Biblical Theology

Review of Preaching God’s Grand Drama by Ahmi Lee

Lee, Ahmi. Preaching God’s Grand Drama. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019, pp. 175, $22.99, paperback. An experienced pastor and worldwide preacher, Ahmi Lee is Assistant Professor of Preaching at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Her first book, Preaching God’s Grand Drama, is a timely, theologically rich contribution to the field of homiletics. While other works, such as Eric Brian Watkins’ The Drama of Preaching, have explored the dramatic dimensions of preaching in relationship to the redemptive-historical narrative of Scripture, Lee builds on the work of Kevin Vanhoozer and others to present a theodramatic homiletic in conversation with prevailing models of preaching. Specifically, the book reflects Lee’s experience of feeling “caught” between two competing paradigms of preaching: “the text centered, so-called traditional preaching” model and “the reader-centered, conversational mode of preaching” (pp. 1-2). Preaching God’s Grand Drama is her attempt to draw upon the best of these two models to articulate a third way: theodramatic preaching, an integrative model of preaching that invites the Church to participate in God’s past, present, and future action in the world. The book is arranged into six chapters. The first chapter articulates and assesses the traditional homiletic. For Lee, the traditional homiletic is…

Review of Shepherding God’s People: A Guide to Faithful and Fruitful Ministry by Siang-Yan Tan

Tan, Siang-Yan. Shepherding God’s People: A Guide to Faithful and Fruitful Ministry. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2019, 263 pages, $22.99, paperback. Originally from Singapore, Siang-Yang Tan (PhD, McGill University) serves as professor of psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary and senior pastor of the First Evangelical Church in Glendale, California. Tan has authored fourteen books and serves in editorial roles for several academic journals. If only a single word were used to describe this volume, one might settle on “comprehensive.” Indeed, this is how John Ortberg describes the book in his preface. A quick perusal of the table of contents, and a thorough reading of its content reinforces the comprehensive nature of this overall project. From the beginning of the book, readers sense Tan’s commitment to plunge into the deep waters of pastoral ministry. Guided by an expert with more than thirty-five years of experience under his belt, this volume comprehensively covers the critical aspects of a faithful shepherding ministry. Divided into two overall sections, part one consists of the first four chapters. Here Tan introduces readers to select fundamentals of pastoral ministry: a biblical perspective on ministry, the essential role of the Holy Spirit, the spiritual life of a pastor, and…

Review of Homiletics and Hermeneutics: Four Views on Preaching Today edited by Gibson and Kim

Gibson, Scott M. and Matthew D. Kim, editors. Homiletics and Hermeneutics: Four Views on Preaching Today. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019, 192 pages, $21.99, paperback. What is the influence of hermeneutics to the task of preaching? Scott M. Gibson, the David E. Garland Chair of Preaching and director of the PhD program in preaching at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University, and Matthew D. Kim, the associate professor of preaching and ministry at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, have collected four leaders in the field of preaching to weigh in on this important discussion: Bryan Chapell, former president and chancellor of Covenant Theological Seminary; Abraham Kuruvilla, senior researcher professor of preaching and pastoral ministries at Dallas Theological Seminary; Kenneth Langley, adjunct professor of preaching at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; and Paul Scott Wilson, professor of homiletics at Emmanuel College, University of Toronto. As established authors in the field of homiletics and former presidents of the Evangelical Homiletical Society, editors Gibson and Kim were excellent choices to facilitate a discussion about the interplay between hermeneutics and homiletics among these able evangelical scholars of preaching, and voice their own perspectives at the conclusion. Gibson and Kim set the table for the conversation…

Review of Understanding Bible Translation: Bringing God’s Word into New Contexts by William D. Barrick

Barrick, William D. Understanding Bible Translation: Bringing God’s Word into New Contexts. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2019, 248 pp, $21.99, paperback. All eyes were transfixed on the speaker who ascended the lectern. As he opened the sacred book, the hushed crowd rose together as if on cue. After a blessing the standing throng uniformly put their faces in the dust. The Word of God was about to be read! But the reading sounded strange, most struggled to understand the foreign words. Expectant hearts began to grow disillusioned until another man stepped forward to translate the text into the common tongue (Neh 8:1–8). Thus began the history of Bible translation, from Mosaic Hebrew to the Aramaic of the exiles. Bill Barrick offers readers a window into this history as well as the intricacies and importance of translating God’s Word into the common languages of the world. Barrick’s resume makes him an excellent guide for such a journey: 15 years as a Bible translator in Bangladesh, 50 years of teaching Hebrew and Old Testament, and a contributor to multiple English Bible translations (ESV, NET, LEB). Having taught for many years at The Master’s Seminary, he currently serves as the OT editor for…

Review of Dogmatic Ecclesiology Volume 1: The Priestly Catholicity of the Church by Tom Greggs

Greggs, Tom. Dogmatic Ecclesiology Volume 1: The Priestly Catholicity of the Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019, pp. lxviii+492, $50.00, hardback. Professor Tom Greggs holds the Marischal Chair of Divinity at the University of Aberdeen. He has authored numerous articles and books, including Theology Against Religion: Constructive Dialogues with Bonhoeffer and Barth (T&T Clark, 2011), Barth, Origen, and Universal Salvation: Restoring Particularity (OUP, 2009), and the forthcoming The Breadth of Salvation: Rediscovering the Fullness of God’s Saving Work (Baker Academic, 2020). In Dogmatic Ecclesiology Volume 1: The Priestly Catholicity of the Church, Greggs presents us with the first entry in a three volume project. The themes of the three volumes reflect a coordination of the threefold office of Christ as priest, prophet, and king with the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed’s description of the church as catholic, apostolic, and holy. Volume 2, then, will address the church’s “prophetic apostolicity,” while volume 3 will attend to its “kingly holiness” (p. xxi). As if such a project was not ambitious enough already, each volume will follow the same outline. For example, chapter 1 in each book will address the Spirit’s role through the lens of the volume’s unique theme, chapter 2 in each book…

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 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…