Book Reviews

Review of Divine Action and the Human Mind by Sarah Lane Ritchie
Book Reviews , Featured , 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…

Review of The Theology of Benedict XVI: A Protestant Appreciation edited by Tim Perry

Perry, Tim (ed). The Theology of Benedict XVI: A Protestant Appreciation. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019, pp. 314, $25.99 hardback. Tim Perry, adjunct professor of theology at St Paul University (Ottawa) and Trinity School for Ministry (Ambridge), is editor of this wide-ranging volume on the theology of Benedict XVI. Leading Catholic theologian, Matt Levering, describes the publication as being in ‘the top handful’ (p.282) of studies on Ratzinger’s thought and this judgment rings true given the calibre of the various essays. The fifteen contributors span a range of denominations (e.g. Southern Baptist, Anglican, OPC, and Lutheran) and in their trawl of Joseph Ratzinger’s voluminous writings manage to cover virtually every aspect of contemporary theology. Trinitarian thought, Christology, revelation, tradition, theological method, hermeneutics, the relationship between faith and reason, theological anthropology, prayer, catechesis, Mariology, ecclesiology, priesthood, the theological virtues and liturgy all come into play in this evangelical homage to one of Catholicism’s finest living theologians. Benedict XVI emerges from this study as an outstanding theologian of culture whose trenchant critique of current societal and theological trends will both enrich and challenge  those standing on the other side of the Tiber. This image of Benedict is exemplified in Ben Myers’ opening essay….

Review of Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theologians for a Post-Christian World by Wolf Krötke

Krötke, Wolf. Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theologians for a Post-Christian World. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019, 272 pp., $48, hardcover. Wolf Krötke (b. 1938) is professor emeritus of systematic theology at Humboldt University in Berlin, where he began teaching in 1991 and retired in 2004. A student of Eberhard Jüngel (one of Karl Barth’s most distinguished pupils), Krötke was the recipient of the international Karl Barth Prize in 1990, and he is one of the few theologians today who have done detailed work on both Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. However, as John Burgess notes in his translator’s preface, “while Professor Krötke is regarded in Germany as a major theological voice and a superb interpreter of Barth and Bonhoeffer, little of his work has been translated into English” (ix). This book serves to remedy this issue. Although the title suggests otherwise, this book is not about Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Instead, it is a collection of seventeen translated essays about Barth or Bonhoeffer, all previously published in German, from across Krötke’s career (the earliest in 1981, the latest in 2013). The first eight essays are about Barth, and the final nine are about Bonhoeffer. In lieu of…

Review of Divine Action and Divine Agency: Systematic Theology Volume III by William J. Abraham
Book Reviews , Theology / July 14, 2020

Abraham, William J. Divine Action and Divine Agency Volume III Systematic Theology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018, pp.284, £75.00, hardback.   The third in a projected tetralogy, this volume sketches an entire systematics that follows a traditional credal structure. Abraham’s goal is to rescue Christian theology from the Procrustean constraints of an epistemological preoccupation with the problem of divine action. Recent projects, he claims, have worked with a “closed concept” which narrows the scope of God’s work attested in Scripture and tradition. This generates an impoverishment of theology with deleterious consequences for church practice. Prioritising the notion of God as “Agent” as opposed to “Being” or “Process”, Abraham seeks to offer an account of the range of divine activity (understood as an “open” concept) from creation to eschatology. His intent is to defend and develop the canonical traditions of the church as these emerged in the patristic period. Hence his account is resolutely Nicene and Chalcedonian in its approach, and largely impatient with modern projects such as that of Schleiermacher who is charged (perhaps mistakenly) with losing the doctrine of the Trinity (p. 10). For Abraham, systematic theology is a self-critical appropriation of the canonical teachings of the church…

Review of How to Read Theology: Engaging Doctrine Critically and Charitably by Uche Anizor
Book Reviews , Theology / June 16, 2020

Anizor, Uche. How to Read Theology: Engaging Doctrine Critically and Charitably. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2018, pp. 204, $22, softcover. Reading theological literature critically and charitably is a necessary discipline for scholars, pastors, and students. How one goes about cultivating the appropriate skills to read in this way requires instruction and example. Uche Anizor (Ph.D. Wheaton College), associate professor of biblical and theological studies at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, serves the academic community well in this primer where he addresses critical virtues for theological reading. Throughout its six chapters, Anizor’s straightforward argument addresses the need for and the instruction to reading critically and charitably. Part 1, “On Reading Charitably,” consists of two chapters, and Part 2, “On Reading Critically,” consists of four chapters. At the conclusion of these two parts, Anizor includes an epilogue where he further assists readers in applying his methodology. Here he provides examples of theological texts from which one should choose to implement his proposed strategies for critical and charitable reading, even guiding readers through the questions and steps one should expect throughout the process. In chapters one and two, Anizor describes the challenges associated with reading theology charitably, noting the critical importance…