Review of @ivpacademic’s “Theology Questions Everyone Asks: Christian Faith in Plain Language”

All but one of the twelve contributors is a member of the faculty of Wheaton College, easily the most identifiable institution of higher learning associated with modern American evangelicalism. When you see this, it will either worry you or fill you with security. Allow it to do neither. What the contributors have accomplished is not something that pushes one theological agenda, but attempts to answer the tougher questions posed by students, insiders, and outsiders — but with often times tougher answers than expected. Indeed, what is proved here is not just the worth of Wheaton, but the value of the intellectual tradition within American evangelicalism.

The twelve (symbolism?) topics selected for this book include,

  • What is Christianity? (answered by Timothy Larson)
  • How Does God Relate to the World? (answered by Gregory W. Lee)
  • What is Salvation? (answered by Keith L. Johnson)
  • How Should I Live? (answered by Vincent Bacote)
  • What is the Christian Hope? (answered by Beth Felker Jones)

I have selected these five, because I feel they give the best overview of the agenda of the book.

In Timothy Larson’s response, he aims to answer the simple question of what is Christianity. He suggests Christianity is not asking about the minimum requirements necessary, but “a commitment to orthodoxy.” (18) He recommends denying “unbelief” but turning to God to “become more truly Christian.” For him, it seems, the commitment to orthodoxy does not allow for reconsiderations and considerations within the Christian community. I find this troubling given the times segments of Christian has changed what it means to be orthodox. But, these are his most distressing viewpoints, his most strict limits. The rest of his chapter takes on the myths of secularization, science v. religion, and what it means to be an evangelical (I am not one, but he is). Larson’s chapter does not condemn openly those who oppose him, but sets out how to act and operate under a commitment to (evangelical) orthodoxy. I would like to suggest he is somehow wrong, but in the end, Christianity is not a religionless faith, but one with orthodox principles, doctrines, and even dogmas that should be adhered to because they inform us of who and what we are as Christians.

Gregory W. Lee suggests that science and faith are not opposed to one another (something of a hidden theme in the book). Sure, I disagree with him and other theologians, about ex nihilio, but by no means should we take him as a Young Earther. Rather, he is simply asserting God created the cosmos and as such, created reason and the laws reason has discovered. By this standard, Lee moves to side with Augustine and others in allowing that strictly wooden interpretations of Scripture are simply dogmatic assumptions that hinder faith more than preserve it. In fact, Lee argues for the allowance of evolution, citing the great minds of Fundamentalism and does so within a solid Evangelical framework. After this he moves into the free will v. determinism debate. Instead of delivering a soft, one-sided after, speaks to and upholds as important the tension between these two sides!

“Salvation is a trinitarian event,” Keith L. Johnson declares (120). I can hear this ringing in my ears, I believe, finding something of the author’s hidden shout still languishing on the pages. It is as loud as the day Johnson first wrote it down and I suspect will continue to echo through the run of this work. I do not intend any hint of hyperbolism or sarcasm. Indeed, Johnson’s article correctly summarizes the Christian salvic experience as one that incorporates all of the persons of the Trinity, even if I find his substitutionary atonement model rather limited.

Chapter 11, “How Should I Live?”, begins by defining what is “the world” and how a proper creation theology can have an impact on living here. Some readers will find Bacote’s understanding here a little stretched but if you read his chapter to the end, it becomes more clear. Even reading his section on politics should help the reader to understand there are different views about the world and our involvement, sometimes arising from the immediate contexts. His solution seems to be to become involved to the point of Scripture. He tackles several topics (military service, political party affiliation) and ends with the same answer, justice. While his take may seem distinctly American, it is better conceived as an examination of the life of a Christian under a democratic state where political participation is a prescribed part of the duty of the citizen.

Finally, Beth Felker Jones speaks to the hope of the Christian. Kingdom now, hell, and the such. This chapter, as you must expect, is filled with several questions and thus seems a bit choppy. However, Jones doesn’t need a lot of space to answer the questions. Some questions, well intentioned, deserves a simple “No.” Others, such as ones on hell get fuller treatment. Indeed, in her treatment of hell and the final judgment, she makes room for the minority voices, suggesting that while she believes with the majority, she is careful to listen to those of us who do not. Plus, she is careful to couch her theology in “Western Christianity,” knowing, I suspect, Eastern Orthodoxy differs from her.

As I said, the answers are rarely simple and soft. More than likely, you will find yourself with more questions, but I do believe that is the hallmark of good theology and good theological professors. While some contributors do gave a matter-of-fact answer, others give answers for your choosing with whispered instructions to tolle lege. And why not? Do we need set-in-stone answers or do we need to teach and to be taught how to think about these tough questions? I’d go with the thinking game that should be theology. Personally, this has raised my level of respect for Wheaton and many of these professors. Overall, a fantastic book for Evangelicals and Mainliners alike, for Americans and even the wayward Canadian.

Enhanced by Zemanta

In the Mail: @ivpacademic’s Christian Political Witness

Thanks to IVP-Academic for sending this along:

“My kingdom is not of this world.” Followers of Jesus have been struggling to understand these words ever since he first uttered them—often in sharply contradictory ways. Today the inescapably political nature of Christian witness is widely recognized. But what is the shape of this witness? What should Christian political engagement look like today? The twelve essays in this volume, originally presented at the 2013 Wheaton Theology Conference, present biblical, historical and theological proposals for thinking responsibly about the intersection of church and state in the contemporary cultural situation. Prophetic and pastoral, this book offers a fresh look at a crucial and contested dimension of the Christian life.

Contributors include:
Stanley Hauerwas
Mark Noll
Scot McKnight
Timothy G. Gombis
George Kalantzis
Jana Marguerite Bennett
William T. Cavanaugh
Peter J. Leithart
Daniel M. Bell Jr.
Jennifer M. McBride
David P. Gushee
Bishop David Gitari

Check out some of the features on the publisher’s website.

Review of @ivpacademic’s The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate

Often times, Christians are told their canon is a development based on politics and developed theology. The canon, we are told, has something to do with Constantine and the Roman Catholic Church. Perhaps, rather, the canon is a product of the Church. These are all external forces creating the canon. Michael J. Kruger wishes to counter this and rather argue for an intrinsic force, springing up from within the texts. He proposes that the canon is not an accident or outside creation, but one carrying the foresight and authority of the New Testament writers.

The book is made up of an introduction, five chapters, and a conclusion. The chapters tackle the definition, origin, writing, authors, and the date of the canon (in that order) to offer an counter to the somewhat established extrinsic model (p23–4). Each chapter is aimed at proving a positive statement. Kruger’s first chapter attempts to show that the definition between canon and scripture are the same. Yet, while he gives definitions for canon, I could not find a definition for Scripture. Given ongoing discussion about the nature of Scripture (inspired? inerrant? infallible?), it would have been most helpful to have Scripture defined from the start. Rather, it seems Kruger is dialoguing with an unknown, or perhaps expectantly passive, partner. This is not the only time he does this.

In chapter 2, “The Origins of Canon”, Kruger attempts to show that Early Christianity itself, rather than a later Christianity neatly situated in a post-Constantinian world, had the necessary seeds from which to grow the canon. While David Duncan’s book, Constantine’s Bible: Politics and the Making of the New Testament, is mentioned twice in the entire book, neither of which in chapter 2, it seems to be Kruger’s dialogue partner for a sizeable portion (along with Lee McDonald’s body of work). So, in chapter 2, Kruger aims at showing that if anything Constantine and later ecclesial authorities merely accepted that which was already established (against the silent dialogue partner). In this chapter he against draws heavily from an evangelical view of Church history, a history where we have well established, and authoritative, apostles.

The next chapter attempts to answer the question of whether or not a written document would have been welcomed by the early Church. He answers this with remarkable skill, such remarkable skill, that if one has issues with other parts of this book, this chapter should save the volume. While I do not agree with Kruger that Christianity “was quite a ‘bookish’ religion from the start” I cannot understand how we can ignore the use of written documents in giving a ground to the early Church. His work here needs to be revisited and enjoyed.

The fourth chapter focused on the authors of the canon. Here, Kruger’s conservativism becomes somewhat distracting. He bases his conclusions on a view of an established monolithic movement and a particular view of Christian authority. He concludes, “the New Testament writings… were intended to be documents with an authority equivalent to that of Scripture.” (154) This is quite impossible to prove. After all, there was no single source of Scripture (I assume this means what we call today the Old Testament) for the early Church. Further, his very next sentence threatens to derail his first chapter. One must simply assume that the authors of the New Testament books believed they were writing something not yet categorized until the 2nd century. One must also dismiss much of historical criticism regarding the authors of these books. If anything, Kruger’s argument in this chapter is upheld only by those who wrote in the names of the Apostles (the Pastorals, 2 Peter), but falls if we assume each author wrote each book assigned to him.

His fifth and final chapter speaks to the date of the formation of the canon. Here, his not-so-silent guide, St. Irenaeus, provides almost his (positive) sole evidence. Clement of Alexandria, who barely gets a mention in this present book, would provide enough counter evidence (as suggested by Francis Watson in his recent book, Gospel Writing) that the canon was not closed but still very much open, even when it came to the Gospels. This chapter, by in large, is the most unconvincing.

Even if one does not accept Kruger’s evidences for his conclusions, he provides solid conclusions based on his provided evidence. His goal is to offer a counter to the current extrinsic model for the canon. He does just that. Although I feel he presents a dichotomy that may not stand the rigors of academic exploration, Kruger establishes a well-crafted attempt at reframing the canon debate. He succeeds, if not in convincing me of his point, then in convincing me that the extrinsic model is wrong.

Review of @ivpacademic’s Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology

There is a growing trend among Protestants to explore, for whatever reason, higher church communions. The group known collectively as the Orthodox Church is one of those benefitting from the longing among former Evangelicals. But, what does it offer? Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church (in realities, many different Churches connected by theology, but lacking a uniting structure) is not widely known in the West. After all, a split occurred officially at the beginning of the second millenium after Christ, leaving the Western world under the monotheological sphere of Rome, at least until the Protestant Reformation. The Orthodox Church was left under to wonder on their on, as is the case of the Russian Orthodox Church, or under the realm of Islamic caliphates, like the Greek Orthodox Church.

Because of this isolation Westerners do not know what the Orthodox Church is, believes, or hopes for. Westerners, and this becomes clearer the more I investigate Orthodoxy, are at a loss for how theology is “done” in other branches of Christianity. While we share, for instance, the doctrine of the Trinity, the approach to it from the West and the East differ in several meaningful ways. Orthodoxy is still hidden behind ancient bigotry and intellectual illiteracy.

Andrew Louth, himself a priest of the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Sourozh (Moscow Patriarchate), aims to change that with his Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology. He writes not to convert or otherwise proselytize, although at times I felt a pull on my Tiber-drenched Wesleyan heart. Rather as the title suggests, he writes to introduce to us a rather unknown stream of Christianity. While I knew something about Orthodoxy before engaging this book, I was able to learn more, much more than I expected.

Louth has divided this introduction into 9 theological areas. There does not seem to be an area that is lacking, unless you believe justification and individual sin are the main areas of Christian witness. Indeed, these topics are either not addressed, or simply not addressed in any meaningful way. Throughout Louth’s exploration of these areas, one gets a real sense that Orthodox theology places more emphasis on Christ, his nature, and his reign than it does on exacting theological formulations or any avoidance of a Lake of Fire. I say this tongue-in-cheek because, simply, that is what Louth (and other Orthodox authors) maintain is the real theology of the Church. Topics include the Trinity, Tradition, Sin, Creation, the Sacraments, Liturgy, and what happens next. Some of the tenants of the beliefs may surprise Christians simply not familiar with the East.

What Louth reveals is not a Church that is simply the Catholic Church without the Pope, but an ancient communion filled with wonder, mystery, and a deep and abiding spirituality with Christ at its center and our heart as the goal. Without any argumentation, or swipes at differing viewpoints and traditions, Louth is able to present small and neatly contained units of theological dogma to a wide audience by drawing upon shared beliefs. It is a masterful attempt at using what we know to inform us about what we do not know. Further, and thankfully, Louth has included a suggested reading list as an appendix.

The only issue I have with the book is the lack of a glossary. I know what Protestants call things and, for the most part, I know how a Roman Catholic is going to write about certain theological elements. However, there are some words in this book what will require at least an internet search to understand. While the book can be read without knowledge of what an anaphora or troparion is, these words and what they mean are themselves a part of the unknown aspect of Orthodoxy.

I would highly recommend this book to small groups but so too to the individual who desires to see what the Orthodox Church is about. This does not argue for the supremacy of Orthodoxy, but shows the whats and the whys of the ancient communion. If nothing else, what is revealed is an ancient and beautiful tradition of worshiping Christ.

A (sample) review of @ivpacademic’s Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity

Alas, but it is impossible to give a detailed review when 1) you do not have a full volume before you and 2) the project is as massive as this. Yet, I am gracious IVP-Academic has sent along a sampler for, if nothing else, a reasonable tease.

This new set, a 3 volume monstrosity of immense worth, is the second English edition, based on an Italian predecessor. As the preface notes, this progenitor grew and was subsequently outgrown by patristic studies. The rise in patristic study called for a new edition, first produced in 1992 by Oxford. Following that, a second Italian edition was released, leading us to this point, the second English edition (now published by Intervarsity Press). This new entry has increased the number of articles by 35%. The list of contributors is as impressive as the weight of the volumes. There are 26 countries represented among 266 contributors. This represents a large swath of modern Christian streams and adds to the flavorful understanding of the many facets of early Christianity. From the preface we learn that Arabic, Coptic, Armenian and Gothic experts are among the new contributors.

The set up will remind the reader of the Anchor Bible Dictionary (edited by David Noel Freedman) with the inclusion of a small but pointed bibliography after each article. Further, it appears (after a scan of the sampler) the articles include original languages when necessary. For instance, the entry for Abrasax includes both the Greek and Latin form of the name. This is truly an academic encyclopedia worthy of critical patristic studies. Further, like the ABD, this encyclopedia addresses even those things scholars may think minor such as presumed bishops (names afforded only by Tradition) as well as general topics, such as Abandoned Children.

Finally, articles are geared to the patristic field. For instance, when you examine the article on Abraham, unlike a critical dictionary that seeks to show the historical development or a theological dictionary examining how Abraham was seen in, say, Romans, the article in this work looks at how Abraham was imagined during the patristic time (identified in the preface as between 90 and 950). Thus, the Abraham article is divided into two parts. The first part examines Abraham among the Church Fathers while the second examines iconographic works associated with the Patriarch.

The cost may be prohibitive of students and laity, although I hope to see it include in bible software programs which will soften the price somewhat. Given the 3 volume set, even the retail price is not exorbitant, but more than likely the price is geared to libraries. With that in mind, this set would make a perfect addition to church libraries as well.  If you are a patristic student, then you will benefit from this set. There is no question about that.


An inside view

Book Announcement: Christianity and Psychoanalysis: A New Conversation @ivpacademic

If I were to go back to school, it would be in this area…

From the IVP site:

Unsurprisingly, given Sigmund Freud’s understanding of religion, the conversation between Christianity and psychoanalysis has long been marked by mutual suspicion. Psychoanalysis originated within a naturalist, post-Enlightenment context and sought to understand human functioning and pathology–focusing on phenomena such as the unconscious and object representation–on a strictly empirical basis. Given certain accounts of divine agency and human uniqueness, psychoanalytic work was often seen as competitive with a Christian understanding of the human person.

The contributors to Christianity and Psychoanalysis seek to start a new conversation. Aided by the turn to relationality in theology, as well as by a noncompetitive conception of God’s transcendence and agency, this book presents a fresh integration of Christian thought and psychoanalytic theory. The immanent processes identified by psychoanalysis need not compete with Christian theology but can instead be the very means by which God is involved in human existence. The Christian study of psychoanalysis can thus serve the flourishing of God’s kingdom.

Check out the IVP site for more about the content and other features.

Review of @ivpacademic’s The Future of Biblical Interpretation: Responsible Plurality in Biblical Hermeneutics

The modern world has not treated biblical interpretation kindly. As one of the contributors points out, such interpretation is often treated as a way to validate one’s presuppositions about all things theist. Further, modernity has given us new swaths of methodologies, some of them foreign to Scripture and Christian Tradition and some of them underused. This book, through various essays explaining how to be responsible in biblical interpretation, attempts to address our approaches to Scripture. The essays, previously given as lectures, are in honor of Anthony Thiselton and his work defining interpretative methodologies.

The book has 8 chapters, an introduction and a conclusion. These essays examine biblical hermeneutics not from various methodologies, such as post-colonialism or empire critical studies, but as to what responsibility the biblical exegete must employ. At no point should you understand that this book is going to tell you how to interpret according to this or that strategy. Rather, it is to teach you how to be responsible. For example, Thiselton gives the first essay as a move forward, setting out the reason we must include different interpretative strategies in our understanding of Scripture. From here, we encounter 7 areas of responsibility — theological, scriptural, kerygmatic, historical, critical, relational, and ecclesial. Easy essay is presented in an accessible way, to engender a better dialogue between the Church and the Academy, between the traditional and non-traditional approaches.

The authors are faithful to Scripture and in a unique, critical, and non-naive way, faithful to Christian Tradition. Unless one is so complacent in their own historical setting as to remain unmoved, either by reason or the Spirit, then everyone who takes up and reads this book will learn more about biblical interpretation then they may have allowed possible. Be warned, there is little room for confirmation bias. The arguments are methodical and made by authors representing the best of the Christian intellect.

My one concern is the lack of representation among the essayists/contributors. All are men and I would offer a guess, they are solely white. As a white male, I should have no issue with this, but it would be interesting to see what a non-white female may have had to say in the historical responsibility setting. Further, since the book is expressly about the plurality of voices in modern biblical interpretation, the book is rather hegemonic in context. With that said, however, what The Future of Biblical Interpretation: Responsible Plurality in Biblical Hermeneutics delivers is nothing less than a giant leap into the right direction for deciding what to do with pre-modernity, modernity, Tradition, and the plurality of voices when it involves how to interpret Scripture responsibly.

Stanley E. Porter on Theological Interpretation

Porter writes,

…(T)heological interpretation is not the way forward in developing theological responsibility in biblical hermeneutics. In fact, I believe that theological interpretation runs the risk of jeopardizing what it means to be a responsible biblical hermeneut, by attempting to to overlook or negate, whether consciously or not, a biblical hermeneutic.

He goes on to suggest that theological interpretation advocates for a “jumbled mix of contradictory proposals. (46)

Now, if that ain’t something. I wince at the idea we have to interpret Scripture according to a “rule of faith.” I think our responsibility includes the progress of academic intellect. If a pre-modern interpretation is rendered in error (as Porter points out, the restriction of women from ministerial roles), then we must be responsible enough to correct it. Pre-modern interpretation is just as limiting as modern interpretation if we act in error.

Review of The IVP Concise Atlas of Bible History @ivpacademic

We live in a rather visual culture. We like shiny objects helping to render the words on the page as tidy images. We are all truly children who like to have picture books in front of us. This is nothing to be ashamed about, but something to understand and use. We like images because they help us learn and understand! Colorfully detailed images, after all, are but an evolution of the images used as letters.

When reading Scripture either for ourselves or for others, it is nice to have images before us in order to focus our minds on the text. I remember sitting in worship when I was much, much younger and always flipping to the maps at the back of the bible. At one point I realized some bibles even had images of the canon, church history, and the Temple. To be completely honest, it was those images that always fascinated me. Sure, I love the maps, but the diagrams and other drawings of ancient temples and other objects related to stories in Scripture drew my attention to the words on the page more than a loud, fiery sermon. It helped me to visualized what Moses was planning in Leviticus and where Jesus stood in Matthew.


This is why I am drawn to the IVP Concise Atlas of Bible History. It is an absolute gem in visualizing the geographical narrative of Scripture. The Atlas presents, as edited by Richard Johnson, in full-color an abbreviated version of the older and larger Atlas. However, the user of this work gets a portable volume geared to the graduate student as well as small groups in an inexpensive and concise book. It includes a hundred maps, chronological charts, and panoramic reconstructions. However, it is not merely a picture book.


Without following a literalist reading, the IVP Concise Atlas of Bible History follows the narrative of Scripture, beginning in Genesis ending with the spread of Christianity (c. 337 CE).  An interesting find is the inclusion of the history of the Jewish Revolt as well as including a discussion on Jews in Egypt. Thus, the narrative of Scripture grows naturally to include narratives about those who first narrated Scripture. The only thing lacking is a serious use of the Deuterocanonical books (or, Apocrypha) although 1 and 2 Maccabees are employed to showcase some history. As far as history goes, the Atlas likewise brings together some of the latest archaeological finds. Over all, the history is sufficient, although the editors stretch it when examining the archaeological evidence of the Patriarchs (24–5).


The Atlas begins with a brief introduction detailing the scheme of the book. They intend to present the narrative of Scripture in a historical, geographical, and theological detail while allowing “that some details are difficult to understand” given the divide between then and now. It then moves into discussing the nature of the Bible, as well as early narratives (Creation and the Flood) and other pertinent subjects (Egypt, Joseph, and Moses) before we get into Scripture proper beginning with the events of Exodus. The history of Israel is presented from the days of the united Kingdom until Exile and the return. Efforts are made to keep the story following the scriptural narrative with verse citations. The sections on the New Testament break down the years of the ministry of Jesus as well as Paul’s missionary journeys. This is not an attempt at critical history but simply follows the narrative of Scripture.


This is a fantastic resource for seminary and graduate students as well as small groups. Indeed, every church library should have one!

reading right


Book Announcement: @ivpacademic’s Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology

Amazon gives you but a snippet -

With an estimated 250 million adherents, the Orthodox Church is the second largest Christian body in the world. This absorbing account of the essential elements of Eastern Orthodox thought deals with the Trinity, Christ, sin, humanity and creation as well as praying, icons, the sacraments and liturgy.

However, IVP’s site provides greater detail in the press packet:

Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology (paperback) – InterVarsity Press.

Review of @ivpacademic’s Reading the Christian Spiritual Classics: A Guide for Evangelicals

There is a deep need among many Evangelicals today to absolve themselves of a less-substantive religion and investigate something more profound. There is a longing for something more spiritual, mystical and overpowering. We see this manifested as more and more Evangelicals leave the fold for Rome, the East, or elsewhere. In a new book edited by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel we find something of a start in attempting to provide something filling for the spiritually hungry Evangelical.

The editors have assembled an impressive list of contributors, with themselves taking the opportunity to write only the introduction. Contributors include Fred Sanders (The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything); James R. Payton, Jr. (Getting the Reformation Wrong); and Timothy George (Dean of Beeson Divinity School; Theology of the Reformers). The impressive intellectual might assembled herein to argue for the value of ancient Christian classics is enough to convince even hardened skeptics.

The book is divided into four parts. Part 1, Approaching the Spiritual Classics, begins with a theological argument put forth by Steve L. Porter for the allowance to read something other than Scripture. As one who has ingested the spiritual classics for several years, much of this argument was surprising to me, but nevertheless it was an argument will founded in Scripture and provide insight I had not previously considered. Closing out this three chapter section is Betsy Barber who writes on the value of the classics in soul care,  a common theme in the book. She argues for the use of the classics in spiritual formation and discipleship, but only in a graduated sense. Barber provides as powerful a theological argument for the Evangelical use of the classics as Porter.

Part 2 provides a general overview of the tradition of the classics, focusing on the different schools of thought (do not confuse the Carmelites with the Benedictines!), their theology, and how to engage them. I find it odd John Wesley is listed throughout the book (noticeably on p77) with Catholic and Orthodox schools as if he was somehow not a part of Protestantism, although he would consider himself an Evangelical. But, this should be a warning to those who read the book — names, opinions, and points of view of others change over time.

Change is what Greg Peters seems to assign as the origin of spirituality. He opens his essay with a short history of the genesis of the movement, citing the conversion of Constantine as a marked change in how Christians approached spirituality. Why? Because after Constantine’s conversion (which is hardly a conversion), the Church “began emerging from an extended period of persecution.” According to Peters, this nixed the many opportunities of martyrdom Christians could avail themselves (80). Thus, they had to find a new way to be Christian. This is, at least, Peters’ thesis and one which I heartily disagree with. Spirituality is not the new martyrdom, but something long found in Christianity (and other religions of the time) with little or nothing to do with the lack of opportunities of martyrdom. I do not mean to imply his essay is one that shouldn’t be read, because it does encapsulates the beauty of the Christian spiritual classics and their use in pedagogy.

Part 3 concerns itself with reading the classics as Evangelicals. James Payton provides us with an exceptionally beautiful account of Orthodox Spirituality. He, in a few words, takes his experience and knowledge of the Greek Church and with a certain aesthetic profundity delivers a warm invitation to explore the East. Payton draws us into Orthodox spirituality noting it takes more than a casual glance to understand and grasp the fullness of the East. Oddly enough  — and if nothing else, this is extremely important — Payton’s remarks about the East’s view on orthodoxy v. -praxy is something we must first understand before we can assess the East. We in the West know our doctrines, Payton tells us, while those in the East live their doctrines. This is why Payton can write of Orthodox spirituality without the warnings accompanying Catholic spirituality Demarest felt we needed in the previous chapter. Instead, he explains some basic precepts of Orthodoxy and why it as an ecumenical body holds to such tenants. He is able to then invest some credit in recommending Orthodox spirituality.

The final chapter provides a more of a what-to-read framework for each of the areas of Church History. Each author provides basic details of the time, a hermeneutical framework, short biographies of the major writers, and how such writings can be useful for the Church today.

Will this book provide a panacea for the lack of deep spirituality among Evangelicals? Hardly, but it does write the prescription. The editors and contributors provide a sustained regime for reading the spiritual classics in order to develop our soul. Except for one essay, I believe these contributors have made a concerted effort to be fair and accommodating to differences in doctrines without sacrificing the heart of modern Evangelicalism. Not only should this appeal to Protestants, but it must appeal to Catholics who have forgotten the richness of spiritual formation found in their ancient tradition. We are not simply talking about discipleship (or church care, usually summed up as: witness, tithe, attend) but about spiritual formation. This is about reaching the inner person to bring them closer to God and building from the inside out a Christian. By taking to heart and head what these essayists write, the modern Evangelical will find a new world awaiting them, a world with a deeper connection to God than they have known before.