The Month in Reviews: January 2016

Welcome to the first “Month in Reviews” of 2016–can you believe a month has passed already? This month’s reviews included a book on beginnings in Genesis, and a book on the end, looking at “end times” passages throughout the New Testament. I read a couple of new books on the university world. There was classic sci fi and some good science writing on Mount St. Helens. I read a biography of King Arthur, a biographical novel of labor organizer Joe Hill, and a theological memoir by Thomas Oden. The month’s reads also included a book on “battered leaders” and strategies for communication when we differ. Here are the review summaries with links to the full reviews in the titles. The full reviews include publisher links.

Undisciplining KnowledgeUndisciplining Knowledge, Harvey J. Graff. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015. This is a historical study of interdisciplinary efforts in universities, looking at successive efforts in the twentieth century and considering the location of such “interdisciplines”, the relationships between disciplines, and the organization of interdisciplinary efforts.

King ArthurKing ArthurChristopher Hibbert. New Word City, 2014. King Arthur and the myth of Camelot have fascinated generations and continues to capture the imagination of Britons as their once and future king. Hibbert’s book both narrates the fiction and delineates what may be known of the historical Arthur.

Lost WorldThe Lost World of Adam and Eve, John H. Walton. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2015.  Building on his earlier The Lost World of Genesis One, Walton contends that Adam and Eve are both archetypes of humanity and also historical figures, though not necessarily our biological progenitors, that their disobedience brought disorder into the sacred space of the creation affecting all people, and that Christ’s work has to do with restoring that order.

EruptionEruption, Steve Olson. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2016 (forthcoming March 2016). This narrative weaves together the science, history, and economic interests surrounding the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, and its subsequent history.

The Last DaysThe Last Days According to Jesus, R. C. Sproul. Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2015 (originally published in 1998).  R.C. Sproul takes on the time-frame issues of the New Testament that seem to reflect an expectation of an imminent return of Christ and gives serious consideration to the preterist position that all or most of the predictions concerning the Last Days were fulfilled by the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

Battered LeadersHandbook for Battered Leaders, Janis Bragan Balda and Wesley D. Balda. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2013. Using 2 Corinthians as a case study of battered leadership, the authors explore the factors that contribute to organizational conflict, and how battered leaders may respond to toxic organizational cultures.

Joe HillJoe Hill, Wallace Stegner. New York: Penguin Books, 1990 (Originally published under the title The Preacher and the Slave, 1950). Wallace Stegner describes this as a “biographical novel” and in it, he fills out the enigmatic life and death of labor organizer and songwriter, Joe Hill, who was executed for murder before a Utah firing squad in November 1915.

Reengineering the UniversityReengineering the University, William F. Massy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016 (expected publication date February 11, 2016). Massy develops a data-driven model that allows universities to engage in planning that optimizes both mission and money considerations in institutional planning and budgeting in the changing marketing landscape of twenty-first century higher education.

Change of HeartA Change of Heart, Thomas C. Oden. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014. Thomas Oden narrates his personal and theological journey through social leftist thought, neo-orthodox and process theology, and trends of ecumenism, feminism, and small group psychotherapy until a personal conversation led to repentance and an embrace of classical, patristic Christianity (paleo-orthodoxy) and landmark works in patristic scholarship and the North African origins of Christianity.

Tower of GlassTower of Glass, Robert Silverberg. New York: Open Road Integrated Media, 2014 (initially print publication, 1970). Mega-wealthy Simeon Krug, creator of the process that produces androids, learns of signals from a distant star and uses his androids to build a tower of glass to communicate. Obsessed with distant life, he is woefully ignorant of the hopes and faith the life he has created place in him.

I Beg to DifferI Beg to Differ, Tim Muehlhoff. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014. Building on an understanding of the dynamics of communication, this book develops a strategy for navigating difficult conversations through asking four key questions of those with whom we differ.

Best book of the month: I would give the nod to Thomas Oden’s A Change of Heart. I wrote in my blog:

“I found this to be a powerful narrative of Oden’s life but also the follies of many of the successive theologies of the twentieth century, theologies that distanced Oden from the centrality of the crucified and risen Lord for an empty and unsatisfying activism. His turning makes me examine how deeply I am listening to Christians across the centuries, and not just the “latest thing.” I found myself warned of the danger of being the “know-it-all pundit”. And it left me with a profound sense of thankfulness for Oden’s Jewish friend who risked affection to tell the truth. What a gift this resulted in not only for Oden but for the church.”

Best quote of the month: In this case, the description from the air of the first moments of the cataclysmic eruption of Mount St. Helens in Eruption riveted my attention:

“Look,” he said, “the crater.” Judson tipped the Cessna’s right wing so they could get a better view. Some of the snow on the south facing side of the crater had started to move. Then, as they looked out the plane’s windows, an incredible thing happened. A gigantic, east-west crack appeared across the top of the mountain, splitting the volcano in two. The ground on the northern half of the crack began to ripple and churn, like a pan of milk just beginning to boil. Suddenly, without a sound, the northern portion of the mountain began to slide downward…

Reviewing Soon: Tomorrow, I will be reviewing Jon Meacham’s Destiny and Power on the life of George H. W. Bush. I am near to finishing N. T. Wright’s Paul and His Recent Interpreters, which gives an extensive account of recent Pauline scholarship and the engagement between Wright and other contemporary scholars concerning Wright’s “new perspective” take on Paul. I just started The Man Who Loved Books Too Much (not an autobiography, but an account of a notorious book thief who stole not to make money but because of his “out of bounds” love for books. I’m also finishing up Eugene Merrill’s fine commentary on 1 and 2 Chronicles and just started reading a presidential biography of Herbert Hoover that will be published in May!

Happy reading!


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