ACADEMIA

Reviews on Resources for Biblical and Theological Studies

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.

Robeck. The Cambridge Companion to Pentecostalism, CUP, 2014

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Mar• 27•15

Robeck, Cecil M., ed. The Cambridge Companion to Pentecostalism. Cambridge Companions to Religion. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

9780521188388This volume of the Cambridge Companion is on Pentecostalism, one of the most dominant movements in Christian history. This collection of essays is divided into three parts: historical, regional and disciplinary perspectives.
The first essay in the first section by Cecil M. Robeck is on historiographical approaches to the study of Pentecostalism. He surveys the different approaches to the pentecostal historiography labelled as, ‘providential approach’, ‘genetic approach’ ‘multi-cultural approach’, and ‘functional approach.’
In his historical survey ‘Charismatic Renewal and Neo-Pentecostalism’ McClymond argues that the ‘big-bang’ theory of global Pentecostalism must be avoided. He argues that twentieth century global Pentecostalism must be imagined as ‘a String of Firecrackers.’ He thus rejects a euro-centric approach. He also warns that like any other renewal movement Pentecostalism may also lose its vigour over the years.
David A. Reed’s article (‘Then and Now: The Many faces of Global Oneness Pentecostalism’) is on the Oneness Pentecostalism, which is often disregarded in mainline Pentecostal discussions. This provides a useful summary of the theological foundations of Oneness Pentecostalism, its global appeal and its history.
The second part consisting of five essays deals with regional issues. They are not all historical surveys but focussed on specific issues that Pentecostalism faces in different regions. A wide spectrum of regions are covered: North America, Europe and former Soviet Union, Latin America, Africa, and Asia. None of these are comprehensive treatment of all issues or concerns in the scope of essays.
The most important part of this book is the third part dealing with disciplinary perspectives. In fact the essays in this section deals with the state of scholarship on various aspects of Pentecostalism. These essays cover politics, culture, sociology, spirituality, theology, ecumenism, religions.
Calvin L. Smith (‘The Politics and the Economics of Pentecostalism: A Global Survey’) sketches Pentecostal engagement with politics. This ranges from Pentecostal individuals who rose to power to become heads of state to the indirect impact of Pentecostalism on politics and economy in various parts of the world.
Andre Droogers (‘The Cultural Dimension of Pentecostalism’) defines culture as the human effort to bring meaning to reality. With this wider definition he examines the cultural dimensions of Pentecostalism.
Michael Wilkinson’s article (‘Sociological Narratives and Sociology of Pentecostalism’) is a study of the sociological approaches to Pentecostalism. In this essay we meet significant authors and methodologies used in the sociology of Pentecostalism.
The essay on Pentecostal spirituality by Daniel E. Albrecht and Evan B. Howard as well the one on Pentecostal Theology by Mark J. Cartledge are significant contributions in the respective areas.
Wolfgang Vondey in ‘Pentecostalism and Ecumenism’ explores the various ways that Pentecostals approach interdenominational cooperation. In the process Vondey also highlights the ‘ecumenical impulses’ among the early Pentecostals and present state of its engagement with the ecumenical movement. He also presents a theological assessment of Pentecostal approaches to the nature, purpose and unity of Christians.
In ‘Pentecostal Mission and Encounter with Religions’ Veli-Matti Karkkainen, gives a survey of Pentecostal missiologies from the very beginning to the current developments. He also deals with how contemporary Pentecostals struggle with the issue of religious pluralism and the work of the Holy Spirit in the world. He specifically focusses on the pioneering works of Amos Yong and Samuel Solivan in this regard.
Pentecostalism is around just over a century but academic study of Pentecostalism hasn’t reached its half century mark yet. However, this is a vibrant discipline within the study of religion, theology, history, sociology, etc. No Christian movement may have received such academic attention from within and without (other disciplines). It is so vibrant that the editor of the book admits that, ‘… much of what appears in this book is practically dated even as it comes off the press’! The essays in this book summarizes studies on a movement, which is widespread over many disciplines, many languages and regions. So, here in this volume we have a snapshot of Pentecostalism as an academic discipline. This is indeed an essential beginner for the academic study of Pentecostalism.

Im, Global Diasporas, 2014

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jan• 16•15

Im, Chandler H., and Amos Yong. Global Diasporas and Mission. Oxford: Regnum Books International, 2014.

9781908355638This book has in three parts discuss the implications of the global Diasporas for Christian mission in the 21st century. This is part of Regnum Edinburgh Centenary Series (volume 23). The first part deals with the historical and biblical perspectives of Diasporas. In the second part the ethnic and regional developments are discussed. In the last and third part we find six articles on the missional implications of the Diasporas.

In the first part, ‘Mission and migration: The Diaspora Factor in Christian History’ (Andrew F. Walls) and ‘Global Christianity and Global Diasporas’ (Todd M. Johnson and Gina A. Zurlo) deals with the historical aspects of migration. In ‘My Father Was a Migrant Aramean: Old Testament Motifs for a Theology of Migration’ (Knut Holter) and ‘Migrants as Instruments of Evangelization: In Early Christianity and in Contemporary Christianity’ (Werner Kahl) the authors deal with the OT and NT perspectives respectively.

In the second section (Ethnic and Regional Developments) nine essays deal with the migration and Diaspora of various nationalities in different part of the world. For example, the Chinese and Filipino migration all over the world. The Japanese Diaspora in Brazil, South Asian Diaspora in the Persian Gulf, Korean Christian Diaspora in the US, Polish immigrants in Canada, etc. This section also deals with specific issues of some of these Diaspora situations. For example, identity and ecumenical partnership of immigrants of African origin in Germany, and the experience of the migrants in the Native  British Church etc.

The third section deals with the missional opportunities that migration provides. The Diasporas do presents missional opportunities for the churches at their destination. As Jenny Hwang Yang has pointed out in her article the Christians at the host countries are apprehensive of the immigrants and even see them as a threat.

Though, the book has covered almost Diaspora situations two significant lacunae has to be pointed out. First of all, the South Aisan Diasporas in Europe, Africa and North America are left out. The second largest immigrant group in the US is Indian but there is no essay devoted to it. The only article devoted to South Asian Diaspora has to do with their presence in the Persian Gulf. (‘South Asian Diaspora in the Persian Gulf’ by T.V. Thomas.). However, the situation in the Persian Gulf is different from other Diasporas. These are not Diasporas at all since none of them will be able to stay longer than their work permits allow. Unlike, in the West, in the persian gulf, the host nations have no live Christian traditions to minister to them. The laws of their host nations (all of them Islamic) restrict their religious freedom. This is very different from the situation in Europe and North America. However, there is a very strong presence of South Asians in other parts of the world, for example Anglophone Africa and Europe. One third of South Africa is people of Indian origin. How did they impact South Africa? These questions have significant missional implications.

Secondly, the book focusses on the missional opportunities the Diaspora presents to Christians in the host countries. However, the Diaspora also has opposite effects in their native countries which has to be studied as well, though it probably outside the scope of the present volume. The immigrants support various political and religious organizations who oppose Christian mission in their native lands. For example, the largest recipients of foreign funds in India are Hindutva outfits who oppose Christian mission and has been behind many anti-Christian activities. Most of the funds are remittances by Indians living abroad.

In spite of these gaps the books opens our eyes to the reality which often gets ignored. The essays convince the reader that Diaspora is not an accident but very much part of God’s plan for salvation of whole mankind. It also challenges us that we need to see it so and not as a threat. A very timely work, indeed an eye-opener!

 

Das. Galatians 2014 (Concordia Commentary)

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Nov• 18•14

Das, A. Andrew. Galatians. Concordia Commentary: A Theological Exposition of Sacred Scripture. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014

Das GalatiansBeing a seminary professor and pastor lay leaders and pastors approach me to recommend a commentary that they can use for their teaching and preaching. Though I have a list of commentaries ready, I find myself at a loss as to what to recommend. There are scholarly commentaries but they are too detailed, require knowledge of biblical language and critical skills. Then on the other end of the spectrum are very simple but shallow treatments of the biblical text. However, this commentary on Galatians by Andrew Das fills this gap as it is aimed at pastors but is very scholarly—where current biblical scholarship is presented in a ‘non-threatening’ way!

Here we have a commentary which trained academics will cherish and pastors and lay persons without much training will love to read. It is amazingly detailed. The commentary on the six chapters of Galatians are presented to us in 656 pages! For example, the detailed discussion on the fruit of the Spirit runs many pages. The explanation of ‘love’ in this passage has taken up two full pages with ten footnotes documenting modern authors and ancient writers. Each verse, and word is so thoroughly treated and the reader gets the feeling that there is no leaf that is not unturned.

This includes a very sumptuous introduction that deals with topics that widen the readers’ understanding of the situation in Galatia that Paul addresses, Pauline chronology, rhetorical analysis of the epistle, etc. Besides this there is a detailed up-to-date bibliography, scripture and subject indices. Non-academic readers will find the three-page glossary of terms a blessing. Besides the commentary there are a number of excursus that are really a treat for the learners. Look at a sample: ‘Modern Perspectives on Conversion’, ‘The extent of Paul’s Arabian ministry’, ‘The metaphorical and social context of Galatians 4:1-7’, ‘The elements of the cosmos’, etc.

This easy to read but profound commentary on Galatians will be welcomed by both academics and lay persons as ‘The Commentary on Galatians’ for many years to come!