition. This generates an impoverishment of theology with deleterious consequences for church practice. Prioritising the notion of God as “Agent” as opposed to “Being” or “Process”, Abraham seeks to offer an account of the range of divine activity (understood as an “open” concept) from creation to eschatology. His intent is to defend and develop the canonical traditions of the church as these emerged in the patristic period. Hence his account is resolutely Nicene and Chalcedonian in its approach, and largely impatient with modern projects such as that of Schleiermacher who is charged (perhaps mistakenly) with losing the doctrine of the Trinity (p. 10). For Abraham, systematic theology is a self-critical appropriation of the canonical teachings of the church…

Review of Dysteleology: A Philosophical Assessment of Suboptimal Design in Biology by Michael Berhow
Book Reviews , Philosophy / July 8, 2020

Berhow, Michael. Dysteleology: A Philosophical Assessment of Suboptimal Design in Biology. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2019. 148 pages, $21, paperback. “Dysteleology” is a term invented by Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) to describe the apparent suboptimal design and lack of function of biological order. Colloquially known as the “problem of bad design”, dysteleology has long been a central counterargument to the argument that biology was intentionally created by an omnipotent and perfectly good Creator. In the book, Dysteleology, philosopher Michael Berhow approaches the problem by contrasting theistic evolutionist Francisco J. Ayala’s dysteleological argument with Intelligent Design (ID) proponent William A. Dembski’s thought. The primary goal of the book is to show that dysteleology, as formulated by Ayala, fails as a counterargument against Intelligent Design. A secondary goal is to show that the project of theodicy requires a teleological worldview, and that Intelligent Design provides better support for such a worldview than Ayala’s brand of theistic evolutionism. Thus, Berhow concludes ambitiously that “If philosophers and theologians hope to develop a coherent evolutionary theodicy . . . they must appreciate the insights offered by ID advocates like Dembski” (p. 139). Berhow’s critique of Ayala’s theodicy follows familiar lines of argument from the literature….

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

Greidanus, Sidney. From Chaos to Cosmos: Creation to New Creation. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2018, pp. 213, $15.99, paperback. The author of From Chaos to Cosmos, Sidney Greidanus, retired from full-time teaching in 2004 after serving as a professor at Calvin College, Calvin Theological Seminary, and King’s College. Greidanus was also the pastor of two churches. One of his most popular publications prior to this book is Preaching Christ from the Old Testament (Eerdmans, 1999). From Chaos to Cosmos is one of nine books making up the Short Studies in Biblical Theology series published by Crossway. Greidanus’s main purpose in writing this volume is to demonstrate the presence of a progression from chaos to order in the Bible. He tracks these themes from the first verses of Genesis to the last words of Revelation. The main difficulty in this effort is defining the word “chaos” in a way that does not mistakenly equate the chaotic waters of Genesis 1:2 with evil. After all, these waters were a part of God’s good creation. Although Greidanus recognizes that some authors avoid the word “chaos” because of its connotations of evil, he chooses to use this term in an attempt to redefine it. By…

Review of Riddles And Revelations: Explorations Into The Relationship Between Wisdom And Prophecy In The Hebrew Bible edited by Boda, Meek, and Osborne
Book Reviews , Old Testament / June 18, 2020

Boda, Mark J., Russell L. Meek, and William R. Osborne, eds. Riddles And Revelations: Explorations Into The Relationship Between Wisdom And Prophecy In The Hebrew Bible. Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies 634. New York: T&T Clark, 2018, pp. xvi + 306, $114, Hardback. The rise of intertextual theory in the last five decades has sparked numerous studies into the relationships between various sections of the Hebrew Bible. Most often relationships are drawn from the Pentateuch to other books (e.g. this is what we find in Michael Fishbane’s seminal work Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel, [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989]). Pentateuchal priority, however, is giving way to considerations of intertextuality throughout the OT and this collection of seventeen essays is proof of that. Following in the footsteps of similar LHBOTS monographs (e.g. Dell and Kynes, eds., Reading Job Intertextually, LHBOTS 574, [New York: T&T Clark, 2013]; Dell and Kynes, eds., Reading Ecclesiastes Intertextually, LHBOTS 587, [New York: T&T Clark, 2015]), this work seeks to provide a survey of soundings for sapiential and prophetic interplay within the OT. These essays adeptly advance the methodological question and bring new light to how both wisdom and prophetic texts may mutually build upon each other….

Review of How to Read Theology: Engaging Doctrine Critically and Charitably by Uche Anizor
Book Reviews , Theology / June 16, 2020

Anizor, Uche. How to Read Theology: Engaging Doctrine Critically and Charitably. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2018, pp. 204, $22, softcover. Reading theological literature critically and charitably is a necessary discipline for scholars, pastors, and students. How one goes about cultivating the appropriate skills to read in this way requires instruction and example. Uche Anizor (Ph.D. Wheaton College), associate professor of biblical and theological studies at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, serves the academic community well in this primer where he addresses critical virtues for theological reading. Throughout its six chapters, Anizor’s straightforward argument addresses the need for and the instruction to reading critically and charitably. Part 1, “On Reading Charitably,” consists of two chapters, and Part 2, “On Reading Critically,” consists of four chapters. At the conclusion of these two parts, Anizor includes an epilogue where he further assists readers in applying his methodology. Here he provides examples of theological texts from which one should choose to implement his proposed strategies for critical and charitable reading, even guiding readers through the questions and steps one should expect throughout the process. In chapters one and two, Anizor describes the challenges associated with reading theology charitably, noting the critical importance…

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 Letters from the Pillar Apostles: The Formation of the Catholic Epistles as a Canonical Collection by Darian R. Lockett
Book Reviews , New Testament / April 14, 2020

Lockett, Darian R. Letters from the Pillar Apostles: The Formation of the Catholic Epistles as a Canonical Collection. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2017, pp. xviii + 255, $33.00, paperback.  Darian R. Lockett (Ph.D., University of St. Andrews) is Associate Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University.  He has previously authored An Introduction to the Catholic Epistles (2011) and Understanding Biblical Theology (2012), and these works reflect two of his main areas of research: Biblical Theology and the Catholic Epistles.  The present volume, Letters from the Pillar Apostles, offers an intersection of the above two research fields (p. ix). Lockett’s present volume emerges from a recognition of the lack of studies related to the hermeneutical importance of the Catholic Epistles as a discrete unit or collection within the New Testament canon (p. xiii).  The main intention of the book is to argue that “it is both historically and hermeneutically plausible to receive and read the Catholic Epistles as a canonically significant collection” (xvii). Commencing his work with a critical survey of previous hermeneutical approaches that have attempted to read the Catholic Epistles as a collection with some degree of coherence in canonical context, Lockett wishes…

Review of The Son who Learned Obedience: A Theological Case Against the Eternal Submission of the Son by Glenn D. Butner Jr.
Book Reviews , Theology / April 7, 2020

Butner, Jr., Glenn D. The Son who Learned Obedience: A Theological Case Against the Eternal Submission of the Son. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2018, pp. 224, $28, softcover. Glenn D. Butner is Assistant Professor of Theology and Christian Ministry at Sterling College, KS. Prior to The Son who Learned Obedience (subsequently, SLO), he authored articles on the Trinity including, “For and Against de Régnon: Trinitarianism East and West,” (International Journal of Systematic Theology 17.4) 2015, 399-412, and “Eternal Functional Subordination and the Problem of the Divine Will” (Journal for the Evangelical Theological Society 58.1) 2015, 131-49. His article, “Against Eternal Submission: Changing the Doctrine of the Trinity Endangers Salvation and Women,” (Priscilla Papers 31.3) 2017, 15-21, was published in the academic journal of Christians for Biblical Equality, an organization devoted to equipping people for egalitarian ministry. SLO only touches on socio-cultural issues briefly. It contends that eternal relational authority and submission (hereafter, ERAS), a perspective on Trinitarian relations, undermines the Trinity and salvation. Butner begins by describing his method and key argument. He understands theology to be second-order, so he primarily addresses indirect doctrinal principles, ending with direct exegetical data (pp. 5-9). The question of ERAS is not one of exegetical facts but of the “best way to…