Review: Waiting for the Rest That Still Remains

Waiting for the Rest That Still Remains, Arie C. Leder. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2021.

Summary: A consideration of the theology of the former prophets, including the Book of Ruth, considered through the lens of rest.

The books known as the former prophets, including the Book of Ruth, constitute both a significant amount of material in the Old Testament, and cover the history from Joshua preparing to cross Jordan to the heights of the reigns of David and Solomon, the divided kingdom, apostasy, and conquest of first Israel and then Judah, with the people in exile in Babylon–seven centuries.

Is there a theological thread that ties it all together? Arie C. Leder proposes that the thread is one of rest. The center point is Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kings 8:56 in which Solomon praises God “who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised.” This book explores this theological theme, connecting this back to Genesis through Deuteronomy, considering the echoes of this theme in the New Testament as well as implications for the church today.

After four chapters laying the groundwork, Leder devotes a chapter each to Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel and Kings. In Joshua we witness the Lord giving the land of Canaan into their hands but at the end, not completely at rest from their enemies. Rest would hinge on their faithfulness to their covenant vows at Shechem. Sadly, Judges reveals a nation that chooses to do what is right in its own eyes rather than keep covenant. They rob themselves of rest as God abandons them to their enemies, and their own internal conflicts. Amid the chaos, we focus in on Naomi, Boaz, and Ruth. Naomi returns to the land of promise bereft, except for Ruth who has abandoned her family, home, and gods to embrace those of Naomi. But most of all, Boaz shows the covenant faithfulness in extending his wings of protection over Ruth, and Naomi, establishing the line of kings. They find rest, and so much more.

The land who lacked a king finally receives one in the books of Samuel–first Saul, who fails to obey the word of God wholeheartedly, and then David, the man after God’s own heart. This doesn’t mean sinlessness, and results in unrest in his own house, but his humbling himself in repentance means not only pardon but rest from his enemies all about, a gift to his son Solomon, who builds the temple where the ark of the covenant rests. Leder unpacks the prayer, noting six petitions in the promised land, and a seventh that prays toward the land, recognizing the possibility of exile. Then, beginning with his own reign and the gods of his foreign wives, Solomon sets the precedent interrupted only by Hezekiah and Josiah of following foreign gods and leading Israel astray both in worship and covenant obedience. And they no longer find rest in the land but must pray from Babylon.

While a remnant returns, there is a sense in which exile has not ended and rest still remains to be found. Yet, there is a kind of rest even in exile, whether for Israel or for the church, found in remaining in the promise, the covenant of God. Leder draws upon this covenant framework as a guide to what may be appropriated from these ancient texts. Often, the former prophets are neglected, apart from a few selective texts often subjected to moralizing sermons. Leder helps us connect these books to the rest lost in Eden to the sabbath rest for the people of God in Hebrews and the new garden city of Revelation. This is good biblical theology that invites us to look at these books with new eyes and recognize afresh the wonder of a collection of so many works that weave together into one story.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: The Theology of Jeremiah

The Theology of Jeremiah, John Goldingay. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021.

Summary: A survey of the life of Jeremiah, the composition of the book, and the theological themes running through it.

The book of Jeremiah is a formidable book to study. It is a long book, one John Goldingay likens to a series of blog posts stitched together into a scroll, the contexts of which are not always apparent. It covers over forty years. Its author was reviled by many, ending up carried off to Egypt while many of his people were relocated to Babylon and those who remained in Judea struggled to eke out an existence.

This book is not a commentary to unpack the tough textual questions (the author has written one of these as well). Rather, what John Goldingay does is help us see the forest instead of just the trees, as well as the rivers, fields and hills. He looks at Jeremiah’s life and literally overviews the book forward and back. Then he considers the major theological themes running through the book.

He begins with Jeremiah’s life and the kings during whose reigns he prophesied largely unheeded (apart from Josiah). Goldingay stresses how he both embodies the faithfulness to which Israel was called, and in the treatment of Israel, he reflects how they are in fact treating God. He considers the composition of “Jeremiah,” originally a scroll of messages read to and burned by Jehoiakim, subsequently a scroll Goldingay believes his followers compiled of his messages in the years following his exile and after his death. He takes a retrospective view of Jeremiah’s life that he believes reflects the retrospective vision of the scroll of Jeremiah. He then traces the themes of the various sections of the two parts, chapters 1-25 and 26-52. He walks through various divisions that he singles out with “Begins with: Think About…” and then walks through the section concluding with a section outline. For example Jeremiah 2-6 is “Begins with: Think About the Exodus” the subject of chapter 2 followed a call to turn back to God in chapter 3, warnings of devastation in chapter 4, condemnation of their unfaithfulness and injustice to the poor in chapter 5, and warnings of devastation from the north because they have been judged and found wanting in chapter 6.

The second part of the book centers around biblical theology, considering five theological ideas and how they are unpacked in Jeremiah. They are:

  1. God
  2. The People of God
  3. Wrongdoing
  4. Being a Prophet
  5. The Future

The chapter on the people of God is rich with reflection on all God wanted (and wants) for his people. a possession belonging to God, a household, a community, a country and domain, a city and also a sabbath resting place. God wants for them well-being and good leadership. The chapter on “wrongdoing” delineates the ways God’s people turn from him. The chapter on being a prophet includes a striking list of the qualities of prophets evident in Jeremiah the man and the book: do they say the opposite of what we think? do they get attacked by the people of God and especially their leaders? do they love the people of God? and do they intercede? to name a few. Each of the chapters reflects on the implications of these themes in a Christian context.

This book is both concise (140 pages plus a page of commentary recommendations and scripture index) and rich. Leaving exegesis to the commentaries, Goldingay helps us make sense of the whole scroll, the collection of messages (blog posts) over 40 years, the section themes, and the larger theological themes. This is invaluable for anyone studying, teaching, or preaching this book who has to make sense both to oneself and others the message of the sections of the book and the recurring themes of the whole. This helps us move from the information of exegesis to the formation we long for in our lives and those with whom we share this rich and complicated text called Jeremiah.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: Rebels and Exiles

Rebels and Exiles (Essential Studies in Biblical Theology), Matthew S. Harmon. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2020.

Summary: A study of the theme of exile throughout the Bible, from the garden, to the warnings and reality of Israel’s exile, the return from exile accomplished by Christ, realized in part even while his people remain exiles awaiting the new creation.

I have to admit, I have really liked the volumes of the Essential Studies in Biblical Theology that I have read. Each surveys a key theme that may be traced through scripture, both its significance in historical context and for believers in the present. Each volume is biblically grounded, reflects current scholarship, and readable for the non-specialist. This volume is no exception as Matthew S. Harmon traces the theme of exile through scripture.

He begins with Adam and Eve in Genesis, yielding to the temptations of rebellion and idolatry. Harmon draws this conclusion explaining the significance of the exile from Eden:

The message could not be clearer: rebellion and idolatry result in exile–separation from the presence of God. As pure holiness, God cannot allow sinful humanity access to his garden sanctuary, so he drives the couple out. To ensure that they can never reenter the garden, God places cherubim at the entrance as angelic guardians in conjunction with a flaming sword that turned in every direction. God ensures that humanity can never again access the Tree of Life at the center of his garden sanctuary. Yes, they are still divine image bearers. But now they must live out this reality in exile, away from the presence of their Maker.

Matthew S. Harmon, p. 15.

Harmon then traces God’s plan to work through Abraham to bring an end to exile. But first his grandson Jacob and his twelve sons must spend 400 years away from the land in Egypt. God makes them a people and brings them into the land under Moses and Joshua, with warnings that if they forsake the law of the covenant, they will be forsaken in exile. They rebel and God keeps his promise, as first the northern kingdom is defeated by Assyria, and later the south goes into exile in Babylon. Repentance brings return in 538 BC, and yet exile continues as they live under foreign rulers. Full restoration occurs only when Jesus dies for their sins, rises to life and ascends to rule.

One of the highlights of this book for me was the study of the various letters that speak of God’s people as redeemed and yet exiles in the world, called to live as imitators of Christ and citizens of heaven while still in exile, a unique way to cast our already/not yet condition. The study concludes with the final end of exile in the new creation.

The concluding chapter draws seven implications of the biblical material on exile. We are enabled to understand:

  1. Who God is and his plan for this world.
  2. Who we are as human beings.
  3. What is wrong with this world.
  4. What God has done to fix this broken world through Jesus.
  5. That this world is not our true home.
  6. How to live as God’s people in this world.
  7. Where our true hope lies.

Particularly compelling is this idea of understanding why we have this sense of longing for we know not what or where. Carson McCullers writes, “We are homesick most for the places we have never known.” C.S. Lewis describes “desire for our own far off country . . . for something that has never actually appeared in our experience.” Longing is the proper response for exiles who are still far from home.

Harmon helps us read the narrative of scripture through the lens of exile, making sense of our condition and God’s big story. It is a story that addresses our deepest longings and the source where we find hope.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: Ecology and the Bible

Ecology and the Bible, Frédéric Baudin. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2020.

Summary: A study of the biblical material on ecology, and how it bears on our current crises.

Imagine an art patron leaving a priceless Cezanne in your care. You fail to dust it, leave it in the sun, allow your children to play underneath it leading to inevitable damage. It is irreparably damaged and you turn the painting toward the wall. Then the owner returns. The author of this book suggests this as an analogy for our care of the creation God has entrusted to us.

The aim of this work is to consider our present ecological crisis in the light of scripture, particularly in light of God’s mandate for human beings. Baudin begins with considering Genesis 1:28 and our stewardship mandate. He looks at the words used that underline our role to properly manage God’s creation, an earthly temple we guard and serve, language used for those who do this later on in Israel’s temple. Instead of exercising proper dominion, they submit to the serpent, and begin, as fallen creatures, to misuse the creation. In various ways, we exceed the laws and boundaries God sets for his world, including sabbath.

In the gospel, we are reconciled to the creation we had been alienated from, which is not an invitation to exploitation but care and restoration. The continuities and discontinuities between the creation and the new creation challenge us to not put all our hope in our work in this world while living in the hope that our work in caring for creation will matter in the new creation. Baudin discusses this eschatology in light of competing ideologies and various conceptions of the millenium.

Having considered the biblical narrative from creation to new creation, Baudin then turns to a discussion that moves “from theory to practice.” He explores the relation of economy and ecology, not merely in the etymology of the words, but how these interact in modern life, particularly in consumerism and advancing technology. He discusses politics on the global scale in which ecological decisions must be made. He turns to the efforts of Christians. and emphasizes the unique contribution our trust in the providence of God, shaping the tenor of our care of creation, putting God first, then people, and finally the welfare of the whole creation.

This work combines solid treatment of the scriptures, particularly apparent in the discussion of continuity and discontinuity in the New Testament. Given the work was originally in French, it reflects a European perspective. I would also note that whether it was an issue in the original text or the translation, the writing is characterized by the passive voice making reading more difficult. However the combination of solid treatment of scripture and the global perspective makes this a valuable work for Christians who would root their ecological thinking in scripture.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: Exodus Old and New

Exodus Old and New (Essential Studies in Biblical Theology), L. Michael Morales. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2020.

Summary: A study of the Exodus theme from its anticipation with Abraham, to the exodus from Egypt, the prophesied second exodus and the new exodus of Jesus the Messiah.

The story of the exodus of Israel from Egypt has been an inspiration for three millenia. L. Michael Morales also shows how the exodus is one of the most significant themes running through scripture. Allusions to the exodus may be found from Genesis to Revelation. In fact the themes of both exile and exodus are evident in Genesis, in the life of Abraham who comes up out of Egypt, and Jacob and his family going down into exile in Egypt.

In Part 1, he develops the exodus theme in Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. The hardening of Pharoah’s heart lead to the glorification of God above all. The great serpent is defeated, first in the signs, and then the passage through the Red Sea. The Passover leads to the deliverance of the first born sons of Israel from a plague that otherwise would strike then down. Moses serves as the pattern of the servant who leads God’s people out of exile. He also traces the cultic pattern of expiation, consecration, and fellowship in the offerings at the tabernacle. His discussion of angels and the day of Atonement was illuminating: the entry into the Holy of Holy between the two angels on the atonement cover, dealing with the sin of Eden, the exile from which involved passage between two angels guarding Eden. Likewise he notes the two angels at the empty tomb of Jesus.

Redemption from Egypt, consecration at Sinai, and the consummation of the fellowship between God and Israel on Mount Zion with the building of the temple is followed by apostasy, and eventually exile. The prophets who spoke during this period spoke of a second exodus leading to a renewed consecration and a renewed relationship with God. The return from Babylon fulfills this in part. But there is the mysterious character of the servant, sometimes identified as Israel, sometimes as Israel personified in a person, one who would suffer, and redeem.

Part Three explores the identity and work of the Servant, who is revealed to be Jesus. He is the Passover lamb. He passes through the water of baptism to forty days in the wilderness. His death is referred to as an “exodus.” In his resurrection, he leads his new people, formed by his Spirit into a new holy temple, into the new creation.

Morales does a wonderful service of showing the coherence of scripture as a single, unfolding story. The diagrams in the book crystallize the patterns to which he calls attention. One marvels that Israel’s exodus points to ours and Moses the servant points to Jesus our servant, and that the lamb slain on Passover points to the final Passover Lamb. Morales builds up these patterns throughout the book until we see how all of them answer in Christ.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: Biblical Theology According to the Apostles

Biblical Theology According to the Apostles (New Studies in Biblical Theology), Chris Bruno, Jared Compton, Kevin McFadden. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2020.

Summary: A study of the summaries of Israel’s story in the New Testament and their culmination in the person of Christ.

The co-authors of this work call attention to a form of material not often paid heed to in the New Testament: the summaries of Israel’s story (SIS for short). They focus on seven SIS in the New Testament, and for each consider its context, content, and contribution to biblical theology. The seven are, with brief summaries of their contribution to biblical theology”

Matthew 1:1-17. Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus. The build-up from Matthew to David, then the interruption of Israel’s hope in the exile, brought full circle with the birth of Jesus.

Matthew 21:33-46. The parable of the unfaithful tenants. The story of judgment upon Israel for failing to fulfill its covenant obligations and the culmination of the covenant in the rejected stone who becomes the holy mountain.

Acts 7. Stephens speech. Traces God’s vindication of his rejected servants climaxing in Christ whom the religious leaders had rejected.

Acts 13:16-41. Paul’s sermon in Pisidian Antioch. Traces the unfolding covenant from Abraham to Moses focusing on David and Christ, David’s greater son.

Galatians 3-4. Paul’s three versions of Abraham’s (and Israel’s) story in relation to the law and his offspring, Christ, and those who by faith are also his offspring, heirs by faith and promise, not law.

Romans 9-11. Israel’s identity. Israel by descent and by faith and the salvation of all Israel, on which the authors do not agree as to interpretation.

Hebrews 11. Israel’s heroes of faith. The authors observe the twin themes of social alienation and death and their heavenly hope fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus.

The authors note a number of threads running through these stories, most notably how they climax in Christ who resolves the tension of the seemingly failed land promises and exile. They highlight Abraham and David, who prefigure Christ, and Moses, more complex both as a figure of faith and the bringer of the Law. All told, the authors show how these summaries of Israel’s story contribute to the larger compositions in which they are embedded, focusing on Christ as covenant fulfillment and the example of persisting faith as an encouragement to an often-suffering church.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit (Theology for the People of God), Gregg R. Allison & Andreas J. Kostenberger. Nashville: B & H Academic, 2020.

Summary: First in a new series, a biblical and systematic theology of the Holy Spirit, evangelical and continuationist, but not pentecostal.

If the inaugural volume of this new series, “Theology for the People of God,” is any indication, this should be an outstanding set. Each volume pairs two theologians, one in biblical theology, and one in systematic theology to provide an integrated approach deeply rooted in the biblical text.

This approach forms the organization of this book in which the first half is devoted to biblical theology, carefully considering each relevant text on the Holy Spirit in each book and major portion of scripture, followed by synthesizing the teaching of all of scripture on various theological aspects of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. It is an approach that is thorough, covering the ground, while providing notes and references for those who wish to dig deeper.

A few highlights for each part. In the biblical theology section, each chapter, or sometimes, subsection, provides a chart with all the references to the Holy Spirit and a phrase summarizing the content. One old Testament highlight was the discussion of the Holy Spirit in Isaiah, anointing the Messiah, and empowering the servant of the Servant Songs to bring good news to the poor, and the Spirit’s role in the new exodus and the new creation.

The New Testament portion was lengthier, with treatment of the gospels, Acts, the Pauline works, the general epistles, and Revelation. Kostenberger summarizes the Spirit’s work in Acts with seven points that will preach!

  1. The Spirit is a person and clearly divine.
  2. The Spirit establishes the eschatological messianic community of the exalted Jesus.
  3. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of mission.
  4. The Spirit fills all believers.
  5. The Spirit is the Spirit of prophecy.
  6. The Spirit convicts people and holds them to moral standards.
  7. The Holy Spirit directs the affairs of the church.

The section on systematic theology left me at times worshiping God the Spirit and our wondrous Triune God. After an introduction laying out methodology and themes, Allison begins with the deity, the intratrinitarian relations and trinitarian processions. Careful discussion delineates both the inseparability of the works of Father, Son, and Spirit, and yet what may be said to be specific to each. Then, in successive chapters, the author discusses the Spirit in creation and providence, in relation to the inspiration and illumination of scripture, a fascinating chapter distinguishing the Spirit and angelic beings, the Spirit’s relation to human beings and sin, the Spirit’s work Christ, salvation, the church, and the future. The author addresses contemporary issues in pneumatology (the three ages, Spirit-emphasizing movements, and the Spirit and theology of religions). The concluding chapter is applicative, addressing our worship of the Spirit, our reliance on the Spirit’s illuminating work, our thanksgiving for the Spirit’s application of Christ’s work in our life, and keeping in step with and being guided by the Spirit.

The book is marked by a clarity of language and explanation and summary throughout, making this a great text for a course in theology or for the lay person wishing to understand more deeply the person and work of the Spirit. One possible criticism of the work is little engagement with theologians in the developing world. Inclusion of theological discussions and issues outside the white European and North American contexts will make this a more broadly useful text. The authors do engage pentecostal and charismatic theology, appreciative of the emphasis on the ministry of the Spirit, affirming, against some Reformed understanding, the continuation of the gifts and empowering work of the Spirit for mission. However they would associate the baptism of the Holy Spirit with conversion and not as a second and subsequent act. The response is gracious, and they denounce the vitriol that has often existed. The concluding pastoral applications are worth the price of the book.

In sum, this book sets a high bar for this series, marked as it is by an approach in which systematic theology is built on biblical theology. It models this work well for young pastors and theologians and offers the clarity of teaching that both preserves doctrinal integrity, and warmth of devotion.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: Seeing by the Light

Seeing by the Light: Illumination in Augustine’s and Barth’s Readings of John, (Studies in Christian Doctrine and Scripture), Ike Miller. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2020.

Summary: A study on the doctrine of illumination examining how both Augustine and Barth exposited this doctrine in the gospel and letters of John.

Through most of my Christian life I’ve thought of illumination primarily in terms of the work of the Holy Spirit in opening my understanding and my heart to the scriptures. Drawing upon John 15:26-27 and John 16:13-15, I understood the work of the Spirit as pointing to Christ, testifying to and glorifying him, and instructing in all things.

In Ike Miller’s study of John’s writings, he affirms and elaborates this into a much fuller understanding of illumination in the economy of the Trinity, and in the experience of the believer. To do so, Miller studies Augustine’s homilies on John and previously untranslated lectures on John by Karl Barth.

In the first two parts, Miller successively treats Augustine and Barth. In each part he begins first with their methods of theological interpretation, helpful in each case in understanding how they worked with texts and reached the conclusions they did. Then Miller looks at the doctrine of illumination in each interpretation of John. Finally, he sets this within the larger context of the theologian’s doctrine of illumination, finding these largely consistent.

Part three then synthesizes the material in arguing that John’s gospel is a narrative of illumination. This begins with John’s prologue to his gospel, with God’s nature as light, life-giving light in the creation, light on a mission in the Son, coming into the world to bring light in the darkness, and the experience through the Spirit of coming to see the light and walking in it in a new life of faith and ongoing obedience. He goes on to discuss illumination in our reading of scripture, and in our human experience.

All of this leads Miller to a fresh definition of illumination:

[I]llumination is human participation in the Son’s knowledge of the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit. In language more attuned to the language of illumination, it is human participation in the light of the divine life.

Lest readers think Miller is jumping on the participation bandwagon in contemporary theology, he demonstrates how this idea is found in Augustine’s study, not of Paul, but of John. He moves us beyond the knowledge of scripture to the knowledge of God through the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. He goes beyond mere cognition to the experience of the believer in ongoing dependence upon the light for our lives.

All of this makes for a rich study of illumination, exposing most of us to new material in Augustine and Barth, and a far greater vision of the Triune God’s illumination work in creation and salvation. In doing so, we see yet another of the wonders of the grace of God, through the coming of the Son bringing light into the darkness, and through the Spirit for illumining minds and hearts to see this light and come to it.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: Paul and the Language of Faith

Paul and the Language of faith

Paul and the Language of Faith, Nijay K, Gupta (Foreword by James D. G. Dunn). Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2020.

Summary: A study of the word pistis, often translated as “faith” as used in the writings of Paul, the rest of scripture, as well as in literature contemporary to the time, showing the rich nuances of meaning that must be determined by context.

In recent Pauline scholarship, perhaps no matter has been discussed more than how pistis, the word most often translated as “faith” might be understood. Underlying this are concerns of faith versus works, our understand of the continuity and distinction between Old Covenant and New, the place of human agency, and divine providence in our salvation, and epitomizing all of this, how one translates the Pauline phrase pistis Christou. Traditionally this has been translated “faith in Christ” but equally, it could be translated “the faithfulness of Christ,” depending on one’s interpretation of the genitive form of Christou.

Nijay K. Gupta takes a different slant on this discussion. He focuses in closely on the usages of the word pistis in both biblical texts and literature roughly contemporary to it. In so doing, he helps us to see that it is a word rich in meaning, variously reflecting ideas of trust, faithfulness, doctrinal beliefs, loyalty, and more, and that its meaning must be understood contextually, keeping all these valences of meaning in mind.

After laying out the issues he will deal with and his approach, Gupta surveys the scholarly understanding of “faith” in Paul from early and medieval times, through the Reformation, and into the modern era. Then he looks back to Jewish and non-Jewish writings, and shows that these also used the word, and that Paul did not write in a vacuum. He considers the gospels, which were still in oral tradition or beginning to be written and not likely accessible to Paul. In these he finds usages that reflect seeking, believing, trusting, and obeying. While faith looks to the efficacy of Jesus’ acts, it is not passive, but often acts on what is believed to be true.

The remainder of the book (chapter 5 onward) is devoted primarily to the Pauline corpus. Here, likewise, Gupta shows that pistis manifests in a variety of closely related nuances. In 1 Thessalonians and Philippians, the emphasis is on a faith(fulness) in adversity, in persecution and in imprisonment. Gupta also parallels Paul’s teaching to that of the letters to the churches in Revelation. In 1 Corinthians, Gupta shows that “Faith is recognition of and a living into a poverty of self-generated, self-reliant knowledge and wisdom. It is a clinging to the ‘strange wisdom’ of God in Christ Jesus.” In 2 Corinthians, faith looks not at material forms or idols but believes and lives into unseen realities, in this case a believing faith.

In his treatment of Galatians, Gupta explores the question of agency. In dealing with the question of faith and works, Gupta moves beyond the New Perspective’s Covenantal Nomism, which involves faith and the obligations of faith under the covenant, to what he calls Covenantal Pistism, where the focus is on the covenantal relationship with Christ, and the centrality of his mediatorial work, where faith is living “in Christ.” He then turns to the faith language of Romans 1:16-17, and argues for this reflecting the idea of trusting faithfulness that commits one’s life and existence to God.

Gupta engages, rather briefly, in a discussion of pistis Christou in light of his prior development of the idea of pistis. So often, this discussion runs along either-or categories of human faith, almost as a work, or the initiative of the faithfulness of Christ. He opts for a third way of understanding pistis Christou as participation in the faithfulness of Christ by a relationship of utter trust in Christ’s saving work. The translation shorthand for this, somewhat awkward, is “Christ-relation(ship).”

His final chapter then is one of synthesis, weaving together his ideas of faith as trust, belief, and faithfulness and his ideas of Christ-relation. This statement about human agency near the end seemed to me to capture the various strands of this study:

   I don’t want to belabor the point, but this retrospective discussion of the divine-human agency question, with special interest in faith language, can help to reconceive of the matter as more than a formula (what amount of divine or human contribution equals salvation?) This is a non-starter for Paul. Christ is all in all!, he would say. But we cannot discount the way πιστις functions for Paul anthropologically, epistemologically, and socially as the way believers relate to God through the Christ-relation, which is necessarily thoughtful and participatory (socially, volitionally, existentially, etc).

Gupta offers us a valuable work that moves us beyond the either-or discussions of faith and faithfulness, of sovereign grace and human agency in Paul to one that both magnifies the faithfulness of Christ and the all-embracing life of faith in relation to Christ who has acted efficaciously on our behalf on the cross. He points the way to the richness of faith in Christ, not merely affirming doctrines, or praying prayers but a life of devoted loyalty and trust in all things, because of the surpassing great work of the Faithful One.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: From Adam and Israel to the Church

From Adam and Israel

From Adam and Israel to the Church (Essential Studies in Biblical Theology [ESBT], Benjamin L. Gladd. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019.

Summary: A study of the theme of the people of God, tracing this theme throughout scripture in Eden, in Israel, in Christ, and in the church.

This is the inaugural volume of a new series looking at essential themes in the story line of scripture. This work is written by series editor Benjamin L. Gladd and traces the idea of the people of God through scripture. For many, particularly in the dispensationalist stream, this is defined by covenant with a sharp demarcation between Israel and the church.

Gladd uses a different lens, focusing on the people of God as created in the image of God, expressed in terms of the functions of king, priest, and prophet. Kings control the environment, keeping it holy. Priests both worship holy God and discern between holy and unclean. Prophets speak truth on behalf of God. Gladd also develops a three level understanding of the world that mirrors the heavenly temple with the Holy of Holies (Eden), the Holy Place (the Garden) and the outer courts (the outer world).

Gladd traces this from Eden, where Adam and Eve allow the unholy serpent into the Holy of Holies, yielding control of the environment, and shade and then disobey rather than speak the truth. He then shows how this image of God as king, priest, and prophet was reflected in the creation and fall of Israel, at Sinai, in the Tabernacle and Temple, and the nation’s decline into idolatry with unfaithful kings, apostasy with unfaithful priests, and prophets bringing the word of God competing with those who were false. Ultimately, in Nebuchadnezzar they experience what they’ve embraced in the anti-king, anti-priest, and anti-prophet. The prophets point to Israel’s restoration, centered in a person who would embody king, priest and prophet.

Jesus embodies restored Israel in his person as the ideal king who succeeds where Adam and Israel fail, and gives himself for his people as great high priest, who is also the temple, the Holy of Holies, and speaks with authority the word of God that constitutes the people of God. These people, the church are the Israel of God, displaying the image of God who rule by standing and suffering with the king, to be vindicated by God, who are priests built as a temple for God to dwell on earth and who bear prophetic witness to the world and the cosmos and stand guard against the evil one’s wiles.

Perhaps most bracing is the author’s thoughts about how kingship, priesthood, and prophets works out in the new creation:

   Perhaps another dimension of imaging God in the new creation will be the development of technology and science. Will we invent the wheel again? Will we learn how to start a fire once more? What about basic human knowledge such as math, language, music, and so on? I suspect that we will not start from scratch. One could possibly argue that we, being perfected in God’s image, will develop what we have learned in the past. The knowledge that humanity has acquired and is acquiring through observing the world around us may not only inform us about God’s creative power, but it may also prepare us for life in the new creation.

The author speaks of the wedge between Israel and the church and the church as the true Israel, the people of God who image God, in continuity with ethnic Israel. I wish the author might have said more specifically about the Jews, and about how Romans 11 might be fulfilled in this people of God. The author allows for a “remnant of Christian Jews” saved through history (p. 128-129), which seems far from explaining how “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26). He contends that the church does not replace Israel, yet he calls the church the true Israel of God. Granted that how these things shall be is unclear for any of us, this presentation seems to be murky at best.

That said, Gladd paints a picture of the people of God throughout history, a people who images God in the world, and in our own day is called to be kings who rule without exploiting, who worship God alone and commend his excellence over all worldly idols, and who prize the truth in our lives and words. We pursue these in faithfulness to the great high king, high priest and ultimate prophet, Jesus. This is not insipid pablum but strong and substantive food for the follower of Jesus. I look forward to seeing what successive volumes in this series do to enlarge on the biblical story line.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.