Book Reviews

Review of The Nature and Promise of Analytic Theology by Crisp, Arcadi, and Wessling
Book Reviews , Featured , 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…

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…