Lucas, Sean Michael. Robert Lewis Dabney: A Southern Presbyterian Life. P&R, 2005.
This is a superbly written but sad biography. Dabney is a tragic figure. He had a first-rate intellect that rightly saw dangers in modernism and critiqued them cogently. He defended orthodox theology. But he was deeply racist, defending slavery as biblical and opposing the ordination of black men after the war. Indeed, he opposed anything that would uplift black people. Lucas presents Dabney’s views fairly while also providing a biblical critique. The concluding chapter reflects on Dabney’s contribution both positive and negative. He notes the influence of Dabney’s racial views in past years on Lucas’s own denomination, the PCA, and his alma mater, Bob Jones University. He also includes a helpful comparison and contrast between Dabney and Abraham Kuyper. He notes that while both held problematic racial views, both defended Christianity from modernism, and both offered a public theology, Kuyper has received greater appreciation than Dabney. While noting ways in which Kuyper’s theology is a richer resource than Dabney’s (the antithesis, common grace, sphere sovereignty), Lucas still holds that Dabney has much to teach us. In the end, Lucas seems to prefer Dabney’s spirituality of the church position to Kuyper’s (which he thinks in danger of falling into theonomy). Indeed, the final critique of Dabney was his failure in that he created a public theology more Southern than Christian.
Foner, Eric. Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877. Peter Smith, 2001.
Johnston, Philip and Peter Walker, The Land of Promise: Biblical, Theological, and Contemporary Perspectives. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2000.
This book has two great failings. First, many of the essays begin with the concern that the modern state of Israel treats the Palestinians unjustly and that a theology of the land must be found to undermine Israel’s claim to the land. Second, many of the essays evince little sympathy for opposing viewpoints and thus deal with caricatures or weak representatives of these viewpoints. For instance, the chapter "Dispensational Approaches to the Land," is not written by a dispensationalist. Instead the author begins with such representative dispensationalists as Jerry Falwell, Jim Bakker, Paul Crouch, Pat Robertson, and Jimmy Swaggart and ends by connecting dispensationalism to the Crusades and Manicheanism. The substance of the chapter is given to John Nelson Darby, C. I. Scofield, Hal Lindsey, and The International Christian Embassy, Jerusalem. Blaising and Bock are dispatched with a sentence, and other recent dispensationalist scholars don’t even merit a mention. Another author suggests dispensationalists adopt a literal interpretation of land prophecies because they don’t understand figures of speech or metaphors; because they are committed to "empirical positivism"; because they have adopted an American Dream utopianism; or because they are inerrantists. The authors rightly reject the idea that the modern state of Israel has a biblical mandate to reconquer the promised land. But they seem to conflate this error with any claims that Israel will receive the promised land in the future. What is more, the chapter presenting a Jewish Christian perspective on the land clearly denies that disobedient Israel can claim the land promises while also affirming the future fulfillment of the land promises for Israel. Unfortunately the other contributors fail to interact with this chapter, preferring easier targets instead. In addition, while several authors bring up injustices perpetuated by Israel against Palestinians, only one mentions the fact that Jews "are the target of special enmity." A book written by those sympathetic to those of other viewpoints would have stressed both the need of Israel to act justly toward Palestinians and of Palestinians to act justly toward Jews.
Though many of the chapters are written by conservatives, some fall short in their bibliology. One author speaks of "the failure of prophecy" when the utopia that the prophet predicted upon the return of the people failed to come to pass. He rejects moving the fulfillment into the "unpredictable and indefinite future." Instead he proposes reading prophecies as ancient hyperbole that must be radically re-read in light of Christ.
Regarding specific exegetical proposals, Williamson had somewhat helpful essay on the universalization of the land promise to encompass the whole earth. While I agree this is a feature of the Bible’s teaching, I thought Williamson stretched exegetically to find it in the Abrahamic Covenant itself. I also fail to see why universalizing the land promise, extending it to other nations, strips Israel of the promise. Do all get the promise except Israel? Walker also put forward some interesting proposals. He began his essays on the land in the New Testament promisingly by affirming that the New Testament authors did view the land as an important concept despite the paucity of direct references to the land. However, he concludes that Hebrews 3-4 when combined with Hebrews 11 reveals that the land promise is to be fulfilled by heaven. He thinks that as the author of Hebrews indicates the temple was a shadow, so the land was a shadow. It is worth pointing out, however, that the author of Hebrews does not call the land a shadow, as he does with the temple. Further, the city that Abraham looks forward to is the New Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven to the new earth. The heavenly country is the renewed earth, and our eternal rest takes place on literal land. Similarly more persuasive readings exist for each of Walker’s key texts.
Books that deal with the theological theme of land are relatively rare. It is therefore a disappointment that this volume did not even deal at an acceptably scholarly level with opposing viewpoints.
Leder, Arie C. Waiting for the Land: The Story Line of the Pentateuch. P&R, 2010.
The subtitle of this book describes its primary function: it maps out the story-line of the Pentateuch. Leder takes seriously the five book division of the Pentateuch rather than trying to construct an outline that breaks up the Pentateuchal material differently. He holds the Pentateuch follows an ABCB’A’ pattern. Leviticus is the center, framed by Exodus and Numbers. Genesis and Deuteronomy frame the whole and provide the beginning and the conclusion of the narrative. The central narrative problem of the Pentateuch, according to Leder, is exile from the presence of God. The holiness material in Leviticus is central because it is essential to overcoming this narrative problem.
The heart of this book are the five chapters that examine the five books of the Pentateuch. For each of these Leder provides a summary of the book, identifies the "central narrative interest," identifies the narrative problem of the book, outlines key points of the plot, and traces the structure of the book.
The title of the book identifies a minor theme that runs throughout. Each of the five central chapters ends with a section on waiting for the land. The final chapter of the book also takes up this theme. Leder’s basic contention is that the Pentateuch closes with Israel outside the land to show the relative unimportance of the land in comparison to God’s presence. Exile from Eden is not resolved by the land promise but by the presence of God among his people. I remain unconvinced by this thesis, especially as it leads Leder to take the wilderness wanderings and Babylonian exile as normative for the church. The conquest of Canaan and dwelling in the land are discussed in somewhat negative terms. This approach would seem to make normative the judgments of Israel rather than the promises. Yet if the tabernacle, the dwelling place of God, is a microcosm that also reflects Eden, then the theme of God’s presence should not be separated from the land promise. God intends to dwell with his people in his land (cf. Exodus 33)—which in the end will encompass all the earth. This is not to discount some agreement with Leder: there is some parallel between Israel outside the land but enjoying God’s presence in the tabernacle and the church, which is the temple of God’s Spirit, awaiting the renewed earth.
Overall, the book is accessibly written. Though it contains what I view as some missteps, and though he could have dug deeper at several points, the book also contains good insights into the themes and structure of the Pentateuch.
De Angeli, Marguerite. The Door in the Wall. Laurel Leaf, 1949.
Cook, David. Understanding Jihad. Berkley: University of California Press, 2005.
Cook helps his readers do exactly what his title says. He carefully works his way through the sources about Jihad from Mohammad until the present day. He finds the evidence that jihad meant an internal struggle rather than military conflict historically wanting. He is sympathetic with Muslims who make these claims in the hope of reforming Islam, but he finds these claims historically inaccurate. Cook also finds fault with those who believe that since Islam historically spread by the sword that modern day Islamic terrorists stand within the mainstream of Islamic jihad. The use of martyrdom or suicide bombers and the targeting of non-military targets are two significant departures from the jihad tradition. The careful discussion of primary sources and the distinctions of varying views of jihad make this perhaps the best book on the subject.
Gouge, William. Building a Godly Home. Volume 2. Reformation Heritage, 2013.
Volume one of this edited and slightly modernized version of William Gouge’s Domestical Duties is an excellent exposition of Ephesians 5:22-6:9. This volume provides practical application of the husband and wife’s mutual duties to each other, the wife’s duties toward her husband, and a husband’s duties toward his wife. According to the editors this book was the most influential Puritan book on marriage and family. It is easy to see why. It is full of careful, biblical guidance. Hermeneutically, Gouge is sometimes over-reliant on biblical examples that should not be taken as normative. Overall, however, his counsel is biblically grounded.
As expected, Gouge presents the biblical teaching of a husband’s leadership in the home and the wife’s submission to her husband. Gouge also sees the wife as holding an exalted position in the home, and his counsel repeatedly calls on the husband to lovingly treat her in way that honors her station. Egalitarian caricatures of what life in a biblically ordered home fall flat here as would any attempts to misuse the biblical teaching about the husband’s authority in order to demean the wife.
The overall effect of this volume is to challenge husbands and wives in their daily life to reflect Christ and the church. Gouge writes in a way that is direct and challenging while also being inspiring. These volumes by Gouge may still be the best books on marriage and the family on the market. They certainly are worthy of being as widely read today as they were in Puritan times.
Hill, Charles E. Regnum Caelorum: Regnum Caelorum: Patterns of Millennial Thought in Early Christianity, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001.
Though the earliest writers who touch on the issue of the Millennium hold a millennial view, both Justin and Irenaeus affirm that some of orthodox Christians also held to an amillennial view. Hill proposes that we can identify who these people were by trying to identify wider systems of eschatology that extend beyond the millennial issue alone. Hill argues that those who affirmed a millennium also held that the redeemed existed in a subterranean intermediate state awaiting the resurrection of the body. On the other hand Christian writers who oppose millennialism all held that the soul ascends to God’s presence in heaven in the intermediate state. Hill grants that it is theoretically possible that a person held to a heavenly intermediate state and a millennium, but he argues in response that there is no evidence that such a position existed.
Based on the link between a heavenly millennial state and amillennialism, Hill concludes that Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Athenagrous, Meilto of Sardis, and others held to the amillennial position. The most significant name on that list is Polycarp. Polycarp is the link between the apostle John and Irenaeus—between the apostle whose writing contains the key New Testament millennial text and the chief early defender of the millennial position.
If Polycarp held to an amillennial position, how did his student, Irenaeus, come to hold a millennial position? Hill argues that Irenaeus changed to the millennialist position in the course of writing Against Heresies in order to strengthen his position against Gnosticism. Gnostics would be content with a spiritual existence in the presence of God but a subterranean intermediate state defers that until after the bodily resurrection and a Millennial reign of Christ affirms the goodness of the material creation.
If Hill is correct, then Irenaeus inherited an amillennial position from Polycarp that he later abandoned. Since Polycarp was a disciple of the apostle John, this would strengthen claims that John was not a millennialist. Indeed, Hill argues that since John (and the rest of the New Testament) teach a heavenly intermediate state at odds with the millennial position’s subterranean intermediate state, the New Testament is amillenial.
Hill is an erudite scholar who is familiar with the patristic writings. In closely examining the passages that Hill claimed evidenced changes in Irenaeus’s theology, I found convincing the claim that he shifted from a heavenly to a subterranean intermediate state. However, I found unconvincing the claim that he shifted from an amillennial to a millennial position. The texts that Hill appealed to as being amillennial were not clearly such. In addition Irenaeus explicitly claims having received his millennial interpretations from the elders, which would likely have included Polycarp. Further, a key point in Irenaeus’s theology is that what is received from the elders is the authoritative interpretation of Scripture. It is unlikely that he would have changed positions on an interpretation he attributes to the elders. The upshot of accepting HIll’s argument that Irenaeus changed positions on the intermediate state but rejecting his argument that Irenaeus changed millennial positions is that evidence does therefore exist for millennialists who also held to a heavenly intermediate state (the early Irenaues being a prime example). Hill’s claim that belief in a heavenly intermediate state is evidence of amillennialism therefore does not hold. Indeed, if one shifts from a focus on the intermediate state to eternal state, it becomes clear that the patristic amillennialists held to a spiritual eternal state while, according to amillennialists such as Turretin, Bavinck, Hoekema, Horton, and Venema, the NT teaches an earthly eternal state.
Lewis, C.S. The Magician’s Nephew.
Carson, D. A. "Sin’s Contemporary Significance." In Fallen: A Theology of Sin. Edited by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson. Crossway, 2013.
This is Carson at his best: exegetically careful, theologically insightful, and devotionally stirring.
Arnold, Matthew. "Dover Beach," "The Buried Life," Empedocles on Etna."