Theology for the Long Haul

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Book Reviews from my Winter Reading

Collected Writings on Scripture by D.A. Carson

This compilation of various essays and reviews written by D.A. Carson is the most insightful contribution to the doctrine of Scripture I have read. In his writings Carson: discusses both modern and contemporary views on the authority of Scripture, investigates the prospects of systematic theology (by responding to assertions of textual discontinuity), challenges the misappropriation of contemporary critical approaches, addresses the limits of redaction criticism, and reviews such contemporary writings as Peter Enns’ Inspiration and Incarnation and N.T. Wright’s The Last Word. Carson’s essays are robust with scholarly considerations and his reviews are distinctly comprehensive (not a surprise to anyone familiar with Carson’s writing). I recommend this volume highly, and especially for seminarians and undergraduate students seeking to grasp the Bible’s authority amidst recent and modern era criticisms.

Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman

This book was disappointing. It seems to me Ehrman’s strategy is to inform unequipped (and therefore susceptible) readers with a fraction of the historical evidence in order to force conclusions that do not (in my opinion) deal honestly with the historical evidence. Misquoting Jesus is packed full of outdated and naturalistic assumptions. Any contemporary scholar who humbly and honestly evaluates the historical data can answer Ehrman’s questions. Unfortunately, many in Ehrman’s target audience don’t know better.

If you’re struggling with Ehrman’s writings check out to see how scholar’s such as D.A. Carson, Ben Witherington III, Darrel Bock, and Alvin Plantinga respond to Ehrman’s assertions.

The Gospel of Matthew – A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary by Craig Keener

In his recently updated commentary on Matthew, Keener exhibits an expertise of Matthew’s gospel that is (in my opinion) unparalleled in recent scholarship. While exegeting the Scriptures with the same scholastic vigor as his more liberal contemporaries, Keener’s faith commitments are clear. In his introduction Keener makes the point, that though he utilizes modern critical tools, he gives the gospel writer the benefit of the doubt in historical matters. In this respect, Keener displays a commendable humility among his peers. Another laudable contribution of Keener’s volume is its application of Jesus’ teaching to contemporary society. As is the case with Matthew, discipleship is one of Keeners primary concerns. I highly recommend this volume.

Ancient Christian Commentary on Matthew by Manlio Simonetti

I haven’t read this two volume commentary through, but was given it for Christmas this year, and have used it for multiple writing and exegesis assignments. Personally, I find it fascinating to read Biblical interpretations and applications from the first few centuries of the church. I have been struck with how similar they are at times to my own. The ancient Christian Commentary will help you remember that the gospel is for all times and for all peoples.

Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster

I avoided Foster’s book for most of my Christian life because of the title. Those who do not consider themselves to be persons of great discipline will be encouraged to know that Foster is not propagating a “pull yourself up by the boot straps” form of personal sanctification. Quite to the opposite, Foster seeks to guide his readers into a deeper walk with Christ, which in turn will fuel their efforts to grow spiritually. Foster opened my eyes to new but time tested practices that have deepened my walk with Christ. If you’re looking for more focus and vitality in your devotional life I recommend this book.


  1. If you want me to review the latest Francine Rivers book to add to this list, just let me know.

  2. Phil,

    Missed you in class, but I'm so glad to finally be reading your blog. Which version of Keener is it that you are reviewing? I read the newest one 2009, I believe, for a class last year. I also strongly recommend it for scholars as well as lay people. You can't go wrong with Keener.


  3. Chris,

    Agreed... Keener is as solid as he is bright...I will be using his commentary for years to come. The volume I reviewed is the 2009 "socio-rhetorical" edition... sounds like the same one you read.

  4. Carson is a huge gift to the church. His writings are solid gold.

    I have read a little of Keener but not much. I was put off by what seemed to me to be a heavy reliance on background understanding of the text. I may be doing him an injustice.

  5. John,
    That would be Keener's strength. He does a lot of research, and quotes a lot of sources. These are probably most helpful to those who are doing research. If you are using Keener’s commentary for pastoral or devotional study, than you kinda have to take what is useful and leave the rest for another time (though I certainly do not want to encourage a dichotomy between devotional and academic reading). Keener's volume is extremely useful, but it's not the only useful commentary, and his approach is not the only approach. For pastoral study I highly recommend Carson’s volume on Matthew in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary series (now available in paperback for like $20). I also have a Pulpit Commentary set (mine are from the late 1800’s) that I like to use for preaching. I have to say though, that the best utility for understanding the text (Bible) is the Holy Spirit and the text itself… sometimes we over complicate things.