BOOK REVIEWS

Redemptive Reversals – G.K. Beale (2019)

redG.K. Beale, Redemptive Reversals (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 189 pp.

Redemptive Reversals and the Ironic Overturning of Human Wisdom by G.K. Beale is the latest installment in the Crossway series, Short Studies in Biblical Theology. Thus far, the books in this series stand on their own merits and make a unique contribution to the field of biblical theology. Dr. Beale’s book is no exception.

Redemptive Reversals marvels at the ironic overturning of human wisdom in seven short chapters that touch on sin, idolatry, salvation, the Christian life, faith, and eschatology.

For me, the chapter addressing idolatry was the most significant. Beale says, “What you revere, you resemble, either for restoration or ruin.” Hence, the idol worshipper finds ultimate misery in what felt like pleasure in the short term. Conversely, the one who worships God finds fulfillment and satisfies the reason for his creation.

Redemptive Reversals caught me by surprise as it takes a bit of a different approach to biblical theology. In the end, this volume is both useful and encouraging. I encourage readers to interact critically and thoughtfully with this excellent material and add it to the growing list of solid resources that bolster the discipline of biblical theology.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

BOOK REVIEWS

Emblems of the Infinite King – J. Ryan Lister (2019)

eemJ. Ryan Lister, Emblems of the Infinite King: Enter the Knowledge of the Living God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 181 pp.

From time to time, I enjoy a good children’s book. There’s something about taking a break from my usual theologically robust reading schedule and immersing myself into a book designed to inspire and educate kids. J. Ryan Lister’s book is targeted to pre-teens and teens but I won’t be shelving this book with other notable children’s books by C.S. Lewis and Douglas Bond. Emblems of the Infinite King: Enter the Knowledge of the Living God will be strategically placed in my section devoted to biblical theology. Lister’s book will stand proudly next to works of biblical theology penned by Thomas Schreiner, Patrick Schreiner, Peter Gentry, Stephen Wellum, George Eldon Ladd, and James Hamilton.

Emblems of the Infinite King invites young readers into God’s redemptive drama and presents the definitive pillars of the Christian worldview – creation, fall, redemption, and consummation in a compelling story. The introduction sets the necessary tone as readers are presented with a series of life-changing keys:

“His strong and wise command cut through the empty silence as he reached out of the shadows to offer an ancient key … Those who turn this key will never be the same.”

“It will show your deepest guilt and display your darkest shame.”

“You’ll see who you were made to be and what you’ve really become.”

“ … The way ahead is the path that leads into the throne room of the Son, this one they call the Death Killer, who gives his life to pay your ransom.”

A brief note about the underlying story that undergirds the book. One reviewer questioned the validity of the imaginative elements of Emblems of the Infinite King. This critique is perplexing, especially in light of the stunning efforts of C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia) and J.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings). And who can argue with the effectiveness of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, one of the best-selling books of all time? One of the great needs in the church is a Christ-saturated imagination which is theologically robust and Reformed, one that captures the heart and makes the human spirit soar. Tragically, much theological writing is aimed squarely at the mind but bypasses the heart altogether. Emblems of the Infinite King strikes a biblical balance that celebrates orthodoxy but also warms the heart with imaginative prose and a compelling story.

Each chapter describes a particular key that explains a doctrinal reality that ultimately leads to the throne of God. Dr. Lister presents each branch of systematic theology in the framework of the story and guides pilgrims on a journey that glorifies the King, the Death Killer – the central figure of the redemptive drama.

Make no mistake – this is a serious book. And serious books have life-changing implications. The author writes clearly and creatively. But even more important, he writes with biblical precision. It is obvious that Lister has thought through each turn in the story and has a passion to either introduce readers to the King or help strengthen their relationship with him.

I must add that this is a beautiful book. Frankly, it is stunning. First, the cover is majestic and begs prospective readers to turn to the first page. The book is illustrated by Anthony M. Benedetto. Young people will be instantly drawn to his breathtaking illustrations that add so much to this volume.

2019 has been a great year for Christian publishing. Of the 170 books that I’ve read this year, Emblems of the Infinite King is among the best of them! Emblems of the Infinite King is a modern-day Pilgrim’s Progress that is sure to encourage many young people and will be a strategic tool for parents and grandparents to help disciple children for God’s glory.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

BOOK REVIEWS

Not Home Yet – Ian K. Smith

not homeIan K. Smith, Not Home Yet (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 167 pp.

One of the recent encouraging developments in the church is an interest in biblical theology. 2 Peter 3:13 says, “According to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” This grand promise is the theme of Ian K. Smith’s recent book, Not Home Yet.

Dr. Smith argues, “Home is where we belong.” Therefore, he urges readers to set their sights and affections on their heavenly home. But some will be surprised to learn that “Jesus’s return to this earth is the focus of the Christian’s hope, and this return will not just be for a visit, to pick us up and take us home to heaven. He is coming to stay. The new Jerusalem will descend to earth, and we will be at home, with Jesus, on earth.”

“The aim of this book,” writes Ian Smith “is to reawaken (resurrect even), a biblical understanding of the earth and God’s mission to it.” The author skillfully guides readers along the biblical plot line that leads them to their heavenly home on the new earth, where they will reside for all of eternity.

Smith’s work is a rich combination of scholarship, yet he never isolates those who have not enjoyed the benefit of a theological education. His writing is clear, straight to the point, a biblical from start to finish. In the end, he accomplishes his objective by re-engaging readers and helping them understand God salvific plan and redemptive purposes for his people.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

BOOK REVIEWS

The Story of His Glory – Brian Hedges (2019)

Brian Hedges, The Story of His Glory (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 54 pp.

We live in an age of confusion and uncertainty. As a result, our culture is untethered from truth and disconnected from reality. Christian readers are renewed and refreshed, then, when an author courageously asserts what God has plainly revealed in a winsome and compelling way. Such is the case in The Story of His Glory, the new publication from the pen of Brian Hedges.

One of the great strengths of this work is the author’s posture of humble certainty. His certainty is not found in his own abilities or his intellectual acumen. Rather, his certitude is wholly depended upon the written Word of God.

The author invites readers on a journey through the Bible that begins in Genesis 1:1 and ends in the closing verses of Revelation 22. What takes place in between is the greatest story ever told; a story that has both personal and cosmic implications.

The story begins with the Creator God who made all things for his glory. As such, he exercises comprehensive authority over his creation. Adam disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden which subsequently affected all humanity, leaving us under the wrath of God for our sin.

Hedges guides readers from creation and Fall to the redemption where God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ becomes the fulfillment of the promise that God made with Abraham. Jesus lives the life that none of us could live and dies a death we all deserve to die. “Jesus was our representative,” writes Hedges, “whose sinless life and perfect obedience would bring life and salvation.” Jesus bears the sin of every person who would ever believe. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit …” (1 Pet. 3:18). Jesus was crucified, buried, resurrected on the third day, and ascended to the right hand of the Father, where makes intercession for his people.

The author stresses the need for creatures to recognize their accountability to God. Each person is not only invited to come to Jesus for salvation; each person is commanded to come. When a person receives the free gift of salvation, everything must be reorganized around the lordship of Jesus Christ. Hedges writes, “The cosmic regeneration will be nothing less than the reordering of the entire universe under the lordship of Jesus Christ and God his Father.” In other words, as stated above, the implications of the gospel are both personal and cosmic. Each follower of Christ is commissioned, then, to share this timeless story to the nations!

There is much to commend in The Story of His Glory. The writing is clear and exalts the triune God. The author sets forth a basic biblical theology that is both understandable and engaging. He introduces the high points of God’s historical redemptive purposes. Other books that present a strong case for biblical theology include God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment by James Hamilton, Kingdom Through Covenant by Peter Gentry and Steven Wellum, The Kingdom of God and the Glory of the Cross by Patrick Schreiner, Biblical Theology by Nick Roark and Robert Cline, and What is Biblical Theology? by James Hamilton. Each of these books is valuable in its own right. Hedge’s book is the shortest of them all. However, it is also the most likely to be read because of its readable format.

This work is so valuable that each incoming member of the church where I serve as senior pastor will receive a copy. It is also a fitting gift for unbelievers. Such a gift will undoubtedly spark discussion and open doors for conversation about the gospel.

The Story of His Glory may possibly be the shortest book you’ll read all year. But it will surely be among the most powerful.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

BOOK REVIEWS

Story of Redemption Bible

Since introduces the ESV, its popularity has been unparalleled. Several noteworthy publications have been launched, including the Gospel Transformation Bible, Reformation Study Bible, and the ESV Readers’ Bible.

In 2001, Crossway Books introduced the English Standard Version (ESV). After reading about the translation philosophy and the scholars involved in the project, I was convinced that this translation would serve as my primary preaching and teaching Bible. For nearly twenty years, I have enjoyed the ESV and recommended it to many people.

The newest ESV project the Story of Redemption Bible: A Journey through the Unfolding Promises of God. What makes this version of the English Standard version special is the emphasis upon biblical theology. This Bible is edited by Greg Gilbert and contains almost 900 notes of commentary. These notes help readers see and understand the metanarrative that explodes in the biblical text. Creation, fall, redemption, and consummation are the worldview pillars that help readers connect the dots of redemptive history.

The Story of Redemption Bible is a stunning book. The hardback edition is both stout and sturdy. But it is also beautiful. The publisher went to great lengths to make the font readable, which makes the biblical text stand out. The commentary by Gilbert is sprinkled throughout the text in a thoughtful way. What is especially appealing is that the commentary is always subordinate to the biblical text.

I commend the Story of Redemption Bible and trust that it will serve thousands and thousands of Christ-followers for many generations to come.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

BOOK REVIEWS

Biblical and Theological Studies: A Student’s Guide – Michael Wilkins & Erik Thoennes

wilkinsMichael J. Wilkins & Erik Thoennes, Biblical and Theological Studies (Wheaton: Crossway, 2018), 127 pp.

Almost thirty-five years ago, I sat in my first undergraduate Bible course. It was a steep uphill climb that involved a whole new vocabulary. Those days were both exciting and daunting. One of the missing pieces of my education was a clear big picture. Michael Wilkins and Erik Thoennnes offer exactly what I needed in the early years of my theological education in their book, Biblical and Theological Studies: A Student Guide.

At the heart of this work is a deep and passionate desire to equip the next generation of Christian leaders. This goal is achieved in a short book that delivers a powerful message. The authors provide an overview of what constitutes a solid and substantial Christian education. Two primary aspects are presented, namely, biblical and theological studies. Six attitudes are commended for anyone who truly desires to grow theologically:

  1. We should study the Bible with fear and worship of God.
  2. We should study the Bible with growing humility about ourselves.
  3. We should study with prayerful dependence on the Holy Spirit.
  4. We should study the Bible with eager expectation to learn much but also expecting to find great mystery and challenges to our thinking.
  5. We should study the Bible with humble obedience.
  6. We should study the Bible with heartfelt gratitude and joy.

These attitudes are the necessary prerequisites for anyone who is truly seeking God and desires a theological education that is transformational. To jettison these attitudes is not an act of foolishness; it is a sign that pride has taken root, which ultimately leads to ruinous results.

Moving forward with the proper foundation, Wilkens and Thoennes guide readers through the theological forest. Along the way, they explain the differences between biblical theology and systematic theology. The journey includes each of the necessary steps that will ultimately lead willing students to the Celestial City.

Biblical and Theological Studies is a basic book. It is also an essential book that should be carefully devoured by undergraduates who have their minds and hearts set on a solid theological education.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

BOOK REVIEWS

Biblical Theology – Nick Roark and Robert Cline (2018)

bibNick Roark & Robert Cline, Biblical Theology: How the Church Faithfully Teaches the Gospel. Wheaton: Crossway, 2018, 160 pp. $12.48

One of the critical components of the Christian life involves understanding Scripture and applying it to our lives. This unavoidable goal is at the heart of Nick Roark and Robert Cline’s book, Biblical Theology: How the Church Faithfully Teaches the Gospel. The authors join forces and present one of the shortest and most profound treatments of biblical theology on the market today.

Biblical theology provides an accurate framework for understanding the Bible. “It is,” as the authors write, “the scriptural roadmap that leads to Jesus … Biblical theology is for the church, begins with the Bible, and ends with King Jesus and his church.”

Unfortunately, the discipline of biblical theology tends to get overlooked or underemphasized in some churches and theological academies. Many are being taught to examine the finer details of Scripture, yet they miss the overarching meta-narrative. In the final analysis, they miss the “forest for the trees.” Roark and Cline make it clear that Jesus Christ is the Hero of the Bible. Their excellent work beautifully articulates the plot line of Scripture and draws readers to the person and work of the Lord Jesus.

Biblical Theology is a breath of fresh theological air that will help encourage and edify the church and lead her down the proper path and greatly glorify God. Highly recommended!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

BOOK REVIEWS

The City of God and the Goal of Creation – T. Desmond Alexander (2018)

cityT. Desmond Alexander, The City of God and the Goal of Creation. Wheaton: Crossway, 2018, 190 pp,  $15.99

“God’s purpose in creating this world is to establish a resplendent metropolis that will fill the earth, where God will reside in harmony with humans,” says T. Desmond Alexander. The author’s latest work, entitled The City of God and the Goal of Creation is a book that tackles the important subject of biblical theology. Alexander’s book is the latest offering in Crossway’s Biblical Series which is sure to please readers accustomed to solid scholarship.

The aim of the book is to present the biblical reality which concerns the city of God, which stands at the heart of God’s redemptive purposes. The author begins in the garden of Eden which “anticipates God and humanity dwelling together in harmony.” Sin short-circuits the hope of a temple-city but God is committed to his original plan.

Alexander carefully guides readers through the various minefields that surface in Scripture, all of which are a part of God’s sovereign plan. The trajectory which anticipates the city of God is a theme that runs through the entirety of the book and finds its culmination in the New Jerusalem which will be fulfilled when Christ returns.

The City of God and the Goal of Creation is short but packed with theological nuggets that should attract readers drawn to eschatology and beyond. This is a dense work that invites careful study and contemplation and promises some special challenges for readers with a commitment to Dispensational theology. This work is a true feast that will cause students to dig deeper into God’s Word and greatly anticipate the goal of creation, the city of God.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

BOOK REVIEWS

Covenant and God’s Purpose for the World – Thomas Schreiner (2017)

covenantThomas R. Schreiner, Covenant and God’s Purpose For the World, Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2017, 136 pp. $9.97

Biblical theology is the discipline that reveals the storyline of Scripture. It looks at the big picture, which begins at creation and culminates with the new earth, where God makes all things new. “The purpose of biblical theology,” according to James Hamilton “is to sharpen our understanding of the theology contained in the Bible itself through an inductive, salvation-historical examination of the Bible’s themes and the relationships between those themes in their canonical context and literary form.”1

Thomas Schreiner makes a significant contribution to the field of biblical theology with his latest work, Covenant and God’s Purposes For the World. This volume, which is part of Crossway’s Short Studies in Biblical Theology Series is not as extensive as Hamilton’s work noted above or Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum’s, excellent volume, Kingdom Through Covenant. But the brevity of Schreiner’s short book is a real strength, as we shall see.

Dr. Schreiner’s book unpacks the various covenants that unfold in Redemptive history including the covenant with creation, Noah, Abraham, Israel, David, and the new covenant. “The covenants,” writes Schreiner, “help us, then, to see the harmony and unity of the biblical message.” Ultimately, the author achieves this goal as he alerts readers to the apex of God’s saving work: “The promises of Abraham are fulfilled in the new covenant that Jesus brings, for he is the true offspring of Abraham, and all those who belong to him are the children of Abraham. The land promise is fulfilled in an inaugural way in his resurrection and then in a consummate way in the new creation.”

Covenant and God’s Purposes For the World demolishes the “cookie cutter” approach to hermeneutics that Dispensationalism offers. In its place, is a clear portrait of God’s redemptive plans for his people – a plan that promises “a new world of peace and righteousness is coming in which God the Lamb will reign … The promise that David won’t lack a man on the throne is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He reigns now from heaven at God’s right hand as the son of David, as and Lord and Christ.”

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

  1. James Hamilton, God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 47.
Biblical Theology · BOOK REVIEWS

WHAT IS BIBLICAL THEOLOGY? – James M. Hamilton Jr. (2014)

Biblical Theology is “interpretive perspective reflected in the way the biblical authors 1433537710_bhave presented their understanding of earlier Scripture, redemptive history, and the events they are describing, recounting, celebrating, or addressing in narratives, poems, proverbs, letters, and apocalypses.”  So says, James Hamilton in his latest work, What is Biblical Theology?

Hamilton is no stranger to the world of biblical theology.  In 2010, he wrote God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment, a book that I devoured and greatly benefitted from.  In many ways, What is Biblical Theology? could serve as a sort of introduction to the earlier work as it summarizes the important discipline of Biblical Theology.

The sub-title accurately reflects the essential nature of the book: “A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns.”  One important question that Hamilton addresses is, “How is God going to bless Gentiles in Abraham’s seed?”  Ultimately we learn that “all families of the earth will be blessed in the seed of Abraham, Jesus the Messiah” (Gal. 3:14-16).  But Hamilton leaves no room for ambiguity here: “Gentile Christians enjoy all the blessings given to Israel in the Old Testament” (Eph. 1:3-14).

The emphasis on continuity is a breath of fresh air, especially to one like myself who was trained with the presuppositions of classical dispensationalism.  The remainder of the book explores these and related themes.  In the final sense, the author seeks to draw readers into the drama of the biblical plot line.  Of course, he should receive high marks for writing a book that mines out the deep truths of Scripture in clear and winsome ways.

Readers who are interested in other works of biblical theology should turn to The King in His Beauty by Tom Schreiner and Kingdom Through Covenant: A Biblical Understanding of the Covenants by Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum.

5 stars