Tag Archives: Baker Books

God’s Good World by Jonathan R. Wilson

Jonathan R. Wilson. God’s Good World: Reclaiming the Doctrine of Creation. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013. 283 pp. $26.00. Purchase at Amazon and for Kindle for less.

Introduction

When members of my church approach me about the doctrine of creation, their questions inevitably center on issues such as the age of the earth, whether or not God used some kind of evolutionary process to create, or how long the days really were in the creation week. These are not unimportant questions. They also reflect the broader conversation in the evangelical world, even among academics. Yet they are a small part of the doctrine of creation, and overemphasizing these issues has led to a neglect of the broader biblical themes of creation. This neglect has had consequences not only for life inside the church, but also for how the church has engaged culture and lived in this world.

Summary

Jonathan Wilson, Pioneer McDonald Professor of Theology at Carey Theological College in Vancouver, aims to correct this neglect and recover a robust doctrine of creation. He builds his doctrine on two necessary truths: redemption and creation must always be kept together, and the doctrine of creation must be thoroughly Trinitarian. Ultimately the doctrine of creation is not about creation itself, but the God who creates. Wilson uses the phrase “the dialectic of the kingdom” to develop the idea that creation and redemption must be thought of and lived out together. The term “dialectic” refers to the inseparable nature of creation and redemption, while the term “kingdom” calls to mind God’s eternal plan of redeeming his creation. The reality of our Triune God also leads us to hold creation and redemption together, and Wilson emphasizes that we must have a “Trinitarian grammar of creation,” based on a Trinitarian grammar of redemption, to properly understand and live out the doctrine of creation.

God’s Good World is divided into three parts. Before developing his ideas concerning the dialectic of the kingdom or the Trinitarian grammar of creation in any depth, Wilson outlines the results of neglecting the doctrine of creation. He devotes a chapter apiece to the deficiencies he sees in the church, the academy, and society because of this neglect. These deficiencies are intertwined and include truncated theologies of salvation and the body, theological retreat, and a lack of proper creation care. Having demonstrated the need for a recovery of the doctrine of creation, Wilson then develops his main ideas, remaps the doctrine in light of those ideas, and demonstrates the Scriptural validity and foundation of his doctrine. In the last part of the book Wilson offers a series of short reflections on how the doctrine of creation should make a practical difference in our lives. His applications range from how we should worship to how we should understand science to how we should treat our bodies.

Review

The most important question to ask in evaluating a work of constructive theology such as this is: does it succeed? Does Wilson offer a biblically faithful, coherent, and relevant doctrine of creation that helps us understand and live out the doctrine in a deeper, more meaningful way? That answer is unequivocally yes. Wilson’s concepts of the dialectic of the kingdom and the Trinitarian grammar of creation are both worth careful attention. The inseparability of creation and redemption should form the foundation for how we understand creation, and without question this idea needs to be recovered and stressed in our churches. Wilson demonstrates the serious consequences of separating creation and redemption and allowing science to set the terms of how we should understand creation, instead of grounding our understanding in Christ and his Word. His practical applications of the doctrine are broad, but also contain much pastoral wisdom.

This does not mean that the book is without its flaws. Wilson takes a while before he explicitly grounds his understanding of creation in Scripture. He also avoids directly engaging some of the topics he wants to move beyond, such as creation and evolution or many of the ethical concerns associated with the doctrine of creation like sexuality, bioethics, or ecology. Wilson presents some questionable ideas without taking the time to defend them, such as claiming the Son of God would still have become incarnate even without sin, or that death existed before the Fall. He makes much of the distinction between the “world” and “creation” in order to help us understand the difference between the sin-cursed world we live in now and the redemptive aspects of God’s plan. He neglects, however, to ground this distinction exegetically, and it doesn’t quite fit with the way the Bible always uses these terms. When I checked on the website Wilson mentions in his introduction for further study and resources, I found it devoid of content.

Recommendation

None of these flaws should keep you from reading this book. As Christians we need a robust, biblical doctrine of creation in order to understand our salvation and live for God like we should. Pastors need the theological understanding to help their churches recover the fullness of the doctrine of creation and move beyond reducing it to creation vs. evolution and age of the earth debates. God’s Good World is a helpful guide.

 

 

The Imperfect Disciple by Jared C. Wilson

Wilson, Jared C. The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017. 240 pp. $14.99. Purchase at Westminster for less.

Introduction

Jared C. Wilson currently serves as the director of content strategy for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Consequently, he is also the managing editor of For The Church.  He has written numerous books and also blogs at The Gospel-Driven Church.

Summary

Divided into ten chapters over 240 pages, this book is written with the modern reader in mind. In true Jared Wilson form, the book is centered on the importance of the gospel in your every day life. Each chapter begins with the phrase, “My gospel.” Doing so helps the reader to understand that the gospel of Jesus Christ is your gospel if you have been born again. It is your gospel to use and abide by and run to when you fail. The opening chapter considers the importance of soul maintenance while chapter two hits close to home in discussing how the gospel is good news for losers.

He proceeds through eight more chapters that shows how the gospel impacts and speaks directly into your life.

Review

Wilson’s writing style is very much influenced by social media. He is full of quips and one-liners that keep the reader engaged in such a way that the pages seemingly turn themselves. Some of his one-liners are set apart in one-sentence paragraphs that scream to be shared on social media. This is not necessarily a negative but was extremely evident to me as a reader and reviewer.

The content of this book is what drives its readability, however. Wilson is able to dig in below the surface of superficiality and unearth the matters of the heart. Chapter six, “The Revolution will not be Instagrammed” should be must reading for any believer who attends worship services and has joined, or is looking to join, a local church. Chapter nine needs to be read by anyone considering the good news of the gospel to be out of their grasp.

Ultimately, Jared Wilson offers a wonderful work on the importance and messiness of discipleship in the context of real life. He confesses that we mess it up (more often than we want to admit!) but that only means that the gospel is that much more important to our daily lives.

Recommendation

There are many books on discipleship that have been used greatly in the lives of numerous Christians. The Imperfect Disciple will undoubtedly takes it rightful place on many book shelves. I recommend this book to anyone struggling with living out their Christianity in the context of everyday life. While it is a quick read, its truths are profound and will impact any reader for years to come.

Resolving Everyday Conflict by Ken Sande and Kevin Johnson

Sande, Ken and Kevin Johnson.  Resolving Everyday Conflict.  Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011.  128 pp.  $9.99.  Purchase at Westminster Books.

Introduction

Ken Sande is known for his Peacemakers Ministry.  He has authored a number of resources toward conflict resolution and offers a training course as well.  Kevin Johnson has written 50+ book and Bible products for Christians of all ages.  He used to serve as the senior editor at Bethany House Publishers but now serves as Pastor of Emmaus Roach Church in Minneapolis.

Summary

Resolving Everyday Conflict is a short read (three and a half hours for the audiobook version) but packed with a ton of useful information.  It is divided into nine chapters and begins logically with understanding the nature of conflict.  The second chapter is the foundation of the book as the author’s show that the gospel is the only hope for truly resolving conflict.

Chapters three through seven offer the nuts and bolts using the letter “G.”  Chapter eight is an exhortation to press on with deliberate love while chapter nine is more of an appendix than a concluding chapter.  Here, the reader will find discussion questions ideal for private or group study.

Review

Of course, this resource is needed today.  Everywhere you turn, you will find conflict.  What I appreciated most about this short 128 page book is that it can stand alone.  In other words, you do not need to read The Peacemaker before reading this resource.  Still, I did find there were plenty of references to The Peacemaker that reading that book first would do the reader a service and help him or her to be better equipped to Resolve Everyday Conflict.

Since this was listened to as an audiobook, a word or two is in order for the audio experience.  I found Maurice England’s narration to be well done.  His words were measured where needed and more conversational when applicable.  To be able to listen to the book in the car would be a huge benefit–especially if your conflict is at work (or in the home in which case you could listen to the audio when away from the home).

Recommendation

Who doesn’t have conflict?  If you are breathing, then you have conflict somewhere in your life.  Everyone needs to understand how to resolve conflict.  As a Christian, you need to understand how to do so biblically and in the process you will find that you are sharing the gospel with those who are unbelievers around you.  I highly recommend Resolving Everyday Conflict to any and all believers looking to equip themselves to make a difference.

Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew by Jonathan T. Pennington

Pennington, Jonathan T. Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009. 400 pp. $42.99. Purchase at Amazon for $32.67.

Introduction

Dr. Pennington is assistant professor of New Testament interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He has numerous resources available that are an excellent aid for the student learning both biblical Greek and/or Hebrew.  His audio cd’s greatly enhanced my ability to memorize my vocab words.

Summary

Dr. Pennington begins this book challenging the premise that the phrase “kingdom of heaven” found in the gospel of Matthew is a mere circumlocution used by Matthew to avoid using the name “God” (or YHWH from the OT).  He shows when and how this thinking came to be the accepted understanding of the use of this phrase.  He next convincingly argues that this is a relatively new understanding and does not have enough support to be the explanation.

After challenging this assumption, Pennington looks to the use of “kingdom of heaven” in the Old Testament as well as Second Temple Literature.  He next turns to the use of the word “heaven” in the gospel of Matthew summing up the first half with a look to the importance of the terms “heaven” and “earth” in Matthean studies throughout the age of the church.

The second part digs deeper into the Matthew’s four uses of heaven:

  • singular and plural uses in the Greek
  • the word pair heaven and earth and what it has meant from the OT on through to the NT
  • references to the Father in heaven and heavenly Father
  • “kingdom of heaven”

Ultimately, what Pennington discovers is that reading these four uses of heaven is more than an attempt at avoiding the name of God.  Rather, Matthew is painstakingly showing the real tension that currently exists between the two kingdoms–heaven and earth.  We see the universality of God’s supremacy.  Christ becomes more exalted in the gospel of Matthew and helps us to better understand the radical nature of Christ’s ethics as found in Matthew (especially in the Sermon on the Mount).

Review

This book will not be for every Christian reading this review.  This book represents Pennington’s research for his PhD (St. Andrews, Scotland, 2005).  While its depth and breadth is certainly to be commended, his ability to write such deep theology and language interactions at a level that just about anyone can understand is even more commendable.  I recommend this book to any serious student of the Scriptures.  Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew will change the way you understand and read the gospel of Matthew.  Be careful, though, since reading this book will cause you to want to get rid of any commentaries you may own on Matthew!

I have talked with the author and have learned that he is working on a new commentary on Matthew for the Pillar New Testament Commentary Series.  Though it is not due out for some time, it is certainly a commentary that will challenge much of the current scholarship on Matthew as Heaven and Earth has done already.