Book Reviews

Review of Inward Baptism: The Theological Origins of Evangelicalism by Baird Tipson

Tipson, Baird. Inward Baptism: The Theological Origins of Evangelicalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2020, hardcover, $79. It is safe to say that within the conservative Protestantism of the last hundred years, there has been no common understanding of the relation in which the modern movement stands to earlier Protestantism. In the Victorian era, conservative Protestants saw things differently. With a sense of urgency provided by a resurgent Papacy bent on re-exerting international influence and by movements within Protestantism, such as the nineteenth-century Oxford Movement – which aimed at the re-Romanization of Anglicanism, Protestant historians tended to maximize the continuity of Protestant movements from one era to the next. Born in the age of Reformation, Protestantism was understood to have been reinvigorated in the age of Puritans and Pietists and enlivened in the era of transatlantic awakenings, but still been a constant. This broad-brush approach was in need of refinement and it has come about, beginning with the 1988 release of David W. Bebbington’s Evangelicalism in Modern Britain. While chiefly about developments within the United Kingdom, Bebbington’s work suggested elements of discontinuity between the transatlantic and trans-denominational evangelical movements arising in the 1730’s and what had gone before. Meanwhile, a…

Review of Trinitarian Theology: Theological Models and Doctrinal Application edited by Keith S. Whitfield

Whitfield, Keith S. ed. Trinitarian Theology: Theological Models and Doctrinal Application. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2019, pp. 197, $19.99, soft cover. Trinitarian Theology presents three theological models from scholars of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest U.S. Protestant denomination. The editor Keith S. Whitfield is associate professor of Christian theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Between Whitfield’s introduction and conclusion, six chapters follow a multi-perspectives pattern: opening arguments lead to responsive rebuttals. The authors provide a general defense of their Trinitarian models and specifically address the question of eternal relational authority and submission (ERAS). First, Bruce Ware, author of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (2005) and editor of One God in Three Persons (2015), presents ERAS as biblically necessary and historically defensible. Second, Malcolm B. Yarnell, author of God the Trinity (2016), conditions ERAS theologically. Third, Matthew Y. Emerson, Christ and the New Creation (2013) and The Story of Scripture (2017), and Luke Stamps, Thy Will Be Done (to be published by Fortress Press) criticize ERAS as contradicting the pro-Nicene tradition. These models differ regarding their grounding. Ware surveys Scripture guided by Hebrews 1-2 to ground ERAS directly, while also providing historical and philosophical support. He states that “since the Bible…

Review of Exegetical Gems from Biblical Greek: A Refreshing Guide to Grammar and Interpretation by Benjamin L. Merkle
Book Reviews , Hermeneutics , New Testament / March 11, 2022

Merkle, Benjamin L. Exegetical Gems from Biblical Greek: A Refreshing Guide to Grammar and Interpretation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019, pp. 163, $14.19, paperback. Benjamin Merkle currently serves as professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, a position he has held since 2008. He also serves as the editor of the Southeastern Theological Review and series editor of the 40 Questions series.  In the area of biblical Greek, Merkle has co-authored Beginning with New Testament Greek (B&H, 2020), an elementary Greek grammar, Going Deeper with New Testament Greek, Revised Edition (B&H, 2020), an intermediate Greek grammar, and Greek for Life (Baker, 2017), a guide for refreshing Greek. In Exegetical Gems, Merkle offers motivation for students learning or re-learning biblical Greek. Covering various debated passages in scripture, he provides thirty-five ‘exegetical gems,’ which are “substantial insights from NT passages gained by a proper knowledge and use of Greek” (vii). This volume also provides a brief review of Greek syntax normally covered in a second semester/year Greek course.  Each chapter covers a different area of Greek syntax and is broken into three sections: (1) an introduction which presents a verse or passage to…

Review of Preaching to People in Pain: How Suffering Can Shape Your Sermons and Connect with Your Congregation by Matthew Kim

Kim, Matthew. Preaching to People in Pain: How Suffering Can Shape Your Sermons and Connect with Your Congregation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2021, xvi + pp. 223, $21.66, paperback. With the heart of a pastor, the mind of a theologian, and the skill of a soul-surgeon, Matthew Kim navigates the turbulent waters of pain. This insightful work will “encourage pastors to preach less pain-free sermons and to preach more pain-full sermons where preachers disclose their suffering and pain” (p. xi). Kim (Ph.D., University of Edinburgh) serves as the Professor of Preaching and Practical Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton, MA, as well as past president of the Evangelical Homiletics Society. He is a seasoned pastor and prolific author of works such as Preaching with Cultural Intelligence and Homiletics and Hermeneutics: Four Views on Preaching Today. Preaching to People in Pain is a balm for each preacher’s soul as well as their weary flock. If after reading this book, you can see the value of preaching on pain, then Kim has fulfilled his goal (p. 201). He arranges his work into two units: Naming the Pain (three chapters) is an invitation to authentic dialog concerning how and why pastors…

Review of Seriously Dangerous Religion: What the Old Testament Really Says and Why It Matters by Iain Provan

Provan, Iain. Seriously Dangerous Religion: What the Old Testament Really Says and Why It Matters. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2014, pp. 502, $49.99. In this book, Provan has set out to argue that, among the many worldview stories that are active in the world today—most of which are anti-Christian—the “Old Story” (Old Testament) is genuinely dangerous. “Biblical monotheism is seriously dangerous” (10, italics original). By dangerous, Provan does not mean that the Old Story intends to harm society in any way. Rather, he argues that when understood properly, in light of the narrative that the Old Story itself tells, it poses a threat to all other worldview stories, and it poses a threat to those who take its own message seriously. The ideologies of the Old Story “threaten” to answer the most important questions humans ask. According to Provan, the Old Story answers those questions satisfactorily for those who are willing to be shaped by its message. Provan begins the Introductory chapter, “Of Mice, and Men, and Hobbits” by outlining the common stories we encounter in our world today with two example novels. The first is like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in which “Absurdity rules” (1–2). The…

Review of A Companion to the Theology of John Webster edited by Allen and Nelson
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / March 2, 2022

Allen, Michael, and R. David Nelson, eds. A Companion to the Theology of John Webster. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2021, 366 pages, $50.00, hardcover. John Webster (d. 2016) is celebrated as one of the greatest English-speaking systematic theologians of his generation. This Companion, introduced by the publisher as “[a]n overview and analysis of John Webster’s  seminal contributions to Christian theology” (dust jacket) is both a handbook for readers of Webster himself, and a set of gently critical interactions with Webster’s theology which lay down paths for potential future theological work in Webster’s  wake. The editors (who, between them, also contribute a preface, four chapters, and an epilogue) have assembled a highly qualified group of contributors made up largely of Webster’s former academic colleagues and students. The Companion consists of seventeen chapters, plus a foreword by Kevin J. Vanhoozer and an epilogue by R. David Nelson. There is also a useful bibliography of published works by Webster, which brings up to date the list that previously appeared in Webster’s 2015 Festschrift, Theological Theology. (This list is still incomplete, lacking the important chapter by Webster, “The Service of the Word: Theological Reflections” in the 1997 co-authored booklet, What Happened to Morning Prayer?,…

Review of The Serpent and the Serpent Slayer by Andrew David Naselli

Naselli, Andrew David. The Serpent and the Serpent Slayer. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020, pp. 160, $15.99, paperback. Andrew David Naselli (PhD theology, Bob Jones University and PhD New Testament exegesis and theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is associate professor of systematic theology and New Testament for Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, MN, administrator for the evangelical theological journal Themelios, and one of the pastors of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Naselli’s The Serpent and the Serpent Slayer is an entry in the Short Studies in Biblical Theology series (SSBT) from Crossway Publishers (edited by Dane C. Ortlund and Miles V. Van Pelt). The studies are short because of the series purpose “to connect the resurgence of biblical theology at the academic level with everyday believers” (11). Naselli’s preface begins with a statement of presuppositions consonant with the SSBT purpose and the evangelical confessional stance of the publisher: (1) the inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of Scripture; (2) the necessity of a “whole-Bible canonical approach” to biblical interpretation; and (3) the conviction that “the whole Bible progresses, integrates, and climaxes in Christ” (13-14). Naselli’s “biblical theology of snakes and dragons” (13) aims to contribute to the goal of the series by…

Review of God’s Messiah in the Old Testament: Expectations of a Coming King by Abernethy and Goswell
Biblical Theology , Book Reviews , Old Testament / February 23, 2022

Abernethy, Andrew T. and Gregory Goswell. God’s Messiah in the Old Testament: Expectations of a Coming King. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2020, pp. xii + 292, $29.99, paperback. Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment but the fulfillment of what? Over the years people have made him into their own image, as the fulfillment to their own self-determined needs and ideals. Think of all the images constructed: Jesus the fulfillment of Plato and Aristotle, a teacher of liberal morals, a Hindu Sage, a Nazi, a Marxist revolutionary, a hippie, the greatest salesman, the greatest therapist, a Hollywood superstar. Jesus of Nazareth came to fulfill what?  The real Jesus of Nazareth came to fulfill the BC Scriptures. That was and is his “job description.” He is “the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:26), God’s Messiah. The words “Christ” in Greek (christos) and “Messiah” in Hebrew (mashiach) mean “Anointed One” (cf. John 1:41). While Jesus fulfills the BC Scriptures in many ways, one crucial dimension is the royal Messianic King from the line of David, anointed with the Holy Spirit. To understand Jesus of Nazareth as the anointed Davidic King requires study of the BC Scriptures. For that study I recommend this volume. Andrew T….

Review of Contemplating God with the Great Tradition: Recovering Trinitarian Classical Theism by Craig A. Carter

Carter, Craig A. Contemplating God with the Great Tradition: Recovering Trinitarian Classical Theism. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2021, pp. 352, $32.99, paperback. Craig A. Carter currently serves as research professor of theology at Tyndale University in Toronto, Ontario, and he serves also as theologian in residence at Westney Heights Baptist Church in Ajax, Ontario. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of St. Michael’s College and has published multiple books within the discipline of theological studies. Carter is both Reformed and Baptist, confessing the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689). The book at hand is the second part of a trilogy that aims to recover important insights from the classical Christian tradition. The first installment was Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition: Recovering the Genius of Premodern Exegesis, which took up the subject of classical theological hermeneutics. In Contemplating God with the Great Tradition (CGGT), Carter argues that Christians today should be intentional with retrieving and confessing the doctrines of God and the Trinity that were developed by the pro-Nicene patristic fathers along with the hermeneutics and metaphysics they used in so doing. This retrieval is necessary if Christians are to confess the doctrines of God and the…

Review of Christian Platonism: A History edited by Hamilton and Kenney
Book Reviews , Philosophy / February 9, 2022

Hampton, Alexander J. B. and John Peter Kenney, eds. Christian Platonism: A History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021, 512, $130.00, hardcover. Christian Platonism: A History is edited by University of Toronto Assistant Professor Alexander J. B. Hampton and Saint Michael’s College Professor Emeritus John Peter Kenney. The individual chapter authors range from various universities around the world from Cambridge to Notre Dame to Toronto to Oxford. It is hard to imagine that the editors could have assembled a more well-educated group for the topic. And at over 500 pages, it is a dense, well-researched, tour de force on the topic. The book is divided into three parts: Concepts, history, and engagements. Before the main three sections the editors provide an overall introduction to Christianity and Platonism. The editors argue that the term “Christian Platonism,” for the purposes of this book, is elastic given the complex relationship between Christianity and Platonism and the significant variances across history (p. 3). However, they do suggest that there is one constant thread throughout history: transcendence, or a commitment to a higher level of reality beyond the material world (p. 4). The first section on the major concepts of Christian Platonism begins with a chapter…