Book Review: Making Sense of God (Tim Keller)

In 2008, Tim Keller wrote The Reason For God, which addressed the doubts of both skeptics and believers. Now, eight years later, his Making Sense of God: Finding God in the Modern World makes a case to skeptics that Christianity is relevant and brings “meaning, satisfaction, freedom, identity, justice, and hope.” Being more or less a prequel to The Reason For God, Making Sense is written primarily to skeptics of Christianity, but Keller’s audience certainly includes Christians too. He writes to give them the knowledge to discuss confidently with other skeptics.

Making Sense is made up of three sections.

  1. Why does anyone need religion?
  2. Religion is more than you think it is
  3. Christianity makes sense

He first explains that in the 1800s, humanists thought the world’s citizens would become more human as religion died away, which would lead to a decrease in wars and conflicts. Wars and conflicts have not ceased, and neither has racism nor eugenics. But clearly we can’t believe in Christianity since we can’t empirically prove its claims. But can that sentence be empirically proven? If we evolved, and survival is of the fittest, why love one another instead of (metaphorically) eating one another?One wants to feed the poor while the other wants to trample on them while climbing up the corporate ladder. Whose life meaning is correct?  Keller states that the concept of “natural” human rights came about in Medieval Christianity. All people, regardless of their status, class, gender, or vocation are owed some things. While taking care of the poor didn’t originate with Christianity, the Christian ideas of caring for the marginalized because all are created in God’s image permeate our society. We have a view of people being equal because of Christianity.

If all people are created to love and serve God, putting anything else will be a futile effort for nothing can satisfy us, and everything will disappoint and frustrate us. Our children will not always follow our dreams for them, our spouses will fail us, our bodies will break now, our houses will need repairing, we are replaceable. We are limited. We cannot do everything we want. Saying ‘yes’ to one person means saying ‘no’ to 10 others. Saying ‘yes’ to one woman means saying ‘no’ to all others at all times. People want to be “true to themselves,” but we are all connected. If everyone lived in a way that was “true to themselves,” where would the heroes be? Who would sacrifice themselves for others? No one wants to be a slave, but in being completely independent from all people and opinions one is a slave to independence. As Keller says, “You are a slave to it, because it forces you to stay uncommitted, and, probably, pretty lonely” (111).

Keller finishes his book showing how it is reasonable to believe in God and Christianity. He looks at the cosmic and intellectual design of the universe, morals, reason, beauty, and consciousness. Keller then looks at the sources for what we know about Jesus (the four Gospels), his character, wisdom, claims, freedom, the conundrum of Jesus (how a human was considered divine), and his resurrection.

Recommended?

Reviewing a book by Keller is always difficult for me. First, I think they should sell themselves. Second, there’s too much information to gather for a book review. I found this book fascinating and helpful in flipping the world’s claims around and seeing how they (at least those presented in the book), don’t make sense. Unlike The Reason For God though, occasionally a chapter felt like it dragged on, but this was uncommon. The writing is both readable yet dense, at times requiring the reader to slow down to absorb the arguments. Christianity is not merely a feel good religion. “Feeling good” requires knowing God himself and that he is wise and all-knowing. He is logical and loving. He is trust-worthy and faithful, and we can put our full confidence in him, even though we won’t have every answer.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Timothy Keller
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (March 20, 2018)

Buy it from Amazon, Adlibris, or Penguin Random House!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Penguin Random House. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Book Review: Unbreakable (Andrew Wilson)

Written by humans and claimed to be divinely inspired by God, what is the Bible? The creation of the world, rebellion, bloodshed, de-creation, drunkenness, war, capital punishment, judgment, miracles… what are we to expect from a book filled with these things? Can all of these stories truly be “breathed out” by God? Why believe the Bible is God’s word when it is the bible itself that tells us it is God’s word? Shouldn’t we want better reasoning than the circular kind? As Andrew Wilson, Teaching Pastor at King’s Church London, says, “All sets of beliefs have to start somewhere; you trust reason because it’s rational, you trust experience because it fits with your experience, you trust the Bible because it’s biblical, and so on” (11). Why should one trust the Bible? If you trust Jesus, then you should trust the Bible. Wilson says, “If he [Jesus] talks and acts as if the Bible is trustworthy, authoritative, good, helpful and powerful, I will too … even if some of my questions remain unanswered, or my answers remain unpopular” (12).

From there Wilson briefly looks at Scripture’s clarity, coherence, sufficiency, challenges, Jesus as its fulfillment, and more, and he cleverly does it all with a humorous bit o’ wit. Jesus, the Son of God, loved God’s word with all of his mind, heart, and soul. He wholly trusted in it, fought sin with it, debated the Pharisees with the true understanding of it, and believed that it was unbroken. As Wilson points out, when faced with the many biblical difficulties many people decide that Scripture is in fact broken. But instead, what we really ought to do is look at ourselves to see if we are the ones whom are broken.

It is in the Scriptures that’s God’s character, wisdom, and power is seen. And when Jesus was asked a question, he never said, “Yeah, I’m just not sure about that text. That’s a tough one.” As Wilson shows, Jesus often puts the ‘hardness’ of understanding the Scriptures on the ‘hardness’ of the people’s heart. We are arrogant. We are stubborn. Prideful. Naive. Ignorant. Sinful. Thankfully, Jesus was perfect, understanding, wise, and is our Savior. His Spirit is in us to humbly study his word to know him better, not to know a bunch of facts, literary structures, and intertextual allusions. Those things are good, but they are meant to point us to Jesus.

Recommended?

Each chapter here is approximately three pages long. Mounds of books have been written on each chapter, but Wilson cuts through and gives the reader a thoughtful perspective on the one who was truly human, the one who perfectly imaged God in everything he did and said (and didn’t do and didn’t say), and how he viewed Scripture. And, since Jesus perfectly represented God in every way, we should really consider accepting his view of Scripture. If you’ve never read a book on Scripture because you think they’ll all be boring and stodgy, begin here. This one isn’t boring, stodgy, stuck-up, insincere nonsense. It was a pleasure to read, and you should pick up more of Wilson’s books (I review his book on Scripture’s use of Exodus imagery here).

Lagniappe

  • Author: Andrew Wilson
  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: 10Publishing (October 1, 2014)

Buy it on Amazon!

Disclosure: I received this book free from 10Publishing. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Book Review: Romans (BTCP), David Peterson

In a world of Romans commentaries, why buy one more? Or if you don’t have any, why buy this one? David Peterson, who was a senior research fellow and lecturer in New Testament at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia, was the Principal of Oak Hill Theological College, London for eleven years, and is an ordained minister of the Anglican Church of Australia, has written the third commentary in the Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation series. This series focuses on discussing the themes of each biblical book and how it fits into the whole canon for Christian proclamation. This series doesn’t aim at producing dense, academic works, but rather to present Biblical theology to the lives of all of Christ’s body (you can find more information about the series in my review of Tom Schreiner’s Hebrews commentary).

Peterson’s introduction is short. He agrees with many of the conservative, consensus views. Although here he takes a new approach to the structure of Romans. He believes Paul alternates between confirming the gospel and defending the gospel against Jewish objections.

confirming….| defending the gospel 

.the gospel…..|….against Jewish objections

…..1.18-32………|…….2.1-3.20

…..3.21-26………|…….3.27-4.25

…..5.1-11…………|…….5.12-21

…..6.1-23………..|…….7.1-25

…..8.1-39……….|…….9.1-11.36

…..12.1-13.14….|…….14.1-15.7

He presents the book of Romans as one long recursion (or chiasm), however I did not understand his recursive structure (given on p. 18).

Peterson offers almost 50 pages on the biblical and theological themes of Romans, writing about topics such as Romans and creation, sin, and judgment; God’s electing grace and Israel; Israel and the law; the gospel; the Scriptures; the Trinity; righteousness and justification; Israel and the church; and more.

Peterson helpfully explains the logic of Paul’s arguments, how the verbal forms of Greek explain Paul’s thinking, and how that helps the pastor understand Paul’s theology. For example, on Romans 6:9-10 Peterson says, “The connective γάρ (‘for’) introduces a supportive argument (v. 10), which prepares for Paul’s application in v. 11” (269). Though it’s one sentence, it easily shows the reader Paul’s line of thinking. And Peterson sprinkles these helpful statements liberally throughout his commentary. Peterson then adds, “The adverb ἐφάπαξ… highlights the power of his [Jesus’] achievement and its epoch-changing effect. His death was a completed event, but (lit.) ‘the life he lives, he lives to God’… Double use of the present tense stresses that his resurrection life has no end” (269).

Each new section begins with a brief summary of that section, the particular text from Romans, a section on the surrounding context, and the structure of the section. Peterson then goes verse by verse (sometimes two at a time) and sketches out Paul’s teaching.The BTCP series succeeds here where others series fail. All of this helps to situate the reader into the text and to orient him (or her) to his surroundings. Rather than having to read the previous ten pages to get a grip on the argument, the reader is quickly brought up to speed with each new section.

Noteworthy Thoughts

2.13: works are an indicator of genuine faith, and “doing the law” means obedience to Christ by faith.

2.14-15: Paul refers to Gentile Christians as having God’s law, now all Gentiles as somehow having God’s law on their hearts. Peterson says it would be very strange for Paul to coincidentally use the Jeremiah’s specific description of God’s law being written on one’s hearts while referring to all (unbelieving) Gentiles in general.

Work of the law: The singular ‘work‘ “signifies ‘the essential unity of the law’s requirements'” which God himself writes on his new covenant people (148).

Law to themselves: even though the Gentile Christians weren’t physically born into a community (as the Jews were) that had God’s law, they know God’s law and have an “earnest desire to obey it” (149).

Accusing or even excusing thoughts: the “evidence of honest self-assessment before God” (cf. 1 John 3.20), which ends on the day of the Lord (150). God judges the heart and our inner transformation.

3.22: διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ means “through faith in Jesus Christ” (188-190). Peterson says that πίστις often refers to “the faith of believers in general, both before (1:5, 8, 12, 17) and after this passage (3:27-4:25),” and Paul would have needed to add more contextual clues if he intended to say “through the faith/fulness of Jesus Christ.”

3.25: ἱλαστήριον should be understood as “propitiation.”

5.12: We are made sinners by the sinful act of Adam. Because of his sin, we come into this world alienated from God and spiritually dead. Peterson doesn’t delve into how we are made sinners through Adam.

11.25-27: The “Deliverer” who will come “from Zion” is Jesus the Messiah who came from the midst of God’s people. The new covenant benefits have come through this Messiah, benefits that are being proclaimed through Paul’s ministry. The “all Israel” who will be saved is the corporate people of Israel throughout history who hear the gospel and turn to Christ.

Recommended?

I would certainly recommend Peterson’s commentary to any teacher, paster, student, Bible study leader, etc. Having a commentary from the deep well of a biblical scholar that is easily accessible is uncommon, but it is a pleasure to read. It would serve you well to pick up anything by Peterson.

Lagniappe

  • Series: Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation
  • Author: David Peterson
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Holman Reference (August 1, 2017)

Buy it from Amazon or B&H Academic

Disclosure: I received this book free from B&H Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Book Review: John (Verse by Verse), Grant Osborne

Commentaries don’t need to be so difficult. Some of them are meant to bring the reader into the world of Greek or Hebrew grammar to understand the nuances of the author’s language. Others bring out cultural details and ancient literary sources to compare and contrast the thoughts of the biblical author to his culture. Others are just easy to read. They let you sit down with your Bible to read without flooding your with extraneous details. Although those other commentaries are important (and I enjoy them), Grant Osborne has decided that at the end of his academic career he would write a commentary on every book of the NT specifically for the layperson. His three main intended uses are for devotional aids, for use in Bible study groups, and as sermon helps. The church needs teachers so that they don’t commit heresy, but studying the Bible doesn’t need to be a”a tedious duty we have to perform” (xi). Osborne wants studying the Bible to be a joy, not a burden.

While Osborne has written a hefty commentary on John (finishing at just under 500 pages), it is still light reading. He doesn’t spend much time looking at differing perspectives; instead he focuses on what he believes the text says. When he does present other views, he represents them with care and grace. Osborne understands the apostle John to be the author of the Gospel, which could have been written in the early 80s AD during John’s ministry in Ephesus. John sets his Gospel around three Passovers, is the most chronological of all the Gospels, and places the “most emphasis on the historical reliability of his material” then the Synoptics (10).

1.1: John’s reference to Jesus as the logos is closer to the Jewish conception of the word as God’s divine creative wisdom (Prov 8:30-31). Jesus is the “Living Revealer” of God, his very voice (24).

2.13-22: Osborne sees no problem with there being two temple cleansings, one at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and one at the end (66).

3.5: Being born “of water and Spirit” refer to the new birth brought by the Spirit. “Water,” here, refers to the Spirit, as it does in John 7.38-39, and it looks back at Ezekiel 36.25-28, which uses water as a metaphor for the spiritually cleansing work of the Holy Spirit.

4.23-24: True worship is that which is given to God through Christ in the Spirit.

5.24-25: There is a now/not yet function to our salvation. Christians are both saved and raised to new life now, but we will also be saved at the coming of Christ and physically raised to new life then.

7.53-8.11: The story of the woman caught in adultery “was undoubtedly not a part of John’s Gospel and was likely added by Christian scribes early in the second century,” it is “missing from nearly all the early manuscripts,” and “no Greek church father commented on this story before the twelfth century, and it is not found in older translations of the New Testament” (204). After a quick discussion of the facts, Osborne says that most believe it was a true story that actually happened. While he doesn’t believe the story is canonical, he agrees that it is likely a true part of Jesus’ ministry. While he wouldn’t make a Bible study out of it, Osborne does think it makes for a good sermon illustration about forgiveness.

10.34-36: Those who are called “gods” were not Israel’s judges but all of Israel. They were considered to be “gods” because they were God’s “firstborn son” (Exod 4:22). 

14.12: The “greater works” are not only miracles but include imitating Jesus in his prayer life, acts of service in love, and his proclamation of divine truth (339). What can be greater than raising the dead? Bringing new life to a dead spirit. We bring the gospel so that God cane make people alive.

19.34: The blood and water which pour out from Jesus’ side represent his sacrificial death and the cleansing work of the Spirit, themes which fits John’s Gospel (446). John could also be battling a docetic heresy which disregarded Jesus as appearing in a physical body.

20.22: The reception of the Spirit here was a “private infilling of the disciples” after Jesus’ resurrection, whereas Pentecost in Acts 2 was the public reception and empowerment of the Holy Spirit who would send out the church to preach the good news.

John 21: This chapter is a fitting epilogue written by John as the ending of his Gospel. It concludes the interaction between Peter and the Beloved disciple and Jesus. All manuscripts of John’s Gospel have this chapter.

Recommended?

I found Osborne’s John commentary to be very refreshing. He fills his commentary with references back and forth to other passages in John, showing how John’s themes recur throughout his Gospel. Osborne is sensitive to building up the faith of the reader through a knowledge and understanding of John’s Gospel. I’ve not read most of the commentaries in this series, but given the Osborne’s faithfulness to Scripture in his more academic works and the readability of this volume, I would highly recommend anyone who wants to study the Bible to pick up any of Osborne’s commentaries: laypersons, pastors, and teachers. Unless you’ve already studied every NT book for years, Osborne will be a great conversation partner for most who want to study the letters of the NT.

Lagniappe

  • Series: Osborne New Testament Commentaries
  • Author: Grant Osborne
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Lexham Press (May 2, 2018)

Buy it from Amazon, Adlibris, or Lexham Press

Disclosure: I received this book free from Lexham Press. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Book Review, Exodus (AOTC), T. D. Alexander

T. D. Alexander, senior lecturer in Biblical Studies at Union Theological College in Belfast, Northern Ireland, has spent the better part (or all) of his career in the book of Exodus. Having written on the Pentateuch (From Paradise to the Promised Land) and biblical theology (From Eden to the New Jerusalem, New Dictionary of Biblical Theology), he has written two commentaries on Exodus: One in the Teach the Text series and this one in the Apollos OT Commentary series.

Alexander doesn’t spend much time (ca. 32 pages) in the introduction, but he does spend a few pages on the story of Exodus and how it leads to the rest of the OT and NT books. Who wrote the book of Exodus? Alexander doesn’t think it all had to be written by Moses, saying that even though Jesus himself refers to the “book of Moses” (Mk 12.26), that title may just refer to Moses’ influence as a central figure on the Pentateuch. Exodus has a few places where Moses is said to have recorded God’s words, but Moses is not mentioned as “the author.” One does not have to be dogmatic on the issue while still not agreeing with the Documentary Hypothesis (DH), a theory Alexander helpfully and graciously critiques all throughout his commentary.

With each section of the commentary Alexander provides his own translation of the Hebrew text, relevant notes on the text dealing with translational and linguistic matters, the form and structure of the unit, comments on the passage, and a final explanation which often brings together Exodus with the rest of the Bible and pairs it with our daily life and ministries.

I’ve summarized a few of Alexander’s points on debated matters below. I wish I could write more, but you’ll have to get the book for that (or just ask in the comments below!)

4.24-26: The blood of Gershom’s circumcision averts the death of Moses whom God was going to kill. How could Moses lead Israel to live under God’s covenant if Moses himself couldn’t follow his instructions? This scene anticipates the redemption of God’s firstborn, Israel, through the blood of another. Even Yahweh’s own messenger “cannot be presumptuous regarding the continuation of his own life. Those who pronounce God’s judgment on others should also be aware of being judged by God” (109).

6.3: The Patriarchs “knew the name ‘YHWH’ and associated it with the divine promise of land” (117). Alexander agrees that God’s words should be translated as “My name is YHWH. Did I not make myself known to them [the patriarchs]?” (125), and that the Patriarchs didn’t understand the significance of Yahweh’s name like the redeemed Israelites will.

Alexander is extremely insightful with keeping the context of Exodus and of the whole canon in view in his exegesis. God is not an angry deity. Rather, he wants his people to be holy, and he expects them to be loyal and to leave behind egregious sinful ways.

34.11-14: “YHWH involves Moses as mediator in the process by which God will both forgive and punish the Israelites (cf. 34:6-7)” (625). The golden bull of Exodus 32 “stands in sharp contrast” to God’s revelation in chapter 19 and the covenant ratification ceremony in chapter 24 (630). God’s anger and willingness to destroy Israel shows how horrid their sin was: adultery against their marriage partner, the God of the universe who would give them every blessing and to whom Israel said they would obey in every way.

The Spoiled Milks

Alexander provides a few scholars’ outlines as examples of how to structure Exodus and both agrees and critiques aspects of all of them, but he does not provide his own. If you want to know his “outline,” you would have to go through the entire book and write down every heading. He’s divided Exodus into 64 sections, and there are a few broad headings: 1.1-2.25; 7.8-11.10; 15.22-18.27; 19.1-40.38. As you can see, there is no heading for 3.1-7.7 or 12.1-15.21.  How should the reader group these two sections?

Second, there are no footnotes. Though it is nice to see the main text fully cover every page, the main text also becomes very crowded and cramped. Those whom Alexander critiques are mentioned in the text, often in between his own thoughts on a passage. With footnotes, the flow of thought is easier to follow. Regardless, these points in no way outweigh the weight of Alexander’s own scholarship and work in this volume.

Recommended?

Alexander’s Exodus volume is a wealth of critical and conservative knowledge. Alexander’s years of research on the Pentateuch and biblical theology show forth in the wisdom of his writing. He is careful and thorough with each section before him, and he is aware both of the rest of Exodus and its canonical setting in the Bible. Alexander brings an understanding of God’s word to his readers as God’s word. Both of his volumes on Exodus (see his Teach the Text volume) ought to be picked up, and, if pastors can only afford (the time and money) to use one scholarly commentary, they should choose Alexander’s volume first above all the others to teach their congregations God’s whole word.

For preaching resources, along with the TTC volume, Motyer is good. I’ve not found Enns to be helpful the times I’ve used him, especially not now when compared to Alexander.

For example (and I’m not foolish enough to think Exodus is “easy” to interpret), on Exodus 21.20-21 Enns asks what the punishment is that the slaveowner would receive for beating his slave if it results in the slave’s death. If the punishment were the death penalty, why say that the master wouldn’t receive the death penalty when the slave doesn’t die? That should be obvious to the Israelites. However, Alexander says the punishment the master would receive if the slave dies  (v. 21) is the death penalty, based on 21.12. However, if the slave doesn’t die, the master is still punished because he has lost time and money because his slave has been out of work. And, depending on how the master injured the slave, the slave could go free (vv. 26-27). Because of context, the details do not have to be so “frustratingly unclear” (Enns, Exodus, 446).

Lagniappe

  • Series: Apollos Old Testament Commentary (Book 2)
  • Author: T. D. Alexander
  • Hardcover: 708 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (July 4, 2017)

Buy it from Amazon, Adlibris, or IVP Academic

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Book Review: Righteous by Promise (NSBT), Karl Deenick

The New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) series is an excellent series for understanding particular themes in the Bible. While no series is perfect and some have lamented that it has fallen on hard times, this latest volume ought to relieve any lingering doubts. This book doesn’t deal only with the topic of circumcision in the Bible, but “two [other] facets on which this book focuses are the key biblical concepts of faith and righteousness.” The reason for this is seen in Paul’s statement about Abraham in Romans 4.11 that he “received the sign of circumcision of the seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.” Paul believed that circumcision meant something to Abraham about righteousness and faith. But how? Why circumcision? And scholars are in disagreement as to what the circumcision-righteousness-faith complex symbolizes. For N. T. Wright, “righteousness is about covenant membership” (5). For James Dunn, circumcision was “the boundary marker of  who was in the covenant and who was not” (6). But the OT authors look forward to a day when God’s people will be spiritually circumcised and will love and obey God with all their heart (6).

Deenick does not consider every biblical reference to circumcision but only those which help demonstrate how righteousness and faith are woven together with circumcision. In chapter two he shows how righteousness and blamelessness are “both a present status but also a future promise that is appropriated by humble trust in God’s promise to Abraham of a blameless ‘seed'” (211). This is seen in Genesis 15 and 17. Abraham is reckoned as righteous because he believed Yahweh’s word (15.6) and then God called Abraham to walk blamelessly (17.1) before in a unique relationship.

After examining these truths and the ‘singular’ seed in Genesis, Deenick looks at how the sign of circumcision developed throughout the OT: Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 10 and 30, and Joshua 5 (chapter three). How can God call the people to love and obey him when they don’t have circumcised hearts and when God says he will give that to them in the future (Deut 10; 30)? They are to walk with Yahweh (Lev 26) and believe in his atoning promise to Abraham. “The circumcised heart repents and trusts in Yahweh’s words” (95). After Abraham’s call to be blameless, the next time we see something ‘blameless’ in the text is when we get to the sacrificial system. Blameless sacrifices cover the blame of God’s people, something fulfilled completely in Christ. “What God promised, Abraham did not have in full, and yet God reckoned him to have it” (213).

Deenick then observes how the NT authors picked up the metaphors of ‘walking’ and ‘being blameless’ (chapter four). Blamelessness comes through union with the resurrected Jesus Christ, the ‘seed’ of Abraham. Deenick ends the chapter looking at contested passages in Philippians 3, Colossians 2, and Ephesians 2. Chapters five and six cover Romans 2-4 and Galatians. Faith in God’s promised seed, Jesus, humility, and repentance over sin are what matter.

For Christians, as Deenick points out, the imputation of christ’s righteousness teaches us that “it is not enough to be ‘not guilty’: we must also be reckoned to be perfectly obedient and holy” (213). Abraham’s circumcision was a seal that he was humble and righteous by faith. The continuing acts of circumcision pointed God’s people to the future seed who would fulfill God’s promises to Abraham. It meant nothing to follow God’s law while rejecting his promise of a future seed. Instead, believing the promise meant fulfilling God’s law as your trust was in the future seed who would make you blameless. Christians don’t need to follow circumcision for we are circumcised in Christ. The flesh has been put off, and we are baptized in him. We have died and are raised with him.

Recommended?

I hope Deenick’s book will be read widely by students, teachers, and the scholarly community. While it is not written for the layman, teachers and pastors who pick this up can easily bring the information to life. Neither does Deenick give bland facts in his book. He fits his information within the story of Scripture, allowing the story to illuminate the details, and the details the story. We are the circumcision of Christ who have put off the old flesh, have received a spiritual circumcision, and love and desire to obey God. I highly recommend this book.

Lagniappe

  • Series: New Studies in Biblical Theology (Book 45)
  • Author: Karl Deenick
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (May 1, 2018)
  • Press Kit available here

Buy it from Amazon, Adlibris, or IVP Academic

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Book Review: Echoes of Exodus (Roberts and Wilson)

Isaiah 43.16, 18-19:

16 Thus says the Lord,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters… 
18 Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old. 
19 I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.

The exodus was God’s grand display of his mighty arm. He drowned the world’s greatest army, Egypt, in their own sea and rescued his people who had been their slaves for 400 years. Israel had been redeemed, and this language permeates both Testaments. However, I myself have missed most of these connections. The idea here is the same as that in Bryan Estelle’s Echoes of Exodus (review): show how the biblical writers incorporated exodus  imagery into their stories, psalms, and praises. But Roberts and Wilson take a different tactic in this book. Instead of showing how one or two ideas are seen throughout a particular passage, the authors take the whole image of the exodus and apply it to different passages of Scripture.

Many find the Bible to be dissonant. Stories are boring, they don’t make sense, the heroes are hardly heroic, and the Big Man Upstairs has it out for the humans. The authors present the analogy of the Bible as a song. Some notes seem to be out of place. Some are sharped. Some are flattened. Some are repeated over and over. “You can’t prove logically that West Side Story is based on Romeo and Juliet. The echoes cannot be proved, any more than you can prove that a joke is funny. Rather, they have to be heard” (13). The exodus, like a song, and like a joke, must be heard. It cannot so easily be explained, but it must be understood for Israel’s story is ours (1 Cor 9.10; 10.11; Luke 9.31). The authors express our generation’s desire for freedom. But yet despite all of the liberation, people continue to fall into bondage, often by their own doing (Prov 26.27). The Church needs to understand that the God who redeemed Israel, and who has redeemed his Church through the blood of Christ, has played exodus riffs all throughout his story.

This book is really only about 150 pages, yet it took me a long time to read. Once I came to the First Movement: Out of the House of Slaves, I pulled my Bible out ready to take notes. Little did I know, this would not be a quick read. Adam and Eve were to be fruitful and multiply, extending the garden for the King. But they were out-crafted by a serpent. In Egypt, God’s people are fruitful and multiplying, yet they are building a kingdom for the serpent-king. Moses is put in an “ark,” passes through the water, and is saved by the serpent-king’s daughter, just as Israel will be saved from the waters. When Israel passes through the Re(e)d Sea, the waters divide and they walk on dry land, just as at creation when the waters above and below divided and dry land came to be (Gen 1.6-10). Jesus, the one who tabernacled among men, housing the presence of God, walked through the Jordan just as Israel had done before. Sinai brought national apostasy; Pentecost brought national blessing. Instead of 3,000 people dying at Sinai, 3,000 are cut to the heart at Pentecost and repent.

Missionary progress in the second half of Acts is a continued exodus cycle. Believers are forever leaving cities—often where they have been suffering—before venturing off into foreign lands, flourishing and succeeding, incorporating Gentiles in their number, and returning in triumph. More specifically we have Peter, who was going to be killed at Passover by the wicked king, waking up at nighttime, being told by the angel of the Lord to get dressed and put on his sandals, escaping captivity, and passing through a gate that opens for him “of its own accord” (Acts 12:10)… And in the final chapters, as Paul approaches Rome, we have yet another echo of the exodus: Paul escapes from the chains of captivity, goes on a journey for which we have an unusual level of geographical detail, and plunges into the sea, before emerging vindicated on the far side, revealing the healing power of God, and continuing toward his final destination. (140)

There is so much more to say, but so little space.

There are four movements. In the first, Israel moves from Egypt to the wilderness to the promised land. In the second, we see the exodus in Genesis in the lives of the patriarchs (see especially the wonderful section on Lot). The third movement leads the reader through Israel’s prophets and writings: Ruth, Samuel, Kings, the prophets, and Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. In the fourth movement, the reader is brought through the greater work of Godthe second exodus.

The Spoiled Milk

If there’s a downside to all of these connecting webs, it’s that some are hard to believe. Perhaps because there are too many connections between the stories, but cross-references really would have helped. Although perhaps that would have caused the book to feel more like a chemistry book than a concept album. Regardless, some connections are too difficult to find in the text. Commenting on Abraham & Co’s journey in Genesis 12-14, the authors state, “As they move from the north to Shechem in the center, then down to Bethel and Ai, and finally into the Negeb in the south, they are doing what Joshua will later do, and claiming the land for the Lord” (67). I tried searching for the terms, but, without a map, I just couldn’t see how this worked.

Speaking about the man of Judah and Jeroboam in 1 Kings 13, the authors note that “as the man from Judah is killed by a lion, so the Lion of Judah will be killed by men” (103). This seems to have been placed here more as a convenient fit than because it is a real connection. There are others for sure, but for the majority of the time I looked at what they said and searched my Bible to see if I could find it. If I did, my pen was ready. Already in the Prelude the authors have tipped their hats that their readers won’t agree to everything. Sometimes it may feel like they’re reaching, but sometimes some over-extending needs to be done to get us to use our imagination.

Recommended?

I highly recommend this work. I was baffled that I had neither seen nor heard of too many of these exodus riffs. Yet nonetheless, here I was hearing many of them for the first time. And for those riffs which were not new to me, I could listen and hum along as they were played. Echoes of Exodus  brings out the story of the Bible. This won’t revolutionize the way you read the Bible, but it will give you a greater appreciation for the artistic ability of the biblical authors to subtly reveal how God has woven his exodus redemption into the lives of his peopleboth past and present.

Between this book and Bryan Estelle’s Echoes of Exodus, this book is shorter, less “academic,” and more enjoyable to read. Buy this book.

Lagniappe

  • Authors: Alastair Roberts/Andrew Wilson
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Crossway (March 31, 2018)

Buy it on AmazonCrossway, or Adlibris!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Crossway. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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