Book Review: Excellence

Book Review: Excellence (The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue)

Author: Andreas J. Kostenberger

Publisher: Crossway ISBN: 9781581349108

“We are called to excellence in all activities of life, not least in our scholarship and ministry. Outlining virtues directly related to vocation and scholarship, Andreas Kostenberger tells us there is a way to be a better person and a better scholar—without needing to sacrifice our faith at the altar of academic respectability. Here is a call to a life of virtue lived out in excellence.”

It is my opinion this book is not primarily relegated to nor directed toward the life of the scholar. It happens to be written by a scholar from a very personal point of view, but the tenets and application that come from this quasi-memoir can be overlaid on any life…and should serve as a model of godly character and virtue for everyone—scholar or otherwise. I think the support for my position can be gleaned from Kostenberger’s opening statements found in the introduction of Excellence, titled “Called to Excellence” No Compromise. This is the mandate we were given and created for by our God—“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). We are created in the image of God, therefore we are created after a model of perfection for excellence in all that we do. We are also reminded of this mandate, I believe, in what I personally refer to as the Deutero-Colossae principle, which I have used as a reminder-model for my own spiritual character development. I heeded the mandate to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5), along with the Colossians discourse exhorting believers “Whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father… Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people” (Colossians 3:17, 23) as the Biblical instruction that we are all called to the life of excellence. Not just scholars. Or Preachers. Everyone—created by God and called to excellence as His reflected creations. And Kostenberger makes this same point in Part One of this book, appropriately titled Foundations of Excellence. After making the case for Excellence in part one, the author moves ahead systematically making his case that excellence affects and flows from every aspect and facet of life.

Parts two, three, and four describe the totality of excellence through the lenses of vocational excellence, moral excellence, and relational excellence respectively. While Kostenberger uses much Scripture to present his case, it seems to me the cornerstone of his presentation is based heavily on 2 Peter 1:3-11;

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.

The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins. So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away.  Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The book can seem a little one-sided in focus as it is written from the lens of an academic, but the reader that can see past that perspective into the largesse of what God has called all of humanity to become—creatures of excellence reflecting the glory of their Creator God—then there will be much gleaned for that person.

The book is annotated well and includes a nice bibliography along with a very thorough Scriptural index. There are some “dry” moments in the book, but the persevering reader will be rewarded greatly.

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