Written by Allan Coppedge Reviewed By Gordon Thomas

Allan Coppedge is Professor of Christian Theology at Asbury Theological Seminary, and throughout this book on holiness he works with a traditional Wesleyan view of entire sanctification as a definite ‘second blessing’ followed by growth in grace. His three main purposes are to know God better through an examination of his roles in Scripture, to show the centrality of holiness for understanding the nature of God, and to show the connection between OT, NT and Christian theology.

His dissatisfaction with previous examination of the roles of God is that some have traditionally been privileged over others. On page 389 he offers a sketch of such denominational preferences. He asserts that ‘A holistic view of God must include all of the roles of God and also must consider their mutual impact on one another’ (33). In his opinion each role carries its own characteristic vocabulary, its own unfolding through the two testaments, its own angle on sin, atonement, salvation, sanctification etc.

A table on page 32 contains the outline of the whole book in a nutshell. Along the x-axis are the eight chosen roles of God as Creator, King, Personal Revealer, Priest, Judge, Father, Redeemer and Shepherd. Along the y-axis the categories are: Language, Focus, Son, Spirit, Man/Woman, Sin, Salvation, Atonement, Growth, Church, Sanctification, Glorification. The eight main chapters explore this outline in detail with copious biblical citations.

A glance at one chapter must suffice for a flavour of the method in action—Chapter 8 on God as Loving Father. It begins by outlining the connection between holiness and love. Characteristic vocabulary features family and home. There is a focus on the biblical picture of God as Father (and husband). Then we have consideration of the Son with sub-headings for Son of God, Son of man, Brother, and Bridegroom/Husband. The familial aspects of the Holy Spirit’s work are listed as Agent of the conception of Jesus, Agent of new birth, Guarantor of inheritance. The Man and Woman section concerns relating to God as his children and to one another as members of God’s family. Sin is defined in this instance as ‘absence of the life that comes from a father’ (270), self-centred love, and deliberate disobedience. The Salvation corollary of all this is new birth, becoming children of God, adoption, and eternal life. The theological model of the Atonement judged to fit here is Abelard’s Moral Influence theory. Christian Growth is portrayed in the language of maturity. The Church is the family of God. Sanctification is perfect love.

Many questions suggest themselves. Might it not have been more helpful to think of the analogical language of the Bible in terms of language domains such as military, legal, or in this case familial, rather than of roles? That would have made the consideration of husband, brother and such like less tangential. To include Son of God and Son of Man terminology in a chapter on family and home fails to convince of its validity.

Coppedge’s case might have made with greater élan in a quarter of the compass of this book. To have sketched an approach and let the reader try it out might in the end have proved more. productive than belabouring the point with such compendious detail. The declared aims are laudable but the methodology questionable at times and the delivery disappointing. I, even though a fellow-Wesleyan, was left little the wiser about God, holiness or the interface between OT, NT and theology.

Gordon Thomas

Nazarene Theological College, Manchester