Category Archives: Books

Braucht der Mensch Erlösung?

Die Frage, ob der Mensch Erlösung braucht, ist für das Christentum zentral. Dieser diskussionsfreudige Band legt einen Schwerpunkt auf die Klärung der Erlösungsbedürftigkeit im vielfältigen Beziehungsgeflecht des Menschen zu sich selbst, zu seinen Mitmenschen, zur Welt und zu Gott. Weitere Fragen werden aufgeworfen: Wovon genau und durch wen wird der Mensch erlöst? Auf der Suche nach Antworten wird deutlich, dass Erlösung, die das Leben erschließt, konkret werden muss.

Der Band zur 21. Jahrestagung der Rudolf-Bultmann-Gesellschaft für Hermeneutische Theologie dokumentiert aus alt- und neutestamentlicher, kirchenhistorischer, systematisch-theologischer, praktisch-theologischer und jüdischer Perspektive Konzepte zur Beantwortung der aufgeworfenen Fragen.

Mit Beiträgen von Albrecht Grözinger, Lilian Marx-Stölting, Marianne Grohmann, Eckhart Reinmuth, Volker Leppin und Dorothee Schlenke.

Every year the Rudolf-Bultmann-Gesellschaft meets and every year they publish the papers of that meeting.  This year’s collection consists of an Introductory chapter by the editors and six chapters:

  • “… Uns Aus Dem Elend zu Erlösen”, by Albrecht Grözinger
  • Erlösung Durch Genetechnologien, by Lilian Marx-Stölting
  • Zur Erlösungsbedürftigkeit des Menschen in Psalmen, by Marianne Grohmann
  • Erlösung, by Eckhart Reinmuth
  • Erlösung, Verkollkommnung, Rückkehr, by Volker Leppin
  • Differenzerfahrung und Personale Integrität, by Dorothee Schlenke

The little collection concludes with a short biography of each contributor.

The essays tend towards the esoteric end of the intellectual spectrum.  That’s not a bad thing in this instance, though, because each essay is what I would term ‘mind stretching’.  They force readers to think ‘outside the box’ on an issue that, obviously, is central to Christian theology.  As the English description of the book on the publisher’s website puts it (for those for whom the German above is out of reach)

The question of whether a human being needs salvation is central to Christianity. A „no” would mean his or her end. That is why this volume focuses on demonstrating the need for salvation of the individual in his or her entire reality of life. Furthermore, however, this need for salvation requires clarification in the manifold network of relationships of the human person to himself, to his fellow human beings, to the world and to God, and thus calls for further questions: From what exactly and through whom is man redeemed? When searching for answers, it becomes clear that salvation, which reveals life, must become concrete.

132 pages is hardly enough space to solve all of the problems such questions raise, but the essayists do a brilliant job of shedding enough light so that those willing to invest the mental energy in their work will reap a plentiful harvest of understanding.

The volume on the 21st Annual Conference of the Rudolf Bultmann Society for Hermeneutic Theology documents concepts for answering the questions raised from the perspectives of Old and New Testament, Church history, systematic theology, practical theology and Judaism.

Consequently, this volume belongs on the shelves of systematic theologians and in the hearts of those who really, deeply care about theological core issues.  Please do read it.  Even if that means you have to learn German to do it.  Invest in it.  Absorb it.  Ponder it.  Reject those parts you find objectionable and make use of those parts which make eminent sense to you.  No greater honor can be bestowed on such a worthy little volume.

Two Free Volumes You’ll Want to Obtain: The Tiberian Pronunciation of Biblical Hebrew

With many thanks to Chris Rollston for pointing them out:

The Tiberian Pronunciation Tradition of Biblical Hebrew, Volume 1

The Tiberian Pronunciation Tradition of Biblical Hebrew, Volume 2

You Need a Commentary That Helps Make Sense of the Bible

the-person-the-pew-commentary-seriesThe ‘Person in the Pew’ commentary series is the only series of Commentaries in modern history written by a single person on the entire Bible and aimed at layfolk .  Everyone needs a commentary on the Bible that they can understand and that answers their questions about the meaning of the text.  So I wrote one.

If you or someone you know wants to get a copy of the entire 42 volume collection in PDF format, you can do so from yours truly for the exceptionally reasonable cost of $75 by clicking my PayPal Link.  Leave your email in your paypal payment note so I can send it to you right away.

Should you only wish one volume, email me and we can arrange it.  And please remember, these files may not be shared or distributed.


The best commentaries.  – Kevin Wilkinson, Singapore

New Volumes From DeGruyter

Bienert, David C., Das Abendmahl im johanneischen Kreis: Eine exegetisch-hermeneutische Studie zur Mahltheologie des Johannesevangeliums


Ed. by Gertz, Jan Christian / Körting, Corinna / Witte, Markus, Das Buch Ezechiel: Komposition, Redaktion und Rezeption

The Jesus Bible – ESV

The Bible Gateway have sent along a review copy of this edition of the ESV- The Jesus Bible.  And I am under no constraints that the review be positive, or negative.  My views on the volume are completely my own and are not influenced by any outside factor. As a member of the #BibleGatewayPartner network, I am completely free to express my opinion.  Which I will do below.

The ESV is a revision of the Revised Standard Version.  It attempts to update the language, clarify the grammar, and give a decidedly Evangelical twist to the text (when linguistically possible to do so).  It also attempts, at times, to present the language in gender-neutral format.

The ESV’s editorial board is comprised nearly entirely of Evangelicals.

This particular ‘study Bible’ purports to offer the Bible, its

66 books. One story. All about one name.

This is an extraordinarily problematic claim.  It is, at its heart, a Marcionite approach which diminishes the meaning of the Old Testament in and of itself and which purports to give the Old Testament value only insofar as messianic claims and prophecies can be gleaned from it.

The Bible is NOT one story.  It is NOT about One Name.  It is a collection of theological materials that span centuries and which offer differing perspectives on God by a raft of independently minded theologians.  The Deuteronomist is not the Chronicler.  And they are not telling the same story.  The Yahwist, the Elohist, and the Priestly writers all have their own agendas, theologically.  The compiler of Ruth is not of the same mind as Ezra and Nehemiah.  Esther’s author is not a writer of Proverbs or Psalms and the New Testament is just as varied.

What we have in the Bible, then, is a wide-ranging gathering of theologians all in conversation with each other.  We have a theological colloquium, not a univocal declaration ex cathedra.  Accordingly, when the editors of the present version of Scripture tell us that this volume is a collection of 66 books telling but one story about but one name, they are simply, decidedly, irrevocably wrong.

The ESV is a fairly good translation.   A study bible based on it, as this one is, has a good textual base.  The notes, however, are another matter.

In their attempt to haul Jesus into the Old Testament, each OT book has a page preceding it which the editors must suppose make it clear that Jesus is somewhere in each respective book.  So, for instance, preceding Esther we read ‘Jesus: Our Divine Advocate’.  Before Job, we read ‘Jesus: Our Suffering Savior’.  Before Amos, ‘Jesus: Our Justice Bearer’.

Two pages are devoted to ‘the Intertestamental Period’.  This section perpetuates the false notion that nothing was going on in terms of Judaism’s religious development and thus is of little interest to Christians.  At the end of the Bible there’s a concordance and a little table of weights and measures.

The notes themselves are all also, somehow or other, Christocentric.  Even the tale of the Witch at En-Dor is hauled in as evidence that Jesus is lurking in the cautionary tale.

Saul’s life is a cautionary tale of trying to find wisdom apart from the Holy Spirit and godly counsel.  Saul’s attempt at wisdom apart from God led him on a downward slope into spiritual darkness.  The wisdom of the Spirit, on the other hand, leads us into all truth (Jn 16:13).

All in all, this study Bible, though aesthetically beautiful with its onion paper pages and one column presentation of the text and its sidebars and notes and gold edging and double sewn ribbon bookmarks, is simply misleading.  It is eisegesis at its most unbearable.  From the premise of the volume (one story, one name) through the execution of that premise those familiar with the history of the Church will see as plain as day Marcion’s ghost.

One has the impression, reading the notes, that if the editors could have gotten away with tossing the Old Testament on the ash heap they would have done it.  Readers of the Bible deserve better.  And can do better.  There are a number of excellent study Bibles on the market.

This is not one of them.

Verknüpfungen des neuen Glaubens: Die Rostocker Reformationsgeschichte in ihren translokalen Bezügen

Um geschichtspolitischen und erinnerungskulturellen Verengungen und Einseitigkeiten entgegenzuwirken, die im Rahmen des Reformationsjubiläums 2017 mit der Betonung auf Luther und Wittenberg allgegenwärtig waren, nimmt dieser Band den Prozess der Reformation in einer zeitlich und geographisch anders gelagerten Fokussierung in den Blick. Denn das Beispiel der Hansestadt Rostock zeigt, dass „Reformation“ nie ein lokal und zeitlich begrenztes Ereignis war. Von verschiedensten Akteuren (Gelehrte, Prediger, Drucker, Studierende) wurde mit Hilfe unterschiedlichster Medien (Kirchenordnung, Gesangbuch, Geschichtsschreibung, Verträge) ein regelrechtes Netz des neuen Glaubens geknüpft.

Dieser Band beleuchtet nicht nur die Verbindungen zwischen der deutschen und skandinavischen Kirchengeschichte, sondern bringt auch frömmigkeits- und kommunikationsgeschichtliche Aspekte mit der Universitäts- und politischen Ereignisgeschichte ins Gespräch. Lokale Aspekte des reformatorischen Geschehens in Rostock, Mecklenburg und den skandinavischen Nachbarländern werden zudem in die Gesamtgeschichte und Zusammenhänge der Reformation eingeordnet und auf ihre aktuellen Bezüge hin beleuchtet. Die Diversität des historischen Phänomens spiegelt sich nicht nur in der Interdisziplinarität der Beiträge (Geschichte, Theologie, Germanistik, Archäologie, Buchwissenschaften), sondern auch in der Kombination von Überblicksdarstellungen und detaillierten Quellenstudien.

More in due course on this newly arrived review copy.

Mit dem Anfang anfangen: Stationen auf Karl Barths theologischem Weg

TVZ has published  Mit dem Anfang anfangen: Stationen auf Karl Barths theologischem Weg

Karl Barths Denken und Handeln folgte der Devise: Es gilt, als Christenmensch immer wieder mit dem Anfang anzufangen. In jeder Zeit ist jeweils neu auszugehen von dem, was Gott uns sagt. So bleiben Theologinnen und Theologen zeitlebens Schülerinnen und Schüler des Wortes Gottes.

Der Barth-Kenner Eberhard Busch zeichnet in diesem Buch anhand ausgewählter Stationen seinen theologischen Weg nach: Von den frühen Predigten (1911) über den aufsehenerregenden «Römerbrief» (1922), die deutlichen Stellungnahmen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, die grundlegenden Themen der «Kirchlichen Dogmatik» bis hin zum Ende seiner Tätigkeit 1967.

Das Buch regt dazu an, genau hinzuhören, was Barth in seiner Zeit gesagt hat und was er uns heute sagen würde. Denn Theologie hat nach Barths Auffassung die Aufgabe, sich einzumischen und die Probleme der Zeit zu benennen. Dabei hat sie nicht zu wiederholen, was die Mehrheit schon meint, sondern hat, wenn nötig, auf eine vergessene Wahrheit zu pochen.

This is the best introduction to the thinking of Barth that has yet been written. Busch begins with the earliest writings of Karl Barth and carefully shows, with ample evidence, the stages along Barth’s theological and intellectual development.

Commencing with an early sermon of Barth, from 1911, on Atheism and Discipleship and moving through the Tambach conference and Barth’s ‘Romans’, Busch helps readers see, and literally trace, the core concepts which Barth would later fully enunciate.  Barth’s critique of Protestantism and his adventures and struggles in the context of the German University system and the German church’s life in the era of Hitler are also stages along the way which – one and all – contribute in one way or another to the mature Barth’s theology.

Barth’s theology and its relationship to Judaism, and the Third Reich, and the friendships Barth maintained after the end of the Second World War are also players on the stage of Barth’s theological development.

But Barth was also influential in and influenced by the Cold War, as well as by the rise of pietistic movements post war.  These influences are manifested in the later volumes of the Church Dogmatics, especially in IV/2, IV/3, and IV/4.

The volume at hand not only exposes readers to a very well documented ‘roadmap’ to Barth’s theological development, it also answers some of the most pressing questions raised about Barth’s theology.

Yes, it answers the question of Barth’s universalism, with a resounding YES.  YES, Karl Barth believed all would be saved.  In no uncertain terms.

… alle Menschen geheiligt sind.  Alle, und nicht nur eine Auswahl.

In Christus sind alle geheiligt.  (S. 216)

It could not be made more clear.

This little book also includes a lot of photographs which come from the author’s own collection.  Some of which I have seen before, but many which I have not.  And I suspect that I am not alone in that.

There are no indices, but the table of contents is full enough and each chapter includes clearly labelled subsection headings.  If you’re interested in finding out some particular this or that, it’s easily done in a few minutes skimming.

Karl Barth is a Himalaya that no one seeking theological truth can avoid crossing.  This little book is the best guide yet to that journey.  Barthians one and all, and theologians in general, should make use of it and by so doing they will come to a much clearer understanding of what Barth thought, how he got there, and how it influenced his work.

Love him or hate him.  Or both.  You owe it to yourself to read this volume.

Die Zürcher Reformation in Europa: Beiträge der Tagung des Instituts für Schweizerische Reformationsgeschichte 6.–8. Februar 2019 in Zürich

Im Januar 2019 jährte sich zum 500. Mal der Beginn der Zürcher Reformation und damit der Beginn des weltweiten reformierten Protestantismus als Konfessionskultur und als kulturprägende Kraft. Am Jubiläumskongress im Februar trafen sich die führenden Reformationsgeschichtlerinnen und Reformationsgeschichtler aus aller Welt in Zürich. Die Beiträge präsentieren und bündeln den aktuellen Forschungsstand zur Zürcher Reformation und eröffnen neue Perspektiven in historischer, wirkungsgeschichtlicher und theologischer Hinsicht. Das Hauptaugenmerk der Forschenden liegt dabei auf der Rolle der Zürcher Reformation in der europäischen Reformationsbewegung.

It was a brilliant conference.  And this volume, filled with the papers there presented, will also be superb.  How do I know?  Because I was there and heard many of them.

Remembering Ernst Käsemann

Everyone knows his name- his scholarship- and his significance.  He was born on the 12th of July in 1906.  He died 21 years ago, on 17 February 1998.  And he is still worth reading and knowing.

A book published of his writings is discussed here and here.  When I was a lowly grad student I corresponded with Professor Käsemann and after his death uploaded a photo of his letter to me.  And, by the way, no part of that letter or the photo of the letter may be published without my express written permission (as it resides at present, along with other Käsemann correspondence, at Pitts Library, Emory University).

His work will, I think, continue to be very influential because he had something that most academics don’t today: a deep and abiding faith and piety.  Like his teacher, Rudolf Bultmann, he was a committed Christian and a committed exegete.  The text mattered to him because his faith mattered to him.  And while the rabid and ridiculous atheists may see that as a detriment to scholarship, such is hardly the case at all.  Involvement deepens engagement, it doesn’t hinder it.

Lest we forget…


Ulrich Zwinglis Spiritualität: Ein Beispiel reformierter Frömmigkeit

Gottes Wort führt nicht auf Abwege und lässt niemanden in der Finsternis umherirren. Es speist den menschlichen Geist, erhellt die menschliche Seele mit allem Heil und allen Gnaden, erfüllt sie mit Gottvertrauen, sodass diese Gott in sich innerlich aufnimmt. Im Worte lebt sie, zum Worte strebt sie. (Zwingli 1522)

Ulrich Zwingli und die reformierte Tradition überhaupt sind spiritueller als ihr Ruf. Samuel Lutz zeigt auf, dass sich Zwinglis Spiritualität nicht im Verborgenen abspielt, sondern in das kirchliche, politische und alltägliche Leben ausstrahlt. Für Zwingli gehören sowohl geistliches und gesellschaftliches Leben als auch Theologie und Spiritualität untrennbar zusammen. Ein Schatz an Zitaten aus Zwinglis Schriften lassen Leserinnen und Leser unmittelbar eintauchen in Zwinglis Gedankenwelt und an seiner Spiritualität teilhaben.

Interested persons can read the front matter, table of contents, and the first chapter here.

The great thing about this little volume is that it explores the importance of spirituality not only in one’s personal life but in one’s Church life and political life and then it turns to investigate the place of spirituality in ‘everyday’ life.

The way many modern Christians compartmentalize their Christianity is problematic, to be charitable.  This contribution to the theological enterprise shows in no uncertain terms how authentic faith has implications for every sphere of life.  And it’s all based firmly in the theological tradition commencing with Huldrych Zwingli.

Zwingli may be best well known for his dispute with Luther over the Supper, or his chaplaincy at the Battle of Kappel, but those who know him best know him as a profoundly gifted Pastor/ Teacher/ Theologian whose main interest was lived faith and who wrote voluminously to that end.

Every page of this book is festooned with citations from Zwingli about whatever issue or topic is being discussed.  Each chapter features a quotation from Zwingli’s Works to begin.

Particularly moving, perhaps because of the present circumstances here in the United States, is the chapter on Spirituality and Political Life.

Der Prophet darf nicht schweigen

wrote Zwingli in his exposition of Matthew.  Prophets, of course, are Pastors.  Or better, Pastors are Prophets.  And they must not be silent.  They may not be silent.  Yet many are.  To the detriment of the Church, society, and their own spirituality.

And equally relevant,

Keine Obrigkeit ist Herrin über die Gewissen der Menschen.

So Zwingli in his magisterial ‘Divine and Human Righteousness’.

This volume, throughout, draws readers to a reconsideration of their own spirituality.  To their own Christianity.  Guided by Zwingli, via the insightful remarks of Lutz, readers have the opportunity to dive deeply into their faith.  And consider it afresh.

This is a lovely, pious, delightful volume.  I recommend it.  Do not miss it.

Book Tip

2019 war das Jubiläumsjahr des Schweizer Reformators Huldrych Zwingli (1484–1531). Aus diesem Anlass hat der Reformierte Bund in Deutschland nun eine Publikation veröffentlicht: „Die andere Reformation. Beiträge zum Schweizer Jubiläumsjahr 2019“.

Als AutorInnen wirkten Achim Detmers, Matthias Freudenberg, Catherine McMillan Haueis, Frank Mathwig, Georg Plasger und Andreas Mühling mit. Die Beiträge des vierten Bandes der Reihe „Texte zur reformierten Theologie und Kirche“ lenken den Blick nicht nur auf Zwingli sondern u.a. auf Heinrich Bullinger (1504–1575), der ihm im Amt des Großmünsterpfarrers nachfolgte und entscheidenden Anteil an der europäischen Wirkungsgeschichte der Schweizer Reformation hatte.

Zwingli und seine Mitstreiter setzten andere theologische Akzente als die Wittenberger Theologie. Dazu gehört zum Beispiel die Einheit des Alten und Neuen Bundes, mit Konsequenzen für die Sicht des Bildergebots, des Abendmahls, der Christologie und der Erwählungslehre. Außerdem die Befreiung von „heiligen Rangordnungen“, wie etwa den Verzicht auf einen erhöhten Altar oder den Wechselgesang von Priester und Gemeinde. Achim Detmers, Generalsekretär des Reformierten Bundes: “Auf dem deutschsprachigen Markt gibt es leider nur wenige entsprechende Publikationen zu Zwingli und Bullinger.”

Einige Autoren waren auch auf Einladung des Reformierten Bundes bei der Hauptversammlungdes Reformierten Bundes 2019 zu hören: Prof. Frank Mathwig, Beauftragter für Theologie und Ethik beim Schweizerischen Evangelischen Kirchenbund und Lehrbeauftragter für Ethik an der Theologischen Fakultät Bern, sprach mit uns im Interview über göttliche Gerechtigkeit bei Huldrych Zwingli. Catherine McMillan, Pfarrerin in der reformierten Kirchgemeinde Dübendorf (Schweiz) und neben Christoph Sigrist Reformationsbotschafterin in der Schweiz 2019, erklärt im Interview, warum Zwingli ein „europäischer Reformator“ ist. Ausschnitte des gemeinsamen Vortrags “Reisläufer, Wurstesser, Biblefreaks: Reformierte Inspirationen durch Zwingli” von Achim Detmers und Matthias Freudenbergs finden Sie hier. Der Reformierte Bund bedankt sich bei allen beteiligten AutorInnen.

Am 1. Januar 1519 hat Huldrych Zwingli als Leutpriester am Großmünster in Zürich seine reformatorische Predigttätigkeit begonnen. Die Evangelisch-reformierte Landeskirche des Kantons Zürich hat 2019 deshalb mit zahlreichen Veranstaltungen, Aktionen aber auch Publikationen der Schweizer Reformation gedacht. Auch beim Reformierten Bund bildete beim Kirchentag 2019 und bei der Hauptversammlung 2019 die Schweizer Reformation eine Schwerpunkt.

Das Buch ist ab sofort im Buchhandel (z.B. VLB) zu beziehen, über den Verlag ( oder über den Reformierten Bund ( und kostet 12,00 €.


Calvin and the Early Reformation

Those who have a passing knowledge of John Calvin’s theology and reforms in Geneva in the sixteenth century may picture the confident and mature theologian and preacher without appreciating the various events, people, and circumstances that shaped the man. Before there was Protestantism’s first and eminent systematic theologian, there was the French youth, the law student and humanist, the Protestant convert and homeless exile, the reluctant reformer and anguished city leader. Snapshots of the young Calvin create a collage that give a bigger picture to the grey-bearded Protestant reformer. Eleven scholars of early-modern history have joined in this volume to depict the people, movements, politics, education, sympathizers, nemeses, and controversies from which Calvin emerged in his young adulthood.

A review copy came here a few months ago and I have found it to be both wildly interesting and a bit disconcerting.

First, the disconcerting bit.  In the introductory essay our editor writes

John Calvin was born 10 July 1509. At the moment of his birth, nothing about him or his ancestry signaled that the small infant would one day be remembered along with Martin Luther as one of the two titans of the Reformation.

One of the two titans of the Reformation?  That sentiment, on its face, is patently a-historical.  It manages to erase the third (first, if you’re counting by interesting-ness) Reformer with the scrape of a pen: Zwingli.  Further, no one, that I am familiar with, talks about the titans of the Reformation in terms simply of Luther and Calvin.  Instead, it is always and constantly Luther, Calvin and Zwingli.

Zwingli is eventually mentioned, however, but, alas, only in connection with Luther and the controversy over the Supper (on page 9).  Whitford seems blissfully, and perhaps willfully unaware of Zwingli’s wider and consequential influence.  And he never mentions him again.

Whitford is certainly free to dislike Zwingli, but to ignore Zwingli is historically unjustifiable.

Fortunately the remaining essays, past the introductory one, are much better.  Less disconcerting, and more historically responsible.  Indeed, the difference is night and day.  Take note, for instance, of

Sixteenth-Century French Legal Education and Calvin’s Legal Education, by Christoph Strohm, who observes

Traces of all three of the aims of humanistic jurisprudence outlined above can be found in Calvin’s later activities as theologian: his lifelong pursuit of a philological-contextual explanation of biblical texts; the weight he assigned to questions of ethics and church order; and finally, his interest in a systematic presentation of Christian doctrine, which took shape in his Institutes of the Christian Religion. Beyond these common goals, Calvin’s entire doctrinal profile was influenced by the formative years he spent in the milieu of humanistic jurisprudence.

Or the intriguing essay titled The Meaux Group and John Calvin, by Jonathan A. Reid where we read

In his biography of Calvin, Bruce Gordon writes, “he was … ruthless, and an outstanding hater. Among those things he hated were the Roman church, Anabaptists and those people who, he believed, only faint-heartedly embraced the Gospel and tainted themselves with idolatry.” The faint-hearted, of course, included so-called Nicodemites, Spiritual Libertines, and other ‘scandalous’ figures whom Calvin attacked in a series of tracts starting in 1537.

That reminds me, I need to re-read Gordon’s book.  Anyway, Reid further remarks

The following essay attempts to contribute to our understanding of Calvin’s early career and evolving reform agenda by shifting the primary focus from the Genevan reformer to the French evangelicals.

And contribute it does.  But my favorite contribution has to be ‘Those Satanic Anabaptists’: Calvin, Soul Sleep, and the Search for an Anabaptist Nemesis, by Brian C. Brewer.  Brewer remarks, laconically,

That John Calvin did not favor the Anabaptists is evident to any cursory reading of his works.

That’s quite the understatement.  Brewer continues

… this essay will argue two paradoxical ideas: First, that John Calvin, through all of his writings, did not always demonstrate a precise knowledge of what exactly the Anabaptists actually believed and, second, that Calvin was, at the same time, both theologically and personally shaped by the Anabaptists in fashions he never publicly admitted and in ways which profoundly molded the foundations of what we know today as Reformed Christianity.

And the rest is a treasure trove of details and historical facts which both Calvinists and Mennonites will find utterly enlightening.

The low point of the volume is the opening chapter but the remainder of the work lives up to the lofty expectations of persons who find historical studies and especially historical theological studies meaningful and important.  And, in case you were wondering, the volume does make significant reference to Zwingli when mention is relevant.  The index lists the following occurrences:

Zwingli, Huldrych 9, 116, 129, 130n18, 131, 181–183, 185, 187–189, 191–195, 216

  • Amicable Exegesis 189
  • Clear Instruction of Christ’s Supper 193Commentary on True and False Religion 182–186, 189
  • Exposition of the 67 Conclusions 186, 189
  • Subsidiary Essay on the Lord’s Supper 189

Enjoy the whole.  I suspect you will, very much.

Fun Facts From Church History: Those Monastic Pre-Reformation Libraries Were Tiny

The number of books in the library of the Augustine friars’ monastery in Möðruvellir dropped from 127 in 1461 to 76 in 1525. – From Gutenberg to Luther: Transnational Print Cultures in Scandinavia 1450–1525.

Interesting snippet (from a footnote) in a very interesting book.

Born Again: The Evangelical Theology of Conversion in John Wesley and George Whitefield

The gospel message is simple but not simplistic. Learning the gospel and its implications is a lifelong process, but modern evangelicals are often too focused on the moment of conversion while ignoring the ongoing work of sanctification. For John Wesley and George Whitefield, justification and sanctification were inseparable.

In Born Again, Sean McGever maps Wesley’s and Whitefield’s theologies of conversion, reclaiming the connection between justification and sanctification. This study helps evangelicals reassess their thin understanding of conversion, leading to a rich and full picture of the ongoing work new Christians face.

A review copy from Lexham, without any expectations for the outcome of any review, arrived some weeks ago.

First, right out of the blocks, I’ll confess that I am not a Methodist nor am I a Weslyan and, frankly, nor am I a fan of the semi-Pelagianism of Armiananism.  But I LOVED this book!

It’s fantastically and engagingly written and it is so well organized and has such a clear methodological procedure that there is simply nothing to dislike about it.  The author carefully and yet not in a boring or tedious or ‘preachy’ way walks readers, step by step, in a non-patronizing fashion, to a deeper understanding of how both Wesley and Whitefield, both towering figures in English and American theological history, saw the central doctrine of conversion.

The author of this study should hold a professorial chair in Modern Christian Theological Studies somewhere.  Following the introduction, McGever discusses Wesley’s theology of conversion and its themes.  Naturally, then, in the following two chapters he does the same for Whitefield.  His observations regarding these matters are cogent and insight-filled.  If readers aren’t familiar with the intricacies of the variety of viewpoints regarding conversion, these four chapters are an excellent primer.  Not only regarding the views of Whitefield and Wesley, but because he so plainly explains these topics so very well.

It’s been said that if a person truly understands a subject, they can explain it in terms that the normally educated can follow them and come to a better understanding of that topic.  Some theologians are completely bereft of that skill and, quite frankly, shouldn’t be allowed to teach anyone anything because they don’t understand the topic themselves.  But McGever belongs to the tribe of those who understand well enough to explain clearly.

The sixth chapter, then, compares the views of Wesley and Whitefield.  And the seventh and final chapter, which M. titles ‘Conversion as Inaugurated Teleology for Wesley and Whitefield’, draws the whole to a close and intriguingly offers a comparison between the views of Wesley and Whitefield on one side and modern Evangelicals on the other, and that comparison is a highlight of the work.

The book ends, as all these scholarly things do, with a bibliography (which is quite thorough) and a subject index followed by a one page scripture index.  Calvin appears in the bibliography (or rather, his Institutes do) but there is no mention of Zwingli or Luther.  And I guess that’s ok.  One can’t cover everything, can one?

The volume at hand is superb.  Get a copy and read it.  You’ll leave the experience having a better understanding of Revivalism and Conversion as those appear in the thought of two of the most formative thinkers of American Christianity.

Reformierter Protestantismus im 20. Jahrhundert

Eine Geschichte des reformierten Protestantismus in Deutschland im 20. Jahrhunderts ist bisher nicht erschienen. Sie ist ein dringendes Desiderat, da die Reformierten in der Erforschung der neueren Kirchengeschichte wenig Beachtung finden, obwohl sie immer wieder besondere Facetten und Nuancen innerhalb des Protestantismus darstellten. Dass Reformierte sich als Minderheitenkonfession zumeist marginalisiert empfunden und ein entsprechendes Selbstverständnis gera-dezu habituell gepflegt haben, ist ein mitlaufender Untersuchungsgegenstand der Beiträge dieses Bandes.

Sie behandeln repräsentative Personen (Theologen, Kirchenfunktionäre, aber auch eine Gemeindeschwester), Regionen und Milieus, charakteristische Themen, Zeitabschnitte wie den Ersten Weltkrieg und den Kirchenkampf, herausragende Jahre wie auch Jubiläen, in denen sich das Selbstverständnis der Reformierten manifestierte. Diese Studien zur Kirchlichen Zeitgeschichte wollen ergänzende Beiträge für die Kirchengeschichtsschreibung sein sowie innerhalb des reformierten Protestantismus zum selbstkritischen Rückblick verhelfen.

Sie sind der Versuch einer Konfessionsgeschichte, die nicht einengt, sondern ergänzt und vertieft. Sie sind aus einer affirmativen Perspektive verfasst, sind aber weder apologetisch noch polemisch, sondern kritisch und dekonstruierend intendiert, sie sind wissenschaftlich zu verantworten und stellen gleichzeitig einen Beitrag zur konfessionellen Erinnerungskultur dar.

This book is unique in that it is a revised doctoral dissertation that, unlike most such works, is not a sustained argument on a single theme.  Rather, it is a collection of studies which are independent of each other and sensible as individual chapters without reference to any of the others.  This volume is, in essence, a collection of essays all held together only by the fact that they examine aspects of the theme described in the title of the book.

The essays vary in length.  Some are quite long, and several are much shorter.  The table of contents and introduction are available here.  Readers of this review are advised to visit that link to get a sense of what the work contains.  As the author notes

Diese Studien wurden am Ende des Sommersemesters 2017 als Habilitationsschrift bei der Universität Osnabrück eingereicht.

The more interesting chapters (and chapters are not numbered) are

»Der erste Anbruch einer Neuschätzung des reformierten Bekenntnisses und Kirchenwesens« Das Calvin-Jubiläum 1909 und die Reformierten in Deutschland

Which investigates The 400th Anniversary of Calvin’s birth in connection with the Reformed Confessions.

Es soll im Folgenden nachgezeichnet werden, wie das Calvin-Jubiläum 1909 geplant und durchgeführt worden ist und wie wichtig es für die Konfessionskultur der Reformierten in Deutschland geworden ist.

Another very engaging section is

Ein reformierter Charismatiker Der Weg Carl Octavius Vogets zwischen reformierter Tradition und pfingstlerischem Aufbruch.

People interested in the intersection of Reformed theology and Pentecostalism will find it particularly intriguing.  Or as the author has it-

Der Reformierte mit dem größten Einfluss in der Pfingstbewegung war Carl Octavius Voget, der den pfingstlerischen Aufbruch in Nordamerika miterlebt hatte und ihn dann in seine Heimat transferierte.

Also very much worth reading is

Heinz Otten: Ein Barth-Schüler im reformierten Kirchenkampf.

This essay, biographical in nature, sheds light on a little known but incredibly interesting theologian active in Germany during the dark years of Hitler’s reign of terror.

Als zweites von drei Kindern des Hauptlehrers Jan Otten und Frau Heidine, geb. Aeissen, wurde Heinz (eigentlich: Heinrich-Ludwig) Otten am 24. Februar 1909 im südwestostfriesischen Wymeer geboren.

Etc.  A very interesting man indeed.

On another subject altogether, the essay titled

»… dass der Herr, unser Gott, nur bei den Linken sei«? Die Reformierten und »1968«.

Here we begin

Jedes fünfte Jahr begeht die bundesdeutsche Gesellschaft einerseits ein Jubiläum zur Mythen-umrankten Jahreszahl »1968«.

And so I can say, with utter confidence, that this wide ranging collection which covers so much ground in so many aspects of 19th century Reformed theology has something for everyone.  Those interested in Confessionalism, those intrigued by biography, and those concerned with the issue of Pentecostalism will learn much from this collection.

It is recommended.  It is a large book, though, and for that reason too it is a delight.  Because, in the adjusted words of the famous song,

I like big books and I can not lie
You other brothers can’t deny
That when a book comes in with itty bitty contents
And a round thing in your face
You get sprung, want to pull up tough
‘Cause you notice that book was stuffed
Deep in its covers it’s wearing
I’m hooked and I can’t stop staring
Oh baby, I want to get wit’cha
And take your picture!

Das Christentumsverständnis Wilhelm Boussets: Evangelische Theologie im Spannungsfeld von Historismus und Rationalismus

Die vorliegende Untersuchung widmet sich dem vergleichsweise wenig erforschten Werk des Gießener Neutestamentlers Wilhelm Bousset. Als Mitglied der sogenannten Religionsgeschichtlichen Schule gerät Bousset zumeist als Vertreter einer dem Leitparadigma „Historismus“ verpflichteten Theologie in den Blick. Jan Höffker zeigt, dass Bousset ein Akteur war, der an vielfältigen theologischen Diskursen partizipierte. Die historische Frage nach der Entstehung des Urchristentums bestimmte zwar zeitlebens sein Schaffen, späterhin aber wurde diese um die religionsphilosophische Frage nach der Vernünftigkeit der Religion erweitert. Denn dem Theologen Bousset standen gerade die geltungstheoretischen Folgelasten seines historischen Arbeitens, die sein Neufriesianismus wieder einhegen sollte, bildhaft vor Augen.

Die Krise der zeitgenössischen Theologie erkannte Bousset sodann im Aufgehen der „liberalen Theologie“ in „Historismus und Psychologismus“. Die Lebensdienlichkeit der Theologie sah er damit gefährdet – und arbeitete ganz konkret in Ferienkursen einem Auseinanderfallen von Theologie und gelebter Religion im Kreise der Gebildeten entgegen. Wilhelm Bousset wird so als ein Theologe gezeichnet, der die unterschiedlichen Anliegen des Historismus und des Rationalismus miteinander zu vermitteln suchte, damit die Theologie auch unter den Bedingungen der Moderne ihrer eigentlichen Aufgabe nachkommen konnte: nämlich die reflexive Zurüstung der aller Reflexion vorgängigen Religion.

My review is forthcoming.

New Volumes from V&R

Visit the webpages of these volumes here, here, and of course, here.

Luke / Acts and the End of History

Luke/Acts and the End of History investigates how understandings of history in diverse texts of the Graeco-Roman period illuminate Lukan eschatology. In addition to Luke/Acts, it considers ten comparison texts as detailed case studies throughout the monograph: Polybius’s Histories, Diodorus Siculus’s Library of History, Virgil’s Aeneid, Valerius Maximus’s Memorable Doings and Sayings, Tacitus’s Histories, 2 Maccabees, the Qumran War Scroll, Josephus’s Jewish War, 4 Ezra, and 2 Baruch.

The study makes a contribution both in its method and in the questions it asks. By placing Luke/Acts alongside a broad range of texts from Luke’s wider cultural setting, it overcomes two methodological shortfalls frequently evident in recent research: limiting comparisons of key themes to texts of similar genre, and separating non-Jewish from Jewish parallels. Further, by posing fresh questions designed to reveal writers’ underlying conceptions of history—such as beliefs about the shape and end of history or divine and human agency in history—this monograph challenges the enduring tendency to underestimate the centrality of eschatology for Luke’s account.

Influential post-war scholarship reflected powerful concerns about “salvation history” arising from its particular historical setting, and criticised Luke for focusing on history instead of eschatology due to the parousia’s delay. Though some elements of this thesis have been challenged, Luke continues to be associated with concerns about the delayed parousia, affecting contemporary interpretation. By contrast, this study suggests that viewing Luke/Acts within a broader range of texts from Luke’s literary context highlights his underlying teleological conception of history.

It demonstrates not only that Luke retains a sense of eschatological urgency seen in other New Testament texts, but a structuring of history more akin to the literature of late Second Temple Judaism than the non-Jewish Graeco-Roman historiographies with which Luke/Acts is more commonly compared. The results clarify not only Lukan eschatology, but related concerns or effects of his eschatology, such as Luke’s politics and approach to suffering. This monograph thereby offers an important corrective to readings of Luke/Acts based on established exegetical habits, and will help to inform interpretation for scholars and students of Luke/Acts as well as classicists and theologians interested in these key questions.

A review copy has arrived.  More later.

Farewell, Johannes Gutenberg

J.G. died on this day in 1468.  His invention is probably the most important ever.


How People Lost Faith in Institutions

I heard the author of this book interviewed on NPR the other day and I think he’s right on the mark.  When people use institutions to build their own ‘brand’, the populace loses faith in those institutions.

Yuval Levin — director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of National Affairs — says Americans are losing trust in institutions.

“We trust an institution when we think that it forms the people within it to be trustworthy — so that not only does it perform an important social function, educating children or making laws or any of the many, many goods and services that institutions provide for us, but it also at the same time provides an ethic that shapes the people within it to perform that service in a reliable, responsible way,” Levin told NPR Wednesday.

He says that people should ask themselves: Given my role here, in this institution – which could be anything from the government to the military to family, marriage and professions — how should I behave?

His new book, A Time to Build: From Family and Community to Congress and the Campus, How Recommitting to Our Institutions Can Revive the American Dream, surfaces the problem, he says, to help find a path forward.

Give the whole a read.