Sunday, August 21, 2011

"A Gracious and Compassionate God: Mission, Salvation and Spirituality in the Book of Jonah" Book Review

Daniel C. Timmer's book A Gracious and Compassionate God: Mission, Salvation and Spirituality in the Book of Jonah is the 26th volume in the NSBT series by Intervarsity Press. This series seeks to integrate a theme in biblical studies and relate it to the wider field of biblical theology.

So how does Daniel C. Timmer's book hold up to this task?

Unfortunately, not as well as one might hope.

Timmer sets out to explore the themes of mission, salvation and spirituality in the book of Jonah and then relate it to the rest of the Bible. However, the book of Jonah seems simply to exist as a launching pad to get to other books of the Bible more than a sustainable theology within the book of Jonah itself. In other words, the author seems to rush quickly through his exegesis of Jonah so he can get to passages in Isaiah, Acts and others. Frustratingly, the author never seems to relate how Jonah fits into the Bible as a whole.

In other words, A Gracious and Compassionate God feels more like a book on Jonah and then a book on missions and salvation (the theme of spirituality is hardly addressed at all it would seem) rather than a book that unifies those two themes well.

However, I am not sure that Timmer is to fault on this. The idea of starting in the book of Jonah and working out is no easy to task and one, I am not sure, is entirely beneficial. Is it not a bit myopic to attempt to extrapolate an entire theology from a book that is both narrative and only four chapters long?

This is NOT to say that the book is a failure. There are some genuinely good insights (particularly in chapter one) about the nations and missions! The book also acts as a helpful (albeit brief) commentary on Jonah from a conservative standpoint. The book is extremely well documented as well. So for anyone seeking to further their understanding of Jonah and missions, this book is indeed helpful. For someone seeking to see how Jonah relates to the larger themes presented and see a robust theology of missions, salvation and spirituality, look elsewhere.

In conclusion, while the book is good it does not seem to succeed in its larger purpose. It also does not seem to be up to the usual quality that is present in the other titles in the NSBT. That said, I would recommend the book because there are some good things here. I feel, however, it does not accomplish what is usually expected. 

*Thanks to IVP Academic for providing me a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair review*

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