Nov 22, 2014

Review of Invitation to James

Donald R. Sunukjian, Invitation to James: Persevering through Trials to Win the Crown, Biblical Preaching for the Contemporary Church (Wooster, OH: Weaver, 2014).

Invitation to James is a collection of fourteen messages on the book of James. The author, Don Sunukjian, has written the award-winning Invitation to Biblical Preaching and has taught homiletics for many years. This work is part of a projected six volume series (Biblical Preaching for the Contemporary Church). “The purpose of this series is to offer models of the principles presented in the textbook” (p. xi). The fourteen messages are slightly-edited versions of actual sermons preached by the author. Most of the messages run about ten pages. Sunukjian includes a brief introduction to James. In the introduction, he suggests that James is writing pastorally (although he does not appear to conclude that James is a homily) on the theme of trials. “James’s purpose is to tell his friends and us how to act both as individuals and as a church, when we find ourselves in stressful and difficult situations” (p. 3).

This volume provides solid examples of expository messages. Each message attempts to deal with the main points of the text through explanation and illustration. The illustrations in particular are very good. The author also has a nice way of phrasing things. He is clearly a wordsmith.

But several aspects of this work would, I believe, add to its usefulness for preachers (the main intended audience). First, outline headings would really help. One would not have to preach the outline, but seeing the outline would help the reader see the flow of the text. I would have preferred a bit more direct application. Second, providing a clearly articulated message (topic and assertion according to Invitation to Preaching) for each preaching passage would make this work more valuable. Seeing how a seasoned preacher crafts such statements would be an education in itself. And third, I would have preferred to see more direct application in these messages. I recognize that this is more a matter of methodological preference, but I would have loved to have seen these principles fleshed out in more concrete and measurable ways. At bottom, Invitation to James will not replace exegetical commentaries, and in fact, would be most effective if consulted after one has done their exegetical work. But if one is looking for a good collection of sermons on James then this volume might just hit the spot. You can access a free PDF excerpt here.

Thanks to Weaver for providing the free book used in this unbiased review.

Nov 21, 2014

Review of Illustrated Life of Paul

Charles L. Quarles, Illustrated Life of Paul (Nashville: B&H, 2014).

The writings, theology, and life of the apostle Paul continue to generate interest. Some works seek to present new and novel ways of approaching the subject, whereas others take a more traditional approach. This work by Quarles falls into the latter category.

This volume is commendable for several reasons. First, it is clearly and concisely written. The discussion is fairly thorough but not exhaustive. But those who are looking for a presentation, critique, and examination of recent trends in Pauline studies will likely be disappointed. Second, this work is faithful to the biblical narrative. The book of Acts is treated like a reliable historical source and the author accepts the thirteen epistles of Paul as genuinely Pauline. For those interested in such things, Quarles holds the South Galatian view and two Roman imprisonments. Third, in keeping with its title, this volume is nicely illustrated. There is a good blend of photos and illustrations throughout. Finally, the volume includes both subject and Scripture indices that help to contribute to the usefulness of the volume.

There are a few weaknesses of this volume. I do wish that a few more excurses on some disputed issues would have been included (e.g., the new perspective, Romans debate, etc.). I noticed only one excursus related to the relationship between Galatians 2 and Acts 15 (p. 78).The author’s description of the oft-referenced immorality of Corinth (p. 120) should be more nuanced in light of the work of Jerome Murphy O’Conner and others. A third issue is more of an issue of preference, but I believe that this volume would be easier to use with footnotes rather than endnotes.

But these criticisms notwithstanding, Illustrated Life of Paul is a solid option for those interested an introductory level resource to the life, ministry, and writings of Paul.

You can access a PDF excerpt here.

Nov 20, 2014

C. H. Dodd, Zacchaeus, and a Daughter's Shoes

Here is a snippet for my readers who are at ETS and SBL this week. This comes from William Baird’s delightful third volume on the history of New Testament research and concerns the esteemed C. H. Dodd. 

“Like Zacchaeus, Dodd was self-conscious about his small stature. W. D. Davies (in a recording made in 1986) told me that when, as a student, he would visit in Dodd’s study, the furniture would be so arranged that he would sit in a low chair and Dodd would sit above him on a higher one. Dodd was notorious for his absentmindedness, once appearing for a lecture wearing one of his own shoes and one of his daughter’s. He lectured with vitality and eloquence and was famous for his sense of humor, which even crept into his publications. In the introduction to his Romans commentary he gives the reason for a ‘clumsy made cut’ at 16:23 as the ‘illimitable stupidity of editors’” (William Baird, History of New Testament Research: Volume 3: From C. H. Dodd to Hans Dieter Betz [Minneapolis: Fortress, 2013], 35).

Nov 19, 2014

NIVAC Ebooks on Sale

All NIVAC Commentaries in Ebook format are on sale for $4.99. But note that the sale is only good until November 23. You can check out this deal at the Zondervan Academic blog here.

Nov 18, 2014

Replacement Theology

Dr. William Varner has a good post listing some of the biblical problems with replacement theology (aka supersessionism) here.

Review of Persuasive Preaching

R. Larry Overstreet, Persuasive Preaching: A Biblical and Practical Guide to the Effective Use of Persuasion (Wooster, OH: Weaver, 2014). 

Like the author I came to faith and cut my teeth on a persuasive preaching style that typically included some kind of invitation. It was only later that I was exposed to a different style of preaching that was less confrontational and more contemplative. This book by Larry Overstreet is an examination of homiletical theology in general and the use of persuasion in particular. It is an apologetic for, and a call to, return to a more directly persuasive form of preaching. 

Persuasive Preaching is laid out logically, moving from need, to theory, to practice. So in part 1, Overstreet identifies issues and challenges related to persuasive preaching. This is followed in part 2 by a comprehensive discussion of biblical texts and terms that relate to persuasion. Here the author finds ample support for the use of persuasion. Having established that biblical legitimacy for the use of persuasion, part 3 identifies four structural approaches to persuasive messages (motivated sequence, problem-solution, cause-effect, and refutation). The final part of this work relates to three pertinent issues that relate to the application of persuasive peaching. Here Overstreet addresses the issue of persuasion versus manipulation and outlines an ethical use of persuasion. He also discusses the role of the Holy Spirit in preaching and do’s and don’ts related to the use of invitations. Appendices, bibliography and indexes round out the volume.  

Persuasive Preaching is an interesting and rare study. As the author notes, many preaching texts assume persuasion (of some sort) but don’t often talk about it. I have read a number of volumes on preaching and can say that this volume is the most comprehensive treatment on the topic that I have ever encountered. This will likely be both the strength and weakness of this volume. 

Those interested in a thorough examination of the biblical foundations of persuasion (including some fairly significant interaction with Greek) will enjoy this volume. Less interested readers will probably skim or skip this section as being too technical. Those looking for a detailed presentation of structural approaches to persuasive messages (motivated sequence, problem-solution, cause-effect, and refutation) will be delighted, but less patient readers will probably feel a bit frustrated although the sample sermons in Appendix E will probably help. 

I enjoyed this volume. I learned much. But I suspect some of my preaching peers would be less enthusiastic. This is not a quick or light read. But in the end, while it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I think that Overstreet has provided a valuable resource for studying the topic of persuasion in preaching and a persuasive argument for its use in the pulpit.

You can access a PDF excerpt here

Thanks to Weaver for providing the free book used in this unbiased review.

Nov 17, 2014

Free 1 Samuel Bible Study

Those interested in a free 1 Samuel Bible study written by George and Koula Athas can go here. Here are the titles of the individual studies. 
  • Study 1 The blind leading the blind (1 Samuel 1-4)
  • Study 2 Putting God in a box (1 Samuel 5:1-7:14)
  • Study 3 The people’s choice (1 Samuel 7:15-10:27)
  • Study 4 An eye-catching king (1 Samuel 11-12)
  • Study 5 Mishmash at Michmash and dismissal at Gilgal (1 Samuel 13-15)
  • Study 6 The LORD’s choice (1 Samuel 16-17)
  • Study 7 Loyalty and disloyalty amongst the royalty (1 Samuel 18-20)
  • Study 8 Seek and destroy (1 Samuel 21-24)
  • Study 9 Friend or fiend? (1 Samuel 25-27)
  • Study 10 The LORD keeps his word (1 Samuel 28-31)

BiblePlaces Resources at SBL

If you are looking for an outstanding collection of Holy Land photos and if you are headed to SBL you will want to stop by the BiblePlaces exhibit, #411. They will have major discounts on the collections, plus a free volume of choice to anyone who stops by.