My bestselling book, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, was recently reviewed in two places online. The book has been positively reviewed in academic outlets, evangelical or otherwise, since its debut in 2015 (JETS, Themelios, RBL). Sure, there are sometimes misunderstandings of what I’m saying, but that’s normal. Scholars reviewing a book that is not aimed at scholars (yes, that does happen) always want more information on things. In my experience with Unseen Realm, the book draws them in enough to go ferreting through the footnoted sources and, of course, do research on their own. Scholars always need convincing about something — one book is never enough! That’s the sort of thing I hope for. Reviews by folks who aren’t scholars have also been overwhelmingly positive (just look on Amazon — the book is approaching 1000 reviews). But occasionally you get a fear-based review and the results are predictable.
The two recent reviews illustrate both sides of this equation. The first one to mention appeared on the Logos Academic blog. It’s written by Rev Dr. David Instone-Brewer, a senior researcher at Tyndale Fellowship in the UK — an organization I highly recommend supporting. Dr. Instone-Brewer is a specialist in rabbinic and New Testament interpretation. He has done pioneering work in creating accessible, high-quality online tools for biblical research. His review is thoughtful and appreciated. Since reading it we’ve chatted a bit by email. He considers Unseen Realm an important work, and for that I’m grateful. That’s what you want from fellow scholars. The other review sent to me in the past week leaves me wondering how I could be so misread and misunderstood. I’ve actually had other readers (including one pastor) apologize to me for how inept the review is. Lest you think I’me over-reacting, at one point the reviewer charges that I don’t believe in the sovereignty of God and deny omniscience (he thinks that I think God doesn’t know all things). I’ve said many times on the podcast and in personal speaking events that God knows all things real and possible. What isn’t clear by “all things”? I refer to God in the book as omniscient. I affirm that God knew what was going to happen when he created humans with freedom (one of the communicable attributes). God wasn’t surprised, nor can he be. I presume that what troubles the reviewer is that I don’t believe foreknowledge necessitates predestination.
Let’s do a brief exercise in affirming the obvious:
– God knows all things real and possible. Check.
– Are all possibilities predestinated? No – that would mean all possibilities would be actualities, and all those actualities being ordained would mean myriads of contradictory circumstances simultaneously being real and actual. That’s utterly absurd, and even Calvinists know it. Check.
– So, if all possibilities are not predestinated, and God knows all possibilities, by definition God’s foreknowledge cannot necessitate (the key word) predestination.
Thank you, Professor.
But this is what happens when you write books that challenge traditional thinking. It’s expected. People, even some pastors (and that’s tragic) don’t want to take the time to really digest biblical theology, or even the biblical text. (Why worry about Hebrew words like ʾelohim and Psalm 82 when we have English translations and tradition?)