Review of the NKJV Apply the Word Study Bible

NKJV Apply the Word Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 1,632 Pps., $34.99.

This edition of the bible is all about application – hence its pointed name. We have to respond to the message within the text, act upon it that is, in order for it to truly have meaning in our lives. Moreover, we have to apply it personally. In order to attain such an end, the Apply the Word Study Bible aims to do four things; first, it provides a reliable biblical text: the New King James Version. Second, by means of an extensive set of notes and articles, scripture is explained with reference to their biblical background and in the context of the whole of the Bible. These notes include manifold amounts of commentary, maps, tables and charts. The purpose of these items within the text is to give emphasis to passages of special interest in understanding God’s message to modern humanity.

This leads to the third aim of the Apply the Word Study Bible, which is that the commentary is practical in orientation. As such, the information provided is not merely presented as facts about the bible – it is applicable to our lives. Thereby, we discover that in many respects, the biblical era was not starkly different from our era. People still deal with the same situations, problems, and concerns as people in the bible did. The notes of the Apply the Word Study Bible are written with the focus of making our bible study relevant to life. Fourth, the notes invite one to get “personal” with the biblical text. The freedom we have as Christians is to open ourselves to the challenges that make our faith stronger and that deepen our convictions about God and his work of salvation for us. Seen as such, the goal of bible study is to become more like Jesus Christ. The Apply the Word Study Bible is designed just for that purpose.

Upon expositing the opening text of the Old Testament, this bible notes that Genesis sets the stage for everything that follows by taking us back to the beginning—the very beginning—of everything. It further points out that the very word genesis means “origin,” a title that is closely related to the first words in the book: “In the beginning” (Gen. 1:1). Origination is a major theme of Genesis. It narrates the start of: The universe, people, evil and sin, and salvation and redemption. Moving forward in the text of the bible, we note based on a reading of story of David and the other kings of Israel that the Christian faith rests on actual events that happened to real people whose experiences are recorded in a reliable document: the Bible. The books of 1 and 2 Samuel relate a crucial development in this history as Israel transitioned into a kingdom and God installed David as his choice for the nation’s king. Indeed, they demonstrate that God reigns over the events of human existence, and as such, history is neither totally random nor are actual events irrelevant.

The prayer book of Israel – that is, the book of Psalms – invites us into a passionate and personal experience with God. Therein, we find expression of every conceivable human emotion: hope and remorse, joy and sorrow, confidence and fear, humility and anger, certainty and anxiety. It is therefore little wonder that it has been the hymnal and prayer book for generations of God’s people, continuing to the modern day. The editors of this text point out that it is a guidebook for life, as it was intended as a source of both wisdom and insight. The psalms have the potential to lead us through specific life situations, giving instruction on how to deal with fundamental issues such as the nature of evil, the meaning of life, and the human struggle to understand God’s ways. Notably, in their discussion of the book of Ecclesiastes, the editors contend that the harsh truth is that life in a fallen world is fleeting, often painful, and puzzling, a situation that holds true for the believer and for the unbeliever alike. Yet, because of God, we can respond to life with wisdom, and in that, we can enjoy meaning and goodness.

Skipping ahead into the New Testament, the editors argue that the Book of Romans was written to explain the core tenets of the Christian faith. Whereas the first five books of the New Testament tell Jesus’ story, Romans explores his message. The apostle Paul therein shows that the gospel is more than good deeds or lofty moral sentiments – it is truth, with substantial intellectual content; it challenges how people think and imparts new insight into their daily lives. Paul reminds us in Romans that the gospel is big enough to deal with all of the weighty concerns of the world. With regard to Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, the editors note that discipleship is a process, a lifelong journey that requires both patience and perseverance. So then, when our own attitudes and actions seem – perhaps substantially – less than Christ-like, we can take comfort in knowing that the preceded us on the same path. But in spite of their shortcomings, the Corinthians held a special place in the heart of him who knew them best and who had established their faith. Indeed, Paul addressed the issues that embroiled the Corinthians compassionately but firmly, with the goal of to correcting the Corinthians’ errors and helping them redirect the course of their lives. Like many (post-)modern believers, the Corinthians struggled with manifold temptations that are a natural part of living in an immoral society – a situation much like our post-Christendom situation in the West.

The various editors note that as the first century drew to a close, many Christians began drifting from the faith once delivered to the saints. Founders of the church, for example, began to die off, and thus believers were losing touch with individuals who had known Jesus in the flesh. Many believers were also being seduced by competing doctrines, notably forms of early gnosticism. Second- and third-generation Christians had grown cold. The three general epistles of John were written in response to this trend. The beginnings of creedal statements and catechisms, which package truth in a memorable way for the purpose of instruction, begin to take shape in these letters. John writes to the churches that there is a core truth one must believe in for a genuine form of Christianity: that Jesus has come in the flesh, and that the practice of love and righteousness is the test of whether we truly know him.

In sum, in many ways this bible highlights the fact that the lives of many modern-day Christians are alike to those that we find in the biblical text. They had prospered to a better life, in part through their faithfully living out the tenets of Christianity. But we must not forget those who still struggle. Throughout this Apply the Word Study Bible, the editors urge us to grasp a fundamental truth taught by Jesus – that is, “A tree is known by its fruit” (Matt. 12:33).

Review of the NKJV Apply the Word Study Bible

Review of Michael Welker, ed. The Work of the Spirit

Michael Welker, ed. The Work of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006).

Dr. Welker is a graduate of the University of Tübingen where he studied with Jürgen Moltmann and earned a doctorate in theology in 1973. Later, he received a Ph.D. from Heidelberg in 1978. In an interesting contribution to the present compilation edited by Dr. Welker, Amos Yong discusses the contributions (if any) of pneumatology to the broad notion of Divine action.[1] In so doing, Yong invokes the Spirit of God as acting upon Primordial Chaos. From this assertion of Yong, the following discussion will leap forth into an engagement with Polkinghorne’s essay (also in this volume), as well as with my own posits regarding the function of the Spirit in creation. Polkinghorne states that the Spirit is the carrier of Divine wisdom, to which this author adds that Divine wisdom is essentially compatible with the notion of information (i.e. that which is specified).[2] Moreover, Polkinghorne proposes a secret and hidden presence of the Spirit within natural and historical processes. This hiddenness of the Spirit comports well with the Orthodox theologian Vladimir Lossky’s statements to the effect that the Spirit remains unmanifested, concealing himself even in his appearing.[3] So then, the Breath of Life enables and empowers emergence of creation and creatures. It is therefore posited that this Spirit of emergence endows creation with the ability to unfold by “natural” processes according to their inherent potentialities.

The Spirit ennobles creatures to possess emergent capabilities.[4] The term ruach, according to Dunn, connotes the meanings of wind, breath, and power, usually with attending connotations of strength or violence.[5] Creation begins not with the Word, but rather with the Spirit, as the Spirit’s presence precedes and is presupposed by the speaking of the Word.[6] Creation from a Pneumatological standpoint, as Dabney affirms, begins with the Spirit, and thus interprets the world as not defined by necessity, but by possibility instead, for the Spirit is the Possibility of God.[7] This Divine Possibility swept over the primordial chaotic abyss. By the kenosis of the Spirit into creation, the complex activity of ordering within the chaotic primordial waters was onset. And it should be noted that the Spirit is not only the source of this order, but also its sustenance. Because of the Spirit hovering over the waters, “the chaos becomes promise.”[8]

According to Kathryn Tanner, the Spirit has historically been seen to either work immediately (proximately, i.e.), or gradually.[9] So then, the Spirit could be seen as just as much at work in the ordinary events of history as in its unusual happenings. Just as God usually works within, rather than overriding, the normal course of human affairs, so too does God work within the natural processes of nature, for “the same Spirit doth not breathe contrary notions.”[10] The gradual model of the working of the Spirit requires methods of inquiry typical of modern science, and holds great promise for the Science and Religion dialog.[11] The Spirit works modestly, in a continuous fashion in and through natural processes.[12] The notion of emergence is compatible with the impersonal kenotic working of the Spirit in empowering creation from within. Indeed, by the Spirit’s kenosis into creation, creation itself is then enabled, using Clayton’s language, to participate in the processes of production and reproduction.

Primordial Chaos:

Primordial chaos, in and of itself, is utterly incapable to produce (because it is by definition random processes) the formation of an ordered, structured, and functional collocation of atoms. Moreover, primordial chaos, due to its intrinsic unpredictabilities allows the Possibility of God much leeway in action. Indeed, primordial chaos lacks the favorable environ that is a requisite for enduring and functional patterns of matter to emerge. In fact, in primordial chaos, matter did not exist as such, but indeterminate and unconditioned disorder instead. So then, primordial chaos here refers to the great confusion of matter out of which the Spirit of God, by kenosis, generated order, structure, and ultimately all of life. This creating the Spirit did by infusing the primordial chaos with pure and directed information, which resulted in evolutionary process that was imbibed with fertility. According to Yong, the Spirit causes the emergence of order and presides over it from within through the processes of division, distinction, differentiation, and particularization.[13] This primordial chaos was essential to God and to God’s subsequent creation because it was the source of innumerable potentialities and novelties, without which the immense variety of nature would not be possible.[14] In this sense, then, the Spirit of God acted as a liaison between the primordial chaos, which was the source of variation and novelty, and the resultant ordered and structured creation of the Genesis account.

Moreover, this primordial chaos did not contain its own information (only non-directed energy) as per se, but had to be infused with such by the Spirit. Thus, one may accurately note that the Spirit is the Agent of Causation by the interjection both concretion and specification through information.[15] So then, the movement from chaos to cosmos was directed and determined by the Spirit of God. Primordial chaos without an input of active information by the Spirit of God would remain forever indeterminate and unstructured.[16] Moreover, this primordial chaos serves as the source of the innumerable rudiments of creation, upon which the Spirit of God acted and ordered into reality.

John Polkinghorne has also advocated a kind of top-down divine causality through God inputting pure and active information at the level of chaotic systems. Chaotic systems, perhaps wrongfully labeled, interlace both order and disorder. If the system is too far on the orderly side, the possibility for novelty is greatly reduced, as the system itself is too rigid for anything except a rearrangement of what already exists. Conversely, if the system strays too far on the side of disorder, a random world of proverbial anarchy results.[17] The potential for novelty and relative stability lies between the two poles of order and disorder within chaotic systems. In dialog with Polkinghorne, I posit that the endowment of potentiality and regularity was instituted by, and relies upon, the kenosis of the Spirit into creation. The Spirit, in this kenotic model, would be seen as working within the seemingly openness within nature, in conjunction with the unfolding of potentiality, and hence is not what some could call a “Spirit of the gaps” (akin to the God-of-the-gaps). Moreover, the Spirit enables emergence by endowing creation and creatures with the ability to unfold by apparent natural processes according to their own inherent potentialities and possibilities. Polkinghorne attributes this inputting of pure and active information at the level of chaotic systems to the Spirit that operates from within the causal nexus of nature.[18]

Polkinghorne similarly asserts that this pure information is finely-tuned and extremely sensitive to initial conditions, while also being open to the future at the same time.[19] As a scientist theologian, Polkinghorne has long wrestled with the topic of God’s action in the world, because models for conceiving divine action heretofore have been unsatisfactory.[20] Classical Interventionism should be dismissed as illogical because God’s action in the world would be inconsistently intermittent if actualized as pure intervention; God acting only as the Creator of the world is deistic, and thereby delimits divine action in perpetuity; Thomistic understandings of God as the primary Cause and creatures as secondary causes results in unnecessary bifurcations; and process theology is unable to sustain the eschatological guarantees of God as revealed in Scripture.[21] Polkinghorne’s conception of God’s input of information does not violate the law of conservation of energy, and also avoids the criticism of the god-of-the-gaps.[22]
[1] Amos Yong, “Ruach, the Primordial Chaos, and the Breath of Life: Emergence Theory and the Creation Narratives in Pneumatological Perspective,” in Michael Welker, ed. The Work of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 183-204.

[2] John Polkinghorne, “The Hidden Spirit and the Cosmos,” in Michael Welker, ed. The Work of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 183-204.

[3] Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (Cambridge: James Clarke, 1957), 169.

[4] Cf. Michael Welker, ed. The Work of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), xii.

[5] James D.G. Dunn, “Towards the Spirit of Christ,” in Michael Welker, ed. The Work of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 5.

[6] D. Lyle Dabney, “The Nature of the Spirit,” in Michael Welker, ed. The Work of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 73.

[7] D. Lyle Dabney, “The Nature of the Spirit,” in Michael Welker, ed. The Work of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 78.

[8] G.T. Montague, The Holy Spirit: growth of a Biblical Tradition (New York: Paulist, 1976), 67.

[9] Kathryn Tanner, “Workings of the Spirit: Simplicity or Complexity?,” in Michael Welker, ed. The Work of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 87.

[10] Richard Sibbes, Works, A.B. Grosart, ed., 7 vols. (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1862), 5:427.

[11] Kathryn Tanner, “Workings of the Spirit: Simplicity or Complexity?,” in Michael Welker, ed. The Work of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 105.

[12] Michael Welker, “Spirit in Philosophical, Theological, and Interdisciplinary Perspectives,” in Michael Welker, ed. The Work of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 227.

[13] Amos Yong, “Ruach, the Primordial Chaos, and the Breath of Life: Emergence Theory and the Creation Narratives in Pneumatological Perspective,” in Michael Welker, ed. The Work of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 194-95, 202.

[14] James E. Huchingson, “Chaos, Communications Theory, and God’s Abundance,” Zygon 37 (2002):398.

[15] John Polkinghorne, “The Hidden Spirit and the Cosmos,” in Michael Welker, ed. The Work of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 169.

[16] cf. James E. Huchingson, “Chaos, Communications Theory, and God’s Abundance,” Zygon 37 (2002):395-414

[17] John Polkinghorne, “The Hidden Spirit and the Cosmos,” in Michael Welker, ed. The Work of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 174.

[18] John Polkinghorne, “The Hidden Spirit and the Cosmos,” in Michael Welker, ed. The Work of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 180.

[19] John Polkinghorne, Belief in God in an Age of Science (New Haven: Yale University, 1998), 66-67.

[20] see Christopher Southgate, God, Humanity, and the Cosmos: A Textbook in Science and Religion (Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 1999).

[21] Amos Yong, “From Quantum Mechanics to the Eucharistic Meal: John Polkinghorne’s ‘Bottom-up’ Vision of Science and Theology”, ????????????).

[22] John Polkinghorne, Belief in God in an Age of Science (New Haven: Yale University, 1998), 52-53.

Review of Michael Welker, ed. The Work of the Spirit

Review of Cynthia White, The Emergence of Christianity

Cynthia White, The Emergence of Christianity (Greenwood Guides to Historic Events of the Ancient World, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2007), xv + 209 Pps., $45.00.

Cynthia White is Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Arizona, and the author of several articles on classical and medieval Latin texts. In this title, she explores the origin of Christianity amid the polytheistic Roman Empire. The book is tightly argued and presented in five essays from a classicist with a literary and Roman bias.

Chapter one is historical overview of the Jewish background of Christianity. The second chapter details Jewish-Christian interactions under the Herodian dynasty, which ruled at the discretion of the Roman emperors. This second chapter also includes a short history of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. Chapter three covers Diocletian’s reforms, his persecutions of Christianity, and the adoption of Christianity by Constantine in 312 C.E. Chapters four and five addresses the debates between emperors, popes, and pagans regarding the place of traditional religious practices in Rome. She highlights that by the time Theodosius gave legal sanction to Christianity in 391 C.E., the Roman Empire had become the seedbed for the new Christian empire.

In sum, there are many attractive features that make this text an ideal supplement to a course covering the origins of Christianity: the text is well supplemented by photos; each chapter is divided into short sections, which fosters comprehension; there is a chronology at the beginning of the book; there are a number of short biographical sketches of important figures at the end of the text; there are selections from primary sources; and there is an annotated bibliography. And she does all that in 209 pages! All in all, this is a worthy text for introductory religion courses.

Review of Cynthia White, The Emergence of Christianity

Review of Nigel Zimmermann, The Great Grace: Receiving Vatican II Today

Nigel Zimmermann, The Great Grace: Receiving Vatican II Today (London: T & T Clark, 2015), viii + 143 Pps., $120.00.

Nigel Zimmermann writes in theology and ethics; he completed his PhD at the University of Edinburgh. He was a Lecturer in Theology at the University of Notre Dame Australia (Sydney) 2012-14. He is based in Sydney, working for the Church, and serves as an Adjunct Lecturer with UNDA’s Institute for Ethics & Society. This title recounts the three-day international conference from May, 2013, in which over 600 people gathered in Sydney, Australia, entitled The Great Grace: Receiving Vatican II Today, hosted by the Archdiocese of Sydney. The proposal of the conference occurred during the pontificate of Benedict XVI, but the actual eve took place early in the pontificate of Pope Francis, who is the first Pope who was not directly involved with the production of Vatican II documents. With Francis, the Church has entered a new phase in which it is able to assess what the Holy Spirit has achieved in the intuitions and lessons of the conciliar documents. With a focus on what is genuinely human, the Church, from the Council to Francis, has embarked on a reform process that delves deeply into the sources of its own rich tradition and casts itself as the call to love and solidarity with the human person in the contemporary world. Fifty years after Vatican II, it seems now is a good time to reflect upon what progress has been made. That is exactly what this text does.

Zimmermann edits eight chapters in this title; he notes that all of the authors attend very closely to the texts of Council, and are persons whose life and vocation are intricately connected to the Church. As such, they are able to avoid the distraction of short-term agendas and shortsighted ecclesiological disputes. The opening chapter, by Cardinal George Pell, is an intriguing reflection on his experience in the Church in Australia, and on the controversies and challenges that took place after the Council. He expresses sadness over the nearly 10,000 priests who left the Church after Vatican II, and also expresses joyfulness on the role of the Church in the currents of history. Chapter two is written by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. Cardinal Ouellet is a Canadian prelate whose works have previously focused on the notion of building up an ecclesiology of communio. Ouellet expresses both depth and scriptural warrant for his communio vision of the Church post-Vatican II, and he is keen to note this as a theology that is still being built. Anne Hunt, sometime Executive Dean of the Australian Catholic University, provides an important account of the vocation of the laity in ecclesiology since Vatican II in chapter three. She also gives some indication as to what the future may look like based on significant texts arising out of the Council.

Tracey Rowland, in chapter five, emphasizes the post-Vatican II theological turn as one from correlationism to Trinitarian Christocentrism. In chapter five, Anthony Kelly invokes the tension between the spirit and the letter of a text with respect to the documents of the Council. Kelly argues for a highly human element in interpretation, one that allows the myriad of voices to speak in witness to what is good. Chapter six recounts the derivation of the lay-led initiative known as Catholic Voices, which came about as a response to Benedict XVI’s visit to the UK in 2010. Catholic Voices draws on the expertise, experience and professional profiles of articulates lay voices in the Catholic world. Biblical scholar Mark Coleridge, in chapter seven, addresses how Catholic thinkers should understand the culture in which they do their work. In so doing, he outlines various terms associated with the “secular”, such as secularization, secularity and secularism; he notes that the present cultural context owes a great deal to Christianity, more than what is generally recognized. Bishop of Broken Bay, Peter Comensoli, offers a concluding reflection in chapter eight that places the previous ones in light of a biblical image.

All in all, this title is a good collection, drawing from prelates and laypersons that love the Catholic Church, and are devoted to the successful implementation of the documents of Vatican II. They have put their minds to a difficult task: to think with and for the modern Church. The title of this book refers directly to the grace of the Second Vatican Council as a divine gift, not received as one-time historical event, but as an unfolding one in the life of the Church. I recommend this title for those interested in Ecumenism, as well as those that are particularly within the Roman Catholic Church.

 

Bradford McCall

Regent University

 

Review of Nigel Zimmermann, The Great Grace: Receiving Vatican II Today

Review of John Ziman, Science in Civil Society

John Ziman, Science in Civil Society (Exeter: Imprint Academic, 2008), xvii +362 Pps., $34.90

In the twenty-first century, science is everywhere. But what does it do, and what is the role of science? In short, what is science for? John Ziman was a physicist who worked at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge and devoted much time to the political and social dimension of modern science, and he seeks to address these issues in his latest title. Whereas he died in 2005, having written over 20 books, Science in Civil Society was left in manuscript and has been edited for publication by his widow, the physicist Joan Solomon.

In this text, Ziman describes how science affects society, as well as how society affects science. He contends that, generally speaking, science is an organized body of knowledge that is codified and made explicit (3). Thus, when one thinks of science, they usually think of professional, organized groups of individuals employed in a specific activity. However, Ziman sees no reason for limiting the term science to such a definition. Moreover, Ziman sees no reason to unnecessarily bifurcate science into ‘natural’ and ‘social’ categories. Rather, he contends that all science is, at the end of the day, social science, because it is the product of a social process (5). Ziman argues that the defining characteristics of science that emerges from the social process include rationality, reliability, specialization, plurality, and instituionality (5–9).

Regarding the relevance of this title to this journal, Ziman argues that science invariably relates to the political dimension of society, especially its commercial sectors, because it is a major element of the economy, and it must conform itself to the social polity in which it is conducted. In fact, science is so vital to the health, wealth, and happiness of a nation that it cannot be ignored by ‘the powers that be’ (13). Moreover, science is now a major source of social power, insomuch as its outward form and supposed function are now governed by various groups, ideas, and political agendas. Thus, science is not only an effective means of technological innovation, and wealth production, but it is also a systemic element in the whole polity (292).

Ziman asserts that science has both instrumental and non-instrumental roles in society, although he spends more time in this text explicating the non-instrumental roles of science. Indeed, he notes that the human sciences perform many direct non-instrumental roles in any given society. For example, the science of history warns our rulers of the likely consequences of their actions, and the science of economics reveals some of the risks and uncertainties of current doctrines (45). Furthermore, the sciences of sociology and anthropology often report on ‘paradises’ that are now lost and likely never to be regained (46–47). Yet another non-instrumental role of science is to inject ‘;scientific attitudes’ into public disputation insomuch as modern laymen now often speak in scientific jargon and style around the proverbial dinner table. Contrary to what many – or even most! – scientists may believe, Ziman avers that one of the strictly non-instrumental roles social roles of science is to affirm and reinforce the moral and epistemic pluralism that underlies our civilization (55).

Ziman contends that there are several conditions that must in place before the non-instrumental roles of science actually benefit a society (88–91). For example, the knowledge that it produces must be open for use in law, politics, and social issues, meaning that it must be made completely public. To remain fully open to knowledge about the natural world, moreover, science must also be imaginative. Further, it must be self-critical in order to ensure that scientific conjectures are put through the mills of experiment and debate. Finally, many of the non-instrumental roles of science depend upon it s reputation for objectivity.

In sum, the role of science in society depends on which bit of science one is talking about, as well as the social scene where this part is to be performed (225). However, Ziman acknowledges that the role of science in our postmodern society is often adversarial (302). Throughout, Ziman argues that science is social institution that produces codified knowledge (e.g., 175). For the readers who have an interest in science and its role in society, I heartily recommend this title.

Bradford McCall, Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA

Review of John Ziman, Science in Civil Society

Review of Frances Young, Lewis Ayres, and Andrew Louth, eds. The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature

Frances Young, Lewis Ayres, and Andrew Louth, eds. The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004, reprinted 2006), xxvii + 538 Pps., $37.99.

Frances Young is Emerita Professor of Theology, University of Birmingham, Lewis Ayres is Associate Professor of Historical Theology at the Candler School of Theology and Graduate Division of Religion, Emory University, and Andrew Louth is Professor of Patristic and Byzantine Studies at the University of Durham. Acknowledging that the output of Christian literature between c.100 and c.400 represents one of the most influential periods of textual production, this History offers a systematic account of the literature and its setting of Early Christianity, analyzing the work of individual writers, as well as surveying the social, cultural and doctrinal context within which Christian literature arose. It provides essays on the major schools of Alexandria, Antioch, Edessa, and Nisibis, covering the major controversies found in each school. Notably, this work embraces feminist and sociological approaches to the material. Fifteen different contributors provide a total of forty different chapters, some of which will highlighted in what follows hereafter.

The book is divided into three main parts, covering the second, third, and fourth centuries, with two subdivisions within each part, the ‘A’ section covering the literature of the period, with the ‘B’ section enabling the generation of a greater sense of perspective on various hermeneutical questions that arose from the chapters in the preceding section. Part I, entitled “The Beginnings: The New Testament to Irenaeus,” is comprised of ten chapters. Therein, R.A. Norris contributes a chapter on the Apostolic and subapostolic writings, as well as a chapter covering the Gnostic literature. Young writes about Christian teaching in the third century, which is a thoroughly interesting chapter, and he then contributes a summative chapter regarding second century texts, entitled “Towards a Hermeneutic of Second-Century Texts.”

Part II covers the third century. Ronald E. Heine begins this part by providing an illuminative essay on the Alexandrians, which is then followed by a chapter on the beginnings of Latin Christian literature, also written by Heine. Sebastian Brock offers an essay covering Syriac literature within this period. Young’s concluding review of the literary culture and significance of the third century is worth the price of the book alone. The third part of the book, “Foundations of a New Culture: From Diocletian to Cyril,” covers the fourth century. Louth contributes individual chapters on Eusebius and the birth of Church history, the Cappadocians, and the literature of the monastic movement. Sebastian Brock contributes another essay, this later one addressing Ephrem and the Syriac tradition. Young again writes a concluding essay regarding the necessity of the interpretation and appropriation of early Christian literature.

In sum, the editors have arranged the articles in a logical manner, not alphabetical, which I find to be a strength. All of the articles, seemingly, focus on the literature itself, its interpretation and significance, its context, from historical, social, and philosophical perspectives. This is an excellent reference book for scholars and students alike, and it will be a welcome addition to reference shelves, as a ‘standard’ work.

Bradford McCall, Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA

 

Review of Frances Young, Lewis Ayres, and Andrew Louth, eds. The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature

Review of Amos Yong, The Missiological Spirit: Christian Mission Theology in the Third Millennium Global Context

Amos Yong, The Missiological Spirit: Christian Mission Theology in the Third Millennium Global Context (Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2014), xvi + 275 Pps., $33.00.

Amos Yong is Professor of Theology and Mission and the Director of the Center for Missiological Research at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California. He is the author and editor of more than two dozen books, including Hospitality and the Other: Pentecost, Christian Practices, and the Neighbor (2008). This book is a companion to his The Dialogical Spirit: Christian Reason and Theological Method in the Third Millennium (Cascade, 2014).

This title is a companion to Yong’s other 2014 volume, The Dialogical Spirit: Christian Reason and Theological Method for the Third Millennium (Cascade Books, 2014). Herein, Yong notes that the last two-to-three decades have witnessed a renewal of missiology. This book enters into the theology of mission, accentuating how the Christian theological enterprise as a whole can be understood from a Missiological perspective. The four parts of this title work from explicitly missiological concerns toward reconsiderations of aspects of the systematic and dogmatic theological landscape. The thesis of this volume is that the Missiological compulsion of the twenty-first century global and pluralistic context can be invigorated by a pneumatological imagination derived from the Day of Pentecost narrative, and can not only inspire more faithful witness but also be a resource for Christian theology of mission for the third millennium. It provides an autobiographical perspective on this matter, following out the thread of Yong’s thinking about Pentecostal faith and Christian mission in a pluralistic world.

Part 1, “Reluctant Missiology: Christian Mission’s Irrepressibility,” notes that Pentecostal spirituality generates a distinctive hermeneutic, method, and imagination that revolves around encountering the living God through the Spirit, and this spirituality of encounter has the potential to revitalize and renew Christian theology for the third millennium. Yong considered his work in the period covered by this section of the book to be demarcated by the fields of religious studies and systematic theology, rather than that of missiology. However, the missiological character of the Christian theological task was not marginalized by these early works reprinted in this section of the book. He does not urge an untenable universalism or a naïve syncretism of Christianity and other faiths, but urges us to think theologically through the fact of religious plurality and its implications for Christian self-understanding and mission.

Part 2, “Pentecostal Missiology: Missiological Praxis,” is comprised of three chapters, and reflects Yong’s thinking regarding Christian missiology from a distinctively Pentecostal perspective. It notes that all Christian theology is missionally-related in some respect, and therefore Christian missiology is also fundamentally theological. He suggests   that what may be called a performative theology of interfaith encounter is conducive to emphasizing the work of the Spirit in enabling relationships between people of different faiths. The fifth chapter is co-authored with Tony Richie, and seeks to elucidate Pentecostal theology as it transects with theology of religions and comparative theology.

The third part, “North American Missiology: Mission Post-Christendom,” have their locus in the North American setting of Pentecostal theology, rather than a global one. Tis part reflects Yong’s own diasporic identity as an Asian American theologian, born and raised in Malaysia, but present in the USA since his middle school years. These chapters deal with the post-Western, post-Enlightenment, and postcolonial realities as played out specifically in North America. Part 4, “Systematic Missiology: Toward a Missiological Theology,” is similarly comprised of three chapters. As a systematician, Yong appreciates how Christian theology is mission-minded. These chapters, more or less, provide a pneumatological theology of mission famed by the classical history of salvation Christian narrative, explicate a pneumatological Christology of mission, and proffer a Trinitarian vision of contemporary global mission.

What emerges from this book is a distinctively pentecostally- and evangelically-informed missiological theology, one rooted in the Christian salvation-history narrative of Incarnation and Pentecost that is yet open to the world in its many and various realities. The argument moves through dialogical engagements with the work of others, concrete case studies, and systematic theological reflection. The central thesis and argument of this book is that only a pneumatological imagination can secure the Trinitarian vision that empowers missional performance among the many tongues of the many missionary contexts. I recommend this title without hesitation to all comers.

Bradford McCall

Holy Apostles College and Seminary

Review of Amos Yong, The Missiological Spirit: Christian Mission Theology in the Third Millennium Global Context