The Month in Reviews: January 2022

January was a cold month here, but it was warm in my reading chair. I’m not sure how to characterize this list, but in addition to the book of the month, there were several other gems. David Wenham’s Paul: Follower Jesus or Founder of Christianity and Raymond E. Brown’s The Birth of the Messiah are both theological classics as is Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress in science fiction. Louis Menand’s The Free World is a tour de force of intellectual and cultural history in the twenty years following World War II. I continue to work my way through Louise Penny and #13 in the Gamache series continued the string of excellent mysteries in this series. Restless Devices and Stability both approach our distracted and restless lives, albeit in different ways. I hope you enjoy reading through this list as much as I enjoyed reading and reviewing the books!

The Great QuestOs Guinness. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2022. An invitation to the examined life in the pursuit of a meaningful existence, a well-lived life. Review

Orient ExpressGraham Greene. New York: Open Road Media, 2018 (originally published as Stamboul Train in 1932). Seven people on a train between Ostend and Constantinople intersect in various ways, making choices about the kind of people they will be. Review

Notes from No Man’s LandEula Biss. Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2009. A collection of American essays connected to four places the author lived, all exploring the realities of race in which we all are implicated. Review

Paul: Follower of Jesus or Founder of ChristianityDavid Wenham. Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans, 1995 (print on demand). A study of the relationship of Pauline thought to the teachings of Jesus by a comprehensive effort to compare them on a number of major themes. Review

The Free WorldLouis Menand. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021. An intellectual and cultural history of the forces and figures whose creations contributed to the emergence of the United States as an intellectual and artistic leader in the years between 1945 and 1965. Review

The Moon is a Harsh MistressRobert A. Heinlein. New York: Ace, 2018 (originally published in 1966). In 2076, Luna, a colony of Earth on the Moon, decides to declare independence, to end the one-sided grain export to earth that will deplete lunar ice reservoirs, under the leadership of a sentient computer. Review

Changed Into His Likeness (New Studies in Biblical Theology), J. Gary Miller. Downers Grove: IVP Academic/London: Apollos, 2021. (UK publisher link) A biblical study of how personal transformation takes place in the life of a believer. Review

The Birth of the MessiahRaymond E. Brown. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1979 (Link is to 2nd edition, published in 1999 by Yale University Press). An academic commentary on the Birth Narratives in Matthew and Luke. Review

Interpreting the God-Breathed WordRobbie F. Castleman. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2018. A book for all who want to be students of scripture focusing on how to study and understand the texts employing inductive study, speech-act theory, and canonical interpretation. Review

Glass Houses (Chief Inspector Gamache #13), Louise Penny. New York: Minotaur Books, 2017. A mysterious figure robed in black, the murder of a woman found in those robes, a confession, and a trial, during which Gamache has made choices of conscience that could cost lives and save many. Review

Artists in Crime(Roderick Alleyn #6), Ngaio Marsh. New York: Felony & Mayhem Press, 2012 (originally published in 1937). A murder occurs at the studio of artist Agatha Troy, who Alleyn had met on his voyage back to England; the beginning in fits and starts of a romance while Alleyn seeks to solve the crime. Review

Stuck in the Present: How History Frees & Forms Christians, David George Moore (Foreword by Carl R. Trueman). Abilene, TX: Leafwood Publishers, 2021. A discussion of the value of reading history for the Christian, better equipping us not only to understand our past but to engage our present, and how to make the most of what we learn. Review

The Memory of Old JackWendell Berry. Berkeley: Counterpoint Press, 1999 (Originally published 1974). Old Jack Beechum, the oldest of the Port William membership, spends a September day remembering his life. Review

Restless DevicesFelicia Wu Song. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. An exploration of how our digital devices shape us, our relationships, and our economic life, and how we might establish a “counter” lifestyle shaped by our communion with God and each other. Review

A Little Devil in AmericaHanif Abdurraqib. New York: Random House, 2021. A celebration of Black performance and its significance for Blacks in America. Review

The Holy Spirit in the New TestamentWilliam A. Simmons. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. A book by book study of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament from a Pentecostal perspective. Review

StabilityNathan Oates. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2021. An exploration of the Benedictine commitment to stability, and what it can meet to sink our roots deeply, first into Christ, and then into the people and places to which he invites us. Review

Best of the Month: Maybe it is hometown loyalties, but I’ll go with Hanif Abdurraqib’s A Little Devil in America, a wonderful exploration of Black performance, some known to me and some not, and how they are emblematic of the Black experience in America. His account of Merry Clayton was fascinating. She was an amazing singer who never was able to launch a solo career, but sang a spine-chilling back up in the Rolling Stones Gimme Shelter. Give it a listen on YouTube, especially at the 2:46 mark where she sings “Rape, Murder, it’s just a shot away,” especially the third time when her voice cracks on the second syllable of “murder.’ He also tells the story of Janet Baker, who had an amazing career that extends way beyond dancing.

Best Quote of the Month: The Memory of Old Jack is a wonderful book in Wendell Berry’s Port William Membership stories that I had not previously read. “Old Jack” Beechum is at the end of his life, and we spend a lovely September day in the memories of his life. A key passage describes a turning point in his life when he hit rock bottom…and then went on:

That his life was renewed, that he had been driven down to the bedrock of his own place in the world, and his own truth and had stood again, that a profound peace and trust had come to him out of his suffering and his solitude, and that this peace would abide with him to the end of his days–all this he knew in the quiet of his heart and kept to himself.

What I’m Reading: I’m in the middle of Eula Biss’s reflections on capitalism evoked by a move to a nicer home and neighborhood in Having and Being Had. I admire her writing, that combines depth and brevity. I’ve finally gotten around to one of my goals for last year to read a book on food, Michael Pollen’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I can understand why he is popular as a writer on our suspect American ways of eating and our relationship with food. His week with an off the grid super-organic farmer is worth the price of admission. Plough Publishing has released a wonderful collection of essays, titled Breaking Ground, from the first year of the pandemic that particularly explores how we find our way out of our divided society. Brad East’s The Doctrine of Scripture is one of the most thought provoking books on this topic I’ve read, exploring what it means to call the Bible the Word of God, how we interpret with some striking critique of authorial intention, insights in terms of apostolic interpretation and focus on Christ, and the importance of interpreting with the church and in light of the rule of faith. Finally, I’ve been unexpectedly delighted by a memoir by Monique Misenga Ngoie Mukuna’s account of her expanding ministry of empowering women and fighting systemic poverty in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The book is Cradling Abundance.

The Month in Reviews is my monthly review summary going back to 2014!

Fall 2021 Book Preview — Assorted Christian Titles

I had a hard time figuring out what to call this collection of books. They are all Christian but not academic theological books. Many are thoughtful books on important questions. Some focus more on devotion and spiritual formation. A couple are particularly for younger readers. All, I think, are important to maintaining a faithful Christian presence in the world. I wanted you to know about them before I get the chance to review them.

Beyond the White Fence, Edith M. Humphrey. Chesterton, IN: Ancient Faith Publishing, 2021. This strikes me as a Chronicles of Narnia-type book in which a mysterious valley beyond a grandmother’s garden leads a young girl into tenth century England.

Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?, Andy Bannister. London: Inter-Varsity Press (UK), 2021. I’ve been asked this question in student ministry and have wrestled both with what we have in common and what is distinct in Christian faith and am intrigued with how Bannister, with a Ph.D in Qur’anic studies will answer this question.

Following the Call, Edited by Charles E. Moore. Walden, NY: Plough Publishing, 2021. A collection of readings for 52 weeks on how we might live the Sermon on the Mount in community from writers like Wendell Berry, Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, and many more.

When We Stand, Terence Lester, Foreword by Fr. Gregory Boyle. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021. When faced with an injustice to be addressed, the author proposes that we are better seeking justice together.

Together in Ministry. Rob Dixon, Foreword Ruth Haley Barton. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. Some think men and women can’t work together in ministry. Dixon has both worked with women in ministry and researched the key attributes and best practices that create flourishing partnerships.

Centering Prayer, Brian D. Russell. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2021. A primer on the practice of sitting silently with God, its history and theological basis, as well as practical advice for dealing with obstacles to this practice that can deepen our relationship with God.

Power Women, Edited by Nancy Wang-Yuen and Deshonna Collier-Goubil. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. The contributors to this book discuss various aspects of how motherhood, academic life and faith can come together.

Stuck in the Present, David George Moore, Foreword by Carl R. Trueman. Abilene, TX: Leafwood Publishers, 2021. A case for the importance of history for Christians enabling us to exercise discernment amid the bombardment of information we face.

Journey Toward Wholeness, Suzanne Stabile. Downers Grove: IVP Formatio, 2021. Within the Enneagram there are three centers of intelligence: thinking, feeling, and doing. This focuses on how we incorporate all of these in living wisely.

Welcome, Holy Spirit, Gordon T. Smith. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. No matter our spiritual tradition, Gordon Smith think we may grow in both our understanding and experience of the Holy Spirit and invites us into that in this book.

Restless Devices, Felicia Wu Song. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. Explores the ways our digital devices form us and challenges us to consider who we want to be.

Stability, Nathan Oates. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2021. In a world on the move, Oates considers the monastic practice of stability to root our lives in God deepening our relationships, churches, and communities.

Cradling Abundance, Monique Misenga Ngoie Mukuna with Elsie Tshimunyi McKee. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. A personal narrative of empowering African women and fighting poverty.

With Fresh Eyes, Karen Wingate. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2021. The author was nearly blind most of her life until surgery restored vision in one of her eyes. These devotions come out of the experience of literally seeing the world anew.

Refuge Reimagined, Mark R. Glanville and Luke Glanville, Foreword by Matthew Soerens. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. Lays a basis for concern for refugees through the lens of biblical kinship, our mutual responsibility that extends to the marginalized.

Good Works, Keith Wasserman and Christine D. Pohl. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2021. Athens, Ohio is home to a state university in the heart of Appalachian poverty. Good Works has provided housing, support, care, and community to this population. This is a ministry with which I’m familiar and I’m excited to read this narrative co-written by its founder and a scholar of hospitality.

Thirsting for Living Water, Michael Mantel, Foreword by Richard Stearns. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021. An account of the director of a ministry providing fresh water and the living water of available to all of us in God’s redemptive work.

A Sacred Journey, Paul Nicholas Wilson. Bloomington, IN: Westbow Press, 2021. A university professor seeks to articulate what faithful presence looks like for academics in secular settings.

Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver, Retold and illustrated by Ned Bustard. Downers Grove: IVP Kids, 2021. This is one of the debut books in InterVarsity Press’s new IVP Kids imprint and features a poetic rendering of the Saint Nicholas story asking who this giftgiver is and why all the presents. Ned Bustard not only retells the story but complements this with his wonderful illustrations!

I was taught as a young Christ follower that the growing Christian is a reading Christian. These are books to help us grow toward God, toward each other and toward God’s world. Where might God be inviting you to grow and is there a book or two here that might be a good companion on that journey of growth?

Fall 2021 Book Preview — Fiction and Non-fiction

I don’t only read academic theology. I enjoy history, essays, discussions of current affairs, and of course, good fiction. All of that has arrived at my door in the last months. Many are new books published this year, but mixed in are also some older titles, mainly from authors I’ve discovered I liked.

In the Shadow of King Saul, Jerome Charyn. New York: Bellevue Literary Press, 2018. Recently, I reviewed Swimming to the Top of the Tide. The publisher included a bonus book in their mailing, this collection of essays by the author of Sergeant Salinger, which I had reviewed this spring. I’m intrigued with what he will say in his essay on Saul, a biblical character I happen to have been studying of late.

Absence of Mind, Marilynne Robinson. New Haven: Yale University of Press, 2011. I love Marilynne Robinson’s fiction and essays, and this was a collection I had not read, found while browsing Thriftbooks. Turned out I was able to use a free book credit! What fun. She writes about the relation of science and religion and the new atheism in this collection.

Notes from No Man’s Land, Eula Biss. Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2009. I recently read this author’s Immunity and decided to pick up some of her other essays including this collection on race in America, a winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Having and Being Had, Eula Biss. New York: Riverhead Books, 2020. This is a more recent collection, examining middle class ethics.

After the Apocalypse, Andrew Bacevich. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2021. Argues for a different approach to U.S. foreign policy based on moral pragmatism and mutual coexistence with war as a last resort.

Devil in the White City, Erik Larson. New York: Vintage Books, 2003. I’ve discovered Erik Larson’s books and I’m looking forward to this one on the 1893 World’s Fair and a serial murderer!

Riding High in April, Jackie Townsend. Phoenix: Sparkpress, 2021. Just received this with LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer Program. The book is a tech thriller with a human element of love and friendship written by a former Silicon Valley management consultant.

Abundance Nature in Recovery, Karen Lloyd. New York: Bloomsbury Wildlife, 2021. This is a collection of essays on conservationist efforts in the face of biodiversity loss.

The Power of Us, Jay J. Van Bavel and Dominic J. Packer. New York: Little, Brown, Spark, 2021. Builds on the idea that the groups we are part of shape identity and can enhance performance, cooperation and social harmony.

The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War, Louis Menand. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021. Menand is an intellectual historian whose Metaphysical Club was one of my great reads several summers ago. This one is on the art and thought trends that arose during the Cold War.

Children of Ash and Elm, Neil Price. New York: Basic Books, 2020. The Vikings enter into the history of peoples from the Asian Steppes to North America. This birthday gift gives me a chance to read a history of these people who keep barging into so many others stories!

Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2021. I thought All The Light We Cannot See was one of the best books I’ve read in the last decade. The writing voice I so appreciated in that work is here, but in a story occurring in three distinct times–as you can tell, I’m already into this book.

The Lincoln Highway, Amor Towles. New York: Viking, 2021. Towles is another novelist I’ve discovered in the past year, enjoying both of his deep dives into Jazz Age New York and a Russian hotel. This one is a cross-country flight to New York of several young fugitives on the title highway.

Along the way, I will be mixing in mysteries from Louise Penny, Ngaio Marsh and others. And what’s with the essays? Best I can figure is that blog posts are a version of essay, and I enjoy seeing how those who do it so well practice their craft–as well as the ideas they explore. Maybe this list will suggest some Christmas gift ideas–or not! At least you will know what not to buy me for Christmas if you are family! Whatever the case, you can look forward to hearing more about these books in the months ahead!

Fall 2021 Book Preview — Christian Academic

At the end of May, I did a summer preview post. Looking back, I’ve reviewed most of those books as well as others. While I’ve heard reports of books being in short supply in some places, that hasn’t been the case at our house. So I am actually breaking this book preview into three–one on Christian books that are academically oriented, one on more “popular” Christian subjects and themes and a “general” category including both fiction and non-fiction. While most of the books are new, some are older books I ordered, usually because references to them in newer works suggested I might like reading them. So buckle up for the first (and longest) installment.

From Pentecost to Patmos, 2nd edition, Craig L. Blomberg and Darlene M. Seal with Alicia S. Dupree. Nashville: B & H Academic, 2021. A textbook introduction of the New Testament from Acts through Revelation.

The Federal Theology of Jonathan Edwards, Gilsun Ryu, Foreword by Douglas A. Sweeney. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Academic, 2021. An exegetical study of Edward’s doctrine of the federal headship of Christ in our redemption.

From Plato to Christ, Louis Markos. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. A study of the influence of Platonic thought on Christianity through history.

Reformed Public Theology, Edited by Matthew Kaemingk. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2021. A collection of Reformed scholars address how Reformed theology bears on a number of public and global issues.

A Short History of Christian Zionism, Donald M. Lewis. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. Explores the history of the idea, from the period of the Reformation to the present, that scripture mandates a Jewish return to Palestine.

Paul & The Power of Grace, John M. G. Barclay. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2020. A pathbreaking study of the idea of grace in Paul’s writing, understanding grace as gift.

The Paradox of Sonship (Studies in Christian Doctrine and Scripture), R. B. Jamieson. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. What Hebrews means in calling Jesus “Son,” both as eternal and Incarnate.

Loving to Know, Esther Lightcap Meek. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2011. A proposal that all knowing takes shape in an interpersonal, covenantal relationship, the basic idea in covenant epistemology.

T. F. Torrance as Missional Theologian (New Exporations in Theology), Joseph H. Sherrard, Foreword by Alan Torrence. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. Addresses the overlooked area of Torrance’s missiology.

Paul: Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity, David Wenham. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1995. I read a recent festschrift on Wenham’s pathbreaking work on the relationship of Paul’s thought to the life and teaching of Jesus.

Thriving with Stone Age Minds, Justine L. Barrett and Pamela Ebstyne King. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. What insights can we gain from both scripture and evolutionary psychology that contribute to human flourishing?

The Making of Biblical Women, Beth Allison Barr. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2021. A study of how the idea of “biblical womanhood” actually subjugated women and the way forward.

Changed into His Likeness (New Studies in Biblical Theology), J. Gary Millar. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. A study of the ongoing transformation of the Christian between conversion and the resurrection.

The Doctrine of Scripture, Brad East, Foreword by Katherine Sonderegger. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2021. A study of the doctrine of scripture that considers this through the lens of our liturgical affirmations around “hearing the Word of the Lord.”

Piercing Leviathan (New Studies in Biblical Theology), Eric Ortlund. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. After enduring terrible suffering and unhelpful counsel, God comes to Job speaking of Behemoth and Leviathan. What is that all about?

The Parables, Douglas Webster. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2021. A careful study of the parables guiding us into understanding of each for personal transformation.

The Holy Spirit in the New Testament, William A. Simmons. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. A Pentecostal approach to the study of the person and work of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament.

A History of Evangelism in North America, Thomas P. Johnston, ed. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2021. A collection of articles studying evangelism in the North American context from Wesley and camp meetings to the Twenty-first century.

Five Things Biblical Scholars Wish Theologians Knew, Scot McKnight, Foreword by Hans Boersma. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. What biblical scholars wish theologians understood about biblical studies.

Five Things Theologians Wish Biblical Scholars Knew, Hans Boersma, Foreword by Scot McKnight. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. A companion to the above volume, on what biblical scholars need to understand about theological scholarship. I may review these two together.

I’m sure some must scratch their heads and wonder at me for reading these academic works of theology, particularly at my age! Why not just kick back and just enjoy a diverting piece of fiction? As you will find if you scroll through this blog, I enjoy that as well. I guess part of it has been a lifelong apprehension that there are always greater depths to plumb in exploring the majesty of God, the glory of Christ, the working of the Spirit, and how we might align our lives with God’s purposes and intentions for his world. Certainly not all of this is in books, but read attentively, books and the book of scripture may turn ears and eyes and understanding to more deeply apprehend all that God has for us. I want to do that as long as eyes, ears, and mind work, which I believe is but a foretaste of the glories of eternity. I’ve never thought of eternity as boring as it seems an infinite time, or perhaps timelessness, is required to know an infinite and yet personal God, and to employ all my capacities without infirmity in the new creation for its flourishing and the pleasure of God. As C. S. Lewis wrote at the conclusion of The Last Battle, speaking of the newer, truer Narnia they had entered: “Come further up, come further in! I hope some of these works might encourage you on that journey and I look forward to writing about them in coming months.

The Month in Reviews: September 2021

So many good reads this month! I began with a debut novel that combined a riveting plot, a great , collection of characters, and strong relationships. Then I moved on to another Louise Penny. I’ve finished number ten in the Gamache series and they just keep getting better. On a very different note, I found thought-provoking and unsettling a study of American history through the lens of beliefs about human nature. I’ve long loved Seamus Heaney’s rendering of Beowulf. Finally, I read some of his poetry, with all its evocation of Ireland. Dragon’s Teeth by Upton Sinclair won a Pulitzer. I have to admit I’m not sure why. Majority World Theology introduced me to so many fine theologians from around the world. I discovered Eula Biss, a fine essayist who wrote about immunology before the pandemic, addressing her fears by understanding the history and science. This was followed by a much-discussed book on how cultural models of masculinity shaped the evangelicalism of the last century. Erik Larson’s intimate portrait of Winston Churchill’s first year as prime minister was a refreshing look at someone about whom I’ve read many books. Art + Faith was a beautiful reflection on a theology of making and The Fire Within a beautiful treatment of the spirituality of sexual desire. Books like these make me wonder why we hide such good things as Christians. In between was a delightful Miss Marple from Agatha Christie. I wrapped up the month with a book on belonging, a former governor offering a distinctive vision for Christians in politics, and a survey of historical and global beliefs about the church.

Raft of StarsAndrew J. Graff. New York: Ecco, 2021. A coming of age adventure story of two friends fleeing down a river after what they think is the murder of the father of one of the boys, and the pursuit to save the boys from certain destruction from a danger unknown to them. Review

The Long Way Home (Chief Inspector Gamache #10), Louise Penny. New York: Minotaur, 2015. Gamache’s peaceful retirement is interrupted when Peter Morrow fails to return as agreed a year after his separation from Clara and they embark on a search taking them to a desolate corner of Quebec. Review

We the Fallen PeopleRobert Tracy McKenzie. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. An argument that we have witnessed a great reversal in American history from an assumption of fallen human nature to the inherent goodness of people, which the author believes could jeopardize its future. Review

Seamus Heaney Selected Poems 1966-1987Seamus Heaney. New York: The Noonday Press, 1990. A selection of the poetry of Seamus Heaney from previously published works between 1966 and 1987. Review

Dragon’s Teeth (The Lanny Budd Novels #3), Upton Sinclair. New York: Open Road Media, 2016 (originally published 1942). As Irma’s fortune wanes, Lanny uses his art dealings both for income and to secure release of the Robins, who are swept up in the anti-Semitism of pre-war Nazi Germany. Review

Majority World Theology: Christian Doctrine in Global ContextEdited by Gene L. Green, Stephen T. Pardue, and K. K. Yeo. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2020. A global collection of scholars discuss the major doctrines of the Christian faith considering the history of doctrines, the scriptures, and cultural contexts. Review

On Immunity–An InoculationEula Biss. Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2014. A collection of essays about vaccines, immunity, fears, risks, and related concerns about environmental pollutants and other dangers faced by the human community. Review

Jesus and John WayneKristen Kobes Du Mez. New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2020. A historical study of how the ideal of rugged masculinity typified by John Wayne influenced the evangelical embrace of authority, gender roles, and conservative, nationalist politics. Review

The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson. New York: Crown, 2020. A day to day narrative of the first year as prime minister of Winston Churchill, focusing on the circle around him as well as how he inspired a nation fighting alone under the Blitz. Review

Art + FaithMakoto Fujimura, foreword by N. T. Wright. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2021. A series of reflections connecting art and faith in the act of making. Review

The Mirror Crack’d From Side to SideAgatha Christie (Miss Marple #9). New York: HarperCollins, 2011, originally published 1962. A harmless busybody dies of a poisoned drink intended for a famous actress, the beginning of further threats, and murders that follow. Review

The Fire Within: Desire, Sexuality, Longing, and GodRonald Rohlheiser. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2021. A collection of short meditations on human, and particularly sexual desire, contending these come from God and are meant to draw us to God. Review

No Longer StrangersGregory Coles, Foreword by Jen Pollock Michel. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021. A personal memoir on struggling to fit in and giving up on belonging to pursue Christ, and in the end, finding both. Review

Faithful PresenceBill Haslam. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2021. The former governor of Tennessee makes the case for Christian engagement in politics, using the model of faithful presence. Review

An Introduction to EcclesiologyVeli-Matti Kärkkäinen. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. An introduction to different historical theologies of the church, contemporary theologies from throughout the world, the mission and practices of the church, and the church and other religious communities. Review

Best Book of the Month: Majority World Theology is a huge work in every sense from size to the quality of the contributions and the wide array of theologians this work brings to one’s attention. One thing I especially appreciated in a work of this size was how readable it was. It was a pleasure to work through.

Best Quote of the Month: Ronald Rohlheiser’s The Fire Within is a gem consisting of short reflections around the spirituality of our sexuality. This quote captures his contention:

“Sexuality is inside us to help lure us back to God, bring us into a community of life with each other, and let us take part in God’s generativityIf that is true, and it is, then given its origin and meaning, its earthiness notwithstanding, sex does not set us against what is holy and pure. It is a Godly energy” (p. xi).

What I’m Reading. Currently, I’m in the middle of Ngaio Marsh’s first Chief Inspector Alleyn book, A Man Lay Dead. I haven’t read the series in order, but the first is among the best I’ve read. Colm Toibin’s The Magician is a biographical fiction work on German writer, Thomas Mann tracing the inspiration of his works, his closeted homosexuality, his difficult relations with his children, and his ethical wrestling with how vehemently to speak against Nazi Germany, from which he and his family had fled. Identity in Action is a book written for students on how excellence in Christ may be expressed through one’s different identities. Praying the Psalms with Augustine and Friends is a wonderful devotional work pairing Psalms and what the church’s teachers have written on them. Finally, I’m reading Forty Days with a Five, which probably gives away my Enneagram type, if that’s not already apparent to those who study such things.

With the cooler weather of fall, I’m transitioning from reading in shorts in a lounge chair with a cold drink to a comfy chair indoors, a warmer shirt and a hot cup of coffee. The one thing that doesn’t change is the books. Happy reading!

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!