Review: D. A. Carson’s A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Praying with Paul (Baker Academic)

When I first became a Christian the primary way that I learned to pray was by praying the prayers in Scripture. Sometimes I prayed them word-for-word, but often I would take texts as launching points and then move on to pray in my own words according to the structure, content, and principle illuminated in them. Though I later made two Christian friends who prayed amazingly eloquent and Spirit-filled (not pretentious) prayers, in my early months as a Christian I didn't encounter a pray-er whose praying I wanted to emulate. I don't think my struggle to find a model of prayer outside the Bible is uncommon. Cartoonist Adam Ford has humorously portrayed the way many Christians pray in a comic titled, “If we talked to people the way we talk to God” (see comic to right).

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Review: Alistair C. Stewart’s The Original Bishops

Alistair Stewart has written a behemoth in The Original Bishops. Let me be frank up front, Stewart’s level of writing is fairly beyond me. Theology is my specialty. This is a scholarly evaluation of church history, extra-Biblical documents, and Biblical texts concerned with church authority and leadership. The end result, The Original Bishops is an overwhelming amount of condensed information to challenge long held presuppositions concerning church leadership and how this authority developed historically.

In light of my limited knowledge, I chose to focus on Stewart’s contention that most scholarly works “repeat the same ‘facts’” (23) in defense of their ecclesiology. These “facts” are the basis of most evangelical and conservative works that I have read and dealt more directly with the Biblical text. The major (and familiar) points Stewart strives to show as “baseless” include “the synonymy of episkopos and presbyteros, the emergence of a monepiskopos from a collective presbyterate, and the origin of presbyteroi in the synagogues” (23).

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Review: Bruce Ellis Benson’s Liturgy as a Way of Life

Liturgy as a Way of Life is part of “The Church and Postmodern Culture” series from Baker Academic under the editorship of James K. A. Smith. The aim of this series is to “bring together high-profile theorists in continental philosophy and contemporary theology to write for a broad, nonspecialist audience interested in the impact of postmodern theory on the faith and practice of the church” (from series preface). I was drawn to this particular title because the arts have always been a huge part of my life – from playing classical piano and participating in choirs, plays, and musicals throughout my youth (all prior to my Christian conversion) to leading musical worship and participating in a performing arts ministry as a Christian. However, this book is not specifically aimed at people like me; it was written for everyone, not just artists in the usual/technical sense.

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Review: James K. A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom

James K. A. Smith offers a vision for discipleship that’s divergent from the prevailing vision in American evangelicalism. The American church tradition has valued right doctrine and aimed at the head. We have Sunday Schools to teach our children the facts, catechisms, one-on-one discipleship programs where material is read and rehearsed. All of this is good. Right doctrine is a matter of life or death.

Smith says, “[The] gospel[’s . . . ] power is beauty, which speaks to our deepest desires and compels us to come not with dire moralisms but rather with a winsome invitation to share in this envisioned good life” (21).

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Review: Joel B. Green’s The New Testament and Ethics

Christian ethics remains a matter of conversation and difficult questions (xiv-xv). The discussion of Christian ethics is both one of hermeneutics and exegesis as well as historical and Biblical theology. The New Testament and Ethics: A Book-By-Book Survey (henceforth The New Testament and Ethics) presents itself as a resource to further these discussions and answer these questions.

With writing from over 20 authors, edited by Joel Green, The New Testament and Ethics provides a brief examination of each Biblical book, significant shared concepts in the Scriptures, and examples of cultural, Jewish and Hellenistic, impact on the early church fathers. Each topic is broken into chapters that are subsequently split into short article length sections. The result is a resource with clear delineations and easy to consume material. Each section can be an enjoyable read on its own or in the scope of the larger classification.

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