Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism, Timothy Keller (Viking 2015, $19.95)

Review by S. Craig Sanders

The release of Timothy Keller’s Preaching, which followed his award-winning book Prayer, makes me wonder: Keller could weave his winsome style and theological framework into the books Eating and Sleeping, and they would be worth your time.

In his latest book, Keller offers a manual for preaching Christ in every text to a skeptical culture. This is not a typical book on preaching, as Keller tailors it for three types of “Word ministry”: public preaching, leading small group Bible study or counseling, and personal conversation. What separates great preaching from good preaching, Keller writes, is faithfulness to serve the Word by preaching the gospel in every text and to reach people by preaching to the culture.

“While only God can open hearts, the communicator must give great time and thought both to presenting the truth accurately and to bringing it home to the hearts and lives of the hearers,” Keller writes.

Keller presents how to preach Christ in every text, bolstering a defense of expository preaching with his exegetical insight on key passages. Keller focuses the second half of his book on how to preach to a culture with an increasing percentage of “nones” — those indifferent to religion.

In this section, he explains six methods of preaching to the culture: using accessible vocabulary, reinforcing biblical truths with cultural sources, acknowledging doubts and objections, affirming cultural narratives in order to challenge them, pushing on cultural pressure points, and calling for gospel response.

Most importantly, Keller highlights preaching to the heart, or “feeding the imagination new beauties.” This book is an invaluable resource for anyone tasked with communicating the gospel to an increasingly secular culture.

Christ Died for Our Sins, Jarvis J. Williams (Pickwick Publications 2015, $28)

Review by Andrew J.W. Smith

Some explanations of the atonement will focus on either Christ taking the sinner’s place on the cross or Christ bearing the sinner’s guilt — each at the expense of the other — but Paul’s understanding of the atonement in Romans is both representative and substitutionary, writes Southern Seminary New Testament professor Jarvis J. Williams.

In Christ Died for Our Sins, Williams argues that Paul drew on Jewish literature to make his argument — particularly Isaiah 53, select passages from Leviticus, and background texts from the Intertestamental period he calls the “Jewish martyrological narratives.” Paul employed the same logic and language as the Jewish literature in his own expansive atonement argument throughout Romans, Williams contends.

Although it is intended to contribute to an ongoing scholarly conversation, Williams’ defense of substitution as a legitimate category of the atonement is valuable for evangelical pastors.

God’s Kingdom Through God’s Covenants: A Concise Biblical Theology, Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum (Crossway 2015, $19.99) 

Review by Annie Corser

In God’s Kingdom through God’s Covenants, SBTS professors Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum condensed their Kingdom through Covenant (Crossway 2012) to offer a thorough yet concise explanation of the Bible’s storyline.

“We have done our best to summarize our basic proposal, to avoid a lot of the technical discussion and debate, and to simply outline how we understand the unfolding of the biblical covenants and thus, how our triune God’s plan has been brought to its wonderful consummation in Christ,” they write.

Gentry, Donald L. Williams Professor of Old Testament Interpretation, and Wellum, professor of Christian theology, integrate biblical and systematic theology to show how the major covenants find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. After an explanation of each major covenant, the book concludes in a theological integration to cultivate a better understanding “of the depth and riches of God’s Word.”

Pastor as Public Theologian: Reclaiming a Lost Vision, Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan (Baker Academic 2015, $19.99)

Review by Sean W. Corser

In an age where the pastoral office is devalued in society and often overlooked by those seeking ministry roles, the definition of the pastor as a public theologian has gone by the wayside. In The Pastor as Public Theologian, Kevin Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan seek to reclaim a vision vividly modeled in the early church.

With practical insights and historical examples of faithful pastors, Vanhoozer and Strachan implore readers to return to the practice of the pastor as a public theologian. Describing the current landscape, they claim the pastorate and the church are undergoing a “theological recession” and urge for academic prowess not to be disconnected from the daily ministry grind. Not slighting the place of academic theology, they claim that the pastoral responsibility is and always will be found in a deep connection to theology, which in turn leads to “Godward” congregational life.