Book Reviews

Review of A Companion to the Theology of John Webster edited by Allen and Nelson
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / March 2, 2022

Allen, Michael, and R. David Nelson, eds. A Companion to the Theology of John Webster. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2021, 366 pages, $50.00, hardcover. John Webster (d. 2016) is celebrated as one of the greatest English-speaking systematic theologians of his generation. This Companion, introduced by the publisher as “[a]n overview and analysis of John Webster’s  seminal contributions to Christian theology” (dust jacket) is both a handbook for readers of Webster himself, and a set of gently critical interactions with Webster’s theology which lay down paths for potential future theological work in Webster’s  wake. The editors (who, between them, also contribute a preface, four chapters, and an epilogue) have assembled a highly qualified group of contributors made up largely of Webster’s former academic colleagues and students. The Companion consists of seventeen chapters, plus a foreword by Kevin J. Vanhoozer and an epilogue by R. David Nelson. There is also a useful bibliography of published works by Webster, which brings up to date the list that previously appeared in Webster’s 2015 Festschrift, Theological Theology. (This list is still incomplete, lacking the important chapter by Webster, “The Service of the Word: Theological Reflections” in the 1997 co-authored booklet, What Happened to Morning Prayer?,…

Review of The Serpent and the Serpent Slayer by Andrew David Naselli

Naselli, Andrew David. The Serpent and the Serpent Slayer. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020, pp. 160, $15.99, paperback. Andrew David Naselli (PhD theology, Bob Jones University and PhD New Testament exegesis and theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is associate professor of systematic theology and New Testament for Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, MN, administrator for the evangelical theological journal Themelios, and one of the pastors of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Naselli’s The Serpent and the Serpent Slayer is an entry in the Short Studies in Biblical Theology series (SSBT) from Crossway Publishers (edited by Dane C. Ortlund and Miles V. Van Pelt). The studies are short because of the series purpose “to connect the resurgence of biblical theology at the academic level with everyday believers” (11). Naselli’s preface begins with a statement of presuppositions consonant with the SSBT purpose and the evangelical confessional stance of the publisher: (1) the inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of Scripture; (2) the necessity of a “whole-Bible canonical approach” to biblical interpretation; and (3) the conviction that “the whole Bible progresses, integrates, and climaxes in Christ” (13-14). Naselli’s “biblical theology of snakes and dragons” (13) aims to contribute to the goal of the series by…

Review of Contemplating God with the Great Tradition: Recovering Trinitarian Classical Theism by Craig A. Carter

Carter, Craig A. Contemplating God with the Great Tradition: Recovering Trinitarian Classical Theism. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2021, pp. 352, $32.99, paperback. Craig A. Carter currently serves as research professor of theology at Tyndale University in Toronto, Ontario, and he serves also as theologian in residence at Westney Heights Baptist Church in Ajax, Ontario. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of St. Michael’s College and has published multiple books within the discipline of theological studies. Carter is both Reformed and Baptist, confessing the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689). The book at hand is the second part of a trilogy that aims to recover important insights from the classical Christian tradition. The first installment was Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition: Recovering the Genius of Premodern Exegesis, which took up the subject of classical theological hermeneutics. In Contemplating God with the Great Tradition (CGGT), Carter argues that Christians today should be intentional with retrieving and confessing the doctrines of God and the Trinity that were developed by the pro-Nicene patristic fathers along with the hermeneutics and metaphysics they used in so doing. This retrieval is necessary if Christians are to confess the doctrines of God and the…

Review of Death and the Afterlife: Biblical Perspectives on Ultimate Questions by Paul R. Williamson

Williamson, Paul R. Death and the Afterlife: Biblical Perspectives on Ultimate Questions. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2018, pp. 226, $20, paperback. Paul R. Williamson serves as professor of Old Testament, Hebrew, and Aramaic at Moore College in Sydney, Australia. Among his many published works, Williamson made a previous contribution to the NSBT series in his work, Seal with an Oath (InterVarsity, 2007), where he examined the nature of the biblical covenants as central to God’s advancement of universal blessing. He is a contributor to the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (InterVarsity, 2000) and the co-editor of Exploring Exodus: Literary, Theological and Contemporary Approaches (InterVarsity, 2008). In his most recent publication, Death and the Afterlife: Biblical Perspectives on Ultimate Questions, Williamson explorers the metaphysical reality of death and the afterlife from the vantage point of the Bible’s storyline. After a brief examination of the literature in ancient religious cultures, chapter one outlines the trajectory of the book. Williamson’s chief aim is to evaluate the biblical data related to death, resurrection, judgment, hell, and heaven. Williamson contends (chapter 2) that death, apart from being a ubiquitous reality across the ages and cultures, is diversely variegated. In the Old Testament (OT), death…

Review of Minding Creation: Theological Panpsychism and the Doctrine of Creation by Joanna Leidenhag
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / December 14, 2021

Leidenhag, Joanna. Minding Creation: Theological Panpsychism and the Doctrine of Creation. London: T&T Clark, 2021. 224 pages. $120.00. Minding Creation is the first full-length treatment of panpsychism for contemporary theological construction. Similar treatments from different perspectives have been published and come to mind that provide similar fruitful discussions. Just consider two recent representative examples: J. T. Turner On the Resurrection of the Dead and my The Soul of Theological Anthropology. All three provide interesting constructive theological treatments of a particular doctrine by drawing from a particular position within the philosophy of mind. Turner advances a theological construction using a version of hylomorphism and I advance a constructive, and in some ways exploratory, defense of Cartesianism. These represent some of the more recent analytic theological literature that moves beyond philosophy of religion to contemporary constructive theology. Leidenhag approaches the doctrine of God’s relationship to creation through a consideration of panpsychism. Panpsychism is the view that mentality is fundamental to the natural world such that it permeates the whole world. She is clear that panpsychism, which serves as a broad category for a host of nuanced positions about the mind, is compatible with distinct comprehensive ontological theories instead of entailing just one (e.g., process…

Review of God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering: Theodicy without a Fall by Bethany N. Sollereder

Sollereder, Bethany N. God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering: Theodicy without a Fall. New York, NY: Routledge, 2019, pp. 202, $48.95, paperback. Bethany Sollereder (PhD, Exeter) is a systematic theologian and postdoctoral fellow in the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford.  She writes on theodicy, animals, interpretations of Genesis, and science and religion. Sollereder’s outstanding book asks how “a good and loving God [can] create through an evolutionary process involving such suffering, death, extinction, and violence” (p. 4).   It is not a defense of Christian theism in light of the violence of evolutionary history, but an exploration of ways to understand the God-world relation in light of what is so baffling about evolution. Taking a line from Christopher Southgate, she explains her project “arise[s] out of protest and end[s] in mystery” (p. 4). Blending an account of love borrowed from Aquinas and an Open Theist take on divine action, Sollereder tells a creative, complex, and at turns, mystifying story. She argues the disvalue of evolutionary suffering is a necessary byproduct of God’s generous gift of being to creatures and refusal to ‘micromanage’ (p. 183) the trajectory of any individual or species’ growth and development.  Furthermore, no disvalue is beyond the…

Review of An Introduction to Theological Anthropology: Humans, Both Creaturely and Divine by Joshua R. Farris
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / October 12, 2021

Farris, Joshua R. An Introduction to Theological Anthropology: Humans, Both Creaturely and Divine. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2020, 336, $29.99, softcover. Joshua R. Farris (PhD, University of Bristol) is Executive Director of Alpine Christian School and former assistant professor of theology at Houston Baptist University. Farris has edited and written numerous works on anthropology, making him ideally suited to pen an introduction to theological anthropology. While questions of anthropology continue to dominate contemporary discussions within and without the church, the academic resources providing both introductions and specialized focus lag. This makes Farris’s Introduction to Theological Anthropology a welcome source. Farris covers all the major areas in theological anthropology, expanding beyond what is typically found in overtly theological material or overtly philosophical material. He writes as a sort of bridge between theology and philosophy, engaging the questions, topics, and ideas from both disciplines in a single volume. There are chapters on human identity and ontology (e.g. materialism vs. substance dualism vs. hylemorphism, etc.), human origins, the imago dei, free will, original sin, Christological anthropology, culture (e.g. race, disability, and work), gender and sexuality, the afterlife, and the telos of humanity. Each chapter attempts to provide a high-level summary, explaining the various…

Review of Christ the Heart of Creation by Rowan Williams
Book Reviews , 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 , 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…