Book Review: The Printer and the Preacher (Petersen)

Printer and Preacher (Petersen)Great figures and great moments in history are often the subject of considerable (some might say endless) discussion and evaluation, especially by the communities which remember and celebrate their histories. For many Americans, this means looking back upon the Founding Fathers with reverence and respect. For many Christians, such an attitude entails studying the giants of the faith who have gone before us. Randy Petersen’s The Printer and the Preacher: Ben Franklin, George Whitfield, and the Surprising Friendship that Invented America (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015) examines both of these realms of America and American Christianity’s past. Continue reading

Book Review: 40 Questions about the Historical Jesus (Pate)

40 Questions about the Historical Jesus (Pate)Whatever you may think about him or his followers, Jesus of Nazareth continues to capture the attention of billions across the planet. From church-going Christians and New Atheists to the media and academics, Jesus remains a pretty popular guy, at least in terms of the time spent discussing this first century Palestinian Jew and his various views on contemporary issues. Amidst these ongoing conversations about what Jesus would think or say about the latest news cycle there are those who have proposed a quest (or, more accurately, quests) for the real Jesus of Nazareth, the Jesus of history who stands behind the Jesus of Christian faith. These voices—which are by no means new—have long influenced the popular understanding of the Nazarene and continue to shape how many people interpret the message of Jesus. However, many practicing Christians remain generally unaware of the divergent claims regarding the “Jesus of Faith” and the “Jesus of History” and are (understandably) concerned when they first encounter such statements. Continue reading

Book Review: Richard John Neuhaus (Boyagoda)

Richard John Neuhaus - A Life in the Public Square, BoyagodaBiographies are intensely personal affairs, filled with the often mundane details purporting to tell the life story of some person of alleged importance. Occasionally, however, a figure of true influence will come along and change the world. In the American context, such figures have often been religious or political leaders, those two realms of discourse which seem to influence all others. Indeed, few can deny that Washington, Lincoln, King, and Graham do not continue to play important roles in shaping our context. Yet few characters of history have simultaneously transformed both religion and politics. One such person was the late Father Richard John Neuhaus, whose public advocacy—for both political left and right and for Christian faith in the public square—continues to influence our world. Continue reading

Book Review: Did God Really Command Genocide? (Copan and Flannagan)

Did God Really Command GenocideAny contemporary reader who picks up the Bible will be struck by the seeming divide between the God of Jesus Christ and the God who commands the destruction of whole nations and the obliteration of Canaanites during Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land. And while many Christians simply don’t think about the possible difficulties of a loving God commanding genocide, that has not stopped critics of Christianity—especially the New Atheists—from using portions of Deuteronomy, Joshua, and Judges as ammunition for their assaults on Christian faith. Truth be told, this seeming contradiction between a God of Love and God of Wrath is not something new, for as early as the mid-second century a follower of Jesus names Marcion argued that the god’s of the Old and New Testaments were different entities. Clearly, there is much at stake in the answer to the question: did God really command genocide in the Old Testament? Continue reading

Book Review: Altared (Claire and Eli)

AltaredIn Altared: The True Story of a She, a He, and How They Both Got Too Worked Up About We, Claire and Eli tell the story of their relationship, examining the expectations and presumptions that young Christian men and women often have concerning dating, how relationships work, and the importance of marriage. Claire and Eli ask of the current Christian sub-cultural obsession with male-female relationships, purity, and marriage if perhaps the prevailing attitude among the young adult population emphasizes marriage more than God intended. Continue reading

Book Review: After Acts (Liftin)

After Acts (Liftin)Many readers of the New Testament are both fascinated and perplexed by the book of Acts, the earliest “history of Christianity” put to papyrus. Acts begins to tell the story of the church, following the miracles, lives, and journeys of Peter, the Jerusalem Church, and the Apostle Paul. But Acts also ends abruptly—with Paul under house arrest in Rome—and often raises a number of questions about the early Church. Thus, readers find themselves wondering, “What really happened after Acts?” In answer to this question, Bryan Liftin has written After Acts: Exploring the Lives and Legends of the Apostles (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015), a book dedicated to introducing and exploring the traditions of the Apostles following the end of “church history” in the New Testament canon. Continue reading

Book Review: Lukan Authorship of Hebrews (Allen)

Luke Authorship of HebrewsFew queries surrounding the New Testament are as well known as the question regarding the authorship of Hebrews. Since the early centuries of Christianity—indeed, long before the New Testament canon was finalized—inquisitive readers have investigated who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews. Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Eusebius, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Harnack (to name but a few) have theorized and argued about the identity of Hebrew’s author. No less a list than Paul, Barnabas, Apollos, Luke, Silas, Peter, Clement of Rome, Priscilla and Aqulia, Ariston, Philip, Jude, Epaphras, John the Apostle, Timothy, and Mary (the Mother of Jesus) has been suggested as to whom this figure might be. In recent decades, those studying Paul have increasingly problematized claims that the Apostle’s authored Hebrews, making it less likely that the long-assumed writer of Hebrews actually penned the work. And despite the copious number of theories concerning other potential authors of Hebrews, rather little has been offered by way of solid conclusions. To address this noteworthy issue, a couple of years ago came David L. Allen’s Lukan Authorship of Hebrews (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010. 416 pgs). Continue reading

Book Review: Why Church History Matters (Rea)

“Every Christian follows tradition. Whether we affirm the canon of Scripture, Trinitarian explanation or even denominational distinctive, we embrace tradition. This is true whether we call it ‘tradition’ or prefer softer terms such as ‘precedent,’ ‘custom’, or ‘common practice.’”

Why Church History MattersAs interest in history dwindles in our intensely technological age, reasons for studying the past are increasingly in need of explanation. This is especially true when it comes to the history of Christianity, where the intersection of emphasis on contemporary relevance and Protestant theologies which are summarily uninterested in the past have combined to produce generations of Christians who are illiterate when it comes to the faith of earlier Christians. In response to this growing trend, Robert F. Rea advocates the importance of studying Church History in Why Church History Matters: An Invitation to Love and Learn from Our Past (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014). Continue reading

Book Review: Believe (Frazee)

Believe (NIV)The Bible is a complex book, full of countless stories, prophecies, and genres of writing, each of which (ostensibly) applies to the Christian life in some way. It is no easy task, however, to read the entire Bible and grasp how each portion relates to the others or how 21st century Christians should engage the scriptures in their complexity. To assist those journeying towards God through a close reading of the Bible comes Believe: Living the Story of the Bible to Become Like Jesus (Zondervan: 2014) edited by Randy Frazee. Continue reading

Book Review: Ancient Christian Worship (McGowan)

Ancient Christian Worship (McGowan)There are few times in history so important and yet so obscure as the years following the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, when the movement bearing his name transformed from a band of several dozen followers hiding in terror into an international community that would shape the subsequent history of the world. Despite the paucity of evidence from this period, historians and theologians alike continually return to the earliest years of the Jesus Movement, attempting to ascertain precisely who was doing what and how they were doing it. To help bring clarity to the all important aspect of Christian worship from this period comes Andrew B. McGowan’s masterful Ancient Christian Worship: Early Church Practices in Social, Historical, and Theological Perspective (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014). Continue reading