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.

The Month in Reviews: June 2019

the hearts necessities

Christians are sometimes thought of as “answer people,” answers that may be simple or even simplistic. Three of the books in this month’s reviews focus on questions, and the paradoxical or upside-down character of Christian belief and practice. C. Christopher Smith’s new book on how the body of Christ talks explores how we get beyond the superficial “chat” that characterizes many of our churches. Another book, co-authored by Jean Vanier and Stanley Hauerwas exemplified that rich sort of conversation, and the inclusive hospitality that welcomes the mentally disabled. Alister McGrath’s book also contends that better conversations between theology and science result in a richer view of reality. Henry Reichman contends for “conversational” freedom in higher education in his defense of academic freedom. This month’s reviews also include my much-belated memoir of Malala Yousafzai, a study of one chapter in Ezekiel, biblical theology of death and the afterlife, Tommy Orange’s blockbuster novel, a classic Agatha Christie, and a wonderful collection of poetry.

The future of academic Freedom

The Future of Academic FreedomHenry Reichman (foreword Joan Wallach Scott). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019. A defense of academic freedom in a contemporary setting where it is under attack by political leaders, and facing curtailments with the rise of the corporatized university. Review

Death and the Afterlife

Death and the Afterlife (New Studies in Biblical Theology), Paul R. Williamson. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2018. A discussion of the biblical texts concerning death and what follows: the state of the dead post-mortem, the resurrection, judgement, hell, and heaven. Review

i am mulala

I Am MalalaMalala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013. A memoir describing a Swat Valley family committed to education, including the education of girls, Malala’s shooting by a Taliban fighter, and her recovery from near death. Review

How the Body of Christ Talks

How the Body of Christ TalksC. Christopher Smith. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2019. A discussion of how substantive conversation can be central to the growth and transformation of our churches and the people who are part of them, the ground rules and spiritual practices that enable such conversation, and how conversation might be sustained as conflict arises. Review

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Saved By Grace Alone: Sermons on Ezekiel 36:16-36D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2018. Fourteen sermons on Ezekiel 36:16-36, demonstrating from this text that salvation is by grace alone, due to our inability because of sin, and God’s loving initiative for his glory and our salvation. Review

Cards on the Table

Cards on the Table (Hercule Poirot #15), Agatha Christie. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2011 (originally published 1936). Mr. Shaitana, who throws great parties, but seems to be feared by many, throws a party for the entertainment of Poirot, with four guests who he claims have gotten away with murder, and ends up murdered himself, but with no clue as to who the murderer was. Review

Live the Questions

Live the Questions, Jeffrey F. Keuss. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2019. Proposes that a deep and satisfying life is closely related to the questions we ask, how we pursue them, and to whom they lead us. Review

there there

There ThereTommy Orange. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2018. The narratives of twelve “Urban Indians” making their way with various motivations to a powwow in Oakland. Review

Living Gently

Living Gently in a Violent WorldStanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2018. Essays by the two authors reflecting on the practice of gentleness in the L’Arche communities where assistants and the disabled live in community, and the theological and political significance of this witness in a violent world. Review

the power of Christian contentment

The Power of Christian ContentmentAndrew M. Davis. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2019.  A biblical study of Christian contentment, exploring in what it consists, how it may be found and learned, the great value of contentment, and how contentment is sustained in one’s life. Review

Don't knock the hustle

Don’t Knock the HustleS. Craig Watkins. Boston: Beacon Press, 2019. An investigation of the ways young entrepreneurs are combining tech savvy, hard work, and social capital to create the careers, with a special focus on the inclusion of under-represented populations in tech fields including women and people of color. Review

surprised by paradox

Surprised by ParadoxJen Pollock Michel. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2019. In a world where things are often defined in either-or terms and a quest for certainty, Michel proposes there are many things, beginning with basic biblical realities that are both-and, inviting our continuing curiosity. Review

the hearts necessities

The Heart’s Necessities: Life in PoetryJane Tyson Clement with Becca Stevens. Walden, NY: Plough Publishing, 2019. A collection of the poetry of Jane Tyson Clement, a member of the Bruderhof Community, interleaved with biography and comments by musician Becca Stevens, who has set several of Clement’s works to music. Review

Enriching Our Vision

Enriching our Vision of RealityAlister McGrath. West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Press, 2017 The natural sciences and Christian theology can enrich each other’s understanding of reality and help us better understand this strange world in which we find ourselves. Guest Review

upside down spirituality

Upside-Down SpiritualityChad Bird. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2019. Highlights nine areas in which Christian faith turns cultural conventions on their head, turning the world “upside-down.” Review

Best of the Month: The Heart’s Necessities: A Life in Poetry traces the life of Jane Tyson Clement through her exquisite poetry which explores the matters and longings of the heart, from her growing love for the man who would be her husband to her love of nature offering glimpses of the transcendent. I’m trying to read more poetry and this was a wonderful book, enriched by the reflections of musician Becca Stevens, and gorgeous photography.

Quote of the Month. A rival for my best of the month was Vanier and Hauerwas’s Living Gently in a Violent World. I thought this quote by Vanier summarized with simplicity and beauty the profound work of the L’Arche Communities:

“The heart of L’Arche is to say to people, ‘I am glad you exist.’ And the proof that we are glad that they exist is that we stay with them for a long time. We are together, we can have fun together. ‘I am glad you exist’ is translated into physical presence” (p. 69).

Current reads and upcoming reviews. I just finished David Lyle Jeffrey’s Scripture and The English Poetic Imagination, a collection of Jeffrey’s essays showing the profound influence of the poetry of scripture on poetry in English from the 8th century to the present. It is coincidence that I picked up Presidents at War by Michael Beschloss as our current president has engaged in brinkmanship that could lead to war with Iran. One theme is that Americans have granted extraordinary powers, both foreign and domestic, to presidents during war, something that gives me great pause. Priscilla by Ben Witherington III is an imaginative rendering of the story of this significant woman in the New Testament, casting light on the persecution of Christians, the ministry of Paul, and everyday life in the Roman world. Balm in Gilead is indeed balm for any lover (including yours truly) of the work of Marilynne Robinson. It reflects papers given at the Wheaton Theology Conference in 2018, and includes an interview and a discussion with Robinson. Finally, I’ve seen a lot of acclaim for the debut effort of fantasy author R. F. Kuang in The Poppy War. I’ll let you know if it lives up to its press for me.

To cold drinks, a shady spot with a good breeze, and a good summer read!

Books I’ll Be Reviewing This Summer

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Recent weeks have brought a pile of new books for review that hold the promise for many hours of rich reading. That’s in addition to other books I am reading “just because.” I thought I’d give you a preview, just in case you see something you are interested in and don’t want to wait for the review. Let me take you on a quick tour down the pile.

religion in the university

Religion in the University, Nicholas Wolterstorff. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019. Wolterstorff, whose wonderful memoir I recently reviewed, argues that religion indeed does have a place in the modern university.

the reluctant witness

The Reluctant Witness, Don Everts. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2019. The promotional copy for this book proposes: “As society has changed, it seems we have become more uncomfortable talking with people about our faith. We are reluctant conversationalists. The reality is that many of our churches and communities are shrinking instead of growing. What can we do about this?” The book draws on research from Barna and The Lutheran Hour.

priscilla

Priscilla, Ben Witherington III. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019. This is a study of a fascinating minor but significant character in the book of Acts, Priscilla, often named before her husband, an instructor of Apollos, and a co-worker with Paul. What can we learn from this important New Testament woman?

boundaries for your soul

Boundaries for Your Soul, Allison Cook and Kimberly Miller. Nashville: Nelson Books, 2018. Often emotions of shame, guilt, anger, sadness, and fear end up overwhelming us. These two counselors share ways we can gain control and turn these emotions to good ends.

stones and stories

Stones and Stories, Judith E. Anderson. Eugene, OR: Resource Publications, 2019. This slim volume explores the inescapable reality that we are interpreters of stories, whether in literature or scripture. The book, written for use in high schools, explores basic principles of how we exercise interpretive judgment.

jean vanier

Jean Vanier: Portrait of a Free Man, Anne-Sophie Constant. Walden, NY: Plough Publishing, 2019. Constant describes the story of Vanier, recently deceased, and his life of living with the intellectually disabled, that not only changed how we look at the disabled but that changed Vanier, making him a “free man.”

A Liberated Mind

A Liberated Mind, Steven C. Hayes. New York: Avery, 2019. The promotional copy for this book states: “Life is not a problem to be solved. ACT [Acceptance and Commitment Therapy] shows how we can live full and meaningful lives by embracing our vulnerability and turning toward what hurts.”

the reformation and the irrepressible word of god

The Reformation and the Irrepressible Word of God, edited by Scott Manetsch. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019. The Reformers believed in the “living and active” Word of God, powerful to transform lives, and able to provide norms of belief and behavior for the life of the church. This collection of essays explores that belief and how this is no less true 500 years later.

campus life

Campus Life: In Search of Community, edited by Drew Moser and Todd C. Ream. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019. This is an expanded and updated edition of a 1990 study by Ernest Boyer for the Carnegie Foundation, particularly exploring the contribution of Christian higher education to the practice of community and offering recommendations for higher education leaders.

Pursuing an Earthy Spirituality

Pursuing an Earthy Spirituality, Gary S. Selby. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019. A work that explores the earthy spirituality of C.S. Lewis–that our spiritual life is found not in withdrawal from the physicality of life but a transforming engagement with it.

the dearly beloved

The Dearly Beloved, Cara Wall, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2019. A story tracing the love and friendship and challenges of two couples over several decades, brought together by their care for a church in Greenwich Village.

balm in gilead

Balm in Gilead: A Theological Dialogue with Marilynne Robinson, edited by Timothy Robinson and Keith L. Johnson. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019. In 2018, a group of theologians convened to dialogue about the work of novelist and essayist, Marilynne Robinson, known for the rich theological content of her work. Robinson was present and is a contributor of one of the chapters in this book.

the soul of an american president

The Soul of an American President, Alan Sears and Craig Osten with Ryan Cole. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2019. A study of the faith of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the only president actually baptized in office.

the church of us vs them

The Church of Us vs. Them, David E. Fitch. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2019. An investigation of why so many of our churches have become embroiled in the vitriol of our culture and the patterns and practices needed to be the presence of Christ in the world.

Well, that’s the pile top to bottom. Just skimming the descriptions and summarizing them whets my appetite to read them all. How about you? Anything here that you might want to pick up this summer? If you do, let’s compare notes.

The Month in Reviews: March 2019

for the life of the world

Leadership was a theme of many of the books I read this month. Several considered factors making leaders effective, ranging from their grit, whether they are givers or takers, their originality, and their relationships. One book offered an unvarnished overview of the earliest leaders in the church. Two others considered key figures in the early history of the United States. Several, as usual, were on theological themes: the church, the work of the Holy Spirit in both Christ and us, and one (a guest review from Paul Bruggink) making the case that creation did not fall when the first couple did. One argued more generally that the theological enterprise, in its quest to be a respectable academic discipline, has lost a critical focus on theology for the church and the world. A devotional book used the analogy of pruning to explore why God wants to “cut back” the false self that we might grow “true.” There are a couple fun reads in here, some classic and contemporary crime fiction, and a unique book on travel. So here are summaries along with links to the full reviews.

sinners and saints

Sinners and Saints, Derek Cooper. Grand Rapids, Kregel Academic, 2018. An unvarnished summary of the first five hundred years of church history, looking unflinchingly at the flaws, as well as the favorable qualities of early Christians. Review

Grit

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth. Scribner: New York, 2016. Contends that those who achieve outstanding success combine purposeful passion with perseverance–in other words, they have grit. Review

Basil

Basil (Oxford World Classics), Wilkie Collins. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000 (originally published in 1852). The account of a secret marriage between an aristocrat’s son and the daughter of a shopkeeper and all the ways things went terribly wrong. Review

reciprocal church

Reciprocal Church, Sharon Galgay Ketcham. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2018. Addressing the loss of young people from the church, makes an argument for a theology of the church as vital in our Christian life, and for mutuality and reciprocal engagement between youth and other generations in a flourishing community where all contribute. Review

Give and take

Give and Take, Adam Grant. New York: Viking, 2013. Proposes that many of the most successful people are givers who have learned how to give without being doormats and without expectation of return and explores why such giving is so powerful. Review

true you

True You, Michelle DeRusha. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2019. Using the analogy of pruning, explores how our true selves, our true callings can emerge when we remove the clutter of business, of false selves, and idolatries that obscure the true shape of our lives. Review

for the life of the world

For the Life of the World, Miroslav Volf and Matthew Croasmun. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2019. Contends that for theology to make a difference it must address what it means for human beings to flourish in the world “in light of God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ.” Review

originals

Originals: How Non-conformists Move the World, Adam Grant (foreword by Sheryl Sandberg). New York: Viking, 2016. A study of the characteristics and practices of those who make original contributions in personal and professional life. Review

God's Good Earth

God’s Good Earth: The Case for an Unfallen Creation, Jon Garvey. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2019. A biblical, theological, and scientific case for no fall of nature. Review

rush

Rush: Revolution, Madness, and the Visionary Doctor Who Became a Founding Father. Stephen Fried. New York: Crown, 2018. A full-length biography of this doctor-founder of the American republic covering his personal life and beliefs, advocacy, war service, and friendships with the Founders, and estrangement from Washington. Review

Madison's gift

Madison’s Gift, David O. Stewart. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015. A biography of our fourth president, through the lens of five key partnerships he formed that helped establish a new nation. Review

Travel

Travel: In Tandem with God’s Heart, Peter Grier. London: Inter-Varsity Press (UK), 2018. A travelogue with a difference, exploring travel from a Christian perspective and how God may work in and through our lives as we travel. Review

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Sculptor Spirit, Leopoldo A. Sanchez M. (Foreword by Oscar Garcia-Johnson). Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019. Starting from a “Spirit Christology,” explores five models by which the Spirit shapes our lives in the likeness of Christ. Review

electric mist

In the Electric Mist With Confederate Dead, James Lee Burke. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011 (my Avon edition, 1994). Investigation of multiple rapes and murders, and a murder from 1957 confront Robicheaux with dark figures from his past, and pose a threat to all he holds dear. Review

relationomics

Relationomics, Randy Ross. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2019. The health of relationships within organizations and with customers is directly connected to productive and profitable economic activity. Review

Best of the Month. I think Volf and Croasmun’s For the Life of the World is a ringing challenge to the theological establishment to consider their calling, who their audience ought be, and what might be the focus of their work: on questions of human flourishing in relationship to Christ. I would hope it might provoke a vigorous conversation among theologians, pastors, and other thoughtful Christians who are concerned for a renewal of public theology that engages the church and the world.

Quote of the Month. Derek Cooper’s Sinners and Saints does a great job of rescuing the early leaders of the church from the musty and reverential mists of time. This quote offers a sense of his approach:

“Unlike countless other church history books that dance around the distasteful details of our Christian past, let’s humanize our history. Counterintuitively, perhaps, let’s emphasize as much grit as glory, let’s feature as much flesh as faith, and let’s showcase as many sinners as saints. It’s important for you to know at the onset, however, that we are not going to do this because we think mudslinging is a spiritual discipline, but only because we believe truth-telling is. I, personally, have no desire to sully the reputation of saints, nor do I find any pleasure in wallowing in the faults of our most faithful. When I air the dirty laundry of our most hallowed heroes and heroines, I am fully aware of all the clean clothes they have neatly pressed and attractively arrayed in their dresser drawers. Because of the nature of this book, I will not usually refer to that clean laundry; but make no mistake: I know it is there” (p. 11).

Current reads and Upcoming Reviews. I just finished a chronicle of a year or so on Tangier Island, in the Chesapeake Bay. Subsidence, rising water levels and erosion endanger the way of life of this small community, the character of which is captured well in Tangier Requiem. I also just finished a collection of Marilynne Robinson essays that include an interview between her and former president Barack Obama. I have been reveling in the rich theological writing of Fleming Rutledge in The Crucifixion, a big book that accounts for a few less reviews than normal in the latter part of March. It is worth it! Justin Whitmel Early’s The Common Rule offers eight practices for a rule of life in our tech-oriented, device driven age. David Wallace-Wells new book, The Uninhabitable Earth, is a bleak account of the drastic changes that could come with a warming planet. Finally, I just moved Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls onto my reading pile. The title squares with reports I’ve been hearing in recent years from those working in university counselling services so I’m interested in what this will say about causes and possible remedies for this trend.

I hope you will follow Bob on Books to catch all these reviews, and others that will appear later next month. And thanks to all of you who do follow, read, and comment!

On the TBR Pile: March 2019

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Yesterday, I featured the books I’ve received recently for review. The books I feature today came from bookstores, sometimes at very good prices from a variety of genres: essays, mysteries, science, history and autobiography. They are not the only books waiting to be read around my house, but some of the next ones. But don’t hold me to this! Something more interesting may come up along the way. Like yesterday’s post, I’ve included a link in the title to the publisher’s webpage for the book. I’ll let you decide if and where you will buy them!

The givenness of things

The Givenness of Things, Marilynne Robinson. I love Robinson’s fiction and have appreciated the wide-ranging character of her essays. This is a collection from 2016 and includes a two-part conversation with President Barack Obama. The book was listed on Time’s Top 10 of 2016.

the bookshop on the corner

The Bookshop on the Corner, Jenny Colgan. I enjoy books with plots that center around bookshops. This one is about a former librarian who moves to a small town, buys a van and turns it into a mobile bookshop, and changes life after life as a literary matchmaker.

robicheaux-9781501176869_lg

Robicheaux, James Lee Burke. A bookseller put me on to James Lee Burke and his detective character, Robicheaux. This is one of his more recent works, in which Robicheaux becomes a suspect in a murder he is investigating.

the-second-kind-of-impossible-9781476729923_lg

The Second Kind of Impossible, Paul J. Steinhardt. This is a kind of scientific quest for a new form of matter by a theoretical physicist. I’m curious to see if he succeeded!

indianapolis-9781501135941_lg

Indianapolis, Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic. This book has received a lot of attention, making the New York Times bestseller list. It recounts the sinking of the USS Indianapolis in the last month of World War II, the struggle for those who did not immediately die to survive (only 316 out of 1200 do), and the fight to exonerate Captain Charles McVay, who was wrongly court-martialed after the sinking.

i am mulala

I Am Malala, Malala Yousafzai. This has been out a while, but I came by it recently. Violence against women is an issue I care deeply about, and I’m also interested in learning more about Pakistan. And I’m drawn by the story of this courageous woman.

presidents-of-war-cover

Presidents of War, Michael Beschloss. The author traces the leadership of American presidents throughout the nation’s history, in leading the nation into war and in coping with the pressures of war, successfully or not. The power entrusted to the American presidency to lead a nation into war is significant, particular in a nuclear era as we face choices about who will fill this office.

No doubt, there may be some here you’ve heard about, or even read. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these books and look forward to sharing mine over the next month or so. There are so many good things out there to read, aren’t there?

On the Review Stack: March 2019

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The current “review stack”

It has been about a month since I wrote about books on my review stack. Since them, I reviewed most of the previous stack with a few “in process.” Meanwhile, a number of new books have come in, and I wanted to offer you a preview of them. I have not read any of them yet, but wanted to let you know about them in case something here speaks to an interest of yours. I also am excited about all these works and happy to give them an early, and extra shout out.  I am just listing the title and author with a link in the title to the publisher’s web page for the book. So here is the stack from top to bottom!

contentment

The Power of Christian Contentment, Andrew M. Davis. This book reacquaints us with a Puritan work from 1643, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs, and draws insights to speak to our contemporary restlessness.

none greater

None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of GodMatthew Barrett. The author argues that we have tried to domesticate God, something impossible to do when we consider the perfections of God. We may not be able to tame God, but the author contends that we may find him worthy of our worship.

lost world torah

The Lost World of the Torah, John H. Walton & J. Harvey Walton. Another “Lost World” a book from John Walton and his son, J. Harvey Walton. According to the book description, “The objective of torah was to teach the Israelites to be wise about the kind of order needed to receive the blessings of God’s favor and presence within the context of the covenant.”

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Saved by Grace Alone: Sermons on Ezekiel 36:16-36D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I have always loved the expositions of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, former pastor of Westminster Chapel in London. He was renowned for taking a year or more to exposit a book. In this case we have fourteen messages on 21 verses in Ezekiel 36 on what seems a New Testament theme–saved by grace. Intriguing!

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The Great AwakeningJoseph Tracy. A reprint of an 1842 book on the Great Awakening of the 1740’s during the ministries of Whitefield and Edwards. I have found the history of American revivals fascinating, perhaps in my longing that God would favor us with another such season.

Wolterstorff

In This World of WondersNicholas Wolterstorff.  This is a memoir by the Yale philosopher, Nicholas Wolterstorff, someone who has thought deeply about the intersection of philosophy, the Christian faith, and the world of higher education. He is on my list of “contemporary academic heroes” and so I look forward to this memoir!

handbook on jewish roots

A Handbook on the Jewish Roots of the Christian Faithedited by Craig A. Evans and David Mishkin. Following the “roots” theme, the book is organized in soil, roots, trunk, and branches parts, the book explores “Old Testament background, Second Temple Judaism, the life of Jesus, the New Testament, the early Jewish followers of Jesus, the historical interaction between Judaism and Christianity, and the contemporary period.”

Embracing the other

Embracing the Other: The Transformative Spirit of Love, Grace Ji-Sun Kim. Followers of this blog will recognize that I have reviewed a couple of Grace Ji-Sun Kim books. As an Asian-American woman, Kim explores a theology of gender and racial justice through the work of the Spirit who restores shalom to the world.

enneagram

Spiritual Rhythms for the EnneagramAdele and Doug Calhoun, Clare and Scott Loughridge. Written by four certified Enneagram instructors, this book offers a number of exercises for each of the nine Enneagram types to lead to greater self-awareness and transformation in our relationships with God and others. I have friends who have worked with one or the other of these couples and greatly appreciate their wisdom.

All of these are theologically-related books. I do read other things as well, and tomorrow, I’ll preview some of the non-theological books I’m looking forward to reading next — works in history, science, essays, and fiction. Nearly all of these are books I’ve purchased. I haven’t cultivated the same reviewing connections with these publishers, and not all the books are current releases.

Happy reading!

 

The Month in Reviews: February 2019

InexpressibleMy favorite book this month was on a single Hebrew word. Another word that a couple books had in common was peace–in our churches and in the world. Perhaps apropos of Black history month, a couple of my books explored the minority experience, and a couple others, what it means to pursue justice in our neighborhoods and communities. I always enjoy a good biography and this month I enjoyed two–on George Washington and Bobby Kennedy. I read my usual dose of theology with a book on the philosophy of revelation, a wonderful exposition of Philippians, and a delightful book on what our hope of the new creation means for how we live in this one. On the science and technology front, there is a guest review on four views of evolution, and a book on our perspective on technology. Finally, I read an interesting book exploring what we mean by the term “democracy.” Just a typical month at Bob on Books!

thepeacemakingchurch

The Peacemaking ChurchCurtis Heffelfinger, (Foreword by Ken Sande). Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2018. Outlines a pro-active approach to peacemaking in the church consisting of eight principles that enable us to do our very best to pursue the peace and unity that is ours in Christ. Review

How Our Neighborhoods Make Us Sick

How Neighborhoods Make Us SickVeronica Squires and Breanna Lathrop. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2019. A case study showing how social determinants impacting health outcomes work in different zip codes and how these manifest in an urban neighborhood in southwest Atlanta. Review

Kennedy Justice

Kennedy JusticeVictor S. Navasky. New York: Open Road Media, 2013 (originally published in 1971). A study of Robert F. Kennedy’s tenure as Attorney General and head of the Department of Justice during the John F. Kennedy and Johnson presidencies. Review

four views

Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent DesignJ.B. Stump ed., Ken Ham, Hugh Ross, Deborah Haarsma, Stephen C. Meyer, contributors. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017. A snapshot of the current origins debate in America. Review

Inexpressible

InexpressibleMichael Card. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2018. A study of the Hebrew word hesed, exploring what this says about God, about the objects of hesed, the incarnation of hesed in Jesus, and how then we should live. Review

Philosophy of Revelation

Philosophy of Revelation, Herman Bavinck (edited by Cory Brock and Nathaniel Gray Sutanto, foreword by James P. Eglinton). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2018 (Originally given and expanded from Stone Lectures in 1908). A new annotated edition of Dutch Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck’s 1908 Stone Lectures at Princeton, arguing that revelation is a warranted basic belief. Review

The Minority Experience

The Minority ExperienceAdrian Pei. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2018. A book that explores the minority experience in organizations and how organizations can meet these challenges redemptively. Review

Washington

Washington: A LifeRon Chernow. New York: Penguin Press, 2010. A one volume biography focusing on the character and emotional life and the qualities that enabled him to lead so effectively as general, in presiding over the Constitutional Convention and serving as first president. Review

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Basics for Believers, D. A. Carson. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2018 (Re-packaged edition, originally published in 1996). Expositions of the Letter to the Philippians focusing on the core concerns of Christian faith and life. Review

New Creation

New CreationRodney Clapp. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2018. An exploration of how the end of the Christian story, or eschatology, ought shape the life of the church in this time between the comings of Christ. Review

The Rise and Fall of Peace on Earth

The Rise and Fall of Peace on EarthMichael Mandelbaum. New York: Oxford University Press, (Forthcoming, March 1,) 2019. Develops the thesis that 1989-2014 represented a singular period of widespread peace marked by absence of conflict between major powers, and what might lead to a return to peace in the future. Review

Democracy

Democracy May Not Exist, But We Will Miss It When It’s GoneAstra Taylor. New York: Metropolitan Books, (Forthcoming May 7,) 2019. Explores what we mean when we speak of democracy, argues that real democracy has never existed, and explores the balance of paradoxes or tensions inherent in the idea of democracy. Review

Between the World and Me

Between the World and MeTa-Nehisi Coates. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2015. Coates extended letter to his son following the Michael Brown verdict on the struggle for the dignity of his people against the violence to their bodies by those who “believe they are White” and part of a pursuit of a Dream built “on looting and violence.” Review

welcoming justice

Welcoming Justice (expanded edition), Charles Marsh and John M. Perkins. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2018 (original edition 2009). A renewed call for the church to pursue Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision of a “beloved community” even in a day of increased white nationalism and polarization. Review

modern tech

Modern Technology and the Human FutureCraig M. Gay. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2018. Explores the factors shaping modern technology and how a mechanical view that fails to acknowledge embodiment has diminished human flourishing. Review

Best of the Month: This is a tough one because I could easily give the nod to Ron Chernow’s Washington: A Life or Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. My choice is Michael Card’s Inexpressible, an exploration of perhaps the most wonderful word in scripture, hesed, which Card describes as “When the person from which I have a right to expect nothing gives me everything.”

Quote of the Month: I loved this statement from Rodney Clapp’s New Creation, on how stories, and particularly the end of our Christian story are important in our lives:

“We are storied creatures, and everything happens because we lean toward endings. These endings are the goals, the pursuits, the destinies, the termination points that mark and animate our lives. Without endings we could never begin anything. We would lack plots and our lives would be without purpose, devoid of meaning.”

Current Reads and Upcoming Reviews: I just finished Angela Duckworth’s Grit, which makes the case that beyond skill and smarts, one of the critical factors in success in any field is perseverance. Duckworth uses examples from sports to science to illustrate her research findings. Sinners and Saints is an “unscrubbed” history of the early centuries of Christianity that as much as anything makes the case that the rise and continued existence of Christianity is a sheer work of God’s grace. I’ve just started a fascinating book by Adam Grant, Give and Take that argues that some of the most effective leaders are characterized as giversBasil is the second book Wilkie Collins, a pioneer of the mystery, wrote that features an agreement of the title character to not consummate his marriage for a year. Rush is a biography of one of the Founders of the United States, and a pioneer in medicine in this country, Dr. Benjamin Rush. He comes up in practically every history of the War of Independence so I thought it time to read about this fascinating individual. I enjoyed a biography of Katharina and Martin Luther by Michelle DeRusha, and so picked up a very different book by her, True You, a spiritual formation book that likens coming to terms with our false and true selves to a Japanese form of tree pruning! Finally, many are concerned about the exodus of youth from our churches. Reciprocal Church explores how our theology of the church, and an understanding of the vital role of reciprocal, intergenerational relationships is critical to stemming this loss.

Gustave Flaubert has written, “What better occupation, really, than to spend the evening at the fireside with a book, with the wind beating on the windows and the lamp burning bright.” I hope as the winds and rains of early spring beat on your windows, that you will have some good hours of being occupied with a good book!

 

On the Review Stack: February 2019

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My current “review stack”!

I usually have several books going at once and I mention some of these in my “Month in Reviews” post. I thought it might be fun to preview some of the books waiting to be read that are in my “review queue.” All of these have been sent to me by publishers for review. You don’t have to wait until my review to check these out!

modern tech

Modern Technology and the Human FutureCraig M. Gay. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2018. This explores how our technology shapes us, and the theological implications of current trends in technology.

Travel

Travel: In Tandem with God’s HeartPeter Grier. London: IVP Books, 2018. This book looks like a lot of fun. The cover copy says: “Travel is fun – to state the very obvious. But what if it could be enriching, life-enhancing and lots, lots more?”

the common rule

The Common RuleJustin Whitmel Earley. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2019. Earley explores the power of habit, and developing a rule of life to sustain us in modern life.

relationomics

RelationomicsDr. Randy Ross. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2019. Ross focuses on how organizations can develop cultures that promote healthy relationships.

reciprocal church

Reciprocal ChurchSharon Galgay Ketcham. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2018. Young adults are leaving churches in droves after high school. Ketcham explores values and practices that create communities “where faith flourishes beyond high school.”

for the life of the world

For the Life of the WorldMiroslav Volf and Matthew Croasmun. Grand Rapids, Brazos Press, 2019. The authors argue that “the intellectual tools needed to rescue us from our present malaise and meet our new cultural challenge are the tools of theology.”

welcoming justice

Welcoming JusticeCharles Marsh and John M. Perkins. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2018. A historian and an activist reflect on the pursuit of Martin Luther King’s “beloved community.”

true you

True YouMichelle DeRusha. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2019. Using the gardening metaphor of pruning, DeRusha shows how we may need to subtract to flourish.

becoming a just church

Becoming a Just ChurchAdam L. Gustine. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press/Praxis, 2019. Looks at what it means to pursue justice in congregational life.

Carson_BasicsforBelievers.indd

Basics for BelieversD. A. Carson. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2018. A re-packaging of a classic exposition of Philippians on essential disciplines for living the Christian life.

the21en

The 21Martin Mosebach. Walden, NY: Plough, 2019. We saw the images of the 21 Coptic Christians executed by ISIS. Mosebach tells their story and that of the Coptic community from which they came.

sinners and saints

Sinners and SaintsDerek Cooper. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2018. First of a four part series on church history, this portrays the highs and lows of early church history from the apostles to Augustine.New CreationNew CreationRodney Clapp. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2018. Clapp explores how our eschatology, our beliefs about the end, ought shape our life in the present.

Democracy

Democracy May Not Exist, But We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone, Astra Taylor. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2019. Explores why a real democracy has never existed and “offers a better understanding of what is possible, what we want, and why democracy is so hard to realize.”

under pressure

Under Pressure, Lisa Damour, Ph.D. New York: Ballantine Books, 2019. Why is there an epidemic rise in reports of stress and anxiety in girls? What are the steps parents and other adults can take to address this epidemic?

Well that’s the stack. There are a number of others (especially fiction and history) that I’ve purchased and will weave in, but you can expect to see reviews on these in the next month or so. I look forward to telling you more about them!

The Month in Reviews: November 2017

engaging the doctrine of creation

I’ve noticed a curious phenomenon. Every time I review a book related to the Apostle Paul, my view count goes up. What is it about Paul? At any rate, this was true with a book I reviewed this month, Paul Behaving Badly. As good as this book was, there were several that I would have loved to see more people look at including Dorothy Day’s memoir, The Long Loneliness and Deepening the Colors, a wonderful book about seeing our place in God’s story. Reading Your Life’s Story came at this same idea through the lens of spiritual mentoring. In recent months, I’ve read several narratives of LGBT persons. The most recent was Melissa Fisher’s Way of Hope, which features a church she characterizes as “neither condemning nor condoning.” Intriguing. A couple of the books I was really excited about were A Grander Story, and Matthew Levering’s Engaging the Doctrine of Creation, theological writing at its best. I reviewed a couple of thoughtful books about presence, one of which seems to flow well from the other: Life in God’s Presence leads to Faithful Presence. On other topics, I reviewed a book on public schools, a biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Walter Lord’s The Miracle of Dunkirk. 

So here are the books in the order they were reviewed. As always, the title links to the publisher page for the book, and at the end of the summary, you will find a link to the full review.

The Long Loneliness

The Long LonelinessDorothy Day. New York: HarperCollins, 1952.  A memoir of the life of Dorothy Day up to 1952, describing her search for God and a meaningful life, her conversion to Catholicism, her catalytic friendship with Peter Maurin, and the early years of the Catholic Worker movement. (Review)

Deepening the Colors

Deepening the ColorsSyd Hielema. Sioux Center, IA: Dordt College Press, 2014. An exploration of the question of “what is my place in God’s world?” that proposes that as we live into our calling to pursue God’s kingdom, our vision of our lives and the world grows ever deeper and richer. (Review)

Reading Your Life's Story

Reading Your Life’s StoryKeith R. Anderson. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2016.  An exploration of the work of spiritual mentoring using the idea of attentive listening to the Holy Spirit and a person to “read” one’s life, with practical instruction on the mentoring process from beginning to ending. (Review)

Eleanor of Aquitane

Eleanor of AquitaneAlison Weir. New York: Ballantine Books, 1999.  A highly readable account of the life of Eleanor of Aquitane, married to two different kings, mother of ten children, and “a tough, capable, and resourceful woman who travelled widely throughout the known world and was acquainted with most of the great figures of the age.” (Review)

The Miracle of Dunkirk

The Miracle of Dunkirk, Walter Lord. New York: Open Road Media, 2017.  A historical account of Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of 338,000 Allied troops as the German blitzkrieg shattered Allied defenses and occupied France. (Review)

These schools

These Schools Belong to You and MeDeborah Meier and Emily Gasoi. Boston: Beacon Press, 2017.  An argument for public schools where democracy is not simply taught but practiced by including teachers, students, and parents, as well as administrators as active participants in the educational process. (Review)

Encountering God through Expository Preaching

Encountering God through Expository PreachingJim Scott Orrick, Brian Payne, Ryan Fullerton. Nashville: B & H Academic, 2017. An argument for expository preaching as the means by which the people of God encounter the living God through the word of God, and an explication of the practices in preparation that lead to this in experience through the preached word. (Review)

paul behaving badly

Paul Behaving BadlyE. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2016. Takes on the charge that there are many problems with Paul, among which that he is racist, pro-slavery, anti-woman, homophobic, and hypocritical, and suggests that while he behaves badly, it may be in different ways than we might think. (Review)

Life in the Presence of God

Life in the Presence of GodKenneth Boa. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2017.  A contemporary discussion of the idea that a vital Christian life is one increasingly lived on a moment by moment basis in the presence of God. (Review)

the way of hope

The Way of HopeMelissa Fisher. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017. Through a narrative of her own experiences, the author proposes ways in which the church might offer hope to LGBT persons without condemning or condoning. (Review)

engaging the doctrine of creation

Engaging the Doctrine of CreationMatthew Levering. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017.  A systematic theology of the doctrine of creation beginning with the nature of the Creator, the significance of creatures, the meaning of the image of God, the mandate to be fruitful and multiply, original sin, and atonement that engages with scripture, contemporary sources, and most significantly, the theology of Thomas Aquinas. (Review)

faithful presence

Faithful PresenceDavid E. Fitch. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press (Praxis), 2016.  Expands upon the idea of “faithful presence,” exploring how this may be practiced by the church in fulfillment of her mission through seven foundational disciplines practiced in three different settings or “circles.” (Review)

A Grander Story

A Grander StoryRick Hove and Heather Holleman. Orlando: Cru Press, 2017.  An invitation to professors and graduate students who are Christians to live for the grand vision of God’s story in their life in higher education, including narratives of six professors, and practical recommendations. (Review)

Best book: I thought Matthew Levering’s Engaging the Doctrine of Creation, as I write in the review,

“a sterling example of excellent theological writing. Levering is not content to engage the writers of the last ten or fifty years, but roots his work in biblical teaching, the work of the church fathers, as well as major teachers of the church like Thomas Aquinas.”

Best quote: I loved the confluence of the idea of story and the metaphor in this passage from Keith R. Anderson’s, Reading Your Life’s Story:

“We live in what we have built. The stories of our life become a house we inhabit with its
limitations, eccentricities, mistakes, hidden meanings, and crafted beauty.”

What I’m reading: I’ve spent most of November reading Peter Matthiessen’s Shadow Country, a fictionalized rendering, or rather three renderingsof the life of Edgar “Bloody” Watson, a historical figure in South Florida. It is a fascinating exploration of who was Watson, really. I’m about midway through a biography of Elon Musk, the entrepreneur who parlayed buy-out funds from the startup of PayPal to launch both SpaceX and Tesla. Andrew LePeau’s Mark Through Old Testament Eyes not only helps us see the Old Testament background in just about every verse of Mark, but also begin to see how Mark has structured his narrative. Living Wisely with the Church Fathers is a book I’ve just begun and explores the wisdom of the Fathers for how we might both live, and die, well as followers of Christ. Other books I will be starting soon include one of the Ice Bucket Challenge, whose founder died yesterday of ALS, and Choosing Donald Trump by Stephen Mansfield, an exploration of why Christian conservatives supported him.

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The Month in Reviews: September 2017

Kingfishers

I don’t want to take much time discussing the sixteen books you will read here. Evicted and Just Mercy both touch on social justice themes. Two of the books I reviewedDaring Democracy and Forbearance, left me unsettled because I felt the bias of the authors undermined much of what was good in these books. A couple of the shorter books were absolute devotional gems, particularly J.I. Packer’s Finishing our Course with Joy and Charlie Dawes’s Simple Prayer. Renegade, a graphic biography on the life of Martin Luther was a refreshing look at the reformer’s life. I was struck that my last two books, Just Mercy and Unceasing Kindness, although very different books, share a common tie in the character of a God who is all these things. Enough discussion, here are my summaries. I hope you will take some time to read some of the full reviews, and find something useful or enjoyable for your own reading this fall.

The Mission of Worship

The Mission of Worship (Urbana Onward)Sandra Van Opstal. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2012. Worship and mission are integrally related; recognizing the greatness of God propels us into mission and mission involves inviting others across cultural boundaries to join us in worship. (Review)

Paradoxology

ParadoxologyKrish Kandiah. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2017. Argues that the seeming contradictions that leave many questioning the truth of Christianity are actually the points where Christian faith comes alive and addresses the depths and complexities of our lives. (Review)

evicted

EvictedMatthew Desmond. New York: Broadway Books, 2017. A look at the private rental market in impoverished communities and the dynamics of eviction, why it happens and the impact of evictions on the evicted and the communities in which they live. (Review)

finishing our course with joy

Finishing Our Course with JoyJ. I. Packer. Wheaton: Crossway, 2014. A meditation on aging that combines coming to terms with the physical changes in our bodies while pressing on to complete our course of actively serving the Lord. (Review)

learning change

Learning ChangeJim Herrington and Trisha Taylor. Grand Rapids: Kregel Ministry, 2017. A biblically-rooted approach to congregational transformation that centers around personal transformation and that draws research on effective organizations and systems. (Review)

the worm ouroboros

The Worm OuroborosE. R. Eddison. New York: Open Road Media, 2014 (originally published 1922). A heroic fantasy of the warfare between Witchland and Demonland, including the quest to rescue Goldry Bluszco, after he is banished by spell to a remote mountain top in revenge for defeating and killing King Gorice XI of the Witches in a wrestling match. (Review)

Simple prayer

Simple PrayerCharlie Dawes (foreword by Mark Batterson). Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2017. Helps us understand how the “simple” prayers of scripture and those from our hearts may lead us into deep relationship and communion with God. (Review)

Forbearance

Forbearance: A Theological Ethic for a Disagreeable ChurchJames Calvin Davis. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2017. Commends the practice of and virtues related to forbearance, as encouraged by Paul in Ephesians and Colossians as an ethic for dealing with theological differences within the church. (Review)

Thank you for being late

Thank You For Being LateThomas L. Friedman. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2016. Discusses three “accelerations (computer-related technology, globalization, and climate change), how these might re-shape our world for ill or good, and the case for pausing, reflecting, and creating communities of trust working for the common good. (Review)

restoring the soul

Restoring the Soul of the UniversityPerry L. Glanzer, Nathan F. Alleman and Todd C. Ream. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2017. Traces the history of the fragmentation of the modern university including its loss of soul, the impacts that this has on various facets of university of life, and the role theology can have in restoring that soul and healing that fragmentation. (Review)

Daring Democracy

Daring Democracy Frances Moore Lappe’ and Adam Eichen. Boston: Beacon Press, 2017. Responding to the concentration of political power within monied elites, the authors expose their strategy, and advocate a growing Democracy Movement to recover American democratic institutions. (Review)

Renegade

Renegade: Martin Luther, The Graphic BiographyAndrea Grosso Ciponte (illustrator), Dacia Palmerino (text), Michael G. Parker (translator). Walden, NY: Plough Publishing, 2017. A richly illustrated graphic biography of the life of Martin Luther, covering the major events of his life from boyhood to death, and the setting in which that life took place. (Review)

shalom in psalms

Shalom in Psalms, Jeffrey Seif, Glenn Blank, and Paul Wilbur. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017. A devotional based on the Tree of Life Version (TLV) of the Bible, a Messianic Jewish translation of scripture. (Review)

Kingfishers

As Kingfishers Catch FireEugene H. Peterson. Colorado Springs: Waterbrook, 2017. A collection of 49 of Peterson’s sermons grouped into seven sections, focused on lives congruent with the teaching of scripture. (Review)

just mercy

Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2014. A narrative of the author’s work with the Equal Justice Initiative, representing death row inmates and other prisoners–people of color, the indigent, mentally impaired, and children–not always served well by our justice system. (Review)

Unceasing Kindness

Unceasing Kindness (New Studies in Biblical Theology), Peter H. W. Lau and Gregory Goswell.  Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2016. A study of the theological themes that may be discerned in the various placements of Ruth in the canon, and the broader themes of unceasing kindness, famine, redemption, divine and human initiative, and the mission of God connecting Ruth with the rest of scripture. (Review)

Best Book of the Month: This is tough because several of the books here easily deserve this in my mind (especially Evicted and Just Mercy), but I’m going to give the nod to As Kingfishers Catch Fire, by Eugene Peterson. The book is a fitting valedictory for the ministry of Peterson, consisting of forty-nine of his sermons across the span of his ministry grouped by seven key biblical figures. Peterson’s focus is on living the congruent life, and I daresay it may be argued that this thought undergirds all of his writing. Peterson fans will love this, and for others, this is a great way to discover the writing of this skillful shepherd of God’s people.

Quote of the Month: A book I’ve not said much about other than in the review summary is Restoring the Soul of the University. I was impressed with this thoughtful argument for the role of theology in healing the fragmentation of the university, and this quote which addresses the source of virtue that integrates the lives of the professors who serve in the university:

“Although we agree with the importance of practicing virtue in the academic calling, we contend that any approach to integrating virtue must not prioritize teaching over scholarship or service but should instead prioritize the role of the triune God and God’s theological story in defining, directing, and empowering the virtues that sustain excellence in these practices and help promote flourishing academic communities. We doubt broadly defined virtues on which we all agree can sufficiently reorient the academic vocation. After all, professors need a compelling identity and story that will motivate them to acquire certain virtues. Instead, Christians must think about virtues such as faith, hope, and love as well as other fruits of the Spirit, in the light of a theological narrative and realities that usually do not enter standard secular reasoning” (pp. 245-246).

What I’m reading: I’ve just finished Hilary Mantel’s second installment of historical fiction on the life of Henry VIII’s chief minister and “fixer,” Mark Batterson’s Play the Man is an exploration of the virtues that describe godly men, including some of his thoughts on the important of rites of passage in helping our boys pass into manhood, something I’ve written on. Weapons of Math Destruction is a fascinating exploration of Big Data’s use of algorithms, and how these may have destructive effects on the real lives of people. Greg Ganssle, in Our Deepest Desires, makes an argument that our deepest human longings are best explained and addressed by Christianity, that Christian faith is most congruent, to use Peterson’s word, with our deepest aspirations. Upton Sinclair is best know for his expose of the meat packing industry in The Jungle. He also wrote a series of eleven novels whose main character is Lanny Budd, son of an American arms maker who mingles with the leaders of both Allied and Axis powers before and during World War II. I’m sampling the seventh in the series, A World to Win. Our Dead Theologians reading group is discussing The Long Loneliness, the autobiographical memoir of Dorothy Day, Catholic social activist. Reading her story, I’m struck once again that often it seems it is not we who seek God so much as God haunts and seeks us until we awaken to the One who in love wants us to be his. She is also a female illustration of C. S. Lewis’s observation:

“A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.” 

That you follow this blog suggests you are one who cares about his or her reading. I hope you will find something here of help in your own journey!