Book Review

Winter 2022/Spring 2023 Book Preview

Noah J. Frens
Christopher Watkin
Sunday, January 1st 2023
Jan/Feb 2023

Biblical Critical Theory: How the Bible’s Unfolding Story Makes Sense of Modern Life and Culture
by Christopher Watkin

Zondervan Academic | november 2022 | 672 pages (hardcover) | $39.99

Critical Theory and its related subcategories, such as critical race theory, have dominated a lot of debate in contemporary American culture. As the title of this volume indicates, Christopher Watkin seeks to show how Christians can offer their own version of “critical theory” in order to engage with the contemporary culture. The title is likely not a mere marketing ploy. Watkin has written a number of works on French philosophical figures often attached to critical theory. He is a leading scholar on twentieth-century French philosophy, who has an uncanny ability to distill the seemingly incoherent and esoteric writings of a Michel Foucault or a Jacques Derrida into coherent and charitable ideas from which Christians can learn—all the while not falling into common caricatures of such figures. His recent volumes on Foucault, Derrida, and Gilles Deleuze in P&R’s Great Thinkers series are some of the clearest expositions of those authors available in print. What is particularly interesting about this volume is Watkin’s shift from being an expositor of other authors to focusing more on his own constructive take on cultural topics of the day, employing the Bible, theology, and philosophy. This monograph should prove interesting for anyone interested in engaging contemporary cultural debates while eschewing caricature.

Christology and Metaphysics in the Seventeenth Century
by Richard Cross

Oxford University Press | december 2020 | 368 pages (hardcover) | $100.00

Over the past several decades, Richard Cross has been one of the leading experts on medieval Christology and the doctrine of God, especially in the work of John Duns Scotus. Recently, Cross turned his attention to christological debates during the Reformation period. His previous work on the topic contextualized the sixteenth–century debates between Lutherans and Reformed over the Eucharist within longstanding medieval debates over the communicatio idiomatum.[1] This forthcoming work extends this narrative into the seventeenth century and broadens its scope by situating Lutheran and Reformed views within the context of contemporary Roman Catholic debates on Christology. As in the medieval church, post-Reformation Roman Catholics had several conflicting views on how to understand the union of the two natures in the one person of Christ. Early modern debates between Lutherans and Reformed were often mirrored in debates between Jesuits and Thomists of the period. And these early modern debates reflected two traditions of understanding Christology coming out of medieval theology: one from Thomas Aquinas and further nuanced in his later commentators, particularly Cardinal Cajetan; and another following Duns Scotus and his heirs. In this volume, Cross argues that Reformed theologians often followed the Scotistic tradition and Lutherans followed the Thomistic tradition. This argument will likely be the most interesting, and contested, aspect of the work. While much of the older scholarship on Calvin and the Reformed tradition argued for a Scotistic influence on much of their theology, this view has come under quite a bit of criticism in recent decades.

Neo-Calvinism: A Theological Introduction
by N. Gray Sutanto and Cory C. Brock

Lexham Academic | 2023 | 320 pages (hardcover) | $36.99

Since the translation and publication of Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics nearly two decades ago, there has been a significant interaction with, and reappraisal of, Bavinck and the Dutch Neo-Calvinist movement he helped establish. Sutanto and Brock, following their doctoral supervisor, James Eglinton, have been central figures in this reappraisal of Bavinck. Their forthcoming volume is an introduction to the theological legacy of Neo-Calvinism. The authors note that there have been other introductions to the Neo-Calvinist movement over the years,[2] but these works have been largely about the Neo-Calvinist heritage in politics or philosophy and not as much about its theological heritage. I am interested in how approaching Neo-Calvinism through the lens of theology shapes, alters, or nuances how the tradition is understood. Similarly, I am interested to see how the fact that both authors are Bavinck scholars, as opposed to Abraham Kuyper scholars, shapes their understanding of the tradition and how they situate later Neo-Calvinists who were sometimes critical of one another—such as Herman Dooyeweerd, G. C. Berkouwer, and Cornelius Van Til—within this tradition. The Neo-Calvinist tradition is much more nuanced and variegated than sometimes portrayed, and I am looking forward to how the authors navigate the wide-ranging figures that make up the tradition.

Intelligibility of Nature: A William A. Wallace Reader
by William A. Wallace, edited by John P. Hittinger, Michael W. Tkacz, and Daniel Wagner

Catholic University of america Press | february 2023 | 316 pages (paperback) | $39.95

The late Dominican William Wallace is likely an unknown figure for most of us, but he was in many ways at the forefront of certain trends that have become much more mainstream in the contemporary history and philosophy of science. He is probably best known for numerous works offering a contextual reading of Galileo in light of the various late medieval and early modern intellectual trends of which he was a part—rather than trying to situate Galileo in a narrative of conflict between science and religion, as popularized in the nineteenth century. Wallace’s nuanced reading of Galileo has become much more common today. Wallace was similarly ahead of his time in his attempt to apply the philosophy of Aristotle (as mediated through Thomas Aquinas) to contemporary questions and problems in science. He contended that modern science has in no way made an Aristotelian-Thomistic conception of nature obsolete. Rather, the thought of Aristotle and Aquinas can shed more light on contemporary findings in science than many other perspectives on the philosophy of nature.[3] This volume is a collection of Wallace’s essays on the philosophy and history of science. Anyone interested in an Aristotelian-Thomistic engagement with contemporary science, as well as the history of science, should find this work of interest.

Other Noteworthy Titles

The Old Testament and God: Old Testament Origins and the Question of God
By Craig G. Bartholomew
Baker Academic | November 2022 | 608 pages (hardcover) | $54.95

Dante the Theologian
By Denys Turner
Cambridge University Press | December 2022 | 275 pages (hardcover) | $39.99

Social Conservatism for the Common Good: A Protestant Engagement with Robert P. George
Edited by Andrew T. Walker
Crossway | February 2023 | 352 pages (hardcover) | $37.99

The Library of Paradise: A History of Contemplative Reading in the Monasteries of the Church of the East
By David A. Michelson
Oxford University Press | January 2023 | 368 pages (hardcover) | $100.00

Noah J. Frens (PhD, Vanderbilt University) is a postdoctoral student in the History Department at Vanderbilt University.

1. Richard Cross, Communicatio Idiomatum: Reformation Christological Debates (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019).
2. The most recent work of a similar nature to this one is probably Craig Bartholomew, Contours of the Kuyperian Tradition: A Systematic Introduction (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2017).
3. For a recent example of a work making similar arguments, see William M. R. Simpson, Robert C. Koons, and Nicholas J. Teh, eds., Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives on Contemporary Science (New York: Routledge, 2018).
Sunday, January 1st 2023

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

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