Book Reviews

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 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 Why Read the Bible in the Original Languages? by Takamitsu Muraoka

Muraoka, Takamitsu. Why Read the Bible in the Original Languages? Leuven: Peeters, 2020, pp 106, $24.00, Paperback. Takamitsu Muraoka received a PhD from Hebrew University in 1970 and has served as a lecturer on Semitic languages at Manchester University, professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Melbourne University, and chair of Hebrew, Israelite Antiquities, and Ugaritic at Leiden University. Since his retirement in 2003 he has continued to publish in Semitic and Septuagint studies as well as teach biblical languages and the Septuagint in Asian countries. In 2017 he received the Burkitt Medal for Hebrew Bible studies from the British Academy. In Why Read the Bible in the Original Languages, Dr. Muraoka seeks to convince readers that when the Bible is read in its original languages “it can be interpreted and analyzed better or differently than when it is read in this or that modern translation” (7).  He introduces the work by sharing his passion for the languages through a brief autobiography. He then outlines two general principles concerning the value of the biblical languages: (a) there are certain aspects of language (such as poetic devices) that can only be seen in the original language, (b) and reading the original language…

Review of Disability and The Church: A Vision for Diversity and Inclusion by Lamar Hardwick

Hardwick, Lamar. Disability and The Church: A Vision for Diversity and Inclusion. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021, pp. 199, $12.99, paperback. Lamar Hardwick, known as “the autism pastor,” is a strong advocate for people with disabilities. Hardwick is the lead pastor of at Tri-Cities Church in East Point, GA and the author of Epic Church and I Am Strong: The Life and Journey of an Autistic Pastor. Lamar has not always had his current reputation as “the autism pastor.” For many years, Lamar struggled with interpersonal relationships and social anxiety. At the age of thirty-six, doctors diagnosed Hardwick with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In Disability and the Church, Hardwick includes eight chapters devoted to creating an inviting atmosphere for people struggling with a disability. According to Hardwick, the disabled community is the largest minority in the world (p. 12). For Hardwick, many churches are failing at their responsibility to be an inclusive Christian institution. Hardwick explores various avenues through which the church should implement diversity and disability strategies in the body of Christ. If the church wants to make a kingdom impact, Christians must recapture God’s intent of inclusion and access into God’s kingdom (p. 18). In the opening chapter,…

Review of To Aliens and Exiles: Preaching the New Testament as Minority-Group Rhetoric in a Post-Christendom World by Tim MacBride

MacBride, Tim. To Aliens and Exiles: Preaching the New Testament as Minority-Group Rhetoric in a Post-Christendom World. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2020. pp. 254, $51, hardcover. Tim MacBride (ThD, Australian College of Theology) serves as Head of the Faculty of Bible and Theology at Morling College in Sydney, Australia. At Morling, MacBride teaches New Testament and Homiletics. Prior to joining the faculty, MacBride pastored a church in Sydney’s south suburbs for twelve years. To Aliens and Exiles is MacBride’s third book on preaching New Testament rhetoric. MacBride’s two previous books on preaching include his doctoral thesis, Preaching the New Testament as Rhetoric (Wipf & Stock, 2014), and Catching the Wave: Preaching the New Testament as Rhetoric (InterVaristy Press, 2016), in which he simplified his doctoral thesis for a non-academic audience. MacBride has also written several articles on preaching and a book on patronage in John’s Gospel. In To Aliens and Exiles, MacBride offers Christians a lens to understand how to articulate the faith from a minority group position. Such a minority position was the context in which the New Testament was written. Indeed, MacBride posits, Christians have always been a minority. How to instruct the Church to interact with the…

Review of Making Christian Counseling More Christ Centered by Rick W. Marrs

Marrs, Rick W. Making Christian Counseling More Christ Centered. Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2019, pp.260, $19.95, softcover. “Believe more.” “Pray more.” “Do more.” Law-centered counseling can accidentally burden the counselee with more guilt, shame, and depression. Christ-centered counseling, on the other hand, mitigates tribulation and motivates sanctification by centering the counselee in the forgiveness, love, and grace of Jesus Christ. By presenting a primer in the Christ-centered theology of Martin Luther and suggesting soul-care strategies that flow from that theology, Rick Marrs, Christian counselor, licensed psychologist, and professor at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, aims to make Christian counseling more Christ-centered. Luther’s Christ-centered theology comes packed in orthodox paradox. In Marrs’s manual, three of Luther’s paradoxes are especially unpacked and employed to help make Christian counseling more Christ-centered: (1) the bane and blessing of Anfechtung, (2) the distinction of Law and Gospel, and (3) the saint and sinner-hood of the Christian. First, Marrs shines a needed light on Anfechtung, the lost locus of Luther. Whether we like it or not, human beings are creatures afflicted with Anfechtung, Luther’s favorite German word for temptation, trial and tribulation, guilt and shame, suffering and sorrow. Against a theology of glory or prosperity gospel, the…

Review of Autism and the Church: Bible, Theology, and Community by Grant Macaskill

Macaskill, Grant. Autism and the Church: Bible, Theology, and Community. Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2019, pp. 236, $34.95, hardback. Grant Macaskill is Kirby Laing Chair of New Testament Exegesis since 2015. Prior to this, he had taught as Senior Lecturer in New Testament at the University of St Andrews. His research engages with the New Testament as a coherent body of theological literature emerging from the diverse contexts of late Second Temple Judaism. His publications have included extensive treatments of theological issues in the New Testament, notably “Union with Christ”. In many ecclesial settings, it goes unnoticed that the church’s autistic members are a gift. In his book, Grant Macaskill has written in a tone of faithful hope about Autism and the Church within an awareness of the sorrow that can accompany being overlooked in such contexts. This book is an example of a biblical theology which dispenses neither of the participatory nature of the church in its reading practices nor the social and scientific research required to write informatively about autism. Macaskill submits the rigour of theological scholarship to its pastoral significance making serious reflection accessible to a larger range of readers than simply those inside the university. The…

Review of Thy Will Be Done: The Ten Commandments and the Christian Life by Gilbert Meilaender

Meilaender, Gilbert. Thy Will Be Done: The Ten Commandments and the Christian Life. Baker Academic, 2020. pp. 125, $21.99, hardcover. Gilbert Meilaender, a Lutheran research professor at Valparaiso University in Indiana, is a leading ethicist. His textbook on bioethics is generally considered a standard. In Thy Will Be Done he follows in a long line of Christian tradition that reflects on the Christian life in terms of the Ten Commandments. On the basis of Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, it is difficult exegetically to know how to number the Ten Commandments. Three different numbering systems have developed. The Catholic-Lutheran numbering, which Meilaender follows, treats the prohibition against other gods and graven images as the first, the prohibition against using God’s name in vain as the second, the command to sanctify the Sabbath as the third, the command to honor parents as the fourth, the prohibitions against murder, adultery, and stealing as the fifth, sixth, and seventh, the prohibition against bearing false witness as the eighth, the prohibition against coveting the neighbor’s house as the ninth, and the prohibition against coveting the neighbor’s wife, servants, and possessions as the tenth. The Eastern Orthodox-Reformed numbering treats no other gods and no graven…

Review of The Heart of the Preacher: Preparing Your Soul to Proclaim the Word by Rick Reed

Reed, Rick. The Heart of the Preacher: Preparing Your Soul to Proclaim the Word. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019, xx + pp.216, $13.99, hardback. “Preaching is not just hard work; its heart work” (p. xvi). It seems apropos for Rick Reed to speak to this issue, a veteran of preaching and pastoral theology, with experience in the church and the academy. Dr. Rick Reed (DMin, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) serves as the President of Heritage College and Seminary in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada where he is Professor of Homiletics and Pastoral Studies. He was Senior Pastor at the Metropolitan Bible Church in Ottawa for fourteen years. He has been a plenary and seminar speaker for the Billy Graham School of Evangelism and a master coach for Global Proclamation Academy in Dallas, TX. He is a regular contributor to the “Ask the Religion Experts” column of the Ottawa Citizen. The Heart of the Preacher is a timely and insightful book that every practitioner of Christian preaching and pastoral ministry will want to explore. It is a tonic for the ailing ministry heart and a preventative to the potentially unhealthy preacher’s soul. Reed’s heart is to “help your heart as a preacher” (p….