Book Reviews

Review of Saving Calvinism: Expanding the Reformed Tradition by Oliver D. Crisp
Book Reviews , Theology / December 6, 2017

Oliver D. Crisp, Saving Calvinism: Expanding the Reformed Tradition. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2016. pp. 167. $18.00, paperback. As someone who has written a couple of books critiquing Calvinism, I must say I was intrigued, and somewhat amused by the title of this book. Why, I wondered, would a leading Reformed theologian think Calvinism needed to be saved, and from what? The answer, it turns out, is that Calvinism may need to be saved from some of its most zealous proponents. These zealous proponents, who have led a remarkable resurgence of Calvinism during the past few decades, have claimed the mantle of the great Reformer for those who subscribe to the clearly defined set of doctrines famously summarized in the Tulip acronym. This is particularly true of those devotees of Calvin that have been dubbed “the young, the restless, the Reformed,” who, enthusiastic though they are, may suffer from “a kind of theological amnesia” (p. 12). Reflecting on the future of the movement, Crisp even goes so far as to say: “In one respect, if the name Calvinism were dropped tomorrow, and no one spoke of Calvinism again, it would be a blessing. Calvin would be turning in his…

Review of Salvation by Allegiance Alone by Matthew W. Bates
Book Reviews , Theology / November 28, 2017

Bates, Matthew W. Salvation by Allegiance Alone. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017, 234 pages, $24.99, paper. The author of what the back cover proclaims is a “bold, provocative book” has the Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame and is an assistant professor of theology at Quincy University, a Catholic institution. Bates is a Protestant who studied at Whitworth University and Regent College, Vancouver. He claims a broad denominational background and believes that this enables him to approach the issues in a fair way, going so far as to hope his work contributes to greater rapprochement between Catholics and Protestants. Scot McKnight writes the Forward to the book. Of course, what has traditionally separated Protestants and Catholics on the issue of “salvation by grace through faith” centers on what happens when someone believes or has faith. Simplistically, is that one “declared” righteous, or “made” righteous? What role do “works” have in this transaction—for one side or the other? But especially crucial for Bates’ concern, what is the nature of the “faith” that saves? And that question brings up Bates’ provocative assertion: “… ‘faith’ and ‘belief,’ insofar as they serve as overarching terms to describe what brings about eternal salvation, should…

Review of The Soul of Theological Anthropology: A Cartesian Exploration by Joshua R. Farris
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / August 31, 2017

Joshua R. Farris. The Soul of Theological Anthropology: A Cartesian Exploration. London, UK: Routledge, 2017. pp. 198. $119.96, hardback. $38.47, ebook. Joshua R. Farris (Ph.D., University of Bristol) is Assistant Professor of Theology at Houston Baptist University, School of Humanities, The Academy and The Honors College, in Houston, TX. He is also a member of the Department of Theology and is Director over Trinity School of Theology. Nearly 30 years ago, John W. Cooper wrote and published his widely read theological defense of substance dualism and the doctrine of the intermediate state: Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting. To this day, when one researches Christian accounts of the afterlife and attendant accounts of the human person, Cooper’s work is ubiquitous. Indeed, Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting has been something of the “gold standard” by which all defenses of the doctrine of the intermediate state and a theological defense of substance dualism have been measured. By my lights, that reign ends with the publication of Joshua Farris’s book, The Soul of Theological Anthropology. Farris is clear that his theological account of the human person “is motivated and influenced by John Cooper’s . . . work” and that he intends to “take some…

Review of Contemporary Philosophical Theology by Taliaferro and Meister
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / August 29, 2017

Taliaferro, Charles and Chad Meister. Contemporary Philosophical Theology. New York, NY: Routledge, 2016, pp. 242, $44.95, paperback. The authors are both well-established experts in the fields of philosophy and philosophical theology. Charles Taliaferro, Professor of Philosophy at St. Olaf College, is the author, co-author or editor of over twenty books. Recent books include The Golden Cord: A Short Book on the Sacred and the Secular (University of Notre Dame Press, 2012) and The Image in Mind (Bloomsbury, 2013, co-authored with Jil Evans). He is the co-editor of The Routledge Companion to Theism (Routledge, 2012, with Victoria S. Harrison and Stewart Goetz) and The Ashgate Companion to Theological Anthropology (Ashgate, 2016, with Joshua R. Farris). Chad Meister is Professor of Philosophy and Theology at Bethel College. He, too, is the author, co-author or editor of over twenty books. Recent books include Christian Thought: A Historical Introduction, second edition (Routledge, 2016, with J. B. Stump) and Introducing Philosophy of Religion (Routledge, 2019). He is co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to the Problem of Evil (Cambridge University Press, 2017, with Paul Moser) and God and the Problem of Evil: Five Views (IVP Academic, 2017, with James K. Dew, Jr.). Together, in Contemporary Philosophical…

Review of Alternative Concepts of God: Essays on the Metaphysics of the Divine edited by Backareff and Nagasawa
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / August 8, 2017

Buckareff, Andrei A. and Yujin Nagasawa, eds. Alternative Concepts of God: Essays on the Metaphysics of the Divine. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016, pp 299, $51.80. The renaissance of philosophy of religion in the 20th Century brought with it an in-depth exploration of the metaphysics of theism. Other alternatives to theism have been explored such as pantheism and panentheism. Yet, these alternative models of God have not been given the same level of attention as theism in contemporary philosophy of religion. The collection of essays in Alternative Concepts of God seeks to provide readers with non-theistic explorations of the metaphysics of God. Each essay is well written, and the scholarship is fairly solid. However, most of the essays do not offer alternative conceptions to a theistic understanding of God in any significant depth. For example, Karl Pfeifer’s paper, “Pantheism as Panpsychism,” spends more time developing panpsychism than it does articulating pantheism. The connection to pantheism is not altogether clear as it seems that a theist could easily adopt panpsychism without endorsing pantheism. Andrei A. Buckareff develops a powerful argument for thinking that God must have spatial location; however, he does not develop this model of God in any depth….

Review of The Ashgate Research Companion to Theological Anthropology edited by Farris and Taliaferro
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / July 25, 2017

The Ashgate Research Companion to Theological Anthropology. Edited by Joshua R. Farris and Charles Taliaferro. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate Publishing, 2015. xx + 404 pp. $149.95. Anthropology is among the more complex disciplines in Christian theology. Part of what makes this discipline so complex has more to do with how one conceives of the questions—both in terms of starting points and assumptions—than it does with where one finds the answers to them. Remarkably serviceable to advanced graduate students and scholars alike, The Ashgate Research Companion to Theological Anthropology is certainly the place to start for those who want to come to terms with both the questions and answers that concern human constitution, evolutionary biology, the image of God, cognitive neuroscience, human freedom (and much more) as it relates to Christian theology. Boasting a total of twenty-seven chapters, plus the introduction, the Companion is divided up into seven main sections: 1) Methodology in Theological Anthropology; 2) Theological Anthropology, The Brain, The Body, and the Sciences; 3) Models for Theological Anthropology; 4) Theological Models of the Imago Dei; 5) Human Nature, Freedom and Salvation; 6) Human Beings in Sin and Salvation; 7) Christological Theological Anthropology. A fairly balanced ratio of chapters to sections…

Review of The Natural Sciences: A Student’s Guide by John A. Bloom

Bloom, John A. The Natural Sciences: A Student’s Guide. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015, 127 pages, $11.99, paperback. John A. Bloom (PhD, Cornell University) is a professor of physics; chair of the chemistry, physics, and engineering department; and academic director for the M.A. in science and religion program at Biola University in California. His educational credentials make him uniquely qualified to address the relationship between science and religion as he holds not only a doctorate in physics and ancient near eastern studies, but also a masters in divinity.  Bloom has contributed to several books including Evidence for Faith: Deciding the God Question (ed. John Warwick Montgomery), and published multiple articles on early creation myths, intelligent design, and human origins.  This book is part of a series entitled “Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition,” which is dedicated to providing an examination of academic topics from a distinctly Christian perspective. The purpose of this volume is to introduce students to the natural sciences, and equip the reader with evidence that the Christian worldview provides the best grounds for scientific investigation.  Bloom’s passion, which sets the tone for the entire book, is best demonstrated by his statement that “reflecting on God’s handiwork in the world…

Review of Creatures of Possibility: The Theological Basis of Human Freedom by Ingolf Dalferth
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / July 11, 2017

Dalferth, Ingolf U. Creatures of Possibility: The Theological Basis of Human Freedom. Trans. Jo Bennett. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016. pp. xxiii+217. $29.99. Ingold U. Dalferth is a German theologian whose work is increasingly translated into English, with the result that many more readers benefit from his profound insight into the relationship between theology and philosophy. In this volume, Dalferth offers a deeply thoughtful theological anthropology that is informed by a rich, versatile reading of key sources and figures, especially Martin Luther and (somewhat between the lines) Immanuel Kant. His reflections draw upon an array of insights into particular categories of thought and doctrinal claims. His writing bears witness to a theological reading of human nature for a somewhat diverse readership. Having said this, Dalferth’s level of abstraction and his occasional oversights concerning traditions other than his own signal that there are limits to the extent to which his thought will score an impact. There are several key propositions that Dalferth makes. These seem to be the key ones: Contrary to an Augustinian doctrine of original sin, humans are creatures of possibility, not creatures who possess some deficiency or other. Contrary to certain neo-classical anthropologies of the imago dei,…

Review of Reading Kierkegaard I: Fear and Trembling by Paul Martens
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / June 22, 2017

Martens, Paul. Reading Kierkegaard I: Fear and Trembling. Cascade Companions. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2017, pp. 103, $18, paperback. Paul Martens is associate professor in the department of religion at Baylor University, which, along with Martens, also employs C. Stephen Evans (department of philosophy) and Jan Evans (department of Spanish), making Baylor home to Kierkegaard scholars in three different departments and a recent hub of Kierkegaard scholarship, especially as Kierkegaards pertains to Christian Ethics. Martens has two other introductory books on Kierkegaard forthcoming, one on Works of Love in the same Cascade Companions series as Reading Kierkegaard I (hereafter, RKI), and another, presumably more general introduction to Kierkegaard in Eerdmans’ Intervention series. RKI, as its subtitle suggests, and as per the mission statement of the Cascade Companions series within which it is found, is an introduction to the writing of Kierkegaard for the non-specialist. It differs from other books in the series, however, by working as an introduction to one non-biblical book as opposed to the corpus of a Christian thinker. As such, it works like a short commentary on Fear and Trembling (hereafter F/T) with a brief introduction and conclusion that offer some ideas as to how understanding F/T…

Review of Idealism and Christianity, 2 volumes, edited by Farris, Hamilton, Cowan, and Spiegel
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / April 11, 2017

Joshua R. Farris and S. Mark Hamilton (eds.). Idealism and Christian Theology. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016, pp. 256, $100, hardback. Steven Cowan and James Spiegel (eds.). Idealism and Christian Philosophy. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016, pp. 224, $100, hardback. What does idealism have to do with Christianity? In Bloomsbury’s two-volume series, editors Joshua Farris, Mark Hamilton, Steven Cowan, and James Spiegel set out to answer this question. Reflection upon Edwardsean and Berkeleyan idealism has lead them to advocate for a reevaluation of idealism’s compatibility with Christian theology. Together they have assembled a wide array of scholars whose personal commitment to idealism varies, but nevertheless each endorses a particular virtue of idealism. Since space forbids a detailed interaction with each chapter of this series, I have instead opted for a thematic summary and a meta-criticism concerning the enterprise of Christian idealism. The summary might also serve as a recommended reading plan of the two volumes, reorganized according to what I take to be the major contribution from each author. Many of these chapters do a refreshingly excellent job of writing historically informed analytic theology or philosophy, which was a chief aim of the editors of volume one. Consequently, my classification of prolegomena,…