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Theologians on the Christian Life

This tag is associated with 4 posts

Book Review: “Lewis on the Christian Life” by Joe Rigney

Lewis on the Christian Life is another installment in the “Theologians on the Christian Life” series from Crossway. This time, the subject is the extremely popular Christian thinker, C.S. Lewis.

It is clear from the start that Rigney has a monumental task. Lewis wrote a lot and clearly had development in his thought throughout his life. Some of this is briefly touched upon by Rigney, but other aspects of it are skipped over (especially Lewis’s development of thought on men and women). Rigney makes it clear early on that he intentionally draws from many of Lewis’s lesser known works in order to try to bring some balance on people’s thoughts regarding Lewis. Rigney divides his look at Lewis’s theology of Christian living up topically, including such things as Prayer, Christian Hedonics, Healthy Introspection, “The Choice,” “The Gospel,” and more (17 different topics worth!).

Of particular interest to me were the sections on prayer and choice. Lewis’s theology is worked through with the idea of choice for the Christian and the person–whether it is heaven or hell. As Rigney puts it, “This is the Choice: God or self. Happiness or misery. Heaven or hell” (Kindle Location 468). People’s choices lead to right (or wrong) living and play out into eternity. This idea of choosing doesn’t meld very well with some forms of theology, particularly a more Reformed or Calvinist one–which is typically what the publisher Crossway leans towards. Rigney touches on some parts of this notion showing how he thinks Lewis’s thought may be compatible with Reformed thought, while also offering some critique. Rigney draws heavily from The Screwtape Letters to discuss many aspects of Lewis’s theology of Christian living, including prayer. I find this work fascinating, and was edified by Rigney’s many looks at aspects of it.

One area I thought was odd was how much time Rigney spent on Lewis’s doctrine of atonement. Lewis was no systematic theologian, but RIgney seems quite concerned to make Lewis one when it comes to the doctrine of the atonement. Particularly, he is keen to show Lewis affirmed penal substitutionary atonement. I’ve been surprised by how frequently this view of the atonement is seen by its adherents as almost equivalent to the Gospel, and this is no exception. I’ve always seen the scene with Aslan in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe as more of a ransom theory notion of atonement, but Rigney takes it penal substitutionary, with a slight nod to how it could be seen as ransom theory. For myself, I don’t see a huge gap between the two, and also honestly don’t understand much of the debate. It seems clear to me penal substitution is found in the Bible, but so are many, many other aspects of the various theories put forward. Is not a holistic view more preferable because it easily integrates everything? Why must we be mutually exclusive? More relevant for this book, why must Lewis become one who endorses penal substitution when it doesn’t actually seem that clear from his writings? Such questions remain unanswered.

Lewis’s idea of Christian living also allowed for pretty much anything not forbidden. This doesn’t go well with more Puritan-like aspects of thought, but it is, I think, generally correct. Rigney, oddly, takes this as a chance to try to explore what is allowed or forbidden in worship services (kindle loc 4612ff). I didn’t really get how this was relevant or why it mattered, but that might be my own theological background showing through (as a Lutheran, I believe much of this is adiaphora).

Lewis’s views of male and female are certainly a product of his time, and Rigney, apparently endorsing complementarian doctrine, seems to delight in some of the frankly silly things Lewis said in some of his works. Particularly silly was the idea of the oh-so-manly Mars in the Space Trilogy. Why is it manly? Because it has Mountains ‘n’ stuff! Yep, no distorted cultural expectations of masculinity and femininity reflected there, right? Wrong. Rigney seems particularly affirming of these aspects of Lewis’s theology, which frankly seem like the strangest aspects to affirm. Moreover, there is debate over whether Lewis actually maintained this kind of strong complementarian doctrine throughout his life. For example, Mary Stewart Van Leeuwan dedicated an entire book to the topic.

Perhaps my biggest complaint with the book, which I’ve already touched on, is how much space is dedicated to correcting Lewis’s theology, which most frequently means moving him more in line with the kind of Reformed Baptist theology that Crossway promotes. I’ve read numerous books in this series of theologians on the Christian life (see more here by scrolling down), and there are some (like the one on Luther) that seem to fulfill the series’ mission of expositing the various theologians’ views on the Christian Life. This one offers much more by way of analysis than some of the others, and I think I have gotten more out of those that focus almost entirely on showing what the titular thinker had to say than what the author wanted to correct.

Lewis on the Christian Life is an uneven but interesting look at the breadth of C.S. Lewis’s theology of Christian living. Rigney opens up whole fields of investigation into Lewis’s thought, but spends a bit too much time on analysis relative to other books on the series. I recommend it for those interested in investigating what Lewis has to teach us about living life in Christ.

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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Book Review: “Augustine on the Christian Life” by Gerald Bray

acl-brayGerald Bray’s Augustine on the Christian Life is written in a very different style from previous entries in the “Theologians on the Christian Life” series–at least those that I have read. It is organized around a mere five chapters, each focusing on an aspect of Augustine’s own life: life and times of Augustine, Augustine as believer, teacher, pastor, and for today. What makes the presentation so unique is that a good portion of the first few chapters follow Augustine’s own series of thoughts from pagan to Christian, derived from his Confessions.

The focus on Augustine as Augustine makes the book quite readable, as it presents his theology in ways that are directly applied to the subject of each chapter. It reads as though it is the life story of Augustine, punctuated with his theological insights, which are themselves applied back onto Christian life in general.

The way the book is presented, however, often means that Bray spends a significant amount of time focusing on the general theology of Augustine rather than on his specific theology of the Christian life. Large portions of the book are spent outlining Augustine’s theology, without any clear application to the theology of the Christian life. Thus, there is lengthy discussion over predestination, original sin, and the like. Each gets developed in great detail, with Augustine’s thoughts laced throughout. Each is also related back to Augustine’s own life and shows how his thought was developing over time.

A good portion of the book is also spent showing Augustine’s specific exegesis of various passages, and how his holistic view of Scripture allowed him to make good points despite having often subpar manuscripts with which to work. These sections are intriguing, because they introduce readers to Augustine’s hermeneutics as specific passages demonstrate the care with which he worked with the text. Moreover, Bray notes that the influence of the allegorical method upon Augustine can be overstated, and that the method itself should not be completely ignored when it comes to reading the Bible.

The final chapter, “Augustine for Today” does much to draw all the threads together into a coherent picture of Augustine’s theology of the Christian life. Indeed, the last chapter is the one that is most similar to other books in the series. Yet it is built upon the foundation of the previous chapters, turning the work into a kind of biographical, narrative theology similar to Augustine’s Confessions themselves. It is an intriguing way to have written the book. Readers may have to work harder to gain the specific insights on the Christian life from within the book, but doing so is a pleasurable journey into the mind and heart of one of Christianity’s most important thinkers. It is as though readers are discovering the hows and whys of the Christian life right alongside Augustine, and exploring the same issues he has in drawing out the faith.

Augustine on the Christian Life is a fresh read that provides readers with insight into the whole of Augustine’s theology. Its style is different from other books in the series, but the presentation is interesting and accessible. It is well worth the time spent reading it.

The Good

+Takes advantage of the mass of personal reflection by Augustine
+Unique presentation of theology of Christian life
+Many applicable insights

The Bad

-Overly focused on Augustine’s general theology

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

Source

Gerald Bray, Augustine on the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015).

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: “Owen on the Christian Life” by Matthew Barrett and Michael Haykin

ocl-bhOwen on the Christian Life provides a broad-spectrum approach to John Owen’s theological insights into the Christian life. It is part of the “Theologians on the Christian Life” series from Crossway (see my other reviews in this series here).

John Owen was a Puritan. Yes, one of “those people.” The word “puritan” has something of a bad connotation nowadays, but the theological movement was actually remarkably broad. Moreover, many insights can be gleaned from reading through the works of these theologians who emphasized a Christian life lived.

The authors outline Owen’s theology through a number of chapters that build on each other, including chapters on the Trinity, penal substitution, justification, and more. Readers also learn about Owen’s transition towards congregationalism, discussions about church and state, and more.

Central to Owen’s theology are the Trinitarian relations, which can help us to learn about divine-human and human-relations as well. Owen emphasized the importance of religious experience for the Christian life. This experience was never taken to trump the authority of the Bible–far from it. Instead, it was taken to be a bulwark in times of doubt and need. Justification in Owen’s view provides a way to be assured of one’s salvation, for God completes that which God has set out to do. Sanctification is where I believe Owen’s main contributions might be found, though I will outline that more below.

The primary critique I have of the book is that it doesn’t seem to focus on Owen’s specific views of the Christian life as the other works in the series have. As I outlined above, there are chapters emphasizing various aspects of Owen’s theology, but these only get tied into the Christian life in what seems like offhand fashion at times. This makes the book read more like an exposition of Owen’s broader (largely Calvinistic) theology than a specific look at his doctrine of the Christian life. Particularly surprising to me was how Owen’s insights on sanctification and overcoming sin and temptation were lumped in with discussions of the power of prayer and the indwelling Spirit. Perhaps this is at least partially my own bias, having been edified greatly by his works on sin and temptation, but I think that more space dedicated to his work in this area would have been on point in a book on the Christian life.

That said, the authors do a good job summarizing Owen’s approach to overcoming sin and putting it to death in our lives. Owen argues for several steps a Christian can take to battle sin and temptation in their lives. This is a proactive approach which views the Christian life as a Spirit-empowered battle against the temptations we face. Steps Owen describes include the envisioning of the consequences of sin, reflection on the Bible, and realizing the fact of the suffering our sin causes Christ.

Owen on the Christian Life provides insight into the whole of Owen’s theology, with a focus on his theology of Christian living. It’s not necessarily as focused on the topic at hand as some other books in the series, but it is a worthy read that provides an introduction into the thought of this theological giant.

The Good

+Excellent insights into the Christian life
+Provides broad overview of Owen’s work
+Great insights into doctrine of the Holy Spirit, sanctification, and more

The Bad

-Doesn’t seem to focus entirely on the Christian Life

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!)

Book Review: “Overcoming Sin and Temptation” by John Owen– I review a book from John Owen which has positively impacted my spiritual life in many ways.

Source

Matthew Barrett and Michael Haykin Owen on the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015).

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: “Bavinck on the Christian Life” by John Bolt

bavinck-bolt

Bavinck on the Christian Life is another entry in the “Theologians on the Christian Life” series from Crossway. Check out my other reviews in the series.

The chapter on union with Christ is particularly insightful. Bolt draws out Bavinck’s insights into Christology, which include going beyond redemption and looking to eschatology and creation as important aspects of Christology as well. Union with Christ is explored from various angles, including penetrating looks at deism and pantheism alongside an examination of the Orthodox doctrine of theosis. This latter portion is particularly interesting both because it allows for some evangelical-Orthodox dialogue and because it clarifies some important distinctions Orthodox distinctions make that allow them to avoid pantheism or panentheism in regards to divinization.

I also appreciated the extensive biographical background to set the stage for Bavinck’s theology by showing how he interacted with the controversies of his time. The overview provided herein of Bavinck’s thought is also insightful. He was thoroughly Calvinist. His view of the world was tied up in Trinitarianism, and he grounded not only his view of reality but also of various aspects of reality in the Trinity. An important insight from Bavinck is the way in which work is part of the human vocation and living out of the image of God. As a Lutheran I particularly enjoyed the emphasis on work as being part of God’s plan for humanity.

One criticism I have is that the author seemed to have a bit of a political axe to grind. In chapter 3, for example, welfare is mentioned at least twice and referenced off hand a third time. Bolt seems keen to point out that Christians can differ on this subject, writing at one point “The Bible is quite clear about the responsibility of God’s children to help those who are poor and needy. Whether or not this commitment to the poor demands support for higher taxes and greater government welfare is quite another matter” (Kindle location 1211-1221). The 10th chapter of the book returns to this issue and places it in Bavinck’s own context with debates over the social gospel and the meaning of the Kingdom (see especially Kindle location 4300 and following). This at least places the whole discussion in Bavinck’s own day.

Yet, remarkably, Bavinck’s response to social inequality seems, according to Bolt, to simply shift the problem elsewhere. Bavinck casts inequality and social injustice squarely into the realm of divine sovereignty: “God’s preordaining was the final, most profound cause of all differences among creatures… It is neither the free will of man, nor merit and worth, nor culture or even nature that is the source… but God’s almighty and all-powerful will…” (4540). I’m not saying this is inherently mistaken. What I’m saying is this doesn’t even begin to answer the question raised: how should we deal with injustice? Sure, a Calvinist would argue that all that happens is sovereingly decreed by God, but how does just saying that in any way answer the preceding question? It just moves it up a (or several) level(s).

Bavinck was also someone who “ascribe[d] to women a primary calling in the home, and he point[ed] to human history, as well as the narratives and laws of the Old Testament, as evidence for a patriarchal structure of human society” (Kindle location 3001). Yet, he also argued that no man is complete without some aspects of femininity and no woman is complete without some aspects of masculinity. How that plays out is largely left up for interpretation, though Bolt argues that this demonstrates that although Bavinck would align with “complementarianism”–the view that men and women have different roles in church and home–he would not ascribe to some of the “will-to-power, macho masculinity and eroticized or subservient, passive femininity” (Kindle loc 3076). Bavinck also challenged some of the patriarchal views of his own society. One way he did this was supporting women’s suffrage. These are admirable qualities He emphasized the role of children and family as the calling of humanity, but one wonders what this might say to those who remain single or childless.

A final, though minor, critique is that there are many portions of the book in which the overall outline of the book is walked back through, or references are made to previous chapters alongside a brief description of why such a reference is relevant in context. It’s a minor thing to point out, but it was distracting at points and gave an impression that the book wasn’t always organized logically.

Bavinck on the Christian Life provides perspective on Bavinck’s thought, life, and context. It isn’t quite as polished as the other books in the series, but it remains a worthy read.

The Good

+Interesting insight into the theological context of Bavinck’s day
+Good cautionary words on worldview analysis

The Bad

-At some points too concerned with modern controversies
-Too many words spent explaining why the book was organized in the fashion it was
-Expresses commitment to “patriarchy”

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of the book from the publisher. I was not asked 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!)

Source

John Bolt, Bavinck on the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015).

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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