Thiselton Companion to Christian TheologyIn an era of theological education which prizes specialization over generalization, there are very few people who can speak authoritatively across the theological playing field. One such player is Anthony C. Thiselton. Professor emeritus of Christian theology at the University of Nottingham, England, and one of Britain’s leading theological scholars, Thiselton has successfully written in the areas of hermeneutics, New Testament studies, and two commentaries on 1 Corinthians. Thiselton has earned the respect of pastors, teachers, theologians, and scholars worldwide.

Drawing on the concept of his previous work Concise Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Religion (Oxford, 2002; Baker, 2005), Thiselton has taken to write The Thiselton Companion to Christian Theology (Eerdmans, 2015). This book contains 600 articles, from A-Z, on various people, theological concepts, Biblical words, time periods, systems of thought, etc.; all within the Christian theological sphere.

So Why This…..

At 600 articles, and just over 850 pages, there are a lot of subjects Thiselton has written about. As you read through the alphabetical list at the beginning of the book you will naturally wonder why some entries are included in such a “short” list of 600. As the title of the book indicates, this is a book written by a single author, and as such has the limitations of the one choosing the articles. Thiselton has chosen subjects that he deems the most relevant. This would no doubt vary from person to person if others had decided to write the same kind of book.

Thiselton has drawn on a lifetime of research, study, and personal judgment as to what to include in this volume. It is, as the title indicates, a companion to Christian theology. In a sense, Thiselton himself is the readers companion to guiding the reader into further study on all of the subjects he has written on.

…..And Not That?

Naturally, to include everything that is important to theology would require a multi-volume effort. Take for instance The Encyclopedia Britannica. Though no longer published, the 15th edition has 28 volumes and, with more than 4,000 contributors, it has almost 3 million articles. Even an exhaustive work like that has to say no to something. A work by a single author has to do the same.

Whatever the limitations of this work, it cannot be missed that this is a remarkable achievement. For instance again, the long standing Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, edited by Walter A. Elwell, in its second edition has over 1,300 articles and over 300 contributors. EDE is still missing things, which Elwell notes in the preface. Thiselton has essentially achieved the work of half of the contributors to EDE; and all on his own!

Readers will undoubtedly notice that while Thiselton has provided the reader with content that is intended to service a wide range of users, the book still, in part, reflects his theological leanings. While the articles (less so with the shorter ones) are intended to be informative, Thiselton’s own theological leanings tend to surface in areas like the doctrine of God, the atonement, soteriology, evolution, justification, and sin; just to name a few. This is less a criticism and more of an observation. It would be the same no matter who wrote the book.

Regardless of whether one lines up completely with all of the finer points of Thiselton’s theology, The Thiselton Companion to Christian Theology is a valuable reference tool for teachers, pastors, and Bible students worldwide. This is the kind of book that few are qualified to write, or should, and Thiselton has done it masterfully.

I received this book for free from Eerdmans for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

NIVZ Study BIbleThe long awaited NIV Zondervan Study Bible (NIVZ) is finally here! This much anticipated Bible combines the most popular translation (NIV) along with a stellar line up of Christian scholars who provide a myriad of helpful content to help readers understand the Bible better. This Bible is all about serving the reader in their understanding of the God that is glorified in the text.

The Editors

The NIVZ Study Bible was overseen by general editor D. A. Carson. Carson can, and has, ably written across a multitude of disciplines. He is rightly considered a scholars scholar by many. I pray the Lord raises up more like him and may the Lord give him enough life to bless the church and the academy with more of his writing. His assistant editor is Andy Naselli whose list of published works is growing. Presently, Naselli is teaching at Bethlehem College & Seminary. Naselli has two PhD’s and served as Carson’s research assistant for a number of years. Naselli is a budding scholar with an ever promising future ahead of him.

Together, Richard Hess and T. D. Alexander serve as the Old Testament editors; additionally Hess focuses on the archaeology and maps and Alexander focuses on the biblical theological aspects. Both men have cut their teeth on the Old Testament and are dependable scholars. The New Testament editor is none other than Douglas Moo who also handles the biblical theology for the New Testament. With previous history with the NIV, Moo is a NT theology and Pauline scholar.

These scholars provide a solid ground from which this biblically sound study Bible has emerged to serve Christians in their pursuit of knowing God for generations to come.

The Translation

The NIVZ uses a translation philosophy that produces a translation with a different feel compared to the ESV, NASB, and other literal translations. As is consistent with the translation philosophy of the NIV, the translators sought “to recreate as far as possible the experience of the original audience – blending transparency to the original text with accessibility for the millions of English speakers around the world.” (xxiv) Since we are not the original recipients of the biblical text, in audible or written form, and are far removed from the socio-political/cultural context of the Bible, the translators have done their best to translate the text in such a way that contemporary readers will experience reading the text, as much as possible, in the same way the original audience did.

In attempting to reach their translation goal and minimize the translation “damage” done when working from one language to another, the committee adopted three general guidelines: (1) the meaning of words is determined by the social context in which they were originally used, (2) the English words chosen must accurately represent what the text is actually saying, and (3) the grammatical context of the passage in which a word appears, along with the flexibility of a words meaning, determines what a word means in a given context.

There is nothing particularly new in the translation philosophy used with the exception of the second principle. Though it is not appropriate to go into the history of the NIV (TNIV) and the translation of the third-person masculine singular pronoun (TPSMP) but it deserves a note here. The original Hebrew and Greek use the TPSMP to refer to both genders without batting an eye. So “man” or “mankind” is used as a singular word to refer to both male and female. It has not only been culturally acceptable to use the English equivalent of TPSMP, but also linguistically understood as to what is meant.

Western culture is changing and with it its language. Further, there are not just Western English concerns but global ones as well. Where appropriate, and where it will clearly not detract from the intended meaning of the text, the translators have opted, for example, to replace “he” or “him” with “they” or “their”. For instance, take Mark 8:36:

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? (ESV)

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (NIVZ)

In addition to the obvious difference in the words used to translate the sentence, the NIVZ replaces “man” and “his” with “someone” and “their”. Both Christians who have read the Bible for much of their lives and new readers of the Bible will understand the subject of the pronouns used in the NIVZ just as they would in a translation like the ESV or NASB. The meaning is retained and the contemporary reader is served in understanding the text as the original readers did. It produces the same net effect (as much as possible considering the gap in time and culture).

The Content

What makes a good study Bible? There are study Bibles for all kinds of purposes. As a single translation study Bible, the NIVZ is the largest to date boasting 2,912 pages (262 more than the NIV Study Bible (2011) hardback and 192 more than the ESV Study Bible hardback). The single characteristic that sets the NIVZ Study Bible apart from any other is its biblical-theological focus. From the book introductions to the study notes themselves, this study Bible is focused on pointing to and weaving together the biblical-theological themes present within the text. Themes like temple, peace, dwelling, redemption, law, etc., are the focus of the notes. The introductory articles to each book provide the biblical-theological overview of each book and then the notes complement and draw out those themes and ideas.

If the notes were not enough to give value to the NIVZ, there are several other aspects that enrich the readers experience as they read this study Bible.

  1. Editorial Team – The editorial team responsible for the notes and accompanying articles strikes a diverse balance. There are scholars (seasoned and new), pastors (seasoned and new), pastor theologians, and women. The line-up is truly impressive and trustworthy.
  2. Book Introductions – The introductions to the various sections of the Bible and the individual books themselves imbibe the biblical-theological focus of the study bible. They set the sections and books within the overall redemptive-historical narrative of the Bible. Coupled with the study notes, the reader is able to see both the meaning of the trees (books) without missing the forest itself (whole focus of the Bible).
  3. Study Notes – In addition to a biblical-theological focus, the study notes aid the reader in gaining a better grasp of the text within its biblical, theological, grammatical, cultural, and social context. The word(s) of a verse that is being commented on is highlighted in bold so they are easy to distinguish.
  4. Marginal Notes – The marginal notes contain three parts. First, there is ample room for personal note taking. This is a great advantage over the ESV and NIV study Bibles. Second, there are cross reference verses on the outside of the margins. Third, between the text of Scripture and the study notes are optional readings of parts of verses.
  5. Maps, Charts, and Pictures– These things are all over the place! They have a map for Jacob’s journey in Genesis, a chart for the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus, a chart showing the distance in miles between OT cities, a picture of King Tut’s golden chariot in 2 Chronicles, a map and diagram of the familial house of Herod in Matthew, an extensive chart harmonizing the Gospels, and even a chart contrasting the Levitical priesthood with Jesus’ priesthood in Hebrews. The pictures are in full color. The more you read the text of Scripture the more you will see the value and helpfulness of the extensive charts. The chats are as helpful to understanding the text as the study notes.
  6. Text of Scripture – Where the text of Scripture stands out in this study Bible is the result of having a single column instead of a double column presentation of the text. Genealogies are presented in list form (with the exception of Gen. 5). The thirty sayings listed in Proverbs 22:17-24:22 are cataloged as such on the left side of the text.
  7. Articles – While articles in a study Bible are not unique, the articles in the NIVZ Study Bible focus on 28 of the most common biblical-theological themes in the Bible. Themes like the gospel, the glory of God, creation, sin, law, covenant, priest, temple, justice, worship, and mission are expounded upon and set within the context of the whole revelation of Scripture.

Conclusion

The NIVZ Study Bible is a remarkable achievement in its content and contributors. There are a lot of good study Bibles competing for people’s money and shelf space, and in my opinion everyone should have more than one. The NIVZ Study Bible is one worth having. It will serve generations of Christians to come as it serves readers in gaining a better grasp of the message of Scripture – the gospel of Jesus Christ!

For more information about the NIVZ Study Bible go to nivzondervanstudybible.com.

I received this book for free from Zondervan. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Paranormal Experience, The by Timothy DaileyAs a kid I watched every episode of the X-Files. Who didn’t watch that show? They made it cool to believe in UFOs and the extraterrestrial. And there was a time in my life when I really believed I saw a UFO. I later came to realize, and actually confirm, that what I saw were the lights shining from a local grocery store upon the nights sky. As a kid I really wanted to believe UFOs and aliens were real. While I was pretty skeptical about Bigfoot, I believed the Loch Ness Monster was probably real. I had a healthy fascination with the paranormal – to a point.

This fascination stopped short of believing in ghosts, alien abductions, and vanishing people. But our culture is full of people who believe in the whole gamut of paranormal conspiracy’s. To help Christians think through these issues Timothy Dailey has written The Paranormal Conspiracy: The Truth About Ghosts, Aliens and Mysterious Beings (Chosen, 2015). Dailey is an experienced researcher, writer, and has served overseas in cross-cultural ministry. These experiences have equipped him to tackle a subject like the paranormal.

The jist of Dailey’s book is that while testimony abounds regarding experiences with the paranormal, these, often times intense, experiences must be weighed and examined like anything else for their authenticity; especially against the Bible. For instance, the chapter on Bigfoot, is a textbook case example of how to evaluate the claims made by people over the past few decades concerning the existence of a large animal that lives in the woods and walks upright like a human. After Dailey provides an overview of the history of Bigfoot, he evaluates the evidence for it and finds it utterly lacking (sorry Bigfoot fans!).

Just because people want to believe some things are real, or because they have invested so much emotional capital into an experience, does not mean that we cannot demand of those who have experienced them proof of their authenticity. We cannot let our emotional attachment to something cloud our judgment in evaluating it like we would anything else in life.

In The Paranormal Conspiracy, Dailey brings a sane, clear, and sensitive look at the sensational claims of many over the decades regarding a myriad of paranormal claims. This is a serious accounting and evaluation of some of the most culturally mesmerizing paranormal claims. Dailey provides a dose or reality and sanity in a world gone mad with the paranormal.

I received this book for free from Chosen Books for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Mapping ApologeticsThough there are a few dissenters, it is a commonly held belief, across a wide spectrum of Christian denominations and theological persuasions, that Christians are to engage in apologetics. In short, Christians are commanded to defend the faith once delivered to the saints against the attacks of unbelief, in response to questions by those genuinely seeking to understand it, and for believers to be built up in their faith. While the command to do apologetics is clear, it is not so clear as to how to do apologetics. This is where the unity around doing apologetics as an aspect of discipleship turns into vast diversity on the method of apologetics.

Just like there are many theological systems through which to view systematic or biblical theology, so there are many different apologetic methods championed by a diversity of Christian apologists. There are many books supporting each method and even within the same method there can be several branches with diverging views on various aspects. Make no mistake, there are many believers and unbelievers who have been genuinely helped through all of the apologetics methods. There are genuine Christians who support each view and who, at times, strongly disagree with some views to the point that they believe they are detrimental to the Christian faith. Everyone believes their method is the best. Some of these approaches complement each other and some of them are at great odds with one another. With so many views and books to read, where does one begin to weight the pros and cons of each method?

This is why I am excited about Mapping Apologetics: Comparing Contemporary Approaches by Brian K. Morley (IVP, 2015). Morley is a professor of philosophy and apologetics at The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, CA and is the founder of the apologetics ministry faithandreasonforum.com. “The focus of the book,” says Morley, “is on understanding the theories and how they see each other.” (11) Of the ten major views which Morley believes are most prominent he judiciously lays out the details of five of them (presuppositionalism, reformed epistemology, combinationalism, classical apologetics, and evidentialism), giving fair critique from his own evaluation, and, perhaps most beneficially, gives critique of each view from those who support the other views he presents.

There are a number of different ways in which one could chart and compare each apologetic method. Morley has chosen to chart the views according to how each view appeals to independent evidence to support their conclusion(s) (25).  So, what evidence does said view have for the certainty with which it holds to belief in God? While fedism and rationalism are the exact opposites on the chart, neither is addressed in the book at length. Therefore, the opposites of the book are presuppositionalism (which appeals to the transcendental argument for its certainty but not independent evidence) and evidentialism as its opposite (which appeals to multiple lines of independent facts as support for its certainty).

There are a number of reasons why I think this book is beneficial to those interested in apologetics. First, avid readers of apologetics will immediately notice that Morley has gone out of his way to accurately present the positions of each person he interacts with. The footnotes are evidence of this along with his mentioning of the numerous emails and in-person discussions he has had with most of the apologists mentioned in the book. I believe each apologist mentioned would be pleased with Morley’s presentation of their positions.

Second, as mentioned earlier, I think one of the most beneficial aspects of the book is the critique Morley gives to each view and that he presents from other apologists. One would be hard pressed to determine Morley’s own view (he does not give it) from the book because of how fairly he critiques each. Morley’s ability to judiciously critique each position shows that he gets what each view is saying. He does not offer straw-man critiques but rather, fair and substantive interaction with what he believes are weaknesses with each view.

Third, repetition, repetition, and more of it. While usually repetition in a book can become distracting, Morley is intent on using it as a means of effectively communicating his points. He wants to be clear enough for those without an apologetics background to be able to grasp the core beliefs of each method. He uses repetition to be clear and keep the reader from needlessly bouncing back and forth throughout the book in order to review what has been previously discussed.

Finally, this book, in many ways, gets to the heart of the dividing line between the various apologetic methods in a way that is not achieved in many comparative views books (though those are beneficial). Morley ably points to enough of the theological underpinnings of each view to show how they shape the structure and direction of the method. This gets at a point which comes to the forefront of discussions on methodology: ones theology (especially on the nature of man and the Bible) shapes ones apologetic method.

Mapping Apologetics is a must have for every student of apologetics. It will serve as a great textbook for apologetics classes and serves as a good basis from which to launch further into each view. Though at times I don’t think he has quite reach his goal, Morley has for the most part been clear and understandable enough for someone just getting into the subject to walk away with a satisfactory understanding of each view. This will be a book I will return to time and time again to further my understanding of the various apologetic views.

Further, any good book like this leaves the reader itching for more. Morley does not have, nor would he says he has had, the last word on what he has addressed. Maybe others in a similar position will be inspired to write in a similar vein. More can be said and I hope he returns pen to paper to explore more issues within the various methods. Morley is a person I would want to learn more from even where I might disagree with him.

I received this book for free from IVP for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Every Child WelcomeWhen we talk about ministering to and helping children, whether in the church or in the culture, we often use the phrase “the least among us”, in part, to emphasize the responsibility we have to them. They often do not know or cannot be a voice for their own needs so adults are given the responsibility to do so for them. While ministering to them can be a challenge at times, it can also be one of the greatest sources of joy and blessing. There is nothing quite like explaining the gospel of Jesus to a child and seeing the lights turn on in their eyes as you teach them the Bible.

Added to the natural challenges of teaching children are the challenges brought on by children who have special needs. Whether it is autism, learning disorders, physical handicaps, or children who suffer from one form of abuse or another, ministering to children with special needs is a challenge that very few are equipped to handle in a church setting once or twice a week, let alone feel comfortable handling.

As a father of two special needs children (two girls who were born without eyes) and as a children’s teacher in my local church, I am daily living with the challenges of working with children with special needs. While there are a lot of resources out there to help parents with special needs children, there are not many resources to equip children’s workers in the local church to more effectively and confidently minister to special needs children for the few hours a week they might have with them.

Since resources are sparse I welcome new works aimed at equipping children’s ministry workers to work with special needs children. One such new resource is Every Child Welcome: A Ministry Handbook for Including Kids with Special Needs (Kregel, 2015). The authors, Katie Wetherbee and Jolene Philo, are definitely equipped and qualified to write this book. Both of them have children with special needs, have degrees in education, and have spent most of their professional careers teaching special needs children in public schools.

The premise of Every Child Welcome is that every child, despite having special needs, needs to be ministered to with the gospel in the local church. This is grounded in Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:14, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Since Jesus’ statement included ALL children so should the aim of our churches children’s ministry. The kingdom is for every child and “no child is disqualified because of preexisting physical conditions, mental illness, or behavioral issues.” (9)

As the subtitle of the book indicates, this is a handbook. As a handbook, the book is structured more like a manual on how to address needs and apply the numerous strategies the authors lay out in the book. This style of book fits well with the goal of equipping children’s ministry leaders to clearly see, understand, and effectively implement the various suggestions and strategies the authors present.

While the content is presented in a handbook style, it is woven together through the picture of how a person would host dinner guests. Each chapter addresses another stage in the meal process for guests. From the main dish to desert. For ministering to children with special needs this ranges from creating a space that is welcoming and sensitive, to creative ideas for enhancing their learning through fun activities meant to supplement the lesson.

While there are many ideas that would work for non-special needs children, the authors definitely give workers a ton of helpful advice and tools that will equip them to more effectively, and less stress-fully, minister to children with special needs. Some readers will feel overwhelmed with all of the advice offered. There is no need to feel like everything in the book needs to be implemented overnight. What you are reading is the result of years of working with children and not overnight quick fixes. It will take time to implement the strategies suggested. There will be trial and error as their was for the authors. But the children are worth it.

Every Child Welcome needs to be read by every children’s pastor and children’s ministry worker. The authors have thought of everything and have presented the material in an easy to read and helpful format for easy referencing. This book will help to ease the natural frustrations that children’s ministry workers may feel when ministering to children with special needs. Though the desire to minister is there, the tools and ability are not always. This book will give you the tools, thus enabling you to minister with more understanding and confidence to those children with special needs that God has brought to your church.

I received this book for free from Kregel for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Gaining by LosingWhen you ask a pastor about their church, his answer will tell you a lot about what he thinks a church is and what defines a successful one. A lot of pastors, for one reason or another, will mention the size of their church. Size is often a barometer for success but the numbers do not tell you the health of that success. Size can indicate that a church has been successful at bringing people in (attraction) but it does not indicate how successful you have been growing them once in (discipleship).

There are many books on ecclesiology that address why the size of a church does not tell you the health of a church. These books will rightly focus on discipleship development as a more biblical way to assess church health. There are many characteristics of a health church. Its focus on missions is one of those.

In Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches that Send, pastor and author J. D. Greear focuses on the sending aspect of a church as a means of measuring its success in building healthy disciples of Christ. In this book Greear uses the example of his church and ministry lessons as a vehicle for helping churches see that the future growth of the (C)hurch is found in a local (c)hurches focus on sending its disciples out to plant more churches.

As the subtitle indicates, Greear believes that churches which send their resources and people out of their midst are the ones that are contributing the most to the growth of the church. “I believe that churches that give away both their people and their resources are the churches that will expand the kingdom of God into the future.” (17) So a churches ability to grow the kingdom “lies not in your ability to gather and inspire your people at a weekly worship meeting, but in your capacity to equip them and send them out as seeds into the kingdom of God.” (17) This is what we call gathering to scatter.

While the book is chalk full of ministry advice and wisdom, there is one element of the book which is threaded throughout from start to finish: the ability of a church to send lies in its ability to make disciples. It is essentially fulfilling the Great Commission. “The Great Commission,” says Greear, “is not a calling for some; it is a mandate for all.” (80) For example, in discussing the growth of the church in the book of Acts, Greear notes that “the gospel’s most powerful advances in the book of Acts come via the hands of regular people.” (102) God has gifted some people to preach, teach, lead, etc. but they are few in comparison to the rest of the congregation. But the purpose in the gifting of some with those things is to serve and disciple the rest so they can minister as well.

But it is not easy to invest in the lives of people only to send them out. Read the following excerpt to get an idea as to the sacrifice churches and church leaders must be willing to make in order to be a sending church:

I was sitting around a table listening to four church planters for the year give their report on whom they are taking with them to launch. One is planting in Washington, DC; another in Wilmington, NC; and two are planting local;y, both less than twenty minutes from our home campus. One is taking 15 of our members; another, 23; another, 20; and one, more than 50. As they went through their list of Summit-member recruits, I heard the names of elders, big givers, key volunteers, skilled musicians, and personal friends.

As the third church planter started on his list, a small lump formed i my throat. I honestly couldn’t tell if it was a lump of sadness or joy. I think it was panic. Had we really committed to this? When each of the first two planters had gone over their lists, it had felt like two punches ion the gut. Now this third guy was winding up for the knockout blow.

‘Sending’ preaches more easily than it is executed, you see. Our church will look different next year when these men and their teams leave. Their absence will leave significant gaps. (189)

The success of the Great Commission depends on churches sending and scattering from its gathering disciples who are willing to go and make more disciples. These are the churches that will see the size of the kingdom grow and not just their own local body.

Gaining by Losing is a must read for all Christians, especially church leaders serious about fulfilling the Great Commission. Greear will challenge you to think about how your church functions. This book is a call to see a growing (C)hurch through the eyes of sending (c)hurches.

I received this book for free from Zondervan through Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Christian BioethicsEveryone has a moral standard. Everyone has a moral position on abortion, capital punishment, orphanhood, plastic surgery, etc. But while everyone could tell you what their moral position is they cannot necessarily tell you why that is their moral position. Morals tell us what we will and will not do but ethics tell us why we will and will not do those things. Ethics are the science (or reasons) behind our morals and morals are our ethics in practice. Most people do not think far enough into the ethics behind their morals. Unfortunately, Christians do the same thing. Many don’t bother to examine the why questions and others don’t know how to.

As science continues to make new discoveries that greatly benefit the medical community, and those who receive its care, there has come with those advancements a whole host of ethical dilemmas that Christians must face – both medical professional and patient alike. To help Christians chart through the myriad of ethical decisions they will need to make in the current bioethics world, D. Joy Riley, MD and C. Ben Mitchell, PhD have teamed up to bring us Christian Bioethics: A Guide for Pastors, Health Care Professionals, and Families (B&H, 2015). This is the fourth book in the B&H Studies in Christian Ethics series. What is great about this book is that we have both a theologian and medical doctor in dialogue working through the issues. This professional balance offers a more well rounded and wholistic picture of how to think through the various situations.

Mitchell and Riley divide the book under three categories of bioethical issues: (1) taking life, (2) making life, and (3) remaking/faking life. Each chapter introduces the issue at hand with a real case. The issues each case raises are, mostly, addressed throughout the chapter through a dialogue between the two authors. Far from making the discussion juvenile, the question and answering back and forth provides a deep conversational feel to the book that draws the reader in more to what is being said. It makes the book really hard to put down.

There are several things that stand out in this book. First, readers will be fascinated by the medical history that the authors discuss. Many people outside of the medical field will be surprised to know that most doctors, upon graduation, have never read the Hippocratic Oath, though they are asked to repeat it at graduation – and that is if they are even asked to repeat it (16-17). The first abortion law was enacted in Connecticut in 1821 (51). The first organ to be transplanted was a kidney in 1954 (132). The first successful cloned sheep was Dolly in 1997 (151). The first human “avatar” is hoped to be completed by 2045 under the work of the Russian 2045 Movement (169).

What the history of medical advancement shows us is that what we see happening today owes its existence to a long line of previous advancements. When we trace the history of life saving advancements we realize that we have advanced in the last 10 years much further than we did in the last 50 or more. The more we advance the faster we advance and are able to respond to the needs/demands of the medical field.

Second, readers will see that while one does not have to be a Christian to do and think about medicine and ethics, there is a Christian way to do so. This Christian way of thinking about bioethics starts with the doctrine that God made man in his image (Gen. 1:17). Since all of human life bears God’s image then all stages of human life are to be treated with dignity and respect. Whether it is life that begins at the moment of conception in the womb (chapter 3) or it is life at its end (chapter 4), all of life has value. This especially comes to light when discussing the sanctity of human life and the issue of abortion. If what is in the womb is a human life then it is to be treated as any human (whether in womb or out of the womb) is treated. Further, the authors help us to see how this truth applies to how we think about reproductive technologies such as the ever controversial in vitro fertilization (IVF) (chapter 5). How one views the ontology of a person will influence how one treats a human.

Third, the authors serve the reader well as they clearly articulate good theology and apply it to the many bio-ethical discussions they have. Mitchell urges readers to see the Bible, in relation to making ethical decisions, “as a canonical revelation of God’s commands and Christian virtues.” (31) The Bible is the beginning of the Christians inquiry into any ethical discussion. We are asking ourselves, “What does God say about this?” Also, since God created the world and our bodies, Christians need to be at the forefront of understanding ourselves and the world He has created us to live in. In addition to knowing the “book of the world” (nature), the authors encourage Christians to know “the book of self.” (37) That is, in order to make good ethical medical decisions, it is not enough to ask doctors and medical professionals but we are responsible to know the human body in general and our own bodies in particular. It is the faithful study of the Word of God and the world of God that enables us to make ethical decisions. “Christians have nothing to fear from truthful science, and science has nothing to fear from faithful biblical interpretation.” (41)

Mitchell and Riley have served the church well with this guide for how to think through the intersection between theology and bioethics. They help us to navigate through the thick theological and medical discussions inherent in the life and death decisions we will all be faced with at one time or another. They do not sugarcoat the issues. While disease, suffering, pain, and death are not supposed to be, they are a part of the world we live in. They remind us of our humanity and fragility. Though as creatures we inherently have limitations, these things bring us even more of them. Mitchell and Riley have charted a path through these limitations that serve as a faithful and responsible way to think about them.

See other book in the B&H Studies in Christian Ehtics:

Taking Christian Moral Though Seriously: The Legitimacy of Religious Beliefs in the Marketplace of Ideas Ed. by Jeremy A. Evans & Daniel Heimbach

Moral Apologetics for Contemporary Christians: Pushing Back Against Cultural and Religious Critics by Mark Coppenger

An Introduction to Biblical Ethics by David Jones

This review was originally published on SharperIron.

I received this book for free from B&H for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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