Perhaps this comes as a surprise, but I’m actually quite the musician. I have been playing the piano for over 20 years, including 12 years of classical lessons. I’ve also been playing the drums and the guitar since I was a high school freshman which makes me something of a triple threat. It was also late in high school that my friends Steven, David, and I began dabbling in writing and recording music. Our band recorded two Christmas albums and played several gigs around Knoxville. If you’re super nice to me, I might let you hear the latter of those albums sometime in the future.

As for me, I recorded my first album just before graduating high school. It was a collection of songs I had written on the piano during high school and I layered some string sounds over top of them. The result, you can listen to below (if you’re in RSS, you might need to click through):

After that album, I spent the summer working to buy more equipment. My plan was to skip out on college (for a year at least) and just work (which I did at Lowe’s) and make music. For the latter, I wrote and recorded the following album during the month of November:

The concept of the album was to move through three seasons (fall, winter, spring) and each season had 4 songs. The first song starts in the key of C#m (with hints of E) and from there the key signatures move in order through the circle of 5ths (12 key signatures = 12 songs). They are still mostly piano, but I incorporate several guitar based songs. I continue with the string layering, but I also add some “effects,” namely, a guitar tuned to an appropriate open tuning that I then used as a microphone to record key parts played through a Marshall half-stack. The key parts followed the already prominent piano parts which give them a kind of ethereal effect.

Alongside this, I worked on a concept album of songs all in the key of C#. I utilized an open tuning (C#F#C#FG#C#) on my acoustic and electric (the latter being rigged to be permanently a step and half down from standard, as it still is to this day) to make this simpler. I never quite finished it, but it was my first foray into full band songs, i.e. me being a literal one man band. I laid the drum parts down to a metronome and then layered bass, acoustic, and several electric parts on top. The goal was to finish vocal melodies and write lyrics, but I ended up going to Bible school the following fall, and we all know how that turned out. Anyway, you can hear the “lost sessions” here:

Lastly, in the middle of my college years, I re-recorded an old song with a new ending, a showy, solo acoustic song, the piano song that would eventually be the wedding music for our wedding ceremony, and my first hints of progressive rock. The result of that demo session you can listen to here:

For future reference, I’ve now added a link on the navigation bar labelled “Music,” which if clicked, takes you to my bandcamp page. Everything is already in this post, but I’ve been itching to get back into the music lately, and I think this summer might be a good time to do so!

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Steven Boyer is professor of theology at Eastern University and Christopher Hall is the chancellor, as well as the dean of Palmer Theological Seminary. Together they’ve collaborated to offer us a book exploring the role mystery plays in Christian theology. The over-riding metaphor that they use is that of the Sun as mystery. In that sense, mystery illumines what you can see, but is not something you can stare directly into without being blinded.

Using this as an organizing device, the book is split into two parts: The Sun and The Landscape. In the first part, we explore the nature of mystery (or the nature of “The Sun”) as best we can through both exegetical, theological, and historical studies. We look first at what mystery is and is not (chapter 1). Then, explore why mystery is necessary (chapter 2), as well as how it has been historically understood and employed in Christian theology (chapter 3). Finally, we look at how the knowledge of mystery relates to us as God’s image bearers (chapter 4).

In the second part, Boyer and Hall take detailed looks at several significant mysteries in Christian theology. Taking the framework articulated in the first part, they look at the doctrine of the Trinity (chapter 5), the incarnation (chapter 6), sovereignty and human freedom in the realm of salvation (chapter 7), the nature and function of prayer (chapter 8), and finally a chapter on how mystery is employed in world religions (chapter 9).

I think this book will prove to be a significant conversation starter. Even if you do not agree with some of Boyer and Hall’s theological conclusions in the second part of the book (like the middle course they try to chart between Calvinism and Arminianism in chapter 7), I found the way the see mystery relating to Christian theology very helpful. Indeed, you could make the case that Christian theology is essentially the study of three mysteries:

  • How am I saved?
  • Who is Jesus?
  • Who is God?

Fred Sanders has a good discussion of how the first question naturally progresses to the third, but Boyer and Hall provide a good framework for discussing mystery in the first place. If you’ve thought about picking up Rob Bell’s most recent book, I’d go for this more well reasoned and well researched book instead.

Book Details

  • Author: Christopher Hall & Steven Boyer
  • Title: The Mystery of God: Theology for Knowing the Unknowable
  • Publisher: Baker Academic (November 1, 2012)
  • Paperback: 272pgs
  • Reading Level: Bible School/Seminary
  • Audience Appeal: Pastors and Students interested in digging deeper into the mysteries inherent in the Christian faith
  • Gratis Review Copy: Yes (courtesy of Baker Academic on NetGalley)

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Something I don’t do as often anymore, but would like to change, is offer you thoughts in process. I think that’s kind of a big part of blogging. I used to use the blog to think out loud more frequently, but that was in its MySpace and Xanga iterations. I think in seminary I felt like I had to post complete thoughts and complete thoughts only. But, I’m not in seminary any more (but I live across the street from one).

Recently, as I’ve been teaching the Sunday night Doctrine class, and my 11th grade Bible class (which in this semester is a Christian doctrine class), I’ve been thinking about how we go through theology. “Systematic” really just means “ordered according to some logical principle,” and certain ground is expected to be covered. So, systematic theology is just theology that is ordered logically according to topic rather than traced in a linear way through either a single biblical book, or the entire Bible itself.

Good systematic theology is highly exegetical. That is, it is built by exegeting key passages of Scripture. Historical rootedness is helpful, but teaching theology should be more than just rehashing what major theologians have said. A good theologian goes back to the text, and as John Piper exhorted preachers last Wednesday at the inaugural Spurgeon Lectureship at RTS, we need to point people to the text so they see where we got it.

In light of all that, I’ve been wondering if treating the topics in a semi-reverse order might actually be better suited for many audiences. Consider for instance the major headings in the table of contents of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology:

  • Doctrine of The Word of God
  • Doctrine of God
  • Doctrine of Man
  • Doctrine of Christ and The Holy Spirit
  • Doctrine of the Application of Redemption
  • Doctrine of the Church
  • Doctrine of the Future

Similarly, here is the table of contents from Michael Horton’s more recent systematic, The Christian Faith:

  • Knowing God: The Presuppositions of Theology
  • God Who Lives
  • God Who Creates
  • God Who Rescues
  • God Who Reigns in Grace
  • God Who Reigns in Glory

Here we see fairly similar ground covered, but instead of “doctrine,” Horton orbits everything around God as the main actor. Gerald Bray does something similar, but focuses on love, hence his title, God is Love:

  • The Language of Love
  • God’s Love in Himself
  • God’s Love for His Creation
  • The Rejection of God’s Love
  • God So Loved The World
  • The Consummation of God’s Love

I could multiply TOC’s further, but I think you get the idea. They all tend to follow a general pattern. The pattern in and of itself is not what makes them “systematic,” but the fact that there is a clear pattern to it. Berkhof makes this point in his systematic, predictably titled Systematic Theology, where he points out that there are numerous logical orderings, but the point is that there needs to be some kind of logical/topical flow. The one at work in all of the above is starting with the foundation of knowledge, then moving to God, then forward through the biblical story.

If we are going to use the “ologies” for each of these focal points, it would look like this:

  • Epistemology
  • Bibliology
  • Theology Proper
  • Anthropology
  • Hamartialogy
  • Christology
  • Soteriology
  • Pneumatology
  • Ecclesiology
  • Eschatology

Now, what if instead of starting in the usual place (which really puts the most complicated doctrines right up front), we started were people are: the Gospel (or soteriology)

What I’ve noticed while teaching, and I owe some of this insight to Fred Sander’s The Deep Things of God, is people are most familiar with soteriology and the basic contours of the Gospel (if they’re in a good church). It is not self evident to them that epistemology is important for understanding theology and growing in their relationship with God. It is, but it’s not self-evident to the average church-goer.

So, what if a systematic theology was oriented toward readers who have a basic grasp of the Gospel, but want to grow in their theological knowledge? I think it would look something like this:

  • Work of Christ
  • Pneumatology
  • Person of Christ
  • Sin/Fall
  • Man/Creation
  • Church/Eschatology
  • Theology Proper
  • Bibliology
  • Epistemology

Here’s how I would think of it in terms of questions (and this is the part I owe to Sanders):

  • What did Jesus do for me? (past tense)
  • How is He relating to me now?
  • What more can I know about Jesus as a person?
  • Why did Jesus have to die, and how am I responsible?
  • What was God’s original intention?
  • How is God working to fix things now?
  • How can I know all this is true?

That’s kind of rough, but the idea is that people start with their grasp of the gospel and then move backwards. In order to go deeper into the gospel as the work of Christ, you move into his person and his Spirit. That then raises the question of why Jesus death was necessary, as well as what it means for him to be fully human. That raises the question of what is God’s plan in all of this, which leads to discussing the original creation, the final recreation, and the church’s role in that whole process. You’re already been employing a latent Trinitarianism, so the stage is set to explore that further, and in doing that you bring up the issue of revelation, which brings up the issue of epistemology.

I think moving in this way would pique interest better, but maybe that’s just me. After reading through this, what do you think? What would you alter? Do you think people would connect with theology taught in this direction?

I’m curious to hear your thoughts, so don’t leave the comments section lonely!

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Usually, I work off of a loose queue line for my review oriented reading. Big volumes are an exception, but in general, I try to work in a loose order of arrival. However, I always try to give each book a good initial perusal when it first comes in the mail. This involves judging the cover (don’t judge me for judging books by the cover, I still read them) and then noting the blurbs (not necessarily reading them, just seeing who blurbed). Then, I’ll read the preface and introduction and see if it hooks me enough to bump it up the queue line. Greg Thornbury’s Recovering Classic Evangelicalism: Applying the Vision and Wisdom of Carl F. H. Henry arrived on a Monday night and got the initial perusal. I read the first chapter with my coffee Tuesday morning and finished it by Friday.

Overview

Basically, this book if for anyone who likes theology. Specifically, it’s for people who live evangelical theology, and even more specifically for people who want to philosophically defend evangelical theological convictions. In other words, it’s for people like me, and that’s probably why I read it in less than a week. Thornbury articulates a sentiment I developed in seminary and why I majored in philsophy/systematic theology:

So that it won’t haunt us, Thornbury offers a chance to recover classic evangelicalism via the thought of Carl Henry. To that end, Thornbury is effective, as you can see from my Tuesday morning tweet after reading the first chapter:

GRA, if you’re not familiar, is Henry’s magisterial God, Revelation, and Authority, a 6 volume work that is not widely read. Thornbury points out that some of this is due to the dense nature of volume 1 and advises potential readers to just jump into volume 2. Since I’ve had it in my Logos library for years and ignored it, this summer will be the perfect time to dig in.

As far as Thornbury’s book, he begins with a chapter exploring the lost world of classic evangelicalism. Current evangelicalism, which Thornbury likens to a “suicide death cult,” (17) has come a long way from its roots, and if that moniker is accurate (and Thornbury makes a good case it is) then we have some recovering to do. In this case though, the way forward is to go back.

To that end, Thornbury embarks on a recovery journey using Henry’s writings. He starts, appropriately, with epistemology (“Epistemology Matters”), before moving on to theology (“Theology Matters”), Scripture (“Inerrancy Matters”) and finally cultural engagement (“Culture Matters”). He concludes with a chapter on why evangelicalism matters, and makes a solid case for recovery rather than abandonment.

Along the way, we are given a window into Carl Henry’s thought by someone who has done a close reading of his works and can show us the way further up and further in. Thornbury thus accomplishes two things: (1) he presents a compelling case for traditional evangelical convictions, and (2) introduces a new generation of readers to the writings of Carl Henry. As a sub-accomplishment of the first thing, Thornbury also rehabilitates epistemology as an evangelical concern and shows that it not just the stuff of esoteric ivory tower dwellers. Rather, epistemology affects everything, and is vitally important to take seriously from not just an evangelical perspctive but a Christian perspective in general. Thornbury provides a good entry point to that topic, and points readers to Henry’s writings where they can dig deeper.

Conclusion

Clearly if you can’t tell, I loved Recovering Classic Evangelicalism. Thornbury is an engaging writer who juggles different domains of knowledge well, has a penchant for “appreciating odd juxtapositions,” and does it all in clear, readable prose. While readers with a more philosophical background will move more comfortably through these chapters, it is not a prerequisite to take and read this book. Really, anyone who is interested in theology and theological method will find Thornbury’s work helpful, and I hope many in that category do just that. While I was probably an easy reader to convince, I hope many people read this book and dig into Henry’s writings in particular, but more importantly, the concerns that Henry had in general. If we took philosophical foundations more seriously, our theology would be stronger for it. Narrative and story are helpful, but they are no replacement for propositional revelation. Henry took to defending it, and decades later, Thornbury makes a good case that it is still worthy of defense.

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I saw this tweet this morning, so that makes tomorrow today:

Just to catch you up to speed on what this is all about, here are some select tweets:


I think major news outlets are reluctantly starting to cover this (as seen by the NBC post), but they are very hesitant to frame it in relation to abortion rights. While we may vilify Gosnell as monster, he was giving people what they wanted on demand. We may say his methods are inhumane (which they are), but if you are going to abort a baby after 8 months in utero, there is a very good chance the baby will survive and you’ll have to do what Gosnell did: snip the spinal cord of a baby moving around on the operating table (which is essentially a beheading). As George Will pointed out, if you pay for an abortion you are owed a dead baby, and Gosnell did everything in his power to make that happen.

Like a good high priest to Molech, Gosnell made sure every sacrifice was ultimately successful. But in doing so, he crossed an ultimately arbitrary line that says what happens inside the womb is a woman’s choice, while what happens outside is open to criminal prosecution. We’ve allowed babies inside to be dehumanized, and once that happens, what a man like Gosnell does to them outside the womb is fairly consistent with that mindset. Gosnell should certainly face the harshest penalties the law can dole out, but the only thing anomalous about him seems to be that he was willing to butcher babies a few months later than most abortion doctors and he wasn’t going to let a successful delivery stop him.

As this gets more media attention, it will hopefully lead to some kind of action and policy changes. That might just be too much to hope for, but I can at least do my part to make sure you are aware of the story and can spread the word to others who might be blissfully unaware as well.

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Rice Broocks is the co-founder of the Every Nation family of churches, and is senior minister of Bethel World Outreach Church in Nashville.  He did his masters work at RTS and has a doctorate in missiology from Fuller. In God’s Not Dead: Evidence For God in An Age of Uncertainty Broocks is writing to three types of people:

  • The Seeker who is trying to believe but faces doubts
  • The Believer who knows God subjectively, but has a hard time articulating this faith to unbelievers
  • The Skeptic who may be reading from a critical point of view and perhaps already decided there is no God

His approach in apologetics is somewhat presuppositional and evidential (he may very well have studied with Bahnsen, depending on when he was at RTS Jackson and what classes he took). I think after reading it, he is really using evidences in a presuppositional manner, so his book represents a kind of popular level book in that vein.

Broocks begins with a short introduction telling his own conversion story before launching into the first chapter which introduces readers to the claims of many New Atheists. As he sees it though, in spite of the outspokenness of these New Atheists, belief in God is making a comeback, so much so that in 2009 the senior editor of The Economist co-wrote a book that retracted the obituary they published for God a decade earlier. This faith though is well grounded and isn’t just some blind irrational leap, and Broocks intends to show why that is the case.

Very helpfully, his first chapter is on reason itself. This is a good presuppositional move, and Broocks does an excellent job explaining how science and faith are not at odds because reason is grounded in the existence of God and science would collapse without it. Having established this, he turns the same kind of argumentation to good and evil, showing they are grounded in God as well.

The next few chapters zero in on scientific issues. First, Broocks shows how the case for the beginning of the universe actually works to the believer’s advantage. He wisely sidesteps issues related to interpreting Genesis to make the basic point that since science points to the universe having a beginning, it naturally raises the question of the existence of a Creator. He then talks a bit about the fine-tuning of the universe, adding to his case that much of what we are learning through the natural sciences actually supports the case for faith.

The following chapter deals with the emergence of life. He essentially offers an argument from design, but with a little more nuance than just a straight teleological argument. In numerous places he shows science’s basic inability to explain the origin of life in a satisfactory way. Evolution can explain developments, but it really can’t do much in terms of the origins of life from non-life.

Next, Broocks delves into the question of whether or not life has meaning and purpose. Since most people tend to treat it like it does, then a coherent worldview will need to account for how life can be meaningful and purposeful. Throughout the chapter, Broocks demonstrates that on evolutionary assumptions that the New Atheists all hold, life must be both meaningless and non-purposeful. He then highlights 10 specific differences that set man apart from the animals:

  • Our ability to think about our thinking (meta-cognition)
  • Aesthetic recognition
  • Language
  • Creativity and scientific exploration
  • Morality
  • Higher intelligence
  • Personhood
  • Culture
  • Our transcending the mere physical
  • Spiritual hunger

While up to this point Broocks is presenting evidence, I see him reasoning more like a presuppositionalist since he is showing that evidence cannot be made sense of, unless you presuppose God. After this chapter, he turns to more typical evidential concerns, starting first with the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection and then turning to the evidence for the reliability of Scripture. In the final two chapters, Broocks takes a slightly different evidential track, focusing on personal transformation. First, he explains “the grace effect” or the idea that grace, rather than bare religion, has a transforming effect on people and even whole societies that is an “evidence” hard to explain from an atheistic point of view. Second, he offers a chapter titled “Living Proof” which is essentially a collection of personal testimonies of lives changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the end, I found this both an enjoyable and beneficial read. I wasn’t presented with much evidence that I wasn’t already aware of, but I also do a lot more reading in this area than most people. I would imagine for the average person (and those three target audiences Broocks is writing for) this book will be a great introduction to several areas of apologetics. For the seeker it provides both evidence and presuppositional grounding of the Christian faith. For the believer with a hard time explaining, this book models a conversational and clear tone that can be followed in explaining the ideas to others. For the skeptic, it might not be ultimately convincing, but Broocks’ intention is to sow a seed of doubt (xix). I think this is an excellent way to approach things and actually conforms to how paradigm shifts occur. That makes this book a success by Broocks’ own intentions, and a book you should consider picking up if you’re interested in apologetics at the popular level.

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So, yesterday I was sitting in the first round of workshops at The Gospel Coalition National Conference here in Orlando and tweeted this:

I got several immediate responses, and that’s not particularly surprising. Because it was a workshop, I don’t think audio will be available. They may have recorded it, but it definitely wasn’t videoed. Anyway, I thought at the very least this comment was worthy of extended explanation and so here we are.

The workshop was actually centered on the question of whether Adam and Eve were historical figures. Chapell and Mohler, as you might imagine, both answer in the affirmative. They began by explaining their different lines of argument that support that conclusion. I think, if I remember correctly, there were 4:

  • The literary argument (everyone else in the story is historical)
  • The theological argument (drawing from Romans 5, and 1 Corinthians 15)
  • The ethical argument (our equality is grounded in us all coming from an equal source)
  • The pastoral argument (if Adam and Eve are not personally responsible for the entrance of sin into the world the God alone is)

Obviously I’m shortening this so you can get the gist. I thought the ethical argument was actually the most persuasive, especially in a culture that is currently obsessing over the question of marriage equality. If we simply evolved, it is likely, if not certain, they there are currently several streams of humanity. In other words, we are not all equal because back at the head waters of the human race there does not stand one couple, but rather several convergent lines of evolved hominids who it would be very hard to argue are necessarily equal. If nothing else, it is very difficult to ground the idea that all humans are equal if all humans didn’t evolve from the same source (though of course in this model we did all come from the same primordial goo).

However, if you ground human equality in the biblical story and teaching of solidarity in Adam and Eve, then it is very easy to argue that all humans are equal and deserve the respect and dignity of an image bearer of God. But, once you do that, it is hard to turn around and argue that marriage can then be redefined to include same sex participants. Civil unions (state marriages) are defined by the state, but marriage as a transcultural institution cannot be just summarily redefined. That is kind of a rabbit trail (actually more than just “kind of”), but you’re getting the privilege of my semi-unfiltered thoughts from yesterday’s workshop.

Now, because it would have been a fairly uninteresting discussion if Mohler and Chapell just sat up there and went through everything they agreed about. Theologically at least, they both affirmed that the important issue is not the days in Genesis but then proceeded to discuss it and that’s when the disagreement started. Mohler hold Genesis 1 teaches 6 literal 24 hour days of creation. Chapell holds that the days were of indeterminate length which is the analogical day view. He actually just walked by as I am writing this and I confirmed that that is in fact his view (which is also Poythress’ view, and very similar to my view).

Mohler’s primary concern is that we do not start, at any point, bowing the knee to naturalism and reframing our interpretation of Scripture. He sees any questioning of 6 24 hour days to stem from advances in science, not necessarily accusing Chapell of doing this, but suggesting that no one was considering a different interpretation until evolution came onto the scene.

Chapell’s primary concern is that we do not unnecessarily add to the biblical teaching in ways that make more of a conflict between the Bible and science than is really necessary. What he was pressing toward Mohler was whether or not the text of Genesis necessitates affirming that the days were in fact 24 hours. The argument he brought up, that I thought was rather decisive (mainly because Mohler did not offer a counter argument other than just reaffirming his position) is how time was to be reckoned prior to the completion of the solar system as we know on day 4. Chapell thought that for Mohler’s view to work, we have to suspend all natural laws as we know it, except for the passage of time, a point that Mohler disagreed with strongly. He disagreed, but I didn’t really hear a rebuttal of the fundamental issue, which is that Genesis clearly depicts God working to create in 6 days, but it doesn’t necessitate that the days were 24 hours. That is of course an inference from the text (the days were normal days like we now them now), but the physics of at least, if you’re going to affirm that God created the elements in the order presented, is hard to reconcile with time passing in 24 hour increments. I think it is better to be interpretively agnostic on how long the days were than to dogmatically insist on a 24 hour length. If you want the 24 hours, it seems like you can’t have the sun showing up until day 4.

In the end though, this is kind of minor detail, a point that both Chapell and Mohler agreed upon. It was good to see them argue sharply over interpreting Scripture, but without getting contentious and ending on their agreement instead of dwelling on the disagreement. My takeaway from the workshop was seeing a model of two Christian leaders arguing, but doing so respectfully and graciously and both arguing from principles and a commitment the interpreting the word of God in the best way possible.

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Alister McGrath is professor of theology, ministry, and education and head of the Centre for Theology, Religion, and Culture at King’s College, London, and president of the Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics. He’s written more books than I care to list here, but this is actually the second recently published book of his that I’ve read in the last 30 days. His C. S. Lewis – A Life was my spring break reading, and now I’ve had the opportunity to read through his Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers & Skeptics Find Faith. Read the latter after the former proved interesting since McGrath draws on Lewis quite a bit, and I imagine the writing of these two works overlapped considerably.

Overview

Mere Apologetics, like the name suggests, is something similar to Lewis’ Mere Christianity, but for apologetics. As immersed as McGrath was in Lewis’ writings during the writing of this book, it’s not surprising to see the resultant book very much in the spirit of Lewis. As McGrath opens up:

This book is an introduction to apologetics – the field of Christian thought that focuses on the justification of the core themes of the Christian faith and its effective communication to the non-Christian world. It commends a mindset of engagement, encouraging Christians to interact with the ideas of our culture rather than running away from them or pretending they can be ignored. (11)

He continues,

This book sets out to introduce its readers to the leading themes of apologetics, presenting a basic understanding of its agendas and approaches. I have tried to make this book accessible, interesting, and useful, while giving pointers to more advanced resources that will allow you, the reader, to take things further in your own time. It is not comprehensive, so you will need to supplement it with more advanced and specialized texts. Nor is it committed to any particular school of apologetics. Rather than limiting itself to any one specific school or approach to apologetics, this work draws on their collective riches. (12)

That last point is what makes this book a great introduction to “mere” apologetics. There are things in here that will make presuppositionalists proud, and other things that they’ll find somewhat annoying (see more below). Evidentialists and classicalists alike will find their insights in McGrath’s book. The book then succeeds in McGrath’s aims stated in the second quote and gives readers the “flavor” of the riches that Christian apologetics has to offer. In terms of a brief overview, the opening chapters are very basic. First, McGrath defines apologetics (chapter 1). McGrath sees apologetics involving defending the truth of the gospel, commending the truth and relevance of the gospel to an audience, and translating the core ideas and themes of the Christian faith to an audience unfamiliar with Christian thought. In chapter 2, McGrath tackles the shift of culture from modernity to postmodernity in perhaps the briefest form possible. It is here as well that he outlines his general approach (35-36):

  • Understand the faith
  • Understand the audience
  • Communicate with clarity
  • Find points of contact
  • Present the whole gospel
  • Practice, practice, practice

McGrath comes back to this approach in chapter 8, but before getting there he tackles first the theological basis for apologetics (chapter 3) and the importance of the audience (chapter 4). For the latter, McGrath takes us through Paul’s speeches in Acts, showing how he adapted his presentation, but not his gospel, depending on the audience. After laying this foundation, chapters 4-6 comprise the meat of the book. Unlike God is Dead, a book for seekers, skeptics, and curious Christians that I’ll be offering a review of Thursday, McGrath’s book is for young apologetes who want to learn how to best defend their faith. This section on defense then is giving weapons, but talking to an audience already on-board. McGrath covers in succession the reasonableness of the Christian faith (chapter 5), pointers or clues to faith (chapter 6), and gateways for apologetics (chapter 7). These chapters are the longest and focused on the content of an apologetic defense. His list of clues has a presuppositional flair and is worth listing:

  • Clue 1: Creation
  • Clue 2: Fine-tuning
  • Clue 3: Order
  • Clue 4: Morality
  • Clue 5: Desire
  • Clue 6: Beauty
  • Clue 7: Relationality
  • Clue 8: Eternity

As McGrath sees it, these are “proofs” that Christianity is true, but rather clues in search of an explanation. In short, they are transcendentals we know exist and that any adequate worldview needs to account for. They are also great apologetic conversation starters. McGrath moves further in chapter 7 to offer four gateways for doing apologetics:

  • Explanation
  • Argument
  • Stories
  • Images

Arguably, the latter two have been ignored for a bit too long, a problem I wanted to remedy with my thesis. Discerning your audience is key here, since some people want a clearly reasoned argument, and others would like a story that captures their imagination. Lewis himself was captured first through his imagination and later through his reason. Reading your audience means knowing what to use when. Finally, the book closes with a chapter where McGrath deals with two common questions about the faith. He does so in a way that doesn’t offer pat answers but guides you through seeing what is actually being asked when people bring up these questions (Why does God allow suffering? Isn’t God just a crutch?) so you can respond appropriately. The final chapter focuses on developing your method and is only a few pages long.

Conclusion

Overall, I think this is a great book if you keep in mind it’s goal. McGrath is not offering extensive apologetic answers and he is not aligning himself with any specific apologetic school. There are a couple of places I could probe a bit deeper into some of the arguments McGrath makes, but I think you get the general overview well enough to form your own conclusions. I come from a strong presuppositional background but I am growing in my appreciation for imagination, because I see how powerful or an entry point that is for people. I tried to connect the two with my approach to movies, and I think McGrath does a good job of a similar suture job here. As a book that gives very practical advice on how to do apologetics, this book is a must read!

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Had we had class last night, we would have finished covering the resurrection. If you missed the PDF from the post on the cross, here it is again. Here also are my thoughts from the actual book chapter in Doctrine.

I mentioned on The City that I have plenty of posts on the resurrection to fill in the gap. First off though, here are two posts not from me, but that I think you’ll find helpful:

Considering how pivotal the historical claim of the resurrection is for Christianity (it rises and falls on it), it is important for us to know why it’s true. Perhaps the definitive resource on the topic is N. T. Wright’s Resurrection of The Son of God. Last year, I reviewed it section by section:

Most people will be fine just reading my summaries, but if you’re really interested in exploring this topic and/or defending your faith well, you ought to pick up and engage Wright’s work.

Finally, many people may concede the importance of the resurrection, but pragmatically, may not be able to articulate what, if any, difference it makes. If you find yourself in that situation, I’d highly recommend you pick up Sam Allberry’s Lifted: Experiencing The Resurrected Life and Adrian Warnock’s Raised With Christ: How the Resurrection Changes Everything. The former is much shorter and quicker reader but I think does a great job of laying out the practicality of the resurrection. Warnock’s book is a bit longer, but it’s worth digging into as well (especially given the subtitle).

One final thought, the resurrection really is the piece that makes the puzzle complete. The apostles didn’t really understand what the OT was saying about Jesus until after his resurrection. It is not only the historical fact on which all of Christianity hangs, it is the hing on which interpretations of Christ in the OT and Gospels turns. A movie illustration of this is The Sixth Sense, and I comment on that here. It’s not a perfect analogy, but I think it works well. If you’ve got a better one along these lines, let me know!

The Unfolding Mystery of the Divine Name Knowles Michael P 9780830839858

Michael P. Knowles is professor and George F. Hurlburt Chair of Preaching at McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, Ontario. He’s written a couple books on preaching, and now this book, The Unfolding Mystery of The Divine Name: The God of Sinai in Our Midst, which explores how the name of God revealed in Exodus has been understood in the three monotheistic faith traditions. The book represents his attempt at a kind of “generous orthodoxy” when it comes to who and what God is. This involves both faithful exposition of key passages in the Old Testament, and tracing the historical reception and interaction with those passages in Jewish, Muslim and Christian thought. His hope for readers is that “by meditating, longing for, and acting on the basis of what we discover to be true about God, our own ‘ways’ will come to reflect, in some small degree, the ‘ways’ of God” (49).

Using Exodus 34:5-9 as a framework, Knowles offers a series of chapters exegeting the divine name that is presented to Moses. After a short introduction on the name of God as understood in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions, Knowles launches into a chapter on the name of God in Exodus and the 13 attributes. As Knowles explains, “According to one possible reading, the God of Israel is:

  • YHWH (the One who simply is, unconstrainable and self-sufficient)
  • YHWH (repeated for emphasis)
  • God, who is
  • compassionate
  • gracious
  • slow to anger
  • abundant in showing steadfast love and
  • truth (or faithfulness); indeed
  • preserving steadfast love for thousands of generations;
  • forgiving with respect to iniquity,
  • to transgression, and
  • to sin; yet
  • by no means clearing the guilty

From this rather interesting way of dividing up “attributes” (which comes from Jewish reflection on the matter), Knowles takes readers through 6 chapters. First, we see God as compassionate and gracious. Knowles makes the compelling case that these attributes must be the foundation for how we understand God. There is interestingly little interaction with Muslim thought on this attribute, other than to note toward the beginning of the chapter that Allah can be referred to as “al-Rahman” can mean “the All-Merciful” or “the all Gracious” one (51). Whether or not this is an accurate understanding of how Muslims understand Allah, I’m not sure, but I would think not.

After the appropriately lengthy chapter on God as gracious and compassionate, these attributes are further underscored by a chapter on God being slow to anger. This is followed in succession by chapters on God’s steadfast love, his trustworthiness, and finally his forgiveness and justice. Knowles then wraps up with a concluding chapter meditating on the story of Joseph showing how it is used as a template for how the divine character can determine values for godly conduct in the Judeo-Christian tradition (212).

In the end, the book is a call to all three Abrahamic faiths to return to these foundational attributes of God rather to be quick to proclaim “God will condemn and destroy various heretics, apostates, and unbelievers, on the grounds that they do not see things our way” (235). This is all well and good, although I think at least in the Christian tradition, this fact cannot be overlooked. Epistemic humility? Sure. But there is also one certain judgment.

On that note though, this is still an interesting book to read, especially if you’re into Jewish studies. Knowles takes readers deep into rabbinic sources, covers Islamic ones to a lesser extent, and Christian reflection somewhere in the middle. I don’t see this book being a good read for the average reader, but it will serve those readers who want to dig deeply into the history of interpretation of Exodus 34:5-9 well.

Book Details

  • Author: Michael P. Knowles
  • Title: The Unfolding Mystery of The Divine Name: The God of Sinai in Our Midst
  • PublisherIVP Academic (September 28, 2012)
  • Paperback: 254pgs
  • Reading Level: Bible School
  • Audience Appeal: Pastors and Bible Students who are interested in an in-depth study of God’s name
  • Gratis Review Copy: Yes (courtesy of IVP Academic)

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