GIVEAWAY: Nearly Every N. T. Wright Book

I’m not sure how else to put this. YOU NEED TO ENTER THIS GIVEAWAY. Kurt Willems, the self-proclaimed “theology curator,” is outdoing himself with this one. Click here to sign up.

If you’re still reading, I’ve obviously not convinced you. Here’s the list of the more than 50 books included in the giveaway (valued at nearly $1,100):

  • New Testament for Everyone (entire 18 vol. devotional-commentary set!)
  • The Day Revolution Began
  • Simply Jesus
  • After You Believe
  • Surprised by Hope
  • Scripture and the Authority of God
  • How God Became King
  • The Case for the Psalms
  • Surprised by Scripture
  • Simply Good News
  • Paul: A Biography
  • The Kingdom New Testament
  • Simply Christian
  • Climax of the Covenant
  • The New Test and People of God
  • Jesus and the Victory of God
  • The Resurrection of the Son of God
  • Paul and the Faithfulness of God
  • Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections
  • The Lord and his Prayer
  • What Saint Paul Really Said
  • For All God’s Worth
  • The Meaning of Jesus
  • The Challenge of Jesus
  • The Resurrection of Jesus
  • Paul in Fresh Perspective
  • The Meal Jesus Gave Us
  • For All the Saints?
  • Judas and the Gospel of Jesus
  • The Scriptures, the Cross, and the Power of God
  • Evil & Justice of God
  • Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision
  • Small Faith, Great God
  • Pauline Perspectives: Collected Essays
  • Paul and his Recent Interpreters
  • The Paul Debate

Seriously? You’re still reading? Enter the giveaway now!


Reading Christian Theology in the Protestant Tradition

In this thick volume, Kapic and Madueme have compiled a resource students of church history will find especially helpful. The editors recruited scholars from an array of traditions who confidently acquaint the reader to key figures and works from the church’s 2,000 years of theological reflection. While this volume does not include selections from the primary sources, it provides expert introduction and summary to the work of fifty-eight indispensable Christian theologians.

The book is split into five sections based on major periods (Early, Medieval, Reformation, 17th and 18th Centuries, and 19th and 20th Centuries). Each period is prefaced by an introduction that orients the reader to substantial theological developments and social movement during the era. Additionally, the editors have provided lists of other major works for each period that are not summarized in this volume. Finally, within each section, there are summary length treatments of what the editors discerned to be the essential books for making sense of Protestant theology today. Continue reading

Learning to Introduce the Trinity

“Isn’t God awesome? I mean, God is three and one!” Imagine, if you can, hearing someone say that for the first time. Wouldn’t it strike you as odd? It isn’t immediately clear why that is awesome. In truth, the person hearing it for the first time probably isn’t very impressed, because they’re not at all sure why it matters and less sure of how it works. The person might be tempted to ask “How is it so?”

Don’t answer that question. Not yet. Continue reading

Everything Happens for a Reason

This book is worthy of every rave review it has already received. Everything Happens For a Reason by Kate Bowler, who wrote the first history of the prosperity gospel, is a captivating memoir of one women’s bitterly ironic journey with her faith and health. (Many thanks to Random House for sending me a copy to review.)

As of this post’s publication, the book is climbing Amazon’s charts (at #27 in print best sellers overall; #8 in Religion and Spirituality). Bowler writes beautifully, in a voice completely her own. She will make you laugh when you feel like you shouldn’t be laughing and she will carry you into the darkness she has faced until you feel its weight. Most of all, she will offer you hope. “Joy persists somehow and I soak it in,” she writes. “The horror of cancer has made everything seem like it is painted in bright colors. I think the same thoughts again and again: Life is so beautiful. Life is so hard” (p. 123). Continue reading

Paul: An Apostle’s Journey [Review]

In a recent interview about his book Paul: An Apostle’s Journey, which Eerdmans kindly sent to Theology Forum for review, Douglas Campbell said, “This book is out to make disciples.” Lord willing, the book might do just that. I can say, with certainty, the book challenged me to be a better pastor.

As a student at Duke, I took Campbell’s “Life of Paul” class. He writes the way he speaks, with clarity and wit. The book is intended to introduce Paul’s life and theology to “people who have not been shaped by a seminary experience” (xi). Campbell has done a fine job of writing accessibly, with chapters broken into manageable subsections and concluded with review questions. He keeps his writing fresh by including metaphors and, the true heart of Campbellism, humor. (Even now, I can hear him laughing at himself after the “whole hog” pun on p. 127.) Though I was introduced to much of the content throughout his class, I found myself thoroughly engaged by the prose.

The book follows Paul’s life, but according to Campbell’s unique method.* Campbell starts with Paul’s letters in order to reconstruct the narrative according to Paul’s own account. This stands as an alternative to the conventional approach, which reads Acts first to discover the narrative of Paul’s ministry and then fills in blanks with Paul’s letters. Campbell assumes the details of the stories in Acts are mostly solid (he mentions only two minor details that Paul’s letters seem to correct). The trouble lies in the timeline (p. 5-6). From an inter-Gospel comparison, we know the author of Luke-Acts is willing to adjust the order of events. Why shouldn’t we assume he’s done some shifting in Acts? This way of reading is exciting. Like reading a mystery novel, the reader joins Campbell as he pieces together fragments into a cohesive story. What most readers see as inconspicuous remnants of a lost community, Campbell sees as answers to puzzles left unsolved. Continue reading

Creed as Critical Theory: Psalm 68 v. Ephesians 4

Ephesians 4:8 v. Psalm 68:18

In Ephesians 4:8, Paul seems to quote Psalm 68. “When he ascended on high, he led captive a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men” (NASB). This phrase is the foundation for Paul’s argument that Christians receive gifts from God “for the equipping of the saints” (v. 11). There is nothing unusual about a first-century Jew, who was trained as a Pharisee, quoting a Psalm to support his claims. But what are we to think if this first-century theologian revises the Psalm for a new use?

In Psalm 68, the phrase reads this way: “You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives; You have received gifts among men” (v. 18, NASB). In the Psalm, the subject is a second-person “you,” rather than the masculine third-person singular in Ephesians. But, more importantly, the subject is the recipient of gifts. When Paul references the phrase to progress his argument that God gives Christians spiritual gifts, he changes the verb from received to gave, which changes the recipient from God to Christians.

I bring this variance to the reader’s attention because I intend to offer a resolution. But, first, I owe the kind folks at Westminster John Knox a review of the book that has helped me make some sense of how to work with Ephesians 4:8. This review will consist of two parts: first, a brief summary of the late Robert Jenson’s Canon and Creed (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2007) so the reader might know the structure of the book and, second, a reading of Ephesians 4:8 that takes one of the key ideas in Canon and Creed and puts it to work. Continue reading

If Kuyper went to the Movies

Movies are Prayers

If Abraham Kuyper went to the movies he’d find prayers.

Josh Larson doesn’t say it quite that way in his delightful book, Movies are Prayers, but its the basic idea when he speaks of movies as instances of common grace.

“Common grace” is a category you will know well if you’ve encountered the Reformed tradition as its refracted through the Dutch Calvinism of Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920). At Calvin College, where I completed my undergrad, the Kuyperian vision flourished and still does. “There is not a square inch,” Kuyper once said, “in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!'” Building on that conviction, common grace is a way to name the possibility, as Larson puts it that “God’s grace and his revealing truth can be found in the most unexpected places.” Such places include movies, even the ones you wouldn’t immediately expect. Larson explains:

If Kuyper had deigned to to attend a movie theater, I like to think he would have found common grace—this notion that an agnostic artist, by God’s favor, can capture the glory of his creation—flowing from the screen. From the silent melodramas of Kuyper’s time to the colorful extravaganzas of today, endless creativity is on display in the collaborative work of hundreds of artists: cinematographers, editors, actors, directors, costumers, musicians, production designers, and more. And when the resulting movies genuinely yearn, mournfully lament, fitfully rage, honestly confess, or joyously celebrate, they serve as prayers (12).

This is a theological idea (it is thoroughly theological) that you either love or hate. Continue reading