Since its inception, I’ve listened to Al Mohler’s daily news podcast The Briefing. Because of that, I felt like I heard much of the material before as I was reading his latest book We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking truth to a culture redefining sex, marriage, & the very meaning of right and wrong. Besides a long subtitle that pretty much tells you the focal points of the book, it is a well written defense of the classical Christian position on sex, marriage, and religious liberty in light of emerging trends in our culture. If you want to develop a basic understanding of what’s going on in various ethical revolutions in our culture, read this book. If you want to start developing a response, read it in tandem with Russell Moore’s Onward.

The opening chapter, like many opening chapters, is essentially an introduction that sets the stage for the narrative that follows. The narrative, in Mohler’s telling doesn’t start with same-sex marriage (chapter 2). Instead, he goes back to the roots of the homosexual movement (chapter 3). Then he brings us up into the present by way of the disintegration of traditional marriage values and understandings of sex (chapters 6 and 7) and the resulting transgender and same-sex marriage revolutions (chapters 4 and 5). Mohler takes a pit stop to discuss religious liberty (chapter 8) before pressing on to end with a chapter on how these revolutions challenge the church and a concluding chapter that answers 30 key questions related to the various topics.

Although I don’t often agree with Mohler’s take on everything, I have come to appreciate his voice in the midst of our shifting culture. Often, if I don’t particularly agree with Mohler on something, it has more to do with tone and his penchant for hyperbole. As one example, Mohler says:

Arguing that we should draw a clear distinction between who an individual wants to go to bed with and who an individual wants to go to bed as requires the dismantling of an entire thought structure and worldview (68-69).

While I can agree that this distinction is problematic given traditional understandings, I’m not sure it dismantles an entire worldview. At least if it does, it would need to be explained further than it is. This kind of overstatement, in my opinion, happens pretty regularly on The Briefing, and so in some sense, it is part of Mohler’s overall style of discourse. Since I’ve listened to him for so long (and met and talked with him at RTS not too long ago), I know that he is not speaking irrationally or like one of those talking head types trying to get attention. Instead, I think he is trying to wake up a culture of Christians who have fallen asleep at the wheel, and perhaps the hyperbole works rhetorically well to that end.

In one of the concluding chapters on how to respond, Mohler offers an apology that was both surprising and encouraging. In a larger section on how the church should respond to the sexual revolution, and within a smaller section on aberrant theology, he says,

We must also recognize that we have sinned against homosexuals by speaking carelessly about the true nature of their sin. I indict myself here. As mentioned in an earlier chapter, as a young theologian I was invited to speak at a conference of evangelical leaders and thinkers as the movement toward gay liberation was first taking organized shape. At that time, evangelicals were sure the element of choice was the central issue behind the sinfulness of homosexuality and the homosexual lifestyle. Thus, we felt the moral and theological obligation to deny the notion of a homosexual “orientation” and to insist that homosexuality was, in every case, freely chosen without regard to any predisposition. For this, I must apologize to the homosexual community, including a host of Christians who have struggled to be biblically faithful even as they have struggled with same-sex orientation (140-141).

I was struck by Mohler’s willingness to admit he got something wrong. While you might not agree with where he is on an issue, that he would publish an apology like this implies that he is willing to reconsider his positions and is a careful thinker. And while I wouldn’t use this as hope that he’ll come around to agree with the progressives on any and everything, it does show a willingness to continual re-evaluate how he understands culture in light of Scripture. He models well how to be biblically faithful and culturally conversant.

Going off that, he offers some very sound insight in the closing answers to hard questions, and even admits not knowing for sure how to handle certain things (e.g. whether to counsel a fully transsexual person who becomes a Christian to undergo restorative sex reassignment surgery). But, he answers some pretty tough questions with candor and care and I think did a good job of picking questions we will all have to deal with in one way or another.

At the end of the day, I’d recommend picking up this book and digging in if you need a primer on what’s going in our sex-crazed culture. If you’ve listened to The Briefing as long as I have, you might not find much new material here, but it is nice to have it all in one place and in print. If you haven’t been keeping up with The Briefing, you probably ought to, and maybe this book is the place to start. The fact that it is getting positive coverage at The Atlantic shows that it is possible to be faithful to Scripture, yet nuanced in your approach to culture so that you can engage in further dialogue. I hope Mohler continues to be able to do so.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr., We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking truth to a culture redefining sex, marriage, & the very meaning of right and wrongNashville: Thomas Nelson, October 2015. 256 pp. Hardcover, $24.99.

Buy itAmazon | Westminster

Visit the publisher’s page

Thanks to Thomas Nelson for the review copy!

Having introduced Plato last week, we’re on to Aristotle. When I was in seminary, I found Aristotle a more attractive thinker and thought Plato’s whole forms things was nonsense. Since in some first year discussions I would have said I was more Aristotelian, it’s surprising I didn’t spend more time getting into Thomas Aquinas.


My fandom for multiview books knows no ends. However, they are usually authored by individuals holding those divergent views. In this case, a single author has done, in some ways, what many multi-view books fail to achieve. In short, Brian Morley has actually offered a coherent map of contemporary approaches in Christian apologetics. Probably because of that, his book is titled Mapping Apologetics: Comparing Contemporary Approaches.

The opening section of the book details the foundational issues in apologetics. In turn, Morley offers a survey of apologetics in the Bible in chapter 1 and apologetics in the history of the church in chapter 2. The remainder of the book comprises part two and covers the various methodologies. In the introduction, Morley plotted these methodologies along a spectrum that begins with pure fideism and ends with pure rationalism. There are no mainstream Christian methodologies that represent either extreme, but to give you an idea what they would entail, Morley lists Kierkegaard as representative of the former and Descartes as representative of the latter. The chart is extremely useful, and is maybe even worth the price of admission.

When it comes to the rest of the book, Morley begins with the methodology closest to fideism which is presuppositionalism. In successive chapters he exposits Van Til and then John Frame (who gives a blurb on the back cover). Then, Morley moves toward the classical approach with a chapter on Alvin Plantinga, followed by one combining the approaches of E. J. Carnell, Gordon Lewis, and Francis Schaeffer, the former receiving the most attention. Part of the reason for combining these three figures is that their approach is termed combinationalism, which is a kind of eclectic approach, but you might have guessed that from the title.

There follows a brief introductory chapter on classical apologetics as distinct from presuppositionalism, Reformed epistemology, and combinationalism. Then, Morley offers readers chapters on Richard Swinburne, William Lane Craig, and Norman Geisler. The final two chapters shift to evidentialist approaches with a chapters on John Warwick Montgomery and Gary Habermas respectively, the latter’s being the shortest overall treatment. A brief conclusion helps readers take a step back and see the big picture before being confronted with the index and realizing that they’ve finished the book and need to move on to something else.

Concerning the book as a whole, each chapter tends to follow the same format. I say “tends” because there isn’t uniformity per se. But, in each chapter Morley offers a brief biographical sketch, followed by an exposition of that figures key ideas and apologetic methodology. There is then a brief section on criticisms, a selection of key terms for reference, some “Thinking It Over” discussion questions, and then suggestions for further reading. For some reason on Frame’s chapter, the key terms come after the discussion questions. Other chapters stick to the plan. The criticisms section for classical apologists are all combined within the chapter on Geisler and are fairly brief. While you might guess the criticism section for Van Til is the longest, you’d be very wrong. It’s rather the section for Habermas which is surprisingly twice as long as the one for Van Til. It’s actually longer than the exposition of his position, which might make you think he wouldn’t want to blurb the book, but then again you’d be wrong. Also, the criticisms in Habermas’ chapter are for both evidentialist thinkers, so they are not just aimed at Habermas. And, since Habermas takes a “minimalist facts” approach, I guess it is fitting that his chapter follows suit.

In some ways, this book is an updated version of Kenneth Boa’s Faith Has Its Reasons, a book I would have read had I actually stayed enrolled at SBTS and taken the apologetics seminar that I still have most of the textbook for. However, I deferred and withdrew and have other plans. As for the book, Faith Has Its Reasons is perhaps more comprehensive, covering more thinkers but in less detail than Morley does. In that sense, I think Morley’s book might be better for zeroing in on some key apologists of the 20th and 21st century. Along these lines, readers will notice many footnotes (if you read those) that show Morley’s exposition relied on e-mail correspondence with the actual apologists he is explaining. Some obvious exceptions of course, like Van Til who died before the internet was mainstream and R. C. Sproul who doesn’t have e-mail and so wasn’t considered as a representative of classical apologetics even though he literally wrote the book on the topic.

For the others though, Morley not only thoroughly explains their writings, he got in touch with the authors to make sure he got it right. That, in my mind, gives it a depth you’d expect had each person authored their own chapter. But, because Morley is evaluating all the views, he is able to show how they each tend to criticize each other and why. All that being said, Faith Has Its Reasons is certainly more comprehensive on the topic of apologetic methodology options, but this book is more focused and so supersedes and should replace the Five Views on Apologetics book.

To be honest, I think our understanding of theology would be served better by books like this rather than the multi-view books. Although I’ll continue to pick them up and read them, I really liked Morley’s approach here and found it helpful for understanding the different approaches. It would make an ideal classroom textbook, definitely instead of Five Views on Apologetics but maybe as a supplement alongside Faith Has Its Reasons. It would also be an ideal starting point for someone who wants to grow in their understanding of apologetic methdologies. Given the options for further reading and questions for thinking it over, it’d be a great book to read in a group, classroom or not. Or, you could always do what I did, request a review copy and then read by yourself in the wee hours of the morning before you sit down after lunch one day and write a review. To each his own.

Brian K. Morley, Mapping Apologetics: Comparing Contemporary Approaches. Downers Grove,: IVP Academic, February 2015. 384 pp. Paperback, $25.00.

Buy it: Amazon | Westminster

Visit the publisher’s page

Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!


On Monday, I mentioned some resources for learning more about Reformed Theology. Included in that was a brief discussion of some resources on TULIP. If you’re familiar with the acronym, you’ll know that the L can be the most contentious. I’ve known people who claimed to be 4 point Calvinists, and the missing point was the L. Perhaps due to an unfortunate label, limited atonement can be hard to swallow. I’ve hoped to be able to work through From Heaven He Came and Sought Her, but it keeps getting pushed to the backburner.

In the near future, I’m much more likely to read Perspectives on The Extent of The Atonement: 3 Views that B&H Academic graciously sent me. One of the editors, Andy Naselli has a nice overview of the book on his blog. There, you’ll find the table of contents and a video, as well as the link to the Introduction, written by the other editor Mark Snoeberger. Naselli wrote the Conclusion, which includes the list I’m posting here. It is adapted from a journal article that Naselli wrote about John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (a book I’ve blogged about here).

Since discussing the extent of the atonement, whether it is general, particular, or has multiple intentions can be tricky to do irenically (which is ironic I suppose), here are Naselli’s tongue-in-cheek ways to make it more difficult (217-227, with some modification of verb tenses):

  1. Uncharitably denigrate other positions
  2. Set up and tear down straw men
  3. View other evangelical views as heresy
  4. Insufficiently define a personal position
  5. Overemphasize the importance of the atonement’s extent
  6. Assume that only non-Calvinists can tell a non-Christian “God loves you” or “Jesus died for you”
  7. Require that others adhere to a particular view when flexibility is appropriate
  8. Give the impression that complete understanding is possible regarding the extent of the atonement
  9. Hold a personal position with sinful pride

Some of these should be common sense to avoid in theological discussion, but you’d be surprised how quickly things like that get lost once it turns to a debate. Denigrating others, charging them with heresy, and holding a position pridefully have no place in this discussion. And neither does sloppy thinking and explanations. Particularly helpful in this regard is Naselli’s warning about the phrasing “sufficient for all, efficient for some” which virtually everyone in the discussion can agree to because they explain it differently. We can and should do better in explaining how our views are both theologically coherent and biblically correspondent (see Snoeberger’s Introduction for how these concepts, which come from Van Til, are put to use).

All in all, if you’re looking to dig into this on-going discussion, this is a book to grab. Trueman is a solid defender of limited, or definite atonement. Likewise, Grant Osborne does well representing an Arminian general atonement view. Lastly, John Hammett’s multiple intention view, which has precursors in William G. T. Shedd, provides a kind of middle ground (think universal atonement, yet particular redemption, to borrow from Shedd). Like every good multi-view book, the authors critique each other along the way (Thomas McCall has to do some pinch-hitting for Osborne because of the latter’s health difficulties). And while I’m partial to definite atonement and want to really understand it more fully via From Heaven He Came and Sought Her, this is a good resource to understand it in light of other evangelically faithful positions.


About a year ago, I was able to get the first volume in Bob Kellemen’s Equipping Biblical Counselors series. That volume, Gospel-Centered Counseling: How Christ Changes Lives, was a kind of systematic theology of counseling. In that book, he mentions an additional volume, which has thankfully just been released. While the previous volume was more on the theoretical side, Gospel Conversations: How to Care Like Christ moves into the overtly practical side.

Bob has been concerned to equip the local church’s counselors for quite some time now. He personally reached out to me a few years back and sent me his Equipping Counselors For Your Church, which I devoted three posts to interacting with (here, here, and here). Since then, I’ve done some reviews for a site The Biblical Counseling Coalition and Bob has continued to send me books he publishes or edits.

One thing that immediately stands out on browsing through this book is that Bob likes lists. I like lists too, so we’re set. The opening chapters in Section 1 provide 5 portraits of the biblical counselor, 8 ultimate life questions, 4 resume qualifications of the biblical counselor and 2 guideposts and 4 compass points of biblical counseling. Those four compass points are unpacked in successive sections in the remainder of the book. They are (16-17):

  • Sustaining: “It’s Normal to Hurt”—Learning how to weep with those who weep by offering biblical sustaining care for hurting people.
  • Healing: “It’s Possible to Hope”—Learning how to give hope to the hurting by offering biblical healing comfort and encouragement for suffering people.
  • Reconciling: “It’s Horrible to Sin, but Wonderful to Be Forgiven”—Learning how to be a dispenser of Christ’s grace by offering biblical reconciling for people struggling against besetting sins.
  • Guiding: It’s Supernatural to Mature”—Learning how to disciple, coach, and mentor by offering guiding wisdom for people growing in Christ.

Each of these compass points is unpacked in a list. To give an example of one, here are the 5 healing relational competencies:

  • Redemptive, Relational Mind and Soul Renewal (Cropping Christ Back into the Picture)
  • Encouraging Communication (Celebrating the Empty Tomb)
  • Scriptural Treatment Planning (Pursuing Christlikeness)
  • Theo-Dramatic Spiritual Conversations (Healing Theological Trialogues)
  • Stretching Scriptural Explorations (Healing Biblical Trialogues)

Alert readers will notice that this spells RESTS and that Kevin Vanhoozer is involved to some extent. You may also wonder what a trialogue is, but you could probably figure that it is a dialogue between counselor and counselee but with the intent of involving the Holy Spirit and Scripture in the conversation.

While this gives you an idea of the content, the layout focuses the material into a workbook rather than a textbook. As Bob explains, “We learn to become competent biblical counselors by giving and receiving biblical counseling in the context of real and raw Christian community” (17). He goes on to explain,

We don’t learn to be effective counselors simply by reading a book—no matter how profound the book. We don’t learn to be skilled people-helpers simply by engaging in role-play scenarios or even by watching experienced counselors—though both of these are very helpful methods. We learn to be effective biblical counselors through face-to-face gospel ministry where we speak the truth in love to one another.

Here’s the most important piece of advice I can offer you as you work your way through Gospel Conversations: do not try to use Gospel Conversations simply as text to read or a lecture to give. That’s not how I designed it. I’ve designed Gospel Conversations as an experiential training manual that promotes real and raw, vulnerable and open relationships among your equipping group members (17).

With that in mind, it is probably best to use this book as the focus of a book club with leaders in your church. I am hoping to do that with the small group leaders that I coach, probably starting in the new year. We could all use some growth in this area and Bob has provided an excellent resource. Each chapter has several sections of workbook like questions that readers can go through, but they are aimed at being used in community. In that way, Bob doesn’t simply provide a resource that is helping you grow your factual knowledge, but one that is helping to expand your experiential knowledge of what it means to truly care like Christ. I’m looking forward to diving in more fully and guiding some others along in the process. I’d highly recommend trying to do the same if you can.

Robert W. Kellemen, Gospel Conversations: How to Care Like ChristGrand Rapids: Zondervan, September 2015. 400 pp. Paperback, $18.99.

Buy itAmazon | Westminster

Visit the publisher’s page

Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy!


Earlier this fall, a good friend of mine asked if I had reading list that provided a crash course in Reformed Theology. I instantly regretted that I did not, and purposed in my heart to write this very post you are reading right now. Other obligations did their usual thing, which is to say, crowded out good intentions, so here we are almost two months later.

Initially, I asked some follow up questions to clarify whether we’re talking about Reformed Theology as a kind of theological system and/or worldview in general or Calvinism in particular. The latter term, is unfortunately almost worthless since it doesn’t necessarily mean that your theology is derived directly from Calvin’s writings. In addition, you could subscribe to TULIP as a theological acronym for an explanation of your doctrine of salvation, but believe have fairly divergent views on other doctrines. People tend to mean TULIP when they say Calvinism, so if that’s what you’re interested in understanding better, I’d recommend John Piper’s Five Points, which uses the traditional terminology, or PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace for non-traditional terminology. You could also check out Michael Horton’s For Calvinism and Roger Olson’s Against Calvinism to see both sides (although the latter is better at explaining Arminian Theology than arguing against Calvinism). For some thoughts on why “Calvinism” is hard to use as a label, see Richard Muller’s Calvin and The Reformed Tradition.

That being said, I’m focusing on Reformed Theology as a theological system. And if that’s what you’re interested in exploring, there are a couple of options. One, you could read the Westminster Confession of Faith since is the typical summary statement most people who are Reformed would agree with. Better, you could read Chad Van Dixhoorn’s Confessing The Faith: A Reader’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith which provides not only the confession, but helpful explanatory commentary. It’s the same idea as a study Bible, just with the confession as the text instead of Scripture.

For another option, you could read a book like R. C. Sproul’s Everyone’s A Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. Here you’re getting an accessible explanation of systematic theology from a Reformed point of view. Sproul is very readable and although Latin crops up frequently, he always explains what the terms mean. He can be somewhat combative toward Roman Catholic thought and Arminians, but that helps to distinguish points of difference. An interesting comparative study would be to read this followed by Roger Olson’s Arminian Theology.

Having done that, you could then move up to a bigger systematic. The standard is usually Berkhof, who is essentially a beginner’s version of Bavinck. A better bet might be either the abridged one-volume version of Bavinck, or Bavinck own’s single volume explanation of Reformed Theology. For a very readable, though at time idiosyncratic take on Reformed Theology, I’d highly recommend John Frame’s Systematic Theology. The publisher, P&R, kindly sent me a review copy a while back and I’ve posted on it here, here, and here. An advantage of Frame is his generally irenic tone. He is also particularly strong on, no pun intended, frameworks for understanding theology. Given his earlier volumes (DKG, DG, DCL, DWG), the strengths of this systematic lie in his explanation of Scripture, God, and the Christian life. He is not as strong on say, doctrine of Christ and salvation. For that, I’d recommend Michael Horton, who is weak where Frame is strong, and vice versa.

If I were to close by making a meta comment about the books I’ve mentioned, it typically comes down to selecting something that is time tested (The WCF, Bavinck) or a book from someone who has spent most of their lifetime teaching the subject (Sproul, Frame). If you were to try to come up with some reading on your own, I’d prioritize older works, and works from professors as Reformed seminaries who’ve been around a while. Not to say that the young guns can’t crank out good theology. Case in point, you could always check out Michael Allen’s Reformed Theology in the Doing Theology series for a concise intro. If you’re trying to evaluate things on your own though, you’re better off going with established track records (which isn’t to say Allen doesn’t have one) and/or doing what my friend did, and asking someone who reads a lot.

On that note, what you have recommended if you were in my shoes? And by shoes, I mean flip-flops.

In senior Bible, in addition to Ask Anything Friday, we’re now taking a 10-15 look at key figures and ideas in the history of philosophy. I’ve made use here and there of 8-Bit Philosophy videos, but The School of Life is a bit more systematic. I’m a bit surprised there is not a discussion of The Cave allegory in this video, but we can discuss it nonetheless. Plato’s insight into what to look for in a significant other is certainly counter-culture (point #3 in the video) and will probably be something we discuss further before getting to the questions of the day.


It’s hard to believe it’s been 8 years since I packed up my life and moved to Dallas to start seminary. Four years ago, I graduated and Ali and I moved to Florida. We initially lived with her parents and ironically, did so again last month for a short time in between rentals. Having finished four years of teaching a few months ago put me in a reflective mood. Then, several Twitter friends I have started their studies at TEDS this fall. This led me to re-think a blog series idea I had while I was finishing seminary. I had wanted to do a blog series on what seminary students ought to know. While the perspective of a freshly graduated student is helpful, I’m hoping the perspective of someone who’s been out for several years is more helpful.

In addition, I’m looking at the prospect of doing Ph.D studies myself, although not through a seminary. I’ll say more about that in time, but my approach to being a student will be different this time around. Part of this is differences in program (residential vs. distance) as well as aim within the program (general grasp of a field vs. specialized research in one area).The other part is that I’m hopefully older and wiser in my 30’s than I was in my 20’s (one can hope!)

This series will begin autobiographically and so somewhat parallel the book reviewing series. In short, before talking about how to be a successful seminary student, it’s worth thinking through why you’d even want to go to seminary in the first place. In some ways, Kevin DeYoung already covered this in his recent post. I’ll use that as a kind of framework in my next post and explain why I went and then why I think I might go again. DeYoung’s questions offer good ways to think through the big picture normative questions about the type of school you’d attend

From there, I’d like to talk through some of the situational factors that are relevant when deciding how to approach seminary. Cost is significant, as is the question of relocation. Time is certainly relevant, and so is job prospects after graduating. I won’t linger here too long, but some of these are things I didn’t adequately think through ahead of time, so don’t make the same mistakes I did.

Lastly, the bulk of what I’ll focus on relate to good practices as a student, which again, dovetails nicely into the book reviewing series. It will also be here that I start taking you along on my own nontraditional journey toward Ph.D studies. Here, I’ll focus on reading and writing well, as well as the overall conceptual architecture you bring to your studies. I’m not exactly an expert, but it’s kind of what I’ve been doing for the last decade. And, now that I’ve been teaching for a few years, I’ve added some teaching tips that I wish I would have been developing while I was still primarily a student.

All in all, I’m hoping to actually make this series stick. If there’s particular questions or aspects you think I should definitely touch on, let me know and I’ll do my best to include your ideas!


You may remember a blog series I claimed to be starting last fall. I’ve long thought it worth putting some organized thoughts down on how to go about being a book reviewer. For reasons I can’t remember, I was sidetracked last fall and so the series never really got off the ground. As I’m getting more organized now, I’d like to resurrect it.

While I talked about how to approach buying books, and a bad reason to want to review them, I didn’t have much else to say on the topic since deciding this series was in order. If you look back at the original outline, the latter post falls under the existential perspective. It is a negative point about why you’d want to review book in the first place. Here, I’d like to offer a positive point and then move on through some other existential considerations before going back to a situtational rundown of actually acquiring books.

Before you really start reviewing books, you should have a good “why” in mind. That might seem rather basic, but it can be easy to just get sucked in without giving the process too much thought. Initially for me, I posted book reviews on my blog that I had completed for classes. As this was near the end of my time in seminary, my initial “why” was staying sharp by engaging in academic exercises in theology.

Over time this unfortunately morphed into a way to get free books. But I was still committed to reading them and writing down my thoughts rather than just taking advantage of publisher’s generosity. Also, down the road I began doing more research for teaching as well as work for Docent, so book reviews weren’t entirely necessary to keep my academic muscles strong. It was around this time that my pace of reviewing took a noticeable drop as time was being devoted elsewhere and books were being bought instead of requested. After a while, I lost interest in doing reviews, but still felt compelled to complete ones for books I’d already requested and received. More recently, my interest has been renewed and revitalized and so you’ll probably start seeing more and more frequent reviews in the coming months.

Now, that gives you some background and ups and downs, but doesn’t really explain why I keep reviewing books now. I think ultimately it comes down to three reasons (of course).

  • I enjoy reading and writing
  • I want to contribute to scholarship
  • I want to serve others by helping them steward their time and money


I enjoy reading books and processing what I’ve read in writing. I don’t enjoy all books equally, but I enjoy a good book and I like to think out loud about what I’ve been reading. In that case, I would, and will, write about books that I read even if I don’t necessarily have to for a review. If you this doesn’t describe you, (1) I’m not sure why you’d want to review books, but more importantly (2) if you don’t enjoy doing book reviews, just don’t do them. Unless it’s an obligation (and if you’re blogging it probably isn’t), you’re free to spend your time doing other things. I’ve taken seasons here and there to do that myself, and I’d encourage you to do the same. If you enjoy reading and writing, you’ll probably enjoy reviewing book. If you don’t, you won’t. At the end of the day, you should enjoy the basic activities that go into book reviewing if you’re going to spend time doing them.


Beyond simple enjoyment, you should want to contribute something through your reviews. That doesn’t mean that every review must be a seminal work that shatters everyone else’s preconceived notions about the book in question. It does mean that your review can’t simply be a summary of the book. Summaries can be helpful, but they’re not offering any kind of scholarly or academic contribution to the subject. A good review has some degree of summarizing, but it also includes analysis and that’s where your contribution usually lies. That being said, in reviewing books, you should want to contribute something to the conversation the book is a part of. Your analysis can be both positive and negative, but generally speaking, that’s what makes your review worth reading (or not). I like to shoot for having some kind of particular angle in the review that adds to what others have said, or brings my own background understanding to bear on the book in a way that I think others might not do.


Not every review you offer is going to contribute something academically substantial. I tend to decide while reading the book how much I want to engage it in writing once I’m done. Some reviews (like my new books of note), is really just sharing my basic ideas about the book and who might find it helpful. More rarely, I may have a harshly critical review in hopes of steering people away from a particular resource. In both cases, I’m sharing about what I’ve read so that others can make an informed decision about how to spend their time and money. I am also in these cases serving the publisher who gave me the book by letting others know what I think. If I have established a reputation as a thoughtful reader, then my opinion on a particular book’s value has some clout. If that’s the case, I ought to use it wisely and also keep in mind my potential influence (even if it’s small) when it comes to evaluating books.

Ultimately, I want to take something I enjoy and make it academically profitable and practically useful. If I can do that through my review (in the past and moving forward), then I think I’m on the right track with what I’m doing here.


It is perhaps no surprise that my Greek is much rustier now than it was 4 years ago when I had freshly graduated from seminary. I’m still able to make use of it, and did some tutoring over the summer, which refreshed me on the basics. Over the next year, and especially as I start seriously looking at Ph.D work in theology, I’d like to start sharpening my skills.

Toward that end, I was able to dig through Constantine Campbell’s Advances in The Study of Greek: New Insights for Reading The New Testament. As he explains in the introduction:

This book provides an accessible introduction for students, pastors, professors, and New Testament commentators to understand what are the current issues of interest in this period of paradigm shift(s) and why they matter.

My aim is that this book will be useful to anyone who is studying Greek at university or seminary level, to their professors, to pastors who use Greek, and to New Testament scholars and commentators. In short, anyone who engages with the Greek New Testament ought to benefit from this book, with the possible exception of Greek scholars themselves. (20)

He goes on to clarify that this book is about the “cutting edge” of Greek studies. Because there has been several significant shifts in the past several decades, a resource was needed to quickly bring readers who aren’t scholars up to speed.

The first chapter gives readers a short history of Greek studies since the 19th century. Then, Campbell begins moving through current discussions related to linguistics (chapter 2), lexical semantics (chapter 3), deponency (chapter 4), Aktionsart (chapter 5), idiolect (chapter 6), discourse analysis (chapters 7-8), pronunciation (chapter 9), and finally teaching Greek (chapter 10). If you’ve been to seminary, you’ll realize all of these, for the most part, are hot-button topics. Campbell does a superb job of making these discussion accessible and then provides further reading once you’ve been oriented to the main lines of discussion. In doing so, Campbell hopes to achieve 8 outcomes (27):

  • Readers will be introduced to issues of greatest importance in current Greek studies (check)
  • Readers will be become better equipped to handle Greek text with linguistic sophistication (somewhat check)
  • Readers will feel competent to engage further Greek scholarship (check)
  • Readers will engage further with Greek scholarship (we’ll see)
  • The teaching of Greek will be well informed of current issues (came in handy already in tutoring to talk about pronunciation, so check)
  • The wider world of New Testament scholarship will become more engaged with Greek scholarship (I can’t do too much about this)
  • Future editions of this book will need to includes contributions of the aforementioned readers (we’ll see)

I enjoyed reading through Campbell’s discussions and as you can see, he achieved many of his outcomes in my reading. Others who are more directly connected with New Testament scholarship will undoubtedly benefit more directly than I did. However, it helped to renew my interest in some of the more technical discussions and made me reminisce about my semesters in Greek back at Dallas. Interestingly, one of the authors Campbell interacts with in the deponency chapter, Stratton Ladewig, was adjuncting while I was at DTS while he finished his dissertation. A friend of mine was in his section, and so deponency was an even more hot topic then. Unfortunately, Campbell judges that Ladewig’s most powerful argument related to deponency was ultimately unsuccessful. And to find out why, and what the state of deponcency is in Greek studies at the moment, you’ll need to pick up a copy of Campbell’s book and read for yourself.

Constantine R. Campbell, Advances in The Study of Greek: New Insights for Reading The New TestamentGrand Rapids: Zondervan, July 2015. 256 pp. Paperback, $34.99.

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Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy!