Book Reviews: God in Dispute

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God in Dispute: “Conversations” among Great Christian Thinkers by Roger E. Olson (Baker Academic)

Historical theology doesn’t have to be dry, dusty and dull. With Roger Olson as the guide, it can be downright entertaining.

Olson, professor of theology at Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary, began years ago creating imaginary dialogues between key contributors to Christian theology and allowing his students to act out the fictional conversations in his classes. God in Dispute collects 29 of these insightful dialogues involving great Christian thinkers from the early church to the present.

Olson assembles Christian theologians and philosophers for conversations around themes such as the doctrine of the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus, theories of the atonement, the nature of grace, and the meaning of the Lord’s Supper and baptism. But rather than ponderous discourses on the subjects, he presents the key ideas of each speaker through lively—and sometimes humorous—dialogue. If the lives of the key figures did not overlap, it’s no matter to Olson. For instance, since John Calvin and Jacob Arminius shared only four years on earth, Olson has them meet in heaven to discuss their differing views on salvation.

For readers who want to dig deeper, each dialogue ends with a list of suggested books for further reading. But for those who are content with a sampling, Olson provides a painless introduction to some of the greatest Christian thinkers in history.

Ken Camp, managing editor

Baptist Standard



Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge by Dallas Willard (HarperOne)

In a complex, pluralistic world that also exalts scientific, academic and professional knowledge, is it possible to have true spiritual knowledge? Is the gospel of Jesus Christ actually true and knowable?

University of Southern California philosophy professor Dallas Willard’s answer is, “yes,” we can know Christ, his teachings and way of living. To quote Willard: “We can never understand the life of faith seen in Scripture and in serious Christian living unless we drop the idea of faith as a ‘blind leap’ and understand that faith is commitment to action, often beyond our natural abilities, based upon knowledge of God and God’s ways.” (Author’s italics)

Willard is always fascinating reading. He cares not only about God’s people being rooted in solid theology and thought, but also in Christ’s apprentices actually living out the life of the Spirit.

Another quote that has stayed with me: “Grace is God acting in our lives to accomplish what we cannot do on our own.”

May God’s grace awaken us and enable us to know and live his way of life.

Greg Bowman, minister to students

First Baptist Church



Presidential Praise: Our Presidents and their Hymns by C. Edward Spann and Michael E. Williams (Mercer University Press)

Presidential Praise should be in the library of every musician, theologian and historian. The scholarship and attention to detail that Ed Spann and Mike Williams have shared in this book combine to tell the story of faith in the lives of our presidents that needs to be told. This book makes history come alive in so many ways and on so many levels.

While it is a historical book, it is also a book of devotion, of poetry, of music and of hope—a book that needs to be read and shared over and over again.

Tim Studstill

Director of music and worship

Baptist General Convention of Texas




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