For this past year, I’ve been teaching a psychology elective at the Christian school that employs me. Knowing roughly this time last year I’d be teaching it, I began looking for potential textbooks. Because it is a class that meets just once a week and is for a half credit, a standard college psychology textbook isn’t really the best option. I had compromised on that the first time I taught the class, and with mixed results. This time around, I wanted to try something a little different.
I noticed sometime late last spring that Baker Academic had a book titled Exploring Psychology and Christian Faith: An Introductory Guide slated to release late summer. It is written by Paul Moes and Donald Tellinghuisen, both professors at Calvin College. Together they’ve written an insightful look at psychological study in Christian perspective. While there were some other options I had looked at, just judging from the table of contents, I thought it might be a useful text for the first semester of the class. Baker Academic graciously sent me a review copy that arrived in time for me to read ahead and prep a bit. I’ve now worked my way through it on my own, and we’ve done about 12 chapters together in class.
So far, I would say it has gone very well. The book really is a look at the study of psychology from a Christian standpoint. By that I mean it’s not a psychology textbook, but is an exercise in thinking theologically about many of the subject areas that are covered in a standard psychology textbook. That means there are chapters on research methodology (chapter 2), the mind body connection (3-4), consciousness and sensation (5-6), learning (7), memory (8), decision making (9), growth and development (10), social psychology (11-12), personality (13), disorders (14), and therapy (15). Some of the chapters could have been subdivided (the sensation chapter could easily be multiple chapters), but given what I imagine were tight space constraints, I was satisfied with the layout.
As readers are guided through each of these dimensions of psychological study, the authors utilize five themes from Scripture concerning humans to think theologically. Those themes are (ix, also explained in detail in chapter 1):
- Relational persons (we are made in the image of God, meant for relationship with him and meant to steward his creation)
- Broken, in need of redemption (we are sinners in need of salvation through Christ, living in and part of creation that suffers the consequences of all humanity’s sin)
- Embodied (we bear God’s image in real bodies in a real world)
- Responsible limited agents (we make choices, within constraints, that result in actions for which we are both individually and corporately responsible)
- Meaning seekers (we seek to make sense of our surroundings, our experience, and our purpose through perceiving patterns, creative meaning making, and desire for a deity)
Helpfully I think, the authors parenthetically note when they are drawing on these themes later in the book. Rather than simply telling you these themes are the backbone of their analysis and letting you pick up on it, they draw your attention to their use throughout. Also helpfully, the authors draw on up-to-date psychological study that has made popular impact. For instance, they draw on Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow in the chapter on decision making, John Gottman’s work in the chapter on research methodology, and Steven Pinker makes several appearances. And just easily they reference classic studies like those of Pavlov, Stanley Milgram, and the strange story of Phineas Gage.
On the whole, I’d say this book works well in the venue I’m using it. The discussion questions help us personalize and develop the material from the standpoint of our Christian faith. Outside of the classroom, this could be a good book for someone interested in psychology, especially if they are considering majoring in it in college. Post-college, this could be a helpful look at psychology for those in minister who lack a background in psychological study. It’s certainly not as extensive as actually majoring in psychology or capable of replacing extensive reading, but it does provide a good general orientation for further study. In the end, I think it is ideally suited for the classroom as either a primary text in smaller class like I’m teaching, or as a supplemental text for a full psychology class at the college level.
Paul Moes & Donald J. Tellinghuisen, Exploring Psychology and Christian Faith: An Introductory Guide. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, August 2014. 304 pp. Paperback, $21.99.
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Thanks to Baker Academic for the review copy!
When it comes to teaching or preaching a book of the Bible, there are plenty of resource and commentaries one could choose from. Recently, I’ve had the opportunity check out several volumes from Baker Books‘ Teach The Text series. If you’re not familiar, each of the volumes in the series offers the following units for each section of Scripture commented upon:
- Big Idea
- Key Themes
- Understanding the Text (traditional outline, context, background, exegetical and theological insights)
- Teaching the Text (connection of big idea and themes aimed toward teaching context)
- Illustrating the Text (pointers to potential illustrations of the particular text)
This specific volume by the late R. T. France is both the first volume published on a Gospel and France’s last commentary. France is a particularly noted expositor when it comes to the Gospels (he is known for his Matthew and Mark commentaries) so it is fortunate that he was able to contribute to this series. While this volume won’t replace more established volumes on Luke, it is helpful to consult because of the format of the series.
Along those lines, my most significant complaint is that the illustrating the text suggestions seemed repetitive. That is to say, several resources or persons kept coming up as illustration ideas over and over. Some of this might be due to the fact that certain themes and applications continually come up within the Luke. That being said, it is still a generally useful feature if you’re planning to preach or teach the text.
Another issue to keep in mind is that as a trade off for having sections like “Illustrating the Text,” the actual verse by verse comments can be sparser than one would expect given the size of the book. It is probably best to think of the commentaries in this series along the lines of those in the Tyndale series, but with added sections aimed at making the text easier to teach. If you approach this volume from that perspective, and use it in tandem with other more extensive commentaries, it should prove useful in your particular teaching ministry.
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Thanks to Baker Books for the review copy!
While you are probably already aware of Tim Keller’s Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, there is a perhaps lesser known book on prayer that you should notice. Released about a month before Keller’s, Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel’s Beloved Dust: Drawing Close to God By Discovering the Truth About Yourself is a different sort of book on the topic. While it is equally personal as Keller’s, Goggin and Strobel’s book is focused more on unpacking our creaturely dependence on God, as well as our status as beloved sons and daughters in our relationship to our heavenly Father. Together, these serve as the basis for prayer. If you are not dependent on God, there is no need to pray. Yet, if you recognize your dependence but not your status as beloved, you might not want to pray. Therefore, the twin emphases of the book are that we are humble creatures who are broken and in need of rescue and we are met in our brokenness by Jesus who then enables us to be in loving relationship with God.
Unpacking these emphases takes readers on a journey back to the original intentions of God in creating us (chapter 1). From there we explore our creatureliness from the vantage point of being time bound (chapter 2), as well as our general finitude and frailty (chapter 3). This can be compounded by our brokenness and our desire to hide within it (chapter 4), but the good needs of the gospel is that Christ has taken on our dust and dustiness and this changes everything (chapter 5). Chapter 6-9 make the turn toward re-thinking prayer in this light and focusing on our relationship as beloved dust in the sight of our Creator.
In reading this book, you won’t find quick tips on a better prayer life. Instead, you are taken on a journey to reorient your basic understanding of your relationship with God and your experience of his presence. It is an attempt to rebuild from the ground up how you conceive of who you are, who God is, and how your are related in Christ. As such, it seems like an excellent book for someone frustrated with their spiritual growth or lack thereof. Likewise, if you’re feeling distant and alienated from God but don’t know where to start, this book will hopefully offer insight. While not a quick solution, it is a necessary corrective for establishing an understanding of our relationship with God in a biblical theological perspective. It is a book I will revisit in the months ahead and hope to pass along to others as well.
Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel, Beloved Dust: Drawing Close to God By Discovering the Truth About Yourself. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, October 2014. 240 pp. Paperback,$16.99.
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Thanks to Thomas Nelson for the review copy!
As noted by authors G. K. Beale and Mitchell Kim in the preface, “the substance and basic thesis of the book is distilled from G. K. Beale, The Temple and The Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God” (7). That basic thesis was developed into a 7 week sermon series by Kim, who was a Ph.D student of Beale’s at Wheaton. That material was then translated back into written format and expanded slightly (this book has 11 chapters instead of 7). As a result, “Some material has been lifted verbatim from the original book; most has been reworked to communicate more concisely and clearly” (8). Thematically, this book is tracing the development of Eden through Scripture. Starting with Eden as a temple (chapter 1), on to the call to expand Eden (chapter 2), Eden potentially lost (chapter 3), and Eden remixed (chapter 4, the tabernacle/temple) and restored (chapter 5, promises in the prophets). Then it moves to the New Testament where we see Eden rebuilt (chapter 6, on Jesus), expanding (chapter 7, through the church), it’s ministry (chapter 8, our priestly role), and it’s eventually complete expansion (chapter 9, the New Heavens and New Earth). The final chapters explain why this theme has been obscured, as well as offer some practical reflections.
After I noted all this from the preface and table of contents, my first thought was, “Do I even need to read this book?” Having read the bigger book on which it is based, it didn’t seem like it was totally necessary. But, because it is Beale, I ended up giving it a quick read/skim through. Another reader who really has the time and energy could probably give you a better idea how specifically this book relates to the bigger one. My take away was that this is a much more accessible version of the main ideas in Beale’s bigger book and so more likely to get a wider reading. I could recommend this book to a variety of people and they could read and profit from it. Only a really dedicated reader is going to wrestle through the The Temple and The Church’s Mission (but they’ll be glad they did).
Because I had already read Beale’s larger volume, this one wasn’t as mind-blowing as it could have been. However, I’m glad it is published because I think readers unfamiliar with Beale now have a better entry point to his biblical theological ways. Interested readers should pick this up, and if they want more, move on to the larger volume or some of Beale’s other biblical theological works (like this one).
G. K. Beale & Mitchell Kim, God Dwells Among Us: Expanding Eden to The Ends of The Earth. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, October 2014. 215 pp. Paperback, $17.00.
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Thanks to IVP Books for the review copy!
Much to my surprise, a copy of Studies in The Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo showed up on my door step a few weeks back. I don’t think I actually requested it, but it is the type of book I certainly might have. If you are familiar with the landscape of Pauline studies, you are certainly familiar with Douglas Moo. Whether it’s his Romans commentary, his Colossians and Philemon volume, or most recently, his work on Galatians, Moo is a Pauline scholar par excellence. I’ve also profited from his work on James, as well as his New Testament Introduction co-authored with D. A. Carson.
Here, two former students, Matthew Harmon and Jay Smith (who taught several of my friends at Dallas), have edited a collection of essays in his honor. The essays are split into three categories. First, there are those dealing with exegetical questions in Paul (featuring contributions by D. A. Carson, Moo’s son Jonathan, and others). Second, there are those dealing with Paul’s use of Scripture (featuring contributions by Craig Blomberg and Grant Osborne). Lastly, and most interesting to me, are the essays on contemporary Pauline scholarship. Here we have essays from G. K. Beale (“The Eschatology of Paul”), Tom Schreiner (“Understanding Truth According to Paul”), and N. T. Wright (“A New Perspective on Kasemann? Apocalyptic, Covenant, and the Righteousness of God”). Also worth noting are the essays by James Dunn (“What’s Right About the Old Perspective on Paul”) and Stephen Westerholm (“What’s Right About the New Perspective on Paul”).
After reading through several of these and perusing the book as a whole, I don’t think I would buy it if I had to pay full price. It is a great resource if you’re really into Pauline studies. But for me, only the final part of the book was of real interest and the essays there, while interesting, wouldn’t be enough to warrant spending the full price on the book. On the other hand, now that it’s in my possession, I’ll definitely hold onto it. I doubt I’ll ever read it cover to cover, but as I continue to wrestle with Paul, I’m sure I’ll come back to it from time to time.
Matthew S. Harmon and Jay E. Smith, ed., Studies in The Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, December 2014. 320 pp. Hardcover, $49.99.
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Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy!
There is also a part II:
On the one hand, I’m kind of tired of the whole “gospel-centered” usage. On the other hand, I believe in the gospel and am generally for the things that the adjective gets attached to. Counseling is one of those things and I am all for counseling that is gospel-centered, or Christ-centered. I’m also all for “gospel-centered” when it is an accurate description instead of a gimmicky buzzword. Thankfully, the former is exactly what Bob Kellemen offers readers in Gospel-Centered Counseling: How Christ Changes Lives (and he even deals with the whole buzzword problem in his introduction).
In many ways, the book is a kind of systematic theology, but applied to counseling. Kellemen follows a general outline of Word, Trinity, creation, fall, redemption, church, consummation, sanctification to organize the chapters. These chapters are answering the following questions:
- Where do we find wisdom for life in a broken world?
- What comes into our mind when we think about God? Whose view of God will be believe – Christ’s or Satan’s?
- Whose are we? In what story do we find ourselves?
- What’s the root source of our problem? What went wrong?
- How does Christ bring us peace with God? How does Christ change people?
- Where can we find a place to belong and become?
- How does our future destiny with Christ make a difference in our lives today as saints who struggle against suffering and sin?
- Why are we here? How do we become like Jesus? How can our inner life increasingly reflect the inner life of Christ?
Now, I could go chapter by chapter and show how Kellemen answers these question. But, Gospel-Centered Counseling is probably the first book I’ve gotten for review that offers its own Tweet-sized summary. Rather than try to re-summarize the book for you, here are 20 Tweet-sized summaries provided by Kellemen. They roughly move chapter to chapter (the first one is from chapter 1 and the last is from chapter 16):
- To view the Bible accurately and use the Bible competently we must understand the Bible’s story the way God tells it—as a gospel victory narrative.
- The supremacy of Christ’s gospel, the sufficiency of Christ’s wisdom, and the superiority of Christ’s Church provide the wisdom we need for counseling in a broken world.
- We discover wisdom for how to live life in a broken world from the wisest person who ever lived—Christ!
- We must know the Trinitarian Soul Physician personally to be a powerful soul physician.
- To know the God of peace and the peace of God we must know our Triune God in the fullness of His holy love demonstrated in the cross of Christ
- Because Satan attempts to plant seeds of doubt about God’s good heart, God calls us to crop the Christ of the cross back into the picture.
- The whole, healthy, holy person’s inner life increasingly reflects the inner life of Christ—relationally, rationally, volitionally, and emotionally.
- Biblical counselors pursue compassionate and wise counseling where our love abounds in depth of knowledge about the heart in the world
- The essence of sin is spiritual adultery—choosing to love anyone or anything more than God.
- Sin is not just a thief caught in a crime; sin is an adulterer caught in the act.
- Apart from Christ we’re condemned as adulterous spouses, dead in sin, separated from the life of God with depraved heart capacities enslaved to sin.
- Sin is what personal beings imagine, think, choose, do, and feel as they desire and love anything or anyone more than Christ.
- Fully biblical gospel-centered counseling deals thoroughly both with the sins we have committed and with the evils we have suffered.
- We must build our biblical counseling models of change on Christ’s gospel applied to Christians—justified, reconciled, regenerated, and redeemed people.
- Through regeneration our new heart has a new want to; through redemption our new heart has a new can do.
- Together with all the saints the church is the place to belong to Christ and the Body of Christ and to become like Christ.
- Sanctification is a community journey.
- As saints who struggle with suffering and sin, we must crop back into the picture our future purity (the wedding) and future victory (the final war).
- Sanctification is the art of applying our complete salvation by God’s grace, Spirit, Word, people, and future hope so we increasingly reflect Christ.
- Gospel-motivated and empowered heart change puts off and puts on affections, mindsets, purposes, and mood states so we increasingly reflect the heart of Christ.
Reading through these will give a general snapshot of the main propositions of the book. One hallmark of Kellemen’s writing style is his clarity of expression and organizational prowess. This book is tightly organized and very clearly thought through. Some readers may be put off by some turns of phrase by Kellemen (like talking about “soul-u-tions”), but it is clear they always have a pedagogical goal in mind. Kellemen doesn’t just want to present truth from Scripture for informed biblical counseling. He wants to present truth in a way that is understandable and that sticks. I think he succeeds on both counts.
I think this is a book that every pastor should read. While the book I talked about yesterday deals with a single, but still multifaceted issue, Gospel-Centered Counseling gives a foundational and broad understanding of theology for a sound personal ministry of the Word. It shows how the truths from a systematic theology have practical application in the lives of everyday believers. In fact, it might be good reading for someone who is interested in systematic theology but put off by the breadth and dryness of many actual systematic theologies. It would also serve well for someone who wonders if theology is actually practical. Because Kellemen’s writing style is conversational and engaging, it makes the book ideal for a wide audience. And when it comes down to it, we all counsel each other to some extent as we give advice and listen to each other. We would do well then to make sure our advice grow from a biblical foundation and taking the time to read a book like this can help ensure that happens.
Robert W. Kellemen, Gospel-Centered Counseling: How Christ Changes Lives (Equipping Biblical Counselors Series). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, October 2014. 320 pp. Paperback, $18.99.
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Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy!
When it comes to counseling and the local church, the role of the Bible figures prominently. For some people, Scripture is sufficient for many problems in life, but not necessarily some of the major issues counselors face. For others, Scripture’s sufficiency is applied more broadly, but questions remain. Addressing many of those questions is Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life in a Broken World, a generous collection of essays on the topic. As Bob Kellemen explains, “Scripture and Counseling encourages these individuals – people like you – to regain their confidence in God’s Word for real-life issues and equips them to grow in their competence in using God’s Word to tackle the complex issues of life” (13).
The italicized words in the previous quote help outline the two major parts of the book. The first, “How We View The Bible for Life in a Broken World,” is aimed at building confidence in the mind of the reader. The second, “How We Use The Bible for Life in a Broken World,” is clearly competence focused. Each part contains 10 essays, written by contributors asking themselves, “How can my chapter encourage and equip pastors, small group leaders, biblical counselors, one-another ministers, and spiritual friends to trust God’s Word and to use God’s Word to minister to broken people?” (14). The result, I think, is a solid work that helps to alleviate concerns that biblical counseling amounts to throwing a Bible verse at whatever problems a person might have.
The major concerns I would have when looking through a book like this is how they deal with the question of truth from other sources (like psychology) and the role of the body. Thankfully, there are chapters on both. For the former, there are actually two chapters, both written by Jeffery Forrey. Presented in the frame of a fictional dialogue, in chapters 3 and 4, Forrey tackles the question of how mainstream psychological research relates to revelation and truth. In short, truth may be found in these sources, but that is not the same as treating psychological research as general revelation. As one of the characters in the dialogue says, “Scientific research – even research done within the boundaries of biblical truth – is not itself revelation, and therefore, it must not be viewed as having the same purpose or authority as revelation” (71-72).
From this point of view, one could return to the question of how to integrate psychology and theology. In the perspective articulated in this book, scientific/psychological research is not on the same footing as the special revelation we have in Scripture. The latter takes precedence and is used as an interpretive grid for evaluating the former. They are not two streams of thought to be integrated as equals. Granted, when I speak of “theology” that is not synonymous with “special revelation.” But, the point remains that truth is to be found in scientific research, but it is evaluated from a biblical perspective and will ultimately not conflict with anything clearly taught in Scripture. Unpacking how this might work is the focus of the second chapter in Forrey’s dialogical analysis.
When it comes to the question of the body, Sam Williams offers a chapter answering just that question. His basic guidelines to help determine whether to refer a counselee to get medically evaluated are worth noting (157):
- When non-medication approaches have not resulted in the remission of significant symptoms
- When these symptoms are impairing the person’s capacity to function and fulfill their primary roles and responsibilities
- Or symptoms are so severe the person cannot cognitively process biblical truth
- Or symptoms are so severe that the functioning of the body is significantly impaired
- Or when symptoms result from organic/medical causes and safe non-medication approaches have not result in sufficient symptom remission
As you can see, much of this advice is driven by the idea that people need non-medicated approaches no matter what, but there are also serious bodily malfunctions that should be taken into account. Williams notes that “Medicine can facilitate cognitive, emotional, and behavioral change – which is good – but can’t change the human heart – which is eternally significant” (158). It would seem then that the perspective offered here is not anti-medication nor loathe to make medical referrals. Rather, it takes seriously the role of the body without treating medication as a wonder cure for psychological ailments.
Other highlights of the book include Ernie Baker and Howard Eyrich’s chapter reminding us that counseling systems are also belief systems; Kellemen’s several chapters (reminding us of the Bible’s relevance as the end of part 1 and beginning of part 2); and the closing chapters that unpack using different parts of Scripture in personal ministry of the Word (using biblical narrative, wisdom literature, the Gospels, and the Epistles). The several appendices that follow the essays give a thorough overview of the mission, vision, passion, and beliefs of the The Biblical Counseling Coalition.
In the end, I would say this book is good for any pastor to consider adding to his library. I can’t imagine being a pastor and not doing some level of counseling on a regular basis. Since most seminary curricula do not adequately prepare pastors for a counseling ministry, there will often be a need for remedial reading. This book provides both perspective on the sufficiency of Scripture in real life counseling situations as well as guidance for being a better counselor of the Word. The theoretical essays always retain a practical focal point and the more applicational essays grow out of a good theoretical base. That base, in Kellemen’s view, is the robust biblical approach to personal ministry of the Word that is a hallmark of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and is now being articulated well in resources like this. If you’re heavily involved in personal ministry, this is a resource you’ll likely want to explore.
Bob Kellemen (General Ed.) & Jeff Forrey (Managing Ed.), Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life in a Broken World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, October 2014. 480 pp. Hardcover, $32.99.
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Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy!
Let me quote in the full the opening paragraph of James Hamilton’s preface to With the Clouds of Heaven: The Book of Daniel in Biblical Theology:
I don’t deserve to read the Bible, much less write about it. What a privilege to have God reveal himself to us in his word. What a great God, keeping covenant and steadfast love, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, and everywhere manifesting his power and love. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars, and yet he also speaks so tenderly that the bruised reed doesn’t break. I join the ranks of the heavenly hosts, the saints across space and time, and everything in this cosmic temple to ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name. Would that I could do so in a way worthy of him. I thank God the Father through Christ the Son by the power of the Spirit for his merciful salvation, full and complete revelation, and gracious provision. (15)
When I read this, I knew I was in for a great book. While it doesn’t tell you much about the content of the book, it does tell you about the heart of the person writing the book. Clearly, for Hamilton, writing this study of Daniel was something he approached worshipfully and humbly. And it shows.
As Hamilton explains in the introductory chapter, “I am here attempting an evangelical and canonical biblical theology of Daniel” (21). In his the rest of the chapter, Hamilton defines biblical theology (“the attempt to understand and embrace the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors”), as well as a defense of the Hebrew ordering of the Old Testament canon. He also articulates and evangelical approach to interpreting the book, which consists of an early date (prior to the prophecies it delivers) and that Daniel, as Scripture, has both a human and divine author.
From here, the second chapter places Daniel in the context of “the wider storyline of canonical biblical theology” (41). Chapter 3 is an in-depth analysis of Daniel’s literary structure. Hamilton presents the thematic links that appear throughout the text and argues for a chiastic structure of the book (1 and 10-12 parallel; 2 and 7-9; 3 and 6, and 4-5 are the center). With this foundational understanding in place, Hamilton turns to an interpretation of the four kingdoms in chapter 4, the seventy weeks in chapter 5, and the heavenly beings in the book in chapter 6, with particular reference to “the one like a son of man.”
Chapter 7 is a kind of turning point. Rather than focusing on themes within the book, or particular interpretive difficulties, Hamilton examines the interpretations of Daniel in early Jewish literature. Particular attention is paid to Tobit, writings from Qumran, 1 Maccabees, 4 Ezra, and 1 Enoch. The following chapter then moves to the New Testament interpretations of Daniel, other than its use in the book of Revelation. Here, he notes that for the New Testament writers, Daniel has both been fulfilled and yet remains to be fulfilled (199). Chapter 10 focuses on Daniel within the book of Revelation before the final chapter wraps up with an explanation of the typological patterns in Daniel, with particular reference to his connection to Joseph.
While I could go into more detail about the depth and riches of Hamilton’s work here, I think you’d be better served by just picking up and reading for yourself. The overall flow of material here is something I would like to see more of in future titles in this series. After setting the book in historical and literary context, Hamilton does a close analysis of the literary structure of the book before tackling major themes. Once he has done that detailed exegetical work, avenues are opened to actually do good biblical theology by seeing how the book fits into the canon as a whole. I also appreciated that Hamilton put a chapter on early Jewish understandings before jumping to the New Testament. Because of Daniel’s apocalyptic nature and time of writing, this helped to show both similarities and differences with how the New Testament writers, particularly Matthew, Mark, and John understood the book to be fulfilled in the person and work of Christ.
I think both the church and the academy are served better by this kind of close attention and exposition of a text within its canonical context. Likewise, for a controversial book in the realm of eschatology, Hamilton does a good job of focusing on major themes of the text. He could have focused on showing how the book supports a pre-millennial understanding of the end times event timeline, which was how the book was taught at the Bible institute I went to freshman year. While that it is Hamilton’s perspective, that wasn’t the focus of his book and even if you’re from a different eschatological position (which I am), there is much to appreciate and learn from in his handling of the key texts of Daniel. In Hamilton’s capable hands, the book of Daniel is allowed to speak for itself as he tracks closely with his sense of the intent of the author (and Author). This kind of reading should be emulated widely.
As I noted back at the beginning, I knew from reading the preface that this book would be an enjoyable and beneficial read. It skipped to the front of my reading queue when it came in the mail and I think I finished it in a few days as I was also reading through Daniel in my daily quiet time. It is a work I think I’ll return to, but in the mean time, I hope Hamilton has another work like this in his hopper. I guess while I wait, I can always go back and re-read God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment as I read through the Bible this coming year. In fact, if you’d like to join me, Dr. Hamilton has a post explaining exactly how to do that!
James M. Hamilton Jr., With the Clouds of Heaven: The Book of Daniel in Biblical Theology, New Studies in Biblical Theology. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, August 2014. 272 pp. Paperback, $25.00.
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Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!
G. K. Beale holds the J. Gresham Machen Chair of New Testament and is professor of New Testament and biblical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. Benjamin Gladd is both a former Ph.D student of Beale’s and now assistant professor of New Testament at RTS Jackson. Together, they have authored Hidden But Now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery. The desire behind the project stems from “lack of an exegetical and biblical-theological analysis of mystery, and especially of how the word informs the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament” (26).
As they note in the introduction, “even though the Old Testament anticipates Jesus and his ministry, there is some aspect of unexpectedness or newness to Jesus’ identity and mission, which some would say cannot be found at all in the Old Testament” (17). They go on to say, “an element of discontinuity or ‘newness’ runs through the entire New Testament” (18). This “newness” may be referred to with the term “mystery,” which “alerts the reader that the topic at hand stands both in continuity and discontinuity to the Old Testament” (19).
In this book, Beale and Gladd are laying out a biblical theology of mystery, and have two primary goals (21):
- Define the Old and New Testament conception of mystery and grasp its significance
- Articulate as precisely as possible those topics that are found in conjunction with the term mystery in its various uses throughout the New Testament
They hope that the net result of the investigation will “sharpen our understanding of various topics, such as kingdom, crucifixion, the relationship between Jews and Gentiles, and so on.”
To accomplish all this, the authors start with Daniel, specifically chapters 2 and 4. If one doesn’t get mystery right in Daniel, it is unlikely one will get it right in the New Testament. It is here that Beale and Gladd argue “the revelation of mystery is not a totally new revelation but the full disclosure of something that was to a significant extent hidden” (30). Further, “at its most basic level, the term mystery concerns God revealing his wisdom” (34). This unites the passages in Daniel that refer to it, and Beale and Gladd demonstrate that in the remainder of the chapter.
In chapter 2, they turn to the use of mystery in early Judaism. In examing representative uses in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Targums, Beale and Gladd conclude, “Mystery is eschatological – that is, it concerns those events that take place in the ‘latter days,’” and “central to the revelatory nature of mystery is its twofold aspect – an initial, generally hidden, revelation is often disclosed, followed by a subsequent fuller (even surprising) interpretation of its meaning” (53). This was the case in Daniel as well.
In chapter 3, the discussion moves on to Matthew. The word mystery appears three times in the Synoptics (once in each), but since Matthew gives the most elaboration, the authors follow his discussion (Mt. 13: 10-17). They ultimately conclude that while “the Old Testament prophesied that the end-time kingdom would be established by the defeat of every one of Israel’s enemies all together and all at once, yet Jesus proclaims that his kingdom exists in simultaneity with his opponents’ kingdom” (75). As a result, Israel and its leaders failed to grasp the mystery.
Chapter 4 moves to the epistles, starting of course with Romans. The relevant passages are chapter 11 and 16. Here the revealed mystery is a period of time when the Gentiles would predominate the people of God. In the Old Testament the most clear pattern was “Jew first, then Gentile,” but Paul draws on a plotline in Deuteronomy 27-32 to argue that now in the beginning of the new age, the pattern is “Gentile first, then Jew.” This connection of Deuteronomy 27-32, specifically 29:22-30:10 to Romans 11 as support for a “Gentile first, then Jew” pattern of redemption is a unique contribution of the book.
The next two chapters cover 1 Corinthians and Ephesians, the two books in the New Testament that most frequently mention “mystery.” This survey of relevant passages continues through Colossians (chapter 7), 2 Thessalonians (chapter 8), 1 Timothy (chapter 9), and finally Revelation (chapter 10). In each chapter, Beale and Gladd thoroughly examine the passage that explains something as a “mystery” and traces the connections back to Daniel and the Old Testament understanding of something hidden that is now more fully revealed.
The final three chapters wrap up the study by first looking at areas in the New Testament that are connected to “mystery” but that do not employ the actual term (as is the case in the previous chapters’ survey). Next, the relationship between Christianity and pagan mystery religions is explored in order to demonstrate that Christianity’s conception of “mystery” is not borrowed. The final concluding chapter teases out some hermenuetical implications for how we interpret the New Testament’s use of the Old. As the authors understand it, having a better grasp of how the New Testament authors make use of Daniel’s conception of mystery will “could furnish us with a new lens in grasping the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament” (338). This expanded and supported further in the appendix, which is an adapted and shortened version of a journal article by Beale that was published in the fall issue of WTJ.
As Beale and Gladd explain in the introduction, “this project is intended for students, scholars, pastors, and laypeople who seriously engage the Scriptures” (26). To accommodate a broad audience like that, they “place many discussions of relevant Old Testament and Jewish texts at the end of each chapter in excurses, allowing the reader to grasp more easily the flow of argument in the main body of the chapter.” It may prove helpful then for lay readers leave aside the footnotes and excurses, only venturing there if further argumentation is desired. Likewise, the authors do an excellent job of summarizing the terrain they’ve crossed at the beginning of each chapter. Because of this, it would be easy to break the reading apart across several weeks or months and be able to pick back up without losing ground. The flipside of this is that if you’re reading it straight through in a short time, it can feel repetitive as the conclusion for one chapter is more or less restated in the introduction of the next.
All that being said, you owe it to yourself to pick this up if you like biblical theology in general or G. K. Beale in particular. I felt like this book could have been published along side The Temple and The Church’s Mission in the New Studies in Biblical Theology series. While not exactly light reading, it is very accessible both in style of writing and the organization of the material. By pushing technical matters to chapter ending excurses, a casual reader ends up reading about 100 less pages (excurses + appendix). Yet, for interested readers who might be more steeped in the subject matter, Beale and Gladd do a good job of taking up important peripheral questions in those excurses. I will be interested see what more scholarly responses are to this work. I tend to find Beale very convincing in his argumentation, but since he is wading into the sticky issue of the New Testament’s use of the Old, I’d like to see how this work is received in the coming months. In order to really part of that conversation though, you have to read the book, so you might as well get started now, especially if you’re on Christmas break!
G. K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd, Hidden But Now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, October 2014. 393 pp. Paperback, $27.00.
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Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!
I know we did August Burns Red last week, but this is one of the new tracks added to their Christmas album for this year. Next week, we’ll broaden our horizons a bit.