Each year, Preaching reviews the publishing world to offer its readers a survey of recent offerings. The publishing “class of 1992” saw a continuation of established trends, including specialization in the field of homiletics, literary approaches in biblical studies, and a continued explosion of works in church management and church growth.
Joining Rediscovering Expository Preaching on any list of significant homiletical works of the season is William Willimon’s Peculiar Speech: Preaching to the Baptized (Eerdmans). Willimon brings his keen and characteristic insight to the issue of the church’s distinctive discourse as the community of the baptized. His offering is one of the most catalytic treatises to appear in recent years. (Willimon is a Preaching Contributing Editor.)
The republication and revision of Karl Barth’s Homiletics (Westminster/John Knox Press) is a signal event in the field of homiletics. Barth’s theology was, as Karl Adams commented, “the bomb which exploded on the playground of the theologians.” His Homiletics will similarly explode among preachers. His trenchant criticisms and piercing insights are an indictment of the loss of authority among contemporary preachers.
Though Barth never affirmed the evangelical doctrine of revelation, and his own system was structurally flawed, he nonetheless delivered the most mortal blows against the liberal experiment in both the academy and the church. His lectures will be read by all preachers with great interest and profit.
John S. McClure of Louisville Presbyterian Seminary offers a unique thesis in The Four Codes of Preaching: Rhetorical Strategies (Fortress Press).
McClure suggests four “codes or levels of purposeful interaction” in the preaching event, and suggests strategies for addressing each of those levels.
A short but comprehensive volume on preaching comes from Donald L. Hamilton, professor of preaching at Columbia Biblical Seminary, in Homiletical Handbook (Broadman). Hamilton addresses the much-slighted issue of the preacher’s call. “The called must have their theological understanding of the concept of call in order and must have an abiding conviction that they must be involved personally in a preaching or teaching ministry. Then the why issue has been resolved.”
The issue of topical preaching is addressed by Ronald J. Allen in Preaching the Topical Sermon (Westminster/John Knox Press).
Abingdon Press has released an interesting series of sermon collections under the “Protestant Pulpit Exchange” imprint. These include C. Thomas Hilton’s Be My Guest: Sermons on the Lord’s Supper, Ross W. Marr’s Be My People: Sermons on the Ten Commandments, and Believe Me: Sermons on the Apostle’s Creed by James A. Harnish. (Hilton and Harnish are frequent Preaching contributors.)
Biblical Studies
The explosion of works in biblical studies continues without any signs of faltering. The works range from majesterial commentaries to specialized essays based on contemporary literary studies.
Among the more important commentaries recently released is D. A. Carson’s The Gospel According to John (Eerdmans). Carson is one of the most significant evangelical scholars of the New Testament, who divides his time between Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in the U.S. and Tyndale House in Cambridge, U.K. He is sturdy, insightful, and faithful to the text. The volume is likely to stand as one of the most comprehensive and detailed commentaries on John to appear in the last half of the twentieth century.
The Word Biblical Commentary (Word Publishing) has expanded with the release of Jeremiah 1-25 by Peter Craigie, Page Kelley, and Joel F. Drinkard, Jr., Leviticus by John E. Hartley, and Hebrews 1-8 and Hebrews 9-13 by William L. Lane. Hartley’s massive commentary on Leviticus is not likely to be challenged in terms of scope and depth.
The New American Commentary (Broadman Press) continues its release of promising volumes with Acts by John Polhill, 1, 2, Timothy, and Titus by Thomas Lead and Hayne P. Griffin, Jr., Mark by James A. Brooks, and Matthew by Craig Blomberg. Each volume is a genuine contribution to evangelical exegesis.
Murray Harris of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School produced Colossians and Philemon in the “Exegetical Guides to the Greek New Testament” series (Eerdmans). Students of biblical exegesis and languages will find the volume a helpful model.
George W. Knight III released a significant offering in Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (Eerdmans) in the “New International Greek Testament Commentary” series.
Two new volumes in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan) were released, covering Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (volume 5), and Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, and 1&2 Samuel (volume 3).
The Interpretation series also continued with Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon by Ralph P. Martin and Mark A. Throntveit’s Ezra-Nehemiah (Westminster/John Knox Press).
Dependable survey works included Paul House’s Old Testament Survey (Broadman), and A Survey of the Old Testament by Andrew E. Hill and John H. Walton (Zondervan). From the same publisher came an outstanding work in An Introduction to the New Testament by D. A. Carson, Douglas Moo, and Leon Morris (Zondervan).
Reference works and studies of biblical backgrounds and archaeology included The Holman Bible Handbook (Holman/Broadman), edited by David S. Dockery, dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Archaeology and the New Testament (Baker), by John McRay of Wheaton College, and Paul Barnett’s Behind the Scenes of the New Testament (InterVarsity Press), a study of the social and political context of the New Testament.
A fascinating volume, Jesus and the Forgotten City (Baker), by Richard A. Batey, offers a view into the urban life of the city of Sepphoris. Batey was a leader in the excavation of Sepphoris and the volume was a joint project of Baker and the National Geographic Society, which provided rich photographic plates, many reproduced in full color.
The “Literary Currents in Biblical Interpretation” series (Westminster/John Knox Press) continued with the release of L. Daniel Hawk’s Every Promise Fulfilled: Contesting Plots in Joshua and Imitating Paul: A Discourse of Power by Elizabeth A. Castelli. Both works draw upon current literary studies, including the theories of Auerbach and Foucault.
Other works include Leon Morris’s massive commentary, The Gospel According to Matthew (Eerdmans) and the revised edition of his New International Commentary on the New Testament volume on Paul’s letters to the Thessalonian church (Eerdmans).
Robert Cate produced A History of the New Testament and Its Times (Broadman) and the first volume of a notable new commentary appeared in The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical and Expository Commentary (Baker), edited by Thomas Edward McCommisky. The first volume, covering Hosea, Joel, and Amos, will be followed by two sister volumes.
David S. Dockery and David Garland released Seeking the Kingdom: The Sermon on the Mount Made Practical Today (Harold Shaw) and W. Wayne House and Kenneth M. Durham produced Living Wisely in a Foolish World (Thomas Nelson), on the Book of Proverbs. Both are helpful guides at practical exegesis directed at educated laypersons.
Preachers should not miss the release of Romans, Volume 1: Justification By Faith by James Montgomery Boice (Baker) and Romans: God’s Sovereign Purpose by Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Zondervan). Both are superb examples of expository preaching from two of the most recognized names in evangelical pulpits. Boice is pastor of Philadelphia’s Tenth Presbyterian Church and pastor of the Bible Study Hour radio broadcast. The late Martyn Lloyd-Jones was the famed pastor of London’s Westminster Chapel.
The long-awaited final volume of Thomas C. Oden’s theological series appeared as Life in the Spirit: Systematic Theology, Volume III (HarperCollins). Oden has produced a majesterial work on the Christian life and the role of the Holy Spirit. As was true of the first two volumes, Life in the Spirit is thoroughly conversant with Patristic sources, and speaks from the richness of the Christian tradition.
Richard John Neuhaus and George Weigel co-edited Being Christian Today: An American Conversation (Ethics and Public Policy Center), a provocative collection of essays. John R. W. Stott’s Christian Basics: A Handbook of Beginnings, Beliefs, and Behaviors (Baker) is a pleasing and helpful primer to the Christian life and Christian faith.
Millard Erickson’s now-standard Christian Theology, a three-volume systematic theology now available in a one-volume edition (Baker), has now been abridged and condensed as Introducing Christian Doctrine, edited by L. Arnold Hustad (Baker). The large-format volume is perhaps the best introductory work currently available on basic Christian doctrine.
Another helpful edition has come from Walter A. Elwell of Wheaton College, who has condensed his massive Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Baker) into The Concise Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Baker).
Lewis Drummond, a former Preaching contributing editor and now on the faculty of the Beeson Divinity School of Samford University, released The Word of the Cross: A Contemporary Theology of Evangelism (Broadman). James F. Lewis and William G. Travis produced Religious Traditions of the World (Zondervan), an up-to-date survey of the world’s major religious traditions. D. A. Carson and John Woodbridge released a revised and expanded edition of their important co-edited volume, Scripture and Truth (Baker).
Two provocative and timely volumes appeared as Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church? edited by Michael Scott Horton (Moody) and No God But God: Breaking With the Idols of Our Age edited by Os Guinness and John Seel (Moody). Both volumes will challenge readers to re-think many contemporary developments in the church, ranging from the new emphasis on power to the compromises the evangelical church has accepted under the guise of church growth.
Carl Braaten’s Justification: The Article by Which the Church Stands or Falls Fortress) is a pressing and cogent warning of the peril of compromise on the Protestant principle of justification.
David L. Smith has produced an interesting survey volume in A Handbook of Contemporary Theology (Victor/Bridgepoint). Another approach is taken by Stanley Grenz and Roger Olsen in 20th Century Theology: God and the World in a Transitional Age (InterVarsity). Grenz and Olsen place contemporary theological systems along a continuum of tension between God’s transcendence and immanence.
Peter Kreeft, an important theologian in his own right, has edited A Summa of the Summa (Ignatius), an edited compilation of the heart of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica.
Not to be missed is Charles Colson’s latest volume, The Body: Being Light in Darkness (Word), co-written with Ellen Santilli Vaughn. Popular teacher R. C. Sproul’s Essential Truths of the Christian Faith (Tyndale) is a helpful introductory volume.
Church History
Significant titles released in the past year include Bradley Longfield’s The Presbyterian Controversy: Fundamentalists, Modernists, and Moderates (Oxford University Press). The volume will prove fascinating for Presbyterians but will appeal to a much wider readership.
Mark Noll’s edited Confessions and Catechisms of the Reformation (Baker) is a sturdy collection worthy of a place in every library and study, as is Donald McKim’s edited collection, Major Themes in the Reformed Tradition (Eerdmans).
Students of evangelicalism will note David Harrington Watt’s A Transforming Faith: Explorations of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism (Rutgers University Press), and Preacher: Billy Sunday and Big-Time American Evangelism by Roger A. Bruns (Norton). Bruns is not generally sympathetic to Sunday, but the book is an interesting biography of an often-neglected figure.
Stuart Hall has produced an important work in Doctrine and Practice in the Early Church (Eerdmans), as has Heiko Oberman in The Dawn of the Reformation: Essays in Late Medieval and Early Reformation Thought (Eerdmans). His essays move from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century.
Three worthy biographies appeared: Lewis A. Drummond’s Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers (Kregel), Alister McGrath’s A Life of John Calvin: A Study in the Shaping of Western Culture (Basil Blackwell), and Faithful Witness: The Life and Mission of William Carey by Timothy F. George, dean of the Beeson Divinity School of Samford University in Birmingham (New Hope Press).
Church Issues/Church Growth
The avalanche of books on church management and church growth continued, led by works such as George Barna’s The Power of Vision (Regal Books). Joining Barna’s offering were Lyle Schaller’s The Seven-Day-a-Week-Church (Abingdon), Leith Anderson’s A Church for the 21st Century (Bethany House), and Marketing for Congregations: Choosing to Serve People More Effectively (Abingdon), by a team of marketers led by Narman Shawchuck.
Other works of note included Tom Raabe’s The Ultimate Church (Zondervan), a probing and somewhat irreverent look at contemporary trends, and Evangelism Through the Local Church, a comprehensive text manual on church-based evangelism from Michael Green, now of Regent College in Vancouver (Nelson).
Russell Chandler traces emerging trends affecting churches in Racing Toward 2001 (Zondervan).
Preachers who attempt to keep up with the latest releases in every subject will soon tire of the effort or expire from exhaustion. But the thoughtful preacher can choose wisely and read carefully. Books of enduring value await.

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