Revjw’s Book Corner 2012.1

I have recently finished reading three books worth mentioning.  I should say up front that not every book that I read do I think worth blogging about.  But these three are you should consider reading yourselves.

Back in November Crossway Books published K. Scott Oliphint’s book God With Us:  Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God which can be found here.  Olphint offers us a rich and substantive theological feast in this volume.  Wrestling with how the self-contained ontological Trinitarian God of Scripture can relate to his creation, Oliphint draws upon the incarnation of the Son of God as the paradigmatic case of divine condescension.  The author makes a distinction between God’s essential and covenantal attributes and in this distinction we find some excellent theological exploration.  You can find a full scale review of the book by Mark Jones over at Ref21 here as well as a new series of blog posts by Dr. Oliphint there as well.  Christ the Center also interviewed Dr. Oliphint about the book here.

Debate over union with Christ and the relationship of justification to sanctification is all the rage in the blogosphere now and into the midst of this controversy steps Robert Letham’s Union with Christ:  In Scripture, History, and Theology which can be obtained here.  Similar to his study on the Trinity, yet significantly shorter, Letham demonstrates the significance, even the centrality of the doctrine to Scripture.  Note that saying that union with Christ is a central concern of Scripture is not the same as saying it is a “central dogma.”  A central dogma is a doctrine from which every other doctrine of a theological system is logically deduced.   Union with Christ plays no such role in Scripture nor in Letham’s book.  Letham avoids some of the detailed dispute now occurring in Reformed circles, but he also adds flavor of his own.  Letham gives space to the doctrine of theosis or divinization or deification.  The doctrine can be understand as the Eastern Orthodox formulation of the doctrine of sanctification, but it seems to suggest more than that.  Letham is careful to affirm the Creator/creature distinction so he avoids the typical criticism of theosis that it lands in pantheism.  However, it is not clear that Letham, in affirming that Christ’s divine nature suffused his human nature, does not accidentally provide the foundation for a doctrine of the ubiquity of Christ’s body.  Letham does not deal with this, but it is a lingering question with which I am left.   All this being said the book is a welcome addition to any theological library.

Christians ought not only read theology books but also books about history in general.  Thomas S. Kidd’s Patrick Henry:  First Among Patriots is a fascinating tale about one of America’s founding fathers which can be found here.  Kidd, associate professor of history at Baylor University and author of many thought provoking books on American religious history, brings Patrick Henry to life for a new generation.  Henry, long known for his “give me liberty or give me death” speech, was a complex man and Kidd does not allow us to create a flat, cardboard figure in our minds as we read through his biography.  While Henry was a major player in the American Revolution he initially opposed the ratification of the US Constitution.  Readers will discover that the debates between Federalists (those in favor of ratifying the Constitution) and the Anti-Federalists were anything but simple.  I found myself at points sympathetic with one party over the other.  What is clear is that Patrick Henry would be appalled at the current situation in the US.  One interesting thing to note was Henry’s Christian rejection of the French Revolution.  Initially encouraged by the movement in France, its increasingly apparent Deistic and atheistic flavor gave Henry cause for concern.  Henry’s assessment of the French revolution resonates with that of a later Christian, Abraham Kuyper.  You can find a fascinating interview between Thomas Kidd and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Al Mohler here.

Take up and read.

 

 
 

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I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve. (Romans 16:17-18)

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