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Cover Image: God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology

God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology:
A Biblical Theology

Crossway, 2010

Blurb Review by Lindsay Kennedy

Review by Lindsay Kennedy

Is there a singular purpose behind everything that God does in history? Did this same purpose also motivate the human authors of Scripture? Jim Hamilton answers "yes" to these two questions and argues God demonstrates his glory in salvation through judgment, hence the title of this book. Hamilton's central thesis in this work is that "God means to reveal himself in an astonishing display of his mercy and justice, with the justice highlighting the mercy (pg. 40). Basically, Hamilton argues that God's glory is revealed in salvation being offered within the context of judgment. In this book he pursues this thesis by examining the biblical books in order, with a final chapter responding to criticisms of his thesis.

Approach & Content

Hamilton introduces each larger biblical section (Torah, Prophets, etc.) before addressing each book within the set, summarizing its message and showing how it fits in the whole canon. Next, comes a summary of main concepts and themes, outlines of narrative structures, and a commentary through the broad sections of text.

This book particularly shines when examining the literary structure of each book. Hamilton sifts through contemporary scholarship and lets the reader reap the benefits, carefully tracing the flow of each book and drawing attention to connections throughout Scripture. Many of these connections within the Bible are profound and completely new to this writer. It is refreshing to see the whole Bible put together rather than pulled apart, as in much of scholarship today.

The many diagrams and tables Hamilton provides are worth the price of the book alone. Some of these include the many Old Testament allusions to Exodus 34:6-7, a list of prayers that appeal to God's concern for His own glory, all mentions of baptism in the New Testament, uses of "in Christ" in Colossians. It is enormously helpful to have all this information in one accessible place.

Considering the purposes of this book, Hamilton's writing and insights are surprisingly clear and at many times devotional. Hamilton's love for the Lord and His Word clearly shines through; this is no dry theological exercise. Hamilton clearly wants us to be as enthralled with God's glory as he himself is.

The Thesis

Hamilton argues passionately and persuasively, and though some will hesitate in deeming it ‘the centre' of the Bible, God's glory in salvation through judgment is easily established as central to Scripture. Hamilton's thesis is actually seen in the very focal point of our faith: we are saved through Christ receiving our judgment, all to the glory of God.

Despite the strength of Hamilton's work, it is unfortunately undermined in three areas. First, Hamilton believes that each biblical writer consciouslypursues this thesis at all times (pg. 559). However, some books such as Song of SongsandRuth do not persuasively fit this thesis. Here he seems to make things harder for himself than needed; if instead, Hamilton argued the thesis is central to the storyline of the Bible, then like a jigsaw puzzle, even the odd-looking pieces could be shown to fit the beautiful picture of God's glory in salvation through judgment. Second, to make his thesis work in certain contexts, the terms salvation and judgment become slightly fuzzy in meaning. When Hamilton uses these words throughout the book, readers are often left to discern for themselves which shade of meaning he is employing. For example, Paul's correction of the Corinthians regarding the resurrection (1 Cor 15) is summarized thus by Hamilton: "Paul condemns their mistaken perspective, and through that judgment he means to bring them to salvation for God's glory" (pg. 460). Here "judgment" seems to mean correction, but what kind of salvation is in view? By receiving Paul's correction, are the Corinthians obtaining redemption, some kind of spiritual protection, or something else? This line of thinking all seems a little forced. In both cases, it appears to me that Hamilton overreaches unnecessarily, which undermines the persuasiveness of his thesis. Third, apart from regularly drawing attention to allusions to Exodus 34:6-7 throughout Scripture, it is a pity that Hamilton doesn't really show if and how the theme of salvation through judgment actually develops (i.e., expands or become more focused) within Scripture. This would have been a very interesting element that is missed.

Conclusion

I've only given these perceived weaknesses attention since they are central to Hamilton's thesis and the purpose of the book. However, the sheer quality of content outweighs these concerns. It is hard to criticize a book that aims for the moon, but despite falling short, still reaches far higher than most others. The depths of insights in this book are too vast to summarize in this review.

"God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment" would be a wonderful resource when studying or teaching through a particular book in the Bible. This is particularly true because of the attention Hamilton gives to understanding the literary flow of each book, as well as the tables and charts he provides. Perhaps surprisingly, this book would be an equally excellent supplement to devotional Bible reading. This book really came to life when I started reading it slowly and regularly during my morning Bible reading. I read a portion of the Bible, and then Hamilton's comments on that section. This procedure often led to rich times of seeing new things in the Scripture that I wish I had seen sooner! That being the case, I would recommend this book not only to pastors/teachers, but also to any reader of the Word. As mentioned above, Hamilton's clear writing allows any to be rewarded by the fruits of his work.

Whether one takes Hamilton's thesis as the centre of Scripture or merely central to Scripture, it is a theme that many Christians neglect to see. Thankfully, this book seeks to set this state of affairs right. I remember my own vision of God being exponentially transformed by reading Jonathan Edwards' "The End for which God Created the World," and I believe Hamilton's book will have the same effect on others.

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