Tag Archives: Book Notes

Book Notes: A Biblical Theology of Race

Last weekend, I read an engaging study by J. Daniel Hays titled From Every People and Nation: A Biblical Theology of Race. The book was published by IVP as a volume in the New Studies in Biblical Theology series, edited by D. A. Carson. Although the book was released in 2003, the insights are fresh, and the topic seems perhaps more important today than when it was first published. I read the book as part of a graduate class I am currently teaching on the doctrine of humanity. (Professors sometimes select books for courses based on what they want to read. I had not read Hays’s book and it was relevant to the course content, so I included it among the list of books from which students could select to review for the class.) Rather than write a full review, I have provided some notes about the book.

Hays is dean of the Pruet School of Christian Studies at Ouachita Baptist University and is the author of several books. He is perhaps best known for the hermeneutics book he co-authored with colleague J. Scott Duvall titled Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible (Zondervan, 2001), which is in its third edition (2012).

In From Every People and Nation, Hays attempts to uncover racial elements in the Bible and apply principles to the North American context of black-white relations within the church. He makes compelling arguments that Cushites, a people group comprised of black Africans, are overlooked in the field of biblical studies but feature prominently in the biblical storyline. In addition to presence of other racial groups, he demonstrates the importance of several black characters in Scripture, such as Moses’s Cushite wife (Numbers 12), Phineas the priest (Numbers 25, 31), Ebed-Melech (Jeremiah 38-39), the Ethiopian official (Acts 8), and Simeon the Niger (Acts 13).

Hays closes his study with the following “synthesizing conclusions” (quoted verbatim and replicating the author’s capitalization):

  • The biblical world was multi-ethnic, and Blacks were involved in God’s unfolding plan of redemption from the beginning.
  • All people are created in the image of God, and therefore all races and ethnic groups have the same status and unique value that results from the image of God.
  • Genesis 10 and the Abrahamic promise combine to form a theme that runs throughout Scripture, constantly pointing to the global and multi-ethnic elements inherent in the overarching plan of God.
  • Racial intermarriage is sanctioned by Scripture.
  • The gospel demands that we carry compassion and the message of Christ across ethnic lines.
  • The New Testament demands active unity in the Church, a unity that explicitly joins differing ethnic groups together because of their common identity in Christ.
  • The picture of God’s people at the climax of history portrays a multi-ethnic congregation from every tribe, language, people, and nation, all gathered together in worship around God’s throne.

Readers interested in gaining a view of race that is more faithful to the Bible will benefit from Hays’s study. I highly recommend it.

Mary Webb: God’s Power is Perfected in Weakness

the-baptist-storyIn recent days, I have been reading a narrative history titled The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement (B&H Academic, 2015). Written by three church history professors, Anthony Chute (California Baptist University), Nathan Finn (Union University), and Michael Haykin (Southern Seminary), this volume has introduced me to several intriguing figures and movements. This brief story on page 135 illustrates how God’s power is perfected in weakness (2 Cor 12:9):

The Boston Female Society for Missionary Purposes was open to both Baptist and Congregationalist women who pledged their “mites” (so named after the widow’s offering in Mark 12:42 KJV) to support missionaries. Not only was this the first women’s missionary society formed in America; it demonstrated that physical limitations did not preclude one from having a global impact. Mary Webb had been paralyzed since age five but served as secretary-treasurer of the BFMS for half a century. From her home, sitting in her wheelchair, Webb wrote thousands of letters raising awareness and financial support for missions.

Webb’s story inspires me. If you have not already read The Baptist Story, I encourage you to add it to your 2017 reading list.

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.

Thornhill

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.

Peckham

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.

Ehrman

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.