G. K. Beale. Redemptive Reversals and the Ironic Overturning of Human Wisdom. Short Studies in Biblical Theology. Wheaton: Crossway, 2019. 208 pages. $14.99 (paperback).
Redemptive Reversals and the Ironic Overturning of Human Wisdom is the latest entry in Crossway’s Short Studies in Biblical Theology series. In this volume, author G. K. Beale, who serves as research professor of New Testament and biblical interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary in Glenside, PA, presents what may be termed a “theology of irony.” By examining an impressive number of passages from across the biblical canon, Beale demonstrates that God’s workings are usually contrary to what appears to be the case from a human perspective. This, Beale argues, should encourage God’s people to trust him when enduring suffering and apparent defeat while it should also warn the unrepentant that their sin is not the pathway to happiness that it may seem to be.
Beale unpacks this theme across seven chapters, each of which highlights a specific area in which God works in ironic ways. For example, in chapter 1, he surveys several texts that illustrate that God regularly brings judgment on sinners by means of their own sinful choices. Similarly, in chapter 4, he demonstrates from Scripture that God normally accomplishes his purposes for his people through periods of apparent weakness. Though most chapters survey a variety of scriptural texts, a couple of chapters focus on expounding one particular passage. The final chapter consists mainly of expositions of Revelation, showing that the kingdom Jesus inaugurated at his first coming was, and is, radically different than the expectations of his and our day.
In line with the intent of the series, Beale’s volume is written with the layperson in mind. He is careful to define any technical or unusual terms. His expositions of Scripture are generally simple and straightforward (though not always convincing). When he does draw on the original language or historical/cultural context of a passage, he does so in such a way that a reader who does not know either biblical language can still understand his point. Beale’s pastoral concern for his readers’ spiritual wellbeing is evident throughout the book, and he devotes space in each chapter to giving specific practical applications of the truths he expounds.
The one area in which the book might have been more helpful is the structure in the chapters. Rather than tracing his themes across the canon from Genesis to Revelation, Beale often jumps back and forth between Old and New Testament or between various sections of either. This would seem to hinder one of the goals of the series: to help readers understand the storyline of Scripture and how the Bible fits together (19–20). Aside from that issue, however, Beale’s work provides a fascinating and edifying study. Ultimately, as he points out, every person identifies with either a Savior whose greatest triumph was accomplished at his moment of apparent weakness or with a ruler whose defeat occurred by means of his apparent victory (183–84). Anyone who wants to understand the biblical and practical implications of both realities would do well to pick up this book.
CBS book notices provide brief descriptive summaries and assessments of new publications in biblical studies and biblical theology. The present book notice was written by Drake Isabell, M.Div. student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Lead Editor of Book Notices for the Center for Biblical Studies.