Pooping Elephants

BEST BOOKS OF 2019

Most Shaping Books of 2019      

By David George Moore

The descriptor was changed from favorite to “most shaping” because I wanted to ponder the books that will most likely stay with me the rest of my days. (I offer this “list” at the age of sixty-one.)

BIBLE/THEOLOGY

A sampling of formative reads in this category includes Known by God by Brian Rosner, Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves, Why are There Differences in the Gospels? By Michael Lincona, Caesar and the Sacrament by R. Alan Streett, A Practical Primer on Theological Method by Kreider and Svigel, and others.

It was hard to pick between the following two, so there is a tie between Everyday Glory by Gerald McDermott and Pastor Paul by Scot McKnight. My interview with McDermott is here:

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2019/02/02/everyday-glory/

Here are six things (there are more!) I like about Pastor Paul:

http://www.twocities.org/?p=8521

COMMUNICATION

I did not read much in this category, but even if I had, it is hard to imagine two better books than Seasoned Speech: Rhetoric in the Life of the Church by James Beitler and Preaching as Reminding by Jeffrey Arthur.

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2019/07/27/seasoned-speech/

A quick comment on Preaching as Reminding:

I have read several books on preaching. None have been duds, but this one may now be my favorite. I don’t know of any other book on preaching that accomplishes so much in so little space (under 150 pages).

Bruce Waltke and others are gushing about it and I add my name to the gushers. Short, but full of powerful and wonderful insights. Beautifully written. Integrative approach. Careful biblical studies of memory along with insights from neuroscience, psychology, etc.

You will learn how remembering is very different than recall!

HISTORY

I read a lot of history and this year was no different. I read two big surveys of American history: Wilfred McClay’s Land of Hope and Jill Lepore’s massive, These Truths. Both were terrific. I also read a little more than half of David Blight’s magisterial biography of Frederick Douglass. Since I will probably finish that in early 2020, it will undoubtedly appear in next year’s list. There were other wonderful reads like Redemption: Martin Luther King’s Last 31 Hours by Rosenbloom, the classic by Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of History, A Little book for New Historians by Tracy McKenzie, The People of Concord by Paul Brooks, Waiting for the Weekend by Witold Rybczynski, along with other fine books on history.

The most shaping is a tie between God Almost Chosen Peoples by George Rable and The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby. Here are my interviews with both those writers:

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2019/10/12/the-civil-war-biblical-reconsidered/

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2019/06/15/the-color-of-compromise-an-interview/

LITERATURE

This category needs to be beefed up! Though I try to read many of the “great books,” this year was a poor performance in that regard. Two highlights were my reread of Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress and my first read of An Experiment in Literary Criticism by C.S. Lewis.

Two books by up and coming writers could easily fit in other categories like spiritual life or culture. Both are by skilled wordsmiths and have much to say, albeit their youngish age: In Search of the Common Good by Jake Meador and Seculosity: How Career, Parenting, Technology, Food, Politics, and Romance Became Our New Religion and What to Do about It by David Zahl.

It may seem scandalous to give the award here to a living author, but it was a pretty easy choice with Virtues of Renewal: Wendell Berry’s Sustainable Forms by Jeffrey Bilbro.

My interview with Bilbro can be found here:

Wendell Berry’s Sustainable Forms

SPIRITUAL LIFE

I’m with Eugene Peterson in not really liking the term “spiritual life,” for what about life is not spiritual? I use this term because many people use it as a shorthand of sorts for books that especially help them in their relationship with God.

I read two terrific books on the importance of “trees” in the Bible: Between Two Trees by Shane Wood and Reforesting Faith: What Trees Teach us about the Nature of God and His Love for Us by Matthew Sleeth. Highly recommended duo! Many other good reads, but I won’t mention them here as this list is already plenty long.

Lots of ties this year, and this category also has one, a unique, but necessary triple tie. All are beautifully written and endlessly insightful: Resilient Faith: How the Early Christian “Third Way” Changed the World by Gerald Sittser, James K.A. Smith’s On the Road with Saint Augustine and Michael McCullough’s Remember Death: The Surprising Path to a Living Hope. Here are the links to my interview or reviews of each:

Resilient Faith

ON THE ROAD WITH SAINT AUGUSTINE

REMEMBER DEATH!

 

 

 

 

 

ON THE ROAD WITH SAINT AUGUSTINE

In lieu of a typical book review, as is my habit from time to time, allow me to mention half a dozen things I greatly appreciated about this book.  It will definitely make the list for my “Favorite Books of the Year.”

This is the seventh book I’ve read by Smith.  All of them made me think in fresh and provocative ways.  How (Not) to be Secular was my favorite. It now comes in a close second to Smith’s latest.  On the Road with Saint Augustine is now my favorite.  

So here are a half dozen things I appreciated about this book:

*There is elegant writing combined with keen insights.  It is no surprise that On the Road with Saint Augustine received a coveted starred review by Publishers Weekly.

*It makes a compelling case for why Augustine is the ideal travel partner as we make our way through life.  For me, both Augustine and Bunyan (there are others) have been indispenable to have as my vagabond friends.

*There is a thick realism in this book (take note Joel Osteen), but Smith always keeps this tethered to a compelling hope.

*Smith has a good nose for the telling quote or captivating illustration.  HIs wide-reading across various disciplines showcases the brilliance of Augustine.

*In my own teaching, and especially in my ministry of discipleship with men, this is the kind of book that I can use as a gateway of sorts to the riches of Christian history.

*I’ve always found that great books help me clarify important issues.  My marginalia reflects this reality in On the Road with Saint Augustine.  For example, in the chapter on friendship, Smith’s interaction with Heidegger resulted in my marginal comment of “Molds are everywhere, so it is impossible to break out of every single mold.”  In other words, autonomous individuals don’t exist because they can’t exist.

Whenever the time comes that sales begin to dwindle for this book, I would recommend Brazos making booklets out of some chapters.  For example, the chapter on freedom is one I would love to give to any thoughtful person, irrespective of whether they are a Christian. 

 

REMEMBER DEATH!

There is much I could say about this book, but I will keep my comments brief.

I typically read about sixty books each year.  These are close reads with underlining and marginalia.  I peruse hundreds of other books, but that is not reading.  There is no doubt that this will easily make my Favorite Reads of 2019.

Remember Death is one of those books that I will use in my teaching, discipleship with men, and gladly recommend far and wide.  It is beautifully written, consistently insightful, and thoroughly biblical.

I know it sounds strange to say that this is a book to savor, but it is.  We must face our mortality with ruthless honesty, all the utter horror and ugliness.  By doing so, we will find, as the author says so well, the incredible promises found in a relationship with Jesus.

Crossway is to be commended for publishing such a terrific piece of work!

DEAR PASTOR JOHN MACARTHUR

I imagine many of you are aware of the recent unpleasantries (yes, a mild word!) between Beth Moore and John MacArthur.  I thought you might find my letter to Pastor MacArthur of interest:

Dear Pastor MacArthur,

I heard you preach in person right after Christmas 1977. I was with fifteen friends. We were on our way to a Campus Crusade for Christ conference in southern California. I was a young convert to Christianity. Your message clarified that my faith in Christ was real. Thank you!

In my twenties and early thirties, I was the director of Campus Crusade for Christ at Stanford University. I went through some deep waters of doubt during that time. During one of my lowest moments I heard you deliver a message over the airwaves. It was a great encouragement to me. I wrote you a letter saying so. To my surprise, you wrote back…a personal letter. I still have that letter. Thank you!

In my late thirties and early forties, I had a radio show here in Austin. Most of the time I interviewed authors and leaders of various backgrounds. You were one of my guests and stayed for the entire hour. That alone is quite a commitment, but my show was on Saturday afternoons. Since Sunday is a big day of ministry for you, I was impressed you would give me the entire hour. Thank you!

Most recently, I met one of your sons. Business brought him to Austin. We had breakfast together. I couldn’t believe how much he looks like you! I thought I was looking at the man I heard preach when I was that three-month old Christian. Your son said you are the real deal: a great dad who is uncomfortable with the praise of men. I was tremendously encouraged to hear all that. Thank you!

My own convictions about men and women in the home fall roughly in the complementarian camp, though I might be one of the “softer” types that seems to be a non-category for you. I won’t get into the hermeneutical weeds on that issue because this a short letter not a theological treatise.

I humbly ask you to reconsider the tone of what you said about Beth Moore. For the record, I’ve had my own concerns about her teaching as well. However, your tone came across dismissive and condescending. At the very least, it seems one of you should have mentioned to the chortles of the crowd that this was no laughing matter. Instead, it seemed that you, Todd Friel, and Phil Johnson had no problem with the loud laughter of those gathered that day.

I am now sixty-one and the beneficiary of over forty years of your ministry. From listening to you over the years, I have every confidence that you will seriously consider what I say in light of Scripture. Thank you!

In Christ,

David (George) Moore

PASTOR PAUL

This is the fourth book of Scot’s I’ve read.  In particular, his Kingdom Conspiracy, made a big impact on me.  Pastor Paul was just as impactful.

From time to time instead of a regular review, I like to list a half dozen things I appreciated about a book.  Here they are for Pastor Paul:

*Scot’s expertise in handling both the biblical material and ancient history is on wonderful display.  The historical material illumines the biblical points in ways that give more color and texture to Paul’s ministry.

*The writing is elegant and accessible.

*Pastor Paul is written in what I would call a “gentle prophetic” spirit.  Scot does not pull his punches in telling us the truth about touchy subjects like money and friendship, but one does not feel “beat up” over his candor.  

*There are many good expositions on a whole range of subjects.  My favorites are probably the ones on friendship and the honor culture of Paul’s time.

*The title is apt, but don’t be mistaken.  Pastor Paul is a book that all Christians, even non pastors, can benefit greatly from.

*I greatly enjoy books that show the incredible relevance of knowing the past.  Pastor Paul showcases how a growing historical sense gives wisdom for how we live today.

Since this “review” is also on my Amazon account, let me mention that it was easy to give five stars.

 

WAITING FOR THE WEEKEND

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0140126635/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i15

There is elegant writing and wonderful insights throughout this terrific book.

I took this book with me on a recent trip to Mexico. It was a terrific companion.

There is much about leisure that most of us do not appreciate. Rybczynski clears the confusion and offers a feast for further reflection.

The author includes many insights from history and different cultures. It is a rewarding read!