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Barrett’s Book Notes: Natural Law, Mather, Kuyper, Romans, and Zechariah

VanDrunen_Divine Covenants_pb_wrk_013.inddDavid VanDrunen. Divine Covenants and Moral Order: A Biblical Theology of Natural Law (Emory University Studies in Law and Religion). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014.

David VanDrunen has done some excellent work on natural law, this book being his latest release on the subject. What sets this book apart is VanDrunen’s angle: providing a biblical theology of natural law. As you might have guessed, VanDrunen’s biblical theology is rooted in the Reformed tradition, particularly the two kingdoms vantage point.  Part 1 looks at natural law in the covenant of creation and Noahic covenant, while Part 2 explores the Abrahamic and Sinai covenants, as well as Wisdom literature and the new covenant. Also don’t miss the five sections at the end on various topics like Neo-Calvinism, David Kelsey’s Anthropology and the image of God, etc.

Paul Helm commends the book:

“David VanDrunen here continues his sterling work of recovering and re-presenting the Reformed doctrine of the two kingdoms. That there is a biblical-theological account of natural law may be a surprise to those who have habitually thought of natural law in secularized terms. But such law is a divine gift, playing its part in every era. VanDrunen shows that it is a revealed truth, confirmed in experience, and that it undergirds ‘the kingdoms of this world.’ “

9780802872111Rick Kennedy. The First American Evangelical: A Short Life of Cotton Mather. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015.

When you hear the name Cotton Mather (1663-1728) what first comes to mind? Probably the Salem witch trials! Well, Rick Kennedy is out to fix that, calling Mather America’s first evangelical. In this new biography Kennedy corrects misunderstandings and caricatures, demonstrating that Mather was a critical mover and shaker at the start of America’s history. If you are looking for a window into early evangelical-American Protestantism, Mather is an excellent place to start.

Douglas A. Sweeney
— author of The American Evangelical Story: A History of the Movement
“Cotton Mather is widely seen as a moralistic hypocrite, a one-dimensional bad guy we moderns love to hate. But in this lively new biography, he takes on flesh and blood and, more importantly, a heart. . . . This courageous little book offers readers a better feel for Mather’s vibrant, quirky, learned, evangelical spirituality than anything before.”

George M. Marsden
— author of A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards
“Mather’s life is one of the most fascinating in all of American history. Rick Kennedy has done a fine job in providing a sympathetic, engaging, and yet brief account of such a many-sided and influential personality.”

0004655_abraham_kuyper_a_pictorial_biographyJan de Bruijn. Abraham Kuyper: A Pictorial Biography. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015.

I am a big (!) fan of pictorial biographies. As much as I love the printed page, I love it even more when there are colorful photos that depict what I am reading. This new biography of Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) by de Bruijn is just that. The biography itself is unique in that it gives considerable attention to Kuyper’s personal life, rather than limiting itself to his worldview. But the book is in a category all by itself in terms of its illustrations, of which there are over 400 hundred.

John Bolt commends the work:

John Bolt
— Calvin Theological Seminary
“As valuable as Abraham Kuyper’s words are in providing a portrait of the man and his times, they are not enough. A bigger-than-life figure like Kuyper, who was both a product of his own time and a major influence on it, is understood much better when he and his world are made visible to us. Kuyper needs to be seen as well as heard, and this volume gives us the whole picture.”

Longenecker_NIGTC_Epistle to the Romans_jkt.inddRichard N. Longenecker. The Epistle to the Romans. NIGTC. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016.

The latest contribution to the NIGTC just released. Richard Longenecker is professor emeritus of New Testament at Wycliffe College, University of Totonto and has written substantial books on Paul, Romans, and Galatians before. Needless to say, this commentary on Romans is a lifetime’s work. Regardless of whether you agree with him or not on all his conclusions, his exegesis, biblical theology, and application demands engagement.

Romans scholar (and Credo Magazine contributor), Thomas Schreiner, commends the massive volume:

“Paul’s letter to the Romans is like Mount Everest in its grandeur and beauty. How fitting it is, then, for one of the deans of New Testament scholarship, Richard Longenecker, to present his interpretation of the letter in this magisterial commentary. All the virtues of Longenecker’s work are evident here: in-depth exegesis, careful evaluation of the literary and historical setting of the letter, and consideration of the letter’s message for readers today. Interpreters of Romans are indebted to Longenecker and will want to consult his work regularly.”
— Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

9780802823755Mark J. Boda. The Book of Zechariah. NICOT. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016.

While we are on the subject of commentaries, don’t miss the latest addition to The New International Commentary on the Old Testament by Mark Boda on the book of Zechariah. I wish more pastors were brave enough to venture into the prophets as they think through sermon series. If that is you, then pick up this new volume by Boda as you preach through Zechariah. You will need to wrestle with his commentary as you think through his exegesis.

p.s., right now this large commentary is 32% off at Westminster Bookstore!

Tremper Longman III
— Westmont College
“The book of Zechariah fascinates us and informs us about the postexilic Judean community’s relationship with God. Mark Boda, a master of this time period and this genre, opens up the book to readers today. His commentary is clear and profound, informative and illuminating. Everyone who studies Zechariah must read Boda’s work, which makes an important contribution to scholarship and to the church.”

Matthew Barrett is Tutor of Systematic Theology and Church History at Oak Hill Theological College in London, as well as the founder and executive editor of Credo Magazine. Barrett is the author of numerous book reviews and articles in academic and popular journals and magazines. He is the author of several books, including Salvation by Grace: The Case for Effectual Calling and RegenerationOwen on the Christian Life: Living for the Glory of God in Christ (Theologians on the Christian Life)God’s Word Alone: The Authority of ScriptureCurrently he is the series editor of The 5 Solas Series with Zondervan. You can read more about Barrett at

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