The Art of Listening: Dialogue, Shame, and Pastoral Care, by Neil Pembroke, (reviewed by Troy Nanninga)
Charles Hodge Revisited: A Critical Appraisal of His Life and Work, ed. John W. Stewart and James H. Moorhead, (reviewed by Earl Wm. Kennedy)
Christianity with an Asian Face: Asian American Theology in the Making, by Peter C. Phan, (reviewed by Daniel J. Adams)
Christology: A Global Introduction, by Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, (reviewed by Christopher B. Kaiser)
Confessing and Commending the Faith: Historic Witness and Apologetic Method, by Alan P. F. Sell, (reviewed by Phillip Luke Sinitiere)
Discovering the Narrow Path: A Guide to Spiritual Balance, by N. Graham Standish, (reviewed by J. David Muyskens)
Evocations of Grace: Writings on Ecology, Theology, and Ethics, by Joseph Sittler (ed. by Steven Bouma-Prediger & Peter Bakken), (reviewed by Eric Johnson)
Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture, by William D. Romanowski, (reviewed by Jeffrey Wayne Taylor)
Faith of Our Foremothers: Women Changing Religious Education, ed. by Barbara Anne Keely, (reviewed by Marcia Gibbons)
The Free Church & the Early Church: Bridging the Historical and Theological Divide, ed. by D. H. Williams, (reviewed by Thomas A. Kopecek)
The Future of Protestant Worship: Beyond the Worship Wars, by Ronald P. Byars, (reviewed by J. David Muyskens)
Jesus Driven Ministry, by Ajith Fernando (reviewed by Jess Scholten)
Jesus Remembered, by James D. G. Dunn (reviewed by Robert E. Van Voorst)
Judaism When Christianity Began: A Survey of Belief and Practice, by Jacob Neusner, (reviewed by Sylvio J. Scorza)
Liquid Church, by Pete Ward, (reviewed by Jeffrey Wayne Taylor)
Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity, by Larry W. Hurtado, (reviewed by Christopher B. Kaiser)
The Marks of God's Children, by Jean Taffin (trans. Peter Y. De Jong, ed. James A. De Jong), (reviewed by Glenn Wyper)
The Nonviolent Atonement, by J. Denny Weaver (reviewed by Eric Johnson)
Pastoral Theology in the Classical Tradition, by Andrew Purves, (reviewed by Tom Schwanda)
Prayer: 50th Anniversary Edition, by Karl Barth, ed. Don E. Saliers, (reviewed by Marcia Gibbons)
Recovering Mother Kirk: The Case for Liturgy in the Reformed Tradition, by D.G. Hart, (reviewed by Glenn Wyper)
The Salvation of Souls: Nine Previously Unpublished Sermons on the Call of the Ministry and the Gospel by Jonathan Edwards, ed. Richard A. Bailey and Gregory A. Wills, (reviewed by Phillip L. Sinitiere)
Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods, by Darrell L. Bock, (reviewed by David W. Jurgens)
Transforming Congregational Culture, by Anthony B. Robinson, (reviewed by Jess Scholten)
The Trinity (Guides to Theology), by Roger E. Olson and Christopher A. Hall, (reviewed by Glenn Wyper)
What Does It Mean to be Saved? Broadening Evangelical Horizons of Salvation, ed. John G. Stackhouse, Jr., (reviewed by Glenn Wyper)
Neil Pembroke is the lecturer in pastoral care at the School of Theology, Flinders University of South Australia, and the Adelaide College of Divinity. In this book, he provides a practical theology of giving care.
This should be a very helpful work for all who are involved in providing care for God’s people. Through the use of the work of philosophers Gabriel Marcel and Martin Buber and ideas such as the biblical understanding of compassion, Pembroke provides a solid foundation for providing deep and meaningful care and what it means to “walk” with people. He also includes numerous case studies and stories, which should be helpful in bringing these ideas to life. While it is written for an academic/pastoral audience, I found the book to be written in a very accessible way that allows the reader to digest what is being said.
For its insightful dialogue on the nature of the relationship between care- giver and care-receiver, as well as its insights into what it means to care for people in a truly pastoral way, I would recommend this book for all who are involved in caring for God’s people.
The two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Princeton Seminary theologian, Charles Hodge (1797-1878), was marked by a conference held there, featuring papers by ten contributors. These have now been edited and published, with an introduction and conclusion by the conference’s hosts, both church historians currently teaching at the seminary.
During much of the twentieth century, Hodge was either idolized or demonized as the forerunner of B. B. Warfield (1851-1921) and J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937), the “Old Princeton’s” leaders in the struggle against modernism. The present volume evinces a more dispassionate approach to Hodge. While the lines between those (evangelicals) who still largely identify with him and those who see him as mostly history can often still be detected, the former can criticize and the latter can appreciate elements of Hodge’s thought and life. Reasons for the new era of good feelings about Hodge include the passage of time, the postmodern mindset, and a large crop of evangelical (even Calvinist) church historians.
Editor Stewart contextualizes (for postmoderns) Hodge and many facets of his thought. James Turner places him in the intellectual milieu of the nineteenth century (pre-historicism). Bruce Kuklick, something of an outsider, regrets that Hodge was not where the action was, namely, in philosophical pragmatism. Ronald Numbers emphasizes Hodge’s love for and intelligent interaction with the sciences. Brooks Holifield sees Hodge as a fine but typical representative of the professional seminary professor of his era. Brian Gerrish thinks that Hodge did not understand and appreciate Schleiermacher adequately. Louise Stevenson explores Hodge’s traditional (Pauline) view of women. Mark Noll laments Hodge’s failure to unify his spirituality with his theology adequately. David Kelsey finds Hodge lacking in “historical consciousness.” Richard Carwardine traces Hodge’s politics from Federalist through Whig to Republican. Allen Guelzo locates three antislavery “moments” in Hodge. He concludes, however, that Hodge was too much influenced by having actually owned a slave and too much motivated by concern to maintain southern support for Princeton Seminary. Coeditor Moorhead concludes by noting that Hodge can now be seen in a more balanced way than heretofore, as neither “a bogey” nor “an icon.”
Recurring themes include Hodge’s views on slavery, Darwin, women, and Scripture, as well as his wide-ranging interests (beyond theology), his piety, and his Scottish commonsense realism (and Baconianism), with its accompanying tin ear for history. Conspicuous by its absence was Hodge’s relation to the earlier Reformed tradition, including Calvin, the Westminster Confession, and the early Princeton Seminary’s theological lodestar, Francis Turretin of Geneva (died 1687).
Particularly rewarding for me was the rich use by some contributors of Hodge’s unpublished letters. A fine bibliography of works by and about Hodge is a bonus, but there is no index. Not for novices, this book is highly recommended as a refreshing mainline corrective to the outdated image of Charles Hodge.
Earl Wm. Kennedy
Peter C. Phan, a Vietnamese American theologian, has written a significant book on new directions in theology arising out of the Asian immigrant community. Phan begins by pointing out the statistical realities of the 2000 census concerning Asian immigrant populations in the U.S.—2.4 million Chinese, 1.8 million Filipinos, 2.6 million Indians, 1.1 million Vietnamese, and 1 million Koreans. Many of these immigrants, especially among the Filipinos, Vietnamese, and Koreans, are Christians, and they are beginning to reflect theologically upon their immigrant experience. They are both Asian and American, but their theology is both between two cultures and beyond these same two cultures. Phan refers to this as intercultural theology and indicates that this is the direction in which theology is moving. Intercultural theology includes insights gained from various liberation theologies as well as ideas coming from the process of enculturation of the Christian faith into the cultures of Asia.
Since the majority of the Vietnamese Christians are Roman Catholic, Phan gives considerable attention to official documents such as the papal encyclical Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason), the apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in Asia, statements arising from the six meetings of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, and programs catechesis and the writing of catechisms in Asia. Protestants, who may be unfamiliar with just how Catholics do theology, will discover that there is considerable latitude of theological opinion, including sometimes sharp disagreement with official papal statements. Central to the entire enculturation debate, however, are two firm commitments—compatibility with the gospel and communion with the universal church (207, 213). Of particular interest is the reinterpretation of Christology so that Jesus is understood to be both the eldest son and ancestor.
Readers of the Reformed Review will be especially interested in chapter 7, “Jesus with a Chinese Face,” in which Phan discusses the theology of Taiwanese Presbyterian theologian and current president of the WARC, C. S. Song. Song places his Christology within the wider context of the reign of God, which has a much greater appeal for Asians than do traditional western Christologies, which tend to be somewhat abstract and philosophical.
Phan draws attention to the fact that recently there has been a shift from the “first evangelization” directed toward non-Christian cultures, to the “new or second evangelization” directed toward western cultures that were Christianized in the past but have now become largely secular (224). In his concluding discussion on the development of an emerging Vietnamese American theology, Phan puts forward the intriguing possibility that perhaps Asian American intercultural theologies may serve as a corrective to the secularization process in the United States, and thus contribute to the second evangelization of North America.
Christianity with an Asian Face is a must read for all who are concerned about ministry within immigrant communities, doing theology ecumenically across cultures, and carrying out mission both to the non-Christian cultures of Asia and to the secularized cultures of the West.
Daniel J. Adams
Christology continues to be one of the most active and controversial areas of Christian theology. It is impossible for most of us to keep up with all of the new ideas that are developed from biblical studies, socioeconomic analysis, and the emergence of non-Western Christian voices. The variety of approaches is so great now that it is difficult even to know much about the contexts out of which many new books are written.
Fortunately we have several excellent overviews to orient the reader. Generally these overviews are of two types. Some, like Klaas Runia’s The Present-Day Christological Debate (originally published in 1984) and Scott Cowdell’s Is Jesus Unique? (1996), focus on Christologies that come out of the European and American universities. Others, like Anton Wessels’s Images of Jesus: How Jesus is Perceived and Portrayed in Non-European Cultures (1990), Priscilla Pope-Levison and John R. Levison’s Jesus in Global Contexts (1992), and Volker Kuster’s The Many Faces of Jesus Christ (2001), introduce us to Latin American, Asian, African, Afro-American, and feminist perspectives.
Kärkkäinen’s new survey has the great advantage of covering both of these types of review. After a ninety-page introduction to the biblical and historical background of Christology, the author treats a number of representative Western Euro-American (male) theologians like Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Jürgen Moltmann, and John Hick. Then there are four chapters that cover other types of Western Christology: process, feminist, black, and postmodern, and six chapters on non-Western Christologies: Latin American, African, and Asian.
I would recommend this volume as perhaps the most comprehensive account of recent work in Christology. However it does not cover recent New Testament scholars like N. T. Wright and Marcus Borg. For that I refer readers to Ben Witherington’s The Jesus Quest (1995). And it does not provide a good overall analysis of the reasons for and expressions of recent dissatisfaction with the Definition of Chalcedon. For that I still recommend Klaas Runia’s The Present- Day Christological Debate, which is now back in print (2002). With the publication of Kärkkäinen’s work, pastors should have no trouble catching up on the wide variety of current developments in Christology.
Christopher B. Kaiser
The third and final installment of a trilogy on apologetics, Alan Sell’s Confessing and Commending the Faith is a robust conclusion to masterful analysis of historical and contemporary philosophical currents and the space Christianity occupies in such company. Sell is keen to point out that his system finds its anchor with the “central [and] distinctive” fact of God’s (historical) free grace in Christ (9).
Sell begins by defining the Christian faith and helpfully warns the thoughtful observer to exercise wariness lest one externalize or fossilize the gospel in antiquarian form (24). The gospel possesses a systematic yet winsome quality, Sell asserts, but in the end the gospel itself is about the one who performed the “redemptive deed” (27). Such is the confession the whole Church must learn to articulate, consonant with the recollection that the gospel is timeless (47). The confessor, contends Sell, must be sensitive to cultural context or fall painfully into “disastrous sectarian consequences” (60).
The middle third of Confessing and Commending the Faith considers the delicate and discursive issues of language about God. Before highlighting the superiority of the discourse surrounding confessional worship, Sell painstakingly challenges objectivism, Wittgensteinianism, and postmodernism, three modes of thought that actively seek to silence God’s voice.
The final third of Confessing and Commending the Faith, indeed the most intellectually rigorous and therefore satisfying portion of the book, tackles broadly the function of reason and emotion in Christian epistemology. Sell concludes that throughout history God has conveyed knowledge of himself through both reason and revelation, of which experience is an integral part.
Ultimately, Sell constructs a challenging apologetic narrative that thoughtfully engages contemporary philosophical debates and draws extensively from diverse (i.e., East and West) traditions to mediate successfully conversations between ancient divines and modern theologians. Such reasoned eclecticism brings honor and glory to the Christ for whom Sell speaks (354).
Phillip Luke Sinitiere
N. Graham Standish is pastor of the Calvin Presbyterian Church in Zelienople, Pennsylvania. He writes to help us negotiate a narrow path of commitment to God to follow wherever God leads us, requiring a willingness to be transformed. Such commitment is hard because there is so much resistance to surrendering ourselves to God, “following Christ through darkness, uncertainty, difficulty and suffering.” We want clarity and certainty. But the only way to discover and serve God is to “walk where God tells me to walk,” to walk on the “narrow path” between extremes as we follow Christ.
Standish points to the mystics as models and guides as people who loved God and sought to follow God’s will. From them we learn to love God above all else, to be humble, detached, surrendered to God, to live in the present moment and to spend time in solitude. What we need is balance, with God at the fulcrum. Jesus is our model in the way he took time for prayer and retreat in the midst of his ministry. We need integration of the spiritual, mental, physical, and relational dimensions of our lives. Standish says that the narrow path leads us to form a relationship with God in all three persons of the Trinity. We experience God as “Eternal Purpose, Incarnational Presence, and Inspiring Power.”
The author applies principles of balance and integration to paths of healing and of service. He explores the need for integration of theology, spirituality, and religion.
I wish he had done more to apply the principles of balance and integration to the practice of prayer, balancing the various dimensions of speaking and listening and simply being with God. Standish says that contemplative prayer is not for everyone. Yet I believe integration can mean a balanced prayer life that includes both silence and conversation, contemplation and action.
Stories from the author’s own experience and of a variety of people of faith make the book interesting. Sometimes redundant, the book is best read devotionally taking small portions at a time and reflecting on what is said. It will be especially useful as a tool for self-examination. Every chapter ends with reflection questions. The strength of the book is in the many ways it points out how prevailing trends and attitudes run counter to walking the narrow way.
An appendix offers guidance for using the book in a small group.
J. David Muyskens
A number of books about the Christian’s relationship to the environment are available today, which means a reader must be somewhat discerning when picking one. Some values distinguish a good Christian environmentalist from a mediocre one. The most compelling Christian ecological convictions begin with a commitment to the Creator rather than an attempt to baptize secular environmentalism. Also, more than enough sermons and books have been written on the first two chapters of Genesis and environmental stewardship.
New writings ought to go deeper and offer a broader scope of Christian faithfulness in regard to creation. Finally, a valuable book on a Christian’s relationship to the environment should inspire a way of living.
Sittler’s writings (written from 1954 to 1975) satisfy all these values. As he examines the Christian’s relationship to creation, Sittler is not motivated by the negative consequences of environmental degradation, by apocalyptic fears, or by moralism. Instead, he describes how the relationship of a Christian to the world should be wed to the relationship to God. Sittler talks about ecology with words like “grace” and “delight.” He approaches environmental issues through the powerful theological themes of God’s redeeming creation and God being a Lord of lovingkindness. As Sittler discusses the central ideas of faith in relation to the world, a uniquely Christian perspective on the environment emerges. He addresses thoroughly the scope of the Christian’s relationship to creation and provides a framework for ethics of living.
For these reasons, Sittler’s writings are exactly the kind of words a Christian environmentalist ought to read. Because the book is a collection of essays, excerpts, and addresses, the reader who seeks a linear path will be disappointed. But for the reader who is open and looking for environmental theology that may convert the church, this book will satisfy.
Romanowski is professor of communication arts and sciences at Calvin College, and he writes as a Calvinist. He regards human culture as part of our created humanness, a part of our ongoing participation as cocreators with God. Culture indeed is fallen, like every aspect of our humanity. But, rather than recoil from it, Christians are to seek to redeem culture, thereby glorifying God. Culture includes popular art, that is, entertainment. His goal for this book is to help create a community that can discern and evaluate the worldviews presented in entertainment. Such a community would possess the wisdom to act as faithful consumers and producers of popular culture.
The author accomplishes a lot in a small book. He defines culture and explains its importance, argues that Christians must engage culture redemptively, sketches elements of a Christian worldview (creation, fall, redemption), describes the popular arts and their relation to religion, criticizes “Christian” music and film as dealing with too narrow a range of human experience, presents and critiques common Hollywood perspectives, and models Christian discernment of popular art by examining Bruce Springsteen and the movie Titanic. For Romanowski, whether a movie or song presents God or denies God depends upon the worldview assumed by the artwork: Does it portray life honestly? Is it compatible with the Christian understanding of reality as created, fallen, and being redeemed? The discerning Christian must seek to answer these questions, not simply count bad words or note whether God is mentioned or not. (By the way, in Romanowski’s evaluations, Springsteen does well; Titanic does not.)
There were a few questions I wish Romanowski had addressed. Are some genres beyond redemption (e.g., slasher movies)? How would a discerning community function (e.g., should all Christians be expected to evaluate all of popular culture or would some with discernment be expected to guide the listening and viewing habits of others)? This is a helpful book for all thoughtful Christians. The reading level (college, I think) might limit its direct usefulness with high school and some adult classes, but church educators will be stimulated to begin planning a unit.
Jeffrey Wayne Taylor
While this compilation does, in fact, introduce the reader to the lives and work of a dozen religious educators, to label this collection “biography” fails to do justice to the work. First, Keely provides a framework for understanding the principles of feminist religious education. Second, the individual essays pay a long overdue tribute to these dedicated women whose work has been overlooked in anthologies of religious educators of the twentieth century.
Keely defines as feminist any work that presupposes “commitment to the equality of women and men and an understanding of all creation as sacred” (4). She further defines eight “threads” that distinguish feminist religious education: the integration of life and experience into the education; understanding that religious education happens in community; understanding that religious education is liberating (and thus, by definition, political); attention to power within the church; the emphasis on the collegiality of laity and clergy; extending contextual religious education extends beyond the immediate community of learning (for the sake of all God’s creation); theory and practice are integrated; language shapes religious knowing and what it means for us—female and male—to be made in the image of God.
The author of each biography is a woman whose own influential life has been shaped by a personal relationship with the subject. Those highlighted represent a broad spectrum of Christian traditions, as well as a diversity of experience. While their names may be new, chances are your own faith journey has been enriched through the impact of some or all of these remarkable pioneers. The challenge to the church is to recognize the importance of theological education for religious educators, to recognize the broader definition of religious education as the whole of the life of the community of faith, and to continue the transforming work of religious education as defined by these eight important threads.
This collection is a sequel to the editor’s Retrieving the Tradition & Renewing Evangelicalism (Eerdmans, 1999), the thesis of which was that “patristic Christianity offers a coherent and faithful ecumenicity that provides ‘roots’ of identity that the Free Church must recover.” Williams has engaged seven church historians to write essays related to his vision—three Baptists like himself, one scholar from each of the three branches of the Disciples of Christ/Churches of Christ, and a Mennonite.
In some ways Williams’s colleagues share his vision, especially that such Free Church slogans as “No Book but the Bible” lead to misunderstanding both the early church and sola scriptura in the Reformation. Pointing out that the canon was consolidated only during the fourth century, F. W. Norris asks, “Does it make . . . sense to say that the fourth-century church was making very good decisions about the Bible but mostly poor ones about everything else?” (15). In a study entitled “Sola Scriptura in Zurich?” P. R. Pleasants finds that in the interactions among Grebel, Hubmaier, and Zwingli “there were other factors that ensured that Scripture was not alone” (98). W. Tabbernee contends that “the ‘early church,’ not merely the ‘New Testament church,’ was extremely important” to Alexander Campbell, the founder of the Disciples movement (180).
Yet most of the contributors seem more reticent about bridging the divide between Free Church and Early Church than is Williams. For instance, G. W. Schlabach, while engaging the “suspect tradition” of Augustine, titles his contribution, “The Correction of the Augustinians,” and writes most passionately when questioning Augustine’s appeal to the empire against the Donatists and how normative “just war theory” was to him. D. J. Bingham focuses on a passage in Irenaeus as a “model for Bible reading” that stresses the primacy of the Spirit so important to Free Church approaches (39-46). And Pleasants carefully questions the extent to which Grebel and Hubmaier knew or took seriously Patristic views (84-86). Indeed, Williams himself appeals to Hus, Luther, Bullinger, and Calvin to argue that the Reformation viewed the ancient creeds and Fathers as faithful to Scripture, not to Free Church precedents (110-118). Williams appears to be asking the Free Church to expand its identity rather than
just to recover one. This collection leaves one wondering whether Free Church enthusiasm for Williams’s project can be sustained.
Thomas A. Kopecek
Ronald Byars is professor of preaching and worship at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. In this book he addresses the issues that have led to the “worship wars” over the style of worship in our time. He begins with a description of the anxiety caused by our changing culture and the tension between adapting to the culture and maintaining the integrity of the gospel. Some people who sit in pews on Sunday and others who have left the church are “ritually bored.” They may be able to say what it is about worship they find inadequate, but they are not aware of what they really need. A marketing approach trying to give them what they want will miss the mark of meeting with the risen Christ.
Byars makes a case for all worship being traditional in that it must include the three practices that have been central to Christian worship from the beginning: baptism, the reading and preaching of Scripture, and the Lord’s Supper. In many churches in our time, these three practices have diminished.
Byars also believes all vital worship much be contemporary. It must be expressive of passion and deep personal engagement. People come to worship looking for God. The worship service has to “give evidence that the congregation knows itself to be in the presence of a BIG God.” Christian worship regards highly both Word and sacrament. Byars quotes Howard Hageman (former president of New Brunswick Theological Seminary), who said a diminishment of either of those will result in diminishment of the other. According to Byars, the future of Christian worship requires letting go of our Enlightenment moorings in order to be open to mystery and imagination. We are moving into a new, postmodern era. “The future of our worship must take seriously the communal, the relational, the metaphorical, the symbolic, the sacramental.”
Worship using forms popular at the moment or appealing to one generation will soon be obsolete. In designing a new service, Byars says, we should not just create an anti-service, doing the opposite of what we dislike about the old. Rather we need to start at the center, with the essentials of baptism, Scripture, the Lord’s Supper, and attentiveness to the poor. Byars offers an exciting description of a new paradigm for worship.
This book is a timely and perceptive resource. I highly recommend it to every worship leader.
J. David Muyskens
Ajith Fernando’s Jesus Driven Ministry is a good refresher course on the basic practices of ministry. Fernando, director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka, began an in-depth study of Jesus’ ministry in the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark, out of which came several lectures and now this book.
Fernando’s rich use of Scripture, quotations from faithful Christians and theologians of our past, and his own experiences give the book a personal and genuine feel with sound theology.
But Fernando also provides a challenge for how Christian leaders live their lives. He calls Christian workers back to the basics of being in ministry—being steeped in the Word, identifying with people, retreating from activity, growing in a team, launching disciples into ministry, visiting homes, as well as many other regular practices of Jesus. He is bold in his call. On prayer—a theme throughout the book—he writes, “We simply cannot have a ministry that has spiritual depth, and therefore lasting effects, unless our lives are steeped in prayer” (228).
Fernando challenges the belief that ministers can get by simply by hard work, giftedness, and good organization. He reminds us that ministry is difficult—we must remain faithful to God, depending on the Holy Spirit and the Word to sustain us during hard times or difficult relationships rather than restlessly moving on.
I was particularly struck by his reflection on preaching in the United States. He tells of the experience many pastors have on Sunday morning of hearing feedback about how much people enjoyed the message. He writes, “I have feared that the church in the West will disqualify itself from being a missionary-sending region by portraying to its membership a Christianity that is a nice religion but that lacks a radical edge . . .. Sermons should disturb, convict, and motivate to radical and costly obedience” (23).
While this book is a bit wordy, its back-to-the-basics reflection on the life of Jesus as a guide for our ministry is a profound reminder of what we should continually be striving for in ministry: being faithful servants of Jesus Christ.
James Dunn is known for comprehensive studies like Jesus and the Spirit, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament, and The Theology of Paul the Apostle. This book, the first in a trilogy on the first 120 years of the Christian faith, is a magnificent accomplishment, deserving of a wide reading.
In the first part of the book, Dunn treats the important hermeneutical and historical question of faith and the historical Jesus. In the second part, “From the gospels to Jesus,” he examines the sources of our knowledge about Jesus, arguing that we can indeed go from the Gospels to a reliable and significant picture of Jesus. The third part treats the mission of Jesus in his ministry; the fourth, the question of Jesus’ self-understanding, an issue that many New Testament scholars prefer to remain agnostic about; and the fifth, the climax of Jesus’ mission in his death, resurrection, and the first traditions that formed about him.
Despite its intimidating size, this is a very accessible book. Dunn has made the main text as readable as a book like this could be and confined the scholarly debates, discussion, and apparatus to the extensive footnotes. His conclusions are generally moderate to conservative, but they are carefully thought through and presented in full dialogue with current scholarship on Jesus. Occasionally his editor could have used a sharper pen to deal with wordiness and infelicities (e.g., “Here is it important to grasp the fact that . . . ,” ; “Israel’s self- understanding of itself,” ). However, Dunn regularly offers elegant and important insights that on their own justify the price of this book. To cite one from these same pages: “Little of this [emphasis on monotheism] actually appears upon the surface of late Second Temple Judaism, for the simple reason that it was non-controversial and so could be taken for granted—an important reminder that the fundamental character of an item of belief and practice is not to be measured by the amount of verbiage it engenders, and that what belongs to the foundation may often be hidden from sight” (288-89). Those who debate the New Testament foundations of contemporary issues like sexuality would do well to keep this in mind!
Students of the New Testament and scholars will be grateful to Professor Dunn for this wonderful book, and look forward to the next two volumes in this series. Pastors, if you are looking for something to refresh your knowledge and appreciation of Jesus and the gospels, buy this book and take it and the Bible with you for a week of study leave.
Robert E. Van Voorst
Rabbinic Judaism, reflected in the Mishnah, the Talmud of Jerusalem, and the Talmud of Babylonia, ran roughly parallel to the first five formative centuries in the development of the Christian church. Neusner’s intent is not a full comparison of the two in theology and practice, but he does not avoid the confrontation between the church’s claim to be the true Israel and the strong answer delivered by the rabbis (93-96).
Another intersection of the two religions is treated in the chapter on “Death and the Afterlife.” Neusner interprets the rabbinic position as awarding resurrection only to Israel (physical descendants of Jacob and proselytes to Judaism), and even of those he makes exceptions, denying resurrection to the wilderness generation and to the ten “lost tribes.” Of those who do gain the privilege of resurrection, however, not all go to Eden, for Gehenna awaits unrighteous Jews (165-71). None of the rabbis quoted on this topic subscribed to the Sadducees’ denial of life after death.
Neusner believes the Oral Torah of rabbinic Judaism to have equal authority with the Written Torah of the Scriptures, since both, according to him, go back to Moses and God on Sinai (109-110). The idea of the dual Torah is contrasted with Jesus’ claim, “You have heard it said . . . but I say to you . . .” (23). The Torah in oral and written form also is timeless, so that the same biblical passage can be applied without reference to past, present, or future (83-84).
Neusner also covers issues like holiness, sacred space, sacrifice and atonement, and the efficacy of prayer for miracles. The chapters, however, on the nature of God and of humans made in his likeness leave much to be desired theologically.
Sylvio J. Scorza
“Is it possible to conceive of a Christian community that is not structured around congregation and a central meeting?” Yes, answers Pete Ward. Ward suggests that we call such a community “Liquid Church,” which would “reshape itself around worshipers as consumers.” Ward offers these provocations from a position inside church life, as a youth minister in Great Britain as well as a teacher at Kings College, Cambridge. His previous books include Worship & Youth Culture and God at the Mall.
Ward’s thought arises from two sources: an analysis of contemporary culture and theological reflection on Scripture. He follows cultural theorist Zygmunt Bauman in seeing our current situation as “liquid modernity,” a situation in
which individuals must create a pattern for a meaningful life without help from supporting structures. In effect, we all now are consumers shopping for life- choices. Borrowing from James Twitchell’s analysis of advertising and culture, he understands consumerism to be a quest for meaning—we buy the meanings associated with things.
From Scripture, in conversation with a number of thinkers, Ward concludes that the church is essentially a set of relationships: first the believer’s relationship with Christ, then, our relationships with one another. If these relationships are the essence of the church, then the forms or structures of the church are accidents of culture. The church itself, then, is adaptable to circumstances; hence, “Liquid Church.” The church is not the gathered congregation, or a structure of programs and meetings, but the relationships that occur as Christ is shared. Adaptable does not necessarily mean heretical, asserts Ward, since Scripture regulates the flow of liquid church. Churches that are not continuously adapting, that do not understand themselves to be essentially relationships, he calls “Solid Church,” doomed dinosaurs in liquid modernity.
One can appreciate Ward’s emphasis on the church as relationships, and on adaptability, while raising several questions, including: To what are individuals saved? P\I would suggest, perhaps, they are saved into a structure of relationships that has some solidity. I recommend this book as a stimulus to thought and conversation.
Jeffrey Wayne Taylor
One of the major events in discussion of New Testament Christology in the late twentieth century was the publication of Larry Hurtado’s One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism (1988). Hurtado located the origin of the church’s belief in the deity of Christ in the fact that Jesus was worshiped alongside God the Father in the church’s earliest hymns and prayers. He also placed early Christology (or “Christ-devotion,” as he prefers to call it) in relation to Jewish mediator figures like personified divine attributes, exalted patriarchs, and mediating angels.
Now, fifteen years later, Hurtado has supported his ideas with detailed studies of the New Testament and other Christian writings through the second century of the Common Era. He defines his overall purpose as a “historical analysis of the beliefs and religious practices that constituted devotion to Jesus as a divine figure in earliest Christianity” (xiii).
Hurtado demonstrates three main points using historical methods (2-3). The first is that devotion to Jesus emerges at a very early date (an “explosion of devotion”) among Jesus’ followers; it is not a later development as many earlier, “evolutionary” reconstructions had argued (e.g., Wilhelm Bousset, Reginald Fuller, James Dunn). In fact, the basic outline of orthodox Christology emerged already in the thirties of the first century and was in the ascendant by the middle of the second century (Justin Martyr), long before the time of the Ecumenical Councils (561). Second, the intensity and diversity of expressions of this devotion to Jesus Christ are without parallel in the religious environment—either Jewish or Greco-Roman. Third, early Christians continued to adhere to the exclusivist monotheism of their Jewish predecessors, particularly in the face of Greco-Roman paganism.
This tome is a rich mine of helpful information and interpretation and will repay anyone with the courage and stamina to read it through. One important contribution is Hurtado’s discussion of Old Testament texts about the God of Israel (sometimes called “Yahweh texts”) that are applied to Jesus in various strata of the New Testament (e.g., 112-14). Those who have studied theology at Western Theological Seminary will recognize these texts as one of the primary bases for the Christian confession of Jesus as Lord. Although Hurtado’s stated purpose is theologically neutral (9), his treatment of these Yahweh texts will strengthen that conviction. This is one of the few available studies that demonstrates their early and widespread usage in the New Testament church.
Another important contribution is Hurtado’s mapping of the early pattern of Christ-devotion in several overlapping areas: prayers to Jesus, invocation (“calling upon the name”) and confession of Jesus as Lord; baptism in Jesus’ name; the Lord’s Supper; hymns about Christ; and prophecy inspired by Christ (137-51). Not only are these phenomena rooted in the earliest records of the church, but they later provided theologians like Athanasius with the scriptural basis for their defense of the Nicene faith against the Arians.
Hurtado concludes that the early Christians were pious Jews who believed in the one true God of Israel and refused to worship any other name. Yet they included Jesus as Lord in their confession and worship, always relating him to the one true God (as Son or Messiah or Image of God). In treating the origin of Christ-devotion, Hurtado is less successful in my view. In describing Jesus as being somehow included in the worship of the God of Israel (3, 48, 72, passim), the author appears to overlook the implications of the identification of Jesus as the Lord of Israel in early strata of the New Testament (cf. 375, 577). Taking this identification as a starting point would provide a much simpler explanation for early devotion to Jesus as a continuation of Jewish cultic devotion to Yahweh, and would also suggest a different reading of the role of God as the “God and Father of the Lord Jesus” (e.g., 2 Cor. 11:31; the key point is mentioned in a footnote on 179).
Lord Jesus Christ is designed to be the definitive study on the subject, covering not only all the textual material but all of the recent studies of the subject. It critiques the work of many well-known scholars like James Dunn, John Dominic
Crossan, and Raymond Brown and maps out a tentative new synthesis that includes the work of scholars like Jarl Fossum and Richard Bauckham. Hurtado’s tome will be required reading for students and scholars of New Testament Christology.
Christopher B. Kaiser
Originally written in Taffin's native French, this little book was translated in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries into Dutch, English, and Latin and, as its numerous reprintings testify, was then widely popular among Reformed Christians. The Dutch Reformed Translation Society intends its series of modern translations of the "old writers" of the Further Reformation not only for pastors and scholars, but for lay people as well.
A brief introduction sets forth the essentials of Taffin's life and ministry and something of the political and social situation in the Low Countries in the latter half of the sixteenth century. It is against the physical and spiritual suffering and turmoil of that period that the book is to be read.
To that end, as an additional help, although not part of the original text, a map of the Low Countries in Taffin's time and several illustrations highlighting the persecutions have been included by the editors.
But is there anything other than historical value for us who by comparison live lives in what Sam Shoemaker used to call "pudgy comfort"? Yes, there is. Just on the level of needed spiritual help, the modern reader will find comfort and encouragement on page after page of this readable translation. Our doubts may not be precisely those of Taffin's contemporaries, yet the apostasy of many present-day leaders of the faith is troubling to us, too. Our oppression for Christ’s sake may be far subtler than that in the sixteenth-century Low Countries, but we may need the word of assurance that despite it all, we are the children of God who are loved by him.
In all this it can be said of Jean Taffin, as the Book of Hebrews says of Abel, "he being dead yet speaketh" (Heb. 11:4).
Gustaf Aulen’s classic work, Christus Victor (1930), outlined the three most prominent understandings of the Atonement present throughout Christian theology as: (1) Christ the Victor Theory, which pits God against evil in a military metaphor; (2) The Moral Influence Theory, where Christ shows God’s love in such a compelling way that the cross draws people to be reconciled; and (3) The Satisfaction Theory, in which the debt humanity owes to God because of sin is too great to be paid until Christ bears the punishment due to all humanity by his vicarious suffering on the cross.
Within each of these models, J. Denny Weaver recognizes a disturbing dependence on violence. Weaver’s book offers an alternative atonement model in which the atoning work of Christ takes place without violence. Weaver’s model, clearly indebted to the work of J.H. Yoder and Walter Wink, suggests that Jesus’ story is thoroughly nonviolent and achieves victory over sin by confronting the power of evil and making visible the reign of God by demonstrating mercy and refusing to employ violence. Weaver calls this model the narrative Christus Victor.
This atonement model is nice because it addresses many of the problematic paradoxes of theology, such as incongruities between God’s justice and mercy. It also encourages believers to participate in the kind of living that challenges the powers of evil in the world. The narrative Christus Victor model also makes more room for minority theologies such as black theology, feminist theology, and womanist theology.
However, a weakness of Weaver’s book is his occasional assumption that different atonement models are mutually exclusive. He spends most of the book attempting to replace the satisfaction theory but never completely refutes the strengths of that model or satisfactorily addresses its biblical and confessional sources.
In the end, though, Weaver’s work is quite valuable in the breadth of its coverage of various theories on the Atonement and because of its timeliness. In an age when the church is confronted with violence from within and without, from politics of preemptive war to crusader language in hymns to battle imagery in pop Christian apparel, the church could use a dose of nonviolence in some of its most significant theology.
This small but valuable book reflects the integrating principle of Andrew Purves’s own ministry. While trained as a systematic theologian, Purves is professor of pastoral theology at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. According to the author, there are two major deficiencies to how much pastoral care occurs today. On one hand, it is separated from history. This memory lapse diminishes our objectivity and tends to communicate that we are the first generation to struggle with a problem as well as removing ourselves from the collected wisdom of earlier Christians in addressing these issues. The other weakness is our highly therapeutic culture that attempts to fix others and “psychologize” God and life and thereby minimize the biblical wisdom of scripture. The resulting tragedy is that many pastors no longer see themselves as theologians even though this integration was a perennial requirement for the formation of healthy ministries and churches. Therefore, Purves asserts, “the basic reconstitutive task for pastoral theology today is to establish once again the fundamental connection between the Christian doctrines of God, redemption, and hope, and the pastoral ministry of the church” (4).
The selection of the specific classical texts included in this work grew out of the author’s teaching of Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry course work. Gregory Nazianzus, John Chrysostom, Gregory the Great, Martin Bucer, and Richard Baxter are each given their voice as guides for this important recovery. Each section begins with a brief biography to introduce and place the respective pastoral theologian in his context. This is followed by an overview of the key themes of each person’s theology. Some of the common themes highlighted are the challenges and difficulties of the pastoral office, the life of the pastor, preparation and piety for service and the importance of self-care, and being a physician of the soul. Purves concludes with a chapter advancing eight summary principles to guide deeper reflection upon the contemporary task of pastoral theology.
Some readers might sense this book is presenting a nostalgic desire to return to the “good old days” of traditional theology. However, Purves’s intent is more realistic and does not expect the contemporary pastor to mimic the methods of earlier pastoral theologians but rather to be challenged and by our assumptions and wrestle to develop more integrated ways of being in ministry. While generations have separated us from these earlier saints, that should not dismiss the wisdom or the necessary questions that they can pose to us today. One possible frustration inherent in the brevity of this fine work is the assumption that key terms are known without adequate explanation. For example, it would have been helpful when exploring Gregory Nazianzus to define theosis and place
it within its broader Orthodox context. That aside this is a practical book and one that I have used in my own Doctor of Ministry teaching.
This delightful book speaks volumes about the theology of prayer and the life of the church. An indispensable resource for the church library, Barth and a distinguished array of present-day Reformed theologians dig deeply for the rich spiritual nuggets to be mined from a persistent and mindful praying of the Lord’s Prayer. In addition, there is much here to inform Reformed preaching on prayer. Most important, however, is Barth’s wrestling with the question of the congregational prayer, or the prayer of the people, and how to achieve a spirit of freedom or extemporaneous prayer while maintaining an adherence to the necessary structure of prayer. His encouragement to spend at least as much time in preparation for this prayer as for the sermon serves as reassurance it is not necessary to be able to reel off a wordy and impressive prayer at the drop of a hat. Read Barth once, spend some time with the commentaries, then read Barth again with a new understanding and appreciation for his insight and encouragement to allow the living word of God to live in and through lives shaped by the prayer that Jesus taught. The reflective commentaries by a variety of today’s prominent Reformed theologians build on Barth’s work to give a contemporary insight into the discipline of biblical prayer as well as a more detailed introduction to Barth’s theology as shaped by his own life of prayer.
With a plethora of available resources flooding the religious marketplace to tell us how and when to pray, this resource may at first glance seem out of date, and many may be intimidated by large, bold letters spelling out the name of the twentieth century’s most illustrious Reformed theologian. It remains, therefore, to be introduced by clergy and an invitation extended to consistories, as well as adult and youth study groups to step into the very heart of the life of discipleship, a life of individual and corporate prayer.
D.G. Hart, who is academic dean and professor of church history at Westminster Seminary in California, has as his focus primarily Presbyterian churches and understands the Reformed tradition to be characterized by three tendencies: doctrinal precision, cultural outlook, and pietism. Largely a reprinted collection of essays by the author, the book advocates a needed fourth emphasis, “Reformed liturgicalism.”
By “Reformed liturgicalism” is not meant simply a concentration on ritual or order in worship services. The stated aim is "to persuade fellow Calvinists of the centrality of worship and the visible church to the Christian life." The five principles of Reformed worship are that it centers on the Word of God; it is theocentric; it is the meeting of God with his people; it is simple; and it is reverent. In the life of the church the older outlook regarding the power and authority of the ordained minister, which is understood to flow from the church's confession of faith and the hope of eternal life, is of great importance. In contrast to the individualistic character of much of American Christianity, the Reformed tradition is sacramental and corporate in nature.
This is the heritage that Hart sees the church as in danger of losing.
Appeal is made, as one might expect, to Calvin's theology and to confessions such as the Belgic Confession and the Westminster Confession—especially to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Lengthy discussion is also given to the contributions to Presbyterianism of J. Gresham Machen.
In presenting his argument, Hart takes issue with "low-church Presbyterianism," Protestant ecumenism, Christian feminists, and evangelicalism in various expressions: church growth proponents, Evangelicals and Catholics Together, the National Association of Evangelicals, Praise and Worship services that echo contemporary popular culture, and parachurch ministries.
While attention is mainly on Presbyterians, the Christian Reformed Church comes in for consideration a number of times, and the Reformed Church in America is mentioned once, and that in connection with the churches who cooperated in the production of the 1955 Hymnal.
The sermons of Jonathan Edwards have received relatively little attention. This trend is slowly changing, thankfully, due to the exhaustive efforts of the Works of Jonathan Edwards project at Yale, and due to the commendable work by Richard Bailey and Gregory Wills in Salvation of Souls.
After a lucid foreword by noted scholar George Marsden (author of Jonathan Edwards: A Life [Yale, 2003]), the editors carefully introduce Edwards as minister, concisely set his preaching in an eighteenth-century context, and encourage current ministers to find pastoral edification from Edwards. Salvation of Souls contains sermons spanning the breadth of Edwards’s pastoral career (1720s– 1750s) and contributes uniquely to Edwardsean scholarship by offering sermons that, with one exception, have never before been published and that focus on the role and function of a minister.
While all the sermons merit mention, I will limit my focus to three. In “Ministers Need the Power of God” (delivered in 1729), Edwards pointed out that ministers are “insufficient instruments” who must “go to Christ” in order to faithfully “labor in his vineyard” (51).
In August 1751 Edwards preached to a group of Mohican and Mohawk Indians. “Preaching the Gospel Brings Poor Sinners to Christ” is remarkable in its brevity yet piercing in its expression. Edwards highlighted the reality of sin and pointed the Indians to Christ as the only true savior.
Finally, “The Work of the Ministry is Saving Sinners” (preached in 1754 and again in 1756), is a refreshing reminder for today’s over-extended ministers. Christ offered the ultimate sacrifice, Edwards maintained, and thus all ministers should “exert themselves for the same end” (159).
Just as Edwards edified and encouraged the faithful of the eighteenth century, may his sermons in Salvation of Souls inspire a new generation of ministers to shepherd faithfully the souls entrusted to their care.
Phillip L. Sinitiere
Darrell L. Bock received his Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen and is research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. He is an excellent evangelical scholar who is well acquainted with the literature on the topic.
This work briefly describes the background or cultural environment of the gospels and the history of their critical study. Bock’s purpose is to aid beginning students in understanding the subject, give an initial grasp of associated controversies, and to encourage further independent study. While there are many significant details on each subject and some maps, charts, and illustrations, the content is in the main readily understandable.
The introduction deals with the sources of knowledge of Jesus. Part one has four chapters on nonbiblical literary evidence, chronology of Jesus’ life, political history, and sociocultural history. Part two has seven chapters that deal with the different quests for the historical Jesus and six methods of criticism used in studying the gospels, concluding with the genre of the gospels. Bock assesses the strengths and weaknesses of each approach.
Bock makes the point that many of Jesus’ teachings treat issues that were not of direct concern to those addressed by the gospel writers. The preservation of the Son of Man title in Jesus’ teaching is an example. This Christological title was no longer used by churches, according to the evidence given in the New Testament epistles, which were written before or at the time of the gospel writing. This fact runs contrary to some earlier form critics, who believed the situation in the church’s life at the time of the gospel writing determined both form and content. Rather, this shows a concern by the writers to preserve authentic sayings of Jesus, even though they no longer addressed the concerns of their readers.
Those beginning with different theological positions than Bock, especially those who begin with the view that God does not act in the world which he has created, will see gospel criticism in a different light (158). But even they should deal with the historical critical arguments which Bock demonstrates with apt ability. I highly recommend this introduction to the study of the historical Jesus.
David W. Jurgens
You’ve had a hunch for a long time that programming and restructuring weren’t the answers for revitalizing congregations. And if you read one more book that acknowledges this and yet offers still another program, you’ll scream—right? So read this book. It’s not about a program—it is about changing the life of a congregation.
Somewhere along the line, we determined as denominations and congregations that our problem was “membership decline,” and with that named problem have come a slew of easy solutions for growth (as in numbers). In Transforming Congregational Culture, Anthony Robinson looks at the problem more as an adaptive challenge involving the spiritual work of “learning, authenticity, depth, risk, and change.”
Robinson’s observations and ideas put into words what congregational leaders, seminary students, denominational leaders, ministers—anyone who wonders what a congregation should really be about—reflect on and discuss in terms of congregational transformation. In his introduction, he writes, “I am not a consultant; neither am I a guru, nor even an expert. I am a pastor. What I discuss here derives from my pastoral work and experience.” Robinson does an excellent job of reflecting on ministry in a congregation. He uses examples from his own ministry as well as from colleagues to illustrate his points. And he reminds readers regularly that these points are good starting spots for congregational transformation—not just formulas for church growth or prescriptions for ministry.
Robinson moves beyond the “five simple steps” or “three key changes” approach to pastoral ministry in a way that is genuine, insightful, and—most importantly—faithful to Scripture and God’s call for us as a church. Transforming Congregational Culture reenergizes hope that we, as congregations and their leaders, can live out God’s calling to be more than civic gathering places but rather communities of faith—hospitable, discerning, loving, and growing in relationship with God.
This volume is the first in a new series sponsored by the Christian Theological Research Fellowship that presents brief introductions focusing on important themes and issues in systematic theology. The target audience for these guides includes students and the general reader. The topic of the first in the series is a good choice because it counteracts the opinion that the doctrine of the Trinity is too intellectual and too speculative to be of benefit to the church generally.
The authors divide their work into two parts. After a short introduction to the theme, the first part is devoted to a historical overview of the development of the doctrine of the Trinity. The second part comprises a thirty-one page annotated bibliography of English language works on the subject that are readily available through bookstores or libraries.
The authors do a good job of reviewing the writings of major thinkers through the centuries. The reviews are succinct yet comprehensive enough that the student or general reader who is coming fresh to the subject will be able to understand the contributions of the various theologians. The works summarized are those of both the proponents of the doctrine and the doctrine's challengers.
The authors have had to be very selective in choosing representative theologians for the twentieth century. They have selected some well-known theologians like Barth, Rahner, and Moltmann, but also some that are not as well- known, such as Catherine Mowry LaCugna and John D. Zizioulas. The criterion for the choice has been the "constructive attention" which writers have given to the doctrine.
Having read the historical summaries, the reader will be able intelligently to assess which theologians will be helpful for further study and use the annotated bibliography.
All too often evangelicalism tends to focus unduly on the individual aspects of salvation. This book is the result of a conference held at Regent College in Vancouver in October 2001 that sought to expand soteriological vistas for evangelicals. Scholars from theological institutions in North America and Britain, representing several nationalities, diverse denominations, and various specialties from biblical studies to political science present topics of interest to them that are related to the general subject. No attempt, however, is made to set forth a comprehensive doctrine of salvation.
Bruce Hindmarsh looks at the life and thought of John Wesley in order to illustrate how evangelicals of an earlier generation approached the implications of the Gospel. Henri Blocher critiques Gustav Aulén's Christus Victor, which portrayed the Atonement as victory over evil. Loren Wilkinson's thesis is that Christians should be converted pagans. Others such as Rikk Watts and Cherith Nordling examine salvation in relation to the image of God. Amy Sherman explores salvation as life in the new city.
John Webster of Oxford University makes the first of two responses to the essays. After surveying common threads to be found among the presentations, he takes note of aspects of Christian teaching that are neglected in the essays. One issue he raises concerns their broad and somewhat loose usage of the word "salvation." He points out that such general use of the term without due attention to the biblical testimony and Christian dogmatics may allow the essayists to devote themselves to salvation's implications for human life. However, he suggests that such usage is the result of uncritically assuming particular views on such material so that in the present moral and political culture such assumptions ought not to be made.
Jonathan Wilson of Westmont College makes the second response. Like Webster, he commends the essay authors for their presentations. The subjects he notes that need further expansion include the church, the doctrine of justification by faith, and that of final judgment and divine wrath.
Despite the limitations Webster and Wilson note, the evangelical reader will find much food for thought here.