Book Reviews

Review of Scientism: The New Orthodoxy by Williams and Robinson
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / January 22, 2021

Richard N. Williams and Daniel Robinson. Scientism: The New Orthodoxy. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016. 208 pages. $42.95. As anyone in the academy will admit, the natural sciences have been extraordinarily successful. That success translates over into wonderful (even if sometimes dreadful) technological innovations: the light bulb, GPS, laptops, transportation, iPhones, vaccines, atom bombs, television, the Internet, the plane, telescopes, et al. The list is long and growing. The methods of science appear to be so powerful that some thinkers begin to ask themselves the following questions. What if one needs the sciences to really know anything at all? What if other disciplines have been using methods that do not lead to knowledge? Why is it that the sciences have a marked history of measurable progress that the other disciplines do not have (and if they do have it, why does it take so long, and why is it so small and inconsequential?)? If the methods of science have been this powerful, why are not such methods used in all domains of inquiry? Thus, if the sciences are the only way to have real knowledge of the nature of reality, then other disciplines seem to have two choices: either gradually go…

Review of But What About God’s Wrath? The Compelling Love Story of Divine Anger by Kevin Kinghorn with Stephen Travis
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / January 14, 2021

Kinghorn, Kevin (with Stephen Travis). But What About God’s Wrath? The Compelling Love Story of Divine Anger. Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2019, pp. 157, $18.  Kevin Kinghorn (DPhil, Oxford) is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Asbury Theological Seminary. He has authored The Decision of Faith: Can Christian Beliefs Be Freely Chosen? (T&T Clark, 2005) and A Framework for the Good (Notre Dame, 2016) along with numerous articles and book chapters. While this book is written by Kinghorn, he acknowledges extensive dependence on the Biblical exegesis work of Stephen Travis (PhD, Cambridge), which is why Travis is referenced on the title page. The issue of God’s wrath is a practical point of contention in contemporary theology, as it has been throughout the history of Christian theology. In But What About God’s Wrath? Kinghorn seeks to defend the thesis that God’s wrath is a pattern of action of God “pressing on us the truth” of our sinfulness rooted in his love for all humanity (see p. 92). Kinghorn attempts to accomplish this in two ways. First, he provides a philosophical argument beginning with biblically and philosophically reasonable theological commitments for the conclusion that “God’s wrath is entirely an expression of…

Review of Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals: Why We Need Our Past to Have a Future by Gavin Ortlund
Book Reviews , Theology / December 15, 2020

Ortlund, Gavin. Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals: Why We Need Our Past to Have a Future. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2019, pp. 218, $21.99, paperback. Gavin Ortlund is the senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Ojai in Ojai, California. In addition to the book being reviewed here, he is the author of a number of books, including Anselm’s Pursuit of Joy: A Commentary on the Proslogion (Catholic University Press of America, 2020), Finding the Right Hills to Die On: The Case for Theological Triage (Crossway, 2020), and Retrieving Augustine’s Doctrine of Creation: Ancient Wisdom for the Current Controversy (IVP Academic, 2020). Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals is neatly divided into two complementary parts. Chapters 1–3 comprise the first part and function as a sort of apologetic (or, as Ortlund terms it, a manifesto) for theological retrieval as a needed practice in evangelical spheres. In these chapters, Ortlund argues that retrieval of patristic and medieval theology is not a betrayal of protestantism, that such retrieval can provide the historical rootedness many evangelicals desire, and that the benefits of engaging in this work far outweigh the potential dangers. Indeed, these benefits launch Ortlund into the second part of the book, where he seeks to…

Review of God and Creation in the Theology of Thomas Aquinas and Karl Barth by Tyler R. Wittman
Book Reviews , Theology / December 4, 2020

Wittman, Tyler R. God and Creation in the Theology of Thomas Aquinas and Karl Barth. Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 2019, pp. 315, $105, hardcover. Tyler R. Wittman is an Assistant Professor of Theology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans, LA. Before his appointment at NOBTS, Dr. Wittman was an Assistant Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Dr. Wittman completed his dissertation, entitled Confessing God as God: Thomas Aquinas and Karl Barth on Theology and Economy, at the University of St Andrews in 2016 under the supervision of the late John Webster. His published work generally focuses on various aspects of trinitarian theology throughout the medieval scholastic and Reformed traditions. Dr. Wittman’s God and Creation in the Theology of Thomas Aquinas and Karl Barth, an updated version of his doctoral dissertation, examines how best to understand and correlate God’s nature and works, or theology and economy, respectively, so as to uphold the distinction between the Creator and creation (p. 11). Through a comparative and constructive retrieval of the theologies of Thomas Aquinas and Karl Barth, Wittman seeks to elucidate this distinction in two complementary ways, which he introduces in the first…

Review of Divine Action and the Human Mind by Sarah Lane Ritchie
Book Reviews , Theology / November 17, 2020

Ritchie, Sarah Lane. Divine Action and the Human Mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019. $120.00. 384 pages. Like most works in the Cambridge theology series, the present volume serves two purposes. First, each monograph offers the student a survey of the issues on the subject at hand. In other words, it is a kind of state of the art treatment on the subject. Second, each monograph advances the discussion in some way. In Sarah Lane Ritchie’s well-written and well-researched monograph, she accomplishes both. As with all good works of philosophy, theology, and science, Ritchie’s Divine Action and the Human Mind works from a set of intuitions. Ritchie’s work is no different in this respect. What is different is her courageous attempt not to water down her commitment to what appears to be a form of methodological naturalism (although she would not cast it in quite those terms, as she expands the notion of “naturalism” quite considerably beyond the boundaries of most definitions in the literature) as the starting point to understanding the mind. While a virtue in the sense that she is unwilling to take a muddy middle way to discovering the nature of agency, my concern is that the intuitions…

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 To Think Christianly: A History of L’Abri, Regent College, and the Christian Study Center Movement by Charles E. Cotherman
Book Reviews , Church History , Theology / September 10, 2020

Cotherman, Charles E. To Think Christianly: A History of L’Abri, Regent College, and the Christian Study Center Movement. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2020,  pp. 320, $31.50, hardback. I owe a great personal debt to Christian study centers. I became a believer at Swiss l’Abri, from an agnostic background at age 19. My wife and I were on staff at the FOCUS Study Center (Fellowship of Christians in Universities and Schools) on Martha’s Vineyard for a number of years. And I was a Senior Faculty Member (a part-time job) at the Trinity Forum Academy (which became the Trinity Fellows Academy) at Royal Oaks, Maryland, for some fifteen years before its closure. Even though my career has been largely in established graduate schools, I am a strong believer in lay education. At a time when many histories of the evangelical movement are critical (sometimes deservedly, but often agenda-driven) it is refreshing to read Charles Cotherman’s perspective. Cotherman, a Vineyard pastor, based To Think Christianly on his University of Virginia doctoral dissertation. This is a marvelous book—informative, engaging, and deeply fascinating. Both the main thesis and the outline are simple. The argument is that l’Abri and Regent College, in two rather different ways,…

Review of The Mind of the Spirit: Paul’s Approach to Transformed Thinking by Craig S. Keener
Book Reviews , New Testament , Theology / August 31, 2020

Keener, Craig S. The Mind of the Spirit: Paul’s Approach to Transformed Thinking. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016, pp. 448, $29.99, paperback. Craig S. Keener (PhD, Duke University), F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary, is one of the most widely read and respected New Testament scholars today.  He has continually published a number of important commentaries, books and essays, particularly concerning the study of the Holy Spirit – these include Gift and Giver (Baker Academic, 2001), Miracles (Baker Academic, 2011), Spirit Hermeneutics (Eerdmans, 2016), Between History and Spirit (Wipf and Stock, 2020) and, not least, his magnum opus four-volume exegetical commentary on Acts (Baker Academic, 2012-2015).  Keener’s The Mind of the Spirit is another academic accomplishment pertaining to the study of the Holy Spirit, with special reference to Paul’s understanding of the transformed human mind.  The main aim of the book is to use the concept of mind – in particular, the mind transformed by and in Christ – found in the Pauline passages to explicate how believers’ righteousness (in terms of one’s status or relationship with God) and/or moral transformation actually take place in the life of believers (pp. xv-xvi). Chapter…

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…