New Book on the Atonement

B&H Academic recently announced the early, digital release of a new book by Dr. David L. Allen, who serves as Dean of the School of Theology, Professor of Preaching, Director of the Center for Expository Preaching, and holds the George W. Truett Chair of Pastoral Ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

I was pleased to write the following endorsement for his book:

“In this comprehensive historiography, David Allen clarifies the views of Christian thinkers on the extent of the atonement. He argues convincingly from primary sources that unlimited atonement has been the dominant view in the history of the church, even among many Calvinists. Allen challenges readers to discern at which point precisely the atonement was limited—in its intent, extent, or application. Because of the implications for evangelism, he gives special attention to treatments of this doctrine in the Baptist tradition. Allen’s study will benefit anyone interested in the question, ‘For whom did Christ die?’”

For more information on this important new release, see Dr. Allen’s blog.


Theology & Mental Illness

This week, I co-taught with a counseling professor an undergraduate course titled Theological Implications of Mental Illness. It is an elective course at Leavell College, on the campus of NOBTS. 

Every human is a complex and special creation of God, made in his image. But God’s creation was broken in various ways by the first couple’s sin, and that brokenness includes physical and mental disorders among people. Theological issues I addressed in the course included: human constitution, the image of God, providence, evil & suffering, moral accountability, demons & demonization, identity in Christ, and sanctification.

I recommend the primary textbook we used in the course, Grace for the Afflicted, for anyone serving in Christian ministry. The author, Matthew Stanford, holds a PhD in neuroscience and is a professor of neuroscience and psychology at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. The book provides a clinical analysis of various mental disorders, using the DSM-IV-TR (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual, 4th edition, Text Revised) to present prevalence, symptoms, causes, and most effective treatments of selected mental disorders. Illnesses addressed in Stanford’s book include: bipolar, anxiety, eating, and depressive disorders. In addition to briefly describing the clinical nature of each illness, Stanford identifies biblical characters who seem to display symptoms of each disorder as well as how churches can support individuals and families that deal with mental illness.

Mental illness is a complex issue which is prevalent in our culture and churches. Stanford’s book is one resource that can equip pastors and leaders to help those suffering with mental illness get the help they so desperately need.

Election, Paul, & Second Temple Judaism (Video)

On April 7, 2016, Dr. Chad Thornhill, chair of theological studies at Liberty University School of Divinity, presented a summary of his book The Chosen People: Election, Paul and Second-Temple Judaism (IVP Academic, 2015). In this graduate-level study, Thornhill examines extra-biblical Jewish literature of Paul’s era to answer this question: “How did Paul understand election?” The presentation was hosted by the NOBTS Baptist Center for Theology & Ministry and the Theological & Historical Studies Division, and begins at the 2:00 mark, followed by Q&A at 1:09:00.

New Book on God & Cosmology

God&CosmologyMy friend and colleague at NOBTS, Dr. Robert (“Bob”) Stewart, has edited another book. What is a monumental achievement for other scholars has become a common occurrence for this professor of Philosophy and Theology. Bob has edited the following books: The Resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and N. T. Wright in Dialogue (2006); Intelligent Design: William A. Dembski & Michael Ruse in Dialogue (2007); The Quest of the Hermeneutical Jesus: The Impact of Hermeneutics on the Jesus Research of John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright (2008); The Future of Atheism: Alister McGrath and Daniel Dennett in Dialogue (2008); Memories of Jesus: A Critical Appraisal of James D. G. Dunn’s Jesus Remembered, edited with Gary Habermas (2010); The Reliability of the New Testament: Bart Ehrman and Daniel Wallace in Dialogue (2011); The Message of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and Ben Witherington III in Dialogue (2013); Can Only One Religion Be True? Paul Knitter and Harold Netland in Dialogue (2013); served as general editor of B&H Studies in Christian Apologetics, Jeremy Evans, The Problem of Evil: The Challenge to Essential Christian Beliefs (2013); and he has contributed to several other works, including the Cambridge Dictionary of Christianity. Also, Bob has several books in the pipeline.

His latest release, God and Cosmology: William Lane Craig and Sean Carroll in Dialogue (Fortress Press, 2016), is a compilation of essays from the 2014 Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum. Funded by donations from William and Carolyn Heard, the annual forum “is designed to provide a venue in which respected scholars of differing opinions dialogue on critical issues in religion, science, philosophy, and/or culture from their differing perspectives.” (Click here for more information on this annual forum, including future speakers and dates.)

Stewart explains in the first chapter, “The primary question in this book is this: Does the evidence of contemporary cosmology render God’s existence more probable than it would have been without it?” (p. 3). The leading contributors to the book are Sean Carroll, research professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology, and William Lane Craig, professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and Houston Baptist University. Also contributing chapters are: Robin Collins, Tim Maudlin, Alex Rosenberg, Robert Stewart, and James Sinclair.

Videos of the 2014 Greer-Heard presentations are available on YouTube. Even so, the book is a valuable resource for several reasons. First, Stewart’s introduction sets up the discussion, and that content was not presented during the forum. Second, Maudlin’s essay in the book is slightly different than the paper he presented at the forum. Third, the footnotes allow readers to track down sources, substantiate claims, and glean information not provided in the body of the text. Fourth, it is helpful to slow down and re-read the complex arguments in the book.

Philosophers, cosmologists, theologians, and students, regardless of their religious perspective, will benefit from this interaction among Carroll, Craig, and others on the universe and the probability of the existence of God.

New Book on the Trinity

YarnellMalcolm B. Yarnell III is professor of systematic theology, director of the Center for Theological Research, and director of the Oxford Study Program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. His publications include The Formation of Christian DoctrineRoyal Priesthood in the English ReformationThe Anabaptists and Contemporary Baptists, First Freedom, Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches, and Upon This Rock. He is a scholar, a churchman, and my friend.

On April 15, B&H Academic will release his new book, God the Trinity: Biblical Portraits. Among its many endorsements is this one:

In God the Trinity, a skilled theologian traces the patterns of Scripture which undergird post-canonical formulations of the Trinity. Malcolm Yarnell carefully exegetes key biblical texts and interacts with a wide range of interpreters throughout the Christian tradition. I am pleased to recommend this important contribution to the field of Trinitarian theology.

– Adam Harwood, associate professor of Theology and McFarland Chair of Theology, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

Yarnell discusses his new book in this video:

Malcolm Yarnell blogs here and his new book can be ordered here.

Did the Incarnation Introduce Change among the Persons of the Trinity?

ETSToday is the paper proposal deadline for the 68th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, which will meet November 15-17, 2016, in San Antonio, Texas. Its website explains: “Founded in 1949, the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) is a group of scholars, teachers, pastors, students, and others dedicated to the oral exchange and written expression of theological thought and research.” I have been a member of ETS since 2003, and have presented seven papers at regional or national meetings. (For a list, see the Presentations section here.)

This year’s theme is the Trinity. I have submitted a paper proposal and expect to hear in June whether the proposal has been accepted. If the selection committee accepts the proposal, then I will plan to write the paper this summer and deliver it in November. This is my proposal:

Did the Incarnation Introduce Change among the Persons of the Trinity?

Premise 1: A person who was born, then grew, learned, suffered, and died is a person who experienced change.
Premise 2: Jesus is a two-natured person who was born, then grew, learned, suffered, and died. Conclusion: Jesus is a two-natured person who experienced change.

If change includes introducing a person to new relations or experiences, then the incarnation of the Word, or the addition of true humanity to the eternal Son of God, introduced change among the persons of the Trinity. At the incarnation, the Son of God was born of a woman (John 1:14; Gal 4:4). As a result of the incarnation, the Son grew (Luke 2:52), learned obedience by his suffering (Heb 5:8), and died (1 Cor 15:3). These verbs—born, grew, learned, suffered, and died—are predicated in the New Testament to the person of Christ, and they refer to acts which the Son had not previously experienced in time. Because of the interpenetration of the persons of the Trinity (Perichoresis), the Father and Spirit participated in some way with the Son in these new relations and experiences in time. The following issues will be considered when developing this paper:

• While God is unchanging in his character, the incarnation of the eternal Son resulted in the introduction of new relations and experiences among the persons of the Trinity.
• Although proper distinctions should be maintained between Christ’s two natures, those natures were united in one person. Should death and resurrection be ascribed to only the human nature of Christ, or to the person?
• Christian thinkers affirm different views of God’s relationship to time.
• How might the possibility of OT Christophanies affect the present thesis?

In the paper, I will interact with the writings of Thomas Aquinas, Karl Barth, Millard Erickson, Paul Fiddes, Jürgen Moltmann, and others.

I welcome any feedback on the proposal.

Book Notes: February

This post highlights three biblical-theological books I read this month, two of which I recommend. I will not review the books, but will provide a brief description and mention each book’s significance.


In The Chosen People: Election, Paul and Second-Temple Judaism (IVP Academic, 2015), Chad Thornhill, chair of theological studies at Liberty University, explores extra-biblical Jewish literature of Paul’s era to answer the question, “How did Paul understand election?” I highly recommend this careful, academic work. Dr. Thornhill has agreed to speak about this book and answer questions at a guest presentation at NOBTS on April 7. More information about that event will be available soon.


John C. Peckham serves associate professor of theology and Christian philosophy at the Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan. His book, The Love of God: A Canonical Model (IVP Academic, 2015), presents two theological models (basically classical theism and process theology) then attempts to answer five key questions about the love of God from a third model. Peckham’s alternative is the foreconditional-reciprocal model, which he develops from a “final-canon form approach to systematic theology.” Although I do not affirm every conclusion in his book, I greatly appreciate and endorse his method, which seeks to answer theological questions from the pages of the Bible rather than by presupposing theological frameworks which might or might not accurately reflect the teaching of the Bible.


Bart D. Ehrman’s book How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (HarperOne, 2014) inspired a recent point-counterpoint forum at NOBTS, featured in this Baptist Press article. Because it is a New York Times bestseller, this book (or the views it contains) might make it to members of local churches. For that reason, it is important for church leaders and scholars to understand Ehrman’s arguments and prepare a response. The author clearly denies that Jesus is the eternal Son of God, who died to provide salvation for sinners. Other examples of Ehrman’s views include: Jesus never claimed to be God, we cannot know what happened to the body of Jesus, and Jesus was eventually “made” God by the embellished stories of his later followers. Although Ehrman is a serious academician and his work deserves a response from both the church and the academy, I cannot recommend this book to readers who are not already familiar with the arguments of scholars such as: Richard Bauckham, James D. G. Dunn, N. T. Wright, Larry Hurtado, Simon Gathercole, James McGrath, and Michael Bird.

Note: I received no compensation in any way for mentioning the books in this post.