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book review

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Book Review: “Reformation Commentary on Scripture: Psalms 73-150” edited by Herman J. Selderhuis

The Reformation Commentary on Scripture series focuses on sharing insights from Reformation theologians on the Bible. Here, we’ll take a brief look at the commentary on Psalms 73-150.

The general introduction gives readers insight into the different schools of interpretation that developed  during the Reformation. The introduction to this Psalms, specific to this volume, provides readers with some background on understanding the context in which the Reformers wrote, along with some common themes. For example, the fact that the Psalms were effectively a prayerbook for the Hebrews lead to it being seen as a prayerbook for the church, from which the Reformers derived no small amount of theology. Selderhuis also comments on the anti-Semitic (he calls it anti-Judaic to try to avoid anachronisms associating it with more modern anti-Semitism) sentiment found in so many of the Reformers. He comments on the irony of the fact that so many Reformers loved the Hebrew language and interacted with various Jewish scholars to do their interpretation, but remained anti-Judaic in their comments and attitude. He also notes how the Reformers saw in the Psalms a model for how we Christians ought to rejoice, ask, and pray.

The selection of contributors for this volume is quite well done. It is particularly interesting to see the comments of Cardinal Cajetan (best known for his opposition for Luther) set alongside those of Martin Luther. Another comparison to make is between John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius.  Other, lesser known names, are just as interesting. Martin Bucer is one of the most well-known of these “less known” contributors, such as Wolfgang Musculus or the English Annotations. These diverse and broad perspectives allow for the occasional side-by-side look at opposing schools, along with giving readers insights into some of the figures of the Reformation they may not have encountered otherwise. Some of the contributors were unknown to me. There is, as with every volume, a useful set of brief (short to long paragraph-length) biographical sketches of each contributor to give some background.

Perhaps the most consistent theme in the Psalms with the Reformers is their reading of the Psalms as being about Christ. Time and again, various Reformers (but particularly Luther) assert that a certain Psalm just is about Christ. Other times, with imprecatory Psalms, for example, it is fascinating to see the divergence among the Reformers. Psalm 109 is a good example of this. Luther, for example, reads it as a warning against taking vengeance in one’s own hands. Johannes Althamer and Johann Rurer read it as a curse against heresy and factions–a clear reading of their own historical context into the Bible. Robert Bellarmine reads the Psalm straightforwardly as being about Christ being persecuted by Judas and the Jews, but here we don’t see Luther offering such a comment (though he may have–it may just not appear in this volume). Calvin sees it as an exhortation to believers to bring every care to God. Though most of these aren’t strictly contradictory, this shows how diverse the Reformers could be in reading a single Psalm. Moreover, it shows the general penchant for reading their own current events into Scripture (or vice versa) and for reading Christ into parts of Scripture.

Psalm 104 is another fascinating study, as it has led to different discussions in our own day, too. Modern readers sometimes turn to this passage to see what it may say about creation debates–something that doesn’t come up in the Reformation discussion of the same passage. A hotly disputed part in this Psalm (hotly disputed in an American evangelical context, anyway) is the meaning of the Behemoth, and here the only suggestion about that is that it was a large beast–possibly one generally unknown. This helps give modern readers some perspective, too. Like the Reformers, our own concerns about what the text should say can sometimes come into our readings of the texts. Reading commentaries from those who lived in different times can offer a corrective for that, letting us see how the issues we assume are central to the text were understood–or not–by others.

It may be a foregone conclusion to say this volume on Psalms 73-150 is essential for anyone interested in Reformation readings of Scripture. The Psalms are an area that the Reformers across the board focused on, and it gives critical perspective on how various Reformers read Scripture. I recommend it.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

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Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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Book Review: “Can ‘White’ People Be Saved?” edited by Sechrest, Ramirez-Johnson, and Yong

Can “White” People Be Saved? The provocative title of this book is sure to catch many an eye, cause head shaking, visceral anger, or curiosity. Of course white people can be saved! Anybody can be saved! But how we react to this very challenge to being as white people–myself included–may tell us something about our need to read the content of this book.

The titular essay begins by noting that, of course, white people can be saved. But the concept of “whiteness” is itself a social construction (for more on this, see The History of White People, a book that shows how the concept of “white” person developed) and it is the defense of this “White” concept that leads to truly anti-Christian behaviors, both historically and to this day.

The book is a collection of essays, and like any collection, it has both ups and downs throughout. Perhaps the most important insight of the entire book, and one that I have thought of time and again, is found in Andrew T. Draper’s chapter entitled “The End of ‘Mission.'” Therein, Draper calls for people to truly listen to the “other”:

White folks need not protest that our hearts are in the right place but instead must focus on how the white economies of privilege we have constructed marginalize others. Imagine the transformation in relationships marked by difference if even a fraction of the grace that White folks extend to one another in regard to intentions were extended to all people. For instance, we as White people are often defensive when confronted with something offensive we have said and protest that “we didn’t mean in that way.” But, if our ignorance has hurt others, it doesn’t matter how we meant it. (183)

I was so struck by this passage because it’s something I’ve observed time and again. When racism is called out, too often the response is “I didn’t mean to offend you” or “You’re too easily offended” instead of “I’m sorry.” Ignorance is sometimes even appealed to: “I didn’t know that was offensive” is seen as a defense rather than as a call to get informed and learn about cultures and beliefs outside of our own. Imagine if, instead, we simply said “I’m sorry, can you help me understand how I offended you so that I can avoid doing so in the future?” or “I’m sorry I hurt you. Please forgive me and help me take steps to avoiding hurting you.” Those are truly Christian responses to harm–perceived or real. It is not our place to determine when others ought to feel offended–or not. Instead, it is our place to work for unity and forgiveness.

Later in this same essay, supersessionism was effectively equated with anti-Semitism (185). Though Draper is certainly right to note how that theology has led to applications of such, to equate the two seems to be going farther than the data allows. However, more and more recent evidence seems to suggest the two are often linked. The essay on mission in India by Daniel Jeyaraj was fascinating and shows how no matter how good intentions are, outcomes can lead to colonization. A stunning epilogue by Erin Dufault-Hunter, written in the style of C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters offers insight into many of the themes found throughout the book and a call to action.

Can “White” People Be Saved?  is a challenging book that asks readers to rethink assumptions and think about things in ways they may never have done so before. If only for that, it is worth reading, but the depth of its insights are more than offset by the occasional question I have. I recommend it.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Can a Scientist Believe in Miracles?” by Ian Hutchinson

Can a Scientist Believe in Miracles? by Ian Hutchinson is an introductory-level apologetics work by a scientist that touches upon many, many questions that might be asked of believers.

The book is based largely upon Hutchinson’s own experiences of fielding questions as a speaker at Veritas Forum engagements. Thus, the book is set up in a question-and-answer format which groups like questions together. The book is a kind of grab-bag of topics that can be read either cover-to-cover or skimmed to find relevant questions.

The whole thing, however, is a fairly basic introduction to apologetics. Given the number of books of this particular type, readers may immediately, and fairly, ask why this book is relevant to them. The simplest answer is that this book is written by someone who, as a physicist, approaches the scientific questions with greater detail and knowledge than most books of this type. Hutchinson writes in a winsome manner, but he doesn’t skirt tough topics. Moreover, he approaches the questions included in  the volume with the mind of a scientist. He does not pull punches when it comes to scientific theories that have been demonstrated through many strands of evidence.

Can a Scientist Believe in Miracles? is a good introduction to a number of apologetics questions. It is particularly useful as a book to give to those who may be more interested in the scientific aspects of faith questions.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Modern Technology and the Human Future: A Christian Appraisal” by Craig M. Gay

Craig M. Gay argues in Modern Technology and the Human Future: A Christian Appraisal that human flourishing is not grounded in blind advancement for the sake of advancement but rather in a theological grounding of the Incarnation and its vision for the future of humanity.

Gay begins by noting that he is not intending to dismiss technology or be some kind of Luddite. Instead, he urges that we–all people–need to view technology with at least some measure of caution. Rather than accepting hat life-changing technologies will just get developed and used, it may be worth a dose of skepticism when it comes to thinking about how these technologies may impact our lives and future.

A survey of a few reasons for skepticism about technology is first offered. For example, Gay explores the notion that things like Google and easy access to search engines, simultaneously with limiting factors like 140 (or 280) characters may be making humans lazy intellectually (37ff). The easy access to surface-level information tends to make everyone feel an expert, while not engaging in long-term, strategic thinking or planning (ibid). Alongside this, when aspects of thinking or behavior become autonomous, human abilities decline as we simply rely on autonomous features to assist us. Autonomous systems deprive humans of the ability to learn through experience (37-38). Technological unemployment–the notion that autonomy will replace human jobs–is another concern. Technology can outdo humans at a significant rate in some fields, leading to unemployment and potential lost of means of living.

Gay argues that there is a kind of “technological worldview” that is offered that drives complacency when it comes to the development and adoption of new technologies. This worldview, in part, is made up of materialist assumptions about the world, such as the notion that a scientific explanation of the world can allow us to re-engineer or re-organize the world as we see fit. A mechanistic view of nature accompanies this, and it is interesting to observe that some of this comes from Christian thinkers of the past.

A question of “what now” appears obvious following these concerns about humanity and technology. Gay argues we must course correct against notions that disembody humans. We ought to repent of our continued desire for and striving after of total autonomy that separates us from God (169). Worship and faith life must be encouraged to be deeply personal rather than impersonal. We can see the full embodying nature of Christianity in the Incarnation, and the Eucharist is offered as a deeply personal and real example of this. Here, Gay’s vision of the Eucharist is deeply influenced by John Calvin, and the mileage different readers may get from this final reflection may depend upon how they align with this view. As a Lutheran myself, I think it doesn’t go far enough.

A critical comment might be offered in response to portions of the book. For example, the cautionary tale of technology, in general, may be offset over time by other factors. Automation of basic tasks may allow humans to explore new heights that they had not done before. Though it is clear that search engines and encyclopedias online make it easy to gain a simple, surface level knowledge of virtually anything, they can also encourage further research and study through additional sources and links and citing books. Though I wouldn’t claim there is no cause for concern regarding technology and the human future, it also seems that we may be at a crossroad in which we can work actively to harness technology for human good rather than retreat from or slow it down–something that seems unlikely to happen.  Indeed, if the “technological worldview” is as pervasively imbibed as Gay appears to suggest, it may be impossible at this point to slow down technology, so working actively towards developing teaching techniques and other important human skills to work with technologies as they develop may be a better tactic.

Overall, Modern Technology and the Human Future is a book that will make readers think, whether they agree or disagree. At minimum, it will spur readers to think critically when they engage with modern technology and perhaps push themselves to learn more about it and try to control their own interaction with it.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Welcoming the Stranger” by Matthew Soerens and Jenny Yang

Note: This is a review for the Revised and Expanded edition of the book published in 2018. The original book was published in 2009.

Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion, & Truth in the Immigration Debate is a deep look at the the topic of immigration and its relation to Christianity. The book provides a kind of three-pronged approach to thinking about immigration (this approach is surmised from the content as opposed to being explicitly noted in the book itself)- it presents anecdotes and firsthand accounts of people from different walks of life as immigrants or families of immigrants; it shows statistics and facts related to immigration (centered around the United States), and it offers a biblical perspective on immigration.

The stories included in the book are scattered throughout and make the topic of issue exactly what it is–a personal, deeply impactful issue on families and individuals. One area these stories made particularly eye-opening to me was the issue of legal vs. illegal immigration. Though it is often presented as black and white–people ought to wait to enter the country legally, the stories of people stuck in the middle belie this. If one overstays their visa, for example, they become “illegal” and if they leave the country and apply to re-enter, there is then a 10 year waiting period they must endure before reapplying. This complicates issues as families are spread across several countries and the means to pay for the application process is often in the United States with the job the individual had been working the whole time. Other stories highlight issues of taxes, benefits, poverty, and more.

The facts and statistics provided throughout the book–sometimes in in-text boxes–are extremely important. For example, the notion that “illegal immigrants” are intentionally coming to the United States to not work and take benefits is falsified when one sees that labor participation rate for immigrants (legal and illegal) is over 90%, which is higher than that of citizens born in the United States. Another issue is that of taxes–it is sometimes alleged that “illegal immigrants” don’t pull their fair share of taxes when compared to the benefits received. But in addition to paying state, local, and excise taxes they also pay property taxes and estimates from the Social Security Administration state that “nearly half [of undocumented workers] are paid ‘on the books’ with payroll taxes deducted from each paycheck” (27-28). This means they are paying social security which they will never be able to benefit from given their undocumented status. In effect, these undocumented workers are actually supplementing the social security of “legal” workers in the United States. Additionally, though undocumented workers benefit from roads, national security, parks, etc. they also are ineligible for a number of public benefits, such that their tax contribution is often higher than the alleged cost to the country. On top of this, even “legal” immigrants are often excluded from public benefits for at least the first 5 years of their residence (29). The narrative that immigration costs more than it brings in is, at best, vastly underestimating the complexity of the issue, and at worst it is simply false. The fact is, also, that immigration has been of great value to the United States both in the past and into today. Proof of this assertion is found across several chapters of the book as well.

The biblical text has much to say about immigration and the “sojourner in our land” (I have written about this issue here). The authors outline these vast swathe of texts across a chapter towards the middle of the book. They highlight how there are clearly immigrants and immigration in Scripture (eg. Abraham, Joseph, Ruth, Jesus). They note that there is a biblical mandate to care for immigrants and how, with Christ, there is no longer the issue of foreign/gentile/Jew but instead all are citizens together in Christ–an issue which is largely washed over in the heated discussions about immigration. Issues of justice–which are often taken by Americans to mean “act with justice regarding criminal justice”–are analyzed from the Hebrew text, noting that the issue is not criminal justice but higher Justice–God’s justice. It’s not merely is someone obeying the law, but is the law itself just (95)?

Finally, the authors offer advice about politics and immigration issues in the church today, largely built from conclusions found across the previous issues.

A few areas of critique of the book are likely, though this reviewer does not believe they present a serious challenge. First, the book is almost entirely centered around the issue of immigration in the United States. This does downplay its usefulness in a global perspective, but it makes it extremely valuable by addressing issues that are involved in the debate in the United States specifically. Second, some may critique the use of anecdotes as trying to reduce the issue to a few “sob stories.” Though this is a possibility, the authors are presenting firsthand accounts of real people with real issues, and even if it is a limited scope (which it does not seem to be), Christians ought to be concerned even about individuals. Third, one may argue that the use of Scripture is too broad to be applied to current immigration issues. There are a few problems with this response. For one, it seems to undermine the ability of Scripture to speak to our situation today. If one argues that Scripture cannot speak on a topic due to that topic’s complexity today, the it seems to set artificial limits on the ability of God to speak today. (It is certainly possible that these passages do not speak to specific issues today, but that argument needs to be made rather than dismissing a rather broad testimony of the Bible wholesale in favor of something like the laws of the land taking precedent.) Finally, the sheer broadness and variety of passages involved in making the case for caring for the stranger/immigrant suggests that such a quick move to dismiss this evidence is unwarranted.

Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion, & Truth in the Immigration Debate is a necessary, needed, and thought-provoking book that any Christian interested in immigration in the United States ought to read. I highly recommend it.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “A Week in the Life of Rome” by James L. Papandrea

James L. Papandrea’s A Week in the Life of Rome is a kind of historical fiction work mixed with numerous expositions on the ancient world. It provides readers with insights into the early Christian church in Rome, First Century Roman Life, and more.

Central to the book is the plot that weaves it all together. Papandrea introduces readers to a number of characters, including slaves, the walthy, clients, Christians, and catechumens. A few biblical names show up, too. The story is actually more interesting than I expected. It captured me in a way that novels often do, and I truly was not expecting that from a book that at first seemed like just a clever way to info-dump about ancient Rome. The main plot is quite well done and I felt myself wanting to learn more about Stachys and Urbanus in particular. The relationship betwen these Roman men helps serve as a background for giving readers numerous expositions.

The expositions scattered throughout the book are quite welcome and give essential information at each point. The relationship between Stachys and Urbanus, for example, serves to show readers the client-patron relationship in ancient Rome. This relationship can help in understanding some biblical texts and certainly the cultural world from which early Christian writings sprang. One exposition I remember in particular was about culinary habits of the wealthy Romans, such as eating small birds or mice roasted and dipped in honey and poppy seeds (do not sign me up for this one). Another interesting aside was the exploration of the Phoenix as a symbol of Christians in the earliest time periods, though it faded out of use rather quickly.

Reading this book will truly teach readers a wealth of information, but will do so in a way that is engaging in unexpected ways. A Week in the Life of Rome is an informative, interesting book. Papandrea makes a narrative that is interesting and insightful all the way through. The book is a great way to learn about ancient Rome and Christianity. Recommended.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “The Morals of the Story: Good News about a Good God” by David Baggett and Marybeth Baggett

The Morals of the Story: Good News about a Good God is a witty look at the moral argument and some objections to it.

The book begins with an overview of the moral argument (more like moral arguments because there are several varieties) throughout the centuries, giving readers a working knowledge of the major philosophers who have engaged with the argument in the past. A brief section addresses Euthyphro’s dilemma in between the major sections before transitioning into positive arguments in favor of the premises of the moral argument. The argument the Baggett’s present is an abductive version of the argument rather than a deductive one. That is, their argument relies on observations of moral facts leads to God’s existence as the best conclusion from these facts.

David and Marybeth Baggett provide readers with anecdotes and examples to break up the more philosophical portions of the book, and there are study questions at the end of each chapter. The book is geared towards those with up to a moderate knowledge of the moral argument and can serve as an introduction to the same. Overall, the book seems to be presenting the argument in a winsome way alongside giving the basics such that readers will come away able to articulate the argument themselves.

The Morals of the Story: Good News about a Good God is a good introduction to one of the more intriguing theistic proofs. It acts as an introductory synthesis to much of David Baggett’s earlier work on the same argument. It’s recommended for those who are engaging in apologetics and interested in exploring this argument further. It could be used as a study group book, as well.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Joseph: A Story of Love, Hate, Slavery, Power, and Forgiveness” by John Lennox

Joseph: A Story of Love, Hate, Slavery, Power, and Forgiveness addresses one of my all-time favorite Bible stories. I may be a bit biased, as my name is Joseph, but I’ve always loved this narrative. I also had it assigned as a narrative to translate from Hebrew in college, which only deepened my love for this story. Lennox’s title says it: this story has it all. But what of this book? I was excited to dive in to find out what John C. Lennox, a rather famous man in some Christian circles, would have to say about this narrative.

Lennox is a somewhat strange choice for a book on Joseph on the face of things. A search of “John Lennox” with terms like “Joseph” and “Bible” brings up a number of videos of Lennox discussing this narrative, however, showing something of a longstanding interest in the topic. Lennox’s training is in mathematics, though he has written extensively in the fields of apologetics in particular as well as science-faith topics. Where this becomes relevant is when Lennox delves more deeply into the background of texts. He leans heavily on other thinkers for this, and seems particularly reliant upon Kenneth A. Kitchen. These include citations from a text from 1966, along with the more recent On the Reliability of the Old Testament (2006). Kitchen is an excellent scholar with impeccable credentials, but again, the heavy reliance on other scholars by Lennox makes any background here seem superficial.

Nevertheless, Lennox does provide quite a bit of background for readers. He begins not with the start of the Joseph narrative, but with an overview of the structure of Genesis, including a re-reading of many of the Genesis accounts. Though this may seem somewhat unnecessary, Lennox does this to give a real sense of place, time, and setting for the Joseph narrative, making it feel even more alive and fresh than it might otherwise. Lennox is keen throughout the book to show that God’s judgement, mercy, and sovereignty are in play throughout the narrative.

Lennox gives plenty of context for readers, but mostly follows an totally expository path, deviating little from the content of the story itself. Where he does deviate, it sometimes goes into strange territory. For example, when discussing “Joseph’s rise to power,” Lennox goes on a tangent about confidence, which leads to a discussion about Christianity in “the West.” In the midst of this discussion, Lennox cites others noting that “there has been a collapse of Western self-confidence…” He then goes on to link this loss of confidence to a rise in trust in science as over and against Christianity. Following previously cited authors, Lennox argues that “confidence in God and in the Lord and the Gospel is being shaken as never before” (154). Then, Lennox just brings Joseph back in. Joseph was just “a single individual, with no other human group supporting him, yet such was his conviction of the truth of the message he had… that he influenced the future of an entire nation. That is the sort of confidence in God… that is necessary in order to stand up and reverse the trend of weakness and lack of conviction and authenticity that characterize far too much of that which calls itself Christian” (155). Frankly, I am baffled by this rabbit trail. Apart from the strangeness of demanding that Christianity be characterized by strength and authenticity rather than being humble (Ephesians 4:2, for example), it also seems very much like a grasp by Lennox to make an application in a section that he has thus far done little to make practical theology happen.

The story of Joseph, of course, features prominently at least one woman: Potiphar’s wife. Lennox goes over the story of Potiphar’s wife attempting to seduce Joseph in detail. Once more, Lennox is keen to make applications to today from the story, including arguing that sexual activity “including pornography” is encouraged in “our contemporary world.” In contrast, Lennox argues, this leads to bitterness and anti-social behavior. To combat this, we ought “to make God the center and focal point of our morality, not our desires, or feeling that it is so right” (128). Later, when discussing Potiphar’s attempt to frame Joseph, Lennox appeals not to the Bible but to the common proverb “a woman scorned” to make his point (129), attempting an appeal to what he seems to think is a shared agreement–women, right? This movement from an individual woman–Potiphar’s wife–to all women: “a woman scorned,” is surely overdone and not a little insulting. Lennox’s implication seems to be that Potiphar’s wife’s attempt to frame Joseph is just what we ought to expect from a woman who was trying to seduce a man like Joseph. But this is the very kind of generalizing from abusive behavior to excuses that has led to so many problems in the world and church around the topic of abuse. I was surprised to see this, but then Lennox follows it with another disappointing statement, saying that Potiphar’s wife “denounced Joseph to the other servants, playing the race card” (129). This “race card” was that Potiphar’s wife blamed Joseph due to his being a Hebrew (Genesis 39:13-15). But the use of “race card” in this way is clearly pejorative. Lennox doesn’t give any further context for this statement, but this kind of terminology is often used to denounce those who point to real, current abuses happening due to people’s race. What makes it particularly odd is that Lennox puts this apparent condemnation of lumping whole groups together right next to his own action doing the same (“race card” means calling Joseph Hebrew to denounce him is bad, but in the very same paragraph Lennox uses “a woman scorned” to reference the “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” proverb that implies all women act in this manner). It’s an alarming and disappointing series of discussions from Lennox in this section.

Joseph: A Story of Love, Hate, Slavery, Power, and Forgiveness is a competent look at a beautiful story. Lennox gives much by way of background, but derives most of the details from other sources. When he makes contemporary applications, they are quite uneven. The theological leanings of the reader will most likely be the determining factor in one’s enjoyment.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

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SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

 

Book Review: “Demanding Liberty: An Untold Story of American Religious Freedom” by Brandon J. O’Brien

Demanding Liberty: An Untold Story of American Religious Freedom explores, largely, the life and thought of Isaac Backus, a Baptist pastor who helped navigate between the completely hands-off approach to religion that Thomas Jefferson argued for and the notion of theocracy other Americans were trying to establish.

O’Brien’s look at Backus’s life begins with a look at the reasoning behind seeing the need for revival in the United States. Backus was struck by the need for this revival and dedicated his life to preaching. Ultimately, he moved to Baptist theology from his life as a farmer and part of the “separate church.” His theology developed through his life. It is in outlining this development that I found O’Brien’s book occasionally problematic. It is difficult to present such large theological issues in such a small space, but at times it seemed as though Backus’s movement theologically is one all should make–somewhat odd considering O’Brien says his own theological journey moved him in the opposite direction (from Baptist to Presbyterian). Perhaps this is a case of a biographer effectively conveying the convictions of their subject, but it was distracting at times here. It felt jarring to be pulled from a narrative of Backus’s life into an exposition of Baptist theology, only to be thrown back in again.

Backus’s look at how religion and state should work continued to develop as well. His view ultimately helped influence how we view religious liberty today. Backus refused to affirm anything like a theocracy in which the state was simply established with a religion. But he also argued against a complete separation that did not allow the state to have some involvement in religion. The issue was to do so fairly. Backus had drafted his on bill of rights for protecting religious liberty which has many parallels to the Constitution that was ultimately adopted. Backus’s bill provided for all people to follow their own convictions regarding faith, though it also was rejected because many thought Backus was bringing false accusations about his own liberties being constrained. It is interesting, then, to see that Backus was a rival of Paine and Adams, and it was ultimately they who adopted a bill of rights quite similar to the one that Backus presented.

Demanding Liberty is a somewhat uneven look at the life of a man who was more influential on the formation of the United States than most may think. It provides an interesting but flawed overview of his life and influence. For those interested in the topic of religious freedom in the United States, it is worth picking up for a read.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Bonhoeffer’s Reception of Luther” by Michael P. DeJonge

Michael P. DeJonge’s thesis in Bonhoeffer’s Reception of Luther may be summed up as saying the best interpretative framework for understanding Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s theology and thought is by understanding him as a Lutheran theologian specifically engaged in Luther’s thought.

DeJonge supports his thesis primarily through two strands of evidence: first, by showing Bonhoeffer’s close readings of and interactions with Luther; and second, by demonstrating that Bonhoeffer’s perspective on important controversies was a Lutheran perspective.

Bonhoeffer’s interactions with Luther outpace his interactions with any other theologian. DeJonge cites a statistic: Bonhoeffer cites or quotes Luther 870 times, “almost always approvingly”; “The next most frequently cited theologian is a distant second, Karl Barth with fewer than three hundred” (1). This alone may serve to demonstrate Bonhoeffer’s concern for interacting with Luther, but DeJonge goes on to note that Bonhoeffer also strove to correct competing interpretations of Luther, and affirm specifically Lutheran doctrine. For instance, in his interactions with Karl Holl, one of his teachers, he goes against Holl’s interpretation of Luther’s view of religion, arguing that Luther’s Christology saves one from idolatry of the conscience, which he felt Holl may have slipped into. Bonhoeffer also affirmed the emphasis on Christ’s “is” statements when it came to the Lord’s Supper, defending the position that “this is my body” means Christ is truly present in the Supper (70ff).

DeJonge’s argument expands to a demonstration that Bonhoeffer aligned with a Lutheran understanding on important issues. The Lord’s Supper has already been noted, but it is worth pointing out that in regards to this, Bonhoeffer explicitly sided with Luther against Karl Barth and the Reformed tradition, which argued that the finite could not contain the infinite. Instead, Bonhoeffer affirmed that, by virtue of the infinite, the infinite could be contained in the finite; allowing for a Lutheran understanding of real presence in the Supper. Another major controversy DeJonge notes is that of the interpretation of Luther’s “Two Kingdoms.” DeJonge argues that Bonhoeffer has been misunderstood as rejecting Luther’s doctrine in part because Luther’s doctrine itself is misunderstood. Thus, DeJonge engages in a lengthy section in which he traces the influence of Troelsch on the understanding of Luther’s Two Kingdoms and how often it is Troelsch’s understanding rather than Luther’s that is seen as “the” doctrine of the Two Kingdoms. Going against this, Bonhoeffer’s thoughts on the Two Kingdoms are closer to Luther’s position than many have argued.

DeJonge also interacts with other interpretations of Bonhoeffer, such as an understanding of Bonhoeffer as a pacifist, which has been a common understanding among some. Utilizing his deep analysis of the Two Kingdoms doctrine, DeJonge counters that Bonhoeffer’s comments about resisting the Nazis align with this doctrine much more closely than they do to a pacifist understanding. Like Stephen R. Haynes’s The Battle for Bonhoeffer, DeJonge notes that Bonhoeffer’s resistance cannot be linked explicitly to the Nazi treatment of the Jews. Though it is clear that Bonhoeffer detested this treatment, DeJonge argues he did so not through a broadly humanitarian theology (going against some interpreters here), but rather due to his understanding, again, of the Two Kingdoms. When the Nazis sought to attack the Jews, particularly by separating them from the so-called German Christians, they issued a direct assault on the body of Christ–the church. Thus, Bonhoeffer’s resistance to these ideals, again, springs from a Lutheran understanding of the Two Kingdoms. (As an aside, it is worth nothing DeJonge also acknowledges the contributions some aspects of Martin Luther’s own writings had to the Nazi ideology. However, DeJonge here shows how Bonhoeffer’s understanding of his theology set him against these anti-Semitic notions.)

Finally, DeJonge demonstrates that Bonhoeffer’s view of justification–certainly a vastly important doctrine for Luther and Lutherans–ought to be properly understood as Lutheran rather than anything else. Time and again, throughout the book, DeJonge carefully demonstrates how an interpretation of Bonhoeffer suffers when not understood in a Lutheran lens. Over and over, readings of Bonhoeffer that make sense in one context are shown to fail when compared to the whole of his writings. DeJonge also manages to offer a coherent account of Bonhoeffer’s theology that does not set an “early Bonhoeffer” against a “late Bonhoeffer” nor does it read the whole of his thought through any one work. As such, DeJonge offers a truly compelling reading of the totality of Bonhoeffer’s work.

Bonhoeffer’s Reception of Luther is an incredibly important work for understanding the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Anyone who is interested at all in the theology of Bonhoeffer and understanding it fully would do well to read and digest it. I cannot recommend it highly enough for those who wish to understand the theology of this man.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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