Lutheran Study Bible: NRSV by Augsburg Fortress

Lutheran Study Bible: NRSV
Publisher:
Augsburg Fortress
ISBN:  9780806680590

I wish to thank the good people at Augsburg Fortress for sending me this copy to review. 

The Lutheran Study Bible: NRSV is the first study bible published by Augsburg Fortress.  This was a fruit of the Book of Faith Initiative in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which is designed to encourage members of the church to dig deeper into the bible.  Through this initiative, Augsburg Fortress has inadvertently entered the study bible market. I don’t think it was meant to compete with the upcoming Lutheran Study Bible, which is soon to be released in October by Concordia Publishing House.  These are entirely two different study bibles and are based on different translations.

The NRSV is the translation that is most widely used in the ELCA.  As a result, it was the obvious choice for the Lutheran Study Bible.  The NRSV is one of my favorite translations because it is very accurate, dependable, and uses gender inclusive language.

Upon my opening of the bible, the first thing I noticed was that the study notes were situated on the side of the page instead of the traditional place at the bottom.  I found this easy to locate the study notes because I could just look horizontally and right next to the passage is the corresponding notes.  There doesn’t seem to be an abundance of study notes but since this is Augsburg’s first study bible, it’s a good start already.  Perhaps the next edition in the future will be more notes.  It also surprised me to find that some of the articles were located in between the books of Nahum and Habakkuk. It would be so much easier to locate them if they were all placed at the beginning of the bible, including the subject guide and the bible reading plan.

Added to this critique would be my recommendation to either increase the font size of the biblical text from a 10 point font to an 11 point font, or to change the font to something easier to read, but preferably both.  Keep the study notes located on the side.  It’s a great approach to layout.  I also like the single-column layout because it is much easier to read than a two-column layout.

On a note of personal preference, I prefer something other than baby blue for the chapter headings and cover.  A darker and more visible color would be easier on the eyes.  But since this is also the theme color of the Book of Faith initiative, I guess I could go for that, but I say: “Buck the theme color and go against the grain!”  Give it a nice richer and fuller color in the future.  I’d also like to note the nice art work at the beginning of each book.  That’s a nice addition.

The forty-nine contributors of the study notes with individual book introductions are Lutheran scholars almost entirely from the ELCA. However, as a Lutheran, I’d also like to see some commentary by Martin Luther himself.  If that were to be included in the future editions, it would really make it a ‘Lutheran Study Bible.’ So add some more of Luther. 

The study notes use four icons to indicate:
• World of the Bible: people, places, events and artifacts;
• Bible Concepts: ideas and theological insights;
• Lutheran Perspectives: asks a question about a bible verse or passage from a uniquely Lutheran theological perspective;
• Faith Reflection: asks a question to cause one to think about and discuss the meaning of the text.

The other main feature of this study bible is all the articles throughout the bible.  All the contributors are ELCA scholars and pastors.  I will comment in more detail what I think about my four favourite articles below.  However, regarding the other five articles, they range from okay to good. Moreover, there is some overlap between these other articles. I appreciate their scholarly background, however, I found some of the contributors to the articles being overly-defensive about the Lutheran perspective, which need not be.

Among my top favourites are the Old and New Testament Overview and Section Introductions.  The two articles written by Walter C. Bouzard (O.T.) and Arland J. Hultgren (N.T.) provide a top-notch scholarly perspective on the Old and New Testaments. 

Bouzard provides the reader with a simple explanation of JEPD.  He also describes God’s involvement in the life of Israel as a picture, in stating: “virtually all agree that the Penteteuch is made up of multiple literary strands. Thus, the Penteteuch is like a mosaic created of many colored stones or pieces of glass.” I also like his explanation of the Penteteuch:

“Jews refer to these books as the Torah, a word that is too narrowly translated as ‘law,’ as in the ‘books of the law.’  That translation is unfortunate, because torah cannot be summed up in the single word law.  Torah also includes ideas like direction, instruction, and teaching.  Moreover, thinking of the content of the Penteteuch only as law is not helpful.  It is true that many of the chapters in these books are filled with legal material, but they include much more than that.  Between Genesis and Deuteronomy we find stories, poems, genealogies, folk tales, and other types of literature” (p. 45).

Hultgren takes a stand on the authenticity of Paul’s authorship for at least seven of the thirteen epistles that have been traditionally seen as authored by Paul. Of these are: Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon.  I like his admittance to Paul’s use of secretaries or scribes to help write his letters.  I have always thought that this was done by Paul in writing his epistles.  Some scholars don’t admit to this.  To not consider this as a real possibility denies the circumstances of Paul’s days.  Regarding the other six epistles, Hultgren states:

“The other six letters attributed to Paul may not have been written or dictated by him in a literal sense. Many scholars believe that their authors were associates of Paul who felt authorized to speak for him and who may have continued to speak and write in his name for some years after his death.  This would explain why these six letters are so different from the other seven letters of Paul in vocabulary and style….and why some major concepts found in the seven letters certainly written by Paul are missing from these six” (p. 1850).

My third favourite article is the Introduction to the Bible, written by Hans Dahl, discusses how the bible came to be, beginning from an oral tradition and leading up to the culmination of various manuscripts over centuries, and eventually forming the canon.  I like how Dahl leaves room for the various interpretations of the inspiration of Scripture: “…the Bible does not explain how this inspiration occurred.  Some believe the Bible’s words were communicated directly by God to its authors, and the authors wrote them down as if listening to recording.  Others argue that the message of the Bible is what God inspired, but the actual words were the work of the authors.  Still others believe the authors themselves were inspired by God, but not necessarily the words” (p. 20).

This leaves room for the learner to make up their minds for themselves, which is what I like.  Dahl also mentions that Martin Luther wrestled with four books—Jude, James, Hebrews, and Revelation—which were included in the canon.  I also like his mention of Luther’s idea of a canon within a canon.

“Luther also promoted the idea that the Bible contains a “canon within a canon.”  He recognized that within the biblical canon there are books, such as the letters of Paul and the Gospel of John, that hold greater authority than others because they convey more clearly who Christ is and what Christ came to do” (p. 23).

My fourth favourite article is the Small Catechism: A Simple Guide for the Book of Faith written by Timothy J. Wengert (who is also co-translator of the Book of Concord).  Wengert ably explains the doctrine of law and gospel par excellence.

“The law—in addition to providing good order in this world and its institutions and restraining evil—breaks down, strips bare, destroys, terrifies, and puts to death by unmasking our lust for control of God and salvation.  The gospel, as God’s answer to our human predicament, builds up, clothes in righteousness, creates, comforts, and brings new life by announcing God’s unconditional promise.”

Wengert explains that our human condition is not that we ought to feel guilty, but rather, we are guilty and ashamed by our sins.  Our weaknesses in our sinful condition trap us into manufacturing the proper spiritual feelings.  He states:

“The Holy Spirit (not the preacher, teacher, or reader) then takes those very truths and does what only God can do—destroys the unbelieving Old Creature and creates the New Creature of faith by revealing the truth about God: that God is gracious and merciful” (p. 1531).

When the Holy Spirit does the work, it removes any possibility of glory due to our our human efforts.  We are left without any choice but to give God all the praise and glory.

I recommend the Lutheran Study Bible for any Lutheran pastors, lay leaders, and learners who are searching the Scriptures and desire to reflect more deeply upon Lutheran perspectives as they read the Holy Scriptures. This first edition of the Lutheran Study Bible: NRSV is wonderful.  I am sure Augsburg Fortress will see that many Lutherans will also be highly appreciative of this.

Review: “Doctrines of Grace: Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel”

The Doctrines of Grace: Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel
Authors: James Montgomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken
Publisher: Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2002.
ISBN: 9781581342994

I would like to thank the fine people at Crossway for sending me this review copy of the book.

It was the 500th anniversary of Calvin that gave me the honored occasion to review this book.  The book was the vision of Rev. James M. Boice, minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia.  Boice started writing the book but was not able to finish it due to sickness, and later, his death.  Dr. Ryken was assigned to complete the writing of the book.  So it’s one of those books that gives you reason to wonder if the finished product is what the original author originally intended for the book.  The title might suggest that this book is about grace or the evangelical teaching of the gospel.  However, the title does not suggest what the book is really about.  The main idea in the book is meant to persuade his audience of the power in the five points of Calvinism (TULIP).

On the downfall of the evangelical church

The authors, Boice and Ryken believe that the evangelical church has become humanistic, and even, materialistic.  Boice foresaw that this would be the downfall of the evangelical church.  If the church does not return to the five vital points of Calvinism, it would eventually see a collapse. So the idea of a coming evangelical collapse is nothing new.    I am once again put on guard with a prophetic voice warning of a collapse of the evangelical church.

Boice boldly tells us what he believes is wrong with the evangelical churches.  He identifies six major trends the church has fallen into: secularism, humanism, relativism, materialism, pragmatism, and anti-intellectualism or “mindlessness”. He states:

Perhaps the simplest way to say this is that evangelicalism has become worldly.  This can be demonstrated by comparing it with yesterday’s liberalism.  What was once said about of liberal churches must now be said of evangelical churches: they seek the world’s wisdom, believe the world’s theology, follow the world’s agenda, and adopt the world’s methods….By itself, God’s word is insufficient to win people to Christ, promote spiritual growth, provide practical guidance, or transform society. (p. 20-21).

What gets me is that the more liberal mainline churches are also saying the following about the evangelical churches but are also deeply involved in the same sort of pragmatism:

“So churches supplement the plain teaching of Scripture with entertainment, group therapy, political activism, signs and wonders—anything that promises to appeal to religious consumers. According to the world’s theology, sin is merely a dysfunction and salvation means having better self-esteem.  When this theology comes to church, it replaces difficult but essential doctrines like the propitiation of God’s wrath with practical techniques for self-improvement.  The world’s agenda is personal happiness, so the gospel is presented as a plan for individual fulfillment rather than as a pathway of costly discipleship.”

Is Boice a little hard on today’s evangelical church?  I think so.  He seems to be painting his picture of his description with a broad brush.  The last words in this quote: “costly discipleship” rings a similar tune to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “The Cost of Discipleship.”  What if evangelical and mainline churches actually practiced the much forgotten concept of “costly discipleship”?  We might begin to realize where we, as a church, have gone awry.

On the five-points of Calvinism

This book comes with a slight spin, that is, the only solution to avoid such a collapse of the evangelical church is to restore the doctrines of 5-point Calvinism in the church.  After reading this book, I wasn’t convinced of this point but it did strengthen my understanding of the 5-points of Calvinism.  In fact, Boice laid out the five points systematically.  It was covered in enough detail with scriptural passages to back up the arguments. An Arminian would have to come up with good counter-arguments because the authors deal with the problem texts very well.  Some people may shy away from dealing with the counter-arguments against Calvinism but this book counters them boldly.  Boice/Ryken state:

“The most difficult of all the passages mentioned is the one cited last—1 John 2:2, which says that Jesus is “the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” It is difficult because, alone of all these passages, it seems to make a distinction between a merely limited atonement and a universal one, affirming the latter” (p.130).

Each of these five points has its own chapter and is dealt with in a convincing way.  Rather than using the famous five-points of TULIP, Boice prefers to call them something else:

  1. Total Depravity is Radical Depravity or Pervasiveness of Sin
  2. Unconditional Election (same)
  3. Limited Atonement is Particular Redemption or Definite Atonement
  4. Irresistible Grace is Efficacious Grace
  5. Perseverance of the Saints is Persevering Grace

What helps a person understand these five points is an acceptance of two presuppositions: 1/ the complete impotence of humanity; and 2/ God’s absolute sovereignty in grace.  If these presuppositions are accepted, then the five points come easily.  That’s the open doorway when one converts to Calvinism.

The like the author’s discussion on the ordo salutis (order of salvation): foreknowledge, predestination, effectual calling, regeneration, repentance and faith, justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification. I particularly like their mention in sanctification that this synergistic.  We often have a negative reaction when we talk about synergism in salvation because we are so well trained into believing that everything is monergistic.  Boice states:

“But sanctification is a process in which, having been given a new nature by God, the redeemed sinner now can and must cooperate.  To put it in other language, justification is monergistic; it is the work of God.  By contrast, sanctification is synergistic; it is a joint work of both God and man” (p. 145).

In the second last chapter on “The True Calvinist”, the author, which if I may assume is Philip G. Ryken, discusses the attributes of Calvinism.  This chapter doesn’t necessarily discuss Calvinism but what are the fruits of Calvinism.  An Arminian who reads this chapter could also lay claim to some of the same fruits that were written about. Anyway, that’s my opinion.

All in all, this is a fine book.  I am glad to have read this because I appreciate the teachings of the five points of Calvinism, which is really the heart of the book.

Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? by James M. Boice

Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace: Discovering the Doctrines that Shook the World
Author: James Montgomery Boice
Publisher: Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2009.
ISBN: 9781433509629

Thanks to Crossway for this review copy.

This book calls the evangelical churches to return to its origins; that is, a return to the doctrines of the five solas: scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, and glory to God alone. Author, James M. Boice, who was senior minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia for 30 years brings the reader a well-thought through analysis of the church’s need to return to the doctrines that made the church what it was.

His critique of the current state of the evangelical church can be sharp but it is warranted, given the state of the church. This book is like a prophetic cry calling the evangelical church to not be conformed to the pattern of this age but to be transformed by a renewal. Boice claims that evangelical churches have taken the misguided path of humanism, relativism, materialism, pragmatism, and mindlessness.

I am not sure if the entire evangelical church is in the sad state that Boice has described but I do agree with his assessment that describes parts of the evangelical church. His claims against the evangelical church is that it no longer believes the bible is adequate to meet the challenges of today.

His example is our need to develop lobby groups and elect Christian legislators to fulfill our need for power politics and money. In this sense, the evangelical church has also become like secular society and has followed the path of Christians who herald from established mainline churches. I feel that a more accurate diagnosis is that evangelicals have sought political power and money to effect more influence on the world around us. Why? Is it for the sake of power and money? No, I do not think so but I think this need arises from the feeling that evangelicals have not been effective in changing the world for Christ. Does this mean that we are in the beginning stages of the coming evangelical crisis? Not necessarily. Much of the church during the founding of the colonial nation had many people of Christian faith in political office. In fact, that was the norm. Personally, I think this is a good thing–even for today.

Contrary to Boice, I do not think there is anything wrong with this because, as Christians, we are called to be salt and light in a dark world. I agree with Boice in that we have put our trust and hope in power, wealth and influence. The emptiness in politics, and even the idolatry of religion and ecclesiastical power, are both equally temporary and fleeting when it is understood from a perspective in which we are depraved and separated from God. Christian leaders in every vocation are prone to falling into the trap of human sinfulness, and yes, including our seemingly faithful pastors, deacons, and church leaders.

Do we need faithful legislators, doctors, lawyers, teachers, truck drivers and local business owners? Yes, we do. My argument is that we make the mistake of putting our faith, trust and hope in them. Our own work in this world is open to corruption and human sinfulness. Boice says that:

The Good News is that sin has been dealt with, that Jesus has suffered its penalty for us as our representative, and that all who believe in him can look forward confidently to heaven. Any ‘gospel’ that talks merely about the Christ-event, meaning the Incarnation without the Atonement, is a false gospel. Any gospel that talks about the love of God without showing that love led him to pay the ultimate price for sin in the person of his Son on the Cross, is a false gospel. The only true gospel is the gospel of the ‘one mediator’ who gave himself for us (1 Tim. 2:5,6). If our churches are not preaching this gospel, they are not preaching the gospel at all, and if they are not preaching the gospel, they are not true churches . Evangelicalism desperately needs to rediscover its roots and recover its essential biblical bearing at this point.” (p.105).

We must become more self-aware of our misplaced trust in our humanistic tendencies, which get played out in our self-esteem gospel, the health and wealth gospel, felt-need sermons or entertainment or ‘signs and wonders’. Moreover, our misguided humanism apart from God has led us to follow the wisdom, agendas, method and theology prevalent in our secular age. We have become humanistic, relativistic, and pragmatic, materialistic and this very visible in the way we do church. The author of this book says we see it in our church growth and building programs, and in our efforts toward defeating world hunger, racism, and ecology. This really hurts but I think it’s good prophetic medicine for a church that is sick.

Christ calls the church to repent and return to the Cross of Christ (or theology of the Cross). As the Holy Spirit of God opens our eyes, we may begin to see the offense of the cross and return to an understanding of why we need the cross. This is true Christianity, and without it, we are not being the true church. The author has challenged me to be true to Christ’s calling. This book will challenge you to think more deeply about one’s theology but the author has said more than what I have written here. It will challenge you to become more aware of our need for Christ and call you to the solas of the Reformation: sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”), sola gratia (“grace alone”), sola fide (“faith alone”), solus Christus (“Christ alone”), and soli Deo Gloria (“glory to God alone”). May all glory be to God alone.

Preserving Democracy by Elgin Hushbeck Jr.

Preserving Democracy
Author: Elgin Hushbeck, Jr.
Publisher: Gonzalez, FL: Energion Publications, 2009
ISBN: 978-1893729537 (hardcover)

Recently, I have been doing more reading than blogging, and I am enjoying it. I have just finished reading a new book, Preserving Democracy, written by Elgin Hushbeck, Jr. It is published by a small but growing publisher, Energion Publications, and I wish to thank the publisher, Mr. Henry Neufeld, for a copy of this advanced edition.

I am a fan of the the U.S. Constitution because the Founding Fathers who designed the U.S. Constitution constructed the finest constitutional document, probably in the history of the world. To those who are critical of the United States, its ideals and its problems, I probably sound like I have been totally taken in or doofed by American propaganda (Note: I can say this because I am Canadian…and some of you know what it means to be Canadian). But to those who understand the history of the United States and who have read what James Madison and Alexander Hamilton reported in the Federalist Papers, one will appreciate the genius behind the framers of the Constitution. This document has become the model for many other national constitutions around the world. Americans should be very proud of the U.S. Constitution. If it wasn’t a great document and so intelligently put together, I highly doubt it would be held in such high regard by so many other nations.

Yes, America has not been perfect, and it still isn’t. Critics of the great American democratic experiment will be quick to point out the history of slavery and poverty; but this has existed in the histories of every country and I do not intend to condone any wrongs. However, I must ask: Is there any other country on earth where it has opened its doors to so many immigrants where so many have found freedom, equality and the liberty to pursue happiness, prosperity, and religious freedom?

In this book, the author defends the American democratic ideals. Hushbeck knows and understands the history of this nation from its Christian roots. He has helped to enlighten my eyes to what Thomas Jefferson really meant when he wrote to a Baptist group in Danbury, Conn.:

“I contemplate with solemn reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State” (p.91).

Jefferson said this not to establish freedom from religion, but to establish freedom for religion. Today, the courts have twisted and corrupted the honorable intention of Jefferson such that many use this to mean that any public institution must be secular. This cannot be further from the truth. Anyone who doubts this piece of American history should read further into American history. Hushbeck has drawn his information from many sources and is well-informed about the history of the American Founding Fathers. I doubt that many history teachers know about this part of American history because many universities teach American history from a purely secularized perspective and is devoid of true “His-Story.” This is sad.

True freedom can only be experienced within the confines and protection of the Rule of Law, and when the laws of the law promote justice and equality. Freedom is not anarchy, nor do I believe it is libertarianism. Americans should never take freedom for granted because it is, and still remains, one of the freest countries on the face of the earth. It is so because of respect for Rule of Law. It is Rule of Law, and not laws, that give people protection and security under the law. However, these freedoms are being eroded today. I really like what Hushbeck says in the chapter on The Rule of Law. He defines what this concept is.

“The Rule of Law is not law. Laws have been around since before recorded history…. While laws are the rules of conduct of a society that are backed up by the authority of the state; the Rule of Law is a concept that deals with how law itself is to be understood and more importantly to whom it is applied. In its simplest form, the Rule of Law can be summed up in the statement: No one is above the law, not even the ruler” (p. 80-81).

In dictatorships, nations under Mao, Stalin or Hitler did not have Rule of Law because they dictated what the law should be according to how it best benefited them. This still happens today under tribal leadership and dictatorship, and it is abuse. However, they would not consider it abuse because they do not have a true understanding of Rule of Law.

What is truly important about Rule of Law is that it provides a basis for true democratic government. The author used an example of Saddam Hussein who acted as though he was above the law. He changed the way elections were conducted at his own whim. Therefore, democracy never actually existed under Hussein. This sort of thing still happens in other countries today. In false democracies, posed as democracies, their practices are underhanded, or even unashamedly open-handedly but corrupt.

Hushbeck says that the American democratic republic could fail if the U.S. Supreme Court continues in it dangerous trend of where court justices set dangerous precedents to define how new laws should be applied. Judges who see the Constitution as a fixed standard treat the Constitution as if it is a “living document” in the sense that it “can grow and be expanded to meet the needs of an ever-changing society.” Should it be able to be expanded? Should the American people ever change the Constitution? I mean, should one fix what is not broken? Some feel that rather than fixing it, it would be easier to reinterpret what it says. When judges base their ruling on their own personal views as to what is important or what ought to be, it can set a dangerous precedent; and it has. “In short, it makes the judge more of a ruler than a judge,” says Hushbeck. Undoubtedly, this weakens the public confidence in the Constitution, the Rule of Law, and respect for the laws of the land. It also allows for injustice.

There is so much more to say about this book that I would need more room and time to say it. If you have an interest in American history, the richness of American heritage, and are concerned about the state of the nation today, you should read Preserving Democracy. This book has just been released on April 15, 2009 and is now available for pre-purchase at Energion Publications and on Amazon.com. I am very glad to have read this informative and well-written book. Thanks.

Calvin by Willem Van’t Spijker

Calvin: A Brief Guide to His Life and Thought
Author: Spijker, Willem Van’t
Translated by: Lyle D. Bierma.
Publisher: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009
ISBN-13: 9780664232252

I would like to begin by thanking Presbyterian Publishing for sending me a copy of this book to review.

I have to admit that I am not a history buff and when given a choice, I would naturally prefer reading theology over history. When I started reading this book, I was expecting to read more about the theology of John Calvin but I realized that this was more of a historical biography than an explanation of John Calvin’s theology. Ten of the eleven chapters deal with the historical biography of John Calvin, which left only one chapter dealing solely with the theology of John Calvin. Needless to say, I enjoyed reading chapter 10 “Contours of Calvin’s Theology”. (In fact, I jotted many notes as I was reading this chapter because I felt that Spijker made many fine points on Calvin’s theology).

As I kept reading, I also began to realize the magnitude of Calvin’s struggles and challenges. Of the Reformers, I had only had prior knowledge of Martin Luther and a very basic introduction to the man of John Calvin through my studies in seminary about the history of the Protestant Reformation. However, after finishing his book today, I realized that I had only begun to scrape the surface of what lies beneath a great man of deep conviction and faith. I would opine that the accomplishments and influence of John Calvin is equal to that of the other great Reformer, Dr. Rev. Martin Luther.

The author, Willem Van’t Spijker, is one of the leading scholars on John Calvin. As I said, this book is not so much a book on the theology of Calvin as it is on the history of the person of John Calvin. The events and accomplishments of Calvin are presented in chronological fashion. Throughout the book, Spijker mainly talks about the events and actions of Calvin during his lifetime that created the Reformation in the early to mid 16th century.

Spijker takes his readers through the history of Calvin, from the beginning of the 16th century to Calvin’s early life and development, to his Institutes and the origins and formation of the church in Geneva, as well as, Strasbourg; then into his formation of the four offices, the independent authority of the church, and the completion of the Institutes in 1559.

A common theme that seems to occur throughout the pages of this book is the idea or practice of church discipline. For those who come without any prior knowledge of Calvinism and what it is, one might carry the image of strict ladies with hair rolled up in a bun, up tightness, and of law and obedience. That’s the negative stereotypical image of people who practice church discipline. After reading about Calvin’s theological reasoning behind church discipline, I realized that it is not such a far out, wild and crazy idea for a church to have. I understand that church discipline is required in any church and congregation and it must be carried out in order for the church to maintain some ecclesiastical and spiritual order within the body of Christ.

Yes, Calvin did support punishment of heretics by banishing them from the city of Geneva, or levying the heavy punishment of death upon those who disagreed with him. By today’s standards, this would obviously be considered extreme religious persecution and a strict violation of human rights. However, in his days, this was the normal practice of church discipline. It was also the experience of the other contemporary Reformers like Martin Luther.

For our many friends who are of the Presbyterian or Reformed persuasion, you would cringe at the thought of such practices and would even condemn those who do the same. Well, Calvin was not a tolerant figure and this shameful image is not what any of us would like to read about in our books on church history. However, it is good to know how our early predecessors from the Reformation past conducted themselves in the post-Roman age and learn from that era what we must not do in the future.

With this said as a prelude, I must admit that some measure of church discipline is necessary because of the chaos the Reformation created. The Roman Catholic Church was also fully immersed into the practice of church discipline and was the epitome of such practices. Spijker says:

With respect to church discipline, [Calvin] emphasized the principle that actions by the consistory out not to interfere with procedures in the civil courts. It was also his wish that people not be dealt with too harshly in church discipline and that there be no difference between the discipline of laypersons and office-bearers. The latter should be subject to the same punishments as the former” (p. 164).

I am not sure I would agree with Spijker’s statement here. Calvin’s practice of church discipline was guided by a distinction between the spiritual discipline of the church and the punishment of the civil government. He claims Calvin did not want to mix the two realms of civil jurisdiction and the authority of the church. However, both seemed to be heavy-handed at times.

Spijker does not hide Calvin’s leaning toward church discipline. He writes:

On the matter of church discipline as an effective means of combating sins and shortcomings, however, tension between the magistracy and the consistory continued to exist. On more than one occasion, Calvin was called upon to be more moderate in his preaching, as a means that he was using to propagate his belief about church discipline” (p. 99).

This book covers a lot more than church discipline. It also talks about how Calvin wanted to transform the City of Geneva under Calvin’s vision as a model of what a Christian society should look like. It is interesting that Spijker says Calvin felt that he failed in his plan to transform this city. Luther’s doctrine of the Two Kingdoms did not function in the same way as the Geneva model. Calvin saw both kingdoms under one Lord. Calvin thought his model was the only way and perhaps that is why he felt he failed in achieving a model Christian society?

Alister McGrath: The Christian Vision of God from Fortress Press

The Christian Vision of God
Publisher: Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008.
ISBN: 9780800637057

First, I would like to thank the fine people at Fortress Press for a copy of this book.

In his book, The Christian Vision of God, the highly regarded theologian Alister McGrath has combined his reflections of the trinity with Christian artwork. If I had to describe this book in one sentence, it might be this: “theological reflections of the Trinitarian God laid upon the canvas of Christian art.” I like theology but I’ve never been into art; however, I find this combination quite enjoyable. Also, this is a short book that can be read in one sitting.

His Trinitarian reflections are enhanced by his artwork. The artwork gives him a starting position from which to lead into some discussions about the trinity. It blends very nicely because it adds a bit of color to his theological reflections. McGrath’s reflections of Christian art is not the main emphasis. His commentary on the artwork sort of hangs merely as a backdrop; and it leaves his theology of the trinity standing out very boldly on the forefront within the pages of his book.

McGrath has chose to draw his Trinitarian reflections from seven items of art:

  • Pearl of Great Price, by Daniel Bonnell (b. 1955)
  • The Kiss, 1907-08 by Gustav Klimt
  • The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, 1633 by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn
  • Pentecost, by Pier Francesco Mazzucchelli
  • Moses and the Burning Bush, by William Blake
  • The Holy Trinity with St. John the Baptist, Mary Magdelene, Tobias and the Angel, c. 1490-95 by Sandro Botticelli
  • Icon with the Trinity, by Andrei Rublev

I also wish to share a few insightful comments from this book. How can one describe the Trinity? The author puts it this way:

“… something incomprehensible, combining mathematical absurdity with theological obscurantism. We can do without this sort of thing, can’t we? Perhaps it is not surprising that most Christians rarely talk about the Trinity, even though they talk about God rather a lot” (p. 62).

I am glad the author understands the difficulty inherent in this doctrine saying that: “It is clear that many need reassurance that this doctrine is well grounded in the Bible, and that its apparent nonsensicality masks its capacity to be profoundly helpful in matters of faith” (p.74).

This question of the Trinity was perhaps the first question I struggled with in the beginning of my faith formation. I remember asking a pastor about the different theology the Jehovah’s Witnesses were teaching as compared with the theology he was teaching. He provided me great pastoral care and teaching that solidified my faith in the Trinitarian God who gave me salvation, life, and forgiveness.

Perhaps something that will help those who have trouble wrapping their heads around the Trinity is to develop a fuller model of a combination of a:

1) transcendent God who lies beyond the world, as its source and creator;
2) immanent God who is present and active throughout his creation; and
3) human face of God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.

McGrath believes that we need these three ways of visualizing God together if one is to have an authentically Christian view of God. I have heard some people argue for a predominantly transcendent God…and some for an immanent God. The debate goes on and on; but I believe this debate is endless and absolute useless because God’s character can include all three. I am glad I was able to figure this out early on in my Christian walk.

In The Holy Trinity, by Botticelli, the author insightfully recognizes that:

“The Spirit is represented in a curiously understated manner by a dove, hovering between the dominant figures of the Father and the crucified Son… Botticelli seems to suggest that the Holy Spirit is less personal, less important, and somehow less connected with us than the two central figures of the great drama of salvation” (p. 63).

I could not agree with McGrath more. I would also add that our theology of the Trinity has understated the importance of the Holy Spirit to such a degree that we do not think it is kosher to pray to God the Holy Spirit. I believe we can and should also include God the Spirit in our prayers. Moreover, I also sympathize with the thought that our limited human understanding of the Spirit prevents us from painting an accurate picture of the Holy Spirit in a way that does not even come close to glorifying and worshiping the Holy Spirit in a way the Spirit deserves to be glorified and worshiped.

On the Icon with the Trinity, McGrath states:

“their heads are slightly bowed towards the Father, in acknowledgement of his ultimate authority. The Father’s hand points toward the Son; the Son’s toward the Spirit. It is a symbolic representation of the great pattern of revelation that we find in the New Testament, especially in John’s gospel: the Father sends the Son; the Son sends the Spirit” (p. 80).

Since this is item of art is Orthodox in origin, I find it interesting that McGrath did not mention Vladimir Lossky and the Orthodox Trinitarian doctrine of the procession of the Holy Spirit (or more specifically, the issue of filioque). An Orthodox understanding of the Holy Spirit’s procession is different from that of the Western Church. This can be an endless debate of “who” proceeds from “whom”. On one hand, since the trinity is a mystery, maybe less commentary is better? On the other hand, though difficult to read, I do like Augustine’s prolific treatise, De Trinitate, which is a major writing on the Christian understanding of God. McGrath does not go as deep as the early church fathers but does give his readers many reflections to think about.

Concerning William Blake’s Moses and the Burning Bush, the author says:

“Blake appears to depict Moses as somewhat underwhelmed by his experience. He seems unmoved by what he observes; he gives little more than a sideways glance toward the ‘burning bush’; and he makes no attempt to remove his sandals as a sign of reverence. Blake seems to suggesting that Moses failed to realize the significance of what he observed, and challenges us to appreciate its mystery more fully” (p. 53).

In my observation, I would suggest that Moses was not unmoved by emotion. Blake may have depicted the specific moment in time when he first noticed the burning bush. Though this may be McGrath’s personal interpretation of Blake’s artwork, he does use his reflection as a lead into further theological discussion into the mystery of God.

This book is well done, and it will be a book that I will open up again, not just to admire for its artwork but also to further ponder upon the author’s Trinitarian reflections. Alister McGrath has adeptly used art to enhance his scholarly theological discussion on the Trinity, which I am sure will benefit others who are on a quest of forming one’s Christian vision of God.

NLT Discover God Study Bible by Tyndale

Thanks to Laura Bartlett of Tyndale House Publishers for sending me this hardcover edition of this wonderful study bible.

The Discover God Study Bible was released a while back but it doesn’t seem to have a big readership because when I checked the local Christian bookstore, I noticed only a few copies on the shelf. It doesn’t seem to be as nearly as popular as the NLT Life Application Study Bible or NLT Study Bible, which are great bibles; but I think this study bible deserves more recognition because of its helpfulness within its pages of study notes.

This bible is a devotional study bible and is unlike many other study bibles out there because it is full of good advice and wisdom for living a holy and devoted Christian life. It is unlike the NLT Study Bible, the NIV Study Bible or most any other study bibles I’ve seen. If I had to compare this, it might be a little like the NLT Life Application Study Bible because it gives the reader advice practical ways to live a pious Christian life. I have also seen other study bibles like the NRSV Renovare Bible and NRSV Discipleship Study Bible but this one seems to go deeper in its appreciation of Christian piety and is like “highly-caffeinated” training in godly living and deepening our knowledge in the living God (…I’m sitting here at Starbucks writing this).

In my devotional reading this morning, I read gospel-oriented study notes from Jeremiah 29: 11 that came under the topic of God:

29:11 Hope for the future….The Bible’s version is a hope that’s grounded in what God has promised to do in the future. Our great expectations of God and his promises will always fall short of His grand plans (Romans 5:5) because He loves us—and just like us, God never wants to disappoint those He loves. Put your hope in God and be prepared for Him to go beyond everything you can hope and pray for (Ephesians 1:19-23). (See God> Salvation> Holy Spirit> Comforts, TopicGuide page A15.)

There are over 9,000 wonderful study notes like this. They are drawn from the well of wisdom and deep devotional life of Dr. Bill Bright. The notes were organized by a team of bible scholars and teachers into the ten core topics in the TopicGuide found in the beginning of the bible.

The topic guide gives us some ideas on what is covered:

Holiness: living for God
The Bible: trusting God’s word and its authority in your life
God’s Purpose: embracing God’s will and master plan
Worship: giving God the praise and glory He is due
Spiritual warfare: resisting temptation and Satan’s schemes
God: cultivating your relationship with God
God’s Salvation: appreciating redemption from sin and death
Adoption: finding your identity in Christ
Church: joining with God’s people
Ministry: becoming an agent of change

These topics are then subdivided into two more levels of subtopics so this natural organization and division makes it easier to find what you are looking for.

People struggle to know God in a more personal way and understand him. We know that this is best achieved by attending church, reading our bible regularly and prayer; however, the purpose of this study bible is to give us a tool to help us along in this journey.

I like the theology of worship written as an introduction to the Discover Worship TopicGuide:

“We don’t come to God offering up our obedience, as if He needed our help with anything. True worship, and this outline, begins with awestruck reverence for who God is and what He has done for us….He could have left us in the dark, groping around for the right things to be, say, and do to please Him. But He gave clear instructions in the Bible for how He did (and didn’t) want to be worshiped. This section of the outline lays out God’s preferences for how He wants us to show our love for Him.” (p. A25).

In the topical section of Holiness, there is a subtopic called Law and Grace, which I found contained a theologically sound understanding of law and gospel:

The graciousness of the Law: How do grace and law work in the Christian life?
Law: We do not reject the law….
Grace: We do not reject grace….

I also like the study notes approach to the sacraments of Holy Communion:

…Make sure you know when your church will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper and examine your heat beforehand—do not simply show up as if it is an ordinary day. Prepare by reflecting on the meaning of the sacrament, your repentance from sin, your love for God and others, and your desire for new obedience to Christ. (See Worship> NT> Our Role> Mind and Heart> Lord’s Supper to be taken in a worthy manner, TopicGuide page A32).

This is good teaching because we don’t seem to hear this kind of teaching in our churches anymore. Furthermore, I noticed there were two sections in the TopicGuide recognizing Baptism and Holy Communion as Sacraments and labelled it as such (p. A34).

I don’t think I overstated this bible as a “highly-caffeinated” study bible because I can feel a very strong sense of encouragement toward godly living in almost every single study note. If you want to grow in your faith and knowledge of God, the Discover God Study Bible will be an invaluable resource for you in your daily devotional reading of the bible. I will use this as a devotional resource.

Best Advice: Wisdom on Ministry from 30 Leading Pastors and Preachers by WJK

Best Advice: Wisdom on Ministry from 30 Leading Pastors and Preachers

Editor: William J. Carl III
Publisher: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009. Pp. xi, 193.
ISBN: 978-0664232436

I want to express appreciation to Presbyterian Publishing for this book.

For those who are in the ministry, you will find Best Advice packed with gems of wisdom from some of the leading preachers/pastors in the country. After I started reading, I couldn’t stop reading this wonderful book. It is a compilation of 30 short essays from pastors. Since I am in ministry, I have found this one of the most useful books to help guide me in my pastoral ministry and preaching.

Some of these are distinguished authors and teachers of homiletics: Will Willimon, David Buttrick, Fred Craddock, Thomas Long. Some are professors of preaching: Ronald Allen, William Carl, Jana Childers, Mary Lin Hudson, Cleopas LaRue, Jennifer Lord, John McClure, Alyce McKenzie, Marguerite Shuster, plus Dawn Wilhelm. Some are authors like Eugene Peterson, plus many are pastors who share from their experience in ministry.

I like what David Buttrick says “no-holds barred” concerning preaching as a craft:

“…be concerned for craft. Not art, but craft. There have been books on “the art of preaching.” Skip them. Preaching is a craft to be learned like carpentry or cooking. Ego-driven self-expression is not what’s wanted. We can live without polished sermons, the kind that draws admiration from listeners. A good sermon moves in the minds of listeners like their own thoughts. They are not aware of your sermon as separate from their hearing. They certainly don’t give a hoot for aesthetic considerations; neither should you. Instead, you will study homiletic craft” (p. 35).

I whole-hearted agree because I have heard some sermons that were very aesthetically pleasing to the ear, but do not seem to make much sense. I’ve come out of the service wondering: “What in the world did the preacher just say?!” To this, I say: “Amen.” I’d prefer a well-crafted sermon that makes sense, rather than, one that sounds good but does nothing for my inner spirit and soul.

Fred Craddock recommends every pastor to deliver what is called the “Signature Sermon,” about once per year. It is appropriate for every congregation. Concerning this, he says:

“It gathers up in one message what the preacher believes, what the congregation believes, and what the historic church believes, framed in such a way as to remind, inform, correct, and call to a new level of discipleship. It will be a bit longer than other sermons that interpret a particular biblical text or topic and urge a particular response… The Signature Sermon marks a path through the woods and makes clear this is who we are, whence we came, whither we go, and why we are here.”

He advises the reader to be prepared for requests for copies, and that quotations and allusions to the Signature Sermon will appear regularly in church school classes and fellowship conversations.” This was the first time, I have heard of this. The signature sermon is definitely I will try in the future and turn into a personal tradition (p. 53).

Joseph L. Roberts, Jr. gives fourteen points regarding conduct of a pastor. Everyone is sound and I’ve already implement some of them in my life.

Eugene Peterson tells of his search for a once-upon-a-lifetime fantasy church “as beautiful as Tirzah” (Song 6:4); however, he realized that this was an adolescent fantasy. He says:

“I would be a witness to the Holy Spirit’s formation of congregation out of this mixed bag of humanity that is my congregation—broken, hobbled, crippled, sexually abused and spiritually abused, emotionally unstable, passive and passive-aggressive, neurotic men and women…spirited young people, energetic and eager to be guided into a life of love and compassion, mission and evangelism; a few seasoned saints who know how to pray and listen and endure; and a considerable number of people who pretty much just show up. I wonder why they bother. There they are: the hot, the cold, and the lukewarm; Christians, half-Christians, almost Christians; New Agers, angry ex-Catholics, sweet new converts. I didn’t choose them. I don’t get to choose them” (p. 132).

Peterson taught me this is what the church is—a hodgepodge, a mosaic of our society—that is the church today assigned to us by God to shepherd and lead in the way of my master and lord, Jesus Christ. I think if I am prepared for this, I’ll know what to expect in the future and not be disappointed by a garden of roses amongst a pasture of weeds, or a garden of weeds amongst a pasture of roses. Either way, it is from God and it our responsibility, as pastors, to tend to this mixed patch of garden work.

Professor Miguel A. de LaTorre deals with racial diversity and pokes hard at our prejudices. One paragraph really grabbed me and hit me hard. He says:

“Why,” I asked, “do you assume I would even want to worship at your church? After centuries of exclusion, why should I come running now that you think it makes your church look good by having a black or brown face in the pew to prove that your congregations aren’t racist?” My questions were not very well received. Nevertheless, I went on to say that it was difficult for me to pray while sitting next to the banker who will charge me an extra point of interest because my last name sounds Hispanic. It’s hard to shout praises to the Lord while being stared at by the police officer who gave me a ticket for driving under the influence of being Hispanic….it is unlikely that I, and I suspect most believers of color, will pretend to forget what goes on outside of the church building and just come on in” (p.58).

De LaTorre asks to be a righteous people who acts justly. I believe this is what the Holy Spirit is calling us to be and to do, as believers in Christ, who live in awe of our holy God.

This book has much more wisdom than this. I have only quoted from four essays and there many more golden and colourful gems of advice from 26 other pastors. This is a book I am sure I will pick up again when I am feeling a need to soak up some pastoral wisdom. It is on my bookshelf labelled “very useful book” under Practical Ministry. Our thanks go to Rev. William J. Carl III for compiling the fine essays in this book.

Jeremiah: A Commentary. The Old Testament Library by WJK

Jeremiah: A Commentary. The Old Testament Library.

Author: Leslie C. Allen.
Publisher: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008. pp. xxix, 546.
ISBN: 0664222234, 9780664222239

I would like to offer a word of thanks to the people at Presbyterian Publishing Corporation for this review copy.

Westminster John Knox Press has newly released Jeremiah: A Commentary in late 2008. It is an addition to the Old Testament Library (OTL). The author, Professor Dr. Leslie C. Allen, is Sr. Professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary. He has written commentaries on Ezekiel, Psalms, the minor prophets, Chronicles, and now Jeremiah. This replaces OTL’s 1986 edition by Robert R. Carroll.

In taking the form-critical approach to study the book, Allen typifies its genre as mainly oracles. He also points out various psalms of lament in Jeremiah. When we see the book of Jeremiah through the lens of redaction criticism, one can begin to notice components or units of texts sewn together. Allen says:
In chs. 2-6 units evidently reflecting Jeremiah’s early prophetic activity have been grouped together with the addition of some post-Jeremianic prose. A similar impression of quilting is given by the originally independent collection of chs. 30-31, where some of Jeremiah’s own oracles have been deliberately combined with later poetry and prose of a prophetic nature, and by the foreign oracles in chs. 46-51.” (p. 10).

With this quilting, the writings in Jeremiah are called into question of which can be attributable as the prophet’s own oracles. Many are his, but how many? His explanation of this redaction shows the skills of the redactors who have taken various compositions that are “centered on a single incident, which have been skilfully assembled into blocks with a coherent message,” says Allen. This explains why Jeremiah can be such a complex book to study.

Prior to reading this, I did not see this in Jeremiah but Allen has alerted me notice the various units that have been carefully woven together by the redactors. I am no scholar of Jeremiah but now that I’ve been made aware of this, I can see the literary system of compositions and blocks where they have been placed (e.g. Jer. 30-31). How does this look like?
This new literary block is ‘an anthology of poems and prose pieces that form a tapestry of hope’…; it consists of three compositions, 30:1-31:1; 31:2-26; 31:27-40. The oracle reception heading in 30:1 indicates that a fresh block consists of 30:1-31:40 since the heading next appears at 32:1….The short units in 30:1-31:40 represent an editorial collection of originally independent material. The block cites a series of oracles Jeremiah had delivered concerning the return of the exiles of the northern kingdom and crowns them with a number of post-Jeremianic oracles of hope.” (p. 333)

For example,it is interesting that Jeremiah 25 consists of various foreign oracles in the Septuagint have been slotted into this chapter. This makes Jeremiah kind of fascinating and more fun to analyze, well, at least for a person like me. I don’t think I could have seen this on my own. I love how Allen expressed his analogy of Jeremiah with a house:
The book of Jeremiah is like an old English country house, originally built and then added to in the Regency period, augmented with Victorian wings, and generally refurbished throughout the Edwardian years. It grew over a long period of time.” (p. 11)

Allen says the dating of Jeremiah takes into consideration 33:14-26 as being postexilic Judah. In addition, even though the oracles’ perspectives seem to take a Babylonian setting, the oracles looks forward to the downfall of the neo-Babylonian Empire and its later oracles align with Second Isaiah. Therefore, a reshaping of Jeremiah had to have taken place.

The purpose of Jeremiah is addressed by the author. Allen presents the possibility that one may read the prophecies in Jeremiah with the mindset of looking back into history to the fulfillment of the prophet’s oracles of disaster (rather than prophecy as looking into the future). By presenting a question and attempting to answer it, one may be able to get at the purpose of Jeremiah. One may ask why the disaster happened. Then provide an explanation which may be the pre-exilic pagan worship. Jeremiah is a prophet who warned of worship of other gods (9:12, 13; 16:11; 22:9). I think that is the nature of prophetic writing.

Allen has done a very good job at exegeting the Jeremianic text. This is an excellent commentary on the book and I would recommend getting this for your library to help you exegete and interpret the text for a sermon on Jeremiah. Very well done.

I, II, & III John: A Commentary. The New Testament Library by WJK

I, II, & III John: A Commentary. The New Testament Library.

Author: Judith M. Lieu.
Publisher: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008. pp. 336.
ISBN: 0664220983, 9780664220983

First, I’d like to thank the fine people at the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation for this review copy.

The New Testament Library published by Westminster John Knox Press has just newly released I, II, & III John: A Commentary. The author, Professor Dr. Judith M. Lieu, is a professor of Cambridge University’s Faculty of Divinity. She is also the editor of the journal New Testament Studies and is also the author of numerous books on early Christian identity.

Author Dr. Judith M. Lieu’s speaks about the historical aspect of these letters, as well as, the author, audience, and situation of the epistles’ setting. The introduction also covers the argument, style, and thought of the letters. The author’s question of the anonymity of the author leaves me wondering if it was written by the same person who wrote the Gospel of John; however, her analysis and comparison between the similarities of the Johannine corpus still leaves me leaning towards the corpus as being written by one and the same person, which is traditionally agreed upon.

Lieu’s introduction to the commentary makes use of the latest biblical scholarship. Her expertise on early Christian identity lends itself nicely in this commentary because she also looks at the early Christian church through the eyes of John and how its dynamics influenced John’s letters. Lieu states:
Although 1 John moves within a dualist worldview, it is a profoundly Jewish one; in many ways, like other early Christian literature, this is an apocalyptic interpretation of history and experience. The denigration of “the (or this) world” owes something to the contrast in apocalyptic thought with “the world (or age) to come,” although that concept is not used in the Johannine literature….1 John’s favorite term for the eruption into the world of the Son of God is the verb phaneroo, to “reveal” or “manifest”; it refers to the past but also to the anticipated future revelation (2:28; 3:2, 5, 8). The emergence of the antichrists is a spurious imitative manifestation (2:19), and, although probably experienced in terms of human schism and conflict, they are described in all the language of the eschatological denouement.” (p.22)

Her identification of a literary element of rhythmic style within the first letter of John opened my eyes to there being a possible hymn of love in chapter. I am not entire convinced of this but there is definitely is some repetition.

The letters have a dualistic worldview. Concerning this, Lieu states:
Most fundamentally this worldview is characterized by dualism between light and darkness, truth and falsehood, life and death, love and hatred; in the Gospel, but not in 1 John, there is a vertical dimension, above and below, and both writings set the (or this) world against that which is “not of the world.” (p.18)

The author agrees with the gender inclusive writing of the letters in using “brothers and sisters,” however, she realizes some difficulty in certain verses in stating:
While this may make the text more accessible to contemporary readers, it may also obscure the mindset of the earliest authors, who probably took for granted that priority of the masculine address….The associated image of strength and of victory over the evil one is apposite for the young male (neaniskos) but not for his coeval “sister.” Although it is unlikely that 1 John is addressed to an all-male community, such a reading would not be impossible.” (p.31).

Her scholarly assessment of the Epistles of John is quite in-depth and detailed. Going by a verse-by-verse exegetical format, she locates some of the difficult parts of the biblical text. For example, in 1 John 3:19-20, Lieu offers five alternative renderings based on the Greek text (p.155). In 1 John 4:9-10, the author also draws a parallel between this text and John 3:16-17. Lieu states:
Equally, while it is possible that the story of Abraham, the father who offered his only son, informed some other early Christian reflection on God’s giving of his Son (see Rom. 8:32), it is nowhere in view at this point in 1 John. These conclusions are reinforced by the verb “sent” (apostello). That Jesus is the Son sent by the Father, God, is axiomatic for the Fourth Gospel’s Christology…However, none of this can be read into 1 John; the three occurrences of the verb…are formulaic and do not invite further theological reflection.” (p.183)

This commentary’s exegesis of the biblical text is top notch. Overall, I would like to comment that the entire New Testament Library commentary series is not intended to provide much pastoral application because it is designed so that it leaves it up to the exegete to provide a pastoral application from the text. Other commentary series may provide much more pastoral application than the NTL. This series of commentaries provides a transliteration of the Greek so that it is accessible to those not familiar with Greek such as lay people; moreover, it is not so technical that only an academically trained person in the original languages can use it.

Lieu has written an excellent commentary on I, II, & III John. Her biblical exegesis of the text is thorough and very well done. This is definitely a commentary I would reference in my personal exegesis and interpretation of the letters of John.