Thursday, June 07, 2007

Reading for May 2007

Introductory volume of the acclaimed five volume history of doctrine covering the early church from 100-600 C.E. Focusing on the major theological movement and development during the period, focusing on a given topic and moving generally chronologically. The opening discussion centers on the early churches relationship to Judaism and paganism, and the early heresies to arise in the early church. Much discussion is devoted to the development of the doctrine of the Trinity and the person of Christ, focusing solely on the theological movement and ideas. After discussing Augustine and his contribution to theology, and the reaction of later generations to his ideas, the volume concludes with a consideration of some of the distinctive marks of the Western and Eastern branches of the church. The volume is helpful in demonstrating the parallels in Christian doctrine with Greek thought and philosophy in its understanding and articulation of theology; as well as the contribution heresy made to defining key doctrines by forcing the church to consider its stance, particularly on the conception of the Bible and the Spirit.

  • The Day They Came to Arrest the Book- Nat Hentoff, 1983.

Young adult story about an attempt to remove Huckleberry Finn from a high school due to its use of racist language and other objectionable material. The school community is divided over the issue, but in the end the book is upheld. The story is basic, and the characters are flat. The dialogue around the issues tends to be filled with clich├ęs.

  • “After the New Perspective: Works, Justification and Boasting in Early Judaism and Romans 1-5” Simon J. Gathercole, 2001.

An introduction to the larger thesis, the article outlines a point overlooked by New Perspective scholars, boasting. Gathercole notes the variety found in Second Temple literature regarding election, and different attitudes. The article outlines themes from Romans 1-5 relevant to forming Paul’s response to Judaism as he interacted with it.

  • “R.C. Sproul on Saving Faith”- John Robbins. The Trinity Review, 2007.

John Robbins attacks Sproul’s article on faith in That’s a Good Question. Robbins criticizes Sproul’s article based on squabbles with some of the choices used to describe the historical situation. He also objects to the classic threefold division of the aspects of faith, notitia, assensus and fiducia as not ebing found or supported in the Bible.

  • Justification and the New Perspective on Paul- Guy Prentiss Waters, 2004.

Waters critically examines the New Perspective on Paul and compares it with his reconstruction of Reformed theology. Waters beings examining the history of New Testament scholarship from the Reformation to the present. Waters clearly in his brief summary sets for the Reformation as a golden age from which all other ages have declined. The historical summary also points towards issues which would develop into New Perspective issues. Much fuller treatment is given to New Perspective authors, especially Sanders, in summarizing their major ideas and focuses. Following the description of the movement, Waters offers and exegetical examination of Paul challenging the New Perspective, followed by a discussion aimed at particularly at Reformed theology and its relationship with the movement. The book presents the issues facing the Reformed church, but is clearly biased towards a traditional formulation of Reformed theology. The exegetical material in particular does not demonstrate a clear grappling with the text in a manner that does not beg a traditional understanding.

  • The Life and Against Apion- Josephus (Loeb Classical Library translated by H. St. J. Thackeray), 1966.

The Life is Josephus’ response against charged made against him concerning his conduct during the Jewish War. In the work he recounts his actions during his leadership in Galilee, and his response to those who opposed his leadership. Josephus is careful throughout to display his wisdom and mercy to his opponents, as well as ignoring any conflict with the Roman forces.

The second work is a defense of Judaism from the charges of Apion. Josephus begins by proving the antiquity of the Jewish people from Egyptian, Phoenician and Chaldaean records. The Egyptian are also examined concerning their accuracy by looking at their disagreements with other historians and their inconsistencies in their own account. Defense is also offered also concerning the law and lifestyle of the Jews. Compared to other legal systems, the Jewish system is ancient, universally known and followed and merciful to all. The conception of God by Judaism is also superior, especially when compared to Greek myths. The book is an interesting example of an ancient rhetorical style, along with a valuable outlining of an insider’s perspective on the current practices and state of Judaism.

  • “Good Works” Free Grace Broadcaster (Spring 2007).

A series of sermons revolving around the nature and necessity of good works for the Christian. Thomas Mainton’s Zealous of Good Works is the most helpful piece in the issue, examining what it mean to be zealous of good works.

  • Theological Perspectives on Church Growth- Edited by Harvie M. Conn, 1976.

The book contains a series of essays describing and responding to the Church Growth Movement, and in particular the writings of Donald McGavran, from a conference held at Westminster Theological Seminary. The opening essay by Dr. Conn is a stellar biblical-theological overview of church growth. The perspective in later essays varies in acceptance of many of the tenants of the movement. Most favorable appears to be Glasser’s description of the life and major tenants of McGavran. Young’s essay shows much appreciation of the Church Growth Movement, but clarifies that church growth is qualitative as well as quantitative. Conn’s second essay is an important consideration of the relationship mission boards to the church, and of the sending and receiving churches. Packer and Clowney’s essay were both excellent reformed expositions of the meaning and priority of evangelism. On the whole, the book is a very helpful consideration from a Reformed perspective on the movement. It maintains relevance in the major impact the tenants of the school have on the contemporary church. Glassar’s discussion involving the homogenous unit principle was favorable in the sense that it was supported pragmatically as leading to growth, but I question the Biblical propriety of this idea in light of Romans. More helpful was the discussion centered around growth being a sign of where God is working, and where resources should be expended. However, even this idea must be accepted cautiously. The distinction between numerical and other growth within a church is an important concept. Uniting all essays was the idea that mission is not simply an activity of the church, but the identity of the church- an identity reformed churches are neglecting.

  • Red Rabbit- Tom Clancy, 2002.

Early in Jack Ryan’s career, when he was stationed in London with the CIA, he becomes involved in the events surrounding the assassination attempt on John Paul II. After the Pope’s statement to the Polish government, the Russians determine that he must die. A signal officer for the KGB is troubled by the plot, and determines to defect. After connecting with Ed and Mary Pat Foley, new station chief of the Moscow station, he is taken to the West after his death is faked. His information does not prevent the attempt, but is helpful in many other areas. The most slow paced of all of Clancy’s books, and overly filled with side comments presenting his political views.

  • “Resurrection Obedience” New Horizons (April 2007).

The feature article examined the implications of the resurrection for sanctification. The second article also examined the resurrection and Christ’s three offices. Notice was given in the magazine of a new Portuguese work and the growing work in the Spanish community. Several letters responded negatively to Fesko’s claim that Wright’s Trinitarian orthodoxy is suspect.


Samuel Sutter said...

looks like a busy summer for you! I've read the first book. (emergence of the catholic tradition) - enjoyable... if you can read it on the beach :-)

Keith said...

The entire series is great. Reading on Rochester's beach is great if you can get past the smell of dead fish and rotting algae.