The Month in Reviews: July 2021

If it isn’t obvious by now, I love reading a wide variety of books. Science fiction, mysteries, history, literary fiction, regional authors, biblical, historical, and practical theology, sociology, business and economics. My work and my interests touch on all of these and all of these are here. Mayday reminded me of an international crisis of my childhood when we were sheltering under our school desks and school basement in fear of nuclear attack. Octavia Butler’s imaginative scenarios of what happens when different species meet. I’ve mused about why men treat women so badly across cultures. David Buss’s answers weren’t satisfying to me but provoked my thinking. I had good fun revisiting The Scarlet Pimpernel, a great story! I won’t go through all the books here so that you can get on and skim the reviews!

Imago (Xenogenesis #3), Octavia E. Butler. New York: Popular Library, 1989 (Link is to a current, in-print edition). The concluding volume of this trilogy explores what happens when human-Oankali breeding results in a construct child that is not supposed to occur. Review

The Problem of the Old Testament: Hermeneutical, Schematic & Theological ApproachesDuane A. Garrett. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2020. An exploration of how and whether Christians ought read the Old Testament, contending that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament and that its material still has authority and edifying value for the Christian. Review

Final Curtain (Inspector Alleyn #14), Ngaio Marsh. New York, Felony & Mayhem Press, 2014 (originally published in 1947. While Inspector Alleyn is returning from wartime service in New Zealand, Troy Alleyn, his artist wife is commissioned on short notice to paint a portrait of Sir Henry Ancred, a noteworthy stage actor, meeting his dramatic family, encountering a number of practical jokes including one that infuriates Sir Henry at his birthday dinner, after which he is found dead the next morning. Inspector Alleyn arrives home to investigate a possible murder in which his wife is an interested party. Review

A War Like No OtherVictor Davis Hanson. New York: Random House, 2006. An account of the Peloponnesian War tracing the history, the politics, the strategies, key figures, battles, and how the war was fought. Review

An Impossible MarriageLaurie Krieg and Matt Krieg. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020. Matt and Laurie Krieg are in a mixed orientation marriage and narrate both the challenges they have faced and what they have learned about God and love as they remained together. Review

Who Created Christianity?Craig A. Evans and Aaron W. White, editors. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2020. A festschrift in honor of David Wenham focused around the centerpiece of Wenham’s theology, the relationship between Jesus and Paul and Wenham’s insistence that Paul was not the founder of Christianity but a disciple of Jesus. Review

Mayday: Eisenhower, Krushchev, and the U-2 Affair, Michael Beschloss. New York: Open Road Media, 2016 (originally published in 1986). A detailed accounting of the shoot-down of a U-2 CIA reconnaissance flight over the USSR and the consequences that increased Cold War tensions between Eisenhower and Kruschchev and their respective countries. Review

Science and the Doctrine of Creation, Edited by Geoffrey H. Fulkerson and Joel Thomas Chopp, afterword by Alister E. McGrath. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. A study of ten modern theologians and how each engaged science in light of the doctrine of creation. Review

The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Orczy. New York: Puffin Books, 1997 (originally published in 1905). An adventure set in Revolutionary France as a secret league led by the Scarlet Pimpernel rescues prisoners headed to the guillotine as a French agent ruthlessly seeks to track him down. Review

40 PatchtownDamian Dressick. Huron, Ohio: Bottom Dog Press, 2020. Set during a coal strike in Windber, Pennsylvania in 1922, captures the hardship striking miners faced in their resistance to mine owners, their efforts to form unions and gain better wages for dangerous work. Review

Evil & Creation: Historical and Constructive Essays in Christian DogmaticsEdited by David J. Luy, Matthew Levering, and George Kalantzis. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2020. An essay collection considering the doctrine of creation and how theologians and others have grappled with the emergence of evil. Review

The End of the AffairGraham Greene. New York: Open Road Media, 2018 (originally published in 1951). A writer struggles to understand why the woman he has had an affair with broke it off, discovering who ultimately came between them. Review

The 30-Minute BibleCraig G. Bartholomew and Paige P. Vanosky, with illustrations by Br. Martin Erspamer. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021. An overview of the big story of the Bible, broken into 30 readings of roughly 30 minutes in length, accompanied by charts, diagrams, and illustrations. Review

When Men Behave BadlyDavid M. Buss. New York: Little, Brown Spark, 2021. A discussion of sexual violence, deception, harassment and abuse, largely on the part of men, grounded in evolutionary sexual conflict theory that helps explain why so many relationships between men and women go bad. Review

PillarsRachel Pieh Jones, Foreword by Abdi Nor Iftin. Walden, NY: Plough Publishing, 2021. An account about how the author’s attitudes both toward Islam and her Christian faith changed as she and her husband lived among Muslims in Somalia and Djibouti. Review

Post-Capitalist SocietyPeter F. Drucker. New York: Harper Collins, 1993. Describes the transformation of a society based on capital to one based on knowledge whose key structure is the responsibility-based organization. Review

Best Book of the Month. This is often a tough one to answer, and no less this month. It is rare that I give the nod to a collection of essays around a theme but Science and the Doctrine of Creation was one of the best. Ten outstanding theologians summarized the thinking of ten of the leading theologians of the last two centuries on the doctrine of creation and how they related that doctrine to science.

Best Quote of the Month: I’ve worked with Muslim students in collegiate ministry and in Pillars, Rachel Pieh Jones put into words what an incarnational ministry among Muslims is like. Here, she talks about the shift that took place in her life:

“I had a lot to learn about how to love my neighbors and practice my faith cross-culturally. I don’t identify with the label ‘missionary,’ with its attendant cultural, theological, and historical baggage, though I understand this is how many view me. I do love to talk about spirituality–and what fascinates me is that the more I discuss faith with Muslims, the more we both return to our roots and dig deeper. As we explore our own faith, in relationship with someone who thinks differently, each of us comes to experience God in richer, more intimate ways. In this manner, Muslims have helped me become a better Christian, though things didn’t start out that way” (p. 49).

What I’m Reading: Louise Penny just keeps getting better. I just finished the ninth in the Chief Inspector Gamache series, How The Light Gets In. Look for my review tomorrow. I’ve also been savoring a Ray Bradbury classic, Something Wicked This Way Comes, a dark exploration of the nothingness of evil and our power to say no to it. Conspicuous in His Absence explores the significance of the two books in the Bible in which God is not mentioned, Song of Songs and Esther. Recovering the Lost Art of Reading is a book about just that–how we might read well and discriminately. I love books about books and reading. Hand in Glove is another Roderick Alleyn mystery by the great Ngaio Marsh. I just had the chance to interview Roger Wiens, one of the NASA scientists involved in the Mars Rover Perseverance mission and have been reading his Red Rover to glimpse the inside story of his work. And in a similar vein, Test Gods is an account of the test pilots who have been involved in Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic’s space company.

We have one more full month of summer (in the northern hemisphere). I hope you have some days in a hammock or lounge chair with a cold drink and a good book. One of the joys of reading are the good things that go along with our good books!

Summer 2021 Book Preview

I last did a book preview in late January. I’ve reviewed a number of great books in the intervening months (over 70!). Meanwhile, the publishers have obligingly sent me a number of new ones to review, books that are on my summer reading list. So here is a preview of the religious books that I’ve received. The links in titles are to the publisher’s web page for the book. If you decide you want to buy one of these before I review it, there are many outlets from the publishers to various online and brick and mortar sellers. For any of the books on this list, I’d recommend my favorite bookseller, Hearts and Minds Books (and no, I do not get a kick back–I just love the mission of the store as well as personalized service offered by Byron and Beth Borger, the proprietors).

The Fire Within, Ronald Rohlheiser. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2021. Where does sexual desire come from. Rohlheiser argues that it comes from God and is meant to draw us back to Him.

Art + Faith, Makoto Fujimura. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2020. Fujimura explores the spirituality and theology of making.

Worshipping with the Reformers, Karin Maag. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. A companion to the IVP Academic Reformation Commentary on Scripture series, this volume considers the character of the worship life in 16th century Reformation churches.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus, Angela Alaimo O’Donnell. Brewster: MA: Paraclete Press, 2021. Chronicles in poetry a year in lockdown in a small village outside New York City, a journey in verse that will help us all remember and reflect.

Women Rising, Meghan Tschanz. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021. A global mission trip opened the author’s eyes to the abuses of women and the systems of injustice toward women in which churches, even her own church were complicit. Tschanz describes her own journey of finding her voice to speak out against and resist this injustice.

Iona, Kenneth Steven. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2021. Poems concerning Iona, often considered a “thin place” where people encounter God and the center of Celtic Christianity.

Working Abroad with Purpose, Glenn D. Deckert. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2019. An educator speaks of his experiences of working abroad and the opportunities for outreach as a self-supporting foreign national.

Finding Your Yes, Christine E. Wagoner. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021. How we might live lives open to God’s invitations and our own “yes” to those invitations.

Recovering the Lost Art of Reading, Leland Ryken & Glenda Faye Mathes. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021. Reading of the Bible and other literature is in decline as our reading habits are shaped by online media. The authors propose who recovering lost practices of reading may be a delight rather than drudgery.

The Coming Race Wars, William Pannell, Introduction by Jemar Tisby. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021. An expanded edition of a 1992 book that calls the white church to account for its complicity in racial sin.

Pillars: How Muslim Friends Led Me Closer to Jesus, Rachel Pieh Jones. Walden, NY: Plough Publishing, 2021. “Personal friendships with Somali Muslims overcome the prejudices and expand the faith of a typical American Evangelical Christian living in the Horn of Africa.”

The Servant of the Lord and His Servant People [NSBT], Matthew S. Harmon. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. Explores the theme of “the servant” running through scripture, centering on Christ as well as his servant people.

Talking About Ethics, Michael S. Jones, Mark J Farnham, and David L. Saxon. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2021. A dialogue approach to ethical thinking about moral dilemmas.

No Longer Strangers, Gregory Coles. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021. When you don’t feel like you belong anywhere, it may be best to give up on belonging to follow Jesus and discover a new way of belonging.

Mother of Modern Evangelicalism: The Life and Legacy of Henrietta Mears, Arlin C. Migliazzo. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2020. Her What The Bible is All About was my first guide to reading the Bible. Her impact extended far beyond that book touching the lives of men and women who would become evangelical leaders.

Every Leaf, Line, and Letter, Edited by Timothy Larsen, Introduction by Thomas S. Kidd. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. A collection of essays on the uses and abuses of the Bible by evangelicals from 1730 to the present.

Passions of the Christ, F. Scott Spencer. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2021. A fine-grained study of the emotional life of Jesus in the Gospels.

Letters for the Church, Darian S. Lockett. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. How do we read those small books between Hebrews and Revelation–James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1-3 John and Jude? Lockett argues these are treasures.

Leadership, God’s Agency & Disruptions, Mark Lau Branson and Alan Roxburgh. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2021. The authors contend modernity’s belief in the irrelevance to life is reflected in leadership approaches that fail to consider God’s agency and his disruptive initiatives in scripture.

An Introduction To Ecclesiology, revised and expanded, Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. A primer to the theology of the church including interfaith comparative theology.

Evil and Creation: Historical and Constructive Essays in Christian Dogmatics, Edited by David Luy, Matthew Levering, and Gregory Kalantzis. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2020. A collection of essays on the doctrine of creation as it relates to moral and physical evil.

Conspicuous in His Absence, Chloe T. Sun. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. “What is the nature of God as revealed in texts that don’t use his name? How do we think of God when he is perceived to be absent? What should we do when God is silent or hidden?”

A Burning in my Bones: The Authorized Biography of Eugene H. Peterson, Winn Collier. Colorado Springs: Waterbrook, 2021. Peterson was one of my contemporary heroes. I’m looking forward to this one!

Science and the Doctrine of Creation, Edited by Geoffrey H. Fulkerson and Joel Thomas Chopp. A look at how ten theologians have engaged scientific developments regarding origins in light of the doctrine of creation.

The Black Church: This is our Story, This is our Song, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. New York: Penguin Press, 2021. A new history of the Black Church and its importance to the Black Community and its civil rights struggle.

Lead Like It Matters to God, Richard Stearns. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021. Stearns argues for values-driven leadership in a results-driven culture.

Who Created Christianity? Editors Craig A. Evans and Aaron W. White. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Academic, 2020. A collection of essays on Paul’s relationship with Jesus and Christianity.

Whew! That’s quite a stack and quite a list! Some are short and a quick read. Others deserve a leisurely, undistracted read. At any rate, summer’s coming. Hope this list offers a few idea for your own inspiration and edification!

Winter 2021 Book Previews

It has been three months since my last book preview post. I was surprised to see the stack of books that have arrived during that time for review. So many good books have come out during that time, and I will be reading and reviewing a few of them. But there are some you might find interesting and not wait for me to review them. So here are all the books in the stack, from top to bottom:

Breaking Bread with the Dead, Alan Jacobs. Makes the case for the reading of old books to give us the depth we need to confront our age.

Workplace Discipleship 101, David W. Gill. A basic introduction to following Christ in the workplace.

The City is My Monastery, Richard Carter. A book offering resources for a contemplative life in the heart of the city.

Mixed Blessing, Chandra Crane. Crane is a colleague with a Thai birth father, European-American mother, and African-American adoptive father. She draws on her experience, scripture and history to discussing of one lives as a person of mixed identity.

Redeeming Power, Diane Langberg. The subtitle says it all: “Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church.”

An Impossible Marriage, Laurie Krieg and Matt Krieg. What makes this marriage “impossible” is that both husband and wife are attracted to women. What makes this possible is what they have learned about love and the gospel.

Sergeant Salinger, Jerome Charyn. Based on the World War II experience of J.D. Salinger, a fictional imagining of his service as an interrogator and internship after the war at a psychiatric clinic.

Hurting Yet Whole, Liuan Huska. The author, who has gone through years of chronic pain, explores how one can experience wholeness amid such pain.

Ecology and the Bible, Frederic Baudin. A guidebook outlining the basic biblical teaching concerning how Christians ought care for the environment.

Public Intellectuals and the Common Good, Edited by Todd C. Ream, Jerry Pattengale, and Christopher J. Devers. The editors and contributors envision a Christian role as public intellectual–one who mediates their understanding and articulates it for the benefit of others.

A Survey of the History of Global Christianity, Mark Nickens. Offers an account of how the Christian movement grew from a small group of disciples to a global faith.

The Theology of Jeremiah, John Goldingay. Looking at the book as a whole, articulates the theological themes found in it.

Work and Worship, Matthew Kaemingk and Cory B. Willson. The word liturgy comes from two words meaning “the work of the people” but often the idea of our work and our worship has been disconnected. This book makes that connection.

J.I.Packer, Alister McGrath. J.I. Packer died in 2020. This biography explores his life, faith, and theological contribution. He was one of my heroes, so I can’t wait to read this!

Balcony of Fog, Rich Shapero. Post-apocalyptic fiction involving a love affair and and escape to the clouds, and a nemesis thunderhead. Won this one in a giveaway. We’ll see! There is also an app for an immersive reading experience.

The Problem of the Old Testament, Duane A Garrett. Explores constructive approaches for Christians to study and understand the Old Testament material.

Torah Old and New, Ben Witherington III. Focusing in on the first five books of the Old Testament, this New Testament scholar offers commentary on the books, how they were read by early Christians, and applies an intertextuality of reading backward and forward to these texts.

The Doctrine of Creation, Bruce Riley Ashford and Craig G. Bartholomew. The authors believe the doctrine of creation is critical to meeting the challenge of public theology and ethics, and that the work of Kuyper and other neo-Calvinists offers valuable resources for a robust doctrine of creation.

The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, Carl R. Trueman. Sees the sexual revolution as part of a deeper search for identity and traces the intellectual history that has led to our conception of the modern self.

Majority World Theology, Edited by Gene L. Green, Stephen T. Pardue, and K.K. Yeo. This is a systematic theology to which scholars from the majority world, where the greatest number of Christians live, have contributed. Both because they are in the majority and due to the failings of the Western theological enterprise, it seems worthwhile to listen to these brothers and sisters in Christ.

That’s quite a stack (20 books). Since I am still sheltering and working at home, awaiting my turn to be vaccinated, I derive some comfort from the anticipation of digging into these books, some quite think. Of course I have some other books from mysteries to histories that I’ll intermingle along the way. Look forward to some good reviews!

The Month in Reviews: October 2020

With the cooler weather, I think I’m catching up on the books I didn’t read early in the pandemic. In this month’s reads, there are a couple books about relationships and marriage, a senator’s conversion to activism against gun violence, an exciting rescue, Marilynne Robinson’s latest, some good theology, a profound book on suffering, and a wonderful book about political and civic engagement that renewed my hope.

Sex and the City of God, Carolyn Weber. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020. A story of how the decision to choose “the city of God” transformed love, sexuality, and relationships for the author. Review

The Violence Inside Us, Chris Murphy. New York: Random House, 2020. A Connecticut Senator describes his own awakening to the scourge of gun violence after Newtown, and explores the causes and remedies for this uniquely American problem. Review

Sarah’s Laughter, Vinoth Ramachandra. Carlisle, Cumbria, UK: Langham Global Library, 2020. An exploration of suffering, whether through illness or physical decline, human or natural evil, and the embrace of grief, lament, doubt, questioning and more, and what it means to hope amid our struggle. Review

The Lost Get-Back BoogieJames Lee Burke. New York: Pocket Star, 2006 (first published 1986). On release from prison, Iry Paret leaves Louisiana for Montana for a new start with his prisonmate, Buddy Riordan, only to find he has landed in the midst of new troubles. Review

God in Himself: Scripture, Metaphysics, and the Task of Christian TheologySteven J. Duby. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2020. A study of what may be known of God in God’s self rather than in God’s external relations to the world and the role that scripture, metaphysics, natural and supernatural theology, and the use of analogy all play in forming this understanding. Review

Compassion (&) ConvictionJustin Giboney, Michael Wear, and Chris Butler, Foreword by Barbara Williams-Skinner. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020. A handbook for better political and civic engagement, overcoming the highly polarized character of our current discourse and the unhealthy assimilation of the church into politics. Review

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer TeamChristina Soontornvat. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2020. An account of the rescue of the Wild Boars boys soccer team describing the engineering and diving efforts, and how the boys endured this experience. Review

Good ManNathan Clarkson. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2020. Goes beyond the stereotypes of what a “real man” is to explore the character of a good man and the journey of discovery this involves. Review

Friends DividedGordon S. Wood. New York: Penguin Books, 2018. An account of the sometimes troubled and unlikely friendship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Review

JackMarilynne Robinson. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2020. The story of an inter-racial love affair between Jack Ames Boughton and Della Miles, and Jack’s struggle to find grace. Review

Blessed Are The NonesStina Kielsmeier-Cook. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020. A memoir of a Christian woman coming to terms, with the help of some Catholic nuns, with her husband’s de-conversion. Review

Tales of the Jazz Age, F. Scott Fitzgerald. New York, Open Road Media, 2016 (first published in 1922). A collection of eleven short stories, the most famous of which is “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Review

Leading Lives That Matter (Second Edition), Edited by Mark R. Schwehn and Dorothy C. Bass. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2020. An anthology on what the well-lived life looks like exploring four important vocabularies and six vital questions through a range of religious and secular readings. Review

Love, Zac: Small-Town Football and the Life and Death of an American Boy, Reid Forgrave. Chapel Hill: Algonquin, 2020. The account of Zac Easter, who grew up in the football culture of small town Iowa and his family, played hard, until he began to experience the consequences of repeated concussions, when his life began to unravel. Review

Best Book of the Month: Compassion (&) Conviction is a timely primer on practical and effective political and civic engagement built on a biblical framework that moves beyond the binaries that have so deeply divided us. It was so refreshing to read a book taking both a strong pro-life stance and a strong social justice stance.

Best Quote of the Month: Carolyn Weber is a gifted writer whose work I’ve previously enjoyed, but I thought she soared to new heights in Sex and the City of God, a book on singleness, courtship, and marriage as a young Christian. This quote is one of many I could have pulled:

Sex as the template for genealogy is important because sexuality is a reflection of God’s relationship with us. Our relationship to sex speaks of our relationship to God. And because our relationship to God must precede our relationship with everything else, including our own selves, working from this first relationship changes everything. As a result, more often than not in a culture that neglects our dignity as spiritual beings, pursuing this foundational relationship can feel countercultural, though it is God’s norm, for in becoming children of God we become who he intended us to be (p. 63).

What I’m Reading: I have three books ready for review this coming week. Rhythms for Life helps connect spiritual practices to the kind of person you are. Live Not By Lies is Rod Dreher’s sequel to The Benedict Option. Having studied the Communist governments of eastern Europe and talked to Christians who bore faithful witness under totalitarian regimes, he offers a warning of the coming of a soft totalitarianism, and what Christians must be prepared for. Nicholas A Basbanes A Gentle Madness was written in the 1990’s and tells the stories of those obsessed with book collecting, a very different group, I found, from those who love reading.

I’m in the middle of several other books right now. All I Did Was Shoot My Man is my first dip into the crime fiction of Walter Mosley, the dean of Black crime fiction writers. Olive Kittredge is an older work, a collection of stories set in a coastal New England town around the formidable title character. Craig S. Keener’s Between History and Spirit collects a number of journal articles by Keener on the book of Acts. on which Keener wrote a four volume exegetical commentary. Finally, Aida Besancon Spencer’s Commentary on James is just that–a careful exegetical commentary that draws out James on faith and works, money and speech.

Writing from the United States, it appears with the spike in COVID-19 cases that I will be sheltering in place for a good while yet. I’m fortunate to be able to work from home, collaborating with colleagues and connecting with friends via video technology. I’m also quite grateful for the literary companions with whom I have the chance to keep company. I hope this time affords you that opportunity as well. Stay safe, my bookish friends!

Go to “The Month in Reviews” on my blog to skim all my reviews going back to 2014 or use the “Search” box to see if I’ve reviewed something you are interested in.

Early Fall 2020 Book Previews

So many interesting books have arrived in my mailbox in recent months. I won’t have any trouble finding something good to read this fall. You’ll be seeing reviews of these in coming months, but I thought you might like to know about them now. Some are timely, some look just plain interesting. So here are the books in that stack.

The Message of Wisdom, Daniel J. Estes. Estes writes on the theme of Wisdom in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job. Dan is a friend and I’ve had the joy of hearing him teach some of this material.

Rebels and Exiles, Matthew S. Harmon. A study of sin that leads to exile and the hope of restoration that runs through scripture.

Splendour in the Dark, Jerry Root. A book for Inklings lovers. This is a study of Dymer, a narrative poem C.S. Lewis wrote before coming to Christian faith.

Dreaming Dreams for Christian Higher Education, David S. Guthrie. A senior faculty member describes his vision and journey in the Christian higher education setting.

Healing Racial Trauma, Sheila Wise Rowe. People of color live a life of trauma. Recent events have opened old wounds. Rowe as a counselor explores the healing of these traumas.

The Fantasy Literature of England, Colin Manlove. A study of English fantasy literature as a reflection of English culture.

Reimagining Apologetics, Justin Ariel Bailey. An alternative approach to traditional apologetics focusing on imagination, aesthetics, and the affective.

McGowan’s Call, Rob Smith. A collection of short stories on the rise and fall of a young pastor set in southwest Ohio.

Misreading Scripture with Individualist Eyes, E. Randolph Richards and Richard James. In the West we read a Bible written in a collectivist culture with individualist eyes. The authors help us recalibrate our vision to understand the biblical world.

Christ and the Kingdoms of Men, David C. Innes. A political theology that argues for the nobility of engagement in political life.

Wisdom From Babylon, Gordon T. Smith. The author explores what it means to provide leadership to the church in a secular age.

Sinless Flesh, Rafael Nogueira Bello. An argument that in Christ’s incarnation, he not only assumed human nature but fallen human nature.

Resurrecting Justice, Douglas Harink. Argues that justice is overlooked as a theme in the book of Romans.

Angry Weather, Frederike Otto. Using an approach called attribution science, shows how human-induced climate change is resulting in a variety of extreme weather events.

Reading While Black, Esau McCaulley. Presents the rich tradition of biblical interpretation in the Black church addressing the struggle for justice and offering hope.

Sustaining Grace, Edited by Scott J. Hagley, Karen Rohrer, Michael Gehrling. Explores the dynamic between church planting efforts and mainline denominational structures.

The Liturgy of Politics, Kaitlyn Schiess. Recognizes both how the church’s politics are shaped by our habits and practices, and how we need to recover historic Christian practices that shape us around gospel truths.

The Enneagram for Spiritual Formation, A.J. Sherrill. How the Enneagram can contribute to spiritual transformation.

Spiritual Practices of Jesus, Catherine J. Wright. Looks at the ways Luke portrays simplicity, humility, and prayer in the life of Jesus and how this portrayal shaped practices in the ancient church.

Bavinck, James Eglinton. Explores the life that helped shape the theology of this formidable Reformed theologian.

Twenty books that you’ll see on Bob on Books. But there may be something you’d like to see sooner. The links in the titles will take you to the publishers website for each book. Enjoy!

Summer 2020 Book Preview–Faith and Life Edition

wp-1592436005457913129448171043576.jpgI look forward to some extra time for reading during the summer as schedules slow down, and I get to dip into an interesting book while I sip a cool beverage. I’ve received a number of books from Christian publishers in recent weeks, and here are some that really look interesting. If you are looking for a book to deepen your faith and enlarge your sense of how believing shapes all of life, the books here might be worth a look.

good man

Good ManNathan Clarkson. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2020. In a time when we wonder what it means to be a good man, Clarkson explores the qualities of character that define a man who finds his identity in Christ.

A week in the life of ephesus

A Week in the Life of EphesusDavid A. DeSilva. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2020. Ephesus played an important role in early Christianity, and this imaginative historical fiction rendering from a fine New Testament scholar promises an understanding of the context Christians facing the challenges of empire.

why science and faith

Why Science and Faith Need Each OtherElaine Howard Ecklund. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2020. Ecklund explores the virtues arising from the pursuit of science and the practice of faith and how they mutually enhance each other in the pursuit of truth.

daniel

How to Read Daniel, Tremper Longman III. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2020. The book of Daniel can be confusing. The book helps us understand the context and the genres, especially apocalyptic, of the book.

unto us a child is borh

Unto Us a Child is BornTyler D. Mayfield (Foreword by Walter Brueggemann). Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans, 2020. Christians often read and hear passages in Isaiah through the lens of Advent. Mayfield considers those readings alongside how our contemporary Jewish neighbors read and hear the same passages.

the lost art of dying

The Lost Art of DyingL.S. Dugdale, MD. New York: Harper One, 2020. A Columbia physician who treats older patients who she has seen end their lives in over-medicalized procedures that prolong dying and strips them of their dignity. She draws on experience, faith, and a reading of Ars Moriendi (The Art of Dying) written at the height of the plague in the late Middle Ages to help us live and die well.

wait with me

Wait With MeJason Gaboury. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020. Without offering easy answers, Gaboury explores the common human experience of loneliness, and the possibility that this may be an invitation into a deeper relationship with God.

uncommon ground

Uncommon GroundTimothy Keller and John Inazu. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2020. In the midst of our highly divided culture, these two authors explore with ten others how we might find ground to engage others in the culture while remaining faithful to the gospel.

Working in the presence of God

Working in the Presence of GodDenise Daniels & Shannon Vandewarker. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2020. Spiritual practices are not just for monastics but also for Christians in the workplace. This book offers a number of such practices that help people experience God’s presence in their work.

leading lives that matter

Leading Lives That Matter, 2nd edition, Edited by Mark R. Schwehn and Dorothy C. Bass. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2020. A collection of texts from a wide array of writers on the theme of what is a life well-lived.

the Holy Spirit

The Holy SpiritGregg R. Allison & Andreas J. Kostenberger. Nashville: B & H Academic, 2020. An in-depth study of the biblical theology of the Holy Spirit.

The Jesus of the Gospels

The Jesus of the Gospels, An Introduction, Andreas J. Köstenberger. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2020. An introductory survey of the four gospels by a top flight New Testament Scholar.

Several of these are long, thought-provoking works. I’ve heard the author of The Lost Art of Dying speak on this subject on several occasions. In July I get to interview the author of Wait With Me, and in August, one of the authors of Uncommon Ground, John Inazu. David A. DeSilva is an old friend, a great teacher, and I look forward to see what he does in writing historical fiction. I’ve been impressed with other works from the Theology of Work project, and Working in the Presence of God promises to be yet another one of these. Elaine Howard Ecklund’s approach to science and faith issues as a sociologist looks like an unique approach, based on shared virtues.  I’m set with good reading for the summer!

Early Spring 2020 Book Preview

wp-15845727474905349126795391162499.jpgIt’s been a while since my last book preview post, and a number of new books have arrived for review. I don’t know if I’ll be able to settle into a routine during the present crisis, which is uncharted territory. But if I do, I have plenty to read. I thought I would give you a preview because it will take some time to get to them all. The link in the title is to the publisher’s website. Most of the time, you can order the book there, or at your favorite local bookseller, who especially needs your help right now. So, from the top of the pile…

becoming sage

Becoming SageMichelle Van Loon. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2020. Loon explores how we navigate through mid-life to grow in wisdom and purpose.

myth american dream

The Myth of the American DreamD. L. Mayfield. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020. Is the American dream compatible with the teaching of Jesus? I’m guessing, no.

good white racist

Good* White RacistKerry Connelly. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2020. If you are white, you don’t want to think of yourself as a racist, yet may be complicit in things that perpetuate racism.

#metoo reckoning

The #MeToo ReckoningRuth Everhart. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020. Everhart calls attention to the ways the church has participated in the epidemic of abuse and sexual misconduct that the #MeToo movement has exposed.

goshen road

Goshen RoadBonnie Proudfoot. Athens, Ohio: Swallow Press, 2020. A novel centered around a working class family in rural West Virginia. Sounds like a fictional Hillbilly Elegy.

when narcissism

When Narcissism Comes to ChurchChuck DeGroat. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020. Narcissist pastors and church systems are deadly to a church. The book offers hope for healing for churches and narcissist pastors and leaders alike.

experiencing God

Experiencing GodEberhard Arnold. Walden, NY: Plough Publishing, 2020. What happens when a Christian truly invites God to rule in one’s life?

Approaching the Atonement

Approaching the AtonementOliver D. Crisp. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2020. Is there more to our understanding of the atonement than the cross? And how shall we understand this doctrine?

Paul and the Language of faith

Paul and the Language of Faith, Nijay Gupta. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2020. Paul studies the language of faith in Paul’s writings, proposing an active, rather than passive understanding of faith.

God in Himself

God in HimselfStephen J. Duby. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019. The author explores how we may know God and can we know God as God is in himself?

a republic in the ranks

A Republic in the Ranks, Zachery A. Fry. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2020. In an army shaped by George McClellan, a Democrat, Fry shows how officers in the Union Army shaped a Republican awakening, leading to Lincoln’s 1864 re-election.

basic bible atlas

The Basic Bible AtlasJohn A. Beck. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2020. An atlas of the lands of the Bible that integrates Israel’s history and geography.

Blood Letters

Blood Letters: The Untold Story of Lin Zhao, A Martyr in Mao’s ChinaLian Xi. New York: Basic Books, 2018. A meticulously researched account of Lin Zhao, a political dissident and Christian who was tortured and died for her faith.

Kent State

Kent State: Four Dead in OhioDerf Blackderf. New York: Abrams Comic Arts, 2020. A graphic non-fiction account of the shootings at Kent State on May 4, 1970, leaving four dead and nine wounded, being released for the 50th anniversary of this event.

Philippians

Philippians (Kerux Commentaries), Thomas Moore and Timothy D. Sprankle. Grand Rapids, Kregel Ministry, 2019. Part of commentary series co-written by an exegete and a homiletician (one who teaches the art of preaching).

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A Worldview Approach to Science and ScriptureCarol Hill. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2019. The author argues that understanding the worldview of the biblical authors and the modern scientific worldview helps resolve points of apparent conflict between scripture and science.

As you can see, I won’t lack for books if I must shelter in place for a good while. I suspect that will be the case for most readers of this blog. Desiderius Erasmus once said, “When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.” Hopefully none of you will lack for any of these things. More importantly, my prayer is that you and yours may be spared illness or harm during these months. Remember kindness both to others and to yourself!

The Month in Reviews: November 2019

Frederick Douglass

I finished and reviewed fewer books this month than usual due to work-related responsibilities. But there were some incredible books that more than made up in quality for any lack in quantity. A new edition of Philip Brand’s Fearfully and Wonderfully left me in awe with the wonder and intricacies of both the human body and the body of Christ. The Gospel According to Eve and Participating in Christ were original and insightful theological works. I read Grace Will Lead Us Home to prepare for a panel discussion of the movie Emanuel and was both moved by the wonder and power of forgiveness, and saddened and challenged with the long road that remains to eradicate white supremacism and racism in American society. Starship Troopers was a fun throwback to my late teen years when I was reading a lot of Robert A. Heinlein. Somehow I missed this one. I finished the month with a historical fiction work by an African author on the attendants who carried David Livingstone’s body over 1500 miles, a heroic journey against the backdrop of encroaching western colonialism.

bookmarked

Bookmarked: Reading My Way from Hollywood to BrooklynWendy W. Fairey. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2015. A literature professor who is the daughter of a famous Hollywood columnist writes a memoir interweaving her life with significant books and characters. Review

Make Way for the Spirit

Make Way for the SpiritChristoph Friedrich Blumhardt (edited by Wolfgang J. Bittner, translated by Ruth Rhenius, Simeon Zahl, Miriam Mathis, and Christian T. Collins Winn. Walden, NY: Plough Publishing, 2019. A reflection on the ministry of Johann Christoph Blumhardt by his son, identifying both the continuity, and divergence of their convictions. Review

Yancey

Fearfully and Wonderfully: The Marvel of Bearing God’s Image (Updated and combined edition), Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2019. A new edition combining two classic works exploring both the wonders of the human anatomy, the value and dignity of every human being, and parallels with the functioning of the body of Christ. Review

the gospel according to eve

The Gospel According to EveAmanda W. Benckhuysen. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019. A history of women who have written on Genesis 1-3 since the fourth century, treating their worth, education, their roles as wives and mothers, whether they may teach and preach, and as advocates of social reforms. Review

Notre Dame

Faith and Science at Notre DameJohn P. Slattery. Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame Press, 2019. A study of the life of Catholic priest and science professor at Notre Dame, and his clash with the Vatican over his writing on evolution. Review

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of FreedomDavid W. Blight. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018. Perhaps the definitive biography of this escaped slave who became one of the most distinguished orators and writers in nineteenth century America as he for abolition and Reconstruction and civil rights for Blacks. Review

grace will lead us home

Grace Will Lead Us HomeJennifer Berry Hawes. New York: St. Martins Press, 2019. An account of the massacre of nine people at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston by Dylann Roof, and the responses of survivors and surviving families, notably the forgiveness offered, and the impact on the families, the church, and the Charleston community. Review

Participating in Christ

Participating in ChristMichael J. Gorman. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2019. A discussion of what it means to be “in” Christ, or to participate in Christ, drawing from the Pauline letters, and particularly what this means for living a cross-shaped and resurrection-infused life by which one becomes increasingly like Christ and God. Review

forgiving my father

Forgiving My Father, Forgiving MyselfRuth Graham with Cindy Lambert. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2019. Through both personal narrative and biblical teaching, explores the power of forgiveness to bring freedom from bitterness, transforming our lives, and in at least some cases, our relationships. Review

Starship Troopers

Starship TroopersRobert A. Heinlein. New York: Ace, 2006 (originally published in 1959). Juan “Johnny” Rico’s narrative of training and fighting in the Mobile Infantry during the Terran Wars with the Pseudo-Arachnids (“Bugs”) set 700 years in the future. Review

mayflower pilgrims

The Mayflower Pilgrims: Sifting Fact from Fable, Derek Wilson. London: SPCK Publishing, 2019. A historical account of the movements and political developments that shaped the composition of the 102 who made the voyage on the Mayflower. Review

out of darkness

Out of Darkness, Shining LightPetina Gappah. New York: Scribners, 2019. A historical fiction narrative, told in two voices, of the attendants of Dr. David Livingstone, who with a large company carried the body of Livingstone from Chitambo, where he died, to Zanzibar, a journey of over 1500 miles and 285 days. Review

Best of the Month: The best of many good books this month was David W. Blight’s Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom. Blight both helps us hear Douglass’s voice, and takes the measure of his indomitable character–a man who fought for the freedom and rights of blacks until he collapsed on the way out of his home to give a speech.

Quote of the Month: Wendy W. Fairey in Bookmarked: Reading My Way From Hollywood to Brooklyn, takes a novel approach to reflecting on her reading life, exploring the narrative of her life through the narratives of the books she read along the way:

“I want to write of the private stories that lie behind our reading of books, taking my own trajectory through English literature as the history I know best but proposing a way of thinking about literature that I believe is every reader’s process. We bring ourselves with all our aspirations and wounds, affinities and aversions, insights and confusions to the books we read, and our experience shapes our response.”

Current Reads and Upcoming Reviews: I first heard Leighton Ford speak as an evangelist in Youngstown, Ohio in the mid-1970’s. In later years, I saw a shift in focus in his life, particularly after the death of his son, Sandy, to a focus on mentoring young leadets, and writing increasingly on the disciplines of attending to God. In A Life of Listening he offers a memoir that traces the inner journey that was reflected in the changes I had observed–a wonderful book! The Rise and Fall of the Religious Left traces the fascinating career of Norman Lear and his attempts to establish substantive conversations reflecting a progressive religious position, both in his shows like All in the Family and in People for the American Way, and his failure to engage his ideological opposition, the religious right. Divine Impassibility explores four views on the passibility or impassibility of God, that is whether human actions can affect God or whether God is unchanging. My initial impression is that I find myself wondering whether some long-established paradigms constrain all these views from coming to a satisfying explanation of the biblical data. I don’t have a better one, which disposes me to be even more intrigued with the discussion between proponents of each view.

I’ve just begun George Santayana’s classic The Sense of Beauty, an exploration of aesthetics that begins with our perceptions of beauty rather than a grand theory of “why beauty.” I’m also reading a fascinating galley by W. Joshua Swamidass on The Genealogical Adam and Eve, which proposes a way to affirm a scientific understanding of evolution, the creation of Adam and Eve de novo as historic figures, and the mathematical probability of all of us being genealogical, if not genetic, descendants of this Adam and Eve. The book releases this month and has been endorsed by Nathan Lents, a popular biology professor, writer, and atheist

I soon hope to pick up Fleming Rutledge’s Advent. Reading The Crucifixion during Lent was a wonderful experience of writing that was theologically profound and devotionally rich. I look forward to seeing if Advent will have the same effect as I prepare to celebrate the coming of Jesus. I hope amid your holiday preparations, whether religious or not, that you are able to curl up with a book that is enriching for you. If you do, I’d love to hear about it!

Late Fall Book Preview 2019

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We’ve had our first snowfall already. The leaves are down, it is dark around 5 p.m., and the winds are chill. Christmas is only 37 days away and the formal beginning of winter a few days before that. It’s a good time to curl up with a good book in your favorite chair, perhaps by a warm fire if you have a fireplace. It’s not a bad time to think about books for gifts (or maybe your own wishlist!). Here’s some books that have arrived for review. I won’t get to some of them before Christmas so I thought I’d let you know early if you want to take a look. So, from the top of the pile…

Bowery Mission

Bowery MissionJason Storbakken. Walden, NY: Plough, 2019. The Bowery is notorious as the underside of New York. The Bowery Mission has provide food and shelter for 140 years, and this little book tells the story. Inspiring for anyone considering homeless ministry.

A week in the life of a greco roman woman

A Week in the Life of a Greco-Roman WomanHolly Beers. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019. I’ve loved this series. This volume creates a story around a fictional young wife and mother in Ephesus. All of the books I’ve read so far have shed helpful light on cultural backgrounds of the Bible in an enjoyable read.

conscienceen

The ConscienceEberhard Arnold. Walden, NY: Plough Publishing, 2019. Arnold, a founder of the Bruderhof, a network of Christian communities, explores how in Christ the conscience may become a valued friend rather than a troublesome voice that we try to placate or suppress.

tending soul, mind, and body

Tending Soul, Mind, and Bodyedited by Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019. The book is a collection of papers from the 2018 Center for Pastor Theologians conference and “explores the relationship between three fields–theological anthropology, spiritual formation, and modern psychology” (back matter). I’ve been impressed with the high quality of papers from previous conferences.

40 Questions

40 Questions about Heaven and HellAlan W. Gomes. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2019. In a format where each chapter focuses on one question, the book explores questions related to the afterlife about which many wonder.

unsettling truths

Unsettling TruthsMark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2019. These two authors dig into the pernicious effects the “Doctrine of Discovery” embodied in fifteenth century edicts had upon settlement of the Americas and the treatment of Native Peoples.

out of darkness

Out of Darkness, Shining LightPetina Gappah. New York: Scribners, 2019. A novel on the exploration of Africa, told by two attendants of Dr. David Livingtone, as they transport his remains 1500 miles for burial.

choosing community

Choosing CommunityChristine Colón. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019. Dorothy Sayers both participated in and commented upon many communities and this is a study of her writing on this theme.

gospel allegiance

Gospel AllegianceMatthew W. Bates. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2019. This is the second book by Bates developing the idea of faith as allegiance to Christ. I liked his Salvation by Allegiance Alone and look forward to seeing how he has developed his ideas.

revelation

The Heart of RevelationJ. Scott Duvall. Nashville: B & H Academic, 2019. A study of Revelation identifying ten themes outlining what we can know for certain in this often puzzling book.

warfield

Evolution, Scripture, and Science, B.B. Warfield, edited by Mark A. Noll and David N. Livingstone. Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2019. This is a reprint of a work first published in 2000 showing nineteenth century Princeton theologian Benjamin Warfield’s approach to science and faith, one that did not see these as inherently in conflict.

spiritual warfare

Spiritual Warfare in the Storyline of ScriptureWilliam F. Cook III and Chuck Lawless. Nashville: B & H Academic, 2019. The authors outline a theology of spiritual warfare with practical applications.

last leonardo

The Last LeonardoBen Lewis. New York: Ballantine Books, 2019. The story of the last painting by da Vinci, a painting of Christ, searched for in vain, until Christie’s announced they had it, and sold it at auction for $450 million, the highest price ever paid for a painting.

seeking church

Seeking ChurchDarren T. Duerksen and William Dyrness. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019. A study of global Christian movements using emergent theory that posits that “the gospel is read and interpreted through existing cultural and religious norms” (from back matter).

narrative theology

Narrative ApologeticsAlister E. McGrath. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2019. McGrath takes an approach to giving a reason for faith from story rather than arguments and talking points.

opening the red door

Opening the Red DoorJohn A. Bernbaum. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019. The story of the first Christian liberal arts university, the Russian-American Christian University, from its beginnings with the eclipse of communism in 1989, its rise and partnership with Russia, and the increasing pressures it has faced in the Putin era

I have my stack of books for a cold winter night. Have you stocked up yet, or perhaps gotten an idea for a stocking stuffer? Happy reading!

The Month in Reviews: September 2019

Working

Working in collegiate ministry, it seemed a good idea to read some books related to higher education, one on Christian colleges, and one on free speech and speech codes in the academic world. Also apropos were a couple of books on science and faith, one a review on theology after Darwin, contributed by guest reviewer Paul Bruggink. Two books outlined approaches to counseling and personal transformation. A pair of books were set in the Roman world, one from the point of view of slaves, and one from emperors. One was a memoir on the writing methods of biographer Robert Caro and one considers “place” and the arts. Place is always a theme of Wendell Berry’s books and a recent collection of his essays was part of this month’s readings as well as one considering how we lost an opportunity to address greenhouse gases that affect the place for all of us, the earth. Finally, a lifelong Inkling lover can’t go too wrong without reading something about one of them–in this case Tolkien, his methods, and his works. Here are the reviews!

fundamentalist u

Fundamentalist U: Keeping Faith in American Higher EducationAdam Laats. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. Traces the ways eight institutions that developed with the rise of fundamentalism in the 1920’s responded to the changing fundamentalist/evangelical movement and wider trends in higher education and American society up to the present time. Review

science and faith

Science & Faith: Student Questions ExploredHannah Eagleson, editor. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Academic, 2019. A collection of essays addressing various questions on the relationship of science and Christian faith, incorporating groups discussion questions for use with small discussion groups. Review

a liberated mind

A Liberated Mind: How to Pivot Toward What MattersSteven C. Hayes, Ph.D. New York: Avery Books, 2019. An introduction to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a psychological counseling approach that develops psychological flexibility through learning acceptance rather than resistance or flight from painful thoughts and reality, and how we may pivot toward commitments rooted in what we value most deeply. Review

Findng Ourselves After Darwin

Finding Ourselves After DarwinStanley P. Rosenberg ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2018. This book presents and discusses multiple approaches to thinking about the image of God, original sin, and the problem of evil in light of biological evolution. Review

Working

Working: Researching, Interviewing, WritingRobert A. Caro. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2019. Less a full biographical memoir than a description of the author’s methods of researching material for his books, writing them, and the question that has driven his work. Review

placemaking

Placemaking and the ArtsJennifer Allen Craft. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2018. Considers the “place” of the arts in placemaking, particularly in the settings of the home, the church, and the wider society. Review

a week in the life of a slave

A Week in the Life of a Slave (A Week in the Life Series), John Byron. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019. A creative re-telling of the story of runaway slave Onesimus that casts light on the institution of slavery in Greco-Roman society and the church’s response. Review

The Soul of an American President

The Soul of an American President, Alan Sears and Craig Osten with Ryan Cole. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2019. Traces the spiritual heritage and growing religious faith of Dwight D. Eisenhower, especially through the years of his presidency and later life. Review

Losing Earth

Losing Earth: A Recent HistoryNathaniel Rich. MCD/Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2019. An account of the lost opportunity of the 1980’s to address climate change and the birth of the polarized dialogue that exists to this day. Review

The Road to Middle Earth

The Road to Middle-EarthTom Shippey. New York: Houghton Mifflin, rev. ed. 2003. A study of Tolkien’s methods in creating the narratives of Middle-Earth, including words, names, maps, poetry, and mythology. Review

The Winding Path of Transformation

The Winding Path of TransformationJeffrey Tacklind, Foreword by Cathleen Falsani. Downers Grove: IVP/Formatio, 2019. The author proposes that spiritual growth means walking in paradoxical tensions of glory and humility lived out in a winding journey toward the transformation of our character and spiritual freedom. Review

I Claudius

I, ClaudiusRobert Graves. New York: Vintage International, 1989 (first published 1934). A fictional autobiography of Claudius, of how a physical handicap and speech impairment enabled him to escape death by intrigue until he rose to emperor. Review

boundaries

Boundaries for Your SoulAlison Cook and Kimberly Miller. Nashville: Nelson Books, 2019. A therapeutic approach to dealing with overwhelming emotions through a process of understanding them as parts of oneself, allowing one’s Spirit-led self to befriend and care for these parts, and integrating the parts as a “team of rivals” within one’s life. Review

What you take with you

What You Take With YouTherese Greenwood. Edmonton, University of Alberta Press, 2019. Therese Greenwood had minutes to evacuate her home as the Fort McMurray fire approached. The book recounts both her escape, and reflects on what she took, and what this revealed about her life.Review

Tyranny of Virtue

The Tyranny of VirtueRobert Boyers. New York: Scribners, 2019. A distinguished liberal scholar critiques the new academic orthodoxy, one that defines virtue through the excoriating of privilege, identity, safety, microaggression, ableism, and appropriation, creating an academic tyranny in which people fear to speak their minds under threat of denunciation. Review

Our Only World

Our Only World, Wendell Berry. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2015. Eleven essays on various subjects related to our care for our world and its people emphasizing the local and the sustainable. Review

Best Book of the Month: Perhaps it is because I am working on a book, but I especially enjoyed Robert Caro’s Working. I could never see myself spending the time in archives or re-writing as Caro does, but neither will I write the definitive five-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson. His doggedness in tracking down the facts, his passion for understanding the ways of power, and commitment to excellence was inspiring. Most of all, there is the diligence of showing up and writing every day.

Quote(s) of the Month: One of the more sobering books I read this month was Losing Earth. Nathaniel Rich spoke to why the discussion of climate change is so loaded. The truth is that none of us likes to think of a catastrophic die-off of many of the species on earth, including possibly our own. He writes:

We do not like to think about loss, or death; Americans in particular, do not like to think about death. No matter how obsessively one follows the politics of climate change, it is difficult to contemplate soberly an existential threat to the species. Our queasiness even infects the language we use to describe it: the banalities of “global warming” and “climate change” perform the linguistic equivalent of rolling on sanitary gloves to palpate a hemorrhaging wound.

Even his language of “existential threat” feels a bit sanitary to me, but he puts his finger on the problem: no one wants to admit that we may have signed the death warrant of our children or grand-children’s generation. It is almost too terrible to contemplate or even to admit for most of us. Hence we mock or cast aspersions upon a young, autistic woman who has the temerity to ask the world’s leaders, “How dare you?” Yet I do not wish to end here, because we still must consider how we will live the days given us. Wendell Berry helped me in writing:

In this essay and elsewhere, I have advocated for the 50-Year Farm Bill, another big solution I am doing my best to promote, but not because it will be good in or for the future. I am for it because it is good now, according to present understanding of present needs. I know that it is good now because its principles are now satisfactorily practiced by many (though not nearly enough) farmers. Only the present good is good. It is the presence of good–good work, good thoughts, good acts, good places–by which we know that the present does not have to be a nightmare of the future.

Current reads and upcoming reviews. I’ve just completed Tim L. Anderson’s Into His Presence which explores a theology of intimacy with God. Many of us start with experience or a romanticized idea of relating to God (“Jesus is my boyfriend”). Anderson starts with scripture and the wealth and wonder of intimacy with God on God’s terms. Shundrawn Thomas, a CEO of a financial services company, reflects on what makes work joyful, which has as much to do with our approach to work as the work itself. His book, appropriately is named Discover Joy in Work. I am thoroughly enjoying The Reformation and the Irrepressible Word of God. The importance of scripture has come under attack for bibliolotry and other shortcomings, but these authors explore the Reformers belief in scripture as the Word of God, and the power of preaching and use of scripture faithful with this conviction to transform lives. The Storm on Our Shores describes a forgotten battle on Attu, an island at the end of the Aleutians briefly occupied by the Japanese during World War II, centered around a Japanese surgeon who had trained in America, and the American soldier who killed him. Finally, I’ve flown to or through O’Hare Airport countless times. With A History of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, I’m learning about this place where I’ve spent so much time, including who O’Hare was.