The World around the Old Testament: The People and Places of the Ancient Near East

The World around the Old Testament: The People and Places of the Ancient Near East, edited by Bill T. Arnold and Brent A. Strawn. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2016. 531pp. $25.03.

“Perhaps second only to ‘What do you do (for a living)?,’ the question ‘Where are you from?’ must be the most frequent inquiry when people meet for the first time” (xv). This very opening sentence in the introduction of the book anticipates what the content is about. With their aspiration to inquire where the Old Testament is from, the editors, Bill T. Arnold, Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary and author or editor of more than a dozen books, and Brent A. Strawn, Professor of Old Testament at Emory University and author or editor of various books, describe, along with other contributors, the regions in which the Old Testament originated.

The book contains thirteen essays on the civilizations related to the Old Testament, i.e., regions and peoples from north, south, east, and west of ancient Palestine. These essays include historical developments of the Amorites, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Ugaritians, the Egyptians, the Hurrians, the Arameans, the Phoenicians, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Persians, the Arabians, and the Greeks in chronological order from the Late Bronze Age to the end of the Persian Period. A separate essay on the Canaanites is not found in the book. According to the editors, the discussion has been purposefully omitted. Since the land of Canaan is where the Israelites resided, it is not considered to be a region around the Old Testament, but rather it is where the Old Testament was from.

Each essay has given attention to four areas of focus: (1) a general overview of the history and culture of the region or people group; (2) a survey on ancient Near Eastern history from the Late Bronze Age to the end of the Persian Period; (3) a discussion of topics other than political matters, such as religion, high culture, and other social significances of the region or people group; and (4) comments on the relationship between ancient Israel and the region or people group in the chapter.

Each contributor thoroughly explores evidence from biblical texts, ancient Near Eastern texts, and archaeological investigation in presenting historical origin and development of the nations around Israel. The information is rendered in such a way that the reader is clearly informed about political context of the civilizations mentioned in the Old Testament. For instance, some nations had central power by the kings (Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Persians); some were city-states ruled by separate kings (Phoenicians, Philistines, Greeks); while others never achieved a unified political power (Amorites, Arameans).

Examinations of significant cultural conditions for each civilization are also laid out in a very informative way. Religious practices in Neo-Assyrian culture, such as worship of Ishtar and dead ancestors, divination, and omen series (70–75); the nature of the Phoenician language being classified as Canaanite (280–84); and agricultural development under the Persian rule (395–97) are a few examples among many other significant cultural developments in those nations related to Israel. These political and cultural backgrounds successfully serve as a linkage for the historical development of Israel.

Presentations on how each nation was involved in the story of Israel are notable. The way the Arabians associated with the genealogies of Genesis as the descendants of Ishmael (458), how the decline of centralized power in Egypt during the Third Intermediate period paved the way for the kingdom of Israel into existence (189), how the Assyrians’ political schemes led the greatest conflict between the northern and southern kingdoms (47–48), how the Babylonian and Persian empires played important roles in Israel’s national evolution are some of the remarkable facts manifested in the presentation. Along with these facts, similarities and differences in cultural and religious elements between those nations and Israel are revealed. Observations on the ritual texts of the Ugaritians (161–63), literary parallels between Egyptian literature and the Old Testament (191), Babylonian legal tradition as parallel to the Deuteronomic covenant codes (136), and other studies of parallelism between peoples around Israel and the Old Testament effectively convey the identity of Israel among other nations and its belief and practices as governed by theocracy.

Since the discussions presented in the book mainly deal with historical developments of peoples around the nation of Israel, readers should have prerequisite knowledge about Old Testament Israel prior to reading the book. Biblical students and those who are interested in the development of ancient Near Eastern civilization during the time of the Old Testament will gain a great amount of understanding through the extensive observation offered in the book.

Ruth Aung
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Posted in Book Reviews

Singing God’s Psalms: Metrical Psalms and Reflections for Each Sunday in the Church Year

Singing God’s Psalms: Metrical Psalms and Reflections for Each Sunday in the Church Year, by Fred R. Anderson. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016. 239 pp. $24.00.

Today the Psalms of Scripture are mostly read, either aloud in church or silently in one’s private devotional time; however, they were originally intended to be sung. With that in mind, Fred R. Anderson has paraphrased a number of the Psalms into metered text for use in congregational singing. Anderson is a hymn writer, liturgical theologian, and pastor emeritus at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City.

Anderson’s collection includes metrical paraphrases of all the Psalm texts contained in the Revised Common Lectionary. The author provides the hymn meter for each setting, as well as a list of anywhere from one to five possible hymn tunes that may be used with the text. Each text also includes a brief reflection on the original Psalm in which he discusses the original context, use, and any literary devices in the original text. Also included in the collection are metrical settings of some of the canticles found through Scripture, including the Song of Hannah, Song of Mary, Song of Zechariah, Song of Simeon, two hymns from Isaiah, and one hymn from Lamentations.

For music directors who want to incorporate Psalm texts into their church’s singing, the metrical paraphrases will be of primary interest. The paraphrases work very well as hymn texts, fitting comfortably with the tunes Anderson suggests; they also remain quite faithful to the original Psalms, so those looking for biblical, theologically rich texts will not be disappointed. He consciously sets to use inclusive language in his paraphrases, avoiding “masculine references . . . used for the human family” and masculine pronouns referring to God (x). This may be off-putting to conservative Christians, but it must also be noted that he does retain the biblical language of “King” and “Lord” to refer to God as they “are so thoroughly biblical that they were not to be avoided” (xi).

In some cases he has slightly altered the Psalm to be more appropriate for congregational singing. For example, the original text of Psalm 2:7 is from the point of view of the king, and reads “I will tell of the decree: the Lord said to me” (ESV). Anderson has changed this to the third-person: “God’s decree unto the King/Tells us what the Lord did say” (5). Changes such as this retain the meaning of the Psalm, but church leaders should nonetheless use wisdom when deciding if these paraphrases are faithful enough to replace the reading or chanting of the original Psalm text entirely, or if they should be used only as supplements.

Non-musicians may have more interest in Anderson’s reflections on each Psalm text, as might pastors preparing sermons. These cover a variety of topics relating to each Psalm, including historical significance (such as by whom it was written and why), significant theological details (especially any relationship to Christ’s coming), and poetic devices used in the original Hebrew. He also includes some thought on modern application. In his reflection on Isaiah 58:1–12, for example, he draws parallels between the worshiper in biblical days who sees worship only as “an attempted quid pro quo” and the modern Christian who fasts during Lent “more to lose weight than to draw . . . into a more intimate and dependent relationship with God” (230).

Anderson’s liberal leanings become more obvious in his reflections on the texts, calling into question some long-held beliefs on Scripture’s authorship; he claims, for example, that Psalm 8 is “much older than the first creation account” and that the idea of humanity created in the imago Dei stems from the language found in this Psalm (11). Even more concerning is the fact that he appears to cast doubt on the full veracity of the passion narratives in his discussion of Psalm 22: “It is easy to see why the infant church found in this psalm prophetic witness to Jesus’s passion, death, resurrection, and eternal rule, and how its influence found its way into the passion narratives” (34). This seems to imply that Jesus did not actually quote this Psalm while hanging on the cross, but that it was added later to the narrative by the author. While this will hardly undermine the truth of the Gospel, it may be problematic for conservative Christian readers.

Those simply wishing to read about the Psalms may want to look elsewhere, as the discussions on each Psalm are quite short and reflect Anderson’s particular theological leanings. However, for those looking to revitalize their congregational singing with well-written Psalm paraphrases, this book will prove to be an invaluable resource.

Aaron Walton
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Posted in Book Reviews

Worship Changes Everything: Experiencing God’s Presence in Every Moment of Life

Worship Changes Everything: Experiencing God’s Presence in Every Moment of Life, by Darlene Zschech. Bloomington, MI: Bethany House Publishers, 2015. 256 pp. $14.99.

“If you can casually meander through worship, then I would dare to say that maybe, just maybe, you have not entered into true worship at all” (9). In the introduction to Worship Changes Everything, Darlene Zschech defines worship as “our response to His majesty” and as such, this mutual encounter should significantly affect the focus and passion of our worship “because when God comes close, everything changes” (9). A prolific composer of contemporary Christian music, Darlene Zschech is an internationally known singer, worship leader, and speaker. Well known for her accomplishments while at Hillsong, a Pentecostal megachurch in Australia, she is considered by many as a pioneer within the modern worship movement. Many believe that worship is what occurs “at church or what happens for a particular hour or two in the week,” but to the contrary, “because God is ever-present and He is truly worthy,” Zschech’s purpose is to argue that worship is something that should occur during “every moment of life” (25). Thus, she states her thesis best near the end of the book: “Worship changes everything because it invades and pervades every aspect of our lives” (246).

Zschech divides the twenty-one chapters of her book into two sections. The first section serves as a foundation for the second: God’s worthiness, presence, and love causes a response of love, praise, and gratitude from the worshiper. The second section comprises the bulk of her work, delineating every conceivable arena of life as an act of or avenue for worship. Although not grouped as such, her areas of worship discussion fall within several categorical sub-themes. First, we worship by loving others by serving through missions along with positive attitudes and words. Second, we worship in spite of and through suffering, grief, doubt, and confusion. Third, work and money can be expressions of worship. Fourth, marriage and family are avenues for worship. Fifth, worship occurs corporately, privately, and in eternity. Only one chapter stands alone: the love of self as worship.

There are two primary arguments used to support the author’s thesis. This intention was made clear by the book’s division into two sections. The first argument was that worship changes everything “when we worship God for all He is worth with all we are worth” (13). The second argument was that worship changes everything because “as we worship God in and through the relationships, activities, and places in our lives, His power changes us” (79).

The first primary argument is supported by six secondary arguments connected by a progression of thought with the first three focusing upon a loving and present God who is worthy of worship and the last two chapters focusing upon the worshiper’s response of gratitude and praise. The fourth chapter is pivotal in that it addresses the mutual love between God and the worshiper.

Zschech’s second primary argument is supported by fifteen secondary arguments. These secondary arguments do not represent a progression in thought but are connected to the extent that they are areas of life that the author posits as worship opportunities. For example, “serving is worshiping” (80), “words and thoughts in every walk of life can express worship” (123), “money is a golden opportunity to worship” (145), and “work is to be worship” (177). Other secondary arguments include mission and positive attitude as well as loving others, family, and even oneself as ways to worship.

Several strengths of the book emerge. Scriptures permeate the text, adding strength to arguments when correctly interpreted, such as worship beginning at salvation (245). Quotes from a wide range of well-known individuals and theologians as well as religious and historical figures provided added support to some of her arguments, such as statements from Luther and Wesley regarding work (178). Another strength of this book is Zschech’s passion to positively exhort all believers to worship—especially the hurting, downcast, and unloved—by using illustrations from personal interactions and struggles, such as her emotional turmoil during chemo treatments (112).

A number of weaknesses also emerge in this book. Many Scriptures are misused, weakening the arguments supporting the thesis. For example, she views Hosea as analogous to true worship as being a love story in which God woos the worshiper (50–52) rather than a picture of the believer seeking God in righteous obedience (Hosea 10:12, 12:6). Zschech uses paraphrases rather than translations, taking Scriptures out of context, misinterpreting Scripture, and stretching scriptural meanings frequently throughout the text. Examples of this include the positing of Esther as a foreshadowing of Paul (129) and insinuating that Jesus was “negative about money” (146) without giving a balanced picture of what He and the rest of Scripture teach in terms of stewardship. She changes scriptural narratives to fit her charismatic perspective, such as healing in services (70), activating the Holy Spirit with faith (242), and elevating the health/wealth philosophy, relating the parable of the talents “to the world of commerce” and that “it is okay to want more” (174). She often incorrectly quotes Scripture or adds to it, forming different ideas, concepts, and theology, even suggesting that if James and John “truly wanted to be at Jesus’s left and right side, they would have hung on the crosses next to Him, in place of the two criminals” (84). She occasionally makes false claims contrary to Scripture to make her point. Although Jesus was driven by the Spirit (Mark 1:12) or led by the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1) into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matt 4:1), she claims Jesus “was not driven there” but “volunteered so that He could understand and relate to the times when we’re tempted and feel alone” (235).

Further, the quotes chosen seemed randomly added to fit with the author’s thoughts and were biased, which gave the appearance of credibility, but falsely presented theological agreement, such as equating Cyprian to Joel Olsteen (210). She also frequently shifted topics but either did not relate the topic to worship (187–193) or returned to it in a different context (194–95). Many sections did not tie themselves to worship at all (201 and chapter 16).

Zschech argumentation was often flawed. If one follows her use of Ephesians 5:21 as an argument for worship being related to the mutual submission within marriage, the logical conclusion would require God to submit to us (186). She also twists the Great Commandments towards a skewed conclusion: “How can we love our neighbor as we love ourselves if we don’t, indeed, love ourselves” (161)? Six pages later, her logic could be summarized as follows: self-esteem determines my worship, which allows me to accomplish my destiny.

Charismatic theology is the permeating perspective of this book. The health/wealth prosperity gospel (155, 157–58), the use of miraculous gifts in church (212), and charismatic terminology (236) are present.  Other philosophies and religions are used to support her perspective, including negative energy (119) and chaos theory (127), as well as determinism and/or destiny (127, 167, 187).

The topic and theme of this book is timely and valuable within a society that is becoming increasingly hostile towards Christianity. Its format and readability make it accessible to a popular audience, particularly those who are fans of Zschech and/or are in theological/doctrinal agreement with her.

Scott Walker Bryant
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Posted in Book Reviews

The Presence of God: Its Place in the Storyline of Scripture and the Story of Our Lives

The Presence of God: Its Place in the Storyline of Scripture and the Story of Our Lives, by J. Ryan Lister. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Publishing, 2015. 367 pp. $15.58.

“Like mountaintops ascending above the mist, Genesis and Revelation afford us with spectacular views of God’s presence” (87). Professor J. Ryan Lister of Portland, Oregon’s Western Seminary follows in the footsteps of Brother Lawrence (Practice the Presence of God), A. W. Tozer (Experiencing the Presence of God), and countless others in writing about the omnipresence of God working in the life of the believer. The redemptive-historical argument of this book works to prove that the presence of God is a “fundamental objective in our redemption” (24).  Lister manages to do this in an elegant and innovative way by framing the entire argument within a template of theatrical terminology to better illuminate the presence of God, much like a protagonist in a grand theatrical production.

With the book divided into four sections titled “Fade to Light,” “Enter Stage Left,” “Standing in the Spotlight,” and “Curtain Calls,” Lister creates a chronological view of God’s interaction with creation, the Hebrews, the Acts 2 church, and the present day. The author’s Old Testament skills in the first half of the book are noteworthy as he takes the reader on a brisk, yet comprehensive, walk through the history of the Old Testament while hinting of something to come. In fact, page 128 gives the reader the first mention of Jesus Christ, with his presence firmly felt in the second half of the book. The final thirty pages give strong application for the twenty-first-century believer. This tithe of the book may seem like a few pages, however, it is very strong in material dealing with the subjects of sanctification and church discipline. I appreciated his view of the Church as “the Temple” (310) with his theory being if the regenerate serve as the Temple of God, then the church full of believers must ipso facto serve as the Temple. This pattern of thought serves as a strong remonstration to current local churches.

As stated earlier, the Old Testament work in this book walks a fine line between brevity and diligence. As Lister watches God, like an audience member waiting for the fourth wall to be broken toward the end of a play, he gives a thorough understanding of the presence of God and its redemptive qualities. Perhaps it is because of this extreme single-mindedness that Christ is not mentioned and barely alluded to in the first one hundred pages. In a historical view of God’s presence, this can be somewhat forgiven, yet it would have added “more tension to the plot” if the text could have carried a more incarnational tone.

Though concision is crucial for the tone of this book, it was surprising that the subject of Abraham’s sacrifice of a ram, which alludes to Christ’s sacrifice, was only mentioned in a footnote. There is also little formal reference to the Holy Spirit. The omission is probably again due to a laser-like focus on the subject of the presence of the Father member of the Trinity.

The presence of God is made manifest in this writing until the very last page, fulfilling the objective and very title of the book. There may be some changes in perspective that could have helped the reader to gain a more Trinitarian point-of-view of God as the “completion of our salvation” (323); however, the doctrinal platform upon which this book stands is indisputable.

The Presence of God is solid reading for the maturing Christian. It is also good material for any pastor wishing to approach the study of Scripture from a chronological standpoint while retaining a systematic approach, which is not an easy task. By Lister’s writing style, it seems that he wanted to appeal to a more general audience; however, that may not materialize as the subject matter is weighty at times. This is unfortunate as the final thirty pages certainly have thought-provoking material for the modern Christian coupled with very real application, but the previous three hundred pages are crucial in the development of the author’s thesis. I am pleased to have added The Presence of God to my library, and it will no doubt be beneficial as a reference on the redemptive-historical study of the Old Testament for some time to come.

John Francis
Hannibal–LaGrange University

Posted in Book Reviews

Drinking from the Wells of New Creation: The Holy Spirit and the Imagination in Reconciliation

Drinking from the Wells of New Creation: The Holy Spirit and the Imagination in Reconciliation, by Kerry Dearborn. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2014. 159 pp. $20.70.

“What went so wrong with Christian creativity, hope, and love that such inhumane treatment of others could be justified” (66)? Kerry Dearborn, Professor of Theology at Seattle Pacific Seminary and Seattle Pacific University, addresses this question in her book titled Drinking from the Wells of New Creation: The Holy Spirit and the Imagination in Reconciliation. Her purpose is to pen a book that the Holy Spirit uses to bring renewal and hope while leading to shalom (8). Dearborn’s thesis is “that the Holy Spirit is the source of power to reimagine life and to live for the common good, without whom God’s people can quickly default to systems of fearfulness and greed” (33).

Dearborn first explains that God is the one who reconciles, and then she examines the Holy Spirit’s attributes and role in reconciliation. Gifts of the Spirit in reconciliation follow. Next, Dearborn elucidates how the Holy Spirit shapes the imagination in reconciliation, and she explains the imagination’s shadows that inhibit reconciliation. Dearborn closes by describing some signposts of the Holy Spirit’s creation of reconciliation: ekklesia, koinonia, and sacramentum.

Dearborn supports her thesis by exploring the importance of the Holy Spirit forming imaginations in reconciliation. She argues that “the imagination is a vital means by which the Holy Spirit’s gifts of faith, hope, and love can bear fruit that tastes of the indwelling life of Jesus Christ” (70). She traces the Holy Spirit’s work on imaginations found in the story of Peter and Cornelius (Acts 10) and further explains that the imagination is “a solvent that fosters healthy self-denial” that the Spirit uses in forming a person to live for the common good of others (75). Dearborn states, “prayerful openness is one of the most crucial means by which one can receive God’s transforming power to reshape one’s imagination for participation in God’s reconciling purposes” (71). She writes that Peter’s imagination was changed from the “Jewish identity” that believed Gentiles and their food were unclean to an imagination that embraced Cornelius and his family as “coheirs with Christ” (72–73). Dearborn explains it is the Holy Spirit that changes a person’s imagination from self-centeredness to compassion and love for others (73). Not only is the imagination the solvent that the Spirit works upon, Dearborn argues the Spirit creates a new vision in the imagination. The Spirit forged a new hope and vision in Peter and Cornelius that was “countercultural” (78). Thirdly, an imagination impacted by the Spirit will catalyze a response in the community. The Spirit shaped Peter’s imagination to see Christ as Lord and Judge of everyone (79). Dearborn lucidly points to her thesis when she states that “dividing walls have been brought down, and that reconciliation and unity are the gift of God in Christ and by the Holy Spirit” (80). The Spirit’s role in molding the imagination is essential to Dearborn’s claim.

Dearborn also attempts to defend her thesis by elucidating the signposts of the Holy Spirit’s work in reconciliation. She argues the Spirit transforms and creates signposts “that point to renewed life rather than crushing oppression and death” (119). Ekklesia, koinonia, and sacramentum are three signposts. Ekklesia, according to Dearborn, became “a radical expression of inclusion,” and the Spirit’s creation of ekklesia produces Christian loyalty (120). Instead of being exclusive, the Church’s koinonia, through the Spirit’s renewing, radically includes “Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free” (121). Radical inclusiveness is also seen in the early church’s understanding of sacramentum. Dearborn states that this community allowed the Spirit to form their imaginations to see themselves as one body, not divided by class, gender, or ethnicity (122). Dearborn states that these signposts express the Holy Spirit’s impact in reimagining the essence of life (123).

Dearborn makes many thought-provoking claims in her book. She clearly argues for the Spirit’s role in reconciliation among different ethnicities and social classes. In a world plagued with division and hatred, this book encourages Christians to stand against discrimination. Dearborn’s argument for the Spirit’s working on the imagination is particularly strong, and it befits the reader to ponder her elucidation of the imagination’s shadows, a “reservoir of gruesome and hideous images” (6). Overall, Dearborn successfully argues her thesis.

Though value can be found in this book, it behooves Dearborn to clearly state her understanding of the gospel. At times, she seems to use language that points to universalism and the social gospel. For example, she states that “it is precisely because reconciliation is first and foremost the work of God and only secondarily something in which humans participate, that its universal inclusiveness is ensured” (27), and later she notes that “the Spirit gives life to all people, and is a defender of the weak and powerless” (52). She also states that “all have been qualified by Christ and in Christ” (121). In relation to gender roles, complementarians will find Dearborn’s book to be problematic (127). Dearborn also needs to better clarify how creation is a moment of salvation (12).

I would hesitantly recommend this book to students of theology and sociology. This book is written at a college reading level, and it is a fair addition to the field of pneumatology.

John Gray
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Posted in Book Reviews

For the Glory of God: Rediscovering a Biblical Theology of Worship

For the Glory of God: Rediscovering a Biblical Theology of Worship, by Daniel I. Block. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014. 360 pp. $36.99.

From one of the foremost American Old Testament scholars, Daniel I. Block, comes For the Glory of God: Rediscovering a Biblical Theology of Worship. After decades of writing commentaries on individual books of the Bible, Block presents readers with a holistic biblical theology of worship. Through this study he seeks “to find in it the principles and patterns of worship that should drive us today” (6). This is accomplished by answering the larger questions of “What do the Scriptures have in mind when they speak of worship? Who is the object of true worship? And whose worship is acceptable to God” (xiv)? Not only does Block answer these questions, but he also explores the topics of worship in personal devotion and family life, the ordinances, the ministry of the Word, prayer, music, offering sacrifices, sacred space for worship, and the role of worship leaders. Block presents his material topically rather than serially, but within each topic he examines and traces chronological patterns of worship from the Old Testament to New Testament.

Block accomplishes his task by providing the reader with a wealth of information. He answers the first question “what do the Scriptures have in mind when they speak of worship?” by first differentiating between Old and New Testament worship forms. He concludes that in the Old Testament “worship was primarily a matter of external actions rather than inward spiritual events” (5). But one element that carries into New Testament worship is a proper disposition: “First and New Testament perspectives on a proper disposition as a precondition for acceptable worship are indistinguishable” (11). Block concludes this discussion by referencing the command that carries from Old to New Testament in which people are to love God with all their hearts and minds.[1]

Block answers the second major question of “who is the object of worship?” by providing an overview of idolatry and then showing what sets Yahweh apart from other gods and idols. Block provides for the reader an overview of the names of Yahweh, His covenantal nature, and the importance of Christ, who makes all the difference in worship. He closes this chapter with a statement that summarizes why Christ is worthy of worship: “(1) He was slain—the historical fact; (2) with his death he purchased for God a people from every tribe and nation—the missiological fact and (3) through him the redeemed are made to be a kingdom and priests to God, and they shall reign on earth—the ecclesiological and eschatological fact” (53).

Finally, Block answers his third major question, “whose worship is acceptable to God?”  Before he answers this question, he first differentiates between true worship in a sinless world and true worship in a post-Fall world, the latter serving as his primary focus. According to Block,

Obviously God does not accept just anybody or everybody’s worship. When peoples’ hearts are pure and their lives exhibit righteousness, God responds favorably to their cultic worship. But God is not obligated to accept the worship of those whose hearts are hardened toward him and who live contrary to his will, even if the forms of their worship are correct. God looks upon the offering through the lens of the worshiper’s heart and character rather than seeing the worshiper through the lens of the offering. (61)

Block surmises this statement through an analysis of Cain and Abel’s offerings to the Lord in Genesis chapter four. Whose worship is acceptable is first and foremost a heart issue. He continues to prove this idea through an overview of Old Testament worship, through worship in the modern day, and through Christ.

Block accomplishes everything that he intended to do according to his initial questions within the preface, but this book shines further by providing information on the topics of worship in personal devotion and family life, the ordinances, the ministry of the Word, prayer, music, offering sacrifices, sacred space for worship, and the role of worship leaders. These sections continue to complement his initial three questions.

Block provides excellent charts that only add to the resources provided for the reader throughout. Another positive attribute of this book is that Block readily admits where he digresses because of his denominational presuppositions, as he does with the ordinance of baptism on pages 154–55. One final commendable attribute is his extensive chapter on music as worship. He does not simply present his view; but as he does in the rest of the book, he walks the reader from Old Testament to modern times in worship addressing numerous topics many would consider relevant today.

For the Glory of God: Rediscovering a Biblical Theology of Worship provides readers with information that I highly recommend to anyone, especially to those who have formal theological training. This book would be excellent as a textbook in a worship history course or just for a layperson to learn more about worship.

Matthew Phenix
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

[1] See Deut 6:5, Matt 22:37, Mark 12:30, and Luke 10:27.

Posted in Book Reviews

Call for Papers

ArtisticTheologian-JournalCover-final-proofThe editorial team of Artistic Theologian is pleased to extend a general call for papers for the fifth volume of our peer-review journal, due to be published in the spring of 2018.

We are looking for articles and book reviews on the subjects of worship, music, music ministry, culture, aesthetic, and related subjects.

Articles for the journal should generally be about 4,000 to 8,000 words and should be submitted to the Editor-in-Chief. Articles should use clear, concise English, following Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 7th edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007) for proper stylistic format. They should be submitted electronically as an email attachment using Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx extensions) or Rich Text Format (.rtf extension). Special characters should use a Unicode font.

Click here to download the most recent journal style guidelines for more detailed information.

Book reviews for the journal should be between 700 and 900 words.

Please send your submission to the Editor-in-Chief.

Submissions for Volume 6 are due September 1, 2017.

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The Temple and the Tabernacle: A Study of God’s Dwelling Places from Genesis to Revelation

The Temple and the Tabernacle: A Study of God’s Dwelling Places from Genesis to Revelation, J. Daniel Hays. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2016. $19.99.

“The temple and the tabernacle serve as the dwelling place of God himself, and this ‘tabernacling’ presence of God among his people, relating to them in his gracious covenant love, is, without doubt, one of the most central and important themes in the Bible” (185). J. Daniel Hays, Dean of Christian Studies at Ouachita Baptist University, makes this powerful statement in his book The Temple and the Tabernacle. The purpose of this book is for the reader to gain a greater appreciation and understanding of God’s tabernacling presence. By tracing through the “Bible chronologically, examining theologically how God’s presence, power, and holiness engage with people through ‘temples,’ or ‘temple-like’ places,” Hays aims to elucidate how “God dwells among his people and encounters them in relational presence” (10–11).

Hays opens with a brief explanation of the temple and tabernacle, and he examines the Greek and Hebrew words used to express them. He then traces God’s dwelling in the Garden of Eden, the tabernacle, and Solomon’s temple. God’s departure from the temple and an examination of the second temple follow. Hays closes by elucidating the New Testament dwelling of God, and he explains what it means for Christians today.

Hays attempts to defend his thesis in many ways. First, He clearly explains the presence of God in the Garden of Eden. By examining God’s dwelling in the garden, Hays fulfills his goal of showing how the power, holiness, and presence of God dwelt among Adam and Eve. He argues that Eden carries temple-like qualities. Hays states that “the garden . . . is a place where God’s presence dwells in a special kind of way so that his people can be with him and worship him,” thus the Garden of Eden fulfills the “function of a sanctuary or temple” (21). Hays explains how God dwells personally with his people stating that “just as the tabernacle and the temple will become the residence of God and the place where God meets his people, so the garden functions in the same manner” (22). Hays makes a strong argument for the Garden of Eden being a temple where God’s relational presence dwells among Adam and Eve.

Another way in which Hays attempts to fulfill his telos is by examining the dwelling of God in the tabernacle. Hays provides evidence by illuminating the divinely prescribed items of the tabernacle. For example, he clearly expresses how God’s holiness, presence, and power is seen in the ark of the covenant. The “focal point of God’s presence” is the item that is the “most central and the most holy, the ark of the covenant” (36). The table of shewbread is another strong example given by Hays because it likely represents how God chooses to fellowship with his people (43–44). Similarly, with the altar of incense, “the smoke and fire combination fills the holy place and signals clearly that one is entering into a very sacred place and drawing near to the very presence of God” (51). The tabernacle’s purpose was to house the special, holy presence of God, and in it God powerfully dwelt among his people and traveled with them.

In addition to God dwelling in Eden and the tabernacle, Hays also argues that God’s special presence can be seen in the New Testament. Hays explains that Christ is the temple, and he uses John 1:14 as evidence that Christ tabernacled among his people. Because the Holy Spirit dwells within every believer, the individual Christian is a temple of God’s holy presence. Hays argues that the church is also the temple of God stating that “believers as a group (i.e., the church) function together as a temple as well, with Jesus Christ as the special cornerstone for this new temple, and the presence of God dwelling within the temple to empower and bless his people” (179). Hays clearly defends his thesis by examining God’s powerful New Testament dwelling in Christ, the Christian, and the church.

The aforementioned arguments and evidences are particularly strong. His explanation of how Christ fulfilled the tabernacle is informative and biblical. Also, his examination of God’s presence leaving the temple is thorough, and his archeological, historical perspective on Herod’s temple is informative. Overall, Hays was successful in achieving his aim.

Though written quite well, Hays’s book has room for improvement. His argument that Eden parallels the tabernacle and temple would have been enhanced by exploring Adam’s role as a priest in the Garden. He possibly stretches a couple of symbols, for example, the cherubim’s swords symbolizing lightning (23). The author’s statement that God “[did] not initiate the construction” of Solomon’s temple is problematic because he places Solomon’s building of the temple in a negative light, making inferences that are not clearly stated in Scripture (73). In contrast to Hays’s claim, 1 Chronicles 28:6–8 expresses that God chose Solomon to build the temple instead of David. Hays states, when examining 1 Kings 6:12–13, that “God does not respond to Solomon with praise or explicit approval, but rather with cautionary warning” (74). God’s warning does not provide proof that God did not initiate the building of Solomon’s temple, thus it seems that Hays’s claim is more speculation than sheer fact.

This book is highly recommended for those interested in Hebrew and Christian worship, history, and archeology. It includes helpful pictures and charts, which aid in the understanding of the topic at hand. Hays’s book is well written and informative: a great addition for any bookshelf.

John Gray
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Posted in Book Reviews

The Music Architect: Blueprints for Engaging Worshipers in Song

The Music Architect: Blueprints for Engaging Worshipers in Song, by Constance M. Cherry. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2016. 272 pp. $22.99.

Constance M. Cherry is a professor of worship and pastoral ministry at Wesleyan University and holds a Master of Music degree from Bowling Green State University and a Doctor of Ministry in Christian Worship from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. Cherry’s ministerial experience includes being a musician, worship leader, and pastor at churches that range from small to mega-church sizes. These churches have presented Cherry with various styles, people who have been musically literate and not, one race majority, culturally diverse, in rural areas and in metropolitan. The author clearly has both academic and vocational training and experiences that have prepared her to write on the topic of worship. By writing The Worship Architect, Cherry seeks to assist people who have been charged with musical leadership in a local church with carrying out their duties in a way that will glorify God and edify the worshipers. Throughout this book, Cherry seeks to help leaders understand their role in the music for worship, and she gives steps that will encourage the worshiper to engage in song.

Cherry takes the reader through the many different facets that are involved in using music for worship and what she feels is necessary to engage the worshipers in song. To begin she claims that it is not the music minister or worship leader alone who are to be considered when constructing a worship service. Each person who has a hand in the planning process and execution of the music in the worship service is what Cherry calls a “worship architect.” Cherry also gives a new title to the worship music leader, pastoral musician, which she feels more accurately implies the roles associated with this position.

The book then proceeds through the many aspects of music for worship beginning with the foundation, God-focused song. In the subsequent chapters, Cherry presents the reader with the roles of music in worship, creating a logical flow with the songs chosen, and creating a canon of songs for the local church. The perspective of the book changes a bit in the remaining chapters, focusing on the music for worship and engaging the congregation rather than the liturgical perspective from earlier. Cherry covers the topics of maximizing song forms (both long and short), the local church’s individual worship voice based on context, leading the congregation in song, helping the congregation realize their role in worship to encourage them to engage, the formative nature of music in worship, and the pursuit of spiritual leadership through excellence.

Cherry’s organization of the book follows a systematic process that allows the reader to easily understand her main point and purpose. The strength lies in the foundational beginnings that Cherry presents. She first allows the reader to understand the roles of the music leader, and she defines worship and builds upon it to show how the leadership can engage the worshiper in song when it is constructed in the manner she presents. Also, it is organizationally fitting that the first and last chapters address the music “architect” since that is the intended readership.

With the idea of the worship architect in place, Cherry claims that it is not just the educated music minster that should engage the ideas of this book. According to Cherry, those who are musicians, tech/media personnel, and pastors are meant to engage in these thoughts as well. However, Cherry does not give much scriptural basis for many of the things that she claims. For example, when Cherry gives her definition of worship, she gives no foundational Scripture on which to support her definition. This happens throughout the book with other claims. It is dangerous for the uneducated reader, who is one of the many this book is for, to not have this scriptural foundation because without it their views are based solely on Cherry’s word.

Particularly helpful were the chapters that address the engagement of the congregation and the formative role that music has on worshipers. These chapters clearly spell out the worshiper’s role in the worship service. To help encourage the congregation’s engagement, Cherry provides the reader with information about the congregation’s proper role in worship. Her summary gives the reader or music leader the proper tools to educate their congregation and encourage them to engage in the songs of worship with proper intent. They then participate fully for the sake of others in singing with understanding.

Overall, this book was well-written and proves to be very helpful to those who lead music for worship in the local church. Cherry’s organization flowed from foundation to application well, and she leads the reader to many thought-provoking conclusions. The thoughts presented by Cherry are clear and each gives one part of the blueprint to engage the congregation in song. If the two books that came before this, The Worship Architect and The Special Service Worship Architect, are as informative as this volume, they would be well worth reading.

Matthew Stringfellow
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Posted in Book Reviews

Awe: Why It Matters for Everything We Think, Say, and Do

Awe: Why It Matters for Everything We Think, Say, and Do, by Paul David Tripp. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015. 198 pp. $14.27.

“No matter how hard I try, I just cannot seem to get it right!” Many people hear this phrase in common, everyday life. If one were to quickly discern the issue and was also a believer, he or she would be able to deduce that this person is trying to earn his or her righteousness. However, there is another issue at play: placing their awe, hopes, and trust in themselves. In his book, Awe, best-selling author Paul Tripp contends that all humanity is wired to be in awe of God alone. Placing awe in anything or anyone but Him will ultimately lead to failure, dissatisfaction, confusion, and inevitable destruction.

Tripp informs his readers that humanity was specifically designed by God to be in awe of Him alone. The Creator God specifically designs all desires, thoughts, words, tastes, and actions. When man tries to replace God with other means that serve to remind him of the Creator, he will become frustrated, confused, angry, disappointed, and blinded because he has placed his hope in something that cannot withstand the weight of worship. Tripp brings a refreshing view that one who finds his identity in the world finds worry and short-lived satisfaction; however, when one finds his identity in Christ alone, he will find hope, peace, and joy.

Tripp supports his thesis by presenting examples of how humanity is amazed in the world today: the thrill of catching the biggest fish, the astonishment of a flawless performance, starting a business, and seeing a film in IMAX 3-D (13-16). He argues that it is not wrong for human beings to want to be amazed because they were designed to be amazed. The problem is human beings are far too easily entertained; when they place their ultimate hope of being amazed in the means, the things that are designed to remind man of the glorious God, they will find themselves disappointed because they have transgressed against the Creator. Tripp uses the Fall and the story of Cain and Abel as examples of awe gone wrong. Eve, seeking to have the knowledge of God and getting what she was forbidden to have, ate the fruit of the garden out of pride and lustful desire for the unknown. Tripp says, “We want godlike recognition, godlike control, godlike power, and godlike centrality” (28).  As Adam and Eve sought to be like God and govern their own choices, so does man in his treadmill search of amazement in the world when it can only be found in God. The principle that Tripp wishes his readers to grasp from the tragic historical account of Cain and Abel is, “awe of God is very quickly replaced by awe of self” (29). Cain sought his own good and killed his brother because his offering was favored over his own. Tripp calls this misplacement of awe “awe-wrongedness (AWN)” (26). This sickness can cause ministers to shift their purpose from proclaiming God’s name among the nations to agendas being completed (44).  The process of replacing the end to where the awe is directed will lead to self-centeredness, horizontal addiction, and disappointment.

Tripp asserts that what he calls horizontal addiction will lead to amnesia of vertical awe. In the realm of horizontal addiction, the creature replaces the Creator in regard to what is worshiped. Take food, for example: when the taste, smell, and texture serve to remind man of a good God who gave us the biology to sense all of these, it could become the focus of everything for man. He also addresses one concept that affects how man views everything from ministry to parenting to the workplace: worldview. Tripp references Isaiah 40 to show how that particular passage so adequately presents the sovereignty of God. Tripp brings this to a level of understanding with topics of parenting and work for the general layperson. He places awe into the big picture of parenting and work by directing his readers towards the great chief end of man: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

The strength of Tripp’s argument lies in the chapter on worldview (131–44). He presents two types of worldviews: “Two-Drawer” and “Here’s Your God.” The “Two-Drawer” worldview has two drawers. The first drawer, “real life,” has everything that man encounters on a daily basis, and this is the drawer that dominates his life (135). The other drawer, the “spiritual” drawer, has everything to do with God and the spiritual life (135). Tripp argues however, that this worldview is contrary to Isaiah 40, which illustrates God as one who cannot be isolated in a small drawer. In fact, Isaiah 40 is what he calls “worldview literature” or the “Here’s Your God” worldview (136). Tripp’s treatment of this passage reveals why God is the ultimate glorious end where every relationship and circumstance must be brought under the lens of His inspired Word. Looking at the world through an Isaiah 40 lens, he or she will see that everything was created by God and for God. Those without this worldview will experience disappointment, confusion, selfishness, and anger. Having an understanding of this worldview provides strength because this worldview draws from the inerrant Word of God. Tripp supports his argument by using the universal concept of parenting. He recounts experiences of parents who come to him confused and broken because they hate their relationships with their children. He goes on to explain that he believes it is because their worldview is to produce “good” children. However, Tripp addresses that the problem is that children are born with an idea of autonomy and self-sufficiency (161). While Tripp does say that the law is important to establish in the home, he also addresses the heart, which is blinded by sin and self (162–64). Tripp says that the role of the parent is to do everything they can “to put the glory of God and His grace before our children so that the awe of God would rule over their hearts” (163). The comfort gained from this quotation is that God has already done this through creation. Parents must direct the children’s discovery and awe to God and pray for the salvation of their souls (163).

The weakness in Awe is Tripp’s address towards “awe-fickle” hearts (70). He states, “Only when we admit that we have awe-fickle hearts will we begin to reach out for and cling to the forgiving, transforming, rescuing, and delivering grace of Jesus” (70). This seems to be a hazy version of confession and repentance. Tripp’s argument would be clearer and more concise if he clearly stated that sinners must confess and repent of their sin and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Awe is a refreshing call to refocus awe towards the Creator and is applicable for the worship team, layperson, parent, coworker, or unbeliever who has “awe-wrongedness.” This a great book to read in the context of a small group, worship team, or leadership team.

Benjamin T. Bickley
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Posted in Book Reviews