It should be no secret by now that I am fond of multi-view books. Whether they are published by Zondervan, 1 IVP Academic, 2 or even Baker Academic, 3 I’m always on the lookout for a good multi-view book that will explore some interesting and relevant topic.

My most recent find and soon after review request is Four Views on The Role of Works at The Final Judgment. Edited by Alan P. Stanley, 4 this roundtable of views features:

  • Robert Wilkin (Free Grace position, works determine rewards but not salvation)
  • Thomas Schreiner (Reformed Baptist, works will provide evidence that one is actually saved)
  • James Dunn (New Perspective on Paul, works will provide the criterion by which Christ will determine eternal destiny of people)
  • Michael Barber (Catholic position, works will merit eternal life)

In terms of contributor selection, I thought this was an excellent roundup. Here we have a true full spectrum all the way from works have no role at the final judgment (Wilkin) to them having a fully determinative role (Barber).

I won’t go blow by blow, but a few comments are in order. First, alongside IVP’s Five Views on Justification, this volume gives readers a good view what is at stake in the debates about how to read Paul. Schreiner and Dunn do not disagree with each other much (at least not to the extent Dunn tears into Wilkin) but there is a sharp contrast between them, and both have authored commentaries on Romans and theologies on Paul. Especially since Dunn was the contributor for the New Perspective on Paul position in IVP’s books, you can get a good cliff notes of his overall position by reading his essays in these two books. The subject matter here though is what makes many evangelicals uncomfortable, and within the book there is much talk of justification. For both Dunn and Barber, works play a determinative role in the final judgment (justification by works), and interestingly for both, you can lose your salvation. In that, Catholics and Arminians are on the same page, though the expositions of Dunn and Barber are not identical.

Second, while each contributor’s position is embedded within his overall system (or in Dunn’s case his refusal to systematize), Wilkin’s is entirely dependent on a certain kind of dispensationalism. Schreiner points this out, but it would be obvious to most readers after reading his essay. Unless you hold to an eschatological system that has multiple final judgments, then much of Wilkin’s exegesis seems strained. Wilkin also relies heavily on John’s Gospel, something the other three contributors don’t do (focusing instead mostly on Paul and James, just like the justification debates), and seems baffled that none of them follow his lead. He does makes some good points highlighting assurance based on faith, but ultimately he has to interpret all passages that seem to suggest believers being judged at the final judgment as applying to a different judgment, an option not open to anyone who isn’t dispensational.

Third, many evangelical readers will be surprised at how Barber’s essay unfolds. I think it is good for evangelicals to read Catholic writers in their own words. It may not change your overall understanding (salvation is still ultimately by works and assurance that you’re saved is not possible), but it does break down some stereotypes (specifically he really likes grace and talks about it a lot!).

Fourth, Dunn’s aversion to fitting his exegesis into a “system” seems to exert the same amount of hermeneutical force as someone else’s attempt to fit into a system. By that I mean it is a presupposition he brings to the text (“we need to allow for diversity and not force unity”) that is not unlike the systematizer’s presupposition (“we need to strive for unity and not allow for leftover diversity”). In both cases, it “colors” how the interpreter reads the text. It is as if Dunn is so weary of forcing the wrong pieces of the puzzle together that he is reticent to allow that the pieces might fit together without forcing. I think that is probably better than thinking “hey this group of puzzle pieces must make a complete picture and I’m going to put it together one way or the other.” But is still shapes how Dunn reads the NT and the end result is a “system” that more or less Arminian that allows for loss of salvation and syncs with Catholicism’s teaching that salvation is by works (even grace empowered ones).

Fifth, I’m not sure I completely follow Schreiner, but I’m definitely not following any of the other three contributors. He is offering a Reformed Baptist position, but I don’t think it is the position. I’m thinking a traditional Reformed position (maybe by someone like Michael Horton) might fit in between Wilkin and Schreiner, but then again they just slightly modify Schreiner to the point that another voice is not needed. His contention that works provide evidence but are not determinative seems correct to me, as well as his insistence that we are justified truly at the moment of faith/repentance/conversion. In his thinking, works will not fail to follow from that initial justification (if we are truly justified in that instant). Christians cannot fall away, but our works have no determinative effect on our ultimate salvation.


On the whole then, I think this is a valuable book. For people up on the contemporary debates concerning the New Perspective on Paul, it provides a stark contrast between how someone in the heart of that movement understands justification/final judgment/works and how a Reformed Baptist and a Catholic would view it. Wilkin feels kind of like the odd man out, mainly because he is the only one who sees works having no role in the judgment of believers (which is also because of his dispensational view of the judgments). But, I did like his voice being part of the conversation because he offered criticisms I wouldn’t think of, even his position is one I would ultimately never adopt. Like most of the multi-view books I’ve read to review on here (ok, maybe all of them), I would highly recommend it to you, especially if you are interested in the New Perspective on Paul in particular or just discussing soteriology in general.

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  1. Four Views On The Apostle Paul and Understanding Biblical Theology (not technically a multi-view book, but looks at the different kinds of biblical theology and exposits a key figure for each)
  2. God and Morality: Four ViewsMapping The Origins Debate: 6 Models of The Beginning of EverythingBiblical Hermeneutics: Five ViewsFive Views on Justification
  3. Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views
  4. Who I had never heard of but is Lecturer in Biblical Studies at Brisbane School of Theology in Australia. He’s published two books on the topic, one which all the contributors here quote from, and he’s a double-grad of Dallas Seminary (Th.M & Ph.D)


Before you get too excited, I can’t claim to know comprehensively what J. I. Packer dreams about. 1 But I can relay to you something he specifically said he dreams about (in either a daydream sort of way, or a metaphorical way).

In Renewing The Evangelical Mission, he co-authors an article with Gary A. Parrett titled “The Return of Catechesis: Lesson From the Great Tradition.” It is a sort of Cliff Notes on their full length book Grounded in The Gospel: Building Believers The Old-Fashioned Way. In the middle of the article, Packer begins to articulate his vision for catechesis in the local church:

What I dream of is ongoing catechesis in the local church through an ongoing series of courses, short of long, and at different levels, but all analyzing, illuminating, vindicating, and apply items contained in the following archetypal sequence of themes which together, so I submit, constitute basic Christianity (116).

Just what are those themes you wonder? Well, here they are:

  • The authority of Scripture
  • The sovereignty of God
  • The truth of the Trinity
  • The holiness of God’s law
  • The sinfulness of Sin
  • The centrality of Jesus Christ
  • The graciousness of salvation
  • The power of the Holy Spirit
  • The circuitry of communion
  • The truth about the church
  • The promised hope
  • The glory of God

Packer explains each of these themes briefly with a “practical, relational slant,” and the article is well worth your time (as is the book as a whole generally speaking). Packer’s preliminary conclusion to the article (which is followed by a Parrett postscript) that pulls together the threads of discussion and summarizes what he dreams about looks like this (124):

  • Ongoing catechetical discipling of all age groups in our churches, evangelical churches as much as any, is urgently needed today, and will be needed for the foreseeable future
  • Joining a congregation should involve an explicit commitment to accept catechetical discipling
  • Ongoing catechesis should always be planned into the pattern of ongoing programs in local congregations
  • As surveys of the professedly evangelical West, such as that of David Wells, make evident, there is really no hope of a fruitful evangelical future unless these changes are made.

I really resonated with Packer’s thoughts as I read them, and would love to spend more time working to see that vision achieved. What I’m wrestling with is how much I can contribute to this vision outside of a staff position. I taught the doctrine class at our church last spring, but beyond that, our church doesn’t do anything in this vein beyond the 3 week membership class (it’s technically 4, but the final week is interviews). I wish we did, and maybe someday we will. I would love to take a staff position at a church heading this kind of thing up, but it seems many churches don’t devote a staff member to overseeing this, but instead make it part of an existing position. I think it’s a fulltime gig, but maybe that’s just me.

What about you, thoughts on this? Does your church do this? Would you like them to? Is it a full-time staff position?


  1. That would be super creepy, and even if I could, I probably wouldn’t share it

3 Types of Book Reviews

September 12, 2013 — 4 Comments

Up until now, I’ve mainly only done two kinds of reviews. Originally it was only one, but it slowly evolved into two, and so it’s only natural to move on to a third category. Here’s the rundown on what I’ll be doing from now on.

Critical Reviews

My initial foray into reviews was primarily critical reviews. These are the type of reviews that make into academic journals and other “real” publications. It requires a pretty close reading of the book and some level of critique of the contents, structure, or other aspects of the work. Ideally, all reviews should be critical reviews, but a) this is just a blog and more importantly b) I do reviews for free and also work a few jobs, so I don’t have time to do that kind of thing.

Summary Reviews

A third point could be added, and that’s what more or less led to the second kind of review: c) if I’m not completely obligated to, it’s hard to sustain enough interest to do a critical review of every book that comes in my mailbox. This creates the second level, or what I will now call the summary review. When I read a whole book but don’t feel like critically interacting with it, I’ll offer you a summary of its contents and some insights into its value. Usually the noticeable difference is less length as well as less depth. I may have the occasional deep insight, but it’s not necessarily evenly spread across the contents.

Because of time constraints, my standard review at this point is the summary review. If I request a book, I intend, initially at least, to offer a summary review. If it really piques my interest, or conversely, really annoys me, then I’ll launch into a critical-extended review. This happens from time to time, but by far the bulk of the review I do on here are summary reviews.

Partially Read Previews

However, to keep things triperspectival, and to adjust for my lack of time due to more work (a good thing to be sure), I’ve decided to add a third type of review. Negatively, you might call this the incomplete review, but in reality it’s still fulfilling some of what I think publishers expect by sending me a book (because I’m devoting a blog post to telling you about the book). In essence, it’s a general review of what I’ve read so far, but coming after the decision to not read the rest of the book, for whatever reason. I’ve seen Challies and Kevin DeYoung do similar things. I want to add this category to still offer some thoughts on books that I’ve received, but that I just don’t have the energy or the interest to fully review. I like to keep my turn-around time relatively short, and I’d like to actually get back to a point where I’m reading/reviewing shortly after receiving books so they don’t pile up on me (not that that’s a bad thing).

Now that you know this, keep an eye out for some of this partially read previews. I’ll sprinkle them in here and there, but still try to keep offering you a traditional (though not always critical) review each week.

If you’ve got suggestions for further refinement and improvements, let me know in the comments!


Derek Cooper is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies and Historical Theology, Associate Director of the D.Min program, and Director of the LEAD M.Div program at Biblical Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. Somewhere, in the midst of all of that, he has managed to put together a fine book: Christianity & World Religions: An Introduction to The World’s Major Faiths.

This book makes an ideal textbook, or at least I’m hoping so since I’ve decided to use it in my apologetics class. In the course of the book, Cooper covers Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism/Daoism, Judaism, and Islam. Conceiving of each as a “story,” he elucidates the following elements for each:

  • The beginning of the story
  • The religion’s historical origin
  • Its religious writings
  • Beliefs
  • Worship practices
  • Point of contact with the religion

In his understanding, each of these religions is attempting to tell a kind of story about the world and how to live in it. Here’s how he sees it:

  • Hinduism: The story of diversity and devotion
  • Buddhism: The story of enlightenment
  • Confucianism/Daoism: The stories of order and nature
  • Judaism: The story of tradition and identity
  • Islam: The story of submission

His presentation of each is nuanced to avoid “flattening” each religion, but no so nuanced that it is hard to follow. In other words, he gives readers enough of a handle on the diversity within each “story” to avoid stereotypes, but in such a way that unity is not compromised. At the end of each chapter he provides discussion questions (or as I see them, homework assignments) and resources for further reading.

All of these stories together comprise the first part of the book. The second turns to first a biblical response to these stories (chapter 6), and then a theological response to the issues brought up by the mere presence of other world religions (i.e. religious pluralism, universalism, etc.).  He then offers some brief thoughts on engaging the other religions using Acts 17 as a jumping off point. Included as well are appendices with potential projects, essay questions, and worldview questions; online links to other religions’ religious writings; and a guide to visiting non-Christian worship spaces.


Though I read a lot of apologetic books, I haven’t done too much reading in world religions. Because of that, I found Cooper’s book very informative. Since I’ve at least studied these religions in other contexts (I took classes on Islam and Judaism and am familiar with the basic contours of the others), I was able to at least tell that Cooper was doing a good job of explaining them to a lay audience in a nuanced way. I think his overall presentation is an excellent way to approach teaching world religions. His concern is to understand them well on their own terms and to also see them come to faith in Christ. He offers sage advice on how to go about this, and readers who would like to be both world religion conscious and evangelism savvy will benefit from Cooper’s work.

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10 years is a long time. I’m reckoning with that more and more as I think back to starting college 10 years ago right around this time. The more I’ve thought about it, and the more I’ve thought about where I am now, I thought it might be helpful to retrace my steps a bit.

I do a lot of thinking.

This time in 2003, I was leaving Tennessee to move to Florida to go to Word of Life Bible Institute for a year with my friend Steven. 1 Though it was a pretty significant and eventually life altering decision, I don’t actually remember at what point during the early part of 2003 I actually decided it would be a good idea. I had graduated high school back in May of 2002 and after saving up for the summer, bought a whole bunch of recording equipment, a new drum set, and proceeded to turn my attic into a recording studio. 2

Though academically I could go to college anywhere in Tennessee for free, I wasn’t particularly ambitious to start, so I was taking a year off to think things through (some things haven’t changed). Eventually, the plan ended up being I would go to Word of Life for a year to get some biblical foundations, and then I would take advantage of free college and go to MTSU and major in recording engineering.

We all know how that turned out.

Well, actually, I guess we all might not. I know how that turned out, and you know where I’m at now, but you might not know all the twists and turns. I could use a refresher myself to keep the ole memory from getting rusty, so I’ve been thinking I’d start a Monday series of reflections on what it’s been like taking the road less traveled.

It all started with a road trip down I-75. 3

And now 10 years later I live here in Florida again. It was during my first stint in Florida that I felt God’s call to full time ministry. Now in my second stint, I’m actually living that out, but not quite in the way I expected, and I’m not even really sure “this is it.”

While I’m trying to figure that out, I’d like to re-live and re-think some memories from my journey and so I’m hoping you’re willing to indulge me for several weeks while I do it. Even if you’re not, that’s ok. I’m gonna do it anyways.


  1. If only I had known that this move would be followed by a move every August or September until 2013, I might not have been so eager to uproot from Tennessee
  2. Just wait, I’ll post a picture later
  3. Which I probably didn’t know would be the first of about 30 trips I’ve made up and down that 650+ mile stretch of road


If you’re like me, you’re a list maker. Also, you like to read. Given those two attributes, you naturally probably use Goodreads.

Right now, I predominantly use it to track my reading. I will also occasionally blurb a review on there when I finish a book that I don’t plan on fully reviewing here. And if I get around to it, I plan to link all of my full reviews here into a preview review there. Maybe that’s a bit redundant. Maybe I just like to be thorough.

Anyway, if you don’t use Goodreads, it is helpful in many ways. As the screenshot above suggests, it can help you find books based on what you’ve already read. Granted Amazon does that for you (or at least based on what you’ve purchased), but Goodreads limits it to bookworld and lets you catalog everything you read.

Also, you can see what your friends are reading or have read, and you can earmark books into a “to read” folder 1 so you can remember what you’ve found and maybe read it later.

In the midst of all this helpfulness, Goodreads also subtly meddles in your reading habits, and not for the better. It does this by giving you three, and only three categories into which books must fall:

  • Read
  • Currently reading
  • To Read (as previously mentioned)

For all you black and whiters out there, this is probably perfect since technically speaking, every book is either read or unread, and if unread, it is either a book you want to someday read or you don’t.

For people who like gray areas 2 this is certainly problematic since there are plenty of other potential options. For “Read” there could also be:

  • Thoroughly skimmed
  • Read enough to know I won’t finish it
  • Absorbed the basic argument

For “currently reading” there is also:

  • Skimming as we speak
  • Mining for quotations
  • Actively perusing

And when it comes to “to read,” I run into several problems. Mostly this is because I collect biblical reference works (i.e. Bible dictionaries and commentaries), but it also applies to other books. My main question is this, “How do I categorize a book I will read some of, but probably never in full?” A commentary is a good example. Many of them, I will never read cover to cover. Goodreads requires that if I am to add it to my books, I must either have read it, be reading it, or intend to read it in the future. But the reality is many books do not fit neatly into those categories.

And this is the crux of my problem with Goodreads. Reading well is actually more complicated than the Goodreads categories suggest. In reality, you don’t read every single book cover to cover and often a book is “read” when you’ve gotten sufficiently bored with it, but could explain the gist of it to someone else who might be interested. If you don’t have to read it for school, 3 you don’t have to read it cover to cover. If you’re drawn in and love it, then by all means. If it bores you to tears, move on and consider it “read.”

Now, when it comes to reviewing, I have an obligation to gather enough information about the book to sufficiently review it. Often, especially with longer works, this does not necessitate reading the book cover to cover (Goodreads‘ “read” category). It does necessitate giving a close reading of the book (how close depends on whether I plan on doing a critical review) and trying to understand what the author’s goal is, what he is actually saying, and whether there is a match between the two. I read as much as I need to in order to review it well. Often, this means reading the book cover to cover (and often it’s because I’m interested enough to do so). Sometimes I haven’t needed to do that, and full disclosure here, I’ve done some really good reviews when I haven’t read the book in full. That’s not my general practice, but sometimes I run into a time crunch and I want to move on to other reads.

In the end, Goodreads has been helpful, but not when it tempts me to think that every book I start reading eventually needs to be in the “read” category. I’ve shuffled books on and off my “currently reading” list and sometimes multiple times before I finish them (or forget about them). The goal is to learn and to grow, not to see how many books I can read. The latter caters to my pride, but it can also warp my reading habits. The former is why I became a reader in the first place, because, believe it or not, I used to hate books.

But that’s a story for another day, perhaps one in the near future…


  1. Which is infinitely better than just buying those books thinking you’ll have time to read them some day, but then you move every August and have to haul them across state lines and what have you. Just saying.
  2. I was going to say “shades of gray” but that phrase is ruined now.
  3. And let’s be honest, not everyone reads all the “required reading” that comes up in school. This is why I will assign reading as homework for my students, talk about it in class, and then at some point later ask on a quiz, “Did you do the reading?” without warning. Usually this question is worth the most so students are faced with an interesting ethical dilemma. If they didn’t do the reading, they will fail the quiz. But they have the option to lie and say they did to save their grade. But, this is also Bible class, so then they have to live with lying on a Bible quiz about doing their homework if they choose that route. In addition, if they brazenly lie about doing the reading, it might be awkward when they miss a bunch of questions related to that reading they just claimed that they did. Moral of the story? I can usually tell who is lying, and I probably think too much about stuff like this


Recently, I’ve been killing it with eBooks. Like I commented on Twitter, I’m usually feast or famine. If I’m reading 1 eBook (using the Kindle app on my iPad) then I’m probably reading a dozen.

I had the idea that instead of reviewing the books as I finish them (since I usually only review print books), I’d post my highlights from the book and a short summary.

First up for this little experiment is David K. Naugle’s Philosophy: A Student’s Guide (also on Kindle). It’s a fairly short introduction to the landscape of philosophy (which is what the books in the Reclaiming The Christian Intellectual Tradition are supposed to be), and I found it a good review of the subject. I wasn’t totally blown away, but I did read the bulk of it in a day (which it means it kept my interest over a Labor Day weekend).

Anyway, as I was reading, here’s some of the quotes that caught my eye. I apologize that they tend to be out of context, but I’m just trying to give a preview to pique your interest.

Prolegomena is derived from the neuter present passive participial form of the Greek verb prolegein, which means “to speak beforehand or predict.” A prolegomena, or a word spoken beforehand, is a preliminary exercise to any subject matter or discussion. Its purpose is to spell out the fundamental assumptions, methods, principles, and relationships that guide any specific inquiry, especially academic ones. (Loc. 256)

If we are creatures living naturally in a God-given, faith-based mode, this means at least two things. First, we cannot divide the world between believers and nonbelievers since all people have faith and everyone believes. To be sure, objects of faith differ, and we can still divide the human race between those who possess saving faith and those who do not. Saving faith itself, however, is best understood as a graciously redirected function of the faith-based nature we all possess.(Loc. 297)

Second, in light of this we cannot say that religious philosophers have faith and nonreligious philosophers do not. Or that the former are biased because of faith and the latter are unbiased.(Loc. 301)

Various and sundry controlling stories and control beliefs quietly guide the thoughts and lives of philosophers, even if the philosophers themselves claim to bracket their prejudices when doing philosophy.(Loc. 307)

Regardless of the name, Christian philosophers ought to be Christ followers, and Christian faith ought to be the primary source of Christian philosophers’ philosophy in metaphysics, anthropology, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, and other subdisciplines.(Loc. 322)

The next basic principle of a Christian prolegomena is that grace restores nature (GRN). GRN is established on the inherent connections and theological unity that exists between cosmology (nature) and soteriology (grace) in the biblical story. The doctrines of creation and redemption are deeply connected(Loc. 335)

This has tremendous philosophical implications, for if grace restores nature, or salvation renews culture, and philosophy is part of culture or nature, then salvation and grace restores philosophy. In other words, Christ restores philosophy. Saving faith enables Christian philosophers to seek philosophical understanding in him.(Loc. 346)

A third feature of a Christian philosophical prolegomena is the distinction between structure and direction and the associated notion of antithesis.(Loc. 349)

A fourth feature of this Christian prolegomena is common grace. By it, God shows nonsaving favor to all by bestowing natural gifts such as rain, sunshine, and food, on all creatures, by preserving creation and restraining sin in human affairs, and by giving diverse gifts and capacities to all people who are able to make distinctive contributions to the common good.(Loc. 363)

Common grace is an antidote to taking the wrong direction at the antithetical fork in the road. Even if people go astray and misuse God’s good things, common grace means that these very same people, regardless of their spiritual state, do things well and make remarkable contributions to life and the world.(Loc. 367)

Fifth and finally, Christian scholarship is primarily Hebraic rather than Hellenic or something else. (Loc. 379)

Hence, we have a biblically established prolegomena for Christian philosophy if we prioritize the dispositions of the Hebrew mind over those of the Greeks, if we retain the idea of common grace, if we recall that grace restores nature, if we recognize the difference between the good creational structure and its possible antithetical directions, if we remember the ontological distinction between the creator and the creation, if we base Christian philosophy on canonical Trinitarian theism, and if we remember that faith is a universal structural component of human nature. In any case, Christian philosophy is theological in character, “under the constant restraint of the Biblical presentation of the faith.” Christian philosophers will need pluck to be countercultural. This prolegomena often stands in critical, corrective, and creative contrast to today’s approaches.(Loc. 404)

If God did use the medium of his deeds and words in history to make himself known, then to reason abstractly about him could rightly be called “faithless rebellion.” This is a significant charge and some in the Christian philosophical community may need to think through this.(Loc. 553)

Though God revealed himself in particular ways in Israel and through Jesus and his church, his words and deeds have universal implications in light of the comprehensive character of the biblical story—the grand narrative of canonical Trinitarian theism.(Loc. 559)

Is not the explanation for the singularity and plurality of reality to be found in the Trinitarian God? In God himself, there is a unified diversity, or a diversified unity—a threeness and a oneness, a oneness and a threeness—and the whole world of many parts (its many-ness) finds its coherence in the one God, the creator and redeemer of heaven and earth. God is thus the reference point for all reality. He is the interpretive key who provides the meaning for all things. He ties it all together in himself.(Loc. 703)

If human beings as God’s image are embodied, communal, narratively based creatures of love, affection, and desire, then what implications might this sort of human identity have on both movie making and movie viewing? In other words, a holistic view of human persons as God’s image has holistic consequences when it comes to movies.(Loc. 1724)

First, we shouldn’t try to justify fallen artistic expressions or aesthetic participation on the basis of God’s good creation. At the same time we should not reject artistic expressions or participation outright because of the world. We need deep spiritual insight on what to accept on the basis of common grace and what to reject in light of the antithesis. Second, we should commit, as Paul instructs in Romans 14:13, never to “pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” In the end, no work of art is more important than the Christian life, and we need to support each other in weaving together a fabric of Christian faithfulness.(Loc. 1759)

Plato was concerned that if young philosophers are exposed to “dialectic” or “arguments,” they might misuse their newly acquired philosophical powers to argue with others and refute them purely for argument’s sake. For Plato, the problem wasn’t lodged in philosophical knowledge or skills per se, but in their use merely to win arguments.(Loc. 1858)

Hopefully that gives you a good snapshot, I thought this was a helpful introduction. If you’re interested in philosophy, this could be a good starting point. There are maybe better ones out there, but I really appreciated Naugle’s insistence on grounding philosophy in biblical revelation and categories. When you do that, it really makes it a love of Wisdom.

As a side note, let me know if you’d like me to do this sort of thing as I finish up eBooks I’m reading. I can’t promise this many quotes all the time, but I can offer what I highlighted and some summary comments. If that sounds good, let me know and I’ll keep doing this!


Not too long ago, but in various times and various ways, I lamented that there was no Old Testament counterpart to Zondervan’s Exegetical Commentary on the NT. There are good commentaries from a technical point of view and good commentaries for application, but there wasn’t really anything on par with the ZECNT series. That is, until now.

Looks like the first two installments of the Hearing The Message of Scripture commentary series come out in January. It’s edited by Daniel Block, and he is writing the volume on Obadiah (yes, Obadiah gets his own volume). The other volume (pictured above) is by Kevin Youngblood on Jonah.

From the Amazon description (and also in the fall Zondervan Academic catalog), here’s what readers will have in store:

The Hearing the Message of Scripture series serves pastors and teachers by providing them with a careful analysis and interpretation of the biblical text, rooted in a study of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament and intended to track the flow of the argument in each book and passage. In our effort to serve pastors and teachers in their study of the text of the Old Testament for ministry, Zondervan has developed a set of distinctive features for this series.

A Graphical Display of the Text of Each Passage This visual ‘thought flow’ of the passage will enable the reader to grasp quickly and accurately the main idea of the text, its development, and supporting ideas. For readability, the graphical display will be done in the commentator’s own English translation of the passage. A few paragraphs of discussion following this display will seek to enable the reader to understand how the commentator arrived at this depiction and interpretation of the passage.

Identification and Discussion of the Main Idea of Each Passage Special emphasis will be placed on identifying and discussing the main thrust of each passage and showing how it contributes to the development of the whole composition.The main idea will be illustrated in the graphical display, discussed in the introduction to the passage, and reflected upon in the Theological and Canonical Significance section of the commentary.

Help in Drawing Out the Meaning of the Hebrew for Interpretation The goal of this exegetical commentary series will be to draw on Hebrew grammar in the service of meaning. Hebrew will not be discussed for the sake of better understanding Hebrew alone. Whenever a Hebrew construction affects the interpretation of the text, this feature will be discussed and explained.

Theological and Canonical Significance This portion of the commentary will focus on providing a theological and applicational discussion of the main thrust of the passage. This section will build the theological discussion on the exegesis of the text by synthesizing the theology of the passage and elaborating on it.

Sounds pretty sweet right? When I was taking Hebrew at Dallas, my prof for the first two semesters, Brian Webster, mentioned working on a Psalms commentary, and now I can see that it was for this series. Also, it’ll be 4 volumes on the Psalms, and judging from what he taught us in class, it’ll be one to add to your library.

There’s some other great volumes too, so be sure and click thru the link above to the fall catalog and see for yourself (plus there’s an embedded video). Also, as a sidenote, it looks like the Word Biblical Commentaries are going to be published by Zondervan now and some of those volumes will be revised (and a 2 volume Acts and 1 Corinthians installments will be published).



Brian Vickers is Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. While Justification by Grace through Faith: Finding Freedom from Legalism, Lawlessness, Pride, and Despair is not technically a sequel to Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness: Paul’s Theology of Imputation, it does cover some overlap material. As Vickers differentiates:

That book deals specifically with the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, and this book focuses more generally on justification, but it was inevitable that many of the biblical texts studied in that book (e.g. Rom. 4:1-8; 5:12-21; 2 Cor. 5:17-21; Phil. 3:8-10) would appear here too. When those texts come up in the course of this book, I often refer readers to specific sections in Jesus’ Blood. I realize that doing so suns the risk of giving the impression it is necessary to read that book first, but that is certainly not the case. I tried to keep such references to a minimum, and they are meant only to point readers to the more detailed and technical exegesis that lies behind many of the conclusions and assertions found here. (9n4)

As far as how this book related to contemporary debates about justification (a hot topic in recent years to say the least), Vickers does not “devote either chapters or major sections to direct engagement in the contemporary debates,” but “many of the emphases found here are clearly influenced from the context and climate in which they are written, and the debates are undoubtedly beneath the surface of this book in several places.” (8) If you’re familiar then with the conversation that has been happening regarding justification and specifically the New Perspective on Paul (Wright, et al.) then you’ll likely here “echoes,” but that is not the focal point in Vickers exposition. What is the focal point is tracing the “basic contours of justification in the Bible from Adam to Abraham, through Israel, and into the New Testament.” (4) Hence, it is a biblical theology of justification. Rather than drawing a strictly straight line through the Bible, Vickers adopts a cyclical approach. Explaining how this works he says,

For instance, the chapter on Adam is followed by a chapter on Christ as the second Adam. In this way, the events in the garden, particularly Adam’s disobedience, are followed directly by a study of Christ, with particular focus on hsi obedience. So the primary covenantal heads, one the head of the human race and the other the head of the new covenant, are considered side by side without recounting the entire Old Testament history that lies between them. (4-5)

This format continues on with a chapter on Abraham in the Old Testament (chapter 3) and Paul’s interpretation of Abraham in the New (chapter 4); the establishment of the Mosaic covenant in the Old (chapter 5) and a chapter on God’s righteousness available through Christ by faith (chapter 6). The final two chapters looks at the life of the justified, first from the perspective of how our faith “works” (chapter 7) and then from the perspective of how freedom is our justification applied (chapter 8). Along with the expected conclusion, Vickers also offers study/reflection questions, a list of resources related to justification, and then an additional list of resources for further study. And all this in just over 200 pages.

As far as the tone and feel of the book, this series (Explorations in Biblical Theology) is similar to New Studies in Biblical Theology. While both are series dedicated to offering evangelical (and broadly Reformed) studies in biblical theology, this series (if this book is any indication) seems more accessible to the average interested lay person. Since the occasional volume in the NSBT is a reworked dissertation and other volumes can be a big taxing in their exegetical thoroughness, they do not make for light reading. Profitable reading yes, but light reading, hardly. Though I did read some of Justification by Grace through Faith at the beach (something I would never attempt with a NSBT volume), it is not light so much as it is more clear and concise and a bit easier to follow. While not lacking exegetical detail, it is not as detailed, but it is still rich in biblical wisdom and theological ruminations.

For Vickers’ book, it would make a great companion reading for engaging N. T. Wright. Though as he said he is not writing polemically, he draw different conclusions in his exegetical journeys through Romans and is doing so aware of arguments made by authors like Wright. As Tom Schreiner is quoted as saying on the front cover, “This is the first book I would give to a scholar or a layperson desiring to learn more about justification.” I’m inclined to agree regarding the layperson and I’ll take his word for it on the scholar part (not sure I could think of a better starting point, I’m just not sure if this is what I’d give an asking scholar). It has the added benefit of also serving as a kind of intro to covenant theology, in the lower case sense. Maybe a “theology of covenants” is better since Vickers, being at SBTS, is probably a New Covenant guy (at least many of his colleagues are). 1 In any case, his choice to arrange the topic of justification by alternating between old covenant heads (Adam, Abraham, Moses) and our single new covenant superior head (Jesus) makes the topic much easier to follow and being to digest. That’s probably why (in addition to Vickers’ clarity of writing) this is good starting point for exploring the subject (which obviously helps it fit well into the series it is a part of).


So, if you’re enjoy a good book on biblical theology in general, and/or are interested in justification in particular, I’d recommend giving this book a try. It is definitely a starting point in your study, but not necessarily a final word. The lists at the end of the book imply as much. But as far as starting points go, this is a good one. Vickers is attentive to the flow of redemptive history and the implications of Christ’s person and work. He situates the doctrine of justification into that larger picture and truly does deliver on the subtitle of the book. If that sounds like something you’d be into, then go ahead and add this book to your list.

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  1. If nothing else, he is not a paedobaptist, which per a conversation I had with Burk Parsons, means you cannot truly hold to covenant theology. If you deny the practical implications of covenant theology when it comes to the sacrament of baptism, you don’t truly hold to the theological system underlying and leading to those implications.

Why Mondays Are The Best

September 2, 2013 — Leave a comment

A couple of months back, two things occurred to me. 1) I’ve lived in Florida for over 2 years now and 2) I hardly ever go to the beach even though its only an hour to Daytona.

With the prospect of God providing full time work in a state that might be aesthetically challenged, I thought it would be shame to live that close to the ocean and not take it in on a regular basis.

Technically there were three things 1that occurred to me: 3) I’m not doing a good job of guarding my Sabbath refresh time.

These three things conspired together to form a single plan: every Monday I make the drive up to Daytona 2 and just veg out for a day (and hopefully not get too sunburned).

I’ve been doing this for almost a couple of months now (well, consistently for the past month) and it has been both relaxing and refreshing. It’s a legitimate all-day commitment so if anyone tries to encroach on the time I can say I have a previous commitment. I need this on a weekly basis to stay sane and to keep stress at bay. Its both good for my body and soul 3 and I think good for my external relationships as well.

Even now, I’m typing this from the porch of a Holiday Inn overlooking a pool overlooking the ocean. The weather is perfect and we’re here with Ali’s family and family friends. 4 It’s been a perfectly relaxing Labor Day weekend.

I think this is an example of Sabbath rest at its finest. I mean, everything in my external life is not exactly how I would want it (see previous post Running Without A Title). I have an awful lot on my plate right now, and though my wife and I would like to start having kids, we need her income right now and she doesn’t want to work after having kids. But today, and this weekend, that’s not what we’re focused on.

This illustrates perhaps the hardest part of my weekly getaways. I speak of course of guarding my thoughts so concerns don’t creep in and start their own “Occupy Nate’s Mind” movement. Reading helps with that, but sometimes reading exacerbates it. If I’m reading books on ministry, it’s good for reflecting and checking my heart, but it also turns my thoughts towards my frustrations with my current local church 5 and with my lack of a full time job. So clearly there is a need for balance since I need the day off to recalibrate, but I also want to be refreshed by my reading and not unduly introspected by it.

Overall, I think I do a good job with this. Reading fiction on Mondays helps, as does reading for fun more than for review or for school (see my upcoming post on how I organize my reading). I also tend to follow my own advice for how to have a better day off. The whole process helps me to reset and to re-think. It’s a time of mostly silence (except for what’s jamming in my headphones) and solitude, and that’s just plain good for my soul on a regular basis.

In the end, things swimming under the surface tend to emerge on my weekly trip to the beach. 6 It gives me an opportunity to process them, but then turn them over to God and not be overly preoccupied with them. This weekend, while longer, has been just like the other trips. A time to relax, to enjoy some college football and reading by a hotel pool. A time to get some sun and eat carbs before going paleo tomorrow, to spend time with Ali and think about the upcoming fall and plan and enjoy a long date.

And that is why Mondays are the best, and for me at least, it’s kind of been that way almost 10 years. But to explain why that is, I’ll need another post, so until next Monday…


  1. “There’s always three things.” – John Frame
  2. Technically Ormond which is the next beach to the north and has a superb public park with beach access, free parking, and exquisitely clean restrooms (and fewer tourists)
  3. Technically “spirit” but I like the literary associations of body + soul
  4. Although clearly the fact that I’m writing this means they are all sitting at a group table talking amongst themselves and I am at a separate table being all introverted as is my custom.
  5. I’ll post more on this at another time. I think most of the frustrations are on my end, and its just something I’ll have to deal with.
  6. Which when not-metaphorical, is my fear every time I get into the ocean