The Christ of Wisdom by O. Palmer Robertson

The Christ of WisdomThe Christ of Wisdom: A Redemptive-Historical Exploration of the Wisdom Books of the Old Testament

by O. Palmer Robertson

eARC, 432 pg.
P&R Publishing, 2017

Read: May 7 – 21, 2017


Robertson’s preface laments the way that the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament is usually ignored in Redemptive-Historical studies —

…how do you fit these wisdom books into the flow of redemptive history that consummates in the Christ? By letting them be what they are in their own distinctiveness. They are, it should be remembered, canonical, divinely revealed, and authoritative writings that tell the world how and what to think about the deeper mysteries of human life. Rather than submitting to the moldings and bendings of modernity, these books broaden our understanding of the nature of redemptive history. Divine progress in the complete restoration of reality does not merely move in a purely linear fashion like the flight of an arrow moving across time and space without deviation until it reaches its target. This “third dimension” of redemptive history moves in a cyclical pattern. For certain aspects of God’s salvation perform according to a pattern of regulated repetition.

To ignore this dimension of redemptive history is to exclude a major portion of the old covenant canon—and that you do not want to do.

So how do you discuss these books from a RH point of view? This is what Robertson seeks to do in this book — not as a final answer, but as the beginning of a search for wisdom along these paths.

In one sense, Robertson could’ve made this easier to talk about this book — there’s not one central argument developed throughout. There’s a general discussion (brief) of wisdom, wisdom Biblically defined, that is. And then using that discussion, Robertson looks at the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament (and Lamentations, which is not usually considered Wisdom Literature, but can function as such), summarizing each book, looking at the various forms of wisdom described and passed on through it.

Simply,

Wisdom is the ability to understand the basic principles inherent in God’s created order, and to live by those principles. Wisdom enables a person to summarize these basic principles in a succinct and memorable fashion. Wisdom is living out the whole of life with a constant awareness of accountability before a loving, gracious, and just Creator and Redeemer.

The work he does to get to this summary is well worth the time and effort to work through. Actually, that goes for everything in the book, but I’ll hold off on saying that kind of thing for a few paragraphs.

The chapter on Proverbs is, fittingly, the longest and most developed. He discusses various approaches to the book, to understanding its construction and from there trying to understand it:

A much more accurate view of the theology of Proverbs may be gained from a covenantal perspective. The wise sayings of the book are not presented in a vacuum. They are not purely moralistic aphorisms. Instead, they are steeped in theistic assumptions. These wise observations about how the world works assume that God the Creator is none other than Yahweh, the Lord of the Covenant.

This, right here, would help so much of what I’ve read about Proverbs over the last few decades. To get into everything that Robertson says about the pursuit of Wisdom, passing it on and living by it from this book would make this post unbearably long — but it builds the foundation for everything that comes. Proverbs covers Wisdom as a whole — the rest of the book deals with it in specific areas.

While dealing with the personification of Wisdom in Proverbs 8, Robertson gives an excursus, “Athanasius as the Champion of the opponents of Arianism,” that is just gold. I’d love to see this developed into something longer.

Following Proverbs, he moves on to Job. Job doesn’t give us the answers to the puzzling circumstances of life, but for those who understand the book, they learn how to puzzle through the circumstances, how to think about them — how to ask God about them. Yes, there are answers given in the book — not easy answers, not the answers anyone necessarily wants, but answers — answers tied to the hope of the Resurrection. But wisdom knows to look for those answers in the difficulties of life, with a sure faith that is willing to look at dark circumstances and say, “I don’t know why this is happening, but I trust in Him Who does.”

Ecclesiastes, is, naturally, a tricky chapter — Robertson threw me a curveball when setting aside the usual discussion of authorship of the book to note

But a related question of some significance for understanding the book has been generally neglected. This neglected question is the identity of the “target audience”of Ecclesiastes.

Chewing on this a little helps get through some of the discussion of authorship. There are so many divergent readings of Ecclesiastes that your head can swim just trying to get a sense of them, Robertson is a pretty sure guide through them before landing on his conclusion that Ecclesiastes presents a “realistic picture of life” — one that is a precursor to Paul’s discussion in Romans 8, where creation is subjected to frustration, but that this is being renewed. I do think this chapter could’ve been organized in a more straight-forward way, but I appreciate the way that Robertson makes you work through various considerations and themes before leading to his conclusions — which are all very helpful.

His discussion of Lamentations, summed up in the subtitle “How to Weep,” was one of the best things I’ve read on the book (an admittedly too-short list). You may think that’s a pretty easy thing to learn — but there’s a wise way, a godly way to weep over the tragedies that will come into our lives. The book of Lamentations teaches us that — and, here’s the RH emphasis coming through — there’s a hope tied to the wise weeping. A hope tied to faith in God’s commitment to preserving a repentant people to Himself.

Lastly, we get to the wisdom of “How to Love” (in a marital sense) in the Song of Songs. The way he reads the book is a “Redemptive-Historical” way, in

terms of the redemptive work of God in restoring humanity to the situation prevailing at the time of creation . . . a restoration of the initial blessing of man and woman in their relation to each other, just as when they first stood in each other’s presence “both naked” but feeling “no shame” (Gen. 2:25). This Song rejoices in the fullness of God’s redemption of the marriage relationship.

He concludes this chapter uniquely, with a script for a Dramatic Reading of the Song of Songs — I think there could’ve been a bit more instruction on how to approach such a Reading — and why — than he gave. But I really appreciated that part.

He could’ve used a conclusion to wrap things up — returning to the closing admonition of the opening chapter. But that’s probably just a taste thing on my part.

There’s a focus on the literary/poetic forms in each book tying in the themes and teachings of them to the way the author presents them. This kind of discussion — no matter the type of literature (inspired or not) always stretches me. I imagine I’m not alone in that — in fact, I bet many people will skip those parts. This is to their own detriment. Robertson discusses these matters in a way that takes some effort to understand, but it’s effort that pays off.

This is a truly helpful book — not full-fledged commentaries on any of the books, but helpful summaries pointed towards seeing the wisdom passed down in each book, and tied into the Redemptive work going on in history all around us. I found it interesting that the recent A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament doesn’t approach some of these books the same way as Robertson — in some ways flatly contradicting him. I’d hoped for more overlap between the two works approaching this material from the same framework — but none of the contradictions or differences change the overall message of the Biblical material, just shadings. Honestly, in each case, I think Robertson’s readings are easier to square with the texts in consideration (and not just because he has more pages to develop his points, either).

Robertson, as always, delivers the goods with this book. The reader has to think about what he says, has to drag out their Bible and use the two books together, but will ultimately come out the better for it. I found this book to be incredibly helpful, insightful and something that drove me back to the fullness and fulfillment of all the wisdom of God — Jesus the Messiah. Just where Robertson wants his readers to focus.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from P&R Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.
N.B.: As this was an ARC, any quotations above may be changed in the published work — I will endeavor to verify them as soon as possible.

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4 Stars

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and Why Not Me? (Audiobooks) by Mindy Kaling

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

by Mindy Kaling (with B. J. Novak, Michael Schur & Brenda Withers)
Unabridged Audiobook, 4 hrs. and 37 mins.
Random House Audio, 2011

Read: April 15, 2017

Why Not Me?Why Not Me?

by Mindy Kaling (with Mindy Kaling , Greg Daniels , B. J. Novak)
Unabridged Audiobook, 4 hrs. and 57 mins.
Random House Audio, 2015

Read: April 21 – 22, 2017

These are technically two books — and you can identify different themes in each, but really, they could be one book, so let’s talk about them at the same time. These are collections of humorous essays — some autobiographical, some not — from the pen of writer/actress Mindy Kaling. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? covers her childhood and early career, while Why Not Me? focuses on more adult concerns, and her post-The Office career.

I thought the stories about her personal life and career entertaining, and well-told. But the other essays tended to be more creative and more amusing. But I found myself grinning or chuckling throughout. I’ve liked her before, but these books made me a fan.

My gut tells me that this is too brief, and I should say more — but I’m not sure what to get into. If you’re a fan of her TV work, or like intelligent and funny women (who can write), these are good reads.

Kaling is, naturally, the best narrator possible for these books — and probably many others (really, think Stephanie Plum as read by Kaling!). I think I liked the performance she gave for Is Everyone a little more, it felt less practiced? More energetic? I’m really not sure, but I wondered several times while listening to Why Not Me? why I didn’t like her narration as much. I could ‘t put my finger on it — but, it doesn’t matter, she was great with both. Just slightly less great.

Funny, heart-felt, maybe a little inspiring — these essays hit the spot.

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3 Stars

Coffee in Christian Ethics by Danielle Pollock & Joshua Torrey

Coffee in Christian EthicsCoffee in Christian Ethics: A Guide to Not Being a Drip

by Danielle Pollock & Joshua Torrey

Kindle Edition, 74 pg.
Torrey Gazette Publishing, 2017

Read: April 2, 2016


I know almost nothing about these authors, or their Twitter account of the same name — I bought this because a couple of people I follow on Twitter recommended the book during a pre-order blitz and because it sounded interesting. Score 1 for Social Media Marketing.

Here’s the official blurb:

The need for clear communication of God’s grace in the realm of coffee is great. Because we have been forgiven, we are to forgive. Because we have been given this foretaste, we must pass on this foretaste. It is the job of Christian ethics to pass on this small foretaste. If not in coffee quality, then at least through loving our neighbor with our coffee ethics. We must think of others and their coffee consumption before ourselves. We must consider their need for coffee as greater than our own. This requires us to have a thorough understanding of coffee and how to prepare it. We must rethink the importance of coffee in everyday activities as we focus on others.

Written by Danielle Pollock and Joshua Torrey, Coffee in Christian Ethics is a short introduction to the world of coffee. Filled with bad theology jokes, some snark, and real life stories, the goal of Coffee in Christian Ethics is to encourage Christians to use coffee in the various spheres of life as a way to love our neighbor.

At least of the introductions or prefaces or other filler at the beginning of the book used the word “satirical” — I think I missed that. Probably too subtle for my bourgeois brain and taste. This is a frequently condescending (although it goes to great pains to say it’s not) guide to coffee — beans, roasting, drinks, accessories, etc. — with a thin layer of Christianish language and application on top. Honestly, given the satirical nature of the work, I wasn’t sure how seriously I was to take that.

I found the use of “adult language” (to borrow a term from TV/Movie ratings) and casual attitude towards those things “whereby [God] makes himself known” (Third Commandment issues) enough to make me uncomfortable — if not more — to be found in a book on applied Christian Ethics.

Maybe I just didn’t get it — maybe I’m too dense for the humor, too uptight, too old-fashioned, too whatever. This could be the cleverest thing to come off the press since Fran Lebowitz’ Social Studies, but I just don’t think so. I’m going to give this 2 Stars out of charity and because it made me grin twice (also, some of the information about coffee was helpful) — but I wouldn’t recommend spending time on this one to anyone.

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2 Stars

The Sense Of Humor by Max Elliot Anderson

The Sense Of HumorThe Sense Of Humor: Let Humor Fast Track You to Healthier, Happier Living

by Max Elliot Anderson

Paperback, 330 pg.
Elk Lake Publishing, 2016

Read: February 15 – 22, 2017


E. B. White famously said, “Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it.” And I’ve found no exceptions to this in the couple of decades I’ve looked. Nevertheless, when Anderson asked if I’d read the book, I said yes. Sadly, White’s quip contains more meat than Anderson’s 330 pages.

The central thesis of the book is that humor and laughter are good mentally, physically, socially and spiritually. I’m pretty sure most people know that (at least with most of these things) without Anderson’s help. That doesn’t stop him from saying it over and over again — almost every time, it’s like he hasn’t said it before. As it’s such a benefit, he argues, we need to increase our use of it in our family, relationships, professional life, etc. A time or two, he adds a vaguely Christian-ish gloss to this to add some weight to his argument, but those attempts are pretty weak and best ignored for the author’s sake.

His use of sources is laughable — there are no footnotes/endnotes, many of his citations come in the form of “one entertainer said, . . . “, his history is easily demonstrably wrong. In short, the writing is shoddy and in dire need of a capable editing — which would make the whole thing a lot shorter.

The humor used to tell his point? Well, it’s mildly amusing at best. His chapter “Humor that is No Laughing Matter” is basically a narrow-minded nag-fest about sticking to types of humor that Anderson has arbitrarily decided is appropriate and avoiding humor that he doesn’t like. Everything else is just dull. Overall, the tone and content of the book don’t match up to the subject matter.

This would have made a fairly benign and marginally interesting magazine article, or TL;DR blog post — but as a book? Nope, it just doesn’t work — it ends up spreading what material there is too thin to be any good. It’s too filled with what everyone already knows (and repeats it) and shoddy writing to waste your time with.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest thoughts, I think it’s pretty clear that it didn’t bias me toward the book.

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2 Stars

Hungry Heart (Audiobook) by Jennifer Weiner

Hungry Heart (Audiobook) Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing

by Jennifer Weiner , Jennifer Weiner (Narrator)

Unabridged Audiobook, 13 hrs, 15 min.
Simon & Schuster Audio, 2016
Read: February 6 – 14, 2017


I’m not the biggest Jennifer Weiner fan in the world, nor am I in her target demographic in any way, shape, or form — but I’ve enjoyed (in some cases more) those books of hers that I’ve read. So I figured there was a better than even chance that I’d appreciate this collection of essays about her life, career, love life, dogs, social media and more. It’s also read by Weiner herself, which is almost always a winning characteristic for me.

Sadly, this audiobook was better in theory than it was in real life.

There’s a scene in the last season of Gilmore Girls where Logan points out to Rory that despite her prejudices, attitudes and belief, she’s actually part of the same privileged class that he is — which she doesn’t take too well (understandably). I kept thinking about that as I listened to some of Weiner’s tales of woe about her childhood and college life. I’m not saying that she didn’t have problems in her childhood, that she didn’t have trials that no one should have to go through, or overcome a lot in her professional life. But man…the self-pity was overblown — she got an Ivy League education, came out of it with less debt than many people I know who went to less prestigious schools, took a high school trip to Israel, and a largely pleasant childhood.

It doesn’t get much better when she starts talking about her adult life, either. She assumes sexism — and has faced, continues to face, and will probably face a good deal of it in the future — but seems to have some fairly strong gender biases herself. She will frequently say something like “As a woman, I know I’m supposed to be X in this situation.” Almost every time she said something like that I thought, actually a man in the same situation would be expected to behave the same way — it may not be honest, healthy, or “authentic” in the contemporary understanding — but it’s what how an adult person in polite Western culture should act.

Oddly, for someone who lamented her own inability to be a stay-at-home mom/writer, the scorn she displays for stay-at-home moms later in the book seems out of character. Actually, she is dismissive of people with other beliefs and convictions than hers. I’m not suggesting for a moment that she shouldn’t be an opinionated person (of any sex), but it’s hard to respect anyone who can’t reason with their opponents with out dismissing or vilifying them.

I actually had a few more things in my notes along those things, but seeing this on the screen makes me want to stop before this becomes a diatribe against the book. Because, believe it or not, I enjoyed this book — when she tells a narrative or goes for a laugh, I really got into the book and wanted to hear more. It’s when she gets on her soapbox or when she doles out advice that wouldn’t work for women less-well-off than she is, I couldn’t enjoy it.

If anything, this book makes me like her fiction more — because the flawed people she writes about are a lot more relatable than she presents herself as. But listening (I think reading would be better — see below) to Weiner describe her problems with overeating, or the journey to get her first book published (and the real life experiences that shaped the book), her mother’s reactions to her book tours, getting the movie In Her Shoes made, stories about her dogs, and so on — man, I really liked that and would’ve gladly consumed more of that kind of thing.

As an audiobook, this was a disappointment. I found the little sound effect/chime thing between chapters grating. Weiner’s reading was too slow and her cadence demonstrates that she reads a lot to her kids. Which would be fine if the prose matched, but it didn’t.

I can’t rate this too low — it was well-written I laughed, I felt for her and some of the other people she talked about in a way that I can’t justify rating below a 3. But man, I want to.

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3 Stars

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

Scrappy Little NobodyScrappy Little Nobody

by Anna Kendrick

Hardcover, 271 pg.
Touchstone, 2016

Read: December 22 – 26, 2016


Unlike some of the celebrity memoirs I’ve read this year (and yeah, there’s been a lot of them — I’m not sure why), this is a pretty straight-forward one. Roughly chronological, it covers Kendrick’s life and career from childhood to the last year or two. What separates this is Kendrick’s voice — it is so strong, so funny (I almost wish I’d gone for the audiobook version — narrated by the author — instead for her literal, not just authorial, voice), so brutal.

Thankfully, she saves most of her mockery for herself, so she comes across as charmingly self-deprecatory and insecure.

I’m not sure what to say about this, without resorting to a very long list of quotations that will be too long, and yet not long enough.

I chuckled often, I enjoyed the look at her life and strange childhood; the behind-the-scenes anecdotes about some of her films and award-shows; the present-day social awkwardness. I may not have much to say, but it’s only because my brain isn’t firing right tonight (it seems), not because the book doesn’t deserve it.

If you’re a fan of Kendrick’s, you’ll enjoy this. If you wouldn’t call yourself a fan, but have enjoyed some of her work, you’ll probably enjoy this. If you don’t know anything about her, you still might like this (and get a list of movies to go look into).

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4 Stars

War Psalms of the Prince of Peace (2nd. Edition) by James E. Adams

War Psalms of the Prince of PeaceWar Psalms of the Prince of Peace: Lessons from the Imprecatory Psalms, Second Edition

by James E. Adams

eARC, 176 pg.
P & R Publishing, 2016

Read: December 18, 2016


This is the 25th Anniversary Edition of the book — revised and expanded, no less. I was so glad to get the opportunity to read this one — I’ve got a copy of the original edition, which I’ve read 3 or 4 times, and referred to often. So to get to read a new edition — and to have an excuse to revisit the book — I had to jump at the chance.

Adams begins by reassuring Twentieth Century Christians (and I assume those of us in the Twenty-First Century, too) that the Imprecatory Psalms do belong in Scripture, are just as inspired as the rest, and have a place in the life and piety of his readers. Imprecatory Psalms, I should probably mention, are those Psalms that call for the destruction or judgment of the psalmist’s enemies. From there, Adams argues that no only do they belong in our Bibles, but (like the other Psalms) they belong in Christ’s mouth. To prove this, he compares the Imprecatory Psalms to the Psalms of Repentance — if Jesus Christ can say/sing the latter properly, then it’s fitting for him to sing/pray the former. I’m not positive that’s the best argument he could make, but I tell you, Adams makes it work (it helps that he spent far more space than I just did).

Given that they’re part of the Bible, and that if they’re fitting to be used by Christ, then they have a place in the life of the New Testament saint — but what is that place? How are we to use them? Do we get to call down the wrath of God on our enemies? (Short answer: NO).

This here is the heart of the book, and where Adams is at his best. Yes, we are to pray these prayers, sing these psalms —

You may say, “This is the last thing my church needs! If our hearts are too lazy and cold to pray for those we love, how can we think of praying for enemies, as we find in the Psalms?” But I would challenge you, isn’t this the cause of our lack of prayer? We have not learned from the Lord Jesus how to pray!

Learning to pray these psalms is a theme he returns to time and again —

Without assistance how can we ever righteously pray this prayer? I answer this question unequivocally: We never can! We cannot pray this prayer on our own . . . not because we are too good, but rather because we are too prone to evil! Yet we must learn to pray it.

But why are we to pray these prayers?

Why are we taught to pray for God’s judgment on the enemy? So that they will be converted! Nothing could be clearer from this prayer [Ps. 83].

That’s the core of the book, right there — I’ll let you read his explanation, but that’s the ballgame.

On the whole, I can’t tell you what was revised, nor can I say exactly how it was expanded — and there’s just no way I’m going to break out my original and read them in parallel to give you the list. What this primarily tells me is that what he did to improve the book came in fairly seamlessly. So I’m guessing that means we’re talking about minor tweaks and clarifications — no major new sections or anything. Would I have preferred a new chapter or two? Some more in-depth explorations of particular psalms? Yes. But the book didn’t need a new chapter or two, and it wasn’t intended to be that narrow in focus, so that kind of material would’ve felt out of place.

This is an easy read — clear, crisp writing that is deep enough to make you think, but written in a way that you don’t notice that you’re dealing with weighty theology. Adams writes with conviction, passion, and care – which is always helpful but particularly so with a topic like this. You don’t want a dry dissertation here, you need heart to go with the thinking. There’s a sensitivity here, which is needed, but more than anything a desire to treat the Bible (and the Spirit who inspired it) as it ought to be.

This is a gem — it was a gem 25 years ago when it was published, and it’s a gem today.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from P & R Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.
N.B.: As this was an ARC, any quotations above may be changed in the published work — I will endeavor to verify them as soon as possible.

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4 Stars