It is not every day that a scholar is an honored as much for his scholarly work as he is for his dedication to his family. One might think of the late B.B. Warfield who is known for his academic work and yet gave his wife constant care as she suffered from the effects of a thunderstorm during their honeymoon. One such contemporary scholar is John S. Feinberg.
Feinberg is a professor of biblical and systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he has been since 1991. He has taught and lectured at numerous schools and has published a number of standard works like Ethics for a Brave New World (Crossway, 2nd Ed. 2010), Can You Believe It’s True?, and No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God (Crossway, 2001) which is part of the Foundations of Evangelical Theology series of which he is the editor. These three books alone speak to Feinberg’s ability to speak well in the areas of ethics, apologetics, theology, and philosophy; a rare combination.
In honor of Feinberg’s work as a premiere evangelical scholar Gregg R. Allison and Stephem J. Wellum have brought together a stellar cast of John’s friends and past students to produce Building on the Foundations of Evangelical Theology: Essays in Honor of John S. Feinberg (Crossway, 2015). The contributions are divided into three sections which center Feinberg’s work around the idea of a building: Designing the Architecture, Setting the Foundations, and Erecting the Superstructure of Evangelical Theology.
Due to Feinberg’s concentration in philosophy and biblical and systematic theology, the essays delve into either related subjects upon which he touched or interacting directly with positions he took on various issues. Virtually all of the essays are interesting in their own right, especially Stephen J. Wellum’s essay on kenotic theories, Keith E. Yandell’s essay on the trinity, John F. Kilner’s essay on bioethics, and Kevin J. Vanhoozer’s essay on doctrinal development.
One of the things readers will notice throughout the book is Feinberg’s adeptness at interacting not only with theology but philosophy as well. His ability to speak and interact authoritatively with both makes him a potent champion for his position, whether one agrees with him or not. This applies to a host of issues he has tackled ranging from the theology of hermeneutics to ethics.
Further, Feinberg is not afraid to deviate from the majority traditional view of things if he believes it is not biblical. One such issue is addressed by Keith Yandell on the Feiberg’s view of the trinity. Working from Feinberg’s book No One Like Him, Yarnell addresses his position that the traditional understanding of the eternal generation of the Son and eternal procession of the Spirit are not warranted by Scripture (151). Feinberg’s essential argument is that the terms like “sharing”, “proceeding”, and “begetting” imply the wrong thing before one is able to state what they believe they are rightly intended to communicate. That the Father shares with the Son and Spirit His divinity does not mean the Father gives them something they do not already possess (divinity) but that they all possess it; they equally have, or share, God’s divinity. Feinberg does not think it is necessary to use these confusing terms to accurately and faithfully communicate what Scripture teaches about the equal divinity of Father, Son, and Spirit. I think at the end of things Feinberg does not provide a satisfactory susbstitute for how evangelical Christians ought to discuss the threeness and oneness of God but I don’t think he has denied the fundamental beliefs of the trinity either. One will have to read the chapter and his No One Like Him to decide for themselves if he has accomplished his goal.
Building on the Foundations of Evangelical Theology contains a great cast of honorary essays and will have something for all who are interested in Feinberg’s work. Feinberg might rightly be called a sleeping giant of evangelical theology. He has not enjoyed the kind of limelight that others have but his work has had the same kind of lasting impact. Readers will also be delighted to know that the royalties of the contributors are going directly to the Huntington’s Disease Society of America which does research on the disease Pat Feinberg has battled for years.
I received this book for free from Crossway 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.”
There are lots of good devotional commentaries out there to use as you work your way through a book of the Bible and here are three new ones that you should consider. Thanks to EP Books & Christian Focus for providing these!
Faith of Our Father: Expositions of Genesis 12-25 by Dale Ralph Davis (Christian Focus, 2015). Dale Ralph Davis is the kind of preacher that one could listen to for hours on end and never tire, always wanting to hear more. Davis has written a number of commentaries on Old Testament books. Faith of Our Father began as a sermon series at First Presbyterian Church in SC where is Minister in Residence. In it Davis covers the life of Abraham from his calling in Ur to his death and burial in Ephron. Davis writes with his unique insights and powerful illustrations that bring to life and heart the text of Scripture. Davis always sticks to the text and this book is no exception.
From the Pen of Pastor Paul: 1-2 Thessalonians by Daniel R. Hyde (Evangelical Press, 2015). Pastor at Oceanside United Reformed Church and adjunct professor at two seminaries, Hyde has written a number of books such as God in Our Midst and Welcome to a Reformed Church. In From the Pen of Paul Hyde looks at 1-2 Thessalonians with the eye and experience of a pastor who is concerned with the meaning of the text and its relevance for the church today. Hyde carefully guides the reader through Paul’s heartfelt words of comfort, challenge, and encouragement to the Thessalonian believers.
Why Everything Matters: The Gospel in Ecclesiastes by Philip G. Ryken (Christian Focus, 2015). Ryken is one of those authors that make you grip the edges of your book in anticipation for what is next while you read. In this book Ryken takes up the hard task of walking through the book of Ecclesiastes right to the gospel of Jesus. Ecclesiastes tackles the big questions of life: why I am here? and what is the meaning of life? This is a deeply God centered book. Ryken masterfully shows us how this book takes us from an earth-centered view of reality to a God-centered view of reality. It is the gospel that gives our lives on earth meaning and it is the gospel that Ecclesiastes points us to.
There are a number of good books on the New Testament that serve as introductions by focusing on the historical background, explain interpretive issues, discuss genre, and the like. Many of these are written for graduate level students and classes. But there is a big need for under graduate textbooks that teach the basics of the New Testament.
To fill this need Kregel has published two books that survey the Old and New Testaments. The New Testament book, What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About, is now in its second edition with an updated front cover to match the popular Old Testament cover.
There are several features of these books that make them very useful for under graduate students studying the Bible:
- There is a one page summary section which addresses the Who?, When?, Where?, and Why? questions regarding the writing of each book. This section is typically much longer in most other intro books. The brevity helps readers grab a quick sense of these issues without being overloaded with more information than they know what to do with.
- Each chapter thematically summarizes each book of the NT. This is not necessarily an outline that follows the book from beginning to end but rather summarizes the main ideas of each book.
- Though this is a survey, there are over 100 side bars throughout the book that apply points of each book to today’s world. This aids the reader in seeing the timeless relevance of the text and the information each contributor is providing.
- At a Glance sections at the beginning of each book give the reader an shout outline of the whole book.
- Throughout each chapter there are key words that are highlighted and complied at the end of each chapter. This help to reinforce the message of each book and gives readers springs to jump from for further study.
- Threaded throughout the book is a theological focus on Jesus. This is done in a way that is unlike any other NT survey and many introductions. This is also a focus in the OT book.
What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About is a great survey that will serve under graduate and even upper level high school students. This book, as well as its Old Testament counterpart, cuts to the chase on the main message each biblical author is trying to convey in their writings. This is not meant to be an exhaustive survey and different settings might require the use of additional texts and classroom instruction.
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.”