Book Reviews

Review of Christ the Heart of Creation by Rowan Williams
Book Reviews , Featured , Theology / August 2, 2021

Williams, Rowan. Christ the Heart of Creation. London: Bloomsbury, 2018, 279pp, £25, hardback. A former Archbishop of Canterbury and recently retired as Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, Rowan Williams has long been an influential leader in both church and academy. Christ the Heart of Creation builds upon a lecture series given at Cambridge in 2016, although Williams’s work on Christology—especially on patristic and mediaeval interpretations of Christ—stretches back to the earliest years of his academic career in the 1970s (p. ix). Few others could have produced a book as erudite yet elastic. The reader will quickly recognise Christ the Heart of Creation as the product of nearly five decades’ dedicated scholarly research and ecumenical work, a daring and difficult attempt to trace a specific Christological and metaphysical golden thread running through theological writers diverse as Maximus and Aquinas, Calvin and Bonhoeffer. So, what exactly does Williams want us to know? An early answer comes from the (quietly Johannine) title, that Jesus Christ is the living core of all things under God. The who of Christ can tell us much about the how of the cosmos. Williams’s task is thus: to draw out the mutuality between the doctrines of Christology and…

Review of The Trinity: An Introduction by Scott Swain
Book Reviews , Featured , Theology / July 29, 2021

Swain, Scott. The Trinity: An Introduction (Short Studies in Systematic Theology). Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020, pp. 154, $15.99, paperback. Scott R. Swain serves as president and James Woodrow Hassell Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. In addition to the book being reviewed, he has written The God of the Gospel and edited Retrieving Eternal Generation. Swain is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America. In The Trinity: An Introduction, Swain seeks to introduce the doctrine of the Trinity. As part of Crossway’s series Short Studies in Systematic Theology, the goal of the present volume is to give readers a brief but accurate overview and introduction into the area of the Trinity. While it is a challenging assignment, Swain handles the doctrine of the Trinity with precision. While not explicitly divided into sections, The Trinity: An Introduction functionally has three areas. In chapters 1-3, Swain helps readers gain their footing in thinking about issues of the Trinity. Chapters 1 and 2 cover fundamental matters of grammar and text types that discuss the Trinity. Swain focuses on the need to understand God as one existing in three persons, and these first two chapters focus on that unity of…

Review of Divine Humility: God Morally Perfect Being by Matthew A. Wilcoxen
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / June 28, 2021

Wilcoxen, Matthew A. Divine Humility: God Morally Perfect Being. Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2019, pp. 227, $39.95, hardback. Matthew A. Wilcoxen is an Associate Rector at Church of the Resurrection in Washington DC. He earned his PhD in Systematic Theology from Charles Sturt University, Australia. In Divine Humility, Matthew A. Wilcoxen asks why humility has not always firmly been considered one of God’s eternal attributes in the Christian tradition. Honouring their theological achievements, this book visits the work of St. Augustine, Karl Barth and Katherine Sonderegger and puts them to work answering some of the tradition’s oldest and newest questions. Chapter 1 introduces the task at hand through the question of how (or if) the metaphysical attributes of the divine being can relate to his divine subjective moral attributes. It begins with a concise critique of Heidegger’s Onto-theology and his influence in certain strains of contemporary theology. Wilcoxen highlights existentialism’s dependence on the very enlightenment principles it tried to rebel against while preparing for itself a “conflict of traditions” (p. 10), which additionally estranged it in part from its “rival tradition of inquiry, Christian Theology” (p. 11). Instead, Wilcoxen takes an analytic approach to be more conducive for returning to…

Review of The Nature and Promise of Analytic Theology by Crisp, Arcadi, and Wessling
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / June 10, 2021

Crisp, Oliver D., James M. Arcadi, and Jordan Wessling. The Nature and Promise of Analytic Theology. Leiden: Brill, 2019. vi + 104 pp. €70.00/$84.00. Ever since the publication of the edited volume, Analytic Theology: News Essays in the Philosophy of Theology, which formally launched the analytic theology movement in 2009, questions and confusions remain as to what exactly analytic theology (AT) is. Not only do scholars from various disciplines take issue with the qualifier analytic in AT, a number of them doubt that AT can even be called theology (e.g., Martin Westerholm, “Analytic Theology and Contemporary Inquiry,” International Journal of Philosophy and Theology 80, no. 3 [2019]: 230–54). After ten years of various attempts at definition, Oliver Crisp as the co-founder of the movement, together with some of his A-Team, James Arcadi and Jordan Wessling, once again take up the task of restating and clarifying a definition in their The Nature and Promise of Analytic Theology. In writing this brief, yet substantive monograph, Crisp et al.’s ultimate aim is not simply to respond to some common misunderstandings to AT; rather they aim to highlight how AT has been operating and developing in the past and how it can contribute further to…

Review of Unsettling the Word: Biblical Experiments in Decolonization edited by Steve Heinrichs

Heinrichs, Steve, ed. Unsettling the Word: Biblical Experiments in Decolonization. Orbis, 2019. pp. 303, $25, paperback. Steve Heinrichs, editor and contributor of Unsettling the Word, is the Director of Indigenous-Settler Relations for the Mennonite Church of Canada. He is an ardent activist for Indigenous peoples and passionate about what he sees as the church’s call to solidarity and reconciliation with this oppressed community. As evidence of such passion, Heinrich was a faith leader who was arrested and served seven days in prison for being with the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. Along with them, he was protesting the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans-Mountain pipeline in Burnaby, B.C. His book, Unsettling the Word, is a timely and conscience-stirring work that seeks to liberate scripture from the traditional lens of settler colonial societies. The book is not an orthodox monograph, but a compilation of 68 independent interpretive stories and poems by a diverse group of scholars, poets, artists, and activists who desire to free scripture from those who have utilized the Bible as a “weapon to dispossess Indigenous and racialized peoples of their lands, culture, and spiritualties” (p. iii). It wrestles with scripture, both “re-imagining and re-interpreting the ancient text for the…

Review of Christian Dogmatics: An Introduction by Cornelis van der Kooi and Gijsbert van den Brink
Book Reviews , Theology / April 26, 2021

Van der Kooi, Cornelis and Gijsbert van den Brink. Christian Dogmatics: An Introduction. Translated by Reinder Bruinsma with James D. Bratt. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2017, pp. xiv + 806, $45, hardback. In this wonderfully rich one-volume introduction to Christian theology, two seasoned full professors who work in a wide-array of traditional and interdisciplinary specialties at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam have come together to offer an up-to-date entry-level textbook to the field that is, for the most part, both appropriately thorough and lucidly accessible. I say “for the most part” because there are several places in which, with regard to content, more should have been said or covered, and there are a few instances in which the syntax could have been more clear (e.g., when referents like “the latter” and “the former” have been used in a somewhat confusing manner). While the English edition at hand (2017) is at times more current than the critically-acclaimed Dutch original (2012) with regard to certain discussions and especially their associated bibliographic materials, the authors’ editorial decision to rely less upon “sources that are available only in Dutch” for the present translated version is somewhat unfortunate as there are certainly some who would have benefited…

Review of Divine Omniscience and Human Free Will: A Logical and Metaphysical Analysis by Ciro De Florio and Aldo Friderio
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / March 22, 2021

De Florio, Ciro and Aldo Friderio. Divine Omniscience and Human Free Will: A Logical and Metaphysical Analysis. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Frontiers in Philosophy of Religion, 2019, pp. 264, $80, Hardcover. The problem of divine foreknowledge and human free will exists at the impasse of two seemingly independent, yet, arguably mutually exclusive propositions: that God has foreknowledge of future contingents and that human beings possess libertarian free will. Roughly stated, if God knows at some past time (say, the creation of the world) that tomorrow I will drink coffee for breakfast, then, when tomorrow arrives, it seems that I am not free to do anything other than drink coffee (call this the foreknowledge dilemma). In their recently co-authored book, Divine Omniscience and Human Free Will, philosophers Ciro De Florio and Aldo Frigerio highlight an often overlooked aspect of the foreknowledge dilemma, namely, the metaphysics of time, arguing that solutions to the problem that do not account for the nature of time often are found wanting. Thus, the authors’ primary goal is not to provide a solution to the problem; rather it is to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of the most common solutions in light of differing metaphysics of time. The book consists…

Review of Faithful Theology: An Introduction by Graham A. Cole
Book Reviews , Theology / February 26, 2021

Cole, Graham A. Faithful Theology: An Introduction. Short Studies in Systematic Theology. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020, pp. 118, $14.99, paperback. Graham A. Cole, dean and professor of systematic and biblical theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity school, opens Crossway’s Short Studies in Systematic Theology with his inaugural volume, Faithful Theology: An Introduction. Along with Oren R. Martin, Cole serves as an editor for the series. In the preface, they note the purpose of this new line of books: “This series … aims to present short studies in theology that are attuned to both the Christian tradition and contemporary theology in order to equip the church to faithfully understand, love, teach, and apply what God has revealed in Scripture” (p. 11). Cole’s introduction opens with a question: “How are we to get better at talking and thinking about God?” (p. 13). Here he concerns himself with a piece of prolegomena: method—but not just any method. The title of the book reveals his cards here: Cole is interested in faithful theology; after all, why would anyone content himself with anything less? He clarifies, “This book is about the method to use in doing faithful theology: faithful to God, faithful to God’s words” (p….

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…