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Reclaiming Pietism: Retrieving an Evangelical Tradition
Reclaiming Pietism: Retrieving an Evangelical Tradition
by Christian T. Collins Winn
Edition: Paperback
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An important book for both critics and supporters of pietism, January 23, 2015
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Reclaiming Pietism: Retrieving an Evangelical Tradition by Roger E. Olson and Christian T. Collins Winn is a brief introduction and defense of Christian pietism. Throughout this work, Olson and Winn seek to dispel common misconceptions about the pietist movement, such as the common contention that pietism is staunchly legalistic, opposed to social action, and intent on achieving Christian perfection. Olson and Winn argue that pietism is an essential forerunner of the contemporary evangelical tradition, and that the contemporary church would gain much by studying its own pietist heritage.

Perhaps the most helpful part of this book is the authors’ extensive survey of the history of the pietist movement. Olson and Winn begin by examining the forerunners of the pietist movement such as Johann Arndt and Jakob Bohme. They catalog the beginnings of the pietist movement with the publication of Philip Jacob Spener’s Pia Desideria, and its rise through the writings of August Herman Francke and subsequent pietist figures. The authors strictly distinguish between a historic churchly pietism, and radical forms of pietism. They also demonstrate that Zinzendorf and the Moravians are not pietists in the traditional sense, but alter in some important ways the teachings of Spener and Francke. Throughout the historical section, it is apparent that Olson and Winn take a rather negative view of the Protestant scholastic tradition, in which they view pietism as a corrective movement. While there certainly were problems in being overly-intellectual (especially in the pulpit), and in promoting a form of Christianity which does not affect the heart, these problems do not characterize the entire scholastic era. Figures like Johann Gerhard (who is briefly mentioned in the book) and Ernst Loescher recognized such deficiencies, and promoted practical piety from within the scholastic tradition. Olson and Winn seem to pit scholastic theology against practical piety, whereas in figures like Gerhard, these two emphases cohere with one another.

Though a strict confessional Lutheran will not be convinced by all of the arguments, Olson and Winn do succeed in demonstrating that pietism is often portrayed in an inaccurate manner devoid of historical context. The claim that pietism is concerned only with individual salvation, neglecting Christian community and the broader world, is particularly inaccurate. Francke, in particular, fought for social reforms, and was active in caring for orphans in particular. These social implications are systemic throughout the pietist tradition. Olson and Winn also demonstrate that spirituality is not, in pietism, viewed as an individualistic enterprise. The formation of the pietist movement was essentially based around the formation of collegia pietatis, which “were ultimately not just for mutual edification, but for the renewal of the whole church” (44). Pietist spirituality was corporate in nature, and due to the postmillennial leanings of many pietists, this spirituality was hoped to influence society as a whole. One final point that Olson and Winn demonstrate successfully is that the pietists did not hold to Christian perfectionism in the manner that Wesley did. They mention, for example, that Zinzendorf (who himself was quite radical in some ways) departed ways with Wesley over the nature of indwelling sin. Though one might justly make the argument that they pietists overemphasized the importance of sanctification over that of justification, claims of pietist perfectionism are inaccurate.

The most problematic aspects of this book are due to the theological convictions of the authors. Because they are not Lutheran, Olson and Winn fail to discuss the pietists’ views of the sacraments in relation to traditional Lutheran orthodoxy. However, since pietism came from a sacramental background, and that Spener himself continued to defend Luther’s understanding of both Baptism and the Lord’s Supper throughout his life, this is a glaring omission. This likely is due to the authors’ evangelical Arminian convictions which do not hold a strict view of sacramental efficacy. There are also several statements made in passing that the pietists held to something like classical Arminianism and denied the inerrancy of Scripture. Though these characteristics might be true of some pietists, it is unlikely that such were held by those who, like Spener, contended for firm adherence to the Lutheran confessions. Some more evidence should be presented in this regard, or these comments simply seem to betray the authors’ own convictions rather than that of the pietist theologians.

This book is an essential read for anyone interested in the pietist movement. It is helpful for evangelicals in demonstrating the impact of pietism upon the contemporary church, which is too often only associated with Puritanism. This book is also a helpful read for Lutherans, whether in the pietist, scholastic (like myself), or other traditions. It’s historical section is a great overview of the movement for any interested from either a positive or negative perspective, and the work presents many important arguments for the critics of pietism to engage.


Who Do I Say That You Are?: Anthropology and the Theology of Theosis in the Finnish School of Tuomo Mannermaa
Who Do I Say That You Are?: Anthropology and the Theology of Theosis in the Finnish School of Tuomo Mannermaa
by William W. Schumacher
Edition: Paperback
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Most Comprehensive Critique of the Finnish Interpretation of Luther, August 23, 2013
Arguing from an anthropological perspective, Schumacher argues that the Finnish school has misinterpreted Luther's theology, replacing Luther's theology of the word with an ontologically focused approach to the human person. For Schumacher's Luther it is God's word of address to the sinner, as a creative word, which has primacy. This is distinguished from Finnish writers who propose that the human creature is defined by ontological union with God.

For Schumacher, the traditional Lutheran approach to justification and Mannermaa's school are incompatible with one another. Justification is either theosis (Mannermaa) or forensic (the Book of Concord). Thus Mannermaa's approach to justification is essentially an attack on the entire Lutheran tradition after the Osiandrian controversy. Schumacher purports that the Finnish school is "if not a complete rehabilitation of Osiander, then at least the attempt to salvage key elements of his system which has been previously rejected by the Lutheranism of the Formula of Concord."(91) Schumacher points out that the Osiandrian error involved more than a denial of the unity of Christ's two natures, but also the prioritizing of the incarnation of Christ over his death and resurrection, leaving the cross in a subsidiary position. I think Schumacher's argument here is partially correct. There is an overemphasis in many of the Finnish writers on the incarnation, which makes salvation primarily an ontological reality, displacing the objective event of the cross. I don't think the solution to this problem is to reject ontological categories, and the soteriological significance of the incarnation as Schumacher does, but is to have a balanced approach to the soteriological significance of all events in Christ's life. In Lutheran soteriology (along with that of Paul), the cross is always the central salvific event. I think a more balanced approach would be to take the Finnish theology of incarnation, and place it within the context of the Formula's forensic emphasis. While the forensic elements of salvation may be primary, there are also strong ontological themes in Luther's thought which need not be neglected.

One of the problems with Schumacher's contention that the Finnish school is essentially Osiandrian is that he fails to discuss the primary problems with Osiander's theology according to the Formula of Concord. The Formula isn't condemning the concept of ontological union, or the importance of Christ's indwelling; rather, the Formula is seeking to clarify that the infusion of love and other virtues does not precede justification. In other words, the concern of the Formula is salvation by works, not the idea that Christ is present in faith. I think the problem here begins with the Finnish interpretation who conclude that the Formula is opposed to Luther. I don't think such a division exists. Luther places salvation in both juridical and participationist categories. The Formula focuses on the forensic elements (rightly so I think) because of the necessity of clarifying these issues in light of Osiander's teaching. This shouldn't be pitted against Luther's own theology, when Luther was willing to approve of Melancthon's writings on justification with primarily (at times exclusively) forensic language.

The most interesting chapter in Schumacher's work is in his evaluation of Luther's own writings. Schumacher rightly points out that the Finnish school tends to conflate the early and late Luther, ignoring the development of Luther's thought, especially his great Reformation discovery. It is somewhat surprising that one of the most significant passages for the Finnish school comes from a Christmas sermon in 1514, when Luther hadn't yet developed his mature understanding of justification. In some of the more extreme forms of the Finnish approach (Karkkainen for example), the Reformation discovery is almost completely ignored, and one wonders why the Medieval church would even have an issue with Luther's view of justification if this interpretation were correct. Here is where I think Schumacher paints with too broad a brush. While many in this school ignore the categories of imputation, and even sola fide, Mannermaa is careful to place these categories in the context of Luther's overall thought, though I do agree that he downplays their importance. This chapter demonstrates that some of the language used by the Finnish school doesn't mean what they claim in the context of Luther's own writings. However, I remain convinced of the central thesis of Mannermaa that Luther teaches that an ontological union with Christ is the metaphysical basis for God's gracious imputation. In otherwords, Christ is truly present in faith, giving himself to the Christian as righteousness, especially through the debt paid on the cross and Christ's victory over the devil according to both natures; this does not neglect the fact that the union of God and man in the incarnation is also a necessary part of the Christian's righteousness. (Regarding the so-called "active obedience" of Christ, I don't find this theme in Luther, though I personally do affirm its validity).

One of my primary areas of interest, especially as I dealt with this topic in my book The Righteousness of One: An Evaluation of Early Patristic Soteriology in Light of the New Perspective on Paul, is in the connection between Luther's theology and that of the Church fathers. Schumacher convincingly demonstrates that the influence of the Greek fathers on Luther has been overstated by the Finnish school. Luther's primary influences, rather, were Augustine, Ambrose, Jerome, Bernard, and the German mystical tradition. He correctly points out that deification language in Luther is taken from medieval mysticism, and is thus not identical with Eastern conceptions of theosis. I would point out, however, that there are many commonalities between the mystical tradition which Luther praises and the Eastern fathers. Whether the Eastern fathers had any significant influence on Bernard, Tauler, or the Theologia Germanica remains to be demonstrated, but one cannot help seeing certain common themes. The Theologia Germanica, for example, states: "God assumed human nature or humanity. He
became humanized and man became divinized. That is the way amends were made." (The Theologia Germanica of Martin Luther, 63) It seems unthinkable to me that Luther would promote and publish the Theologia Germanica and the works of Tauler throughout his life if he didn't agree with their conviction that salvation is in some sense an ontological event.

Schumacher's book is a fascinating read, and is essential to grapple with for any interested in this issue. Schumacher points out some of the genuine flaws in Finnish Luther research, which often lets an ecumenical agenda guide research, rather than letting the evidence speak for itself. However, in doing this, Shumacher swings too far in the other direction, ignoring the ontological soteriological concepts that are prominent in such works as "On Christian Liberty", "Two Kinds of Righteousness", and the 1535 Galatians commentary. The fact that Luther could promote both Melancthon's works which deal almost exclusively in legal categories, and the Theologia Germanica which deals almost exclusively in ontological categories should show us that both sides in this debate have often set up a false dichotomy which was foreign to Luther.


Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul's Narrative Soteriology
Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul's Narrative Soteriology
by Michael J. Gorman
Edition: Paperback
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Helpful Alternative to Contemporary Readings of Paul, August 23, 2013
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Michael J. Gorman's work Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul's Narrative Soteriology, is one in a number of works seeking to reinterpret Paul's theology. Rather than defending traditional Pauline interpretation, or getting on the New Perspective bandwagon, Gorman offers a proposal that transcends other interpretive grids.

For Gorman, the center of Pauline thought is not to be found in forensic justification (Luther), nor is it to be found in the concept of covenant community (Wright). Rather, "theosis is the center of Paul's theology." (171) Theosis, for Gorman, is a thoroughly Christological reality, and can be called "Christification." Gorman's concept of theosis shares similarities with the Eastern Orthodox approach, but is not synonymous. For Gorman, theosis is primarily cruciformity. God's nature is cruciform, and thus theosis is living the cruciform life, mirroring God's self giving love. Gorman proposes that the Carmen Christi of Philippians 2:6-11 is Paul's "master story." This text serves as a lens through which Paul's theology is to be read. Gorman argues, convincingly I think, that the phrase "although he was in the form of God" can be read "because he was in the form of God." In other words, the incarnation is not contrary to God's normal manner of acting, but is thoroughly consistent with God's character. In fact, it is the ultimate revelation of God's character. Thus, in contrast to human perceptions of divinity which are linked with political power, God's power in shown in weakness. It is of God's essence and character to be self-giving. In Gorman's words, "divinity has kenotic servanthood as its essential attribute."(31)

There is a redefinition of the term "Justification" in Gorman's writing. For Gorman, justification is not a purely forensic reality, but is thoroughly participatory. Trying to overcome the division common in Pauline studies between juridical and participationist soteriology, Gorman contends that "Paul has not two soteriological models (juridical and participationist) but one, justification by co-crucifixion, meaning restoration to right covenantal relations with God and others by participation in Christ's quintessential covenantal act of faith and love on the cross."(45) Justification is a covenantal category, and it involves participation in Christ's death and resurrection. The believer, through faith, is incorporated into Christ and is "co-crucified" with Jesus. Through this crucifixion, covenantal relations are restored. This involves both the restoration of one's relationship with God, and the restoration of the relationship one has with fellow man. Gorman discusses Galatians 2, in which Paul connects justification with participation in Christ's death. This causes Gorman to conclude that "Justification by faith, then, is a death-and-resurrection experience."(69)

The exegesis that Gorman provides is challenging, and does point to a connection between justification and the death and resurrection of the believer. However, it is not entirely convincing. Gorman contends that justification is not a judicial term, and does so through the text in Galatians 2. However, he does not spend time exegeting various texts which would seem to put this idea into doubt. For example, Romans 8:33-34 is a text that has been used since the Reformation to defend a legal reading of justification. Paul writes, "Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn?" In this text, Paul contrasts justification with condemnation; the assumption is that both are legal terms that can be contrasted with one another. Because of justification, no charge can be brought against the believer. A detailed exegesis of this text would have to be done for Gorman's thesis to hold, which would demonstrate that Paul is not using legal categories here. Another text, which Gorman mentions only in passing, is Romans 4:4-5. "Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness." The contrast between faith and works, as well as the language of crediting in contrast to earning, point to a thoroughly Reformational understanding of justification. This text simply doesn't fit many of the contemporary readings of Paul. It is usually passed over without a lengthy discussion.

It's my contention that Gorman is correct about a number of points in this work. First, it is part of God's nature to be self-giving. In contrast to the Reformed conviction that God's own glory is his ultimate concern, Paul would agree with Luther that salvation through self-donation is God's "proper work." Gorman has also demonstrated that there is a closer connection in Paul's theology between justification and participation in Christ, specifically in his death and resurrection, than many Pauline interpreters have been willing to allow. Justification does involve a death and resurrection as Gorman contends. However, I don't think there are grounds for simply dismissing the traditional forensic approach to justification in Paul. This is especially clear in Romans 4:4-5 and 8:33-34, but can also be demonstrated elsewhere in his epistles. I contend that justification includes legal and participationist categories. When justified, the believer is imputed righteous by the righteousness of Christ. However, in light of Paul's participationist theology, this justification also involves a death and resurrection of the sinner through mystical union with Chist's life, death, and resurrection.

Gorman's work is challenging, and is refreshing in that he avoids many of the typical false dichotomies presented in contemporary Pauline scholarship. However, like much of the New Perspective, Gorman's work ultimately privileges certain aspects of Pauline thought over others, and ultimately misses the Reformation's understanding of Paul, which I still believe (unpopular as it may be) to be exegetically warranted.


The Self-Donation of God: A Contemporary Lutheran approach to Christ and His Benefits
The Self-Donation of God: A Contemporary Lutheran approach to Christ and His Benefits
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading on Lutheran Christology, July 24, 2013
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Kilcrease provides a much needed work in his volume "The Self-Donation of God" by providing a Christology which is both historically Lutheran, and Biblically sensitive. What is particularly helpful about this work is that Kilcrease is willing to utilize scholarship from Reformed, Roman Catholic, and liberal scholars while also remaining Confessionally Lutheran in his convictions. He doesn't set up strict barriers between theological traditions so as to negate the helpful work that theologians have provided in recent years, but utilizes insights from other tradition within a Lutheran framework.

When moving from Reformed to Lutheran Christianity, one of the things which I found to be lacking in the Lutheran tradition is the study of Biblical Theology as practiced by Reformed theologians by the likes of Geerhardus Vos and Meredith Kline. Though rejecting many aspects of their theology, I have found their overall redemptive historical approach helpful in understanding the unity of the Testaments, and the Christological character of the Old Covenant. Kilcrease is the first theologian I have seen from the Lutheran tradition that has utilized these insights, especially those of G.K. Beale, within a classically Lutheran Christological framework.

Kilcrease's work is at once both systematic and exegetical. He discusses the exegetical considerations necessary in a thorough Christology, dealing with both Old and New Testament texts. He engages contemporary Biblical scholarship, and provides convincing responses in line with historically Lutheran exegesis. Kilcrease is also conversant with historical debates within Lutheranism, and provides his own perspective on inter-Lutheran debates such as on the perpetual virginity of Mary and the nature of the communicatio idiomatum.

One will not likely agree with Kilcrease on everything, as I have a few exceptions to his exegetical work. However, where I disagree with his interpretations, he offers a helpful challenge to my own perspectives. My only grievance with this work is the amount of material presented within its pages. There were many points which I would have liked to have seen expounded upon, though the expansion needed would necessitate several volumes. Perhaps Kilcrease can expound upon the redemptive-historical approach that he takes in further publication. Overall, this book is an essential read along with David Scaer's volume on Christology, for understanding a contemporary Lutheran perspective on this topic.


The Baptized Body
The Baptized Body
by Peter Leithart
Edition: Paperback
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Argument for the Efficacy of Baptism, September 5, 2012
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This review is from: The Baptized Body (Paperback)
Peter J Leithart's "The Baptized Body" is a fascinating read. Coming from the controversial "Federal Vision" movement, Leithart seeks to infuse a high sacramental theology into Reformed Christianity. His argument comes primarily through exegesis, though with a strong dose of Calvin references. Leithart argues that contemporary Reformed Christianity has deviated from both the Biblical and Calvin's understanding of baptism.

There are three main points that Leithart attempts to demonstrate in this text: "Baptism" is Baptism, "The Body of Christ" is the Body of Christ, and Apostasy Happens.

Leithart argues that all of the references to baptism in the New Testament are references to actual water baptism. Arguments to the contrary are groundless. They necessitate an arbitrary distinction between "water baptism" and "spirit baptism" which is absent from the text. Others argue for such a union between sign and signified that one can refer to the "sign" while intending that which is signified as the referent. As Leithart rightly points out, this approach is unwarranted and becomes an easy escape for any who deny sacramental efficacy to argue that any text about the effect of baptism is just playing word games and doesn't mean what it says. Especially illuminating and provocative is Leithart's argument that baptism is not a sign, nor is it a means of grace. Rather, it is a rite.

The second argument of Leithart is that the "body of Christ" is the body of Christ. In this chapter, Leithart proposes that the internal/external approach to the New Covenant and the visible/invisible church distinction are not valid Biblical categories. The phrase "body of Christ" is a reference to all who are in the corporate social community of the church. Thus, Leithart proposes that a better distinction would be between the historical and eschatological church. Though all in the visible community partake of Christ in some manner, not all of these people will share in the eschatological kingdom due to lack of faith.

Finally, Leithart argues that apostasy happens. In contradiction to the commonly understood definition of the Perseverance of the Saints, Leithart argues that one can have a true relationship with Christ and subsequently be cut off. He convincingly demonstrates that typical Calvinistic interpretations of falling away passages are unconvincing. Leithart does not, however, abandon the concept of predestination. According to Leithart, God does predestine the elect unto salvation and even predestines the apostasy of those who fall away.

Being a Lutheran myself, I had minor disagreements with Leithart's presentation; namely his insistence on double predestination and adoption of certain New Perspective on Paul views that I find unpersuasive. That being said, this is one of the best presentations of the doctrine of baptism I have read. Even if one disagrees, this book will cause one to think further through the issues and challenge common assumptions.


Apocalypse (Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi) (Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi - Legends)
Apocalypse (Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi) (Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi - Legends)
by Troy Denning
Edition: Hardcover
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great ending to a mediocre series, March 27, 2012
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As a somewhat obsessed Star Wars fan, I try to keep up with all of the Star Wars book releases. Some of course are better than others. Reading through the New Jedi Order, I would read a book in a couple days and couldn't wait to get my hands on the next book. The Legacy of the Force series of books would take me a few days to read, and I would pick up the new volumes within a month of their release. The Fate of the Jedi books often took me weeks to read, and sometimes it took me a few months to even pick up the newest addition to the series.

It's not that I didn't like the FOTJ series. It simply didn't capture my attention like the NJO had, or less-so the Legacy of the Force series. Most of the books were ok, full of lots of filler with little bits of actual plot thrown in every once in a while. This series almost ruined Sith for me as they are no longer menacing but a bunch of bumbling idiots, but I always found the Abeloth character interesting though it took far too long to learn anything about the mysterious creature.

This book fixed a lot of those problems for me. I've always been a fan of Troy Denning. A lot of fans strongly dislike his works because they are often darker than other Star Wars authors, and of course he is the one who killed Anakin Solo in his excellent book "Star by Star." This book, more than any others in the FOTJ series, contains a coherent, and exciting plot. Denning portrays the Sith in a much more threatening manner than did the previous novels. The Jedi actually seemed threatened by them, and some Jedi are killed. Vestara's reversion to the dark side is handled much better than in the previous novel, and her continual care for Ben allows her to remain a sympathetic character through out most of the book.

Finally the origin and nature of Abeloth is revealed. I was pleased with the explanation and Abeloth is a much more interesting character than I had previously thought. Though I do think that if the nature of Abeloth were known earlier her character would have been more intriguing than the continual mystery played off in earlier books. I loved the Mortis series in the Clone Wars, as I see it as one of the most creative and intriguing works in the Star Wars universe. Thus, the tie in here with Clone Wars came much to my delight. It's great that Star Wars authors are concerned with Clone Wars continuity. Unfortunately, the Clone Wars writers aren't as concerned with EU continuity.

The mysterious sith figure revealed to Luke did seem a little out of place in the novel and seemed to come out of nowhere. However, it does leave one wondering about the nature of this figure for future novels. So long as this plot is kept in future series, this may be a necessary inclusion. The assumption of many is that this figure is Krayt from the Legacy comics. If this is the case, I am eager to see how it all plays out.

The best part of this book is the ending Jaina and Jag are finally married! Fans have been waiting for this for a long time, and I for one am glad that Jaina did not end up with Zek. As much as I enjoyed the Dark Nest series, it made Zek's character nearly unbearable. No more worries about Jaina's love life, the two are finally together, and I think in a well written and clever manner, Jag is no longer the ruling figure of the Empire.

If you are sick of the FOTJ series, don't give up on it, but give this book a chance. It may give you a new found hope for the future of the Legacy era novels.


Ascension: Star Wars Legends (Fate of the Jedi) (Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi - Legends)
Ascension: Star Wars Legends (Fate of the Jedi) (Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi - Legends)
by Christie Golden
Edition: Hardcover
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2.0 out of 5 stars Though a fun read, it has many of the same flaws as the previous FOTJ novels., March 26, 2012
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I have been a fan of the Expanded Universe since I read the infamous "Glove of Darth Vader" series as a child. As much as I love the movies, it really was the books which captured my imagination and caused the mild obsession I have with the fictional universe. Since I was a kid I have kept up with all of the post-ROTJ EU (and most of the other EU as well), and with a few exceptions loved everything through the New Jedi Order. I even appreciated the cheesy super-weapon based Callista novels, because despite their silliness they were entertaining and fun sci-fi stories.

The New Jedi Order was of course a drastic turn in mood and story in the EU. It presented a darker, more adult, Star Wars universe. Though to some this was a negative thing, I felt that Star Wars was broad enough to branch out into other types of stories. I love the NJO. By the end of the series, I felt ready for the baton to be passed from the "big three" OT characters, to the upcoming generation. Jacen, Jaina, Tenel Ka, Tahiri, and others became just as beloved as Luke, Han, and Leia.

After the NJO, this all fell apart. Jacen became sith, Tahiri went crazy, and Tenel Ka ceased being a Jedi. As much as I enjoyed the Legacy of the Force series, it took away all progress made in the NJO and brought back the "big three" as the major figures in the Star Wars universe. The most well developed EU character (Jacen) and the most loved EU character (Mara Jade) were killed off. The sibling bond between Jaina and Jacen was demolished, changing Jaina's character for the worse. These characters I had grown up with (especially in the Young Jedi Knights books) were now gone.

The FOTJ series had continued this downward spiral. Tahiri was put on trial, and has been written as an utterly lame and pathetic character. Jaina has been featured some, but is not as dynamic a character without her sibling bond with Jacen. As much as I like Ben and Allana, I'm not sure that they will have the ability to carry on the story as the next generation of Jedi as were those of the NJO era.

Anyway, apart from my take of the FOTJ series as a whole, I will get to my review of Christie Golden's book:

The Ben and Luke story changed, as they were now allowed back onto Coruscant with the impeachment of Dala. It was great to see all of the major characters together again, but I felt that the Ben and Luke story was never really resolved. Through out most of these books, they were on a search for what turned Jacen to the dark side. I don't feel that this was ever sufficiently explained, and that part of the story was simply forgotten.

What was most frustrating about this novel is the way that the Ben and Vestara situation has worked itself out. I really enjoy their dialogue together, and Christie Golden writes both characters rather well. But the way that she suddenly decided to become a Jedi and how Luke, with barely any thought, decides to train her was just sloppy writing. Vestara's inner conflict between her allegiance to her father and to Ben was one of the most interesting parts of the series, but it is concluded in a highly unsatisfying way. Vestara's sudden turn to the Dark Side at the end of the novel is rather abrupt and without explanation. It seems that again a good character is going to become a villain and likely killed off.

The Tahiri situation has been frustrating in these books as well. I found the trial to be excellently written, compelling, and argued. However, like so much else in this series, it was put to an end which discarded all previous happenings in the trial. Thankfully, Christie Golden brings Tahiri back, but still in an unsatisfying way as a body guard of Jag.

This book is more political than any other Star Wars novel. I don't mind that, but the way the politics have been handled have been less than convincing. The fact that Sith who don't know anything about the galaxy can suddenly infiltrate the government is rather absurd and isn't given any explanation. Also, can we get past the "bad people are taking over the government and the Jedi have to save it" story? It's gotten rather tired. This story also includes another story of a Solo imprisoned and needing to be rescued. I think we saw enough of this with the constant kidnapping of the Solo children in earlier novels. The Treen and Lecerson plot is also put to a sudden unsatisfying end. It seems that it will have no ultimate purpose for the rest of this series and would not change anything if it had been simply left out. (I felt the same way with Tahiri's trial as well.)

The good thing about this novel is that it contains some real plot. The previous novels have been heavily criticized for containing so much filler. I didn't always mind the filler; it was fun to see Dathomir again and see what happened to Callista. However, the plot could have gone on a lot faster. In a lot of ways, this book contained too much plot. So much happened that could have taken place through out the series, creating a more compelling story.

The bad isn't all Christie Golden's fault. Her writing and understanding of the Star Wars universe has greatly improved since her first novel. Her writing is thoroughly entertaining. It just seems that this whole series hasn't known where it's been going. Plots are suddenly dropped or resolved without enough explanation. I hope that Star Wars will soon find it's way back to what made it such a great series in the first place, with great characters, an exciting an coherent plot, and less repetitive story telling.


The New Testament and the People of God/ Christian Origins and the Question of God, Vol.1 (Christian Origins and the Question of God (Paperback))
The New Testament and the People of God/ Christian Origins and the Question of God, Vol.1 (Christian Origins and the Question of God (Paperback))
by N. T. Wright
Edition: Paperback
Price: $26.00
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most important New Testament scholars of our day, November 19, 2008
As a Confessional Lutheran, it might seem odd that I am giving an NT Wright book five stars. Though I disagree with his interpretation of Paul, I must admit that NT Wright is one of the most brilliant scholars of our day. It is refreshing to see a scholar of such high caliber that takes the Biblical material seriously.
The first 144 pages of this book may be hard to get through for some. They describe Wright's methodology, and are much more philosophical than theological, or historical. I urge you to get through this section, because it is essential to understanding NT Wrights understanding of the whole New Testament. Wright rejects two forms of modern epistemology: phenomenalism, and positivism. The categories of objective and subjective are wrong according to Wright, because knowledge involves both the known and the knower. He defines his own epistemology as "critical realism." Wright shows his readers how no document is written apart from the authors preconcieved view of the world. In the same way, one who comes to a text brings his own worldview to it. Thus, to understand a document, one must go inside the worldview of the writer, which Wright sees as primarilly narrative. To understand the New Testament, we must have some knowledge of Jewish thought in the second temple period.
In the second section of the book, Wright overviews the events of the intertestamental period which provide a backdrop for the New Testament. He then analyzes the worldview of second temple Judaism. He recognizes that there are many differences within Judaism, and one should speak of "Judaisms", however, there was still a unifying worldview behind it all. This worldview included the main ideas of monotheism, creation, election, and covenant. Wright explains that it is not right to speak of Systematic Theology is second temple Judaism. It was much more a way of life, and a narrative one was a part of than a set theology. For example, in the second temple period the Shema was not a statement about God's ontological oneness as some Jews defined it after the Christian dogma of the trinity, but it was about Israel's God as the true God against all others. One point I do disagree with Wright on is the idea that Jews believed themselves to still be in exile because they were under Roman oppression. The Jews certainly did hope for a future restoration, where they would triumph over their oppressors, however, that does not mean they were still in exile. Rather, the promise had not yet come to fulfillment, though it had been partially fulfilled.
The third part of this book discusses the Christian narrative as compared to the Jewish. Wright shows that Christianity took the Jewish narrative and reworked it around the death and resurrection of Christ. He shows how the gospels are each in their own ways retellings of the story of Israel through the life of Jesus.
There are a few things I disagree with in this book. I think Wright's focus on narrative may be playing to much into the postmodern mindset of meta-narrative, and can demean propositional truth. I believe his view of Paul is wrong because he forces narrative when there is none. The New Testament can be systematic and deeply theological, yet that does not downplay the necessity of the continuous narrative of Israel fulfilled in Christ. Proposition and narrative are not mutually exclusive. I also disagree with Wright's interpretation of the Son of man in Daniel as being Israel and not a messianic figure (who of course is Christ). However, overall this is a fantastic book, and there is not nearly enough space for me to describe all that this book entails. Any serious student of the New Testament needs this book.
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Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion
Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion
by E. P. Sanders
Edition: Paperback
Price: $19.21
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Important but flawed, October 18, 2008
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If anything is to be said about this volume, its impact has changed Pauline scholarship until the present time. Many distinguish between pre-Sanders and post-Sanders Pauline scholarship. This was in many ways the begining of the movement now known as the "new perspective on Paul." Most of this volume is an evaluation of second temple Judaism. Sanders believes that in the second temple period there was a united pattern of religion. This falls into the rubric of soteriology. This pattern of religion Sanders calls Covenantal Nomism. This idea is that those in the covenant with Israel are in the covenant by grace, and they remain in by obedience to the law, however, not in such a way as to say salvation is earned. Obedience does not earn but maintains ones covenant status. Sanders fights against the idea that Jewish soteriology was simply a "weighing of the scales" where one's merits and demerits were weighed against one another. This idea was popularized by Weber and despite the fact that several Jewish scholars have fought against it, it was universally accepted. Sanders certainly has valid criticisms of previous second temple scholarships, however, he overreacts. Rather than seeing Judaism as a religion of works, Sanders sees Judaism as a religion of grace. When looking at the evidence from this period however, neither picture is accurate. There is a much greater diversity of opinions in second temple literature than either position will admit. For example, Josephus, who seems to be entirely ignored in this volume does not talk in terms of national covenant. Also, Philo talks in very different categories. Books like IV Ezra (which Sanders admits) and II Enoch do portray a type of legalism. On the other hand, the Testament of Moses sees both entrance and continuation in the covenant as matters of grace.
Sanders treatment of Paul in the second section of this book has not been as influential as his evaluation of second temple literature. He believes that Paul talks not so much in forensic as participationist categories. For Paul, the law never required perfect obedience. In fact, he never saw a problem with the law until he found Christ. His thought was from solution to plight. He saw that Christ was the only way to righteousness, therefore law-righteousness must be inadequate. Sanders famous line states that "Paul's problem with Judaism was that it was not Christianity." Sanders treatment of Paul is really only largely evaluated in his next volume "Paul, the law and the Jewish People"


Discourses in Matthew: Jesus Teaches the Church
Discourses in Matthew: Jesus Teaches the Church
by David P. Scaer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $28.99
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Matthew's gospel from a Confessional Lutheran Perspective, October 18, 2008
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David Scaer has greatly blessed the church with this volume on the gospel of Matthew. Scaer holds to the position of Matthean priority over Mark. He rejects the idea of the Q gospel. It is interesting that the Patristics more often cite Matthew than Mark, and the didache seems to be based on the Matthean text. Matthew was written when the church had mainly Jewish members. Scaer sees Matthew as written primarily for Catechesis. This effects his interpretation of the text as he sees allusions to the Eucharist quite often in the text which would have been clearly recognized by it's original readers. Scaer seperates Matthew into its five discourses which parallel the five books of the Pentateuch. He then analyzes each of these discourses. Particularly interesting is his treatment of the Sermon on the Mount. Scaer rejects the opinion of many Lutherans in the past who see the sermon as requiring a legalistic sort of perfection. The Sermon of the Mount is not law, but gospel. It is set in the context of our being reconciled with God, and extending that reconciliation to others. Scaer defends the idea that the gospel of Matthew agrees with the theology of the apostle Paul. He includes an interesting section on the use of the word Righteousness in Matthew's gospel.


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