Five Views on Law and Gospel (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) Paperback – 1 Sep 1996
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From the Back Cover
Do the Law and the Gospel belong to two separate dispensations? Has the Gospel replaced the Law? What is the relevance of the Old Testament Law to our lives as Christians? Is there continuity between it and what Christ expects of us in the Gospel? It is no secret that Christians have differed widely on these questions. This book explores five major approaches to this important biblical topic that have developed in Protestant circles. Each of the five authors presents his particular perspective on the issue and responds to the other four. The Counterpoints series provides a forum for comparison and critique of different views on issues important to Christians. Counterpoints books address two categories: Church Life and Bible and Theology. Complete your library with other books in the Counterpoints series.
About the Author
Greg L. Bahnsen, was resident scholar at the Southern California Center for Christian Students. Walter C. Kaiser Jr. (PhD, Brandeis University) is distinguished professor emeritus of Old Testament and president emeritus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. Dr. Kaiser has written over 40 books, including Toward an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching; The Messiah in the Old Testament; and The Promise-Plan of God; and coauthored An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics: The Search for Meaning. Dr. Kaiser and his wife, Marge, currently reside at Kerith Farm in Cedar Grove, Wisconsin. Dr. Kaiser's website is www.walterckaiserjr.com. Douglas J. Moo (PhD, University of St. Andrews) is the Kenneth T. Wessner Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College. His work centers on understanding the text of the New Testament and its application today. He has written extensively in several commentary series, including the NIV Application Commentary, Pillar Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentary, and the New International Commentary on the New Testament. Wayne G. Stickland is professor of theology and co-chair of the Bible and theology department at Multnomah School of the Bible. Willem VanGemeren (PhD, University of Wisconsin) is professor of Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is the author of a number of books, including Interpreting the Prophetic Word (Zondervan) and a commentary on Psalms in the Expositor's Bible Commentary series (Zondervan). Stanley N. Gundry is executive vice president and editor-in-chief for the Zondervan Corporation. He has been an influential figure in the Evangelical Theological Society, serving as president of ETS and on its executive committee, and is adjunct professor of Historical Theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He is the author of seven books and has written many articles appearing in popular and academic periodicals.
Top customer reviews
Strickland's essay is weaker, although basically along the right lines.
VanGemeren, Bahnsen and Kaiser give even weaker essays.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Having said that, I did learn about the other views from other denominations. But did I really? If the Lutheran view is not accurately presented can one really be sure that the other presentations are accurate? Strickland says his view is 'a' new Dispensational view and not the only one.
I was most impressed with Kaiser's presentation because it was very thorough and well done in presenting both evidence from Scripture but also seeming contradiction.
My last great criticism is this is a book about Five Views of the Law, not Law and Gospel. Very little is said of the Gospel and how that is applied to Christians. This is actually more debated between the denominations than the law.
It seems the two Reformed views are well presented. The responses after each presentation is also helpful to see problems with the different views. It is just more than unfortunate that the Lutheran view is not presented.
In the book, five overarching views are presented and then debated. The five positions are: a Non-Theonomic Reformed View (VanGemeren), a Theonomic Reformed View (Bahnsen), Kaiser's View (which is, in essence, a repackaging of VanGemeren's view), a Dispensational View (Strickland), and a Modified Lutheran View (Moo). In this first point in regard to the work seems to be the greatest weakness of the book. Although 5 views are presented, really only two major viewpoints are being espoused (viz., continuity in VanGemeren, Bhansen, and Kaiser, and discontinuity in Strickland and Moo). This is not a substantial problem, but it seems that within the two categories, only slight variations exist. For example, within the continuity side of the spectrum, Bahnsen adds application of the Civil Law and Kaiser subtracts the Covenant of Works. No real earth-shattering differences seem to this reviewer to exist between the three views besides these points. On the discontinuity side of the spectrum, the differences seem less clear. On some levels, Moo seems to attempt to differentiate himself from Strickland, but on the whole seems to promote a theology that identifies with the dispensational model (with only nuanced differences). The display of the flavors of the positions in the book was helpful, but, to some degree, the debate seemed to only swirl around either the nuanced differences (by those on the same side of the spectrum) or the broader implications of their continuity/discontinuity decision (by those on the opposite side of the spectrum).
All of the writers were knowledgeable of their topics and wrote quite well, and the debate was also well done. Overall perception of the writers is as follows:
VanGemeren presents more of a Systematic approach rather than Dogmatic. He is criticized by his colleagues on this. Although such an approach is to be commended it did not fit well in this work. He should have focused more on laying out a defense for his system of theology rather than trying to give a comprehensive outline for the doctrine.
Bahnsen seems very assertive. Overall his approach adds life to the debates as he fires strong attacks against his colleagues' positions (e.g., the accusation of VanGemeren "gerrymandering the historical evidence"). His position seems to be helpful, but overall it seems to be a slightly less potent position on civil law than some of his Theonomic brothers (as is also stated by the other writers in the work).
Kaiser is ever the OT theologian's theologian. His writing brings much to the book, but, unfortunately, gets lost in the mix. The reader will struggle to discern clear differences between Kaiser's position and the Non-Theonomic view. In reality, only nuances seem to exist, with the only major exception of Kaiser's implicit denial of the Covenant of Works. This reality is driven home by the titling of Kaiser's position ("The Law as God's Gracious Guidance for the Promotion of Holiness"). The description of the position is practically useless as all 4 other views would agree with the statement. Kaiser's position needs to be set up much better if it is to speak clearer to the reader.
Strickland presents an adequate perspective on the dispensational view. It would seem that his perspective is more progressive and allows more flexibility as he interacts with the Reformed perspectives. The positions and arguments were well-written, but still simply returned to the ongoing continuity/discontinuity debate. Strickland is unable to provide definitive proof for his position.
Moo presents a fascinating Lutheran/dispensational view. The position he takes is of interest because it has historical roots and approaches the issue from the standpoint of discontinuity (rare outside the dispensation camp). Although he seems to chase gnats to differentiate himself from dispensationalists, he adds much to the depth of the book by reviving another tradition within evangelicalism. It did seem that Moo was overly defensive as he oft proclaims "I am no Marcionite." The defense should have been unnecessary given an appropriate presentation of his position.
Overall, the pros and cons with each writer balance out and a helpful debate on the critical subject emerges. Thus far the major critique that other reviewers have brought up has been that the view does not include the "New Perspective" on the Law and Gospel; however, this does not seem to be a substantial problem for this reviewer. The new views on the Law and Gospel call for a fresh articulation of the mainstream evangelical view(s) of the Law and Gospel. Only then can comparisons and contrasts be drawn. Further, such a position would skew the entire framework of the debate. In other words, the current work is really a debate over the continuity and discontinuity of soteriology between the OT and NT, whereas the the New Perspective focuses more on the sociology between the OT and NT. For these reasons, the addition of the New Perspective would not have been as helpful in the mind of this reviewer.
If a reader is seeking a broader understanding of the continuity/discontinuity debate, or the differences of writers even on their own side of the spectrum, this book is an excellent read. If a reader is looking for a deeper understanding of the spectrum of established evangelical positions on the Law and Gospel, this is a work well worth picking up. If the reader is looking for a work that is directed towards the New Perspective position, then this book is not that book. Much is presented in the work, but much more remains to be done.
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