Book Review: The City of God and the Goal of Creation

My Rating: If you are looking for something

Level: Moderate read, short (just under 200)

Summary

Alexander traces the concept of ‘City’ throughout the Bible, starting with Genesis (specifically Tower of Babylon) through the rest of the OT (specifically Jerusalem as the temple city) to the end of the New Testament (with the coming of the New Jerusalem as described in Revelation). 

The book is broken into eight chapters, The Godless City, The Temple-City, The Holy Mountain City, The Royal City, Envisaging a Transformed City, and Hope for Jerusalem beyond Divine Judgement, Seeking the City That Is To Come, and Anticipating New Jerusalem. There is also an introduction (plus the series introduction), a ‘further reading’, as well as general and scriptural indices. 

My Thoughts

If you are expecting the title to be drawn from Augustine’s book of the same name, you’ll be a little disappointed. This is where it is important to closely read the book description. That is not the fault of the book, but I was expecting something else. I’m sure the Augustinian influence was part of the title choice, but if you are looking for a well known book from the past to play off of, I would have gone with ‘Tale of Two Cities’. The bulk of the book, the first six chapters, deal with the Old Testament dichotomy of Babylon vs. Jerusalem. Chapter 7, deals with Christ/Us as the new temple/new city, while only the final chapters discusses the future New Jerusalem in the New Earth.

As a professional city planner, any discussion of cities is interesting to me. Alexander does an excellent job in his exegesis of the various Biblical Passages that deal with the two cities. I would have liked to have more about the New Jerusalem, but I suppose as part of the ‘not yet’, we don’t know a good deal about it, nor do we have much to say. As far as the physical attributes of the New Jerusalem, his understanding and interpretation is one of the best I’ve read.  

Overall, this was a good book, particularly for anyone specifically interested in the Biblical treatment of cities. However, I wonder how broadly interesting it may be. Again, this is not the fault of the book. When I finished it, I went back to review the series intro. Each book is narrowly construed, by design. I don’t know if the long term plan is to bind them all in one massive take on a Systematic, with each book being a section, but that is ultimately how they read. I’ve read Work and Our Labor in the Lord, it is also pretty good, and I see a few others I’d like to read. However, popularily, I think most will enjoy this book, but it is probably best for those looking for something specifically about cities.  

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

Book Review: Work and Our Labor in the Lord

Work and Our Labor in the Lord (Short Studies in Biblical Theology)

Rating – If you are looking for something.

Level – Short, moderate read, feels a little redundant at times

Summary
Hamilton attempts to concisely write a theology of work – why we work, what it means to work, and what it would look like to ‘labor for the Lord’. The book is broken into four main parts: work before the fall, work after the fall, work now after Christ’s coming, and finally, work in the new heavens and new earth.

My Thoughts
I’ll start off by saying I think this is one of the most difficult topics for which Christians can write. Not necessarily because the Bible is unclear on work, it is, and not because I thought Hamilton didn’t handle the theological points well. In fact, I thought he did a masterful job from a Biblical perspective; though there were occasionally odd section that appeared to have political undertones, but I guess that’s to be expected from an evangelical publication (or maybe I just read too much into it, and watch too much politics).

No, the problem is the reader. Especially me – educated, white-collar, upper-middle class reader, who has actual opportunities to think about different careers or finding fulfilling jobs. Due to the reader problem, I think books on work are hammered twice. First, because the reader looking for answers, such as what should I do with my life, do not find any and may come away disappointed. Second, because those are the readers, the authors tend to focus on that demographic. Hamilton avoids some of these trappings, probably due to his focus on theology, but they do show up. I won’t digress any further on that point.

The strength of this book is the first section, work before the fall. In our Biblically illiterate, 140 character limit culture, we miss too much of what the Bible actually says. For most of my life, I believed work was punishment for sin. I was around 30 before I heard someone point out that we worked the garden, it was one of the first commands from God and our original role in this world. So, work isn’t our punishment for sin, but our sin has corrupted out work. Hamilton does a great job of teaching and explaining this Biblical truth.

This point is expanded on in the work after the fall section as well. I especially liked the references to Ecclesiastes; which is always a great reminder of the way we view life in general, but I’m not sure I’ve seen it related specifically to work.

Overall, it is a solid book, but it left me wanting a little more. I’m probably a little too critical of Christian books focused on work, so if that is a topic you are studying you should put this book on your list. If not, you might want to skip. It is short, so that is a positive (why not just knock it out) and a negative (maybe not as in depth as you’d like). The Biblical Theology is strong, so that would be another reason to read it. So, grab this book, if you are looking for something.

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