First Semester in the Books

Long time no blog! Besides a brief holiday hiatus and a serious bout of respiratory infection that kept me bedridden for several days, I’ve been spending much of the last two weeks reading, studying, and taking final exams for my first semester of classes at the Nashville Campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. My last two exams were completed this afternoon, officially bring the semester to a close!

All in all, it was a great semester. I love being a student again and having some direction for my reading/studying. I’ve also really enjoyed the opportunity to interact with other students, and with some outstanding professors. I won’t have grades back for a little while, but I feel like I did pretty well in that area!

The blog has been sorely lacking in book reviews lately, as much of my reading these last few months has been textbooks that aren’t likely to interest many readers who don’t plan to attend seminary. There are a few books that I read during these classes that I’d like to highlight briefly here, as I think they’ll have a bit more common appeal.

The first is Christianity Through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church by Earle E. Cairns. This was the primary textbook for my courses in Church History. While it’s certainly not as in-depth as many books on Christian history, it’s a very good overview that balances details with readability. It never felt like reading a textbook; I thoroughly enjoyed all 560 pages! In scope, it covers everything from Pentecost to some of the biggest theological controversies of the late 20th century. The author writes from a Protestant viewpoint, which is reflected to some extent in his focus on events following the Reformation, though I felt he was fair in his assessment of some of the major events within the Roman church (the Counter-Reformation, Vatican II, etc).

If you’re looking for a good introduction to church history that’s a little more substantial than Christian History Made Easy (my review), look into this one! Buy it here.

Other books used in this class: Our Legacy: The History of Christian Doctrine by John Hannah; a few volumes from the Kregel Pictorial Guide to Church History series; and How Christianity Changed the World by Alvin Schmidt.

Another book I’d have greatly enjoyed whether it was assigned or not was Graeme Goldsworthy’s According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible. We read this in my Biblical Hermeneutics class, and I found it very helpful. Here Goldsworthy introduces the concept of “biblical theology”, which is the study of redemptive history. The purpose of the book is to help Christians to read Scripture as one large (true!) story with one consistent message. I felt the mixture of theological concepts and practical application was just right for a book of this style, and reading it has certainly made me a better student of the Bible.

If you’ve ever wondered how the Old and New Testaments fit together, or how to understand the meaning of a given passage or book of Scripture in the context of the entire Bible, then biblical theology is the way to do it, and this book is a good place to start. Buy it here.

Another book assigned for Hermeneutics was 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible by Robert L. Plummer. As the title suggests, this book aims to answer forty of the most common questions Christians and non-Christians have about interpreting Scripture. While it was certainly helpful to read the book in its entirety, the real value here is as a reference book for times when I have questions, or am seeking to help answer the questions of others. Each of the forty chapters is broken down into a short, easy-to-grasp format that gets straight to the point. Chapter outlines, illustrations, and summaries put the information you need where you can find it right away, with further details in the chapter text if you require further study.

If you’ve ever had questions about interpreting the Bible (and if you haven’t, it’s probably because you’ve never read the Bible!), this book will likely address them. It may not answer every question as thoroughly as possible, but it will get you started, and point you in the direction of other resources if you want to dig deeper. Buy it here. I’m also looking forward to collecting some of the other books in this series!

Other books used in this class: Getting the Message: A Plan for Interpreting and Applying the Bible by Daniel Doriani; and Globalizing Theology: Belief and Practice in an Era of World Christianity by Craig Ott and Harold Netland.

I managed to squeeze in some other reading in the last few months, but haven’t had any time available to write book reviews. With the semester at a close, here are a few of the highlights from my “outside” reading, which I hope to review soon:

One comment on “First Semester in the Books

  1. […] According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible, by Graeme Goldsworthy — This is the only one of my seminary books to make the list this year, but that’s one more than I expected. While I enjoyed (to varying degrees) all of my assigned reading, this book on biblical theology stands out as one that I’ll be sure to read again, and one which will appeal to a lot of readers. I wrote a brief review here. […]

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