Category Archives: IVPAcademic

Obadiah, Jonah and Micah: An Introduction and Commentary

Obadiah’s oracle against Edom. Jonah’s mission to the city of Nineveh. Micah’s message to Samaria and Jerusalem. These books are short yet surprisingly rich in theological and practical terms. In this Tyndale commentary on these minor but important prophets, Daniel Timmer considers each book’s historical setting, genre, structure, and unity. He explores their key themes with an eye to their fulfilment in the New Testament and their significance for today.

The Tyndale Commentaries are designed to help the reader of the Bible understand what the text says and what it means. The Introduction to each book gives a concise but thorough treatment of its authorship, date, original setting, and purpose. Following a structural Analysis, the Commentary takes the book section by section, drawing out its main themes, and also comments on individual verses and problems of interpretation. Additional Notes provide fuller discussion of particular difficulties.

In the new Old Testament volumes, the commentary on each section of the text is structured under three headings: ContextComment, and Meaning. The goal is to explain the true meaning of the Bible and make its message plain.

The Tyndale OT Commentaries series is a solid, stable, reliable, middle of the road conservative, useful, trustworthy contribution to the field of Old Testament studies.

The present volume by Timmer is all of those things as well.  Along with being a careful exegete, he is also a gifted one.  He has the ability to plainly, calmly, and sensibly explain the text at hand with a manner which both scholars and laypeople can appreciate, and learn from.

Will all scholars agree with him?  No.  But most of them will not bother to write their own commentaries on these three books of the Bible.  Because they aren’t up to the task.  So they will take potshots at a work that they find wanting, but which they cannot do better than.

Lay readers will not agree with everything that Timmer writes either, but they will not be able to explain why and they will not be able to do better than he has done in explaining texts.

But Lay readers and scholars who have the gift of honest open-mindedness will admit, after reading the volume, that they benefited from it and learned from it.  It is, if I may go ahead and say so, far better than its predecessor in the series (by Waltke, et al).  A volume, frankly, far too proximate to fundamentalism for my tastes.

The layout of the work follows the standard commentary format: introduction to books, date, authorship, outline, genre, all the usual stuff.  Each pericope is then explained in proper order.  There are no indices, but there are a table of abbreviations and a select bibliography for each biblical book at the outset of the volume.  Those bibliographies are a balanced blend of both conservative and moderate scholarship, though, shockingly, Timmer fails to reference my own commentary on the Prophets.  Alas.

This, seriously, is a really enjoyable, readable, helpful volume.  It is better than most and could never be as bad as the worst commentary I’ve ever read, that of Block on Ruth.

I would recommend that Timmer’s work be added to your syllabi on any course on the Prophets you may teach; on your list of recommended readings; and it should also be added to your personal library.  You’ll wish to make use of it more than once.

Every Leaf, Line, and Letter: Evangelicals and the Bible from the 1730s to the Present

From its earliest days, Christians in the movement known as evangelicalism have had “a particular regard for the Bible,” to borrow a phrase from David Bebbington, the historian who framed its most influential definition. But this “biblicism” has taken many different forms from the 1730s to the 2020s. How has the eternal Word of God been received across various races, age groups, genders, nations, and eras?

This collection of historical studies focuses on evangelicals’ defining uses—and abuses—of Scripture, from Great Britain to the Global South, from the high pulpit to the Sunday School classroom, from private devotions to public causes.

A review copy arrived today.  More anon.

Christian History in Seven Sentences: A Small Introduction to a Vast Topic

Since the ascension of Jesus and the birth of the church at Pentecost, the followers of Christ have experienced persecution and martyrdom, established orthodoxy and orthopraxy, endured internal division and social upheaval, and sought to proclaim the good news “to the end of the earth.” How can we possibly begin to grasp the complexity of the church’s story?

In this brief volume, historian Jennifer Woodruff Tait provides a primer using seven sentences to introduce readers to the sweeping scope of church history.

A copy arrived today for review.  More anon.

Postmortem Opportunity: A Biblical and Theological Assessment of Salvation After Death

One of Jesus’ most basic commands to his disciples was to tell the world about the good news of his life, death, and resurrection. From the earliest days of the church, Christians have embraced this calling.

But for those Christians who emphasize the need for an active response to the gospel in order to be saved, this raises some difficult questions: What about those who did not hear the gospel before death? Or what about those who heard an incorrect or incomplete version of the gospel? Or what about those who were too young or who were otherwise unable to respond?

In light of these challenging questions, theologian James Beilby offers a careful consideration of the possibility for salvation after death. After examining the biblical evidence and assessing the theological implications, he argues that there is indeed hope for faith—even beyond death.

An Introduction to Ecclesiology: Historical, Global, and Interreligious Perspectives

This volume arrived some weeks ago for review.

Ecclesiology—the doctrine of the church—has risen to the center of theological interest in recent decades. In this text, theologian Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen provides a wide-ranging survey of the rich field of ecclesiology in the midst of rapid developments and new horizons. Drawing on Kärkkäinen’s international experience and comprehensive research on the church, this revised and expanded edition is thoroughly updated to incorporate recent literature and trends. This unique primer not only orients readers to biblical, historical, and contemporary ecclesiologies but also highlights contextual and global perspectives and includes an entirely new section on interfaith comparative theology. An Introduction to Ecclesiology surveys

  • major theological traditions, including Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Reformed, and Pentecostal
  • ecclesiological insights from Latin American, Africa, and Asia
  • distinct perspectives from women, African Americans, and recent trends in the United States
  • key elements of the church such as mission, governance, worship, and sacraments
  • interreligious comparison with Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, and Buddhist communities

As the church today encounters challenges and opportunities related to rapid growth in the Majority World, new congregational forms, ecumenical movements, interfaith relations, and more, Christians need a robust ecclesiology that makes room for both unity and diversity. In An Introduction to Ecclesiology students, pastors, and laypeople will find an essential resource for understanding how the church can live out its calling as Christ’s community on earth.

This extremely important contribution to ecclesiology is the very best book published on the topic since Emil Brunner’s ‘The Misunderstanding of the Church’.

The grotesque lack of understanding of ecclesiology so common among American Christians, pastors, and academics calls for correction, and V-MK’s work achieves precisely that.

He begins by outlining the chief ecclesiological traditions of Christianity, including Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Free Church, and Pentecostal/Charismatic.  Completing the task of highlighting those forms of being Church, he next moves to a very fine description of Ecclesiology as found in Africa, South America, and Asia and he includes treatments of the church as envisioned by women, and in America.

The next portion of the volume focuses on the mission of the Church: it’s tasks, governance, liturgy, ordinances, and interdependency with other denominations.

The volume concludes with what is unique among ecclesiologies:  a look at the Church in relationship with the Synagogue, the Islamic Ummah, Hiduism, and Buddhism.

This, as a quick glance at its themes demonstrates, is a full and fulsome volume whose task of informing readers of a proper ecclesiology is magisterially achieved.

In an epilogue, V-MK looks towards the future, asking where Ecclesiology is headed in the 3rd Millennium.  An author index and a subject index round out the volume.

Readers may be familiar with the earlier edition of this work.  It first appeared in 2002.  If so, the work in hand is a different book altogether.  It was rewritten, expanded, restructured, and thoroughly updated.  There are footnotes, but not so many as to be bothersome.

This important work needs to be read.  By everyone involved in thinking about the Church and its mission.  The author has done all the hard work by cultivating the ground, planting the seed, and harvesting the growth.  Now you have the opportunity of enjoying the feast.  Take, eat… this has to do with Christ’s body.  And that matters, or at least should matter, to every Christian.

Exploring the New Testament: A Guide to the Gospels and Acts

IVPAcademic have sent for review a copy of this volume.

Exploring the New Testament, Volume One provides an accessible introduction to the Gospels and Acts. It’s filled with classroom-friendly features such as discussion questions, charts, theological summary sidebars, essay questions, and further reading lists. This volume introduces students to

  • Jewish and Greco-Roman background
  • literary genres and forms
  • issues of authorship, date, and setting
  • the content and major themes of each book
  • various approaches to the study of the Gospels and Acts
  • the intersection of New Testament criticism with contemporary faith and culture

Now in its third edition, this popular textbook has been updated and revised to take account of the latest advances in scholarly findings and research methods, including new sections on

  • the impact of social memory theory on Gospel studies
  • the relationship of John’s Gospel to the Synoptics
  • recent work on characterization in narrative studies of the Gospels
  • the way the Hebrew Scriptures are read by the New Testament authors
  • the contribution of archaeology to New Testament studies
  • updated bibliographies highlighting the most important and influential works published in the last decade

Especially suited as a textbook for courses on Jesus, the Gospels, or Acts, this book is a valuable guide for anyone seeking a solid foundation for studying the New Testament.

So the publisher.

The present work is the first of two New Testament volumes included in the Exploring the Bible series.  Think of it as a ‘Bible Survey 101’ course textbook.  As such, the volume here under consideration has now appeared in its third incarnation.  It offers students and general readers investigations of the world of the New Testament and the early Church.

To be precise, the historical context of Jesus and the NT; Judaism and first century Palestine; the genre of the gospels; the sources of the gospels; understanding the gospels today; the quest for the historical Jesus; the life of Jesus in the light of history; the teaching and aim of Jesus; the four gospels individually considered; and finally the Acts of the Apostles are all objects of study.

The work has a lot of maps and diagrams and charts and tables.  It also includes a glossary and an index.

The original edition of this volume appeared over a decade ago and was widely praised in Evangelical circles (when ‘Evangelical’ meant something).  The third edition expands bibliographic details and corrects various errors in the manuscript.  The bibliographies are annotated and lean to the conservative end of the theological spectrum.  Surprisingly, this inclination means that the magisterial commentary by Bultmann is not included in the bibliography on the Gospel of John.  There’s lots of pointing to NT Wright though.

All in all, if you wanted to introduce the New Testament to undergrads, or if you wanted to point your average Church member to a resource for learning more about the Gospels and Acts, this book will do the trick.

It has its weaknesses, which primarily can be characterized as a too credulous attitude towards the sources.  But it has it’s strengths too and those outweigh it’s soft and squishy spots.  I like it very much, though I would like it more if it were a bit more bold.

But, as I remember every time I review a book, it’s far too easy to want authors to do what we want instead of appreciating what they did and honoring the decisions that they have made.  If I want a book that suits me in every respect, I need to write it myself.  Otherwise I fall under Kierkegaard’s condemnation of the critic:

Critics are like Eunuchs.  They know what must be done, but they cannot manage to do it themselves.

Tolle, Lege!

Conspicuous in His Absence: Studies in the Song of Songs and Esther

In the biblical canon, two books lack any explicit reference to the name of God: Song of Songs and Esther. God’s peculiar absence in these texts is unsettling, both for theological discourse and for believers considering implications for their own lived experience.

Chloe T. Sun takes on the challenges of God’s absence by exploring the often overlooked theological connections between these two Old Testament books. In Conspicuous in His Absence, Sun examines and reflects on the Song of Songs and Esther using theological interpretation. She addresses three main questions: What is the nature of God as revealed in texts that don’t use his name? How do we think of God when he is perceived to be absent? What should we do when God is silent or hidden?

The publisher sent a review copy with no expectations of outcome.

Sun’s book is a treasure trove of insight into two Hebrew Bible texts that don’t receive a lot of attention from Pastors and Professors.  At least not out of specialized circles.

This volume is not a commentary, though, and potential readers should not expect to find it such.  It is a series of six studies on themes from these two sometimes annoying canonical texts.  Sun, then, discusses

  1. Theology: Divine Presence and Absence
  2. Absence: Wisdom and Countertexts
  3. Time: Song and Narrative
  4. Temple: Garden and Palace
  5. Feast: Passover and Purim
  6. Canon: Resonances and Dissonances

A conclusion, bibliography, author index, subject index, Scripture index, and a Song of Songs Rabbah and Targum index round out the volume.

If the theme of the volume had to be summarized in a word or two, those words would be ‘the absence of God’.  In these pages Sun does an absolutely magnificent job of taking readers into the corners of scripture and theology where God seems to be doing his best to hide.

The introduction of the volume explores the author’s journey to the point of writing such a book and then provides a brief critical overview on the question of the authorship and date of these two biblical texts.  That discussion is not exhaustive, but it hits the high points and introduces readers to the general issues and time frame of the texts.

Each chapter develops its own theme with the careful precision of a surgeon working on the heart or brain.  Sun writes in a descriptive, engaging, and authoritative way.  This is some book.  I would even go so far as to say that aside from commentaries on Esther and Song of Solomon, this volume does a better job of describing the theological purpose of these texts than any monograph I have yet encountered.

For instance

The question “Where is God?” reflects not only a temporal question but also a spatial notion that the God of the Bible is a God who is known and sought in life in this world (p. 138).

The development of this notion that follows is a full throated well founded theological exposition.  This author has the gift of insight and precision.

Later on

If the name of Esther conveys the meaning of divine hiddenness, the logical implication is that the book is indeed a book about God’s hiding.  Based on the intertextual reading with Deuteronomy 31, the reason for God’s hiding in Esther is the sin of his people, the breaking of the covenant (p. 276).

This book is genius.  I think you should be sure to read it.

Worshiping with the Reformers

Worship of the triune God has always stood at the center of the Christian life. That was certainly the case during the sixteenth-century Reformation as well. Yet in the midst of tremendous social and theological upheaval, the church had to renew its understanding of what it means to worship God.

In this volume, which serves as a companion to IVP Academic’s Reformation Commentary on Scripture series, Reformation scholar Karin Maag takes readers inside the worshiping life of the church during this era. Drawing from sources across theological traditions, she explores several aspects of the church’s worship, including what it was like to attend church, reforms in preaching, the function of prayer, how Christians experienced the sacraments, and the roles of both visual art and music in worship.

With Maag as your guide, you can go to church—with the Reformers.

Karin is a super scholar.  I’m appreciative of the review copy that IVP have sent.  Along with what follows, folk may want to take a look at this video, where Karin discusses her work with colleagues:

As I made my way through Karin’s work a number of things became immediately apparent:

First, she has an incredible familiarity with the primary sources.  Second, she is able to relate those sources to modern readers in a very clear way.  And third, her inclusion of many vignettes or anecdotes from those primary sources is a great gift to us all.

She presents the argument of her work in a sensible fashion, following the various aspects of those things which make up worship, or of which worship consists, in a topical fashion.  So she examines church attendance in general first, and then the parts of worship including prayer, communion, music, and the other elements.

She doesn’t, though, simply talk about each element, she illustrates them.  Each chapter begins with a quotation relevant to it and ends with a bibliography for further reading on that particular topic.  These bibliographies are generally quite good but, I have to say, when she offers the bibliography for the chapter on music and the visual arts, that I was more than a little surprised that it did not include Charles Garside’s incredibly important ‘Zwingli and the Arts’.

There are a few illustrations included in the book (black and white) and there is a scripture index and a subject index along with an index of names as well.

For myself, the most engaging chapters were the first three.  Going to church, and at church.  And preaching.  These three chapters are well worth the ‘price of admission’.  Here one enjoys delightful stories about the boredom and disinterest of attendees at worship which are very reminiscent of the way worshippers are today.  There really is nothing new under the sun- not even the fairly widespread disinclination among Christians to heartily enter into the act of worship.

It’s more than a little comforting to realize that ‘it isn’t just me’ when sermons are ignored or vaguely tolerated.

Read this book.  It’s tremendous.

The Problem of the Old Testament: Hermeneutical, Schematic, and Theological Approaches

For Christians, the Old Testament often presents a conundrum. We revere it as God’s Word, but we don’t always comprehend it. It has great truths beautifully expressed, but it also has lengthy lists of names that we cannot pronounce, detailed rules for religious rites that we never observe, and grim stories that we never tell our children. Theologians and laypeople throughout church history have struggled to define it, interpret it, and reconcile it with the New Testament.

In The Problem of the Old Testament, Duane A. Garrett takes on this conundrum and lays a foundation for constructive study of the Old Testament. He surveys three primary methods Christians have used to handle the Old Testament, from the church fathers to today: hermeneutical, schematic, and conceptual. Garrett also explores major interpretive topics such as the nature of the law, the function of election and covenants, and how prophecy works, boldly offering a way forward that is faithful to the text and to the Christian faith.

As much as I am loathe to say something negative about a book (given my natural inclination to peacemaking and encouraging), I really, really disliked this one.  I mean I really disliked it.  I disliked it almost as much as I disliked A Discourse Analysis of Ruth.  Almost.  Though to be fair that book on Ruth still ranks as the worst book I have ever read.  This is the second worst.

Given my disdain for the volume it’s only fair that I offer my reasons why.  After all, just saying a book is horrible isn’t very helpful, is it.  Even if it’s the truth and one feels as though one is spending time that could be better spent on doing something else that would be more productive than ever thinking about the horrible thing again.  But here we are.

First, and most importantly, this book doesn’t see the Hebrew Bible for what it is: a pre-Christian text that has meaning and significance apart from any attachment to the New Testament.  It only sees it as a forerunner for the New Testament.

The opening sentence says as much:

In this book, I argue that the Old Testament is fulfilled in Jesus Christ and that it is authoritative and edifying for Christians.

Id est, the Old Testament is ‘filled’ with meaning only if interpreted Christocentrically.   To be sure, there is no doubt that many and even most Christians do see the Old Testament as nothing more than the forerunner to the New.  But is that what the Hebrew Bible really is?  Just a trunk that needs legs and arms and a head in order to be meaningful.  Hardly.  Indeed, the proper and only honest evaluation of the Hebrew Bible that should be taught to Christians is that the Hebrew Bible is self-sufficient and it is in fact the New Testament that is the appendage.

Luther’s falsehood, that ‘the Old Testament is the cradle in which the Christ child lay’ was wrong when he said it and it has been wrong ever since.  Only sloppy exegesis can make such a claim.  Sloppy, careless, and erroneous.

Which leads to my second reason for being filled with the same sort of disdain for this book as I am when I eat food that’s been in the fridge too long:  the exegesis is dreadful and sour and has the taste of just formed bacteria.

Readers of pp 234 ff where Garrett attempts to discuss what he calls ‘the four functions of the law’ lay bare the eisegetical nature of Garrett’s work.  And esiegetical is the kindest thing that can be said of it.  It is worse than mere eisegesis.  It is rubbish.

He writes

The laws of Torah come to their full realization in Jesus.

To this eisegetical nugget he attaches several sentences citing not texts from the Hebrew Bible but from the New Testament.

On page after page Garrett is trying to convince readers that without the New Testament, the Old is meaningless, truncated, inadequate.  This is not a book that cares about the Hebrew Bible.  It is a book that wants you to believe that the Hebrew Bible just doesn’t measure up until you plop Jesus onto its every page and then, and only then, does it have any real meaning.  That’s why the title of the book is ‘The Problem of the Old Testament’.  For Garrett the problem is that Jesus wasn’t in it so he must be forced in, no matter what.  And that, in his view, solves the ‘problem’.

The truth, though, is that Garrett’s reading of the Hebrew Bible is the real problem.

There are countless examples of poor exegesis throughout the volume but Garrett puts pen to paper and makes his intention clearest is his little treatment of Isaiah 7:14.  He starts out sounding as though he actually wants to comprehend what Isaiah says, but what he really wants to do is get readers away from Isaiah so he can mention Jesus, again.  Here’s how he ends the book:

Matthew did not give us an exhaustive treatment of Isaiah 7:14, but his claim that it was ‘fulfilled’ in the virginal birth of Jesus is legitimate.

Matthew did indeed cite Isaiah; but his understanding of the passage is far more nuanced that Garrett seems to realize.

And that brings us to the final reason why I dislike this book as much as I disliked Netflix’s ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ (a trash film if ever there were one):  Garrett lacks the one thing that interpreters of the Hebrew Bible require (aside of course from a very thorough grasp of Hebrew and Aramaic)- a sense of how ancient texts work and the nuances of which they are capable.

Garrett is a flat reader.  He has decided to see Jesus under every rock and behind every tree and so he does.  Even when Jesus isn’t there (and he isn’t there, in the Hebrew Bible, anywhere).  And that makes for extremely poor scholarship and a book that is both useless and frustrating.

May I be clear?  Take a pass if someone offers you the opportunity to read this book.  Go read something else instead.  Anything else really (except for A Discourse Analysis of Ruth, that book is worse).  You will regret very much taking this book in hand.  Even in pandemic isolation.

Majority World Theology: Christian Doctrine in Global Context

More Christians now live in the Majority World than in Europe and North America. Yet most theological literature does not reflect the rising tide of Christian reflection coming from these regions. If we take seriously the Spirit’s movement around the world, we must consider how the rich textures of Christianity in the Majority World can enliven, inform, and challenge all who are invested in the ongoing work of theology.

Majority World Theology offers an unprecedented opportunity to enter conversations on the core Christian doctrines with leading scholars from around the globe. Seeking to bring together the strongest theological resources from past and present, East and West, the volume editors have assembled a diverse team of contributors to develop insights informed by questions from particular geographic and cultural contexts.

For as long as I have been studying scripture and theology, and that has been since my college days in the early 80’s, and for centuries before that, those subject fields have been dominated by the viewpoint of Europeans and their descendants in North America (including one Canadian).  This Eurocentricism has been counteracted in recent recent years as Majority World theology comes to wider appreciation and dissemination and the current volume is an excellent addition to that blossoming discipline.

This extensive volume is over 700 pages long and includes treatments of most of the major heads of Christian Doctrine, though it lacks a discussion of the Doctrine of Scripture.  This is due in part to the aim of the volume which is to introduce the major dogmas of the faith from the point of view of the inhabitants of the Majority World and it is due in part to the progress of the various international meetings where the issues of this volume were discussed and promulgated first.

Its contents are

Part One: The Trinity Among the Nations: The Doctrine of God in the Majority World
Introduction to Part One: Trinity 101: Kaleidoscopic Views of God in the Majority World, K. K. Yeo
1. One God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, Gerald Bray
2. Beyond Homoiousios and Homoousios: Exploring North American Indigenous Concepts of the Shalom Community of God, Randy S. Woodley
3. The Trinity in Africa: Trends and Trajectories, Samuel Waje Kunhiyop
4. The Trinity as Gospel, Antonio González
5. Learning to See Jesus with the Eyes of the Spirit: The Unlikely Prophets of God’s Reign, C. Rosalee Velloso Ewell
6. Asian Reformulations of the Trinity: An Evaluation, Natee Tanchanpongs
7. Motherliness of God: A Search for Maternal Aspects in Paul’s Theology, Atsuhiro Asano
8. How to Understand a Biblical God in Chinese: Toward a Crosscultural Biblical Hermeneutics, Zi Wang

Part Two: Jesus Without Borders: Christology in the Majority World
Introduction to Part Two: An Invitation to Discuss Christology with the Global Church, Stephen T. Pardue
9. Christology in the West: Conversations in Europe and North America, Kevin J. Vanhoozer
10. Jesus as God’s Communicative and Hermeneutical Act: African Christians on the Person and Significance of Jesus Christ, Victor I. Ezigbo
11. Christologies in Asia: Trends and Reflections, Timoteo D. Gener
12. ¿Quién Vive? ¡Cristo! Christology in Latin American Perspectives, Jules A. Martínez-Olivieri
13. Reading the Gospel of John through Palestinian Eyes, Yohanna Katanacho
14. From Artemis to Mary: Misplaced Veneration Versus True Worship of Jesus in the Latino/a Context, Aída Besançon Spencer
15. Christology and Cultus in 1 Peter: An African (Kenyan) Appraisal, Andrew M. Mbuvi
16. Biblical Christologies of the Global Church: Beyond Chalcedon? Toward a Fully Christian and Fully Cultural Theology, K. K. Yeo

Part Three: The Spirit over the Earth: Pneumatology in the Majority World
Introduction to Part Three: Pneumatology in the Majority World, Gene L. Green
17. I Believe in the Holy Spirit: From the Ends of the Earth to the Ends of Time, Amos Yong
18. The Spirit Blows Where It Wills: The Holy Spirit’s Personhood in Indian Christian Thought, Ivan Satyavrata
19. Redefining Relationships: The Role of the Spirit in Romans and Its Significance in the Multiethnic Context of India, Zakali Shohe
20. Pauline Pneumatology and the Chinese Rites: Spirit and Culture in the Holy See’s Missionary Strategy, Wei Hua
21. Pneumatology: Its Implications for the African Context, Samuel M. Ngewa
22. Who Is the Holy Spirit in Contemporary African Christianity?, David Tonghou Ngong
23. In Search of Indigenous Pneumatologies in the Americas, Oscar García-Johnson
24. The Holy Spirit: Power for Life and Hope, C. René Padilla

Part Four: So Great a Salvation: Soteriology in the Majority World
Introduction to Part Four: Soteriology in the Majority World, K. K. Yeo
25. The New Covenant and New Creation: Western Soteriologies and the Fullness of the Gospel, Daniel J. Treier
26. Telling Our Stories: Salvation in the African Context, Emily J. Choge Kerama
27. Luke 4:18-19 and Salvation: Marginalization of Women in the Pentecostal Church in Botswana, Rosinah Mmannana Gabaitse
28. Con Las Venas Abiertas: The Hope of Life and Salvation in Latin American Theologies, Jules A. Martínez-Olivieri
29. From What Do We Need to Be Saved? Reflections on God’s Justice and Material Salvation, Milton Acosta
30. An Indigenous Reinterpretation of Repentance: A Step on the Journey to Reconciliation, Ray Aldred
31. Salvation as Reconciliation: Toward a Theology of Reconciliation in the Division of the Korean Peninsula, Sung Wook Chung
32. Qohelet’s Gospel in Ecclesiastes: Ecclesiastes 3:1-15; 7:15-22; and 11:1-6, Elaine W. F. Goh

Part Five: The Church from Every Tribe and Tongue: Ecclesiology in the Majority World
Introduction to Part Five: God’s Community in Majority World Theology, Gene L. Green
33. Ecclesiology and the Church in Christian Tradition and Western Theology, Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen
34. Church, Power, and Transformation in Latin America: A Different Citizenship Is Possible, Ruth Padilla DeBorst
35. Two Tales of Emerging Ecclesiology in Asia: An Inquiry into Theological Shaping, Wonsuk Ma
36. Ecclesiology in Africa: Apprentices on a Mission, Stephanie A. Lowery
37. Ecclesiology in Latin America: A Biblical Perspective, Carlos Sosa Siliezar
38. The Community as Union with Christ in the Midst of Conflict: An Ecclesiology of the Pauline Letters from a Chinese Perspective, Xiaxia E. Xue
39. The Church as an Assembly on Mount Zion: An Ecclesiology from Hebrews for African Christianity, Peter Nyende
40. Ecclesiology and the Theology of the Land: A Palestinian Christian Perspective, Munther Isaac

Part Six: All Things New: Eschatology in the Majority World
Introduction to Part Six: Eschatology in the Majority World, Stephen T. Pardue
41. Eschatology, Apocalyptic, Ethics, and Political Theology, D. Stephen Long
42. The Past, the Present, and the Future of African Christianity: An Eschatological Vision for African Christianity, James Henry Owino Kombo
43. Revelation 21:1-4 from an African Perspective, John D. K. Ekem
44. From Dispensationalism to Theology of Hope: Latin American Perspectives on Eschatology, Alberto F. Roldán
45. The Kingdom of God: Latin American Biblical Reflections on Eschatology, Nelson R. Morales Fredes
46. Asia and God’s Cruciform Eschatological Reign, Aldrin Peñamora
47. From Judeophilia to Ta-Tung in Taiwanese Eschatology, Shirley S. Ho

The editors and contributors of the volume met and discussed issues for six years and each year focused on one of the six loci herein described.  Then came the fruit of those labors in each of the essays written for that major loci.  The representations from the various parts of the Majority World are what make this work so exciting and so useful.  There are Latin-x, African, Asian and even a few European and American contributors. The only Continent not represented is Antarctica.  For obvious reasons (i.e., penguins can’t write very well and aren’t well acquainted with theology).

This encyclopedic work is excellent throughout, but there are particular essays which deserve special attention, and praise.  These are

8. How to Understand a Biblical God in Chinese: Toward a Crosscultural Biblical Hermeneutics, Zi Wang

16. Biblical Christologies of the Global Church: Beyond Chalcedon? Toward a Fully Christian and Fully Cultural Theology, K. K. Yeo

32. Qohelet’s Gospel in Ecclesiastes: Ecclesiastes 3:1-15; 7:15-22; and 11:1-6, Elaine W. F. Goh

38. The Community as Union with Christ in the Midst of Conflict: An Ecclesiology of the Pauline Letters from a Chinese Perspective, Xiaxia E. Xue

43. Revelation 21:1-4 from an African Perspective, John D. K. Ekem

And of those 5 especially engaging contributions, that of Xue on the Community as Union with Christ in the Midst of Conflict is one of the most amazing, insightful, and useful theological treatments I have read in a good while.  In that essay, Xue describes the situation in Hong Kong and how Christians of very different viewpoints are navigating the at times tense circumstances.  It’s an extraordinary piece of work.

Each chapter also offers a list of bibliographic materials which will further one’s learning.  I was pleased, as a matter of fact, to see that my colleague at Ming Hua Theological College, Dr. Philip Wickeri, has several works cited in the bibliography.

The subtitle of this book is ‘Christian Doctrine in Global Context’ and it delivers splendidly just that.

In a day of rising nationalism and sectarianism; when people are more and more narrowly defining community and even Church and Christianity, a volume like the present one, which so helpfully opens numerous windows on how other believers view the core tenets of the Christian faith is not only useful, it is indispensable and even necessary.

If you are genuinely interested in Christian Theology, you should broaden your horizons and read this book.  It will take some time, but you will not only benefit by it, you will benefit those you teach or preach to as well.

Many of you will be receiving a stimulus check from the Government shortly.  Might I recommend that you use a small portion of it to obtain this book.  It will be the best investment you make with that stimulus money.  I promise you.

If You’re An Ordinand in the Anglican Church of North America… This News is For You

The Doctrine of Creation: A Constructive Kuyperian Approach

Apart from the doctrine of God, no doctrine is as comprehensive as that of creation. It is woven throughout the entire fabric of Christian theology. It goes to the deepest roots of reality and leaves no area of life untouched. Across the centuries, however, the doctrine of creation has often been eclipsed or threatened by various forms of gnosticism. Yet if Christians are to rise to current challenges related to public theology and ethics, we must regain a robust, biblical doctrine of creation.

According to Bruce Ashford and Craig Bartholomew, one of the best sources for outfitting this recovery is Dutch neo-Calvinism. Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, and their successors set forth a substantial doctrine of creation’s goodness, but recent theological advances in this tradition have been limited. Now in The Doctrine of Creation Ashford and Bartholomew develop the Kuyperian tradition’s rich resources on creation for systematic theology and the life of the church today.

In addition to tracing historical treatments of the doctrine, the authors explore intertwined theological themes such as the omnipotence of God, human vocation, and providence. They draw from diverse streams of Christian thought while remaining rooted in the Kuyperian tradition, with a sustained focus on doing theology in deep engagement with Scripture.

Approaching the world as God’s creation changes everything. Thus The Doctrine of Creation concludes with implications for current issues, including those related to philosophy, science, the self, and human dignity. This exegetically grounded constructive theology contributes to renewed appreciation for and application of the doctrine of creation—which is ultimately a doctrine of profound hope.

The approach of the authors of this work follow a fairly straightforward methodological procedure.  They believe, and each reader will have to decide if they are correct in this belief, that Kuyper’s theology has something to contribute to the modern discussions about the doctrine of creation, in spite of the fact that Kuyper lived well over a century ago.  In my estimation, they are correct.  Indeed, I would even go so far as to say that the now mostly unread theologians of the past, especially those outside people’s own theological tradition, are ignored at our own peril.  Kuyper remains relevant, as readers of this volume will quickly discover.

To uncover that relevance, A & B first provide what can only be described as a ‘historical theology of the doctrine of creation’ in three chapters- from the Apostles’ Creed to the modern era.  Tracing the understanding of Creation from the Creed through the early church to the Reformation and then onward to the Modern Era, A & B describe how Creation has been viewed by our Christian forerunners.

As often happens in historical theology circles, rather than examining Zwingli’s views for themselves, they simply skip over him from Luther to Calvin to the Anabaptists, as though neither Zwingli nor Bullinger had anything to say on the subject.  Spoiler alert.  They did.  This is really unfortunate.

Indeed, they only mention Zwingli at all later on in the volume once, where they don’t cite him but rather cite a citation which barely mentions him and which is both misleading of his views and disparaging of those views.  This is a shame.  Nevertheless, it happened.

The Reformation cry ad fontes needs to be heard by scholars today so that their works are both deeper and more enriched.  Don’t cite a citation about Zwingli (or someone else), cite Zwingli (or someone else).  I shall continue to insist on this.

Chapter four of the present volume begins the study proper of the topic and commences from the ground of the Fatherhood of God.  Chapters 5 through 7 dig more deeply into the creation account of Genesis 1 and 2.  Chapter 8 then draws the attention of the reader to the Sabbath, and the fall of humanity.  And chapter 9 to the glory of what the authors call the ‘mandate of creation’.  Chapter 10 addresses the thorny issue of providence, as an aspect of creation and as an aspect of God’s ongoing involvement, intimately, with creation.

In chapter 11 the discussion turns to Christ, the Spirit, and the new creation and the volume proper ends in chapter 12 with what A & B term ‘Caveats on the Implications of the Doctrine of Creation’.

An extensive bibliography is included, as are indices of names, subjects, and scripture.

The book is exceptionally well written, and except for my dismay over their mishandling of Zwingli (perhaps they simply lack familiarity with him and his work), the whole volume is very commendable.  The argument is tightly woven and it follows in the tracks of Kuyper without clinging doggedly to his every viewpoint.  It is, in the best sense of the word, Kuyperian.  For that reason alone it is very much the kind of book that many theology students ought to read, for it is the ideal counterbalance to the Barthianism so rampant in American theological circles.  Kuyper, being a better theologian than Barth, strangely has fewer followers than Barth in America.  Frankly, if more people read Kuyper and his theology (and Kuyperian theology for that matter), they would soon lose their taste for Barth and find something better.

This book may be the ideal introduction to the wide wonderful world of Dutch Reformed Theology for American readers.

Let’s hope so.