Book Mini-Reviews

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I have been plowing away through a stack of books lately, so I thought I would give you my two cents on a few of them. Hopefully these notes will steer you toward some helpful resources so that you can make the best use of your time.

 

Perspectives on Israel and the Church: 4 Views Edited by Chad Brand

Introduction: This book is exactly as the title states. 4 authors writing from 4 different viewpoints on the subject take turns explaining their view biblically and theologically. Then, each of the authors makes a brief response to each of the other 3 positions. The positions represented are: the traditional covenantal view (i.e., paedobaptist); the traditional dispensational view; the progressive dispensational view; and the progressive covenantal view.

The Good: Like all the other books in the Perspectives series, this book is super handy for comparing multiple positions on disputed issues.

The Bad: Sadly, the main continuity position in the book is basically equated with paedobaptist covenant theology. That means that historic covenantal baptists (e.g., 1689 2nd London Confession) will not find themselves represented in this book. The “baptistic” position of greater continuity is basically equated with progressive covenantalism/New Covenant Theology (e.g., Gentry and Wellum).

Overall: This is a handy read for people looking to quickly compare multiple positions on a subject. While I sadly cannot find my own position represented among the chapters (nor could any of the early Particular Baptists!), I do think this work will help many people understand the main thrust of each of the major positions represented in the volume.

 

God Has Spoken: A History of Christian Theology by Gerald Bray

Introduction: Bray, a world renowned historical theologian, has put together his attempt at a comprehensive historical theology volume. Rather than the traditional chronological approach, Bray structures his book in a trinitarian fashion. After the first part on Christianity’s Jewish inheritance, the remainder of the book follows the shape of the Godhead: the person and work of the Father (parts 2-3); the person and work of the Son (parts 4-5); the person and work of the Holy Spirit (parts 6-7); one God in three persons (part 8).

The Good: Bray’s command of the material is present from the very beginning of the volume (seen, for example, in the minimal amount of footnotes typical of such a tome).  Also, the thoroughly trinitarian framework allows for a more cohesive and history-sensitive approach to historical theology, in contrast to a volume that might chop up history in a more artificial and topical manner (e.g., Gregg Allison’s Historical Theology which follows the traditional loci of systematic theology).

The Bad: As in most things, the strengths of an endeavor come with corresponding weaknesses. Bray’s lack of footnotes sometimes makes a researcher like me a little frustrated. Likewise, Bray’s trinitarian structure make the volume a little more difficult to find certain specific things; additionally, he sometimes is forced to hit certain topics more than once or artificially break up what would otherwise be connected (e.g., can the person of the Son be spoken of without the person of the Father or the Holy Spirit).

Overall: This book is a fantastic resource on the history of Christian Thought. I see it as a great complement to other chronological volumes (e.g., Allison or Pelikan), but not a replacement.

 

Understanding Biblical Theology by Klink and Lockett

Introduction: This volume is an attempt to bring a little clarity to the discussion about the nature, task, and methodology of biblical theology. The authors have, for the sake of a starting point and some kind of nomenclature for the discussion, created 5 different categories based upon some similarities they see in the field. Those categories are: BT-1 Biblical theology as historical description (e.g., James Barr); BT-2 Biblical theology as history of redemption (e.g., DA Carson, Vos); BT-3 Biblical theology as worldview-story (e.g., NT Wright); BT-4 Biblical theology as canonical approach (e.g., Brevard Childs); and BT-5 Biblical theology as theological construction (e.g., Francis Watson).

The Good: This book is a helpful introduction to the field of biblical theology because it succinctly describes the various conceptions of biblical theology as a discipline. Is is short, clear, and provides some helpful nomenclature to try and clarify the discussion that swirls around the question “What is biblical theology?” This book is also helpful to see what presuppositions lie behind how certain people use the term (e.g., what happens to someone’s idea of biblical theology when they deny inerrancy?).

The Bad: In trying to be succinct and clear, the authors necessarily had to lump certain people together in tight clean little boxes. Sadly, the reality does not always clean up so easily. The authors were forces to generalize and lump people together on a (to some degree arbitrary) spectrum.

Overall: While most of the readers of this blog will only be concerned with the biblical theology of group two (BT-2), this was a helpful little intro into the field. I am grateful for the authors’ attempt to bring a simple nomenclature to what has been a very confusing field.

 

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