Archives For Book Reviews

Israel Matters Review

August 7, 2017 — 2 Comments

Over at TGC I did a review of Gerald McDermott’s new book Israel Matters. I conclude with the following.

McDermott presents two ways on this issue: supersessionism or New Zionism. But why are those the only options? I offer my most significant critique by proposing a third way: “fulfillment.”[2] This avoids clunky statements like “the church replaces Israel” and also provides more information about what it means that “Israel matters.”

Fulfillment avoids two misunderstandings: (1) that Jesus came to set aside old promises, and (2) that Jesus simply came to say the old promises continue in the same way. Jesus didn’t come to abrogate the law or to simply affirm it; he came to fulfill it. The New Testament authors argue that Jesus fulfills the law and the identity of Israel, and the church is an outgrowth of this fulfillment. The tension between the new and the old is illustrated and encapsulated in the word “fulfillment.”

These positions can be put on a spectrum:

Christ Abrogates the Law ––––––––– Christ Fulfills the Law –––––––– Christ Affirms the Law

To put these positions in the terms of this book, the “abrogate” position maps onto supersessionism, and the “affirm” position maps onto New Christian Zionism.

Supersessionism ––––––––– Fulfillment –––––––– New Christian Zionism

It seems to me that McDermott falls into the trap that Jesus avoids in Matthew 5. The law is neither simply abrogated nor affirmed, because the environment has completely changed: Christ is here, and that makes all the difference.

McDermott’s proposal has some attractive features, but I think he falls too far on the affirming side of the spectrum. By using the third way of “fulfillment” we can still affirm that Israel matters, but then we can ask, “In what way?” All our answers must come only after we’ve grappled with our Christology, the triune nature of God, and the biblical storyline.

51-K0sC-AFL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_A few weeks ago Books at a Glance published my review of Michael Gorman’s book on the atonement. I found it a stimulating book and he had some arguments to consider. Here is the thesis of the book.

Gorman proposes what he calls “a new-covenant model.” He argues it is broader because it incorporates the other models, yet also focuses on the ultimate purpose of the atonement, to create a new-covenant people.

The purpose of Jesus’ death was to effect, or give birth to, the new-covenant, the covenant of peace; that is, to create a new-covenant community of Spirit-filled disciples of Jesus who would fulfill the inseparable covenantal requirements of faithfulness to God and love for others through participation in the death of Jesus, expressed in such practices as faithful witness and suffering (cruciform faith), hospitality to the weak and servant-love for all (cruciform love), and peacemaking (cruciform hope).

And part of my conclusion.

Although Gorman may have not done justice to the arguments of the other models, his model does more clearly incorporate ethics, spirituality, ecclesiology, pneumatology, and missiology. Some might argue that such a big blanket thrown over the atonement covers precipices rather than revealing them.

The promises of the new-covenant in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah are internal transformation, forgiveness of sins, and return to the land. Ezekiel emphasizes the role of the Spirit in this, and Isaiah uniquely emphasizes the role of the suffering servant in establishing the covenant. Elements of soteriology, ecclesiology, and ethics are also all part of the new-covenant.

The question becomes whether in the new-covenant there also is an element which is foundational?

gospel of the lordOver at Books at a Glance I did a review of Mike Bird’s The Gospel of the Lord: How the Early Church Told the Story of Jesus. I begin saying:

A myriad of questions surround the formation of the Gospels: questions such as, how was the tradition passed on? What role does memory play? Who controlled it? What is the relationship between the Gospels? Mike Bird’s latest book seeks to answer these questions, surveys recent research on these issues, and provides some of his own critical feedback. This book is not about the Gospels per se, but rather about the formation of the Gospels.

I was so pleased with this book and recommend it to all. I only had one critique, which was minor.

My only critique of Bird’s book is that he could have thought more (for pedagogical purposes) about a “loose” blueprint. In other words, why not move towards a categorization of the stages of transmission as Watson has done. Obviously much of this is guess work, but a good guess can be given for the passing on of any tradition.

My (initial) preferred outline would be the following with a smaller “interpretation + reception” listed in between each stage.

Event > Memory > Tradition > Inscription > Normativization

My point is that Bird could have more explicitly structured his book around something like this. Titles like “The Formation of the Jesus Tradition” could be conceived as being located in any of these steps and leaves something wanting in a conceptual framework for the book.

Read the rest of the review here.


264816982I did a review of Roy Harrisville’s book Pandora’s Box Opened: An Examination and Defense of Historical-Critical Method and Its Master Practitioners over at Books at a Glance. Here is my conclusion.

Harrisville concludes that the historical-critical method introduced many evils, yet it also has been a force for good (at the very same time). The Bible is historically conditioned and requires the use of the human mind for exposition. Because the Christian proclamation involves witness in writing, the receiver must acknowledge the claim made by the biblical text. And the text must be allowed to have its say. In other words, the interpreter sits under the text, not over it.

Therefore the historical-critical method need not be outright rejected; yet its arrogance needs to be stripped away. Alternatives have arisen, according to Harrisville, alternatives such as rhetorical criticism, structuralism, and deconstruction. Yet I think Harrisville could have expanded this list to literary criticism, biblical theology, and canonical criticism. The later three criticisms are united by their rejection of the piecemeal view of the text, and an embracing of the unity. Added to these lists could be philosophical reflections on the role of the community, the nature of truth, and the role of subjectivity. Despite the opening of Pandora’s Box, the critical method is still able to be harnessed in the service of gospel proclamation. As Adolf Schlatter said:

For me, faith and criticism never divided into opposites, so that at one time I would have thought in a Bible-believing way, and at another critically. Rather I thought in a critical fashion because I believed in the Bible, and believed in it because I read it critically.

one-bible-many-versions.png?w=512My review of Dave Brunn’s book One Bible, Many Versions: Are All Translations Created Equal? is up at the RBL site. I begin the review thusly.

His aim is not to fuel the ongoing translation debate but rather to bring greater unity to the English translations by highlighting their similarities. Brunn claims the different English translations are mutually complementary and mutually dependent rather than contradictory. He does this by analyzing current English translations and putting them up against their own standards stated in their introductory translation theoretical proposals.


537875Over on Books at a Glance I reviewed Crossway’s Acting the Miracle: God’s Work and Ours in the Mystery of Sanctification (John Piper & David Mathis, eds.).

Acting the Miracle had its start in the Desiring God 2012 National Conference. John Piper and company present five different chapters on the reformed view of sanctification. Mathis asserts the book is about what theologians call progressive sanctification rather than definitive sanctification. He warns against slogans or simplistic understandings of sanctification saying that the Scriptures present a more complex view of this doctrine.

Read the rest of the review here.