Academic

Book Review – Eschatology: Biblical, Historical, and Practical Approaches

Book Review

Eschatology: Biblical, Historical, and Practical Approaches

By D. Jeffrey Bingham

ISBN: 978-0825443442

Publisher: Kregel Academic

There is an old saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover…” and this is true with Eschatology: Biblical, Historical, and Practical Approaches. When I ordered this book, it was on the basis of the subtitle with consideration to the words biblical, historical, and practical. While I found this book informative, I did not find it biblical, historical, or practical. I will qualify my findings based on the subjective definition of all those words.

Eschatology by Bingham is one side of a box. The Christian tradition is rich and diverse as is the Jewish tradition from which Christianity is derived. When I considered “biblical” and “historical,” I was expecting a thorough treatment of the subject of Eschatology, which is defined as “The part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind.” I suppose I did get treatment on the subject, but it was very narrowly defined and almost exclusively from one perspective and tradition and that being Protestant and Reformed. While this was not totally unexpected, it was rather disappointing considering again the subtitle. I was hoping for a more inclusive and expansive treatment of the subject. As such, the material was presented in such a way that an unsuspecting reader might assume the dispensational view of biblical “final things” is the only way to understand and interpret the Scriptures.

It was my hope that the presentation of material would be more comprehensive and delivered in an objective manner, allowing the reader to make an informed decision on what theory they might understand as “more practical.” Unfortunately, this is/was not the case.

In fairness, the material, narrowly defined as it might be, was presented well. I appreciated the essay format with multiple authors. Likewise, I appreciated the effort and attempt at including a historical perspective although as a church history buff I noticed immediately how exclusionary the material actually was.

Book Review: Reordering the Trinity

Book Review: Reordering the Trinity

Author: Rodrick K. Durst

Publisher: Kregel Academic

ISBN: 9780825443787

Reordering the Trinity: Six Movements of God in the New Testament

Reordering the Trinity is a very interesting book that can inspire great conversation with Rodrick Durst’s observations and thesis ideas concerning the nature and movement of the Trinity as revealed in the New Testament Scriptures.

While I’m not personally convinced of Durst’s defense of his thesis, being unsure that  we can reduce the ordering of the persons of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) to a formulaic purpose of intent regarding their placement of order, I do find the argument very interesting.

In a very brief synopsis, Durst presents his case to support the idea that on the basis of the specific order of the persons of the Trinitarian mentions found in the New Testament, we are able to understand purposeful mission of God. In Part Two of his work, Durst lays out his explanation through the following “Trinitarian Matrix”:

  • The Sending Triad – (Father-Son-Spirit) – Missional Order
  • The Saving Triad – (Son-Spirit-Father) – Regenerative Order
  • The Indwelling Triad – (Son-Father-Spirit) – Christological Witness
  • The Standing Triad – (Spirit-Father-Son) – The Sanctifying Order
  • The Shaping Triad – (Father-Spirit-Son) – Spiritual Formation Order
  • The Uniting Triad – (Spirit-Son-Father) – The Ecclesial Order

As I have mentioned previously, the conversation in this book is very intriguing. The author has done a commendable job of presenting his thesis. There is a wealth of information presented in a very conversational tone. It has been my experience that deep conversations about the work of the Trinity are rare in the travels of my fellow Christian learners. I think Durst’s book can be a valuable tool to ignite these conversations and he has been thoughtful to include discussion starter questions at the end of each chapter.

Finally, I add this thought; the appendices, bibliography, and index reference are worth the investment of the book. Durst has included a number of tables and charts, a glossary of terms, and a host of additional tools helpful with experiential exercises. As mentioned, the bibliography is one of the more extensive I’ve encountered in my Trinitarian studies and I found it fairly represented across a broad steam of traditions and doctrinal representations. I will reiterate my lack of conviction concerning Durst’s proposition, but I am highly impressed with his study and will value his work as a very respectable resource for my continuing studies.

Book Review: A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles

Book Review: A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles

Author: Eugene H. Merrill

Publisher: Kregel Academic

ISBN: 9780825425592

Kregel Exegetical Library: A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles

A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles, written by Eugene H. Merrill is another fine addition in the Exegetical Library Commentary Series by Kregel Academic. I am one of those who rarely does deep study in the books of 1 & 2 Chronicles, not that I do not read from there, but most often the Chronicles is a supporting player to my studies from the books of Samuel and the Kings. It is for this reason I really do not have a strong comparison commentary for 1 & 2 Chronicles and must base my review solely on the merits of this work with a slight nod toward previous commentaries in this Exegetical Series.

One thing I’ve come to appreciate about Kregel’s commentaries is the wonderful charts and tables that are a strong feature in every commentary I’ve reviewed in this series. This work from Eugene Merrill is no exception. It too features a very helpful assortment of charts and tables. Similarly, I really like that the Kregel includes an index of all the charts and special features found within the commentary for easy navigation, for example, there are excurses featured throughout the book and each is notated by page for quick reference, notations of hymns and praises found in the Chronicles are also indexed as are other theological discourses. This, in my opinion, makes this a very handy resource for quick research.

Merrill has included a fairly substantial bibliography at the end of the commentary. I was/am especially impressed with the source material he has referenced for backgrounds and history. I feel my wallet will become substantially lighter after having encountered this list of references, several titles of which really caught my attention.

As I reported earlier in my review, I do not have any comparison to the Chronicles commentary specifically, but I am pleased with the writing style of Merrill and found it understandable and not overly academic or terribly full of Hebrew language, which I would have difficulty understanding since I have no schooling in the language and have to rely on my word study resources and the explanations of the author.

I continue to recommend the Exegetical Commentary Series by Kregel as it represents a solid, Evangelically objective approach to the Scriptures. I’ve come to trust the series and will continue to recommend it to friends and colleagues.

Book Review: A Commentary on Exodus

Book Review: A Commentary on Exodus

Author: Duane A. Garrett

Publisher: Kregel ISBN: 9780825425516

A Commentary on Exodus

The commentaries published by the Kregel Exegetical Library continue to impress me. The Commentary on Exodus by Duane A. Garrett is another strong volume in the Old Testament Series.

One of the many things that I particularly like about this series is there are no compromises where scholastic excellence is involved. The volumes in this commentary series are the pinnacle of academic excellence in my opinion. This can be an intimidating attribute for some, but I would say there is no reason for intimidation. In addition to academic excellence, the commentary is among the most readable that I have experienced. I am not a language or textual criticism expert and I still find the writing conversational and understandable. The marriage of readability and scholasticism is what moves me to rank this series so highly.

Duane Garrett has done an exceptional job with research and exposition of the Exodus narrative. Beginning with an incredibly comprehensive introduction addressing geography, archeology, Egyptian dynasties, socio-political circumstance, textual criticism and so much more, Garrett lays a solid foundation from which he works the major themes in his Commentary on Exodus.

No matter what commentary or commentaries you may have in your  library for this key book from the Old Testament Scriptures, Kregel’s Commentary on Exodus by Duane Garrett is a worthy addition and compliment to your collection.

Book Review: Elders in the Life of the Church

Book Review: Elders in the Life of the Church

Author: Phil Newton and Matt Schmucker

Publisher: Kregel Ministry ISBN: 9780825442728

Elders in the Life of the Church: Rediscovering the Biblical Model for Church Leadership

I was not expecting what I got when I first ordered this book for review from Kregel Publishing. I ordered the book based on the title Elders in the Life of the Church: Rediscovering the Biblical Model for Church Leadership and after reading it, I think the original title should have remained intact (Elders in Congregational Life).

I was hopeful this book would speak more generically to the structure of church leadership from a historical and early (ancient) church perspective. I admit that I did not read any reviews or summaries of the book before I ordered… I should have. Before I proceed with my review, it is only fair for me to state the book is well written and engaging. The writing is full of references, both Scripture and bibliography, and contains many personal anecdotes. It is in these regards that I offer my highest praises for Elders in the Life of the Church.

My criticisms for this work are not related to the information presented or the experience of the men who have written it. My criticism is directed to the narrow focus of the subject framed in a very restricted context. There are multiple facets and forms of church government and some of the oldest forms of that government, while not congregationally driven, can be identified as benefiting from the leadership of elders. I do not feel that this subject was addressed sufficiently. The authors framed their thesis using Scripture and interpreted those texts almost exclusively for their particular model of government, almost as if to say, “This is the most accurate understanding of what the Scriptures intended.” The framework of this model is also decidedly from a Calvinist perspective, which once again, alienates other traditions and models for Church government.  Once the original thesis is established the authors choose to follow the experience of a particular church (a Baptist Church in North America) to illustrate their findings and support their model. As I stated earlier, this particular context is very limiting; consequently, I felt out of my context and quite alienated in understanding how this was “rediscovering the Biblical model for church leadership.”

Personally, what I found most prominent in this book was an institutional model and not truly the role of elders in a church. I was disappointed that the scope of this book was so limited. I think there was an opportunity for more inclusivity of other traditions and a broader look at the role of elder leadership in the body of the Church regardless of the form and function of administrative governance.

 


 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Kregel Ministry Publishing to read and post a review on my site. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: James the Just

Book Review: James the Just

Author: Dr. David Friedman

Publisher: Messianic Jewish Publishers ISBN: 9781936716449

James the Just: Yeshua’s Brother & Chief Rabbi of the Messianic Jewish Community

This is a short book, but very dense; this is to say, it might not be for everybody. When I was first offered this book for review, I was excited and looked forward to learning more about the Jewish perspective on the writings of James or Ya’akov from the collection of Scripture known as the New Testament. My goal in ordering this book was to hopefully learn more about the actual intent of these writings and perhaps understand more clearly, what may get lost in English interpretation.

Truthfully, there are some gems to be gleaned from this little book, but it was a difficult and cumbersome read for me. I’m not a Biblical languages scholar, nor am I a Biblical history expert; consequently, I struggled with finding a rhythm while reading through James the Just. There are many references to the original languages of Hebrew and Greek throughout the texts; likewise, there are quite a few transliterations of the texts that also added to the slowing down of my reading. These details contributed to my inability to digest approximately thirty to forty percent of the book. It is for this reason that I refer to the “mining of gems.” It was, in a very real sense, my experience. I would read, skim, read, skim… find a nugget that piqued my interest and then try to understand and polish up the nugget I had found. The ultimate end of this experience was that it made my level of enjoyment minimal; I felt my reading was more inclined toward work than anything else.

The book is well-annotated, complete with bibliography, reference tables, endnotes, and glossary. My experience will likely not be the average experience. I expect that most persons ordering this book will have a better background with the original languages and the socio-political history of the Jewish people. This is a very academic book and not something easily understood by the average Bible student.

As I have already said, there are some wonderful gems to be gleaned in this book. I particularly enjoyed chapter five, which seemed most like a commentary for me. I do caution you, before you order, evaluate what your purposes and expectations are for this book.

Book Review: A Commentary on the Psalms

Book Review: A Commentary on the Psalms

Author: Allen P. Ross

Publisher: Kregel Exegetical Library

ISBN: 9780825425639

A Commentary on the Psalms: Volume 2 (42—89)

I continue to be impressed with Kregel’s Exegetical Library and Commentary series. I have obtained and reviewed several offerings from this set and the excellence and consistency remain steadfast. This second volume in Alan P. Ross’ Commentary on the Psalms keeps the “high bar” standard alive in the series.

This is actually the first volume of the Psalms series I have had the opportunity to work in. Volume one was released in February of 2012 and volume three is slated for release later this year (November 2014). I can say that I will be going back for volume one and I’ll be waiting in line for volume three, as I’ve enjoyed this copy immensely and count it as an indispensible resource for my Psalm studies and personal devotions.

Allen P. Ross (PhD, University of Cambridge) is professor of divinity at Beeson Divinity School and has also taught at Trinity Episcopal School of Ministry and Dallas Theological Seminary. Having chaired the Old Testament department at Dallas Theological Seminary and served as Hebrew Scholar assisting in the translations of the New Living Bible and the New King James Bible, Dr. Ross is imminently qualified to offer exegesis and insight from the Psalms.

The treatment of each Psalm begins with an introduction of the text and textual variants. Here Ross shares the English translation and information relative to the original Hebrew, Greek translation variants, and other relevant manuscript and/or translation information. Next, is composition and context indicating the nature and purpose of the Psalm (lament, praise, hymn, confession of repentance, etc.). Following these introductory sections, Ross begins his exegetical analysis and expository commentary. This section is where Ross’ expertise truly shines. His extensive knowledge of the Old Testament and understanding of the Hebrew language combined with the temperament of an educator make this presentation very readable and interesting. I have used many commentaries that tend to gravitate toward one or the other spectrum of too academic or too narrative (almost paraphrasing the text with personal opinion). This commentary series seems to rest in the sweet spot of that spectrum with a comforting push toward the academic side. Ross completes his treatment of each Psalm with a homiletical application or “what does this mean to me” and “what should I do with it” consideration.

As I said at the beginning of my review, this is another fine addition to the Kregel Exegetical Library and should be near the top of anyone’s list for Commentary sets working with the Psalms. You can check out an example chapter here.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Kregel Publishing to read and post a review on my site. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: Sermon on the Mount

Book Review: Sermon on the Mount

Author: Scot McKnight

Publisher: Zondervan ISBN: 9780310327134

The Story of God Bible Commentary: Sermon on the Mount

I have appreciated the scholarship of Scot McKnight for many years and really connect with his writing style, so when I first heard Scot was going to be part of the editorial team of this new commentary series, I was excited about the prospects. I’ve only had the opportunity to check out the first couple of installments for this series, but my wait is being rewarded. So far, I think this is a very promising commentary set; it doesn’t rehash old conversations, but seems to build on and build out from them. This volume, The Sermon on the Mount, is a fine example of “building on and building out.” More on this point later, but first a few technical details about the series.

Several things about this commentary series make it a new favorite of mine. First, I really like the format. Zondervan has employed a three-stage outline to assist the reader through reading God’s Story. The first stage, or section one, encourages the reader to “Listen to the Story.” Zondervan explains it as follows: “Listen to the Story” includes the complete New International Version text with references to other texts at work in each passage encouraging the reader to hear it within the Bible’s grand story.” Section two, “Explain the Story” is described as exploring and illuminating each text as embedded in its canonical and historical setting. Finally, section three, seeks to impart practical application through “Living the Story.”

The formatting of the book itself is similar to that of other commentaries, whereas a short passage of text (usually a single unit of thought) is taken and expounded. In the case of The Story of God Commentary, the workflow is as illustrated above. While the writing is not highly technical and can be digested by the non-academic reader, there are theological and philosophical terms used that the layperson may not be familiar with; nonetheless, it is my opinion the book is accessible to the layperson and equally challenging to the academic. Both books I have reviewed (Sermon on the Mount and Philippians by Lynn H. Cohick), are well documented. There are extensive footnotes listing resources as well as expanded explanations of terms or references from the author as necessary. There is a thoughtful inclusion of Scripture, Subject, and Author indices at the end of the book. My only criticism regarding documentation of resources is the neglect of including a comprehensive bibliography. As mentioned, there are footnoted sources that meet this need, but it would be nice to have these sources in a single section.

My personal likes are still in the discovery stage as I make my way through the commentary, but I can list a few things that are putting big smiles on my face. First, I’m in agreement with the perspective with which McKnight writes and draws conclusions. Much of this perspective is outlined in the introduction (which is brilliant in my opinion). Additionally, the framework for this discussion on the SOTM is clearly established in a handful of quotes (found on opposite of page one) and the resource list provided for those “preaching or teaching the sermon” (p.18). Second, and likely most important to me, is the position that the Sermon is the expression of God’s Kingdom expectation for us today. Not only is it an example of how we are to live, today, but it is a promise of empowerment that enables us to live according to the Kingdom mandates set forth in this Sermon. I appreciate the gentle, patient, and meticulous teaching style of Dr. McKnight as he expounds on these details through the commentary.

There is much to glean in this commentary on the Sermon on the Mount. There are more technical and clinical versions available, and I think they should be employed as well, but this work should be well-considered and regarded as a major companion piece to any serious study of the SOTM. The research and resource lists included in this volume are worth its inclusion alone.

Get the free e-book on the SOTM Commentary here

Book Review: Embracing Shared Ministry

Book Review: Embracing Shared Ministry

Author: Joseph H. Hellerman

Publisher: Kregel Ministry ISBN: 9780825442643

Embracing Shared Ministry: Power and Status in the Early Church and Why It Matters Today

This was a very interesting book for me. I was initially captured by it because of an experience I had in shared ministry a little over three years ago. I attempted to be part of a church plant that was chartered to operate under a plurality of leadership. In theory, our faith community sounded wonderful; I was advised by people that our plans were much too idealistic and utopian sounding. I was warned that our efforts might be doomed to failure because leadership always rises to the top and it was unlikely that multiple personalities would be willing to mutually submit to one another. I still believe in the concept, but my detractors were right… at least they were right with regard to our attempt to operate shared leadership. Our attempt at shared ministry and a plurality of leadership was a “failure to launch.” It is for this reason; I was very interested in Joseph Hellerman’s instruction and example.

He begins this work and exploration of shared ministry with a very thorough analysis of the ancient world of the Philippians. This is extremely important and helpful for understanding a proper interpretation of the text (letter of Paul to the Philippians). The entirety of Part One of Hellerman’s book is about Power and Authority in the Roman World, and covers the first three chapters. This is some great contextual work here on the socio-political world of the early church. In my opinion, the discussion Hellerman engages with his reader on this cultural aspect of the Roman world might be worth the price of the book alone. This is good stuff that will certainly carry over in the reading of other Pauline Epistles.

Part Two, Power and Authority in the Early Church, deals specifically with the impact of the Gospel in the Philippian church. Hellerman stresses the importance of Paul’s message and example of pushing back against the cultural forces that shaped the society of Philippi. Power, status, legal and social privilege were the mainstay and chief commodity ruling the citizenship of Philippi. The message of “self-emptying” (kenotic living Phil. 2:5-7) as exemplified in the life of Christ was completely antithetical to the social status quo of the audience the Apostle was addressing. Chapter Five, The Humiliation of Christ, meticulously unpacks this “self-emptying” attitude of Christ his followers are called to emulate.

“The other-centered approach to power and authority illustrated in the humiliation and exaltation of Christ—and exemplified in the behavior of Paul and Silas in their ministry in Philippi—comes to life anew when viewed against the background of Roman social values and practices. There is something to be said for reading the Bible in its historical and cultural context.” (p.173)

Chapter Six, When Jesus is Not Enough, serves as the transition to Part Three, Power and Authority in the Church Today, and the practical examples for the cruciform lifestyles Christ-followers are called to lead. The examples Hellerman shares are fascinating to me, first person accounts that resonated with my personal experiences in the North American church world of the seventies, eighties, (I bailed in the 90’s), two-thousands, and two-thousand teens. The stories, examples, critiques, and proposals for ministry models captivated and held my attention throughout the remainder of the book.

“It is a long way from Roman Philippi to modern America… The cultural distance between Paul’s world and ours becomes shorter, however, when we consider the basic contours of human nature and the good news of the gospel. Some things are timeless—like the example of Jesus in Philippians 2… The perennial challenge is to figure out how to contextualize the enduring truths of the Bible in our own socio-cultural matrix.” (p.290)

This is a fascinating book, an excellent read on several levels. The historical exegesis alone is valuable for continuing Pauline studies. The application of cruciform living is the bedrock for all Christian virtues. Add these teachings to the organizational leadership principles proposed and you have a superb mix of application. Hellerman includes a comprehensive bibliography to compliment his teaching and support his proposals. Overall, a very good read.

Book Review: Readings in Historical Theology

Book Review: Readings in Historical Theology

Author: Robert F. Lay

Publisher: Kregal Academic ISBN: 9780825430671

Readings in Historical Theology: Primary Sources of the Christian Faith

This is a fabulous compilation. Originally published in 2009, I do not understand why this sourcebook flew under my radar for so long; nevertheless, I am certainly glad to have found it now.

Robert F. Lay designed this assemblage of Readings in Historical Theology as a sourcebook for students to encourage critical reading and thinking skills while fostering their appreciation for classic Christian authors. I believe he succeeded and even surpassed his goals with this collection of writings.

The readings in this book span two millennia of Christian history and represent some of the most significant theological contributions to the Christian faith. Included in this single volume is a collection of the primary creeds, confessions, and catechisms from the early church through the reformation. There are excerpts and selections from the early church fathers, desert fathers, and the monastic movement as well as church council documents and Reformation theses and confessions. There are also writings on the subjects of hermeneutics and apologetics. Additionally, the book also includes a CD containing more than fifty readings totaling over one thousand more pages of historical writings! This is truly a monumental collection.

The selections are arranged thematically and then chronologically within each theme. In each section, there are questions for guided reading and group discussion. Author Robert Lay also has included a timeline (chronology) of the select events and writings at the beginning of the book. Personally, I found this a very helpful addition.

There was nothing that I did not like about this collection of writings, but if there is an area that might be improved upon it is the formatting of the book contents itself. While it did not bother me personally, I think the layout of the writings is a bit boring and run together without any real noticeable separation. It is very text-bookish and drab… and for a book of this caliber, it could have been put together with a bit more visual appeal. Aesthetic critique aside, don’t let the drab formatting keep you from this book. It is a definitive starter piece for the consummate introduction to the greatest writings in Christian history.

About the Author

Robert F. Lay is professor of Christian educational ministries and university archivist at Taylor University. He specializes in Christian educational theory, philosophy, and history and is a member of the North American Professors of Christian Education, the Evangelical Theological Society, the American Society of Church History, and the Indiana Association of Historians.

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