Nathan A. Finn

Historian, Theologian, Teacher, Preacher

Book Review Archive



January 2014



Michael Bird’s Evangelical Theology: Review and Response

Written by , Posted in Book Review, Books, Theology

Evangelical TheologyI have a confession: I love reading book reviews. When I open a new issue of a scholarly journal, normally the first thing I do is check out the reviews. When I read serious Christian periodicals such as First Things or Renewing Minds or The City, the reviews are often my favorite parts. I am a fan of Books and Culture, which is a semi-scholarly periodical consisting of virtually nothing but book review essays. I have served as a book review editor for two scholarly journals, The Journal of Baptist Studies (2007-2012) and Themelios (2010-present), in part because it allows me to pair up good reviewers with worthwhile books. I also enjoy writing book reviews and review essays for scholarly journals, serious Christian periodicals and even blogs.

One of the problems with book reviews is that authors rarely have the chance to respond to critical comments. And when they do respond, many authors are, well, petty. (Of course, many reviewers are also petty.) However, from time to time we have the chance to see some good dialogue related to a book. This is the case the past two days with Matthew Barrett’s review of Michael Bird’s recent book Evangelical Theology and Bird’s response to Barrett’s review. Barrett, who reviewed Bird’s book for The Gospel Coalition, has a couple of nice things to say about Bird’s general approach before offering a barrage of criticism, mostly related to Bird’s method and soteriology. When I read the review, I thought to myself that Barrett had offered a pretty severe review (obligatory pleasantries aside) of a book written by a significant scholar with a popular blog and a wicked sharp wit. The possibilities for carnage seemed to abound.

However, instead of complaining about Barrett’s review, Bird thoughtfully engages most of Barrett’s criticisms. That is not to say that Bird concedes any of Barrett’s points; he does not. Barrett and Bird define what it means to be “Reformed” differently, which is a not uncommon occurrence among scholars in different fields (biblical studies and systematic theology) who are writing for the interwebs. I have no doubt that many folks will agree with Barrett: Bird is not really Reformed (by which they mean orthodox). I also have no doubt that many folks will resonate with Bird: much of what passes for Reformed theology is more about a system than it is sound exegesis (eeeeevil neo-scholasticism). I’m not so much concerned with the debate itself as I am pleased to see this sort of interaction between scholars around a book review.

Barrett is a pretty epic book reviewer who is serious about defending his understanding of Calvinism, and Bird is a prolific blogger who seems to enjoy being a bit contrarian, so the cards were right, as it were, for this sort of interaction to occur online over Evangelical Theology. However, I hope that the internet provides us with opportunities to see other scholars in other fields interact similarly over other issues (anything–anything besides Reformed theology). The internet was made for this sort of thing.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I own Evangelical Theology, but have not read it yet. Thus, I don’t have an opinion either way about Bird’s book, since I haven’t looked at it myself. I’m just a guy who loves book reviews and have enjoyed watching this discussion transpire over the past couple of days.



January 2014



The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Logos Edition

Written by , Posted in Book Review, Books, History, Theology

As regular readers of this blog probably know, I am very interested in the life and thought of Andrew Fuller (1754–1815), the famous English Baptist pastor-theologian. If you aren’t familiar with him, you can read the short blog post about him that I wrote for Desiring God several months ago. I am part of an international team of scholars who are collaborating on a new critical edition of Fuller’s Works that will be published by Walter de Gruyter beginning later this year. In 1988, Sprinkle Press published the best edition of Fuller’s corpus that is currently available. The “Sprinkle Edition,” which is comprised of three volumes, is a reprint of an 1845 edition of Fuller’s writings. Unfortunately, the Sprinkle Edition retails for about $100 and is double columned, making it both expensive and difficult to read.

LogosBibleSoftwareI was delighted to learn recently that Logos publishes an electronic version of The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller. The Logos Edition sells for $59.95. The Logos Edition includes the entirety of the Sprinkle Edition, including Tom Nettles’s brief introduction at the beginning of volume 1. Of course, it also provides all the benefits of the Logos platform as well. I am grateful to the folks at Logos for providing me with a review copy of The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller.

I have enjoyed working with the Logos Edition in recent days. I appreciate that it shows the page numbers of the Sprinkle Edition, which is helpful for citation purposes and is an advantage over other available electronic editions of Fuller’s writings, which do not include any sort of pagination. I also like how Logos allows for a single column format, which makes for much easier reading. This is especially helpful when I read on the Logos app on my iPad. It is comparable to reading a work on my Kindle or iBooks apps. The note-taking feature of Logos is very useful, especially for folks like me who are interested in both edifying reading and scholarly research.

Of course, if you are familiar with Logos, you know that hands-down the search function is the biggest plus about the Logos Edition of Fuller’s Works. The Sprinkle Edition has a serviceable index, but it pales in comparison to electronic word search capability. For example, I am currently working on a critical edition of Fuller’s 1810 book Strictures on Sandemanianism. My edition will include a lengthy introductory essay of 20,000 to 25,000 words. Being able to search for all the references to “Sandemanianism” and other key phrases in Fuller’s Works is an invaluable tool for me as I work on that essay.

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If you are a Logos user and you are interested in Andrew Fuller, Baptist historical theology, or the history of missions, British evangelicalism or Calvinist theology, I would highly recommend you pick up a copy of the Logos Edition of The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller. I would recommend you begin your reading of Fuller with his groundbreaking The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation (2nd ed. 1801), which is available in volume II. This defense of evangelistic preaching from an Edwardsean Calvinist perspective is Fuller’s most influential work. Another good entry point is some of Fuller’s sermons, which are available in volume I. Start with “The Nature and Importance of Walking by Faith,” “Soul Prosperity” or his many ordination sermons (these typically have the words “minister” or “ministry” in the title). Still another place to begin is with Fuller’s circular letters written for the Northamptonshire Association, which are found in volume III. I would recommend “Causes of Declension in Religion, and Means of Revival,” “The Practical Uses of Christian Baptism” and “The Promise of the Spirit the Grand Encouragement in Promoting the Gospel.”

Those of you who are interested in systematic theology should take a look at his “Letters on Systematic Divinity” in volume I, wherein Fuller begins sketching out a crucicentric theological method. Unfortunately, he died just a few letters into his work. His shorter writings on imputation, justification, substitution and particular redemption in volume II provide a constructive (and sometimes controversial) understanding of salvation from an Edwardsean perspective. His Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Pearce, found in volume III, is a warmhearted introduction to Fuller’s friend and fellow missions advocate. Pearce has been called “the Baptist Brainerd.” Pastors especially will appreciate Fuller’s homiletical commentaries on Genesis and Revelation, also found in volume III.

I’m grateful that Logos has made Fuller’s writings available on their platform. I hope the Logos Edition helps familiarize many modern pastors and scholars with the life and writings of the most famous heir of Jonathan Edwards among the Baptists. If you are not currently a Logos user, I would highly recommend the product to you. I have been using Logos for about three months and have found it to be a fantastic tool research, sermon preparation and general reading. You can find out which Logos package best fits your needs at the Logos website.



November 2013



Reading the Christian Spiritual Classics: A Guide for Evangelicals

Written by , Posted in Book Review, Books, Spirituality

Reading Christian Spiritual ClassicsA few months back, I had the privilege of reading an excellent new book edited by Kyle Strobel and Jamin Goggin titled Reading the Christian Spiritual Classics: A Guide for Evangelicals (IVP Academic, 2013). The book is a collection of essays that serves to introduce evangelical readers to the discipline of reading spiritual classics. The book is wise, winsome and edifying. I would highly recommend it.

Today, The Gospel Coalition has published my review of the book. Here is my concluding paragraph:

Reading the Spiritual Classics is a great place to start for evangelicals who are trying to understand “the lay of the land” when it comes to Christian spirituality. But the editors and contributors will surely agree that reading this book is meant to be a gateway into the wonderful world of reading the spiritual classics themselves. Read this book, then take up and read a classic work of Christian spirituality. The editors include a helpful list of suggested readings in the back.

I hope you will check out the review and then read the book.



August 2013



New Book Reviews in Themelios

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FullerThe August 2013 edition of Themelios was published earlier this week. You can read it for free online at The Gospel Coalition website. As always, there are some great editorials and articles by scholars such as D. A. Carson, Michael Ovey, Peter Orr, Owen Strachan, and Gerald McDermott. I contributed reviews on the following books. Both of them are very good books, and though the Schweitzer volume is pricey, I would encourage you read them both.

William M. Schweitzer. God Is a Communicative Being: Divine Communicativeness and Harmony in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards. T&T Clark Studies in Systematic Theology. London: T&T Clark, 2012. (Click here for my review)

Keith S. Grant. Andrew Fuller and the Evangelical Renewal of Pastoral Theology. Studies in Baptist History and Thought 36. Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster, 2013. (Click here for my review)

Jonathan Edwards and Andrew Fuller–right up my alley. I hope you will read the reviews and, if possible, the books themselves.



July 2013



Book Review of Recovering Classic Evangelicalism

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Greg Thornbury
Classic Evangelical and All-Star Rocker

Over at Between the Times, I have published a book review of Greg Thornbury’s new book  Recovering Classic Evangelicalism: Applying the Wisdom and Vision of Carl F. H. Henry (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013). What follows are some of my thoughts that I share in that review.

Thornbury believes that contemporary evangelicals have lost their way in some respects. He commends Henry’s “Classic Evangelicalism” as a pathway to a healthier evangelical future….

As I was reading Recovering Classic Evangelicalism, I found myself reacting in four ways: hearty disagreement, minor quibbles, substantial agreement, and warm appreciation….

I strongly recommend Recovering Classic Evangelicalism as a particularly accessible product of this “Henry Renaissance” that will likely inspire others to get in on the action. I hope Thornbury’s book encourages a generation of evangelical scholars to further engage Carl Henry and his “Classic Evangelicalism”….

I hope you’ll go to Between the Times to read the review. I also hope you’ll pick up a copy of Recovering Classic Evangelicalism and give it a close read.