Book review: Did God Really Command Genocide?

Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan, Did God Command Genocide?: Coming to Terms with the Justice of God (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2014), 353 pages. (Electronic copy reviewed here)

I’ve been curious to see this one ever since my good friend Matt Flannagan told me that he and Paul were going to be writing it.

Knowing Matt as I do, I feel pretty safe in saying that the move to write this book started from arguments about God as the basis of morality. Moral truths point to a moral law-giver, and a divine command theory (in which moral obligation is tied closely to God’s commands) is the best account of moral duty. But what then, some – like Raymond Bradley – ask, do we make of the biblical accounts of conquest and slaughter in the Old Testament? Can you really believe that this God is the perfectly good, loving personal basis of all moral duty? Strictly speaking we can just bat the question away, because the moral argument for theism and a divine command theory of ethics do not commit us to saying anything about what we find in the Bible. But it is an elephant in the room. If we are Christians, then that is the God we believe in, so when we talk about an argument for God’s existence or about God’s commands, this is the God we mean. At some point then we’ll need (or at least we would certainly like) a way of addressing the concern that what we find in the Old Testament accounts of Israel’s conquest of the land of Canaan and the killing of its inhabitants is incompatible with the goodness of God. Continue reading “Book review: Did God Really Command Genocide?”

Book Review: The End of Apologetics

Myron Bradley Penner, The End of Apologetics: Christian Witness in a Postmodern Context (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013) (Follow this link to get the book in electronic format from Logos.)

Full disclosure: I do not publicly label myself an “apologist.” However, in some ways that’s what I am just by virtue of many of the things that I do and say, and there are others who refer to me that way. At times I defend the truth claims of Christianity against criticisms, and at times I offer reasons for thinking that those claims are true. That is what “apologetics” means here. I have my share of problems with the “apologetics culture,” if I can speak of any such thing. But I appreciate the fact that I can separate apologetics per se from the various cultural forms in which it is expressed.

Myron Penner quite openly does not have this appreciation, or indeed much regard at all for the practice of Christian apologetics. What follows is my review of his book where he explains himself. The review is not exhaustive, so there may well be times where somebody reading this review might note “but you didn’t note that Penner says….” I probably did not. But I have read it, and if I didn’t mention it here it’s because I think that what I do say here takes it into account.

Further disclosure: Given some of my reservations about certain aspects of the apologetics culture, I expected that I might find at least a considerable amount of agreement with this book. But I may as well honestly say that I did not. I disagreed with nearly all of it, and also found it disagreeable (those two reactions are quite different from each other).

Here goes… Continue reading “Book Review: The End of Apologetics”

Baker Academic Theological Studies Collection (Book Review)

It was a pleasure to be asked to review The Baker Academic Theological Studies Collection from Logos Software. The bottom line is that this is a tremendous collection to have at your fingertips if you’re a student or teacher of theology, a pastor – or if you’re someone who simply enjoys reading theology of course, we do exist! The works are somewhat academic in tone, but not at the inaccessible end of the scale by any means. The works are published by branches of Baker Books (Baker Academic and Brazos), and if you have experience with these publishing houses you’ll realise that this means they are published to be read by mere mortals.

There are fifteen titles in the collection here so my review I’ll just comment briefly on each book individually, but there’s little doubt (especially since they come as a bundle!) that this collection as a collection presents something of more value than simply a small collection of decent theology books (although it is that).

  • Craig L. Blomberg and Sung Wook Chung (ed), A Case for Historic Premillennialism: An Alternative “Left Behind” Eschatology (8 authors)
  • Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Christology: A Global Introduction: An Ecumenical, International, and Contextual Perspective
  • Steven R. Guthrie, Creator Spirit: The Holy Spirit and the Art of Becoming Human
  • Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, The Doctrine of God: A Global Introduction: A Biblical, Historical, and Contemporary Survey
  • Bruce L. McCormack (ed), Engaging the Doctrine of God: Contemporary Protestant Perspectives (11 authors)
  • John G. Stackhouse Jr., Evangelical Ecclesiology: Reality or Illusion?
  • Brad Harper and Paul Louis Metzger, Exploring Ecclesiology: An Evangelical and Ecumenical Introduction
  • Jonathan R. Wilson, God so Loved the World: A Christology for Disciples
  • Timothy George (ed), God the Holy Trinity: Reflections on Christian Faith and Practice (10 authors)
  • Nonna Verna Harrison, God’s Many Splendored Image: Theological Anthropology for Christian Formation
  • Bruce L. McCormack (ed), Justification in Perspective: Historical Developments and Contemporary Challenges (11 authors)
  • Kelly M. Kapic and Bruce L. McCormack (ed), Mapping Modern Theology: A Thematic and Historical Introduction (14 authors)
  • Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Pneumatology: The Holy Spirit in Ecumenical, International, and Contextual Perspective
  • Khaled Anatolios, Retrieving Nicaea: The Development and Meaning of Trinitarian Doctrine
  • Hans Boersma, Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition

One thing at the outset gave me pause. Continue reading “Baker Academic Theological Studies Collection (Book Review)”