New Books of Note

June 30, 2015 — 1 Comment

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I don’t read many of Simon Gathercole’s books, but when I do, they are short. Around this time last year I read Justification Reconsidered. There, he was rethinking a Pauline theme, and in some ways, that’s also what he is doing in his recent book Defending Substitution: An Essay on Atonement in Paul. In both books, he is defending a classical understanding of Paul’s soteriology in light of recent objections and/or recalibrations. Though the titles frame it differently, these books work well in tandem and demonstrate fine Pauline scholarship in relatively bite size form. [NOTE: A graceful commenter pointed out that Justification Reconsidered is by Stephen Westerholm, an author who I’ve also only read one book by and I guess have had been confusing with Simon Gathercole for some reason]

This book has four chapters, though the first is simply an introduction framing the discussion. Once framed, Gathercole highlights three recent challenges to the traditional understanding of substitutionary atonement and their underlying connection. Then, he defends the classical view in light of these objections. First, he focuses on 1 Corinthians 15:3 and Paul’s claim that Christ’s dead for us was “according to the Scriptures.” Second, he focuses on Romans 5:6-8 and Paul’s use of vicarious death traditions widely known in his first century context. A conclusion recapitulates this all briefly and next thing you know, you’ve just read a book.

Readers who are interested in either Paul’s theology or soteriology (or ideally both) will want to check this book out. Gathercole is interacting with the frontlines so to speak of critical scholarship. In doing so, he models a careful reading of an opposing position and then a gracious response that digs deeply into the Scriptures as well as background historical context in order to defend the traditional understanding of Christ’s death being for us in a substitutionary sense. Because of that, one can learn not only from the content of Gathercole’s argument, but it’s character as well.

Simon Gathercole, Defending Substitution: An Essay on Atonement in PaulGrand Rapids: Baker Academic, May 2015. 128 pp. Paperback, $19.99.

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Thanks to Baker Academic for the review copy!


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You might have seen Richard Hays’ Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness with a different cover. Originally published by Baylor University Press, there is now a paperback edition courtesy of SPCK and they graciously sent me a copy. I hadn’t read any of Hays’ works, but I see his name frequently and N. T. Wright did dedicate PFG to him. Sometimes I get bored with regular reading so the opportunity to learn a new skill intrigued me.

The book itself is derived from a series of lectures Hays delivered at Cambridge in 2013 and 2014. It is a preview of a Gospel focused sequel he is working on to Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul. In his preface, Hays mentions several forerunners to the type of work he is doing (Dodd, Wright, Hurtado, Bauckham, to name a few). He then offers an introductory chapter on figural reading, which as you might have figured, is the backwards reading the title refers to. There then follows a short chapter on each Gospel writer’s strategy of doing this. The final chapter offers summary thoughts on retrospective readings and the challenge and benefit of Gospel-shaped hermeneutics.

If you leave out the front and back matter, the body of this book (chapters 1-6) is just over 100 pages. As such, it is quick read but a slow digest on reading the Old Testament in light of Christ. It is thought provoking and nowhere near a final word on the method of reading this way. After reading it, I’d like to go back and dig into some of Hays other works and I’ll look forward to the full length title that this book previews.

Richard B Hays, Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness. London: SPCK, May 2015. 155 + xxii pp. Paperback,  $26.73.

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Thanks to SPCK for the review copy!


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Modern theology and I have an uneasy relationship. That’s another way of saying I’m not sure what I think of Karl Barth yet, but I find him intriguing. As part of that intrigue, I thought it worth exploring a new collection of essays from Kimlyn Bender, Confessing Christ for Church and World: Studies in Modern Theology. As he himself explains in the introduction,

The following chapters, some previously published, attempt to reflect on what it means to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord in our day. They explore issues of ecclesiological conversation in ecumenical encounter, scriptural authority in relation to tradition and confession, and christological determination of creation and covenant. This exploration is undertaken by examining two of the most significant theologians of the modern period, Karl Barth and Friedrich Schleiermacher, and by placing them in dialogue with Catholic, mainline Protestant, evangelical and Free Church traditions – key traditions of the current American religious landscape. (11, emphasis added)

Barth is more of a focus than Scheleirmacher, hence my interest in getting a copy. The above quote gives the three main divisions of the book, which I bolded for your pleasure. Bender notes that in his essays, the arguments “do not lend themselves well to abridgement and are best experienced in their exposition and aggregate effect” (13). Later he invokes Lewis to explain that the essays are in some sense “looking at” Schleiermacher and Barth, but in another sense are more “looking along” them at the reality of God’s revelation in Christ and applying that to the issues we face in the current American religious landscape. If that is something you find intriguing, this is a book you should probably pick up and look along for yourself.

Kimlyn Bender, Confessing Christ for Church and World: Studies in Modern Theology. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, November 2014. 391 pp. Paperback, $40.00.

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Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!


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From a slightly different angle, this is also a book on modern theology. Here, the focus more on the topic, in this case, the economic Trinity. However, as you can tell from the subtitle, Barth figures prominently in Faith, Freedom, and the Spirit: The Economic Trinity in Barth, Torrance and Contemporary TheologyAlso clearly significant is T. F. Torrance, who along with Barth, is probably one of the two most influential theologians in the 20th century (at least as far as that influence carries over into the Reformed world).

This work, author Paul Molnar explains,

This book is intended as a discussion of just how a properly conceived pneumatology would assist theologians speaking of the economic Trinity to think more accurately about divine and human interaction in the sphere of faith and knowledge within history. Toward that end I being with an extensive discussion of the role of faith in knowing God and in relating with God in and through his incarnate Word and thus through the Holy Spirit. I then move to a discussion of how and why a properly functioning pneumatology will lead to an appropriately theological understanding of God’s actions within the economy, and of why natural theology can never be seen as the ground for a theology of revelation. Rather, natural theology is seen as an approach to God that bypasses God’s revelation and thus diverts attention away from the action of the Holy Spirit enabling knowledge of God acting for us within history (7).

Molnar notes from this that it is important for theology to begin and end with faith (7). Barth and Torrance then serves as paradigmatic examples of theologians who begin and end in faith, not our experience of faith, but of the God experienced in faith. Their views are compared and contrasted throughout, making this work significant for understanding modern theology better. Readers who would like to see an important study of Trinitarian theology with Barth and Torrance key conversation partners would do well to check this volume out.

Paul D. Molnar, Faith, Freedom, and the Spirit: The Economic Trinity in Barth, Torrance and Contemporary Theology. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, January 2015. 448 pp. Paperback, $40.00.

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Read an excerpt

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!

One response to New Books of Note

  1. Hi, I thought I’d point out that Justification Reconsidered is by Stephen Westerholm, not Simon Gathercole.

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