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New Books You Should Know About

By Matthew Barrett–

Four Views on Christian Spirituality (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Contributors include: Bradley Nassif, Scott Hahn, Joseph D. Driskill, Evan Howard. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012.

Zondervan has published another counterpoints book, this time focusing on the nature of the Christian spirituality. The representatives are very diverse. Bradley Nassif represents Eastern Orthodoxy, Scott Hahn represents Roman Catholicism, Joseph D. Driskill represents Progressive Mainline Protestantism, and Evan Howard represents Evangelicalism. Here is the summary from the publisher:

Amid a culture that is both fascinated by spirituality and inundated by a dizzying variety of options for pursuing it, many Christians long for a deeper, more historically rooted spiritual life. In Four Views on Christian Spirituality, general editor Bruce Demarest presents an invaluable resource for study and comparison of the major Christian perspectives on spiritual formation. Contributors’ chapters on Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, Evangelicalism, and Liberal Protestantism, collected side-by-side, easily allow for the beliefs and emphases of the viewpoints to be thoughtfully considered—all in pursuit of greater understanding and spiritual growth. The four viewpoints are given equal opportunity in the hands of the following capable scholars, and each proponent’s chapter is followed by responses from the other three. * Brad Nassif (Eastern Orthodoxy) * Scott Hahn (Roman Catholicism) * Evan Howard (Evangelicalism) * Joe Driskill (Liberal Protestantism) In the end, an increased familiarity with each of the different schools of Christian thought will aid readers seeking spiritual transformation for themselves, their family members, and their churches.

Protestantism: A Very Short Introduction. By Mark A. Noll. Oxford University Press, 2011.

Jesus: A Very Short Introduction. By Richard Bauckham. Oxford University Press, 2011.

One little series that keeps going and going is the “A Very Short Introduction” series by OUP. Two of the most recent books in that series include Protestantism, by Mark Noll and Jesus, by Richard Bauckham.

Reading Augustine in the Reformation: The Flexibility of Intellectual Authority in Europe, 1500-1620 (Oxford Studies in Historical Theology). By Arnoud S. Q. Visser. Oxford University Press, 2011.

Visser’s book is one I am very much eager to read. Everyone likes to claim Augustine for their side, Lutherans, Catholics, Reformed, etc. And many times they do so in conflicting ways. Visser’s new book looks at how Augustine’s thought was used during the Reformation. OUP claims Visser has broken new ground in this study. Visser argues that “emerging confessional pressures did not restrict intellectual life, as has often been claimed, but promoted exciting new areas and modes of scholarship.” I look forward to seeing exactly what Visser argues and why.

Karlstadt and the Origins of the Eucharistic Controversy: A Study in the Circulation of Ideas (Oxford Studies in Historical Theology). By Amy Nelson Burnett. Oxford University Press, 2011.

Another book in the Oxford series related to Reformation thought is Burnett’s new volume on Karlstadt and the Lord’s Supper. As you may know, while the Reformers were able to agree on a whole lot, they could not come to a consensus on what takes place in the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist. Burnett’s book takes us back in time to the beginning of that debate, but rather than focusing on Luther and Zwingli, our eyes are drawn to Karlstadt, Luther’s colleague. Here is what Bruce Gordon and Richard Muller had to say about the book:

“This is an extremely important book that re-charts the topography of early Eucharistic debates in the Reformation. Burnett succeeds admirably in placing Karlstadt and the other reformers in their proper historical and theological contexts. Readers will benefit greatly from her skillful treatment of the debates in the pamphlet literature, where issues of print, theology, and polemic are considered alongside the personal relationships of the reformers. A magnificent achievement.”
— Bruce Gordon, author of Calvin

“Amy Burnett has written yet another excellent book: a study of a significant early Reformation figure on a very important topic in the period. Karlstadt has been neglected and sometimes misrepresented–and this study provides a solution to both problems. Burnett deals well with Karlstadt’s background and looks carefully into the theology of his contemporaries, going beyond merely the obvious comparison with Luther. In addition, her study is so carefully textual and so balanced in its analysis that scholars working in Luther and Melanchthon will find analysis of these thinkers sound and insightful as well.”
— Richard A. Muller, P. J. Zondervan Professor of Historical Theology, Calvin Theological Seminary

The Resurrection of the Messiah. By Christopher Bryan. Oxford University Press, 2011.

I am always keeping my eye out for new books on the resurrection of Christ. Here is a new one, and a very academic one, by Christopher Bryan, interacting with the historical and theological approaches to the topic. Bryan seeks to address the main passages on the resurrection and I will be interested to see how this book compares to N. T. Wright’s massive volume on the same topic, as well as how Bryan interacts with skeptics and their arguments. I cannot say where Bryan stands on these issues as this will be the first book I have read by him.

Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. By Bart D. Ehrman. HarperOne, 2012.

One author that continues to attack confessional Christian orthodoxy is Bart D. Ehrman. In his most recent book he asks the question: Did Jesus exist? You will be relieved to hear that Ehrman does say the historical Jesus of Nazareth did exist. But you may not be relieved to hear what Jesus Ehrman believes did exist! In this video that follows, Ehrman explains in the last thirty seconds how Jesus came to announce God’s victory over his enemies in order to set up a utopia on earth. Ehrman concludes from this skewed presentation of the mission and message of Jesus that he was a failed Messiah (hence, his crucifixion). Therefore, the apostles invented Christianity.

Allah: A Christian Response. By Miroslav Volf. HarperOne, 2011.

Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? Christians throughout all of church history have consistently answered NO to this question. But in this his new book Volf, Professor Theology at Yale Divinity School, answers YES. What many evangelicals may find so troubling about Volf’s book is that he calls his view, as the subtitle tells us, a “Christian Response.” Volf’s new book speaks volumes about where many who claim the title “Christian” are going theologically when it comes to other world religions.


The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals When It Gets God Wrong (and Why Inerrancy Tries to Hide It). By Thom Stark. Wipf and Stock, 2011.

Yes, you guessed it, another book attacking the evangelical doctrine of inerrancy. Stark finds many of the texts in Scripture problematic, either historically or morally. Much like Ehrman, Stark is a former fundamentalist. However, he differs from Ehrman in that he still thinks that though the Bible is full of problems and errors, even making it a book he “loathes” (!), nevertheless, he still wants to keep it around for a variety of reasons. You may want to read Denny Burk’s review in one hand and Stark’s book in the other.

Matthew Barrett (Ph.D., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at California Baptist University. He is also the founder and executive editor of Credo Magazine. Barrett has contributed book reviews and articles to various academic journals, and he is the author of several forthcoming books. He is married to Elizabeth and they have two daughters, Cassandra and Georgia.

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