Book Review: The Making of Biblical Womanhood

My Rating – If you are looking for something

Level – quick, easy read; relatively short (just over 200)

Summary

The book is broken into eight chapters – The Beginning of Patriarchy; What if Biblical Womanhood Doesn’t Come from Paul?; Out Selective Medieval Memory; The Cost of the Reformation for Evangelical Women; Writing Women Out of the English Bible; Sanctifying Subordination; Making Biblical Womanhood Gospel Truth; Isn’t it Time to Set Women Free? – plus an introduction that is a tough read if you’ve ever experienced church loss. 

The chapters are broadly congruent with the name, though there is overlap with each, and personal narrative as well. The first two chapters focus on early church context/history. The medieval (her specialty) is interesting as is the Reformation impact on women. The next two constitute the issues of the ‘Biblical Manhood/Womanhood’ movement and the final chapter is really more of a conclusion/call to action. 

My Thoughts

This book is incredibly popular and mostly well received (many of the negative reviews come from hardline complementarians), but honestly, I’m not sure why. The book could have been three different, more fully fleshed out books. Perhaps the issue is more editorial than Barr’s. The three parts are her personal story (and that of her husband’s, a Southern Baptist (SBC) pastor who changed on women’s ordination and was forced out of the church), what I’ll call historical/theological developments, and issues with the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). 

Her personal narrative is hard, it is always brutal to be fired/forced out/leave a church community under negative circumstances. The loss of community can be devastating and happens far more than we’d like to admit and too often people impact do not return to any church. It is truly unfortunate that she could not leave on friendly terms and was basically shunned, this is one of the damaging impact of the CBMW, making women’s ordination a first order theological issue. That being said, and this is an unpopular opinion, they are the ones that changed their view and could no longer subscribe to their church’s confession; the SBC uses Baptist Faith & Message (BF&M). While there should have been an amicable leaving of the church, I’m not sure what they expected to happen. This reminds me of those occasional news stories where someone sues a Catholic school for being fired for not agree with Catholic doctrine. I understand the urge to reform the church, but this is not a new issue, instead it is one that has been forefront in the SBC since before the conservative takeover. I have experienced the pain of lost community, but if your convictions change and are against your church, it is time to find a new church. It is with no sense of irony that she writes as an employee at Baylor. One of the departments at Baylor is  Truett Seminary, which is affiliated with the Texas Baptist Convention and the World Baptist Alliance, both of which supports the ordination of women. 

Which leads me to my next point, her Biblical/theological arguments for could use some work. There are number of fairly known ones that people use, include the Baptist groups above, and a few that require serious discussion and consideration. She did not use these; and I’m not sure why. Similar, while her discussion of medieval history or the history of women in the church was interesting, I don’t feel it made the point she think it made. I don’t think there is anyone who denies that there were women who preached/prophesied/had a following, I think there are just those who argue that they shouldn’t, and since most of her examples were condemned as heretics, this didn’t make a strong argument for her point. The idea that getting rid of monasteries/convents took away religious opportunities is an interesting and compelling one.

Finally, chapters six and seven cover some of the damage that has been done by groups like the CBMW who elevate ‘complementarianism’ to the Gospel. I think most of her critiques/conclusions are good, except she seems to be making the mistake of equating ‘Calvinism’ with CBMW. I guess because they are broadly reformedish (or at least ‘Calvinist’ in soteriology). In the Presbyterian strain of American churches, the largest, third and fourth largest of the five denominations ordain women as elders; in the Reformed grouping of churches, two of the three (with the largest included) ordain women as elders. In one critique, she is surprised that John Calvin writes on one theological topic the way he does, solely because she assumed he would disagree, I guess do to her misunderstanding of the various strains of reformed churches. I don’t want to digress too much, but this is a common problem when someone you disagree with says something basic and you find yourself ‘surprised to agree’, as if everyone involved didn’t at least agree on the basics of the Gospel. Similarly, she seems to confuse Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS) with Arianism. ESS is wrong, but more aptly described as unorthodox or heterodox than full on heresy, such as Arianism. Now, Grudem is wrong to support ESS (as are a few of the other presidents of CBMW), but I do think a distinction between ESS and modalism needs to be made. Criticism is valid, as one author (I forgot who) pointed out that if you have to change our view of the Trinity to support your view of women, your view of women may be wrong. 

Overall, it really depends on what you are looking for in this book. It is great as a personal narrative, but somewhat surprising in the theological category, especially with her department being adjacent to a seminary. If you want strong arguments for women ordinations I’d recommend Michael Bird’s book on the subject, or the compilations book ‘How I changed my mind on Women’s Ordination’, or go read the scriptural proofs as put forward by any of the denominations that ordain women. I much more coherent and pointed critique of the CMBW would be Aimee Byrd’s ‘Recovering From Biblical Womanhood’, which is excellent. I’d certainly say if you are pastor/leader in your church, regardless of the position you take, you may want to read this due to it’s popularity. This book has enters the discussion often on the topic of women, so that it interest you, you would put it on your list. 

Interview for Jesus and Gender

I am really happy about our first author interview. Mrs. MMT did a great job interviewing Elyse Fitzpatrick and Eric Schumacher about their new book Jesus and Gender, out now and available anywhere. I think it is an important book right now in the ‘gender wars’, calling everyone involved back to humility and Christ-likeness. It is also our first video cast, so I hope you enjoy. As always, comment below.

Modern Cloister – Interview with Elyse Fitzpatrick and Eric Schumacher

Interview with Elyse Fitzpatrick and Eric SchumacherModern Cloister

In this episode, we sit down with Elyse Fitzpatrick and Eric Schumacher, co-authors of the new book Jesus and Gender: Living as Sisters and Brothers in Christ (released April 2022) to discuss their new book and the state of gender discussions in the church.   ** About the book Much teaching on gender relations, roles, and rules binds the conscience beyond what Scripture actually teaches. Gender has become a battleground for power. But God created men and women not to compete for glory but to cooperate for his glory. In Jesus and Gender, Elyse and Eric paint a new vision for gender―Christ’s gentle and lowly heart. Drawing from Scripture and experience, Elyse and Eric show how Jesus’s example speaks to all areas of our lives as men and women, including vocation, marriage, parenting, friendships, and relating to each other as sisters and brothers in Christ. Real-life testimonies from a variety of Christians―including Christine Caine, Justin Holcomb, Karen Swallow Prior, and others―show a variety of men and women freed to pursue their gifts for God’s glory. Learn more about Jesus and Gender. About the authors Elyse Fitzpatrick is a nationally sought-after speaker and author. She holds a certificate in biblical counseling and has an MA in biblical counseling from Trinity Theological Seminary. She has authored 23 books and lives in California with her husband, Phil. Learn more about her at elysefitzpatrick.com.  Eric Schumacher is a pastor, songwriter, and author. He earned an MDiv in Biblical and Theological Studies from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Eric and his wife, Jenny, have five children and live in Iowa. Learn more about him at emschumacher.com.

Playlist: Modern Cloister

Select an episode to play it in the audio player.

  1. Interview with Elyse Fitzpatrick and Eric Schumacher
  2. Reaction Episode: Rise and Fall of Mars Hill
  3. The Modern Cloister is ONE!
  4. Studying The Bible: Commentaries
  5. Studying The Bible: Study Bibles

2022 Reading List

Doing a reading list is a pretty lazy way for people who try to blog to get some extra content in. Anyway, here’s my 2022 Reading Goals:

If you saw my post from last year, you’d recognize three or four of the books that I didn’t get to. I actuallyPXL_20220108_184258782 still hit my goal as far as number of books, just didn’t read the ones I had planned, as I was sidetracked by the Five Solas series we read for the podcast (I’ve only gotten on review in so far, Scripture Alone). I have the same goal of 24 books, but have only called out 15 of them. You can see the Kindle in the pic, that is for Crossway Reviews, which seems to be on of the only active review programs left (not sure if Baker stopped, or just kicked me out).

Theology – I didn’t realize how many theology books I had planned to read until I was just looking at the picture. I’ve started Evangelical Theology, and hope to finally finish it in 2022; so far, it is probably my favorite Systematic. Biblical Theology and Practical Theology in the Classical Tradition are ones I’ve had on my lists for awhile, but never got around to. I read On The Incarnation during Advent, but wanted to try it out again, either same time, or maybe in Lent. Currently loaded on the Kindle is Tripp’s most recent book, Do You Believe?, which is supposed to be about Doctrines, so I guess it goes here, too.

History – Going to finally start the 2000 Years of Christ’s Power series, and having read On The Incarnation, I’ve been interested in reading more of the early church writings, so I picked up a survey on them called The Great Theologians (which has some medieval on early modern, as well).

Controversial – Jesus and John Wayne; Triumph of the Modern Self (not pictured, I hope I know where I left it); The Making of Biblical Womanhood. If you’ve heard of these, you get why they are on the list. I may also add Recovering From Biblical Womanhood, depending on the others.

Fiction – I do not read much fiction, but always somewhat plan to. I have two modern(ish) classics – Tale of Two Cities and To Have and Have Not

Non-Fiction – The Origins of Political Order has been on my list for awhile and is generally considered a major book on the topic, so I will hopefully get to it this year. A buddy gave me Tripp’s Lead, which seems like a good beginning of the year book. I’ve only read a few books on leadership, I don’t think any of them were ‘Christian’ based. Finally, I will continue to try to read some C.S. Lewis, not sure which book yet, but I’ll randomly pick on from the the anthology.

That is it for this year. Hopefully, I’ll get through them all and a few others. The hardest is part is deciding which ones to read first.

Update and Books

It has been about six months since my last post, which is probably the longest I have ever gone. Life has been a little off the past few month, so we haven’t done a podcast, nor have I written anything. So, we sat down and did a quick update, which you can listen to below.

I’m pretty behind on my books. I think I only read about 20 this year and I’ve only reviewed one or so of them. Hopefully, I’ll post more regularly next year and get back on track with the podcast.

Solus Christus (Christ Alone) Modern Cloister

What do we mean when we talk about the doctrine of Christ Alone or "Solus Christus"? Join us as we explore this Sola, which centers on the fullness of Christ's work alone for salvation and His uniqueness as Savior. We also dive into how this belief shaped the thinking of the Reformers, how it influenced the history and development of the church, how it should impact us today as believers, and how it must be reclaimed for the sake of the gospel.  For a brief background on the "who, what, when, where, why and how" of the Reformation, which introduces the  Five Solas, we invite you to listen to our episode What led to the Reformation? Then, make sure to check out our conversation on Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) and Sola Gratia (Grace Alone) and Sola Fide (Faith Alone). If you're new to the Modern Cloister, check out our first full series on community via the links below and listen to our introductory episode to learn all about the "why" behind our podcast.  Welcome to the Modern Cloister A History of Christian Community The Decline of Community The Future of Community The Impact of COVID-19 on Community Remember to rate, review and subscribe to be the first to get our newest episodes! And connect with us to share your thoughts and feedback at moderncloister@gmail.com. 
  1. Solus Christus (Christ Alone)
  2. Sola Fide (Faith Alone)
  3. Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)
  4. Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)
  5. What led to the Reformation?

Book Review: Reformation Anglican Worship

Reformation Anglican Worship: Experiencing Grace, Expressing Gratitude (The Reformation Anglicanism Essential Library, Volume 4)

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Short, mostly easy read (occasional Latin thrown in).

Summary

The book is generally what the title says. For those confused from the ‘Reformation’ part, I was, too. I’m not sure why the author(s, it is a series) didn’t use Reformed, as this seems to be what they are discussing. Canmer (who wrote the Book of Common Prayer, and was the main influence on Anglicanism) was heavily influenced by the Reformation and it’s new focus on Biblical reading in the vernacular and Justification by faith. 

Jensen focuses mostly on the Reformed, as opposed to Anglo-Catholic, side of Anglicanism. He makes a strong argument for it being the way Anglicanism started, but does a good job of putting things into a historical context as well as modern impacts. 

This is a short book broken into six chapters – The Heart of Christian Worship, Worship in the English Reformation, Reading and Preaching the Scriptures, The Gospel Signs: The Sacraments, Prayers of Grace, and Music: The Word in Song. There is also a brief introduction where he lays out his goal for the book. Chapter one, lays a basic theological groundwork on worship, based on the Trinity. The remaining five chapters are pretty clear by the title. 

My Thoughts

This was an interesting book to me. I am not an Anglican, but am in the Reformed tradition (though I understand there is a good bit of difference between the two). I’ve recently gained some interested in the Anglican tradition, mostly due to my recent discovery of the use of the Book of Common prayer. Jensen does a great job of weaving thoughts/writing from Cranmer and portions of the Book through each chapter (for those wondering why the BCP didn’t warrant its own chapter).

He doesn’t rely solely on Cranmer, but points to other Bishops at the time and even some writings from the royalty. I thought chapter three (Read & Preaching Scripture) was the most interesting. Knowing a good bit about the Reformation and continuing in the tradition, I was familiar with the focus on the Word Preached. Much less focused on, but apparently quite important in Anglicanism (especially as exhibited in the previous version of the BCP) is the direct reading of scriptures. This includes multiple readings from throughout the Bible at each service, as well as a reading plan that takes you through the OT once and NT three times a year; and the Psalms once a month. 

Sacramentalism is one of the divergent points between Anglicanism and Reformed traditions, but the chapter was interesting and informative. The Music chapter was the shortest, but was quite powerful. This is especially true if you are a member of church that freely uses ‘modern worship’. His critique is harsh, but completely accurate. He points out the irony of the fact (which I was unaware) that Reformation era churches were heavily focused on the performance of music, specifically coral music which can be hard to sing. Now, we’ve moved back to performance. The irony being, we fought to have the congregation be able to sing, to now, being focused on entertainment, with many songs that are not made for congregational singing (or are often hard to sign, but hey, guitar solo). 

The interest on this book would be fairly narrow, btu I do think everyone who cares about proper worship would benefit from this book. If you are interested in worship, you should certainly buy this book.  If you are Anglican, or Reformed, or have an interest in church history or the various aspects of the Reformation, put this on your list. 

*I received a free copy of this in exchange for an honest review. 

Modern Cloister: Wisdom and Kingship in the Psalms

Modern-Cloister-NEW

Solus Christus (Christ Alone) Modern Cloister

What do we mean when we talk about the doctrine of Christ Alone or "Solus Christus"? Join us as we explore this Sola, which centers on the fullness of Christ's work alone for salvation and His uniqueness as Savior. We also dive into how this belief shaped the thinking of the Reformers, how it influenced the history and development of the church, how it should impact us today as believers, and how it must be reclaimed for the sake of the gospel.  For a brief background on the "who, what, when, where, why and how" of the Reformation, which introduces the  Five Solas, we invite you to listen to our episode What led to the Reformation? Then, make sure to check out our conversation on Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) and Sola Gratia (Grace Alone) and Sola Fide (Faith Alone). If you're new to the Modern Cloister, check out our first full series on community via the links below and listen to our introductory episode to learn all about the "why" behind our podcast.  Welcome to the Modern Cloister A History of Christian Community The Decline of Community The Future of Community The Impact of COVID-19 on Community Remember to rate, review and subscribe to be the first to get our newest episodes! And connect with us to share your thoughts and feedback at moderncloister@gmail.com. 
  1. Solus Christus (Christ Alone)
  2. Sola Fide (Faith Alone)
  3. Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)
  4. Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)
  5. What led to the Reformation?

Part six and the final episode of the Modern Cloister series on the Psalms is out, you can find info on Part 1 – a Guide to Understanding the Psalms – here, Part 2 – How to Use the Psalms – here, and Part 3 – Praise and Thanksgiving in the Psalms – here, Part 4 – Lament and Confession – here or listen in the player below (I didn’t have a chance to do a write up on episode 5, but you can listen to it in the player.

In this Episode, we continue diving into different genres of Psalms. We have broken them into eight genres, and we cover Wisdom and Kingship, which are two genres people may not think much about. We also discuss the Hallelujah Psalms that end the book. 

Hope you have enjoyed the series. 

I’ve reviewed two of the best books out there (that aren’t commentaries) on the Psalms – How to Read the Psalms & Learning to Love the Psalms – if you are interested in reading more. 

You can listen to the Pod on the player below, or subscribe anywhere podcast are found. You can also listen at our YouTube Channel. Or, of course, come check us out at ModernCloister.com. Hope you enjoy, feedback is always welcome. 

Book Review: God’s Word Alone

God’s Word Alone—The Authority of Scripture: What the Reformers Taught…and Why It Still Matters (The Five Solas Series)

My Rating – Probably not worth your time

Level – moderate (having a little knowledge church history is helpful), medium to long (just under 400, but longer than needed, as it was a bit redundant).

Summary

 If, based on the title and subtitle, you expected a book that mostly had a historical focus that placed itself in the time of the Reformation or a book that was mostly about the authority of the Bible, this is not the book you are looking for. More on why not in ‘My Thoughts’ below. The book is broken into three parts with three to four chapters in each. Part One is called ‘God’s Word Under Fire, Yesterday and Today’ which includes chapters on the Reformation, the modernist shift, and today ‘Crisis over Biblical Authority’ (which is mostly about inerrancy). Part Two is called ‘God’s Word in Redemptive History’, there are also three chapters and they go through the redemptive history of the Bible – these chapters have much of the internal apologetics you would expect to find in a book like this. Part Three, ‘The Character of God’s Word and Contemporary Challenges’, is four chapters – Inspiration, Inerrancy, Clarity, and the Sufficiency of Scripture. There is also an intro and conclusion, as well as a ‘series notes’ (this is book one of five on the Solas published at the 500th anniversary of the Reformation), and a forward. 

My Thoughts

This is probably the most mixed review I’ve ever written. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this book, nothing I would particularly disagree with (perhaps with the exception of a possible implication that you are not a Christian if you do not believe in inerrancy – as defined by certain people). However, this book really is a missed opportunity. Barret is a great writer and I’ve heard him in a few interviews, and always really like what he has to say. Part of my excitement for this series was based on him being the series editor. That being said, I can’t really recommend this book. The main issue being so much of the focus was on inerrancy. If you cut 100 pages of inerrancy discussion out of this, it would still be longer than any of the other four books in the series. The fact that Mohler wrote the forward should have made me aware what the real focus would be. Not that I disagree with inerrancy, per se, but if the you are going to make a book in a series longer than two others (Grace, and Glory of God) combined, it should really focus on Authority, which was the main issue during the Reformation. 

Inerrancy certainty matters, but I was expecting a book on the authority of Scripture, especially as it related to the Reformation. Of course, the view of inerrancy in this book is based on the Chicago Statement, which is often interpreted in extremes, being at once so narrow as to seemingly be an argument for the inerrancy of particular interpretation, or qualified and excused to be so broad as to be meaningless. I can’t be the only person who is tired of the Evangelical obsession with Chicago Statement inerrancy. Go read Five Views on Inerrancy , if you are unsure what I’m talking about (I’ve also written a longer post, On Inerrancy, if you have time). 

That being said, Chapter 1, ‘The Road to the Reformation’, and Chapter 10, on sufficiency of Scripture, are great. I’d recommend everyone read them. I also really appreciated Chapter 2, ‘The Modern Shift in Authority’, which dove into our time since the Enlightenment and the Modernist/Fundamentalist controversy. I think that chapter is a value addition to the historical point of authority, as during the Reformation the issues was Scripture vs. Scripture plus Tradition/Councils, whereas now it is more of Scripture (or even Scripture plus) vs myself (self being the ultimate authority in modern life). He also does a good job throughout the book pointing out that Scripture alone does not mean only scripture, which I think is another important modern concern (as we so often in the American Evangelical streams are anti-intellectual and will often reject creeds and catechisms). 

Part two of the book was a little odd. It was well written and a great mini-study on redemptive history, but it didn’t really feel like it fit very well. Finally, Part 3 was what you would expect in this book, outside of more historical notes/narrative. I think there is an odd contradiction made in the sufficiency chapter vs the inerrancy, in that we are seemingly alright with one’s focus being only on spiritual matters while rejecting the idea that it wouldn’t be narrowed in another. The clarity chapter did well in pointing to the nuance in understanding scripture, maybe the best I’ve seen it handled. Inspiration was also well written, but I can see the critiques that we are arguing a circular logic in that we believe the Bible is true because it says it is.  It might have been nice to see some more apologetics on the trustworthiness of Scripture. 

Ultimately, the book fails in what is seemingly its purpose, to argue for the authority of Scripture. One of the reasons I mentioned above that Part Two didn’t seem to fit, is because there are many people who would wholeheartedly agree with everything written in this part, but they play little role in authority, with the exception of the last chapter, on Christ. Similarly, there are many who believe in inerrancy, yet not authority. Most Catholics believe that the Bible is the word of God, yet not the ultimate authority, as do many modernist or Mainline Christians who put their experience over and above Scripture (sometimes without even realizing it). This obsession with arguing the nuances of Chicago Statement inerrancy is really an intra-conservative (possibly, broadly reformed) protestant disagreement. In the grand scheme of life, this is a small segment, and we continue to ignore everyone outside at our own peril. While the book is good, it is mostly an apologetic for inerrancy, narrowly define, with some quality historical notes and other attributes of scripture discussed alongside. So, if you are looking for a book on Sola Scriptura that focuses on the authority of Scripture, this book is probably not worth your time. 

Book Review: The Church

The Church: An Introduction

My Rating – Probably not worth your time

Level – Short (the goal of the series), some academic language, but mostly readable. 

Summary – The book is technically broken into two sections, Foundational Issues and Mere Ecclesiology and More Ecclesiology. However, part one, really functions as more of an extended introduction. The two chapters of this section are The Triune God and the Church, and The Church According to Scripture. The latter looks at the different words used for church, gathering, and temple in the Old and New Testaments. 

The bulk of the book is found in part two, which is broken into six chapters – The Identity, Leadership, Government, Ordinances or Sacraments, Ministries, and Future of the Church. The ‘mere’ versus ‘more’ ecclesiology is a rubric of sorts, wherein each chapter he discusses the ‘mere’ of the particular topic first, which is the basic agreements that all churches have now, or have had in the past. The ‘more’ part is where he dives into the differences between various churches or theological views. 

There is also the series introduction, and an introduction by Allison, conclusion, ‘further reading’, and indexes. 

My Thoughts – Allison is a strong writer, who has had success at the popular level. I’ve read a few of his books and always enjoyed them, but something just wasn’t working right in this. It could have been an editor situation, or the way the put the book together, but it often became quite redundant. I mean in a verbatuum since, he would write an intro paragraph for each chapter that end with ‘I will show X in turn’, then ended the chapter with, ‘I have shown X’. It was oddly academic for what I had assumed was meant to be a more popular writing. His Historical Theology text is more readable than parts of this. Additionally, the ‘mere/more’ was repetitive in the same way and a bit contrived. The actual content, outside of the framework, was very accessible and readable. I’m not sure what was going on. 

The content itself, was kind of a mixed bag. I appreciate his defense/discussion on the Trinity, but it didn’t seem to fit. The Church According to Scripture was helpful and interesting. Identity was quick and solid. Leadership was perhaps the worst chapter. He makes the claim that ‘elder’ and ‘bishop’ are used interchangeable, which is pretty clear not only in the Greek, but also in the way it is used in the NT. However, he also claims ‘pastor’ is interchangeable with these two terms as well. He offers in example nor any linguistic proof, but rather points to Peter saying that elders should be good shepherds (the word translated is how we get the word pastor). He then quickly moves on. I am not entirely sure why he makes this claim, which is clearly lacking support, but I could speculate a few reasons that are beyond the scope of this review. 

Government, Ordinances, and Future were the strongest parts of the book. He explanation of governing options was one of the clearest concise write-ups I’ve seen. The baptism part of Ordinances was short, but I think that is actually a better way to handle. I’ve seen interesting arguments that there aren’t really four views of communion, but really just three, but he sticks with the traditional four views and does a pretty good job with the nuances. Much like Government, the chapter on the Future of the church was one of the best, concise writings I’ve seen. These two chapters function very well as almost a cliff-notes, without sacrificing too much understanding. 

That being said, this book is still probably not worth your time. While still short, there is too much unnecessary writing and the ‘mere/more’ distinctions really fell a little flat. There are a few strong chapters, but others are mixed. I appreciate what Crossway is trying to do by basically giving you chapters on what would be a Systematic, but meant to be shorter and more readable. However, based on this one, I wouldn’t really recommend that approach. Additionally, there are other books that focus on the Church that are better, though not many hit on the future (but there are hundreds of those). Unless this is a topic you are just starting to read on, and really need somewhere to start (in which case you could benefit from the ‘further reading’ section), this book probably isn’t worth it. 

*I received a copy of this in exchange for an honest review. 

Book Review: Learning to Love the Psalms

Learning to Love the Psalms

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Medium read (can get slightly technical), moderate length (250+)

Summary: Godfrey takes a different approach than most books on the Psalms. Instead of looking into categories of Psalms, he studies them in their original five ‘books’, and looks for similarities within each ‘book’; plus he breaks out the final five Psalms and treats them separately from the other five books.

There are no chapters in  this book, but there are seven broad sections. After a large intro section that includes chapters introduction the Psalms, poetry, difficulties, speakers, and structures, there are the five sections (one each on the five ‘books’), a section on the final five Psalms, and a short afterward. Each section has chapter on the structure and character of the ‘book’, followed by a mini-commentary on six or seven of the Psalms in the ‘book’. The final section has a brief intro chapter, then reviews each of the last five Psalms. 

My Thoughts: He has attempted a relatively difficult task in trying to find the original reason for the groupings in each book. I appreciate what he has done, and I think his work is the best I’ve seen that doesn’t use the typical category/genre, but I remain unconvinced. It is a fascinating way to try to study the Psalms and as modern western people, we really want a reason for the layout of the Psalms. He makes the most compelling argument I’ve seen, but as I said, I’m not entirely convinced. 

The other oddity of this book is his mini-commentary on numerous Psalms. These just didn’t land correctly. Some were a little academic, some were devotional, others were likely draw from sermons (as they point to Christ in our life now, in an application way), the remaining was a mix of all these. While they were mostly good, and all educational, the inconsistency bothered me. This could have been an editorial decision, to lay out his notes this way, but it should have been a bit more focused. 

For these reasons, this book would not be the first I would recommend if you wanted to start a study on the Psalms. That being said, the intro section was quite valuable. The chapter on difficulties in the Psalms was particularly valuable. Likewise, the chapter on ‘recurring themes’ functioned as a mini-lesson with a different take than the most usual genre discussions. The structure and character chapters are interesting, but how much you gain from those will be dependent on how strong you find his overall argument. Outside the intro, the final five Psalms section is probably the best, as it is a very clear division and we know much of how these particular Psalms have been used throughout history. Overall, a good book, written well, and if you are looking to dig into the Psalms and are purchasing multiple books for your study, this is one to put on your list.