New Books of Note

March 31, 2015 — Leave a comment

9781433526947

Last year, I used Gerald Bray’s God is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology for my 11th grade Bible class. Along the way, I offered several posts with excerpts:

Now, in addition to his systematic, Bray has written a history of Christian theology: God Has Spoken. Unlike the previous work, Bray does not limit himself to footnotes from Scripture. Instead, he interacts with major theologians throughout the history of the church.

Structurally, Bray orders his work with a Trinitarian focus:

  • Part 1: The Israelite Legacy
  • Part 2: The Person of The Father
  • Part 3: The Work of The Father
  • Part 4: The Person of The Son
  • Part 5: The Work of The Son
  • Part 6: The Person of The Holy Spirit
  • Part 7: The Work of The Holy Spirit
  • Part 8: One God in Three Persons

In presenting the material this way, Bray is able to move through the major discussions in theology in church history stemming from the Old Testament all the way to the modern Trinitarian renaissance. Because he seems focused on roots and development, there is a heavy focus on the early centuries of the New Testament church. As any student of historical theology will know, the early church councils dealt heavily with the nature of the Trinity and the person of Christ. As such, the first 4 parts of the book stay more or less in this neck of the woods.

This differs very significantly from a similar book like Gregg Allison’s Historical Theology which takes a doctrine per part of the book, then within each chapter traces the chronological development of one aspect of that doctrine. Because Bray’s ordering is simultaneously chronological and to some extent systematic, you will get a good feel for how Christian thought has developed and been clarified through the years as you read through it. On the other hand, Allison’s volume is more evenly ordered concerning the individual doctrines as well as the space spent on each time period within each doctrine.

In the end, it isn’t really right or wrong one way or the other, it’s just worth knowing what you’re getting into. Reading this book cover to cover would be quite a commitment since it is only about 300 pages shorter than N. T. Wright’s recent work on Paul which is split into two volumes. Selective reading in this volume is not as easy as it would be in a book like Allison’s which is also considerably shorter. Making your way through this volume then, will be quite a feat given the length of the book. Like any major undertaking, you’d be surprised at how quickly a few pages a day will add up. Or, if you’re looking for some focused summer reading, this just might be what you need to fill out your understanding of the roots of Christian theology.

Gerald Bray, God Has Spoken: A History of Christian TheologyWheaton: Crossway, October 2014. 1264 pp. Hardcover, $55.00.

Buy itAmazon | Westminster

Read an excerpt

Visit the publisher’s page

Thanks to Crossway for the review copy!


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Several years ago, I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Michael Reeves’ Delighting In The Trinity: An Introduction to The Christian Faith. It is still the first book I’d recommend to someone who wants to understand the Trinity better. Now, Reeves has a companion book of sorts, Rejoicing in Christ, which focuses on ways we can delight specifically in the person and work of Christ.

This book is a short, quick read. However, it not a book to just absorb, but is better meditated upon as it pushes you to see Christ more clearly. In the course of 5 chapters, Reeves guides readers through the doctrine of the person and work of Christ in a highly readable and engaging fashion. Much like his previous book, there are numerous sidebars that are part historical anecdote and part rabbit trails related to the main exposition. Also, the text is highly packed with images from artwork through the centuries. So, if you’re in the mood for a theology book about Jesus that even has pictures, this book is definitely for you! Christianity is ultimately all about Christ and this book will help you see that more clearly and hopefully will move your affections for him more deeply.

Michael Reeves, Rejoicing in Christ. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, February 2015, 137 pp. Paperback, $16.00.

Buy itAmazon | Westminster

Visit the publisher’s page

Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!


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Given both the nature of my Th.M thesis and the fact that I write for Christ and Pop Culture, I tend to keep an eye out for Christian books that are about culture. Whether they are about how to interact well with it general or are about a specific aspect (like movies) in more detail, I try to stay up to date. I recently noticed a new release from Thomas Nelson by author Kevin Harvey called All You Want to Know About The Bible in Pop Culture: Finding Our Creator in Superheroes, Prince Charming, and Other Modern Marvels.

Going through the book, it seems to be best aimed at being an introduction to reading pop culture in Christian perspective. Chapter 1 is about superheroes as Christ figures. Chapter 2 is about movies with overtly Christian themes or depictions of God. Chapter 3 turns to princesses (often of the Disney variety). Chapter 4 covers how Christians tend to be depicted in Hollywood. Chapter 5 focuses almost exclusively on Lost, while chapter 6 gets into reality TV. Chapter 7 turns to pop music, and chapter 8 wraps things up with a collection of biblical artifacts within a broad range of pop culture. With an afterward and appendix that has a quiz about Noah and Moses to see how much you know about the actual biblical portrayal of them, the book would appear to be done, but after the notes there is an activity book of sorts to learn even more about the Bible in pop culture.

Taking all this together, I’d give Harvey high marks for creativity in presentation. A downside is that some of the main chapters are difficult to read because both the typeface and all the sidebars. In that sense, it is very much like wading into pop culture. You’re more or less entering into a visual medium and you have to pay close attention. For a book though, this is kind of distracting. In terms of the content itself, I didn’t think it was anything necessarily groundbreaking if you’re into pop cultural criticism from a Christian perspective. But, as I thought about it, that’s not where most people are and so much of what’s in here would be groundbreaking and paradigm shifting for them. In that light, I’d say this is a good book for someone who really hasn’t reflected at all on pop culture from a Christian point of view. It is also, because of the design, a more accessible book to people who don’t normally read books. Think of it as a more basic and lighthearted version of Mike Cosper’s Stories We Tell.

Kevin Harvey, All You Want to Know About The Bible in Pop Culture: Finding Our Creator in Superheroes, Prince Charming, and Other Modern Marvels. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, March 2015. 240 pp. Paperback, $19.99.

Buy itAmazon

Visit the publisher’s page

Thanks to Thomas Nelson for the review copy!


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A while back you might remember my review of Exploring The Religion of Ancient Israel. The author, Aaron Chalmers, newest book. Interpreting The Prophets: Reading, Understanding and Preaching From the Worlds of The Prophets, was recently released by IVP Academic. In it, Chalmers offers an introduction to the prophets that focuses on situating them in their historical, theological, and rhetorical contexts. Rather than going book by book through the prophets, Chalmers offers a kind of background overview that the reader can then take and use to understand the individual books better.

The format of the book is similar to Chalmer’s other work, except that it doesn’t have the dual columns. It does however have numerous side bars that take you off the main trail a bit and a hearty amount of pictures. After clarifying in the first chapter the nature and definition of a prophet, each successive chapter deals with the relevant background contexts for understanding the prophets. Readers are moved from the historical backdrop, to the theological, and finally the rhetorical. Chapter 5 deals with the relationship of prophecy and apocalyptic material and the final chapter offers sage advice for preaching through the prophets. All in all, this is a handy little volume that I hope will pay off as my own 9th grade Bible class is about to embark on a study of the prophets.

Aaron Chalmers, Interpreting The Prophets: Reading, Understanding and Preaching From the Worlds of The Prophets. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, February 2015, 173 pp. Paperback, $20.00.

Buy itAmazon | Westminster

Visit the publisher’s page

Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!

Nate

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I’m an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let’s connect!

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