(Re)recovering the Scandal of the Cross

Our first book for my seminar on the atonement was Recovering the Scandal of the Cross: Atonement in the New Testament and Contemporary Contexts, by Joel Green and Mark Baker (IVP Academic, 2000, 2nd ed. in 2011). I learned a lot from reading it, and it certainly generated a great discussion in class last week. But on the whole I found the book’s criticism of penal substitutionary atonement (PSA) to be unconvincing and at times unfair. While the authors rightly emphasize the importance of interpreting texts and events within their cultural narrative, I felt they downplayed the extent to which…

Concluding Thoughts on DeYoung’s Hole in our Holiness

I’m grateful for Kevin DeYoung’s thoughtful response to my review of his The Hole in our Holiness. Instead of responding line-by-line, I wonder if it might be more helpful to comment more generally and more briefly on some things I’m learning through this discussion. 1) First, I just want to state my gratitude for the blessing of charitable dialogue among brothers in Christ. I think sometimes in the body of Christ we are so afraid of being or appearing divisive that we avoid frank discussion of different leanings we may have. Obviously, divisiveness is a real danger to be avoided;…

The Glory of the Atonement

Continuing with my atonement reading, I just finished reading The Glory of the Atonement: Biblical, Theological, and Practical Perspectives, ed. by Charles E. Hill and Frank A. James III (IVP Academic, 2004), a collection of essays on the atonement in honor of Roger Nicole. Its a fantastic book, one of the best contemporary theological books I have ever read. Its quite dense, nearing 500 pages with 20 essays, consistently of good quality. It examines the atonement from three angles: the Bible, church history, and practical theology. In the biblical section, the essays by J. Alan Groves on Isaiah 53, D.A….

Some Thoughts on Ruth Rosen’s Called to Controversy

I just finished reading Ruth Rosen’s Called to Controvesy: The Unlikely Story of Moishe Rosen and the Founding of Jews for Jesus (Thomas Nelson, 2012). It was a fascinating read which I found difficult to put down. In fact, I stayed up late last night, and woke up early this morning, to finish it. The book tells the story of Moishe Rosen, the founder of the evangelistic ministry Jews for Jesus, from the vantage point of Moishe’s daughter Ruth. One of the things that struck me was how honest Ruth was concerning her father’s shortcomings and flaws. (At times, in fact, I…

Some Thoughts on Christian Smith’s The Bible Made Impossible

I’ve been looking a bit at Christian Smith’s The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism is not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture (BrazosPress, 2011). I agree with many aspects of Smith’s critique. While I consider myself to have a high view of Scripture, I have broadened a bit in my understanding of all that this entails. I’m generally very conservative on issues of authorship, canon, date, etc. But I share some of Smith’s concerns about the way the Bible is treated by fundamentalists and some evangelicals. I’ve often felt curious about the way the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, for example,…

Paul Johnson’s Churchill

During some time off this week I read Paul Johnson’s Churchill (Viking, 2009).  Its a brief and enjoyable biography, covering in less than 200 pages a very full life of 90 years, from early military travels and literary fame, through the ups and downs of a stormy political career, to the inspiring leadership during World War II for which Churchill is now famous.  The epilogue provides a helpful summary of what we can learn from Churchill, and chapter 6 – my favorite part of the book – offers 10 reasons why Churchill saved Britain.  Overall, the story of Churchill’s life…

Two Sentence Review of Surprised By Hope

I just finished N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (HarperOne 2008). Here is my review in two (very long) sentences: I found the book helpful in that: (1) it highlights the uniqueness of early Christian belief in the resurrection over and against more general understandings of the afterlife among first century Jews and Pagans (chapter 3) and contemporary Christians and skeptics (chapter 5); (2) it captures a holistic understanding of salvation, God’s concern for the material world He has made, and the unity of creation-fall-redemption in Scripture (e.g., p. 96: “redemption doesn’t…

CJ Mahaney’s Humility: True Greatness

This past summer I read CJ Mahaney’s book, Humility: True Greatness (Multnomah, 2005), which is a wonderful and edifying book which I heartily recommend to anyone who struggles alongside me with pride – and if you don’t struggle with pride at all, then I especially recommend this book! 8 things I learned: 1) The personal application of great truths was very profound in this book. I noticed this from the way CJ would take a basic point – say, an attribute of God – and apply it to himself over and over, showing how much could be gleaned from it….

Thoughts on Jim Belcher’s Deep Church

On our way back from Chicago this Christmas Esther and I stopped in Grand Rapids, where I picked up Jim Belcher’s Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional (IVP 09), which we read aloud to each other on the ride home (to keep the driver from getting too bored!). Its a fascinating read – highly narrative, interactive with all sorts of leading emergent and evangelical thinkers, thoughtful, generous, humorous. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot, and I think we need more books which both try to learn from and critically analyze the emerging church.  Here I’m…