Faith Speaking Understanding, Performing the Drama of Doctrine by Kevin J. Vanhoozer

In 2005 highly regarded theologian Kevin Vanhoozer wrote an intense scholarly tome entitled The Drama of Doctrine. The present volume was written to make his unique approach to the understanding of Scripture, which he calls theodrama, more assessable to pastors and serious lay students of the Bible. But make no mistake; this work is a difficult read that only the adventurous should attempt, but if they do they will be rewarded for their effort. Vanhoozer’s thesis is that true discipleship cannot take place apart from theology, defined repeated as both knowing and doing truth (e.g. pp. xii, e, 20). He writes, “Desire for God without doctrine is blind, doctrine without desire is empty” (p. xiv). The uniqueness of Vanhoozer’s approach is the use of the theodramatic model (apparently gleaned from Kierkegaard — p. 18), which he believes articulates theology (by his definition) better than standard propositional, narrative or story...

The Gospel of the Lord, How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus by Michael F. Bird

Michael Bird, lecturer in theology at Ridley Melbourne Mission and Ministry College in Australia, has written this work to address “the questions of how the Gospels came to be, what kinds of literature they are, and how they relate to Christian discourse about God… to explore how the Gospels were shaped by the Christian movement and how they shape that movement themselves” (pp vii-ix). Toward this end, Bird has provided an intense volume in which he interacts with the latest scholarship, from liberal to conservative, on all related issues. He discusses the origins of the four Gospels, oral traditions, form criticism, literary genre and goal of the Gospels. The heart of the book however, is concerned with the Synoptic problem (pp 127-187) and the Johannine question (pp 188-22). The Synoptic problem is why Matthew, Mark and Luke are similar and yet different in many ways. Also at issue is...

For the Glory of God, Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship, by Daniel I. Block

Reading For the Glory of God had the feel of sitting at the feet of a learned professor as he pours out a lifetime of study of the Scriptures. The book provides insightful understanding concerning many biblical matters but is primarily focused on tracing the theme of worship throughout the Bible. Block states his thesis as such: In addition to a commitment to let all Scripture contribute to the recovery of a biblical theology of worship, this book is driven by two other foundational principles. First, true worship is essentially a vertical exercise, the human response to the divine Creator and Redeemer. For this reason the goal of authentic worship is the glory of God rather than the pleasure of human beings, which means that forms of worship should conform to the will of God rather than to the whims of fallen humanity. Second, knowledge of the nature and...

A Theology of Liberation by Gustavo Gutiérrez

Originally written in 1971, this revised edition contains a new introduction, in addition to the original, and the reworking of portions of the first edition. While many similar ideals had been circulating prior to its publication, and were expressed in the Vatican II Council documents (1965) and the Medellin Conference (1968), A Theology of Liberation marks the official launching of the liberation theology movement and Gustavo Gutiérrez is seen as its father. Since then liberation theology continues to spread, morph and influence the Christian community not only in Latin America but throughout the world. While not embraced in totality, many of its ideas have filtered into the evangelical church and are expressed in the latest round of the social gospel. In A Theology of Liberation we find the roots of this social agenda being espoused by key Christian leaders and organizations today. A Theology of Liberation is a dense,...

The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey

In typical Yancey fashion the author uses his journalistic skills to question and dig deeper into a subject that perplexes him. This time it is Jesus. He is convinced that his fundamentalist upbringing clouds the real Jesus in his thinking. Over and over he makes derogatory comments about his boyhood church and hot beds of fundamentalism (in his opinion) such as Moody Bible Institute (pp. 14, 80, 85, 148, 187, 239, 252). Given this backdrop he sets out to discover the real Jesus. On the positive side, one of his key sources is the four Gospels which he has studied intently. Unfortunately, he has read the Gospels through various lenses which have skewed his view. Avoiding the rest of the New Testament—a serious error (p. 261)—he has attempted to discover Jesus through 15 Hollywood films (pp. 21-22, 85-86, 88, 193) and numerous novelists such as Dostoevsky, Tolstoy (pp. 74,...

Generous Justice, How God’s Grace Makes Us Just by Timothy Keller

In Generous Justice Timothy Keller is making a case for social justice as it relates to the corporate church and to individual Christians. Each chapter begins with a call to justice from the Bible which shows the foundation of a just, generous human community (see p. xvi) followed by the author’s biblical and philosophical defense of the propositions found in that chapter. Keller says that he is writing this book for four kinds of people: young believers who respond with joy to the call to care for the needy, those who approach the subject of “doing justice” with suspicion, younger evangelicals who have “expanded their mission” to include social justice along with evangelism, and those who believe that the idea that the Bible is devoted to justice is absurd (pp. x-xiv). Keller thinks all four types of readers “fail at some level to see that the Biblical gospel of...

Liberation Theology by Emilio A. Núñez C.

This book deals with the biblical, theological and sociological issues concerning liberation theology (p. 12). Liberation theology is a new way of doing theology (pp. 8, 17, 35, 74, 81, 122-124, 131-171), born out of the Latin American social context. It discards capitalism (pp. 29-31, 56-57, 95, 119, 156-157, 215), is a theology of action (praxis) rather than doctrine (pp. 136-138, 147-148, 188), rejects the reliability of Scripture (pp. 143-146, 216, 233-235) and when interpreting Scripture uses a hermeneutic of the kingdom of God as its guide (pp. 145, 155, 167, 189, 198-202, 226, 264). Liberation theology is concerned with social salvation, or the transformation of society, rather than spiritual salvation (pp. 176-206). Utopia is the goal (pp. 195-197, 200-201, 254) and it is achieved often through revolution and violence (p. 267). Even the person of Christ is changed: since the liberation theologians do not believe we can rely...

Simply Good News, Why the Gospel Is News and What Makes It Good by N. T. Wright

Christianity Today proclaims N. T. Wright to be the most prolific biblical scholar in a generation. Some say he is the most important apologist since C. S. Lewis (on the dust cover). If so, then whether you agree with him or not, what Wright says carries considerable weight. In Simply Good News Wright is defining the gospel and working out its implications. He repeatedly, and correctly, states that the gospel is not good advice; it is a good news message about an event that has changed everything (pp. 4, 16). But Wright’s understanding about this event (which includes the cross and the resurrection) is not what many would assume. He agrees the message that Jesus died for our sins and took our punishment so that we could be saved and go to heaven is true, but it is a distorted message, which does not go far enough and in...

The Sacred Text, Biblical Authority in Nineteenth-Century America by Ronald F. Satta

It is commonly taught in evangelical scholarship that the doctrine of inerrancy was invented and developed by A. A. Hodge and B. B. Warfield in 1881 with publication of their paper “Inspiration” (see pp. XI, 33). Ronald Satta proves in this small work that such was not the case—that, in fact, conservative theologians going back to the Reformation (pp. 2-3,9), and indeed to the Church Fathers (p. 54) have held to a well-defined view of both the authority of the Scripture and inerrancy of the Bible in the original autographs. Satta carefully surveys the commonly held views by conservative Christians during the nineteenth-century in America and concludes that “the assertion that inerrancy is a novelty is exposed as incorrect. Rather than innovators, fundamentalists are cast as the standard-bearers of the ascendant theory of biblical authority commonly endorsed among many of the leading Protestant elite in nineteenth-century America” (p. XV)....

The Holy Spirit by A. W. Pink

A. W. Pink lived from 1886 to 1952 and wrote numerous books including The Holy Spirit. It has been critiqued and reviewed by numerous people and therefore warrants no extensive review from me at this time. A few comments will suffice. Of a positive nature, Pink expounds on many marvelous truths related to the Holy Spirit. He devotes 32 chapters, each detailing one aspect of the Holy Spirit, such as deity and personality, or some ministry directed to mankind, such as indwelling, transforming and convicting. Chapters average about five pages and therefore lend themselves to daily reading of a meatier level than common devotional works. There is much to appreciate in most of these chapters. Depending on one’s theological convictions, Pink’s covenantal and strong Reformed views will either irritate or please. He clearly equates the church with Israel (p. 20), believing that God abandoned Israel prior to the crucifixion...