Friday, December 28, 2007

Top Books of 2007

1. The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright - John Piper gives us a great example on how to engage in theological controversy and does a great job in representing and understanding Wright's view on justification.

2. Lord Jesus Christ Devotion of Jesus in Earliest Christianity - Larry Hurtado builds a historical case for the divinity of Christ based on the early church early devotion to him.

3. Shadow of the Temple:Jewish Influences on Early Christianity - Oskar Skarsaune shows that early Christianity was build upon a very Jewish world-view.

4. The Mission of God:Unlocking the Bible's Grand Narrative - Christopher Wright illustrates that the entire biblical narrative from the OT to the NT is grounded in a missonal God, who aims to bless the nations. A must read!!!

5. Hell Under Fire:Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment - A great defense of the traditional view of hell (eternal punishment) over and against the idea of annihilation from a variety of conservative scholars (Bock, Moo, Beale). I particularly enjoyed Bock's article on the OT thoughts on the afterlife and Sinclair Ferguson's article on how to preach on hell.

6. Paul, Judaism, and the Gentiles, Beyond the New Perspective - Francis Watson gives a great exegetical study of Paul which seems to take seriously it's historical and social context.

7. Fundamentalism and American Culture - George Marsden gives a penetrating historical account of Fundamentalism. A must read in understanding Fundamentalism.

8. Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament - Christopher Wright has written a great book on understanding Jesus in his OT context. Probably my favorite book of the year.

9. Iustitia Dei A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification - Alister McGrath gives a historical account of the doctrine of justification. I learned a lot from this book and especially the notion that the doctrine of justification was pretty diverse throughout history.

10. Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of Exile: Restoration Eschatology and the Origin of the Atonement - Brant Pitre has written a thought-provoking book on understanding how tribulation, exile, and restoration relate to Jesus.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Volf's The End of Memory

In Miroslav Volf’s book, "The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World”, he teaches us how and for how long we should remember wrongs committed by others.

Volf teaches that we should remember in light of the “Exodus and Passion” narratives, which provides the appropriate framework in understanding God, who provides unconditional grace, affirms justice, and aims for communion and reconciliation. (pg. 121)

As for the question of “how long we should remember wrongs committed against us”, Volf teaches us that during the new heaven and earth we will not remember them after they have been appropriately dealt with and reconciliation between the offended and offender has occurred. It’s important to note the non-remembrance of wrongs during God’s consummated kingdom is a result of our minds being “rapt in the goodness of God and in the goodness of God’s new world”. (pg 214)

Not only has Volf drawn from scripture and other capable thinkers (Luther and Barth) in dealing with this subject but he includes his personal experience of being harshly interrogated as a Yugoslavian soldier thus producing a mature, challenging, and thoughtful book.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

God’s Promises

In Christopher Wright’s “Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament”, he reminds us that God doesn’t give his people “flat predications” but promises which involves more of a personal and dynamic commitment. Wright states that because there is a relationship behind God’s promises “the material form in which it is fulfilled may be quite different from the literal form in which it was original made, and yet it is no less a valid fulfillment of the promise. (pg. 71)”

To help the reader understand this point, Wright gives a wonderful analogy of a father and a son. He writes:

“Imagine a father who, in the days before mechanized transport, promises his son, aged 5, that when he is 21 he will give him a horse for himself. Meanwhile the motor car is invented. So on his 21st birthday the son awakes to find a motor car outside, ‘with love from Dad’. It would be a strange son who would accuse his father of breaking his promise just because there was no horse. And even stranger if, in spite of having received the far superior motor car, the son insisted that the promised would only be fulfilled if a horse also materialized, since that was the literal promise. It is obvious that with the change in circumstances, unknown at the time the promise was made, the father has more than kept his promise. In fact he has done so in a way that surpasses the original words of the promise which were necessarily limited by the mode of transport available at that time. The promise was made in terms understood at the time. It was fulfilled in the light of new historical events. (pg 71)”

I think this idea is helpful in understanding things like God’s promising the land of Canaan in the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 17:8) to his people and Paul redrawing it to include the whole world (Romans 4 :13).

The Ultimacy of Evangelism

What is the relationship between evangelism and social action? In the past, I have come to the conclusion that evangelism is primary or a priority over and against social action, but recently, I was challenged by Christopher Wright’s thinking on the subject in his book, The Mission of God. Wright doesn’t like describing the relationship between evangelism and social action as one of primacy or priority because of the following reasons:

“The language of the “priority of evangelism” implies that the only proper starting point must always be evangelistic proclamation. Priority means it is the most important, most urgent, thing to be done first, and everything else must take second, third, or fourth place. But the difficulty with this is that (1) it is not always possible or desirable in the immediate situation, and (2) it does not even reflect the actual practice of Jesus” -pg. 318

Wright then suggests that we describe the relationship of evangelism and social action as one of ultimacy rather than primacy. He writes:

Mission may not always begin with evangelism. But mission that does not ultimately include declaring the Word and the name of Christ, the call to repentance, and faith obedience has not completed its task. It is defective mission, not holistic mission” –pg 319