While there certainly remains a place for more lengthy book reviews, I thought it might be useful to just pen a few very brief book notes (and give some scores – ♦ – out of 5) on some of the more significant books I read each month. So here’s a few from April so far. As you can see, I’ve been following a definite theme.
Geiko Müller-Fahrenholz, The Kingdom and the Power: The Theology of Jürgen Moltmann (trans. John Bowden; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000).
This is one of the most helpful introductions to Moltmann’s thought available. Appreciative, but not uncritical at key points, Müller-Fahrenholz introduces us to the big themes in Moltmann’s major works. Recommended. ♦♦♦
Nigel M. de S. Cameron, ed., Universalism and the Doctrine of Hell: Papers Presented at the Fourth Edinburgh Conference on Christian Dogmatics, 1991 (Carlisle/Grand Rapids: Paternoster/Baker, 1993).
Like most collections of essays, this one is a bit hit and miss. The better essays are those by Trevor Hart, David Powys, TF Torrance and Henri Blocher. ♦♦½
Thomas Talbott, The Inescapable Love of God (Boca Raton: Universal, 1999).
See my review here. ♦♦♦
Robin A. Parry and Christopher H. Partridge, ed., Universal Salvation? The Current Debate (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2003).
This is a well chosen collection of essays and authors on a timely and important topic for evangelicals. It seeks to engage with Talbott’s thesis of dogmatic universalism which Talbott outlines in the first 3 chapters. His chapter on ‘Christ Victorious’ expands on what I believe is an underplayed theme in his The Inescapable Love of God, and so I was encouraged to see it included here. Biblical, philosophical, theological and historical responses are then offered. Talbott responds briefly in the final chapter. The best responses are those offered by Eric Reitan, David Hilborn and Don Horrocks. Overall, it’s a helpful discussion. It needs an index, but the book is worth buying for the bibliography alone. It’s 18 pages! ♦♦♦
Gregory MacDonald, The Evangelical Universalist (Eugene: Cascade Books, 2006).
This is the most well argued exegetical treatment on the subject of universalism currently available. It’s well written, and the combination of ‘MacDonald’s’ cogency of argument, respect for the Biblical texts, and personal humility as to his claims makes his advocacy of evangelical universalism most attractive. Those who disagree with his position will find here a case worthy of as humble response. Good bibliography, but no index. ♦♦♦♦
Rowan Williams, Tokens of Trust: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2007).
A beautifully-written reflection – it’s almost a poem – that deserves the widest readership. ♦♦♦♦
Hans Urs von Balthasar, Dare We Hope “That All Men Be Saved”? With a Short Discourse on Hell (Fort Collins: Ignatius Press, 1988).
While this wee book is not particularly well written (it may be better in the German), it’s almost impossible to put down, and it really does have not a few flashes of magnificent insight. Von Balthasar’s overall thesis regarding a hopeful universalism is attractive, even if not at every point convincing. His aggregating of quotes reminded me of Bloesch’s work (which I love). A good read. ♦♦♦½
Lindsey Hall, Swinburne’s Hell and Hick’s Universalism: Are we free to reject God? (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003).
This is a helpfully lucid outline and critical response to important themes in the theology of Richard Swinburne and John Hick. While her own position is considerably more Hickian than perhaps most evangelical universalists will be comfortable with, Hall is to be commended for avoiding stereotypes and for offering a cogent contribution to an increasingly voluminous discussion on the question of Christian universalism. ♦♦♦
Richard Bauckham and Trevor Hart, Hope Against Hope: Christian Eschatology at the Turn of the Millennium (Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1999).
Richard Bauckham and Trevor Hart pair up again for this project that arose out of number of conferences and the result is a stunning collection of six essays on Christian hope – its context, its value, its basis, its power, its praxis, and its goal. Bauckham and Hart set out not merely to expose modernity’s myth of inevitable progress and postmodernity’s Nietzschian anti-metanarrative and deconstruction of mimetic imagination, but do so by laying before our eyes the broad and graced vision of God’s promises begun in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and fully realised in the new creation. Inspired by the work of Jürgen Moltmann (to whom the book is dedicated), this is a book that requires careful and reflective reading, stopping regularly to view the terrain, and then returning to again and again to grapple with its implications. This is one to buy, read, keep and re-read. [NB. This may be a biased note as Trevor is my doctoral supervisor]. ♦♦♦♦