My chosen title shouldn’t alert you to my reflections on News stories of the last year Albert Mohler is a good place to go for that. Neither should you come here expecting to read about the controverted topics in the smaller world of Evangelicalism (e.g. the overdone saga of Rob Bell’s book – after all W.G. Scroggie, J. Wenham, J. Stott had issues with Hell too). These have their place, but I often find them somewhat boring. And anyway, why should anyone be interested in my opinions about such things?
No, I’m just going to write something about books and things.
I start with fiction. I don’t read a lot of it. But over the past three years or so I have found in it a nice diversion. Beginning early in 2011 I started reading John Buchan. Buchan was a very popular Scottish writer in the first part of the 20th Century, but by the last third of it was looked upon as a representative of old hat “stiff upper lip” British-ness. He is best known as the author of The 39 Steps; a cracking cloak and dagger which careers all over England and Scotland as its main protagonist, Richard Hannay, seeks to disembroil himself from a false murder charge. The book has spawned several movies, the best being Hitchcock’s 1935 classic starring Robert Donat. None of the movies sticks faithfully to the book. If you haven’t read it I recommend you do.
After the first Hannay adventure I was hooked and have enjoyed following Hannay’s exploits in Greenmantle and Mr Standfast, both high caliber yarns set during the Great War. I’m going to read The Three Hostages as soon as I can.
I have also been reading Margery Allingham’s “Albert Campion” mysteries. These are set in the England in the late 20’s to early 50’s and are uniformly good. Campion first appears as a side character in The Crime at Black Dudley where he basically takes over the book. He is a fascinating amateur sleuth, clearly from the upper crust, although Allingham only drops hints about his real identity throughout her books. I haven’t been careful enough to read the novels in order, though I did next pick up the first Campion mystery proper, the excellent Mystery Mile. Since then I have thoroughly enjoyed Sweet Danger, Police at the Funeral, and Tiger in the Smoke. What makes Campion interesting is the way the author makes him out to be deliberately somewhat idiotic. It’s as if he hides himself behind his large horn-rimmed specs. He is acquainted with much that is evil, even being recognized as an expert in many matters by Scotland Yard, yet he comes across as a bit of a fool. Great stuff. The old BBC series with Peter Davison does a good job of transferring the character to the screen.
Most of my reading time is spent either with the Bible or with more academic books. Albeit I have managed to peruse one or two lightweights like David Platt’s Radical, which I may summon the courage to review here soon (that’s right, I’m not that impressed). Beyond that I have been impressed by P. T. O’Brien’s new Pillar Commentary on Hebrews, and have been using Robert Gundry’s Commentary on the New Testament with real profit. Douglas McGready’s work on the preexistence of Christ called He Came Down From Heaven has been very worthwhile, as has Craig Keener’s study The Historical Jesus of the Gospels and N. T. Wright’s New Testament and the People of God. I was hoping to be on the third installment of Wright opus by now but got diverted onto other things. I am eager to explore his fully worked out views on Paul’s theology when that book finally arrives sometime in 2012. I know I shall have many disagreements, but I want to see what he has to say all the same.
Back with Jesus studies I have been very much helped by Paul R. Eddy & Greg Boyd’s The Jesus Legend, although I have not yet finished it. On the more apologetic front A. Kostenberger & M. Kruger’s The Heresy of Orthodoxy is the best argued defense against the lucrative hypothesizing of Bart Ehrmann I have seen. Erhmann is just warmed over Bauer, but people have forgotten about Bauer so it all appears new. Not so good an apologetics book in my opinion is God is Great, God is Good edited by W. L. Craig & Chad Meister. Evidential/Classical apologetics seems to give away as much as it takes. It is a fairly short step to Nancey Pearcey’s good but rather gloomy Saving Leonardo.
Turning to theology I must confess to having not completed many books. Fred Sanders’ The Deep Things of God makes the case that Christians intuitively adopt a Trinitarian outlook even though they might not be able to articulate it. Kenneth Keathley’s Salvation and Sovereignty presents a well thought out Molinist approach to the issue which deserves attention. I shall be using it alongside of Bruce Ware’s God’s Greater Good in future in my course “The Doctrine of God (2) – Creation & Providence” at Veritas. Among the unfinished volumes are Roland McCune’s Systematic Theology (1), and Greg Nichols’ Covenant Theology, the second of which, though well written, has been painful to read on account of the author’s seeming unawareness of his own assumptions.
Karl Barth has loomed in the background all year. I am midway through Volume 4.1 of his Church Dogmatics. I enjoy the challenge of Barth, and he really helps me to think through my own presuppositions. The man can play on one string for longer than any person I know. But some of what he plays is downright brilliant, whether one can completely sign off on it or not. Of one thing I am convinced. Barth was more God-fearing than many of his modern devotees.
Finally, in Biblical Studies I am looking forward to finishing Larry Helyer’s The Witness of Jesus, Paul and John. Like all Helyer’s books, this one will teach you even when you find yourself parting company with him here and there. Helyer deserves more attention than he gets.
Vying for my time in the New Year is G. K. Beale’s new tome A New Testament Biblical Theology. A kind student bought it for me for Christmas and I am already a hundred pages through it. I may try a series of blog posts through the book but I haven’t decided that yet. Beale is brilliant and I shall learn a great deal from him, but so far he has built too much conjecture into his argument for the storyline of the OT. Last but not least, John H. Sailhamer’s The Meaning of the Pentateuch, with all its editorial peccadilloes, has made an indelible impact on me. I still can’t understand how covenant theologians could hail this book in such glowing terms as they have. It contains one of the most sustained arguments against covenant theology I know of!
That’s it. Better late than never! It remains for me to thank everyone who has bothered to read my blog. May God bless you and yours. Even so, come Lord Jesus in 2012!
Fred Butler has written a nice post on his reading which is worth a read.