Theologians Past, Theology Future, and Venn Diagrams

Posted November 15th, 2012 in Books, News by Emily Varner

I’ve been helping spread two big Zondervan news items this week: the announcement of New Studies in Dogmatics, a theology series in the works, and the release of Theologian Trading Cards. The latter is a playful yet extremely informative look at many of the most influential players in the history of Western theology. The former sports an ancient-future approach to dogmatic theology, taking the cues for new theological exploration from the creeds, councils, confessions, and writings of church leaders throughout the ages.

The press release and list of contributors for NSD can be found on the Zondervan Academic Koinonia website here. If you were one of the lucky ones, you also got an email from me making the announcement. (If you want to be so fortunate in the future, you can always go to my contact form and send me a message.) An interesting personal note on this project is that one of the series editors, Michael Allen of Knox Theological Seminary, is a former Wheaton Grad School classmate. If memory serves, he was an undergrad doing an accelerated master’s program in the same department I was working on my, er, decelerated master’s program. (Is that what it’s called when you are working full-time while you finish it?) We were in a few classes together and had some mutual friends. Which, just like the publication of my close grad school friend’s revised dissertation in a highly anticipated book, is additional confirmation that I am getting old way too fast.

But back to the theology/theologian news: Often press releases and media mailings are an excellent excuse to hear more from authors about their books. In the case of Theologian Trading Cards, it made made a ton of sense to interview Norman Jeune III because there is so little written about the work in project itself–no preface, no intro, no appendix. The author and I ended up with much more material than we could mail out with all the decks, and Scot McKnight enthusiastically posted the full version of our Q&A on Jesus Creed here.

My first grader’s teacher is big on Venn diagrams. I think in the olden days this was called comparing and contrasting, not that I’m knocking the Venn diagram, which is so helpful for visual learners. (And there’s nothing like having my particular first grader to make a person appreciate all kinds of learning styles.) My daughter’s class has done Venn diagrams, for example, to explore different versions of the same story or to compare their elementary school with one they visited. As I was considering posting on these two news items, a Venn diagram came to mind. I thought, What would I put in the overlapping portion of a Venn diagram about Theologian Trading Cards and New Studies in Dogmatics?

The first answer that came to me: Kevin Vanhoozer, a highly respected theologian who teaches at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. He is a consulting editor for and contributor to New Studies in Dogmatics and you will also find a card with his photo and bio in the deck of Theologian Trading Cards. You never know when those first grade logic skills will come in handy.

But if you want me to fill out the rest of the diagram for you, you’re out of luck. You can imagine a lot of the differences simply due to the fact that we?re looking at a book series under development and a deck of cards already produced. But that middle section will be filled out more and more as the NSD volumes come out. Which early church thinkers and reformation writers will guide Marguerite Shuster, for example, as she writes her volume on Creation? What foundational theological concepts do we owe to whom as we build a constructive theology for our day?

And that, my friend, is why 1) You should get a set of Theologian Trading Cards now and start reading through them and 2) You should pray for the contributors to the New Studies in Dogmatics series as they write them, and eagerly anticipate their work over the next four years. My guess is that you might not need to whip out the old Venn diagram, but you will have some higher-order thinking skills to consider what each theologian is doing throughout his or her volume.

But if you want to send me a Venn diagram of your findings, I promise to study it with interest.


Money Quote from Job by Walton

Posted October 18th, 2012 in Books, Random by Emily Varner

I spent part of my morning redeeming my gym time by reading. (Sorry, fellow gym-mates, but the TV is boring–especially for the next two and a half weeks in a swing state.) Today: Job (NIV Application Commentary) by John H. Walton. I realize reading a biblical commentary on the elliptical machine makes me odd, but who am I trying to kid?

But that’s not the point–here’s the money quote for the day. I believe I even said “Wow” out loud when I read it, and then re-read it:

“Trusting God–which is the same as fearing God–means accepting the fact that God does not need us or anything we possess or accomplish, and acknowledging that he is not lacking in any aspect of his character or nature. The God revealed in the Bible cannot be manipulated or outmaneuvered, and our petty attempts to do so only demonstrate our refusal to accept Scripture’s presentation of God in favor of our own caricatures of him.”

–Job, John H. Walton, p. 334.

Obviously this makes a lot more sense when you’re reading the commentary through, which is why you should read the whole thing.

All Blog Reviews: frameworks

Posted September 24th, 2012 in Books, News by Emily Varner

What a pleasure to hear what reviewers from far and wide thought about frameworks! I believe this is the complete list of reviews (in no particular order):

Mark Howell Live – Mark Howell

Grace4Sinners – Mathew Sims

Dallas Theological Book Center Blog – Kevin Stern

Bible Geek Gone Wild – Shaun Tabatt

Logos Worldview Blog – Brian Holland

Barkma – Ben Barkley

Words on the Word – Abram Kielsmeier-Jones

Tom Farr Blog – Tom Farr

And those previously posted: – Casey Tygrett

Snapshots – Wendy Swantek

Book Bargains and Previews – Tricia

My Two Mites – Robbie Pruitt

ChristFocus Book Club – Debbie White



End of Week Posts on frameworks

Posted September 20th, 2012 in Books, News by Emily Varner

Bloggers are still weighing in with their thoughts on frameworks: How to Navigate the New Testament. (And incidentally, a few bloggers have asked for a small extension into next week as well!)


Tom Farr gives a nice overview here.


And Christopher Tillman acknowledges the gap in introductory literature for believing Bible readers: “An average OT/NT Introduction book may very well be intimidating for folks who are genuinely seeking a better understanding of Scripture, yet don’t have the supporting resources provided in a seminary environment.” His commendations and reservations are fleshed out here.


And another brief review appeared in Book Bargains and Previews.


I?m eager to see what pops up at tomorrow and early next week!

Round One of frameworks Reviews

Posted September 18th, 2012 in Books, News by Emily Varner

It was great to see the first reviews appear for frameworks: How to Navigate the New Testament. Here are the full links:

Robbie Pruitt, a high school Bible teacher in Haiti, sums up his praise this way: “As a Bible teacher, a student of God’s word and as a visual learner, I highly recommend Frameworks. Frameworks facilitates a unique way to understand the New Testament and to put the individual books into their larger contexts for a holistic understanding of the New Testament.” The full review is here.

Debbie White, who reviews biblical studies resources at ChristFocus Book Club (and other genres at two other blogs), gave a clear overview mixed with her reflections.

And Wendy Swantek, a chill mother of two young boys and lay leader at her local church, had this to day, “This book is a handy guide, an outstanding roadmap, and a barrel of possibilities. Eric?s joy in sharing what the New Testament has to offer, combined with his no-nonsense style make this a pleasure to read (and re-read!).” The full review is here.

Where to Find Reviews of frameworks

Posted September 13th, 2012 in Books, News by Emily Varner

Check out this great list of reviewers who are planning to give their two cents (and in one case, two mites) about Eric Larson’s frameworks: How to Navigate the New Testament–An Extraordinary Guide for Ordinary People. People will be posting and Larson will be responding throughout next week: September 17-21.

You’ll notice booksellers, pastors, teachers, parents, worship leaders, artists, students–none of them “ordinary” in the negative sense of course, but a great cross-section of the audience who will find this an appealing resource.

I’ll try to post links to the actual reviews as they become available, but here are links to the home pages, in no particular order:

DTS Book Center Blog (DTS Book Center Staff)

Bible Geek Gone Wild (Shaun Tabatt)

Barkma (Ryan Barkley)

Snapshots (Wendy Swantek)

ChristFocus Book Club (Debbie White)

Book Bargains and Previews (Patti Chadwick) (Austin McCann)

Grace for Sinners (Mathew Sims)

Logos Worldview (Brian Holland)

Tom Farr Blog (Tom Farr)

Words on the Word (Abram Kielsmeier-Jones)

My Two Mites (Robbie Pruitt)

Guarding the Good Deposit (Casey Tygrett)

A couple reviews snuck out early too . . . a brief one at Cybertron Reviews is here, and a contact of Larson’s who received an early copy of the book at Musings of an Unemployed English Major.


Blog Tour in the Works for frameworks

Posted September 10th, 2012 in Books, News by Emily Varner

The innovative New Testament introduction frameworks: How to Navigate the New Testament by Eric Larson, recently published by Frameworks Resources, is arriving in the hands of industry gatekeepers and bloggers alike.

The Bible-learning tool that has been making waves among the churches of California’s Bay Area, is self-consciously “an extraordinary guide for ordinary people.” And what better way to assess its value than through the eyes of its intended users: laypeople and church leaders interested in increasing the biblical literacy of every churchgoer. The blog tour, which will run from Monday, September 17 through Friday, September 21, includes pastors, students, Bible teachers, and lay learners from across the United States (and even one in Haiti). Author Eric Larson will be visiting the posts regularly to interact with bloggers and those who comment on their reviews.

Check back for a listing of participating bloggers and links to their reviews of frameworks.

Recent PR Happenings – Winter 2012

Posted February 23rd, 2012 in Books, News by Emily Varner

Monday, InterVarsity Press’s Online Pulpit posted the first of three posts I wrote on A Vision for the Aging Church.

Tuesday, Susie Larson interviewed Mark Buchanan about his new book Your Church Is Too Safe.

Wednesday, a review of the same appeared at ForeWord Reviews.

This morning I woke to Trevin Wax’s Kingdom People review of Journeys of Faith.

Good books getting some attention. Warms the heart.

Online Reviews from PW and Library Journal

Posted August 27th, 2011 in Books by Emily Varner

Check out this Publisher’s Weekly review of Chaos and Grace by Mark Galli (Baker, October 2011) here.

And Library Journal Online ran a reference review of the Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (Zondervan, July 2011) here. It was the only religious title in the reference review lineup for August 2011.

Well-deserved attention for these books.

The Lost Q&A Text–Dictionary of Christian Spirituality

Posted July 24th, 2011 in Books by Emily Varner

I’m sending review copies of Zondervan’s Dictionary of Christian Spirituality out presently. This is another one of those titles I’m delighted to be associated with. The general editor, Glen G. Scorgie, was kind enough to answer a few questions for me , which I edited and used for a media piece. The text of this piece is posted on Glen’s personal blog here. Below I’m posting the one question and response that didn’t make the final cut. I still think it’s worth sharing:

Some in the evangelical community might suggest that a reference work of this sort should be of one opinion on doctrine and Christian practice, but in the introduction you say the contributors encompass “the full spectrum of Protestants, including Calvinists and Wesleyans, Episcopalians and Anglicans, Pentecostals and Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists and Dispensationalists; also some Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox; and even a few who are not going to church at all right now.” Why do you see this as making a stronger resource? What “core” beliefs are represented in the volume?

This book is not a polemical rejoinder in some intramural debate. We have no axe to grind. Instead, we have tried to produce a volume that represents a generous evangelical identity and voice. It has been gratifying to have already received appreciative emails from people who have sometimes been de-legitimized through exclusion from academic reference works of this nature. In times of great global challenge and opportunity, as we find ourselves as Christians today, much more is to be gained by solidarity and mutual respect than by partisanship. We are certainly not relativists, for not all views are equally meritorious, but our embrace should be as large as that of the Spirit of God.

What unites us, amid all the diversity of our backgrounds, is agreement on what Christian spirituality is all about— Continue Reading »