The Thistle

Book Notes – Buswell Library Select Items

Acts: An Exegetical Commentary, Vol. 1: Introduction and 1:1–2:47, by Craig S. Keener (Baker Academic, 2012)

This is a major publishing event in the world of biblical commentaries, if only because this is but the first volume and covers only through Acts 2. That’s both because this is a very scholarly commentary and because the first 638 pages consist of Introduction, which in turn is divided into a prolegomenon and eighteen sections. The latter cover a rich range, with titles such as: “Proposed Genres for Acts” (chap. 2); “The Character of Ancient Historiography” (chap. 4); “Speeches in Acts” (chap. 8); “The Author of Luke-Acts” (chap. 11) with an added excursus on “Ancient Physicians”; “The Purpose of Acts” (chap. 13); “Some Lukan Emphases” (chap. 15) with an excursus on “Background for Luke’s View of the Spirit”; and “Luke’s Perspective on Women and Gender” (chap. 18).

Within the commentary there also are some excurses, treating subjects such as “The Sabbath in Early Judaism,” “Astrology,” “Wine and Excessive Drinking,” “Prophecy,” “Dreams and Visions,” etc.  Keener extensively covers diverse Greek, Jewish, and other understandings of possessions, sharing, etc., and biblically shows that the Jerusalem Church was exemplary as a Christian body following the Lord’s teaching and motivated by the Spirit. They also did not do away with personal possessions in the way that occurred at Qumran, and yet at the same time did not view them as their own. Library Director Jim Pakala, who did his S.T.M. thesis in the mid-1970s on the communal arrangement in the Jerusalem Church (Acts 2 & 4), took a close look at this volume’s treatment of 2:44–45 and was amazed at the erudition.

There’s a CD-ROM accompanying this volume with a bibliography of works cited & indexes to the whole 1038 pages.

The Art of Curating Worship: Reshaping the Role of Worship Leader, by Mark Pierson (Sparkhouse Press, 2010)

At first glance one might think that this was by a Catholic, owing to the attention to the Stations of the Cross, for example, but it’s by an Australian Baptist pastor of more than 15 years who now works with World Vision. Brian McLaren says the author “has the nerve, in a fast-food world, to help launch a slow-church movement. This wise and practical book will take you far beyond the tired old debates about traditional versus contemporary worship and the like.” President David Williams of Taylor Seminary, Edmonton, says “whether one’s worship is ultra-traditional, avant-garde, or somewhere in between,” Pierson “offers an evocative framework for deepening the church’s worship experience.”

A Shot of Faith {to the Head}: Be a Confident Believer in an Age of Cranky Atheists, by Mitch Stokes (Thomas Nelson, 2012)

When Alvin Plantinga commends a book one tends to pay attention, and this one’s by a protégé of his. Hillsdale College’s president also praises it, as does Mars Hill Church pastor Justin Holcomb, who teaches theology at Reformed Theological Seminary as an adjunct. The author observes that a “new strain of atheists” go beyond many others by arguing “that belief in God is dangerous and therefore must be eliminated.” But, “Christian philosophers have emerged to become the largest single constituent of academic philosophy” and “can provide ordinary believers with powerful answers to the current crop of militant atheists.” Each chapter concludes with bullet summaries titled “For Your Arsenal” and a glance at some shows coverage of basic beliefs which are unavoidable and, in particular, undercut atheists’ arguments from “insufficient evidence” for God. Basic beliefs involve reason, experience, and more. Skipping to the “Arsenal” for the chapter on God and evil, one finds a distinction between logical and probabilisitic versions. Stokes appears to address the former by arguing that there is a logically possible situation in which God & evil simultaneously exist, such as the impossibility of God creating free creatures who refrain from evil, regardless. The probability problem relates to evil making it highly unlikely that (at least a good, omnipotent) God exists. Stokes says that although “we can’t think of a reason, for all we know, God has very good ones.”

Our Southern Zion: Old Columbia Seminary (1828-1927), by David B. Calhoun (Banner of Truth Trust, 2012)

This is the latest of many fine scholarly works by our dear Professor David Calhoun. If it is reviewed even half as widely and well as his 2-volume work on Princeton Seminary, it will have found significant recognition and welcome.