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Fall 2000 · Vol. 29 No. 2 · pp. 198–200 

Book Review

God's Power, Jesus' Faith, and World Mission: A Study in Romans

Steve Mosher. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1996. 360 pages.

Reviewed by Jerry D. Truex

Steve Mosher, a native of Kansas with a Ph.D. in New Testament from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville), spent eight years in the Philippines teaching at the College of Theology, Central Philippine University. His pastoral and church background includes both the Mennonite and American Baptist denominations. Here he {199} presents an insightful commentary on Paul’s letter to the Romans and appropriately places emphasis on Paul’s missionary concerns. It builds upon his doctoral dissertation and draws upon his own multicultural experiences in the U.S. and elsewhere. A distinctive feature of the book is the inclusion of insights and stories drawn from the missionary experiences of Mosher and others which are then set side-by-side commentary on Paul’s text. Although Mosher’s explication of Romans is informed by good scholarship, he does not get bogged down in technical detail but presents a popular commentary which aims at the big picture.

Mosher’s book reflects an important alternative to the traditional Protestant interpretation of Romans which predominates in Evangelical circles and has its roots in the life and teaching of Martin Luther. In the traditional paradigm, for example, God declares sinners to be justified without respect to any changed behavior. But in the alternative paradigm, which is growing in influence, the righteousness of God concerns God’s power to right wrong in the world, include the marginalized, and create a people who appropriate God’s grace for a life of obedient faith.

In the traditional paradigm, the theme of Romans is the salvation of the individual, and the center of focus is Paul’s response to Jewish critics, particularly about the Law. It asks the question, “What must I do to be saved?” and answers that salvation is by grace alone without works of law.

The alternative paradigm is not entirely at odds with the traditional. However, the theme is understood to be the salvation of the world, and the center of focus is Paul’s concern for the salvation of Gentiles. It asks, “How will God save both Jews and Gentiles?” and the answer is the righteousness of God revealed through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ (salvation always was by grace, not by works).

Mosher presents important minority readings—like “the faith[fulness] of Jesus” in Romans 3:22—that are supported by good scholarship. Throughout he rightly emphasizes the obedience (or faithfulness) of Jesus. Along the way, Mosher takes a stand against materialism, civil religion, mere intellectual faith, the New Age and Gaia religions, megachurches, and much of Western missionary practice. He emphasizes the church as community, the suffering that comes with following Jesus, God’s concern for the poor and ostracized, and the importance of the Old Testament. He sprinkles Anabaptist stories among his tales, is hard on Mormons and Billy Graham, moderate on charismatic emphases, and irenic on the liberal/conservative split.

For all its strengths, the commentary also has its weaknesses. At times, Mosher offers novel translations (e.g., at Rom. 1:16) that are {200} possible, but does not provide supporting evidence. He does not seem to be aware of early Jewish literature (like the various Adam traditions) that would have filled out his comments on Romans 5:12-21 and elsewhere. Regretfully, he does not appear to have much familiarity with James Dunn’s “New Perspective on Paul,” which would have added clarity and grist to his mill.

As regards his overall concept, Mosher seems to have written two books and woven them into one—each section has a portion with commentary on Romans and a portion devoted to world mission and politics. Though Mosher’s missionary insights are quite valuable, the two portions of each section do not always coincide, and they are often mixed. Mosher’s missionary concerns and Paul’s become intertwined, which might lead the reader to misunderstand Paul.

This commentary has much to offer, but should be used with care.

Jerry D. Truex
Ph.D. Candidate
University of Durham, Durham, England

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