Book Reviews

Review of The God Who Goes Before You: Pastoral Leadership as Christ-Centered Followership by Michael S. Wilder and Timothy Paul Jones

Wilder, Michael S. and Timothy Paul Jones. The God Who Goes Before You: Pastoral Leadership as Christ-Centered Followership. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2018. $29.99. Michael S. Wilder and Timothy Paul Jones are both serve as professors at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.  Professor Wilder is J.M. Frost Associate Professor of Leadership and Discipleship, and Professor Jones is Associate vice president for the Global Campus and also serves as Gheens Professor of Christian Family Ministry. Both are scholars but also have served as shepherds of local congregations. Many of the books on leadership in church or in religious or denominational settings rely heavily on secular and pragmatic theories with faint references to biblical passages. According to Wilder and Jones, this often leads to confusing or non-applicable theories for leadership in religious settings. As a corrective, Wilder and Jones embark on a different path in presenting leadership from a more substantive biblical perspective. According to the authors, their approach leads avoids using oversimplified biblical concepts, or worse, worldly principles in forced applications for leadership in religious context. By pointing out the shortcomings of the current anthology of leadership books, the authors survey the whole canon of Scripture, overviewing themes…

Review of Urban Ministry Reconsidered: Context and Approaches edited by Smith, Boddie, and Peters

Smith, R. Drew, Stephanie C. Boddie, & Ronald E. Peters, eds. Urban Ministry Reconsidered: Context and Approaches. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2018. pp. 320, $24.71, paperback. When one speaks of contemporary cultures, it is customarily understood that cultures are shaped by members of a particular society that share a set of practices and beliefs that are dominant or ubiquitous to that particular group. Additionally, when speaking of culture, it is also understood that culture also comprises the activities and values produced out of interaction with principal objects that include, but are not limited to, religious beliefs and practice. With that general classification in mind, the book Urban Ministry Reconsidered attempts to answer the question: what does it mean to minister to societal groups and cultures in urban spaces? The question is grappled by each contributor, who at the conclusion of their chapters suggests means by which ministries can provide or modify their ministerial approaches to an urban community’s context and needs. Urban Ministry Reconsidered offers various insights that explore the complex and varied cultural contexts that have led to new conceptualization and arrangements for urban ministry. From the onset, a caveat is given as the editors make it clear that…

Review of They Say / I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein

Graff, Gerald, and Cathy Birkenstein. They Say / I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing. Fourth ed. New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 2018. 328pp., $29.98 paperback. Two highly qualified academic practitioners produced this work. First, Gerald Graff (Ph.D., English and American Literature, Stanford University, 1963), is Emeritus Professor of English and Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and former president of the Modern Language Association of America. Graff’s co-author, Cathy Birkenstein (Ph.D., American Literature, Loyola University Chicago, 2003), is lecturer at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and teaches freshman-level writing and English courses using the book as her central recourse. Both Graff and Birkenstein, who are husband and wife, have lectured at numerous institutions over the years promoting the concepts and templates which make up their best-seller, They Say / I Say, now in its fourth edition and sixth printing. The book’s overarching theme is simple, yet vital: all academic writing occurs within a larger conversation. It is to this idea the book expands and offers templates for students to employ, helping remind them that they are entering paths traversed by others. Because of the ongoing dialogue in which the academic writer participates, the book…

Review of Integrative Preaching: A Comprehensive Model for Transformational Proclamation

Anderson, Kenton C. Integrative Preaching: A Comprehensive Model for Transformational Proclamation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017, pp. 208 pages, $22.99, paperback. Kent Anderson’s contribution to the field of homiletics is multifaceted. In addition to authoring several books in the field, he has provided an online preaching resource, www.preaching.org, for more than two decades. Anderson describes his recent contribution to homiletics, Integrative Preaching, as his “most comprehensive [book]” and “the best that [he has] to offer” (p. vii). In the final chapter of his previous work, Choosing to Preach (Zondervan, 2006), Anderson introduced his idea of the integrated sermon. Thus, Integrative Preaching is the full expression of this homiletical model, and it is presented in the following four parts. In Part One, Anderson suggests that the imagery of a cross as the best way to understand his integrative model. Among various points, the cross shows the intersection of vertical and horizontal axes, and it pictures the addition of diverse elements without compromising the nature of each element. In this way, integrative preaching is “not a choice between options but the addition of one to the other – head plus heart and heaven added to the human” (p. 9). In Anderson’s…

Review of The Prince of this World by Adam Kotsko

Kotsko, Adam. The Prince of This World. Stanford: California, Stanford University Press, 2017, pp. 240, $22.95, paperback. In this engaging study of the Devil, Adam Kotsko, assistant professor of humanities at Shimer College, offers a rigorous piece of political theology. Whilst making a trenchant contribution to critiques of contemporary modernity, this book will appeal to both specialists and a general audience alike. The introduction recalls the testimony of police officer Darren Wilson, who claimed to be frightened of Michael Brown, the young, unarmed black man he shot and killed. Brown was “no angel”—Wilson euphemistically positioned his victim as not just criminal, but as actively demonic. Yet, if anyone is the demon in this situation it must be the personification of racist structural violence. From somewhere has sprung “a profound theological reversal,” (p. 4) where the demonic, once the theological tool of the oppressed seeking to explain their sufferings, becomes a weapon of those who oppress. With this context, Kotsko argues that this theological discourse on the devil, the demonic and of evil emerges from a long and under-acknowledged heritage and sets himself the task of tracing the story of how this reversal has taken hold. Chapter one explores the confrontation…

Review of LLoyd-Jones on the Christian Life: Doctrine and Life as Fuel and Fire by Jason Meyer

Meyer, Jason. Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life: Doctrine and Life as Fuel and Fire. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2018, pp.265, $19.99, paperback. Dr. Jason Meyer is the Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He also serves as Associate Professor of New Testament at Bethlehem College and Seminary. He has made contributions to the ESV Expository Commentary series and is the author of Preaching: A Biblical Theology. The work being considered in this review is his theological biography on Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones entitled, Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life: Doctrine and Life as Fuel and Fire. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a massively influential preacher in the twentieth century, and it will be shown that some contend that Lloyd-Jones’ influence is greater today than it was in his own day. Remarkably, the ministry of Lloyd-Jones was a preaching and teaching ministry that did not include writing. The works that are in print are transcribed lectures and sermons. To write this theological biography of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Jason Meyer was challenged with the task of reviewing the sermons and lectures of Lloyd-Jones in order to succinctly and accurately present the Doctor’s theology. Lloyd-Jones’ conviction is made clear: there must…

Review of Herman Bavinck on Preaching and Preachers edited and translated by James P. Eglinton

Eglinton, James P., editor and translator. Herman Bavinck on Preaching & Preachers. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2017, pp. 150, $16.95, paperback. Often considered a standard text among theologians and preachers, Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics reveal a careful dogmatician whose theological reflections brim with scrupulous insight and practical application. Though mainly known for the academic theology he championed at Kampen and the Free University of Amsterdam, James Eglinton (Ph.D., University of Edinburgh), the Meldrum Lecturer in Reformed Theology at New College, University of Edinburgh, offers readers insights into Bavinck the preacher. Eglinton, himself an accomplished Bavinck scholar, fills a glaring hole in the Bavinck corpus, for English readers know little of Bavinck’s pastoral theology or his approach to homiletics. As Eglinton notes, Bavinck preached for forty-two of his sixty-seven years, so it is surprising on many levels a study of this scope only now became available. Readers will note quickly the uniqueness of Eglinton’s book, for Eglinton serves as both its translator and editor. In sum, this book consists of a biographical introduction followed by five translated sections. In the biographical introduction, Eglinton assists readers in discovering Bavinck the preacher, having preached his first sermon at twenty-four years of age in…

Review of Singleness and the Church: A New Theology of the Single Life by Jana Marguerite Bennett

Bennett, Jana Marguerite. Singleness and the Church: A New Theology of the Single Life. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. 272, $29.95, hardback. In this fresh reflection on singleness, theological ethicist, Jana M. Bennett, provides both a strong critique and hopeful corrective of American relationship culture. She writes as a Catholic scholar yet engages the American Protestant context just as insightfully—identifying the ways the church has often mirrored negative cultural narratives about singleness. The overall goal of this book is to magnify relational experiences often overlooked by the modern Christian community, specifically those in impermanent single states, and to acknowledge the ways these persons may uniquely witness to Christ and the church. Simultaneously, she encourages ways the church can be more of a witness to this community. To begin, she proposes that one of the main problems facing current conceptions of singleness is the tacit assumption that to be single is to be lonely. She calls upon the Christian tradition which affirms both marriage and singleness for what it means to be the church, and that being lonely is neither specific nor necessary to singleness. Here, she also sets up the structure of the remainder of the book, which will…

Review of Petitionary Prayer: A Philosophical Investigation by Scott A. Davison

Davison, Scott A. Petitionary Prayer: A Philosophical Investigation. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2017, pp. 189, $75.00, hardback. Scott Davison is Professor of Philosophy at Morehead State University. His other writings on petitionary prayer appear in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology, and The European Journal for Philosophy of Religion. This monograph is his first full-length treatment of the subject. Petitionary prayer is a practice which is central to Christian piety, yet, few Christians stop to ask, does prayer make a difference to God? One almost assumes that it does, or else prayer seems to be redundant. Scott Davison, in Petitionary Prayer: A Philosophical Investigation, poses this type of question as follows: “Assuming that the God of traditional theism exists, is it reasonable to think that God answers specific petitionary prayers? Or are those prayers pointless in the sense that they do not influence God’s action?” (p. 8). In attempting to answer this question, Davison refrains from interjecting his own religious beliefs and seeks instead to “write as a philosopher trying to be responsible for what we know from reason about metaphysics, epistemology, and value theory” (p. 4). He explains that he will defend…

Review of Evolution and the Fall edited by William T. Cavanaugh and James K. A. Smith

Cavanaugh, William T. and James K. A. Smith, eds. Evolution and the Fall. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2017, pp. 261, $26, paperback. A wide spectrum of twentieth century theology was marked by a revision of the doctrine of the origins of sin. In most cases, concern about evolutionary science, and especially the science of human origins, was a powerful motivation. The origins of sin were recast in various forms—either as mythopoetic, metaphysically inevitable, or the consequence of a certain sort of freedom—in a way that led the doctrine away from the problems posed by evolution, but also led it away from important traditional claims, for example, that all humans became sinners by the voluntary act of the first two human beings. Because of these novelties, or because of their perceived consequences, many evangelicals and other traditionally-minded theologians declined to follow many of the great twentieth century thinkers down this path. Yet the problems that prompted the revision of the doctrine have, if anything, grown in recent decades. There is thus a renewed urgency, but also a renewed spirit of openness from traditionally-minded thinkers for reconsidering if, and if so, how, to think of the Fall in light of evolution. As…