Review: Imitating God in Christ, by Jason Hood

Hood, Jason B. Imitating God in Christ: Recapturing a Biblical Pattern. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2013.

For many of the same reasons as our relative neglect of Imitating God in Christthe category of virtue and the general hesitancy to attribute human agency in the life of Christian sanctification, Protestant evangelicals have not often treated the notion of “imitation of Christ” with much depth.[1] In many evangelical treatments of soteriology, imitatio Christi does not even make an appearance. Yet, as Jason Hood recognizes in Imitating God in Christ, imitation is an “inescapable” aspect of life (13). We regularly engage in imitation from childhood onward, and at least some of the times, we see this as a good thing. Continue reading

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Review: Culture Making, by Andy Crouch

Andy Crouch, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling (Downers Grove: IVP, 2008), 282 pages.

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Culture-Making_book IVP’s decision to re-release Andy Crouch’s Culture Making as a paperback edition makes it a great, affordable recommendation for a Christian layperson or a required textbook for the Christian college student. The book indeed spans the gap from church to academy. It would make a good text for introductory classes on Christianity and culture, on vocation, on Christian worldview or an introduction to the gospel, or even classes in sociology/anthropology from a Christian perspective (for example, Wheaton College’s HNGR program). I plan on using it as a required text for a class in the theology and vocation of education. Continue reading

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Congratulations to James Gordon!

James GordonCongratulations to James Gordon for successfully defending his dissertation on December 12th. His dissertation, “The Holy One in Our Midst: A Dogmatic Defense of the Extra Calvinisticum” provides a cumulative case argument for the extra Calvinisticum. After examining the objections to the extra in Isaak Dorner, Karl Barth, Bruce McCormack, and Darren Sumner, James uses the tools of analytic theology to defuse five objections to the extra: the Nestorian Objection, the Worship Objection, the Incomplete Incarnation Objection, the Humiliation Objection, and the Speculation Objection. He then provides philosophical and theological arguments in favor of the extra, as well as a biblical-theological argument focused on the Temple of God. Finally, James argues for the proper dogmatic use of the extra and why one ought to embrace it.

James was guided in his work by his advisor, Kevin Vanhoozer. His second reader was Daniel Treier and his external reader was Oliver Crisp.

James earned his MA in Philosophy of Religion from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He currently teaches philosophy at Trinity International University and is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Wheaton College.

Congratulations James!

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Review: Language for God in Patristic Tradition by Mark Sheridan

Language for God coverSheridan, Mark. Language for God in Patristic Tradition: Wrestling with Biblical Anthropomorphism. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015. 254 pp. IVP Academic | Amazon

In this book, Mark Sheridan examines how early Christians came to terms with the portrayal of God in Scripture with human characteristics (anthropomorphism) and emotions (anthropopathism). Chapter one, “God is Not Like Humans,” sets the stage for the rest of the book. Here, Sheridan points out two Scriptural texts that were significant for how early Christians dealt with anthropomorphisms: Numbers 23:19 and Deuteronomy 1:31. As Origen quotes them (and this Sheridan admits differs from modern translations working from the Hebrew text) these verses read “God is not as man to be deceived nor as the son of man to be threatened” (Num. 23:19) and “As a man he takes on the manners of his son” (Deut. 1:31). Taken together, these verses were seen as pointing to the distinction between theologia (God in himself) and oikonomia (God as he relates to us) (27). A related verse, Deuteronomy 8:5, reads (again, as Origen quotes it) “For the Lord your God has taught you as a man teaches his son” (29). This, Origen says, reveals the manner in which God speaks to us in Scripture, condescending (synkatabasis) or accommodating (tropophoreo) to us like adults do to children (30–32). Most of the chapter is a demonstration of these exegetical principles in the works of Origen. Near the end, Sheridan demonstrates the same principle at work in the writings of the John Chrysostom, adding another principle that guided early Christian exegesis: what is befitting of God (theoprepōs) (41). Thus, anthropomorphic or anthropopathic elements in Scripture that are not befitting of God should not be taken literally because they are part of the oikonomia and represent a form of divine condescension or accommodation to human language. Continue reading

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Review: Horton, Pilgrim Theology

Horton, Michael. Pilgrim Theology. Zondervan, 2011. 506 pp. $34.99
Zondervan | Amazon
Michael Horton
is an incredibly prolific scholar. He has written over twenty books, which includes a 4-volume theological project with WJK (2002–2008) and a one-volume systematic theology, The Christian Faith (Zondervan, 2011). In 2013 (despite the misprinted copyright of 2011), Zondervan released a shorter version of the Horton’s Christian Faith that focuses on the “core doctrines for Christian disciples” (the subtitle). It is “more than simply an abridgment . . . [since it is written] for an entirely new and wider audience.” It is “less detailed” and “serve[s] as something of a travel guide” (14).

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Public Lecture by John Behr on Irenaeus and Divine Simplicity

Behr LectureWhile there is now no more room available for attending the colloquium, the lecture presented by The Very Rev. Dr. John Behr is still free and open to the public. His lecture is entitled “Synchronic and Diachronic Harmony: Irenaeus on Divine Simplicity.” If you do plan on attending, we ask that you please contact us and let us know. We hope to see you there!

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Review of Matthew Commentaries by Ulrich Luz

Luz MatthewLuz, Ulrich. Matthew 1–7: A Commentary. Translated by James E. Crouch. Hermeneia. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007. 472 pp. $75.

Luz, Ulrich. Matthew 8–20: A Commentary. Translated by James E. Crouch. Hermeneia. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001. 646 pp. $85.

Luz, Ulrich. Matthew 21–28: A Commentary. Translated by James E. Crouch. Hermeneia. Minneapolis: Fortress , 2005. 726 pp. $90.

When it comes to “go-to commentaries” for Matthean studies, few scholars will deny that the commentary set by Ulrich Luz is a frontrunner. This three volume set, written by the renowned Matthean scholar Ulrich Luz and translated from German into English by James E. Crouch provides an in-depth, scholarly treatment of Matthew that is indispensable to anyone wanting to get a solid grasp of the first gospel.

Ulrich Luz (Professor of New Testament Studies at the University of Bern in Switzerland) has offered many rich contributions to Matthean studies for several years. His key works available in English include Studies in Matthew (2005), The Theology of the Gospel of Matthew (1995), and Matthew in History: Interpretation, Influence, and Effects (1994). But his magnum opus is certainly this three volume commentary on Matthew. It is an English translation from his four volume German commentary on Matthew (1985 – 2002) published in the Evangelisch-Katholischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament series.

As part of the Hermeneia series published by Fortress Press, these commentaries certainly live up to the high level of academic excellence we have come to expect from the series, which is known for its keen attention to historical backgrounds, textual criticism, and history of interpretation. Luz’s commentary set, alongside other critical commentaries in the Hermeneia series, is aimed at “the serious student of the Bible” and as such provides benefits not only to scholars but also to educated pastors and laypersons interested in an in-depth study of the text.

Luz’s commentaries reflect his years of study and reflection on the first gospel and demonstrate Luz’s solid grasp of both the broad contours and specific details of the book. Its strengths include its careful engagement with the text, close attention to historical backgrounds, survey of important relevant literature, careful attention to the contribution of various ecclesiastical traditions (early church, Protestant, Catholic, etc.), and a keen focus on the gospel’s history of interpretation.

The commentaries as a whole are well-organized, smoothly written and translated, and easy to use. In the vast amount of introductory information (88 pages) at the beginning, a trademark of the Hermeneia series, Luz presents a thorough overview of Matthew’s structure, characteristics, genre, purpose, style, sources, authorship, historical setting, theology and other pertinent matters. Assuming the two-source theory, Luz also includes here two helpful lists: one of “Matthew’s Preferred Vocabulary (consisting of words that are redactionally significant) and another of “Avoided Words in Matthew” (consisting of words in Mark that tend to be avoided in Matthew). This section is rich with important information on Matthew and is well worth a careful read.

The actual commentary on the text is divided up by pericope, proceeding from the beginning to the end of Matthew. The material is laid out in double columns with clear headings and subheadings, making the commentary easy to read or just simply scan for pertinent information. The section for each pericope begins with a bibliography containing important publications for that particular passage and thanks to Luz’s German nationality, is sure to include several of the key German works (although English, French, Italian and Spanish works are included as well). Although the bibliography does not attempt to be exhaustive, it offers an important starting place for research. After that follows Luz’s translation of the text and exposition, with the main text of commentary in regular font and material on details in the text or tangential issues in a smaller font. Not the least of valuable features are the extensive footnotes, which are full of pertinent biblical and extra-biblical references, additional background information, and more bibliographic information.

As for hermeneutical method, while being primarily historical-critical, Luz affirms that he is not “bound to a single methodological approach” (1:xvii) but attempts to integrate various approaches, with attention to literary criticism and sociological and reader-oriented exegeses. Luz gives significant attention to the history of a text’s interpretation as well as its influence (Wirkungsgeschichte) which he understands as “consisting of all the reflections on and receptions and actualizations of the gospel in new historical situations” (1:xvii). This approach is the hallmark of Luz’s work, and flows, in part, from his fundamental hermeneutical convictions that texts “do not simply have a fixed, closed meaning; they are full of possibilities” (64). In this regard Luz emphasizes the “openness of the texts” for certain key passages like the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer (1:190, 314), and so an analysis of the history of the texts’ effects are helpful for determining their meaning for today. Luz does not limit his overview to literary works, but also includes how certain themes were portrayed in the arts. For example, in regard to Matthew’s passion narrative, the commentary contains a section on how the passion has been portrayed in art, music and drama.

Often criticized in this commentary set is Luz’s approach to the text which commonly dismisses the historicity of miraculous events. The virgin birth, for example, is considered by Luz as historically improbable (although he sees the story itself as having benefit for pointing to God’s real actions in Jesus Christ). However, this aspect in no way overwhelms the commentaries and one can certainly still hold a conservative viewpoint on Scripture and the events of the Christ narrative and yet gain much from Luz’s work.

While other commentaries may give a bit more detailed exegesis of the text, the exegesis in this commentary is careful and illuminating. Furthermore, the attention to the history of interpretation and influence of texts is unmatched among Matthew commentaries and provides several key insights. This set is well worth the investment, and, as it has already in the past, will continue to be a stand-by in Matthean studies for many years to come.

Special thanks to Fortress Press for providing these review copies.

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