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4 Stars Out Of 5
A great tool for evangelical churches
November 13, 2013
This review, by Dr. Nicholson, has been provided courtesy of Desert Bible Institute (www.desertbibleinstitute.com).
Michael Bird has endeavored to (and has been successful in) create a unique system of theology that is highly applicable to his specific audience in his newest book Evangelical Theology. Dr. Bird received his PhD from the University of Queensland and is a theology lecturer at Ridley Melbourne College of Mission and Ministry in Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of Jesus and the Origins of the Gentile Mission and The Saving Righteousness of God: Studies on Paul, Justification, and the New Perspective.
It ought to be noticed, before we as reviewers go too far afield, that Bird wrote this book for the benefit of a specific audience. The intended student or pastor using this text was meant to be from the evangelical churches that embrace the general patterns of belief and practice of the cardinal points of evangelicalism. Bird refers to the examples given by Alister McGrath as the basis for this premise:
-The supreme authority of Scripture in leading a Christian Life
-Jesus Christ as incarnate God and the Savior of humanity
-Lordship of the Holy Spirit in a Christian's life
-A need for personal conversion
With these points of interest, audience, and delimitations Bird has developed a well formulated treatise. What he sets out to do, and accomplishes, is to strike a balance between biblical exposition and the on-going theological debates on Christian-living and application. In a genre filled with topical or author based analyses and highly specialized exegetical writing, Bird finds a happy middle. Now I am uncertain if he has truly written a work that is totally accessible to the layman unless his definition is limited to college (if not graduate) level readers . He does indeed breakdown his ideas very clearly and in a logical manner, but the language and structure of the book is far more oriented towards an academic reader.
What I perhaps appreciated the most is how Bird attempted to be the middleman to the growing population of evangelical churches who embrace the worldly views to such an extent that they actually bend scripture around the values non-Christians already have. One such position is the "come as you are" motif that has become popular especially through some branches of emergent or hipster churches which sometimes take the grace of God and turn it into an excuse to live life however they prefer giving more glory to themselves than to God. While it seems unlikely that he will bring such churches to a fundamentalist viewpoint, he has given them some solid ground with which to make biblical decisions.
For those of his readers who which to delve further into the topics he is delineating, Bird has provided copious footnotes to both explain challenging concepts and to offer other avenues of knowledge. In addition to this, Bird has offered some top-shelf works as further readings to many of the major sections of his book. In his attempt to strike a median between academic and mainstream, Bird has fallen heavily on the academic side. He has presented it however in a fashion that will stretch (but not break) the enthusiastic, well-educated lay-reader.
Trent Nicholson, Ph.D., D.Min.
Desert Bible Institute, President
Dr. Nicholson reviews academic, Christian living, and fiction books for a variety of publishers in an array of formats. He is never paid for any of his reviews. He writes these strictly as a courtesy to his students at Desert Bible Institute and for any other readers that might find his insights valuable. For more reviews or information, visit Dr. Nicholson's blog at drtnicholson.wordpress.com.
The book for this review was provided free of charge by Zondervan Academic through NetGalley.com. This book was provided without the expectation or requirement of a positive response. Thank you to both the publisher and NetGalley.com for the opportunity to both read your advanced copy and to provide this unpaid evaluation. All opinions in this review reflect the views of the author and not DBI, NetGalley.com, or the publisher.
Michael F. Bird's Evangelical Theology is a readable yet scholarly examination of the theology that has defines the church. His thesis is that good theology will have its "content, structure, and substance singularly determined by the" Gospel. Rather than being a Reformed, Baptist, or Wesleyan commentary, the author has attempted "to construct a theology of the gospel for people who identify themselves as gospel people, namely, the evangelical churches."
The text is grounded in scripture yet attempts to avoid some of the theological pitfalls that have tended to divide the church. For example, given that "sanctification" has multiple meanings within the church, Bird has chosen to focus on the "transformation" of believers. He does not avoid discussing "santification", providing a discussion of its multiple uses within the church, he prefers the term "transformation" to "encompass the aspects of regeneration (the impartation of spiritual life), sanctification (positional and effectual holiness) and the stages of glorification (conformity to the pattern of Christ)."
Though not included in the pre-release copy of the book provided to me, the finished book is scheduled to include a Scripture Index, a Subject Index, and an Author Index. Because these tools are not available, this review cannot speak to their effectiveness in the final version of the book.
The book is accessible to the student, the scholar, and the knowledgeable layperson. Used along side a good Bible translation, the book will provide a solid foundation in the theology of the Evangelical Church. I will hope to add a copy of this work to my library when it is released later this year.
This review is based on a free electronic copy of this book provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.