ACADEMIA

Reviews on Resources for Biblical and Theological Studies

Sunquist. GOSPEL AND PLURALISM TODAY, 2015

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - May• 24•16

Sunquist, Scott W., and Amos Yong (eds.). The Gospel and Pluralism Today: Reassessing Lesslie Newbigin in the 21st Century. Missiological Engagements. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2015. ISBN: 978-0-8308-5094-5. Pages: 238

9780830850945This volume is the outcome of the annual Missiology Lectures (November 13-15. 2015) held at the Fuller Theological Seminary. The book deals with three distinct aspects of Leslie Newbigin’s life and work. First, it deals with the impact of his book THE GOSPEL IN A PLURALISTIC SOCIETY (1989) on missiology and missional practices. Secondly, it deals with various aspects of pluralism in the West. Thirdly, discussions on how Newbigin’s work influenced missiology.

It is not the purpose this review to offer synopses or critique of each essay in this volume. However, a listing of the contents may help the readers.

1. Introduction: The Legacy of Newbigin for Mission (Scott W. Sunquist).

2. Newbigin in His Time (Wilbert R. Shenk).

3. Newbigin’s Theology of Mission and Culture After Twenty-Five years: Attending to the “Subject” of Mission (William R. Burrows).

4. Community and Witness in Transition: Newbigin’s Missional Ecclesiology Between Modernity and Postmodernity (Veli-Matti Karkainen and Michael Karim).

5. Holistic Theological Method and Theological Epistemology: Performing Newbigin’s Plurality of Sources in the Pluralist Context (Steven B. Sherman).

6. Honoring True Otherness in a Still-Antipluralist Culture (Esther L. Meek).

7. Pluralism, Secularism and Pentecost: Newbigin-ings for Missio Trinitatis in a New Century (Amos Yong).

8. Evangelism in a Pluralistic Society: The Newbigin Vision (Carrie Boren Headington).

9. What Does It Mean for a Congregation to Be a Hermeneutic? (John G. Flett).

10. Asian Perspectives on Twenty-First-Century Pluralism (Allen Yeh).

In his introductory essay, Scott W. Sunquist presents us with a snapshot of Newbegin’s life and factors that influenced his life and thought before he sheds some light on how the book came into being.

A remarkable contribution is an essay by Wilbert R. Shenk who assess Newbigin against the background of his own time. This article is a very important contribution to the volume since it introduces the novice and the expert to the historical, political and theological currents that influenced his thought. However, Shenk has ignored how Indian nationalism, the various socio-political currents in India as well as the emergence of the new church movements influenced Newbegin. When Newbegin entered India where he spent almost all of his active life as a missionary and church leader, India was just five years away from freeing itself from British colonial rule. Independence was guaranteed by its actualization was delayed by World War II. Moreover, independent church movements (notably Pentecostal movement by Indian leaders) had their established their presence in South India for almost four decades. Not only Shenk but also other presenters as well fail to assess the influence of the realities of the host country on him.

However, this volume is a remarkable and useful contribution to missiology in the 21st century.
Link to publisher

Bauman. Pentecostals, Proselytization… OUP 2015

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Apr• 12•16

9780190202095Bauman, Chad. Pentecostals, Proselytization, and Anti-Christian Violence in Contemporary India. 1 edition. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2015. ISBN: 978-0-19-020210-1. Pages: ix+208

Bauman starts with the observation that the Pentecostals and Evangelical Pentecostals (or “Pentecostalized Evangelicals”) are disproportionately targeted by the Hindutva forces. Out of the 223 reported incidents of attacks on Indian Christians in 2007, the media mentioned the names of the denominations in 147 cases. Out of the 147 cases, Bauman found out that only 9% were attacks against Catholics, 4% against were other non-Catholic denominations. The Pentecostals and Pentecostal Evangelicals were the victims in the remaining cases (87%).
Bauman in his research tries to answer this question “Why?” Bauman presents his case in five chapters. In chapter 1 he takes up the question of who are India’s Pentecostals—their history and definitions. In chapter 2 he places Pentecostalism in India in the context of India’s politics and history. In chapter 3, he talks about the disproportionate attacks. In chapter 4 he turns to the debates about conversion in India. Chapter 5 is titled “Missions and Pentecostalization of Indian Christianity.”
He does agree with the most common observation that the particular beliefs, practices and the evangelistic zeal of the Pentecostals are the main reason for them being the targets of anti-Christian attacks. But he is not satisfied with this popular notion. His thorough study has led him to conclude that the anti-Pentecostal attitude of mainline Christians and also the caste dynamics are also part of the story. The marginalization of Pentecostals by mainstream Christian denominations make them more vulnerable to attacks than other Christian groups.
This is indeed a quite an authoritative study. Bauman has covered a considerable amount of literature written on the history of Indian Christianity, debates on conversion and the issue of caste. On the top of these, he has done remarkable in-depth field research that involved extensive travel in India.

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Silverstein. ABRAHAMIC RELIGIONS. 2015

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Mar• 24•16

9780199697762Silverstein, Adam J., Guy G. Stroumsa, and Moshe Blidstein, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Abrahamic Religions. Oxford, United Kingdom?; New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Like other ‘Oxford Handbooks’ (see, Lim, Oxford Handbook of Dead Sea Scrolls) this also is a collection of essays. Here in this volume, we have 32 essays on the various aspects of the so-called Abrahamic religions namely Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The essays are grouped into six parts including epilogues. “Abrahamic Religions” is an emerging field of study.
The first part deals with the very concept of Abrahamic religions. Six essays in this section probe the concept of “Abrahamic Religions” by trying to define and test it out. In the second part, we have studies on the various aspect of the communities that belong to the Abrahamic religions. The third section deals with the scripture and interpretation of the religious texts of the Abrahamic religions. The fourth section is devoted to the theological aspects while the fifth deals with the rituals and ethics. Finally, the sixth part has three epilogues on the three religions that make up Abrahamic religions.
The volume is unique in that each essay is a comparative study of the various aspects of the three religions. This certainly is as the editors declare is a contribution to “the emergence and development of the comparative study of the Abrahamic religions.”

Haughey. BIOGRAPHY OF THE SPIRIT. Orbis, 2015

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Feb• 08•16

Haughey, John C. A Biography of the Spirit. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2015. Pages: 220 ISBN: 978-1-62698-122-5

Haughey_Biography_of_SpiritThe title of the book is rather amusing especially when we realize that the author has in mind the third person of the Holy Trinity. It may be possible to write a biography of the second person of the Trinity since he ‘walked on talked’ on earth in his incarnation. However, Haughey has defined biography as the data of one’s life. In the case of the Spirit, this data is found in observing nature and gathering insights from science where the Spirit is active. So, the book takes the form of day-by-day observations and reflections of nature and science.

He argues that we need the ‘complement of pneumatology’ to comprehend nature and the complexities that science is able to discover. So he goes on by reflecting on nature, science and sometimes scriptural truth as he ventures to find the life of the Spirit in all these realms of life.

His conception of Spirit is non-gendered, so throughout the book, he describes the Spirit as ‘It’ though he doesn’t deny that the Spirit is a person.

The reflections are arranged day-by-day in a dated sequence. Each page is like a guided tour through God’s world and Word where we discern the life of the Spirit.

de Prater. GOD HOVERED OVER THE WATERS, 2015

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jan• 13•16

9781498204545De Prater, William A. God Hovered over the Waters: The Emergence of the Protestant Reformation. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 2015.

This may appear to be yet another academic work on the Protestant Reformation. Though, that is true to a large extent, De Prater seems to have done a unique work presenting the history, impact and relevance of Protestant reformation for us today. The gap between the event and us (almost 500 years) is bridged by his simple and contemporary style.

He sets out with answering the question why study of Reformation is important for us today. Then moves on to the various social, religious, economic and political factors that both necessitated and felicitated Reformation in Europe. In chapter 3 he talks about the forerunners of Reformation. In the following chapters he takes up history of Reformation country by country. Portraits of reformers is a special treat.

No presentation of protestant reformation is complete without its antithesis in the Catholic reformation which he takes up in chapter 7. What is more important, having given a simple but detailed portrayal of Reformation is a discussion on its legacy for us today.

The book is further enriched by two appendices: One which lists the Reformed Confessions and the second one on the timeline of events in the Reformation period.

This book is certainly a primer for all those who would like to know more about Reformation and its legacy for us. It is a great tool to understand the ecumenical movement as well.

Davis. Bhagavad Gita, a Biography. 2015

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Nov• 05•15

Davis GITADavis, Richard H. The Bhagavad Gita: A Biography. Lives of Great Religious Books. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 2015. Pages: 243. ISBN: 978-0-691-139968.

Davis sketches how the Bhagavad Gita is received down through the ages. It emerged as part of the great epic Mahabharata and then gained an independent authority. In the first chapter the author tries to explain the content of Bhagavad Gita in its own context within Mahabharata. The discussion here includes its origin, authorship critical studies, etc.

Then on in the five remaining chapters and the epilogue Davis helps us to understand its reception and interpretation down through the centuries to our own time. While Mahabharata presents an adult philosopher Krishna who claims to be divine, the image of Krishna in the medieval times shifted to that of his early life. Here the Krishna devotion is around ‘a charmingly rambunctious infant and seductive flute-playing youth.’ Moreover, this Hindu scripture inspired many other Gitas of other gods, with contesting world-views.

However, Gita was not limited by space in India, the place of its origin. Davis also traces its passage from India to Europe and elsewhere. He tells us how it became a fascination for the English and German speaking world. We also learn how the work of Swami Vivekanda in the latter part of the nineteenth century brought it to the attention of the world. However, we are also told how its history is intertwined with British East India company’s imperial dream. Gita became a philosophical docuement with contesting itnerpretations in India and abroad. It became a tool in the hands of those who fought againt colonial rule in India. It redefined Hindu life and continues to do saw through performances, art etc.

This is a fascinating work; so much is packed in its 243 pages. Being thoroughly researched and documented this serves as a primer on Gita. And also a template for those who would like to study the impact of religious texts on the life and history of human race.

Without this volume the series LIVES OF GREAT RELIGIOUS BOOKS by Princeton University Press would have been incomplete.

Wilson. THE BOOK OF THE PEOPLE, 2015

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Aug• 29•15

Wilson, A. N. The Book of the People: How to Read the Bible. London: Atlantic Books, 2015.

This is not a textbook on the methodologies or theories on biblical interpretation. This is rather an autobiographical work that presents the authors experiences, and struggles and to a certain extent experiments with the Bible. The author who is a renowned journalist also offers insights in to a lay person’s struggles with the critical theori97881848879607es on Bible. The style is unique. The author adopts at places the style of an autobiography, at times he turns to a dialogue with his conversation partner, an anonymous L.

The book is divided into chapters which are not quite self-explanatory. ‘1.This Mountain’, ‘2. The Vulgate Experience’, ‘3. Prophets’, ‘4. Holy Wisdom’, ‘5. Job’, ‘6. Living in a Metaphor: Psalms’, and ‘7. The Rebirth of Images.’ It also has a prologue and an epilogue.

Though not an academic work it does take even a biblical scholar on an enjoyable tour through the landscape of our cultures’ struggles with the Bible. I found the author’s company as a tour guide extremely enjoyable and to a considerable extent informative.

Chalmers. Interpreting the Prophets, 2015

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jul• 27•15

Chalmers, Aaron. Interpreting the Prophets. London: SPCK, 2015. ISBN: 978-0-281-06904-0

9780281069040There is no lack of books on Old Testament Prophets. Quite a lot of surveys of prophetic books, critical studies and commentaries are in the market. However, it is true that even after acquainting oneself with all the critical knowledge and content of the books students and preachers may still find it difficult to interpret these books.
This book is a beacon of hope in this regard. It is entirely different from the surveys that are currently available in the bookstores. The author claims that his ‘… goal is to equip the readers with the knowledge and skills they need to be competent and faithful interpreters of the prophetic books themselves.’ So, it is not a commentary nor a survey of literature; nor it is a academic work that focus solely on critical issues that leads the interpreter nowhere. However, it is a work that in fact synthesizes the best of scholarship to help the interpreters in their tasks.
To achieve his goal the author deals with four aspects of the prophetic literature. First of all, a general picture of Old Testament prophets is given in the first chapter. This also contains a section of what an Old Testament prophetic book is. This summarizes the movement of the prophetic utterances in oral form to written stage and then the formation of the prophetic books. Second chapter has to do with the ‘historical world of the prophets.’ This is a brief survey of Israelite history from the eighth century to the exile. Two sub-sections of this chapter guides the interpreter as to how to analyze the historical world of the prophetic books and the dangers to avoid in the process. The third chapter deals with the theology of the prophets. He deals with major themes like, Sinaitic covenant, Zion, God as king, the Davidic covenant, etc. This chapter also concludes with suggestions on how to analyze the theologial world of the prophets. The fourth chapter has to do with the rhetorical aspects of the prophetic books. This deals with the literary forms and rhetorical features of the prophetic books.
Two more chapters takes the readers further. The fifth chapter deals with the apocalyptic literature, which is often considered as an extension of the prophetic movement. The author helps the readers to distinguish prophecy from apocalypse and highlights its salient features. This chapter also has a section on guidelines on interpreting apocalyptic literature and the potential problems to avoid.
Readers will find the last chapter ‘Guidelines for preaching from the prophets’ quite useful. This section has quite a lot of useful principles extremely useful to preachers. The author suggests that in interpreting the OT prophets the witness of the New Testament must be taken into account.
There are quite a number of illustrations and the book is complete with additional help with further reading in each section. Scripture index and subject index does enhance the book’s usefulness. This must be a must for any preacher and teacher of the Word.

Martin. Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Preaching (2015)

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jul• 20•15

Martin, Lee Roy (ed.). Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Preaching. Cleveland, TN: CPT Press, 2015. Pages: 297. ISBN: 9781935931416

The century-old Pentecostal movement has depended on preaching by men and women to carry its message. Its claim of being biblical in content and spirit-filled in delivery is not adequately explored by the academic world. This collection of essays explores various aspects of Pentecostal preaching by authors from various strands of Pentecostalism, gender and nationalities.
Out of the 14 essays, three deals with the role of women in preaching. Unlike many other Christian movements, women had claimed a considerable space with men in Pentecostal preaching. One of the three essays deals with Afro-American women in preaching.
A good number of essays are theological reflections on Pentecostal preaching. The role of the Holy Spirit is another theme that is explored.
Pentecostal preaching has a liberative dimenion especially in the Latin American context. One essay deals with this aspect of Pentecostal preaching. The role that technology plays in Pentecostal preaching is also been studied. Finally, a Pentecostal response to emerging homiletics adds further value to this volume.
A book of this sort is an essential part of any discussion on Christian preaching as the Pentecostal movement commands considerable following in this century.

Yong. Dialogical Spirit, 2014

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jun• 17•15
Yong, Amos. The Dialogical Spirit: Christian Reason and Theological Method in the Third Millennium. Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2014. ISBN: 9781625645647; pages: 336.

978157625645647

In response to the post-foundationalist turn, the author is suggesting ‘shifting foundations,’ that, while acknowledging the plurality of ‘starting points’ within the dialogical spectrum, he claims that, it will further justify the ‘particularity’ of faith articulations to ascertain ‘universal applicability.’ He turns to Donald L. Gelpi’s use Charles Sanders Pierce’s triadic pragmatism and Richard Rorty’s interpretations – sans his agnostic outlook–to overcome the binary limitation of foundationalism and relativism that makes it possible for him to articulate a Pentecostal-Charismatic faith and practice, within the shifting foundations. He goes on to engage McClendon and Veli-Matti Karkkainen and Radical Orthodoxy to show the fecund possibility of intra-Christian and interfaith dialogues from a robust ‘international’ Pentecostal theological framework, in the post-Christendom context. Within the post-secular milieu, the author engages the Tibetan Buddhist interlocutors and John Polkinghorne to suggest a viable, dialogically driven, Trinitarian theological methodology with a pneumatological thrust.

The final chapter grapples with the postmodern challenges and the burden on Christian theologians to approach pervading religious pluralism and obligatory interfaith encounters. He evaluates the dual-religious affiliation of Francis Clooney and further clarifies it through Andre Drooger’s ‘methodoloical ludism’ which enables human beings to assume an alternative identity while suspending another aspect of identity and also at times to engage both simultaneously. He claims that such ‘ludic stance’ would make possible for a a pneumatological theological method, facilitating dialogue partners across all religious, socio-cultural and political boundaries.

Overall the book is a highly stimulating reading as it attacks the factors that attempts to shrink ‘faith spaces’ and suggests relevant alternatives, all the while staying true to the ‘orthodoxy and orthopraxy’ of one’s faith articulations. The pertinent questions that the author has grappled with will stay on, and hence an engagement with these are a prerequisite for any serious theologian. This book will definitely help in that venture.

— David Muthukumar, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India.